Retro Charlotte

Help for a soldier, 1944

‘Enlisted Man’s Pass for January 17 - 20, 1944’
‘Enlisted Man’s Pass for January 17 - 20, 1944’

My work mailbox is usually empty so imagine my delight when I received this lovely letter and photos! I hope you enjoy it, too.

‘Remembering Charlotte With Fondness’

By Robert Allen Garland

This event occured in January 1944 on the outskirts of Charlotte. I was twenty years of age. I would describe it now -- after ninety-two years of living -- as the kindest act that was ever bestowed on me. It is for that reason that I will always have a warm spot in my heart for Charlotte.

Unlike today, Charlotte was a rather sleepy town in 1944. There was little activity after darkness during World War II. That was due to gasoline rationing, a 35 mile-per-hour speed limit, and widespread shortages of many products.

In 1943 I was drafted into the Army with the rank of Private, earning $50 a month, and was assigned to a small based outside of Atlanta.

Lacking in seniority, I remained at the base at Christmastime, which happened to be the first Christmas my wife, Frances, and I had ever been away from home. However, I was issued a three-day pass in January, 1944, and we were to happy to be able to “go home” to Virginia. Having no car, we took the train from Atlanta to Roanoke for a brief visit.

While we were in Roanoke my father, who was a very generous and good father to his three boys, found a used 1939 Ford Tudor sedan for $700 and gave it to my wife and me. The tires were slick and mostly without tread, due to strict wartime rationing, but I was tickled to get a car. When the three-day pass was over we left Roanoke in the afternoon in a pouring rain which continued throughout the trip. The windshield leaked onto the floor and formed a puddle under my wife’s feet.

We had just passed through Charlotte as night began to fall, and, lo and behold, the left rear tire blew out and I pulled to the side of the road. I had never changed a tire in my life, so I knew I was going to need help. When I opened the trunk there was a worn-out spare tire that, fortunately, was inflated. However, there was no jack.

This was a relatively rural area but I could see one lighted farmhouse about 100 yards away. My wife and I walked to the house; by then it was dark and still raining. I knocked on the door and a man in overalls appeared. I explained what had happened and he invited us into his home.

He never hesitated; he was very pleased to help us. He and I got into his car and drove to where we’d gotten the flat tire. He didn’t need any help from me except to hold his flashlight and had the tire changed in a short time. We returned to his house, each in our own cars, where our wives were waiting. The lady of the house invited us to stay for supper. Since we had lost about two hours of travel time I thought it best to get back on the road. As we were about to leave, the nice man asked if I needed any money. Although I did, I respectfully declined and thanked him for the offer.

These wonderful folks, who were so kind and sweet to my wife and me in our time of dire need and assistance, will be forever etched in our memories. Of course they have passed on now, but I would give the world to see them once again and thank them for a kindness that, in my ninety-two years, has never been equaled.