We'll Meet Again
Her daughter, Jane Forward, shared her late mother’s memories.
It’s a story that’s very difficult to make credible in this day and age, when the Zeitgeist is so different from that of 1944. About a quarter of the students at Bryn Mawr had some sort of scholarship; the rest came from families with money. We mixed pretty well, though I did once hear a Philadelphia girl say, “If I came from a place called Hanover, New Hampshire, I would never let anyone know.” This surprised rather than wounded me. The dormitories (residences) were of different ages, the newer ones being more expensive to live in, so I lived in Denbigh, the oldest, because although I had a full tuition scholarship, my Grandmother Frost was paying for my food and board. We were a very lively, varied bunch of people there, and Denbigh Hall was my home for four years.
Now I must try to explain Miss Ely, who lived just across the road from the Bryn Mawr campus. She was a very rich, rather eccentric woman, quite old but very energetic, a world traveler with friends in high places, including Eleanor Roosevelt. Her property must have once been part of a farm because it included a huge barn that she had converted into a house after donating her original, very elegant house to the College.
The barn, which had space for a dance floor, became Miss Ely’s private USO. She asked the USO in nearby Philadelphia to send her servicemen who were on leave and needed a place to stay, and she fed them lavishly and brought Bryn Mawr students there to entertain them. I went there off and on in my first two years, without falling in love with anyone! We danced, we sang as someone played on her Steinway, we played charades and had a very good time, and the men loved it, despite no sex, no booze!
Miss Ely got a shock at one point when it turned out that some American paratroopers were not on leave but AWOL, and she asked the USO to send her only foreign servicemen in the future, so we had a wave of English sailors on shore leave. Your father and four of his friends were the first RAF flyers to come there. They were being trained in Moncton [in the province of New Brunswick]; the RAF sent many men to Canada for training, something that has been long forgotten. They had two weeks’ leave and decided to hitchhike to the U.S. for a change of scene. They happened to get a ride with someone going to Philadelphia. How much resulted from that unknown man’s having stopped to pick up five men in RAF uniform!
Well, this was the beginning of my third year, when work was getting serious, and I had decided, in an act of hubris, to major in philosophy, though I knew it would be hard. So when my best friend, Mickey (real name: Herminia Carmen Ana Malaret Ponce de León), who loved going to Miss Ely’s, asked me to go with her, I said I was too busy. But she persisted and went on about the fascinating Englishmen who were there, until I went with her and was, of course, instantly fascinated.
They were there for little more than a week before they had to start getting back to Moncton. I don’t remember how many times I went to Miss Ely’s. I remember vividly that they also came to Denbigh Hall and that we were allowed to invite them to dinner. We had a custom of sitting on the stairs and singing after dinner, mostly comic songs. We asked them to sing some RAF songs, and they obliged with "I’ve Got Sixpence" but said the others were too rude for our ears. They particularly liked our singing of Nice Green Cabbages, which come to think of it, has the same plot as many a rude song!
Your father and I corresponded (the tea chest contains the letters), and I was determined to go to England and find him again, which I did after the war, and we married there.