Chapter 27-The Life and Times of William Roy Caple-1942-43-War Years

In June of 1942 Roy drove his car off the ferry  and headed for Puyallup anxious to see his son who would be home again after finishing his first year of college. Like he had done during WWI, Verle would be working in Tacoma’s shipyards over the summer.

 As he neared his home just off Pioneer Way, he decided to make a slight detour and swing by the fairgrounds. He wanted to see for himself if the reports that the grounds had been turned into an internment camp for the local communities Japanese population were true. As he approached he saw that both the fairgrounds and adjoining parking lots were filled with makeshift housing surrounded by barbed wire fencing and guarded by soldiers.  

Frowning he turned away from the fairgrounds he had so freely walked in the past and wondered what would become of the crops and just ripening fruit so many of the Japanese farmers in the area had tended. Over the years he had interacted with these farmers on many occasions and his son had counted several of their sons as friends. He had never known any of them to be anything but good, loyal American citizens.

Once parked he grabbed his carpet bag out of the trunk and headed into the darkened house. Like all the houses in Puyallup he had months earlier covered the windows with black curtains and blinds. Once inside he flung open the curtains flooding the main floor with sunlight.

Glancing out the back window he saw his mother-in-law, Mattie approaching the back steps. He opened the door noting that the bucket of water, shovel, and sand he had left next to the door still stood. A requirement for every house in town ready to put out any incendiary bombs that might fly.

“Welcome home, Roy, ” said his mother-in-law stepping into the house and setting a plate of cookies on the table. “Papa’s gone to the train station to fetch Verle. It will be so nice to have him here for the entire summer.”

Roy nodded toward the cookies. “Why don’t I put on a pot of coffee to go with these cookies. I agree it will be nice to have Verle back home again even join him on weekends.”

Roy enjoyed spending weekends again with his son. They listened to the Rainer’s play baseball on the radio and caught up with the news they each had, of their weeks activities.

As he prepared to leave for Bremerton on Sunday the 30th of August after enjoying an afternoon celebration for his  son’s 20th birthday. Verle said, “Daddy the air force cadet program is offering a deferment until after graduation. I have decided to sign up with them.”

Roy nodded, “I suppose it is inevitable you’ll have to serve.  At least this way maybe you can get your degree first.”

He didn’t tell him that of all the armed forces choices his son could have made this was the one he least liked.  As a covered wagon boy Roy didn’t trust those flying machines. He didn’t like the thought of his son being in one.

Toward the end of summer his son-in-law had purchased a small lot of land in Navy Yard city on which to build a house. In their spare time he and Jack soon erected a one room shack for the family to live in while they went about building a house. By fall they had the house finished enough to move into. Tearing down the outhouse they were grateful to once again have indoor plumbing

On Christmas of nineteen forty-two the family gathered once again in the Puyallup. Like the year before it was a subdued affair. The tree glittered with lights and tinsel and like always, presents sat under its boughs but Roy couldn’t shake the fear next year’s holiday would be very different. Already many of his friends’ sons and acquaintances had left for wartime duty. Even though his son had a deferment for college he didn’t believe it would last.

After everyone had left for home Christmas evening, Roy sat with his son munching on some leftover sugar cookies.

“Daddy, I am having a very hard time concentrating on my studies with this war looming over my head. Maybe I should enlist now and get it over with.”

Roy stood and stared at his blackened curtains that felt like ocean waves engulfing him. He couldn’t lose his son too.

“Verle, I understand the uncertainty you are feeling over the war. I feel it, too. No one knows what their future will hold. I also know now, might be your only chance at a higher education.”

He eased himself back down into his chair and leaned towards his son sitting in the chair opposite his. “Your next term starts in a week. Stick it out one more session and then decide what you want to do.”

At the end of the holidays Roy went back to the hustle and bustle of the Bremerton Navy yard and set to building housing for the workers flooding the city.

In late February his son-in-law got his marching orders. Jack would serve in the Navy. The first of March saw him leave for basic training in Idaho.

He and Iva added a red pin for Jack to the world map they’d hung above the kitchen table help keep track of the ever-changing events of war.

Roy thought maybe they should return to Puyallup, sure he’d now find work in nearby Tacoma. But Iva was determined to keep the house in Bremerton for Jack to come home to when the war ended. He’d feel better being nearby to help her, so he stayed.

As his son’s winter quarter drew to a close Roy got the call he dreaded.

“Daddy, I got a letter today. My deferment ends when this quarter. Believe or not I am relieved to finally know.”

Roy’s hands began to tremble. “When do you leave?”

“I haven’t gotten my orders yet, the letter said I would be hearing soon on when and where to report.”

With his heart pounding, Roy eased his trembling body into a nearby chair. “Okay, let me know as soon as you get word.”

“I will. My last exams are the end of next week, if I haven’t heard by then, I’ll stay in Puyallup until I do.”

After work on Friday March 20th, 1943 Roy headed his car onto the ferry bound for Tacoma to join his son in Puyallup. When he arrived at the house, he found it empty.

