Audrey (Bunny) Howard Swanson '43

  • Alenka Figa
    Alenka: Okay, so you can test the mic-
  • Audrey Howard Swanson
    Audrey: Alright. My name is Audrey Howard Swanson, always called “Bunny” at Grinnell. I currently live in- near Minneapolis, Minnesota, in a little town, Belle Plaine, Minnesota, and I’m a member of the Grinnell College Class of ’43.
  • Audrey Howard Swanson
    Audrey: How I happened to come to Grinnell is what I’m going to tell you about. I wanted to be a social worker in high school, and my parents built a dance pavilion during the thirties, during the Depression, to put their three daughters through college. They both went to Macalester in St. Paul and my second sister was very popular. We knew a lot of boys she- they did, especially, they were older than I- from the dance pavilion. So she was invited to every party at St. Thomas, Hamline, the University, Macalester... So, she didn’t make her grades so she couldn’t go back. So, my mother said “I’m never gonna work as hard again to send a daughter to the school in Minneapolis." So, "She’s gonna go somewhere else.”
  • Audrey Howard Swanson
    Audrey: So she called up the head of the School of So- what do you call it...? The School of Social Work at the University of Minnesota and made an appointment during the summer to ask him where he thought I should go to college to enter his busine- his graduate school then. So, we had an appointment. I remember we went up and I can remember walking down this old building, the hallway, with my mother, and this professor was waiting for us. And he took, I thought like, two seconds looking at me and he said, “Well, y’know," he said, "have you ever heard of Grinnell?” We said no. We hadn’t. We lived in Minnesota and there were a lot of colleges there. This was almost Missouri, to us. And he said, “Well, that would be a good place for you,” he said. So, from then on I don’t remember any discussion about it; I was going to Grinnell. So I did, and I graduated in ’43.
  • Audrey Howard Swanson
    Audrey: Times were very different as far as... It was the Depression. I had a schola- I had a... Tuition and board, tuition and room, was 400 when I started and I had a $100 scholarship, and I worked off about 100, but I remember when I graduated I owed my grandmother $50 leftover on tuition. My allowance was $2 a month, and so, well, you needed to have a boyfriend with a little money, actually, to buy the coke and the hamburger.
  • Audrey Howard Swanson
    Audrey: But anyway, Grinnell looked very good to me. My sister and I drove from Mankato – I had not been there until I was ready to start school, and my mother got ill the last day so she wasn’t able to take me - but my sister and I drove. I wrote a letter to President Kington, welcoming him a couple years ago and I told him that we had- about my trip down. I said we.. I wanted to write a letter that was a little bit loose and I said we had a good ride from Mankato, Minnesota, but it was a long day then, and we- The battery fell out of the floor of the car in Waseca – that’s about fifty miles along – and the police stopped us for a broken tail light in Iowa, and so I said, "You have to be careful of the police. They sit on the overpasses while you whiz under." So he wrote me later and said he enjoyed getting that letter and he went to Minneapolis after that and he was very careful of the overpasses, he said.
  • Audrey Howard Swanson
    Audrey: So anyway, my sister and I arrived in the evening and the campus looked beautiful, and I started in with a bang. I don't remember... I do remember certain… I will mention a professor. I’m sure a lot of people, if anyone else comes from my era, John P. Ryan was a Speech professor. He was very well loved by everybody who took speech. In fact you kept taking Speech just because of Professor Ryan. He used to imitate us standing at the mic around the podium. He’s say, “Now, you’re standing just like this,” and then he’d almost fall off of it, you know? So he had us laughing a lot of the time.
  • Audrey Howard Swanson
    Audrey: But he always had a calendar that told the birthdays of famous people. It would be Shakespeare, or somebody, that, you know, you had no idea whose birthday it was. And he'd come in and say, “A nickel,” or a dime, sometimes, “to anyone who can tell me whose birthday it is today.” Well, of course nobody knew. One week he came in and we had just studied- oh, I won't be able to say his name. Thomas- Thomas… well, I’ll forget his name for a moment.
