Scene: 1943; Topeka, Kansas; VFW on a Saturday night
He said: I was just an 18 year old kid who had volunteered for the Army Air Corps enlistment. The fact be told, I lied about my age to join. Claimed to be 18 when I was still 17. I was from Philadelphia, a big city kid. I used to hitchhike to New York City on the weekends. Now here I was deep in the heart of America’s bread basket. I was stationed at the Topeka Air Base. Because of its vast pasture land, Kansas made a good location for long landing strips for training.
It was a Saturday night, and we could go into town. The local VFW was holding a dance so my buddies and I decided to give it a whirl. When we entered the hall, Glenn Miller and His Orchestra were blowing the jukebox with “In The Mood”. Then I saw her. Her name was Merna Mae Storer.
She said: Just 17 years old when I graduated high school, I decided I needed a change. You see, I was raised on a farm in a small Kansas town. I did not want to stick around and do man’s work on the farm all my life. I started studying the want ads and job postings at the state capital of Topeka. There was a listing for a secretary in the tax office based at the Capitol. I got the job plus lucked in to renting an apartment with four other girls. I was Topeka bound.
It was a Saturday night, and dances at the VFW were very popular events. We girls decided that if we met guys, they would be short-lived romances. These boys were going off to war any day now. Many would not make it back so no sense in tying up our heartstrings. When we entered the hall, Glenn Miller and His Orchestra were blowing the jukebox with “In The Mood”. Then I saw him. His name was Eddie Slabik.
Scene: 1946, Arlington, Virginia
He said: Survived the War in the Pacific and came back home to Philadelphia to stay with my sister’s family. I have been planning my future. Should I use the G.I. Bill and go to college to become an architect? Should I check out this Civil Service job to work for the Federal Government in Arlington, Virginia, close to Washington, D.C.? I have been seriously thinking about this girl I wrote to during the war. I love her…can I make a future for us? We only saw each other for two weeks back in Topeka. There are lots of job postings for secretaries in the D.C. area. Could I convince her to come east and eventually marry me? I am going to write her and ask her.
She said: The war is finally over, and thank goodness I am still in Topeka…not back at the farm. Got a letter from Eddie, and he has a suggestion. Do I dare take it? It would involve my moving to Washington and working in the office of the Department of the Navy. I have never, ever been that far from home. I love him…can I make a future for us? We only saw each other three times in Topeka. Am I willing to pack up and take the train to Washington? I am going to write him and tell my decision.
Scene: Saint Thomas More Church; Arlington, Virginia; 18 April 1947 Eddie and Merna Mae were married in a simple Catholic ceremony in the priests’ residence with the housekeeper and another priest as their witnesses. None of their family was in attendance. They took the train to New York City for a honeymoon. Then, they settled into their basement apartment to begin their married life. They remained married for 60 years with Eddie passing away in 2007 and Merna Mae in 2014.
This is part of my parents’ love story.