Remembering WWII by Bernice Cowan Higdon

Remembering World War II

at left: Bernice Cowan Higdon Times Square, New York City, 1944

at right: Bernice at the 1996 HFA Meeting in Sacramento, California 

For many members of the Higdon family, December 7, 1941, was a defining moment. Bernice Cowan Higdon, formerly from Sylva, North Carolina, submitted a story and a photograph taken in 1944 at Times Square that appeared in The Sylva Herald on October 19, 1995. Below is an excerpt from her story.

Bernice Cowan Higdon1996 2 crop 3

...I graduated from Western Carolina Teachers College (now Western Carolina University) in June 1941. I started my teaching career in a one-room, one-teacher school in Swain County on Dorsey Creek near Proctor. I boarded with a lovely young couple, Andrew and Edith Herron. On Fridays, a little bus would take the teachers in the area to Bryson City where I would take a Trailways bus to Sylva. On Monday mornings at 4 a.m., I got transportation back to my school on a big old bus called "The Blue Goose." This bus carried workers to the construction site of Fontana Dam which was being built at that time. We slept the entire trip. My little schoolhouse was soon to be covered by Fontana Lake.

I loved my school, the children, the people and their community. There was no television, newspapers, or telephones to disturb the tranquility of my life in the Great Smoky Mountains. However, that tranquility was blasted to pieces on Dec. 7, 1941, by the bombing of Pearl Harbor by the Japanese military. In spite of the turmoil in Europe, I did not think that the United States would be involved in war.

When Mr. Herron came home from work on Dec. 7, 1941, he said, "The Japanese have bombed Pearl Harbor and we are now at war." It was hard for me to believe that this was really true. I asked, "Do you mean a real war? A real shooting war?" To which, he answered, "Yes." I immediately thought of my four brothers, many cousins, and neighbors who were in the age group for military service.

When my school closed in May, all Americans were united and fighting the war in some fashion --service, defense plants or keeping the home fires burning. This time women had an opportunity to show their talents, skills, and abilities. They did a tremendous job and it changed the lives of women forever. I went to Baltimore, Maryland and got a job in Glenn L. Martin's Airplane Factory making the fast B26 and PBM Bombers...

What's missing in the 1944 photograph at Times Square? As Bernice pointed out, there are no cars!  

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