  • Audrey Howard Swanson
    Audrey: But he said, “Whose birthday is today?” Well, we had just studied him in English Lit, and he quoted exactly my first paragraph of the book, of my English Lit. book, so I raised my hand in a hurry. That was the first time I had known, or anybody had, and I said Thomas… Macalay or something like that. I knew it. And he said, “Good," he said, "give me two or three of his works.” "Well," I said- He said, “I’ll give you a dime if you give me two or three of his works. "Well," I said "he wrote the History of the French Revolution, and he wrote…" of course my head’s fuzzy today and I can’t think of the book I knew that he wrote.... A French word. And he said, “And another.” He asked for a third, and I said “Well, you said two or three." I only knew two. “Well, I want a third one now,” he says.
  • Audrey Howard Swanson
    Audrey: And so, I thought and thoughtm and I knew that ten years after he wrote the French Revolution he wrote a second edition of it, or a second chapter you might say. So I said, “Well, he wrote a second chapter of the History of the French Revolution.” Well, he just threw up his arms in despair. He said, “Now take Howard here," he said, "if I asked her for three African animals she’d say two lions and a giraffe.” That was his way of interpreting what I said. I think I got the dime though. I’ve forgotten.
  • Audrey Howard Swanson & Alenka Figa
    Audrey: But... I don’t know what else to tell you now. Dorm life was wonderful in those days, we thought. We had a smoker. We couldn’t smoke in the rooms so it meant there was a gathering place. After meals we’d- those who smoked and maybe those who didn’t went to the smoker. We sat around for a half an hour and talked, and at ten o’clock we had to be in and we all went back to the smoker. Dining room room rules- rules were pretty rigid. My first year there – am I talking too much on this one thing?Alenka: No, you’re fine, keep going.
  • Audrey Howard Swanson
    Audrey: Okay. My first year, I worked in a kitchen, wiping silver. I tell this story because it’s so amazing now with the dishwashers and all. But another g- one fellow washed every piece of silver the girls ate with- how many women in that dining room, and another girl and I wiped every piece of silver. Then we had a schedule, not for every meal, but... But anyway, a fellow stood at the dining room door, named Jack Truesdale, John Truesdale, and he was head waiter. He checked to see if everyone had stockings on; you had to wear hosiery. I remember one time this girl, Helen Bonner, came with a line drawn up the back like a seam with a mascara stick or something, and he caught it and sent her back to her room to put on hosiery. And so, that story went around.
  • Audrey Howard Swanson
    Audrey: That was my first year as a... wiping silver. Then the next year I moved up to working in the library and the third year I was a waitress, and that was what we felt was the ideal job in college, at that time, because... I think because we had our own… we ate early, all the waiters and waitresses ate at 5 o’clock instead of six when the dining started. We had our own little cluster of friends and a couple of tables of waiters and waitresses that ate together early. Then, we had a waiter and a waitress at each... not each table but each four tables, or something. So that was a fun job, the waiter. Then, we came to graduation, and… oh, my daughter thinks I should tell about the war.
  • Audrey Howard Swanson
    Audrey: I went to dinner one Sunday in Dec- on December 7th, nineteen-forty… when did it start- one, in the men’s dorms. The men’s dorms could have a table of guests for dinner on Sunday and they would sometimes set up a table of couples; have their girlfriend and a few other couples, and usually the house mother. So we came out of dinner and someone said Pearl Harbor was bombed. We didn’t know what Pearl Harbor was, or where, so we talked about it and then we went to the movie.
  • Audrey Howard Swanson
    Audrey: And we came home from the movie; I don’t know if I’m telling this exactly right, but anyway our dates said, “Let’s go in the house mother’s suite and listen to the news.” So, we went in Mrs. so-and-so’s suite in the men’s dorms and they turned on the radio. Well, we didn’t know it but- well, the radio was saying, “Oh, we’re over here in Hawaii. Let’s talk to these American soldiers that are coming down the street." And then he said, "What’s your name?” Well, his name was Pete, and that was the name of the boyfriend of my girlfriend who was double-dating with me that day. So we opened our eyes and he said, “D’you have a girl at home Pete?” “Oh yeah, her name is Peg.” Well here's Peg sitting here.
