Roy knew that if he went to Texas his time spent with Verle would be brief but he decided to go anyway. Any time together was better than none. He boarded the train in Tacoma and arrived in Houston on the 25th of July, 1943. He found accommodation in a hotel near the base. He and Verle enjoyed supper that evening at a nearby restaurant. Verle told him all about the training he was doing. Roy caught him up on all the doings in Puyallup and Bremerton.
On the morning of the 26th Roy rose early as he normally did and strolled into the diner attached to his hotel. He grabbed a Houston newspaper to read over breakfast and sat at the nearest empty table. He turned his cup over for coffee.
A pretty young waitress filled it. “Good morning, don’t think I’ve seen you here before.”
“I’m here visiting my son. He’s stationed here at Ellington Field.”
She handed him a menu. “I wouldn’t plan on seeing him today.”
“Big storm brewing, I can feel it in the air. I recommend you stay inside the hotel all day.”
“Really,” said Roy. “I was planning to take a long walk and see some of the area when I finished my breakfast. This is my first time here.”
“Well, if you do go out, I wouldn’t go far, maybe over to the hardware store on the next block and get yourself a flashlight.”
“A flashlight?” asked Roy.
“Power’s bound to go out” she replied, “you don’t want to get caught in the dark without one. Now what would you like to for breakfast.”
“I’ll take the special,” said. Roy.
“How would you like your eggs? she asked.
After she left Roy opened up the newspaper he’d grabbed.
The headlines read ‘First Storm Warning of the Season.’
The article warned of 30–40-mile winds and small crafts advised to stay put. Sounds like a nasty day all right thought Roy as he set the paper down and sipped his coffee. But nothing I’m not used to with our winter storms.
After he ate, he put on his hat and went outside for a stroll. The sky had a particular weirdness to it and the air was so still. Don’t think I have ever seen the sky look this.
He walked not straying too far from the hotel as he got his daily exercise in. He decided to stop at the hardware store and pick up a flashlight and batteries just in case. At the last moment he decided to add a couple of chocolate bars in case the diner closed early. Around 10 rain began to fall and the wind began to pick up so he headed back to his room to read. He was glad he had packed an extra western in his bag, it looked like he’d have plenty of reading time today.
At noon he headed down to the diner for lunch. Outside the wind howled and rain pounded on the pavement.
A new waitress waited on him. “I’ll have the burger and fries,” he said as she poured him a cup of coffee. “Looks like quite a storm out there.”
“Yes,” said the waitress, I don’t think we will have power much longer.”
Looking out his room window when he returned after lunch, he noticed the rain was flying almost horizontal so great was the wind
Now and then he saw a shingle or other small debris sailing in the wind. He decided standing next to a window wasn’t such a good idea and shut the blinds.
Roy spent the rest of the day lying on his bed reading as the wind howled and rain poured outside. He was glad he’d heeded the waitress’ warning to not stray too far away this morning. He wondered how his son was doing at the base but he wasn’t too concerned. Surely, the Air Force would have the cadets tucked safely inside the buildings. In the late afternoon when the winds subsided Roy ventured down to the lobby. The man at the desk warned him not to go outside.
“Why not?” asked Roy, “The worst seems to be over. My legs could use a stretch.”
“It’s a hurricane,” said the desk clerk. “This is just the eye. The winds will return for your safety I urge you to stay inside.”
The desk clerk was right the winds did return though they weren’t as strong as earlier. When it grew dark, he went to bed. At midnight he awoke to find all was calm outside.
The next morning, he was surprised by a knock on his door.
“Mr. Caple you have a phone call down at the desk.”
Roy hurried down to the lobby where the man at the desk handed him a phone.
“Hello,” he said taking the receiver.
“Daddy, it’s Verle. Did you weather the hurricane all right?”
“Yes,” said Roy, that was quite the blow. I spent the bulk of the day stuck in the hotel. Good thing I brought extra books along to read.”
“It was quite a blow,” agreed Verle. “I heard the winds clocked in at 132 hours here at the base. But the good news is I’ve been given the entire day off.”
“You don’t say,” said Roy, “that’s good news indeed. That will more than make up for not seeing you yesterday and being trapped in my room.”
“I need to go,” said Verle, “but I will meet you at your hotel in about an hour. Maybe we can grab some breakfast then.”
“Sounds good,” said Roy. “See you soon.”
He handed the phone back to the desk clerk.
“Everything okay,” the man inquired.
“More than okay,” said Roy. “My son has the entire day to spend with me.”
When Verle arrived, they hugged.
” How did you happen to get the day off?” asked Roy.
“Because of the storm. You wouldn’t believe what we cadets went through yesterday.”
“You weren’t caught out training in the storm, were you?”
“Not exactly caught,” said Verle, “more like sent out.”
He lifted the cuffs on his long sleeve shirt back to reveal bruises.
Roy gasped, “how did you get those?”
“They sent we cadets out to hang onto the ropes holding the planes down so they wouldn’t blow away. Guess they were more important than we are. Once I had a hold, I wasn’t about to let go. I thought those fierce winds would blow me away.”
“But what are the bruises from? “Asked Roy.
“I had gloves on but when you are reaching and holding on for dear life, a gap forms between the glove and your jacket. Those raindrops came down hard. Let me tell you it felt like being stung by unending horde of attacking hornets.”
There were also shingles and seashells flying around like whizzing bullets sometimes those hit too.”
“I can’t believe they made you do that,” said Roy. “How long were you out there?”
“A long time they sent us out around noon. After four hours the winds began to subside and I thought they would let us go in. But instead, they said it was the eye of the hurricane.
Roy nodded, “I was told that too when I headed out for a walk.”
“Well anyway,” said Verle, “we were told the winds would be coming from the opposite direction. So, we had to turn all the planes around. Then the winds came back and we held on again except they weren’t as fierce so it was easier. Still, they left us hanging on out there until nearly midnight.”
“That’s about when I woke up,” said Roy. “I noticed the wind had died down.”
Verle nodded. “Boy did it feel good to hit my bunk last night.”
Roy was aghast. “I can’t believe they’d treat you that way. Did anyone get seriously injured?”
“I heard of several broken bones.”
Roy shuddered, “I’m glad you are okay.”
The two spent the rest of the day chatting about the doings back home and surveying the damage done to the nearby town.
After supper that night. They hugged good-bye.
“Thanks for making the trip to see me,” said Verle. It was a long way to come for such a short visit.”
“It was worth every minute of travel to see you again. Besides I enjoyed seeing a new part of the country from the seat of a train. And now I can say I have experienced a hurricane. That will give me something to tell my fellow builders.”
A bus drew up across the street. “There’s my bus, give my love to everyone back home.”
Roy watched as his son boarded the bus. The next morning, he rose early and headed home.
Most of this information came from my father’s written story of his experience during the what became known as the “surprise hurricane”. Because of oil production in that area of Texas the military did not want the enemy to know a hurricane was headed for the Houston area and therefore the residents received little warning of how severe the storm would be. His father did come for a visit and weathered the hurricane at the hotel.