West Side Story | Essay | Chicago Reader

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In June of '43, I went down to Florida, and Vincent and I spent three weeks together. I came down on the train and changed at Jacksonville to get the train for Orlando. I was carrying three cases. There were no redcaps, and I'm struggling. They say, "The train is on the other track--you have to go over there." So I pass this whole crowd of people, but I was so busy holding my luggage that I didn't even look. I got on the train, went to Orlando, but when I got there Vince wasn't there.

So I waited in the train station. Pretty soon somebody's shouting, there's a telegram for Mrs. Vincent Clark. It says, "Will meet you at the station at three." This is about noon.

The station was a real culture shock to me, because I never saw "white only" signs for washrooms before. A little black lady with a little cap on her head and an apron came over and asked me if she could get me a cup of tea or coffee. She was from the restaurant across the street. So she brought me a cup of tea. Then I took my telegram out again. I looked up at the top and I saw Jacksonville, Florida. I knew right away what had happened--he'd gone to Jacksonville to meet me.

He'd been with a group of people trying to get through. There were MPs standing in the front, and they yelled, "Nobody's getting through till these people get through to the train."

And he's yelling, "My wife's going on that train."

But he couldn't get through. He must have been so frustrated. I felt terrible.

So at three o'clock in the afternoon, when the next train came in, he was on it.

This was another culture shock. We found that there was a house with rooms to rent. We went there, and the lady came to the door in her bare feet. That to me was, my God, you're walking around the house in your bare feet and you come to the door when the doorbell rings?

But we got a beautiful room there. Then we decided we had three weeks, so we made a little tour. When we got to Palm Beach we got a room right on the beach for like $3 a day, the serviceman's rate. There was a pier right in front of the hotel out to the water. We rented bikes there, and we rode around. I remember seeing the Kennedy compound. That was kind of big stuff.

And then we thought, well, we could go to Miami. But we have it so good here. Why would we leave this? We can always go to Miami some other time. I never did get to Miami.

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