  • Audrey Howard Swanson
    Audrey: Well, it turned out these fellows were in the lounge with the radio. They’d spent the afternoon getting ready for this production and they had the radio in the lounge, the men’s lounge, hooked up to the house mother’s radio, so whatever they said came out on her radio. So, we’re listening to these guys right next- in the next room, you know, making up all this stuff. So, it was very funny, and finally they took us in there and they had a uke playing and they had corn stalks looking like a palm tree, and they had really knocked themselves out over this whole thing. That was Pearl Harbor Day to us.
  • Audrey Howard Swanson
    Audrey: But then, it wasn’t as funny as time went on. I think at first we didn’t think too much about people rushing off to war. I don’t really remember that. But within a few weeks or a couple of months the men were enlisting and people were coming on campus to encourage them to enlist. And finally- See, that was my, what, sophomore year, I guess, and then by the time I was a senior… someone said at dinner last night there were 17 men left in our graduating class. I don’t know out of how many it was to begin with, but they had all gone to war by then, unless they were ineligible in some way.
  • Audrey Howard Swanson & Alenka Figa
    Audrey: So I- Graduation day, my mother and my sister came and my roommate was Gwen, and Gwen and I cried. We didn’t wanna leave. I don’t know if kids are excited about leaving now, perhaps.Alenka: Not really.Audrey: Not really? No, it’s such a good life. And we thought, "Oh, it’ll never be as good again,” Gwen said. I look back and I don’t think it ever was as easy! You know, three good meals came to you every day and you just kinda had to study some, but you had a good time. Not really a great responsibility.
  • Audrey Howard Swanson & Alenka Figa
    Audrey: So, I graduated. My mother had- I’m telling my life story. Is this- am I- would you like to change subject?Alenka: Yeah, no. Good. Whatever you want to talk about is fine.Audrey: I’ll finish this part up. I graduated. My mother had had a job lined up for me every vacation that I went home. So, she'd al- I'd come in the door and I can remember, I can still hear her saying, “You have to be at Woolworth’s at eight in the morning,” you know, for Christmas vacation. So, when I graduated I said, “I’m not going to look for a job for two weeks.” It seemed like a long time, then. She said, “Fine.” So, I went home and I went out to the lake with some girlfriends to a cabin.
  • Audrey Howard Swanson
    Audrey: About the second, third day my mother’s car rolled up, which wasn’t like her, but anyway, she’d brought me a letter from RCA in Philadelphia- near Philadelphia, and.. They had interviewed me on the- I had interviewed them on the campus so they... for a job. At that time, they were hiring girls. Companies like that were hir- normally had always hired men for engineers, were hiring girls for all kinds of areas in the company, and this is where they made the war materials at that time. So, they wanted me to come out for another interview, and they said they would pay my way out and back if I didn’t want to stay or if they didn’t want me. So I said to my mother, “Boy I better grab that.” I had never been anywhere but Minnesota and Iowa. In those days you didn’t fly anywhere. It was just the train.
  • Audrey Howard Swanson
    Audrey: So we- I was out at the lake, so we hurried and rushed me back into town to get me packed. They didn’t give me much time to get there, so I had to hurry and pack, and I got back in town and it was after 4 o’clock, and the bank was closed for the weekend. Mankato, Minnesota, it was big enough but in those days the bank closed for the weekend. So, there was no way to get some more cash. My mother, I don’t know if they sent the ticket or I had enough for a ticket, but anyway, but she found fifty dollars in the house and I was gonna go with the fifty dollars. And then we figured I'd either- they’d pay my way home or I would stay and pay day would come in two weeks and I could get along on the fifty dollars.
  • Audrey Howard Swanson
    Audrey: So... Then my uncle popped in from another town to visit and he heard the story and he said, “Well, you can’t send her that far away from home with only fifty dollars.” And he had five dollars he threw into the kitty. But.. So then my mother- I always said my mother was a do-er. She really did get it done - and she went to the phone and she called the President of the bank - it was Friday night, at dinner time – at his home. And she told him, well she knew who he was and he knew enough who we were, but she told him our predicament and she asked him if she sent two blank checks with me and I had an emergency and signed them, would he honor them. And he said yes, of course he would. So then I was safe; I had the two blank checks.
