Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A Thanksgiving Day

   It was Thanksgiving Day of 1943 -- the only one from my childhood that I can truthfully say I remember.

   The Herbert Avenue gang was in the Hembergers' spacious yard, tossing a football around, and swapping tales of  downing enormous quantities of turkey and trimmings and pie -- especially pie.

   Many of us had big brothers fighting in the Great War, kids who had signed up the moment they turned 18, without waiting for a draft notice. One of the big brothers was "Bud" Dougherty.  He had been serving aboard the aircraft carrier Hornet when it went down in 1942 in the Battle of Santa Cruz.  He hadn't been heard from since and was presumed killed in action.

   Bud and the Hembergers' big brother, "Speed," had been stars on an American Legion Junior baseball team that went to the national finals in Pennsylvania in 1940.  They were neighborhood heroes even before they went off to war.  Now they were gods.

   We didn't talk much about Bud when his little brother was around.  He was a sensitive boy, the youngest of the Herbert Avenue gang, and the hurt in his heart was too enormous to violate.

   We talked football -- Ohio State, mostly, and the Western Hills high school team we all aspired to play for one day .

   Whence cometh a wailing and shouting from up the hill, toward the street car stop.

   At first it was incomprehensible but as it came closer we could make out: "He's alive!  Bud's alive."

   It was Bud Daugherty's sister, racing down the Herbert Avenue hill, blubbering and bellowing, "Bud's alive!"

  The residents of Herbert Avenue poured into the street.  They surrounded Rose Daugherty and hugged her until she caught her breath.  She was heading home from work on the Westwood Avenue street car when a sailor with lots of battle ribbons took the seat beside her.  "Do you know where Herbert Avenue is?" he asked.  "I live there," she said.  "Get off when I do."

  "I've got to see a shipmate's family on Herbert Avenue," he said.  "Tell them their son is OK.  He was in a coma for months after his ship went down.  When he came out of it,  I was in the bed next to him.  'Tell my family I'm OK,' he said, when he found out I was going home."

  "What was his ship?" Rose asked.

   "The Hornet," the sailor said.

   Through tears of disbelief she gasped,  "And the sailor's name?"

   "Daugherty," the young man said.  "Bud Daugherty."

   At that moment the streetcar came to a halt at the Herbert Avenue safety island.

    Rose began her sprint down  the street, shouting out the good news.

   She didn't even get the sailor's name.

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