by Donna Flood
P.O.W. and Mrs. Little
|The recently married young couple had been sent to this address by the college in order to rent an apartment. They had been married September 6, 1957 and had enrolled a few days later. Nervously they stood waiting for someone to answer the door. The very old porch where they stood was a bit shabby but was clean, Ginger noticed.
As the woman answered the door there was no doubt that she was akin to the house as far as age went. She only held the door half open and looked through the crack as she waited to see what they wanted.
"We were told by the school you have an apartment to rent?" Ginger boldly inquired.
The old woman wasn't quick to respond. She stood looking at them, now with the door all the way open. "I don't know," she said. "I just don't think this will suit you. Is really isn't very fancy."
Ginger was acquainted with the ways of the town folk and she immediately began to placate the woman's suspicions. "Don't be put off by the way we are dressed. We enrolled in school today and it was either this or our grubbies, and we thought this might be best." The young woman was referring to their attire since she knew this was what was at question. Ginger had been working for the government and had the money to dress well. Her husband, Jimmy, had been in the service, stationed in Japan. He had availed himself of the tailors in Hong Kong and was equally as well dressed.
"Probably so," the elderly woman was warming up to a point.
"I have lived in Tonkawa before, you know," Ginger was brash and friendly in order to make the quiet little lady's acquaintance.
"Oh?" Came the reply, question.
"Yes, as a matter of fact, my family lived at the P.O.W. camp during the drought when our well went dry on the farm," and this was the statement for them to gain entrance to the woman's hospitality.
She led them through the living room, the dining room, past the kitchen and setting to the right was an all but hidden door way. The steps leading up to the apartment were very narrow and decidedly dark. Nevertheless, they climbed them easily at their age and the older woman was a bit more at risk, having to stop and catch her breath at the top of the landing which was also the apartment. Indeed, it was this small. They were standing in the middle of what was the kitchen. A very old gas cook stove set to the right. It was one of the models she recognized as having stood in her mother's kitchen when she was a child. To the left was a sink, of sorts. It was simply a small basin, period. The plumbing was even older than any she could remember having seen before. Directly in front of them was a small partition behind which was an old double bed and it was the bedroom. Immediately before the partition a small table completed the scene off the kitchen, for a dining area.
"You have to go down stairs for the bathroom," the woman was quick to let them know.
"What is your rent?"
"Ten dollars a month." maturity and living left the woman's comment one with little emotion. "Take it or leave it," was her attitude.
"It is very small," Ginger told the woman. "We don't need a lot of room, since we will be studying a lot of the time."
"Yes, it is small. It was just a job I made up for one of the prisoners out at the camp," Mrs. Little noted.
Ginger was also making a mental note of the woman's statement. She would have to ask more about these German prisoner's of war. Although, she had lived where they lived she really had no information about them. The camp by the time they lived there was totally devoid of anything to tell about the prisoners other than just the housing. These dwellings and home away from home were very comfortable, well lighted and, of course, there were those elegant oak floors. Each apartment was a complete home with kitchen, living room and a couple of bedrooms which said there must have been a pleasant living arrangement. Even the wide walk ways where the men moved from building to building were covered with a roof to keep them dry from the climate should there be rain.
In comparison to the old farm house where they had lived, the camp was rather like an up town apartment. That old farm house had been owned by her grandmother's mother. This would tell of the structures age. Her father and mother had painted, covered the rough wooden floors which were full of splinters, and generally made the old house pleasant, but it was still of another time and era. These left building of the German prisoner's of war were actually quite elegant when looking at them with this point of view. It was true they were plain with no fancy added touches, but then, so was this little apartment and certainly not nearly as much room was offered.
When the young couple settled into their routine and their school work was becoming easier to adjust to their schedule Ginger found herself with a little more time to visit with her landlady.
"Mrs. Little, tell me about the German soldier who built our apartment," she never did beat around the bush in her curiosity.
"Well," Mrs. Little was slow in her answer. "I couldn't visit with them too much, you know. They couldn't speak our language. They did try and we seemed to be able to communicate some how or another."
"There was this one young man. He was very good looking, blond and blue eyed. What ever little job I gave him he seemed to appreciate so much. I always paid him too, for his work. It was a blessing to me to have the lawn mowed or whatever. My husband was not in good health at the time and there was just so much he could do."
"We had this old push mower and the German boy would do such a good job with it. When it was time to eat I would fix him a plate. He wouldn't come into the house, but would set out there on the back steps and eat his meal. And then, it was winter with no more lawn to mow. I came up with the idea of having him add this room up there in the attic. He built those steps and I always felt like it was him still here. They were kind of like he was feeling I guess, cramped, hidden from his homeland, isolated away from his family."
Ginger was pensive before she spoke to her husband about the visit she had with the landlady. She was not too young to remember the World War
II. She remembered the pictures in the newspaper, the news reels segments at the movies and the soldiers who came home on furlough.
"Isn't it strange how things turn out?" she reflected. "Here we are living in an apartment, built by a German soldier we will never know. It is a little like you can feel his presence here with the very narrow dark stair way, the small hidden loft of an apartment, and these old, old pieces of furniture. I'll bet he moved these in here for Mrs. Little too. I wonder about things like that. Did he get home safe to his family? Did he ever remember the things he did while he was here?"
Ginger's husband was learning about his wife's personality and he pointed down toward her open book. "I think you had better wonder a little bit more about Charlemagne at this point and time," he grinned.