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A Stone's throw: Random memories

 

Betty Stone

 

When my family moved to Columbus shortly before World War II, we rented a little house on Second Avenue North, before we could build one. We lived there two years, then moved to the house I lived in until I married. 

 

Late one afternoon the doorbell rang. There stood a man and a woman I did not know, although the man looked somewhat familiar. No wonder. It turned out he was the brother of Roy, the husband of my great-aunt Ruth. 

 

I was crazy about Roy. He and Ruth had no children, and they pampered me. I remember one great Brunswick stew party they had at their camp house between West Point and Columbus. It was Hallowe'en, and Roy had carved a Jack-o'-lantern with a face on one side and my name on the other. I was the "celebrity" in the crowd.  

 

Roy's brother, Seth, resembled him enough for me to feel a friend had come to the door, as children will quickly evaluate a stranger. Seth did not look happy, however; and the woman with him, whom it turned out he wanted to marry, did not look happy, either. 

 

They had their marriage license, and, as people probably did more often in those days, had driven over from West Point to Columbus to get married at a preacher's house. Our extended family had been Methodist almost, it seemed, as long as John Wesley, so naturally they had gone to the Methodist parsonage. 

 

That is when they got into trouble. Seth was divorced from a former wife, and the Methodist preacher refused to marry a divorced person. What to do? Look up your relatives, of course, and see if they could help. 

 

My father was game to try. If his own Methodist doors were closed, he would try the Baptists; so he phoned the Baptist preacher, who agreed to conduct the ceremony. 

 

I do not remember, young as I was, who these preachers were, but I do recall how amazed the grown-ups were that the Baptists were more liberal than the Methodists! 

 

Fewer than four years later, Roy died. I was excused from S. D. Lee High School to attend his funeral in West Point. We were well into World War II by that time. 

 

Of course there were many people at the funeral that I, an early 'tween, did not know and some I never saw again. But I do remember one of them. He was another one of Roy's family connections, I believe. 

 

He was a nice looking man from Tennessee. I was at the house, just sitting still, listening to the grown-ups talk. Someone asked this man what his job was. It turned out he, though not in the service, was involved in the War Effort. 

 

"What kind of work do you do?" someone asked. 

 

"I really am not at liberty to say," he replied. 

 

Some of the group were intrigued. They wondered if he could be a spy. Others speculated that he might be one of those "conscientious objectors," people opposed on moral grounds to war, but who served in capacities other than fighting and killing. Someone else in the group was more persistent. "Where do you work?" he said. 

 

"Oak Ridge, Tennessee," the man answered. 

 

It must have been a little over a year from then, if that long, that the airplane, the Enola Gay, dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan, beginning the quick conclusion to the war. At that time it became public what kind of war work was going on at Oak Ridge. They were creating the "Secret Weapon."

 

Betty Boyls Stone is a freelance writer, who grew up in Columbus.

 

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