The Gathering Storm

Sara in 1940

“By this time [1940] the war in Europe was worsening and it looked more like we would be drawn into it. All of the boys had had to sign up for the draft, and a lot of them were joining the Royal Air Force of England or signing up for the Air Corps or other branches of service. The local National Guard unit the 114th F.A. of the 31st Division, was mobilized, and when they left in late 1940 we began to realize that this thing was for real. They went to Camp Blanding in Florida.

“The government was beginning to hire girls for Civil Service jobs in Washington. Those jobs started out paying $120 while most local secretarial jobs paid only $60 or $70 a month, and it seemed sort of glamorous to be going to Washington for work. So I took the Civil Service exam and soon received a telegram offering one of those ‘big’ government jobs. I was the first person in Greenwood to receive an offer so immediately my head was filled with dreams of a glamorous life in the nation’s capital.

Congressman Will Whittington

“Mr. Will Whittington, who served as our Congressman for many years and who lived past us on Market Street, walked past our house every day when he was back in Greenwood. Mama could hardly wait to corner him the next time he went by to get his opinion on young girls going to Washington to work, feeling sure that in his good Baptist opinion, it would not be the proper thing to do. He obliged, telling her of the bad things which went on in the big city and adding that he would not want a daughter of his working up there. His message was passed on to me with the suggestion that I forget any plans I might have to go, and when Mama said ‘No,’ we just accepted it that that was the way it was.”

I found that telegram among Sara’s mementoes after she died (and of course now I can’t locate it to be scanned) and I had to sit down and think about its implications for awhile. She never once mentioned that she had this offer or that she desperately wanted to accept it. Isn’t it odd how you just assume your parents’ lives were preordained and that there were never roads not taken? And don’t you know there were sparks flying on East Washington when Jessie burst her bubble? Sara always seemed to admire Congressman Whittington, but it wouldn’t surprise me if she never gave him her vote.

About sec040121

Hello....I'm in possession of a priceless collection of memoirs and memorabilia left by my mother, Sara Evans Criss. She was a native and lifelong (88 years!) devotee of our small town, who covered this peculiar and volatile corner of the world for 30 years as the Memphis Commercial Appeal's Greenwood bureau chief, a job that started out with debutantes and high school football and wound up spang in the midst of one of the twentieth century's most enduring social upheavals. This blog is dedicated to her memory and the legacy she left behind, both for her family and her community.
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