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Albert is still gone

Albert Leaves for War, and I Go Back Home

The following is an excerpt from We Were not Spoiled by Lucille Ledoux as told to Denis Ledoux.

The trip to Syracuse

We left our  wedding guests at 1:30 for the train trip to Albert’s base in Syracuse, N.Y. Since it was still summer and the sun was out late, we saw much beautiful country as we rolled though Massachusetts and New York. When we arrived in Syracuse, it was dark. We did not have reservations for the night, so we went to the Yates Hotel downtown not far from the station. The Yates was a big hotel, and they did have a room available for us. (I don’t remember if Albert had to leave me temporarily to report to the base.)

We stayed at the Yates for one week. Then, we found a three-room, furnished apartment, which was on the same floor as two older women. We had an icebox instead of a refrigerator, and it was in the hallway. I had brought some of the sheets and towels with me that I had bought for my trousseau to go into the convent. Albert would tease me when I put the sheets on the bed. He’d say we were lying on the draps de soeurs (nuns sheets). All the sheets were white, and they needed ironing—not like sheets today that are permanent-press and look good without all the extra work.

I Find a Job

Since Albert was at the military base all day, I decided to find a job. Doing so was easy as there was a war going on, and there weren’t enough workers. I was hired at a General Electric plant making transistors. It was good for me to get out and do something. Every morning, I took the bus to the GE plant, and Albert took another to get to the Army Air Force base, which was north of the city. He was home with me every night.

An interesting memory I have from that time was working next to an older black woman on the assembly line. Her name was Claire. I had never known a black person in Lewiston, although I had seen some, so Claire was the first one I ever talked to. She was a pleasant woman, and we got along fine although we did not become friends as I was not there long enough. The name Claire was one that I knew from home, and I thought, “If I ever have a girl, I’ll call her Claire.”

We Learn Unhappy News

After about five weeks, we learned that Albert was not on limited service as we had believed and that he was going to be deployed overseas. One evening, he told me he was scheduled to go to Washington State107 for training and then he would be sent overseas. It was not a happy time for us as it meant a long separation, but during war time, we were not the only couple to face this.

Since I was already pregnant, we decided that I would stay in Syracuse until Albert left for Washington State and then I would go home to live with my parents. Without Albert, there was no reason to stay in Syracuse, since neither of us had relatives or friends there. We were both very sad to be leaving one another so soon. Albert and I would not share this pregnancy. He would miss his first child’s birth. I would be having this baby all by myself. It was possible that he could be killed, and then I would be raising a child alone. Had we known he would be deployed, we would have waited to get married. Having a baby by yourself is not easy so it was fortunate my parents would be able to help me.

Albert was not permitted to go back to Lewiston with me and so he arranged for Léonard, who was nineteen, to come to pick me up. Leonard arrived with his mother in the 1940 Buick the Ledouxs had bought on my 21st birthday. So, in mid-October, after only six weeks of married life, Albert and I said goodbye to each other and, without him, I returned to Lewiston and to the room I had shared with Gertrude and Thérèse. I decided that I would continue to work as long as I could. When I went down to Benoit’s, I got my job back, but I wasn’t there long. The Hill Mill had gotten large government contracts to manufacture cloth for parachutes and were hiring with very good wages. I went over to the Hill Mill one day to see if they might need me, and I got hired right away as an inspector of cotton cloth on the second shift. I worked along with a number of other inspectors and our job was to examine each piece to make sure it had no defects. A bad cloth would have made a dangerous parachute for the men depending on them to land in a war zone.

In those days, there were no easy ways to communicate with people who were at a distance. Albert and I wrote to each other but the letters took a long time, it seemed to me, to arrive. I looked forward to receiving those letters from Albert, but he could not share with me some of the most important news—like where he was going to be assigned next. He had to be careful about everything he wrote in case the letter should ever fall in the wrong hands. In fact, where he was being assigned next was something he usually didn’t know. The military would not tell the men where they were going. If information about where there would be reinforcements reached the enemy, this might have been dangerous for our guys.

The months go by

My pregnancy was going all right, but I missed sharing it with Albert. This was our first child, and I would have been fun to have him there with me, but that wasn’t going to happen. Dr. Desaulniers kept telling me that everything about my pregnancy was all right so I wasn’t worried on that account.

I was glad to be back in Lewiston but, in the back of my mind, I wondered if Albert would be safe. Would he come back home and help me raise this baby or would I be on my own, a widow?

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