Verle’s out visiting friends, he thought. He made himself a pot of coffee and bite to eat and settled into his favorite chair, to read.  An hour later he heard the latch on the front door click, as Verle entered the house.

 Roy rose from his chair. “Out visiting friends?”

“No, my orders arrived today. I am to report to Fort Kerns, Utah on the 28th for basic training. I went to the train station to make reservations. I leave here on the 26th.”

Roy sighed. “So soon.”

 He gave his son a hug, “I will be here to take you to the station.”

On the morning of March 26th Roy arose early. Outside it was dark, rain poured from the sky as though it too, felt the heavy sadness within him. Dressed he went into the kitchen. Upstairs he heard the water running, no doubt Verle would be down soon. He set a pot of coffee on the stove and popped bread into the toaster for their breakfast.

His son’s packed bag sat next to the front door. How was he going to keep himself together when he left him at the train station? For once he was glad his beloved Mae wasn’t with him. It would have broken her heart to see him off.

Neither he nor Verle ate much of the toast and jam he’d laid out.

Out in the car Roy switched on the windshield wipers. “Looks like it is going to rain all day. At least you should have dry weather in Utah,” he added in an attempt to lighten their somber mood.

Verle nodded. “Not that I expect to be given much time to enjoy it.”

Neither said much after that. From time to time, when he thought Verle wasn’t looking, he stole a glance of his boy, trying to drink him up in case this was the last time he’d see him. How could be sending his little boy off to war? He’d never been anywhere far from him.

In Tacoma Roy turned onto Pacific Avenue. Though now daylight the street sat gloomy and dark. Ahead the cars headlights flashed on the big copper dome and the sweeping arches of the train station. When they entered the interior, they found it packed, with military personnel coming or going from various destinations.

Verle set his bag down near a bench. “Daddy, you stay here while I find what track my train leaves from.”

Roy took a seat on the bench. “Will do.”

As he waited, he looked up at the skylights that sat at the top of the rotunda dome. Like the rest of the windows, they’d been painted black painted black to keep enemy planes from spotting them from the air.

Would light ever enter this world again, would life ever seem normal, again?

He spotted Verle scurrying back towards him. He pointed to a sign. “I leave from track four. We should go over there.”

When the conductor called all aboard for Portland. Verle stood shifting his feet from one foot to another. “Guess it’s time to go.”  He reached for his bags.

Roy took them, “Allow me.”

He walked him outside to the loading platform and set the bags down.

His eyes welled up into tears as he gave his son a big bear hug. “Remember to write, the family is counting on you coming back.”

“Don’t worry,” said Verle, “I’ll be back just as soon as we win this war.”

Roy watched as the train carrying his son disappeared from sight and slowly trudged back to his car and headed for Bremerton. That evening he and Iva stuck a large blue pin on the map to designate Verle’s location along with the red one for Jack.

The next month brought little news from Verle, just a postcard saying he was alive. After another month went by a letter arrived.

Dear daddy,

After a month of marching and learning to live the military life, I will be sent to the aviator cadet center in Santa Anna, California. There I will take tests which will qualify me as either a pilot, navigator, or bombardier.

Roy shuddered. He doubted he’d ever feel comfortable with air travel. The thought of anyone one, much less his son, up in the air still seemed utterly foolish to him. And on top of that there would be enemy planes trying to shoot him down.

To keep from thinking of the unthinkable things the future might bring he kept busy with work or adding finishing touches to the house he and Jack built not that long ago.

 On a warm day in May Roy came home and sat his hat on a shelf in the front coat closet as Iva greeted him with a glass of cold lemonade. “Thought you might like something cold instead of your usual hot coffee.”

“That does sound good,” he said as he eased himself into the comfortable chair he now thought of as his own. “What’s for dinner.”

 “Burgers and fried potatoes.”

“Nothing wrong with that,” said Roy smiling. “You know that’s one of my favorites.”

“I know. They’re Jerry’s favorite too.” She handed him an envelope. “We got a letter from Verle, today.”

Roy set his glass down and took it from her hand. It had been a while since he’d last heard from his son.

Dear Daddy,

I have news. The air force has classified me as a navigator. I am happy with this appointment. It was my first choice. Next I go for navigation preflight training at Ellington field in Texas. If you look on a map, it’s about fifteen miles from Houston. Didn’t you always say you wish you’d gone to Texas when you were a boy and lived so close to the state line? Why don’t you catch a train and visit while I am there?

 Give my love to all the folks in Puyallup. And tell Iva to keep those cards and letters coming.

Love, Verle

After dinner he and Iva moved the big blue pin for Verle to Texas.

Daddy,” Iva said, “are you going to do it?”

“Do what? “

“Go to Texas.”

“Are you sure you could get along without me?”

“Of course, I’m a grown woman. Jerry and I will be just fine by ourselves for a few days. You work so hard you deserve some time off and you could see if Verle is really doing all right.”

Roy couldn’t help but smile. His daughter had always been protective of her little brother.

“I reckon I can think on it. It’s not like I need to go tomorrow.”


Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s