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Conversation with Barbara Goodroe

Goodroe, Barbara
Clarke, Kevin
Date of Interview: 
Relationships with People and Places; Then and Now; Childhood Adventures
Barbara Goodroe tells a story about living in Columbus, Georgia during WWII. She discusses Pearl Harbor, Ft. Benning, Georgia and her brother's letters from the Pacific Theater. She also sees President Roosevelt driving in Columbus. She recalls her family's renting a room to a military couple.
Charlotte Narrative and Conversation Collection
Collection Description: 
Kevin Clarke interviews Charlotteans to collect stories for a class project at UNC Charlotte.
BG (Barbara Goodroe): My name is Barbara Goodroe and the accent you hear is Georgian, where I was raised, even though I was born in Tampa, Florida in 1930. And the story I want to share is based on WWII. There's a lot talking about it in these days. I was an eleven-year-old when, um, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, and I remember very clearly, um, the day that I walked out of a church, my Sunday school class, and walked into the church, a big, open atrium there and a large church in Columbus, Georgia, and saw grown men slapping their fist clenched fist in the palms of their hands, and I remember clearly the jaws that were clenched and the anger that was there in their faces. And then women were crying, standing around weeping. And, of course, all the juniors, which I was in the junior department, started saying, "What's happened? What's happened?" And then they said that America had been attacked. Pearl Harbor and many ships, uh, had been sunk and that many men, many, many men had been killed. And so, of course, I joined the other juniors crying as well. It made a huge impression on me and was a big thing. Columbus, Georgia is the home of Fort Benning, Georgia, where the largest infantry school in the world at that time was there, and as a kid walking to school, and believe it or not, I did walk four or five miles to school and I would go up Brown Avenue, which was at that time the only road that would allow the convoys to come through. And I would walk along the road to school and convoys of young men would, uh, ride by in the backs of trucks and I would wave at them and it was not a sexual thing in those days. It was just a friendly thing that these were young men that were going off to war all of them, most of them, well all of them enlisted men or draftees. I can remember one time specifically that, um, my dad, we had two, had a three bedroom home with one bath. Had one brother and we each had a bedroom and then my parents had a bedroom. And people began to knock on our front door and asking if we had a room to rent. And every place in Columbus at the time was full of people. I mean there was no, no rooms to rent. We had a garage in the back yard and had chickens that we raised. We backed up to a pecan grove. And, oh I don't know how many, I don't just want to estimate four or five young couples would ring the doorbell and ask if we had a room to rent and we would, Ma or Dad would, say no. And finally this one couple named Ed and Sally Duffind, who came from Erie, Pennsylvania, and they knocked on the door and he was a lieutenant in the infantry and headed for Germany. And they said, "Well, if you would just let us uh, uh stay in your garage," and my dad answered and said, "Well, it has a dirt floor." And they said, "Well, we don't care we don't mind that. We'll just bring us some cots from the Army and we'll go to the, uh, service station," which was several blocks away. There was not an open place, a service station one very corner in those days. We called them filling stations instead of service stations. And Dad said, "Well, uh, no I just can't imagine you staying in a garage." Said, "It's drafty and in the winter you would be cold," and I think it was the fall of the year. And they looked so forlorn that my dad said, "Well, come in and we'll talk about it." So I moved in at that juncture with my brother. We moved the twin beds back there and moved his bed up in the front bedroom and for, until that young couple, the, the husband went off to Germany we didn't know whether he'd ever see his wife again, uh, Sally. And we just became very, very close friends and loved them dearly. And, uh, he did go off to war and did come back and many years after that nearly every year they would come down to see us in Columbus from Erie. In fact, when he came back, one time he gave me a beautiful large pearl, perfect pearl and years and years later, when my father died in 1978, I had, took some of the money that I got from his inheritance and, uh, bought a heart and placed that pearl in the center of the heart and now wear it, one of my treasured possessions. That's just kind of a little aside from the war days. But I can remember at that time that we'd go out to have uh we played softball and I happened to be, when I was 12 years old I was a freshman in high school. In fact, uh, I had skipped a grade in grammar school is why I was so young to go off to high school. When all my grandchildren ask me, uh tell me how smart I was to skip a grade. Then I have to admit that the grade I skipped was kindergarten [laugh] because I was taller than the other kids and so that's, we only had eleven grades in those days and so I graduated when I just turned 16 which was entirely too young but I'm getting ahead of myself a little bit. We played softball at PE in high school and I remember very clearly one day when I was 12 