  • Audrey Howard Swanson
    Audrey: So then she took the fifty dollars and she sewed it into my bra. She made a little pocket, and sewed that. And I, of course I’m having a fit, you know, “I’m a college graduate! I can watch out for my money!” I’m saying. And my mother said, “No, you better have it sewed in.” And so I had the five dollars to function on. So I got to Chicago and I had to change and get on a different train, but I had a seat and I was so glad I had that fifty dollars sewed in because it was war- the peak of WWII at that point and the aisle was filled with soliders that couldn’t get a seat, and they were sitting on their duffel bags all night. And I had my purse, you know, and I didn’t have to worry about my purse getting lost or stolen. I just put my head down on it and went to sleep.
  • Audrey Howard Swanson
    Audrey: And I heard the man yell something Philadelphia. I slept all night and it was about 6:30 in the morning, and I... So I grabbed my stuff, we were there, and I grabbed my things and got off. Well, I thought, "It’s early and I don’t have to be over there 'til 9:00 or something." But I didn’t want to waste my money on a cab. And I thought, "I’ll look at the store windows for a while." Well, the train pulled out, and we were out in the country. There were no stores. It was pasture, and green meadows, and horses grazing. It was very upscale, horse country. And so then I thought, "Now I’m really- how am I gonna get there?" And I didn’t wanna get a cab and use my five dollars, but I saw the word “subway.”
  • Audrey Howard Swanson
    Audrey: "Well," I thought, "I have to learn how- sometime learn how to do this, I might as well learn now." So, I put my dime down. I thought I would get on and ask the conductor, like you would do in the streetcar in Minneapolis. I didn’t realize there was not gonna be any conductor, you know, in the subway. But I put my dime down, and I didn’t ask what to do, I just got on. Then I sat there and waited and no conductor came. I began to study the car and I could see there was no way anyone was gonna get from the car ahead of us to me. So then I knew I had to talk to somebody and I waited and watched for a nice, fatherly-looking person to come on.
  • Audrey Howard Swanson
    Audrey: And there was a- He sat down, with his Wall-Street Journal, and the seat next to him was empty. So I went over and sat by him and I told him my story. He smiled and he said, “You know, I have a daughter about your same age and she would’ve done the same dumb thing,” he said. “You stick with me," he said. "I’ll get you to within a block of your hotel.” My mother had made a reservation. So, he did. He got me almost to the RCA. He worked for Eversharp Pen.
  • Audrey Howard Swanson
    Audrey: And I thanked him immensely. I never knew his name. I saw him at Christmas on the street, in the winter, I should say, and he called over and said, “How are you doing?” and I said “Fine.” And then, I decided in March to go home and I saw him along about May, and he said, “How’s it going?” and I said, “I’m going home.” “Oh,” he said, “that’s a good thing.” And I always said that I- he was my first friend and I never knew his name, but he was a nice man. So, that was my first year of work.
  • Mary Swanson & Audrey Howard Swanson
    Mary: Why don’t you talk a little bit about how you stayed in touch with your Grinnell friends, that would come through the east. Some of the guys who'd become officers?Audrey: Oh yes, during the war… The east, I don’t know if any of you people are from the east, but the east then was not friendly the way the west- I later went west and it was quite different. I was never invited to a Philadelphia home, but I had a lot of friends in the offices from away, like myself.
  • Audrey Howard Swanson
    Audrey: But we had- Our friends would come through from Mankato or Grinnell, being shipped out of the east coast. So there were always fellows coming along that we had dates with, and we’d get all the other girls and we’d all go hang out at a certain place called the Venture Inn. And it was our favorite little spot, with a girl singer, and very dimly lighted and she sang many wartime songs, you know, in this sort of club- little club atmosphere. It was in an alley, down on… if you know Philadelphia, I lived at 21st and Locust and we’d walk straight down Locust to about 11th Street, and then in the alley was this little Venture Inn.
  • Mary Swanson & Audrey Howard Swanson
    Mary: So Truesdale and some of the other class of ’42 and ’43, a lot of those guys that you were friends with here became officers and...Audrey: They would come and go in the east, yeah. Jack Truesdale - his father was the Athletic Director at Grinnell in those years. He came through a lot because he was coast guard and he happened to be sent to different schools along the coast, and he was a great friend. He just died a year ago, almost.Mary: It was great for all of you to be able to stay in touch, that were coming in and out. How terrific for the men going off to war that some of you Grinnellians were in the east. Essie worked in New York City. You were in Philly.
