INT: If you think back that people were concerned on a personal level about you, but can you think back to what the level of interest was compared with, say, the Second World War where everybody felt they were a part of it?
FG: Oh, there was practically none. You know, it was never called a war. The Korean War was a police action and that used to gall me, you know, and people would say 'oh, your husband's on the prisoner of war list, he's coming home.' You know, and that was the end of it. there was no comparison during World War II - everybody was in that fight. I mean, I couldn't wait to become a nurse so I could join the army to get into this fight which was over before I graduated! (laugh) But I mean, my mother would walk miles picking up aluminum foil for British war relief and things like that. Everybody was involved with World War II but nobody, nobody was involved with Korea. Even people that had a college education didn't really know what was going on over there. The newspapers had so little in them. If I wanted to know what was going on in Korea yesterday, I would have to get the New York Times because on page 2, they had a short column on the Korean War every day but most of the other papers didn't and you rarely see headlines when there was a skirmish or if some hill had been lost or won, you know, so there wasn't that interest. There really wasn't.
INT: I remember when you went to New York, there's.. a story which, if you could re-tell for me, about the taxi driver which just kind of encapsulates the total lack of interest.. in what was going on overseas. Can.. you tell me about that?
FG: Well, as I say, I didn't go anywhere for 18 months and when my little son was about 18 months old.. no, I should take that back. It was when he was 18 months that my mother said to me one day 'Florence, why don't you go to a movie. Go with your sister, she'd love you to go to the movies.' I said 'oh, I can't do that', she said 'I'll take care of little Bernie, why don't you go. You need to get out of the house.' I said 'alright, I will', so I took a taxi to my sister Muriel's home and while we were driving there -- the taxi drivers in New York are very friendly anyway and they always strike up a conversation, or they always did -- and one thing led to another. He asked me you know, what I was doing or I don't know how we got onto the subject of the Korean War but I told him Bernie was a prisoner of war, and he said 'how long has he been a prisoner?' and I told him and it was.. then, I don't remember the date, but probably a year and a half or so and he said to me 'well, what do you do for sex?' and, you know, I thought that was the most abominable question to come out of anybody's mouth. I mean, that was the only thing this man thought of. He didn't care about the Korean War, but that was his (laugh) important question! So, no, I don't think.., even the man that I bought fish-hooks from asked me where the Yellow River was, you know, 'where is the Yellow River?'. 'Well, it's in Korea.' The clergyman, our vicar at church, when I told him Bernie's name was on the prisoner of war list, 'well, isn't it wonderful he's coming home', you know. 'When will he be home?', you know, 'will it be soon?'. I guess we all anticipated that but the talks, the truce took so long, it really did. I think they lost sight of the war somehow.
INT: Depressing times again for those waiting at home....
INT: ...whilst the truce talks were going on.
FG: It wasn't like Vietnam where you ate dinner and watched television and saw the latest battle (laugh), you know, it wasn't anything like that.
INT: When the truce talks were still dragging on, there was a presidential election. Can you recall how you decided who you were gonna vote for and why, in the fall of 1952.
FG: Well, I think the public a lot of us were disenchanted with President Truman. I somehow blamed him for the war and Bernie said no, he was one of the greatest presidents we've ever had but he relieved MacArthur and MacArthur was … he was a man that all of us respected. Regardless of what he did militarily we thought he was a wonderful person and when he was relieved, we kind of blamed Truman for that also. So when the elections came up in 1952, I couldn't wait to vote for Eisenhower. I felt being a military man and his pwas that he would see what he could do to end that war, that he was the man I wanted in office and I think that was the general feeling. He certainly diget in so the vast majority voted for him. But I think whether or not Truman was to blame, I don't know, but it was Eisenhower I think that ended that war, in my opinion! (laugh)
INT: When did you find out that Bernie really had survived and there was gonna be a reunion? What happened?
FG: Well, he had actually come across the bridge, the Freedom Bridge at Panmunjan. That was when I realised that he was coming home and that was late in.. I think it was in September., no, I'll take that back. It was late in August...
INT: Let me ask you that again. How.. and when you realised that your husband was really coming home.
FG: I didn't realise that Bernie was coming home until he walked across Freedom Bridge at Panmunjan and that was some time in August of 1953. When I received word from him, a telegram from him, saying 'I have finally returned', when the army sent me a telegram also telling me he had been returned to military control, I mean, then I knew he was coming home! (laugh) And then I didn't have any reservations. All those reservations and all that depression and all those feelings that I had prior to that disappeared and I had nothing but, you know, hopeful… not anxiety, but I can't think of the word, what is it? (laugh)
INT: What about 'expectancy'?
FG: Yeah, that's not it though…
FG: Exhilaration I guess, yeah. So you wanna do that one again?
FG: (overlap) Elation...
INT: ..situation.... well....
FG: (overlap) Elation, exhilaration.. happiness, sheer happiness.
INT: Where and when did the reunion take place?
FG: Well I met Bernie in San Francisco in September, I think it was September 3rd, when the ship docked in San Francisco and we stayed at the Mark Hopkins for 3 days with other prisoners of war and their wives who also met their husbands and we just had a relaxing time and I'll tell you, that was very interesting too. I wanted to go there with his son and he sent a telegram and said 'no, I wanna see you by yourself'. Had I taken young Bernie, his mother would've gone as well! (laugh) This way, we had just the 2 of us and I remember sitting up that whole entire night while he told me about Korea and how it was over there and the things that happened there over and over. And he couldn't sleep in the bed. He slept on the floor. The bed was too soft. We went to buy a pair of shoes for him the next day because he hadn't been wearing shoes and he couldn't lace them, he couldn't wear shoes with laces because his foot felt too restricted. So those whole 3 days were.. it was getting to know him again. I had only known him 6 months. We were only married 6 days. This young man who left with blonde, wavy hair came back with brown straight hair, thinned (laugh) and he was gaunt. I mean, he no longer had the facial structure that he had when he left, you know, so in essence, I was meeting a total stranger. And that took us a while to get through, you know. Basically, we were each a stranger to each other, you know it's funny. It was a funny feeling. This man that I had waited for for 33 months, almost three and a half years, when you count the months he was in action, and then he comes home and I don't really know him. But it didn't take long! (laugh) I mean, (laugh) it was just a momentary thing actually.
INT: Where did he meet his son?
FG: When he stepped off the plane in Houston, Texas, everybody was there! The newspaper photographers and other friends, his mother, his Dad, and his young son Bernie, who was then about, oh, gosh, he wasn't 3, he was 26 months, 27 months old, something like that.
INT: Great moment.
FG: Oh, it was a wonderful moment, it truly truly was. Truly was. And all those months of depression and, oh, just terrible unhappiness, you know, just all disappeared.