When Wendell Douglas come back from the war he looked to be about a foot taller. He’d volunteered as soon as he was of age and shipped out right before the Allies took the beaches in Normandy. He didn’t see combat, but he sailed on a troop boat to France and worked as a guard in a hospital there for nearly a year. I saw him come home. He stepped out of the bus in uniform and carrying his duffle. It was freezing cold and wind blowing snow everywhere, but he just stepped out onto the sidewalk and walked the two blocks to his house down on Allen Street. I knew things would pick up in the neighborhood after that, and they did.
Wendell was the only one of us who wasn’t afraid to dance and when the girls found out he was back in town the traffic at White’s Confectionary picked up right away. He’d head over there right after dinner and order a soda and fill the jukebox with nickels and have the music going strong before the girls started to filter in. For the first few weeks he wore his uniform nearly everywhere.
He’d learned new dances in France and the girls were wild for him to teach them. In a few weeks it became obvious that he had a strong preference for Beverly Thompson. None of us were surprised by that, she was the beauty of the town. But, I’d had my eye on her sister Janet for a long time and when the opportunity came for me to ask her, I did, and we did the best we could to follow what we’d seen Wendell do. Sometimes we’d sit at the same table with Wendell and Beverly and listen to his stories about what he’d seen and done in France. Wendell had got on down at the lumberyard and he told me that they were hiring right then and that I should get down there and apply. “You’ll be in the yard for a while,” he said. “But the way business is going you’ll make it into sales in no time and start getting paid on commission.”
Janet was enthusiastic about that, and when I told her I’d got the job, she was straightforward about getting married. “What’s the point of all this flirting around if we aren’t going to do it? You know, the whole thing?” I wasn’t really ready for the question, but the answer was easier than I thought it would be. Things had been going well for me down at the yard, and I felt confident that I’d be able to handle it all, sales and everything. “We should get married,” I said. “Why not?”
Word of our decision got back to Wendell real quick and I guess that Beverly asked him something like what Janet had asked me. Wendell told me that they were going to do it – tie the knot. “Why don’t we do it together,’ he asked. ‘You think the girls would like that? Their church is just over there on the corner.”
It was easier than I thought it would be. Their folks were both happy about it and the preacher was ready for us. Wendell wore his uniform at the ceremony.