somebody said uh, "There's an airplane," and we all stopped. The game stopped, the PE stopped and we all looked up in the sky and tried to find where the airplane was. And it just shows how much our nation has changed because there were so few airplanes falling passing over in the sky at that time that a class at high school would stop and look for it to see if they could find it. And finally, uh, we could see it just very vaguely. In those days it wasn't up wasn't a jet didn't have the jet stream. Uh I also remember other things that happened during that time of our country I remember sitting at the feet of my, the radio. We had a nice sized one that sat on the floor and listening to President Roosevelt, uh, give his famous speech of a day that will live in infamy and us sitting in total silence, uh, as the four members of our family listening to it. I also remember one time, uh, Warm Springs, Georgia was not very far from where I lived and that's where President Roosevelt would come as uh, uh, when he had polio when he was a young man I think. At any rate he would come to Warm Springs and he'd come through Columbus. And at the time one day I was, mother and I came out of the doctor's office. We rode the bus because we only had one car in our family. When Dad and Mother moved when I was four years old from FL to, uh, Columbus. He moved, he was making $25 a week and I remember as a small child I had my tonsils out of all things at four years old in a dentist's office. And Mother saved five cents a week and at the time that I had my tonsils out she had saved $50 and that's what it cost to get them out at five dollars a week. And I'll let you figure up how long that took to save $50. But back again to the war years one time we came out of the doctor's office and I was just standing on the corner and along came Roosevelt's famous car with no roof on it no top on it. Uh, well he was driving. It was equipped for a polio person to drive and he was driving. There was someone in the car with him and I don't remember anything about that. But I do remember that we stood and watched him go by and waved at him. I don't remember whether he waved back or not so I did get to see President Roosevelt himself and in person so that was a big thrill for me as a young person. Um, there are so many things I remember about those years. I had Mother's youngest brother Buster was sent to, um, the Pacific theater and he was in the Battle of Guadalcanal and all of the big, he was in the infantry and in all of the big battles over there from island hopping. And I, one of the regrets that I have in my life, now that I'm almost 71, is the fact that I threw away his V mail. That was, he just wrote beautiful letters and he was only about six years older than I was, maybe five years, so I corresponded with him and wrote him very faithfully a couple of times a week and I wish I had kept his letters because they were so graphic descriptions. I do regret getting rid of them. I also had another young son of one of Mother's and Dad's friends that wrote gorgeous letters and beautiful letters, and was in a lot of the fighting in the Pacific. So we also had letters from the Duffinds that I mentioned earlier. I wish I'd kept them. Another experience that I remember very clearly was riding on the train from, we were going down to see my grandparents at Bradenton, Palmetto, Florida actually below Tampa. And we would go down there and spend about a month or six weeks every summer on a train and we had to change trains in Jacksonville, Florida. Dad would drive me to Albany, drive us to Albany, Georgia to catch the train and it would be full of enlisted men heading off to the war. And sometimes they would be standing up in the train trying to get leave before they went overseas and there I was a child of maybe 11 or 12 years old and, uh, I can remember very clearly the young man's face that taught me two or three new games of solitaire that I still teach my grandchildren how to play now and still play myself sporadically and remember that time. I also remember how gracious they were and there was no cursing and no ugly language and they were very gracious to Mother who was traveling with two children. Years later when I was a mother myself and had two children I decided I would rego that route and I actually caught a train to Palmetto to see my grandparents who were dead then but to see my aunt and uncle, and, uh, I saw how hard it was for a woman to travel on a train. I had a small child had a two and-a-half year old and a baby. And I can remember that I had one of the first boxes of disposal diapers and I stood up in the train in the center of the train to go to the restroom and take Donna and change her diaper and she went to the bathroom and it all came down my dress and down her leg and puddled on the floor. And so much for disposable diapers. I never tried them again. But I can see now how they have become a boom to motherhood. We now have 12 grandchildren. One of them has gone to be with the Lord at age three. We have two great-grandchildren and my husband and I have been married 51 years. We've been in Charlotte since August of 1998 and we came here to live, uh, near our second daughter and her husband who live here in Charlotte and have four grandchildren. And there's one last little thing. Sunday morning we're picking up all our grandkids and we're all going out at four-thirty A.M. to watch the meteor shower. It's going to be an adventure and then we'll go to McDonald's for breakfast.
KC (Kevin Clarke): That's good. Thank you.