  • Audrey Howard Swanson & Mary Swanson
    Audrey: Yes. We were there where they were gonna ship out, so we often saw- My boyfriend from college came, and he was there two nights before he shipped out, and we went- I wrote a story for the – did you see my story? I put out on the table last night? I wrote a story for the Magazine, one time, about my college love. She asked for- Jackie Stolze, they asked for stories about going steady, and so I wrote a story about going steady in those days because people didn’t know what going steady was now.Mary: Do you have a copy of it?Audrey: It’s under that.
  • Mary Swanson & Alenka Figa & Audrey Howard Swanson
    Mary: Hold on. If you have ten minutes left on this...?Alenka: Oh, yeah.Mary: If you could read this, this would-Audrey: Oh, it’s ten minutes.Alenka: If it's something the College has published, we'll have a record of it. So-Mary: Hearing her say it is pretty incredible.Alenka: Okay.Mary: 'Cause I think there's-Audrey: You think I should read it?
  • Alenka Figa & Audrey Howard Swanson & Mary Swanson
    Alenka: Also, there is a water cooler out there. I can give you...Audrey: Yeah, give me my glasses. Am I gonna to read this?Mary: I think, if you've got ten minutes left on there, to make them hear you read it.Audrey: Well, it’ll fill the time, the rest of the time. It’ll be about eight or ten minutes. I'll go fast.Alenka: I mean, the time is kind of just up to you.Audrey: I don't hear very well, so you-
  • Audrey Howard Swanson
    Audrey: Well, I titled it “And My Heart Had Wings”. And it says: "You’d like to know about getting pinned? It was the highlight of college social life in the decades of the thirties and forties, if a girl was lucky enough to have it happen to her. Each of the men’s halls had its own pin, and if your fellow asked you to go steady with him and date no one else, he would then pin his hall pin on you. It was very special and you wore your pin proudly everywhere you went."
  • Audrey Howard Swanson
    Audrey: "After you were pinned and came into your dorm, you were queen of the floor. The girls all gathered and candy came from somewhere. The men in the dorm where the amorous young man resided came together for cigars and much verbal bantering about the young lady. If his dorm was one that did serenading, as Dibble did, you then could be sure that some night soon, about 11PM, the voices of the men would come floating up to the open windows where you lived. When they sang the Dibble Sweethearts song, you knew it was just for you."
  • Audrey Howard Swanson
    Audrey: "My five-year diary doesn’t lie. The diary was started in 1937, but after five years of high school and college I had to write the love of my college life saga in the margin. And so, in 1942 my love story began. On January 10th I took the train from Grinnell to Davenport to see an old boyfriend. I came back on Sunday night about fifteen minutes after the 10PM hour, which was the time I was supposed to be in the Quad. I got off the train and to my surprise, standing there was a fellow I knew but had never dated. He said, “Could I carry your bag for you?” Thank you. I was really surprised, stunned. He was there to meet me! It was late when we got to the Quadrangle so I went right in."
  • Audrey Howard Swanson
    Audrey: "The next night, Monday, he called and asked me to open house the following Friday night. All the men’s halls had their lounges open every Friday night and music on a juke box or records for dancing. You could stay in the dorm- in your date’s hall the whole evening, or you might drift from one lounge to another. As we talked on the phone he began to sound more and more like what we would then call a classy date."
  • Audrey Howard Swanson
    Audrey: "By Tuesday my diary says I was with him afternoon and evening, played bridge with him at the White House, now Nollen House in the afternoon, and went for a walk and had a coke at night. Things were obviously picking up steam. Wednesday, an afternoon coke and evening for a walk. Thursday night he slipped the first kiss onto my lips. I remember it very well. There was a slightly nervous edge, still it caused quite a tingle. It seemed as though a whole herd of monarchs was flying through- fluttering through me. We had a tradition at the time of borrowing our boyfriend’s sweater. He brought his and he started to slip it over my head. I knew, yes, I knew that as he brought that sweater down, he was going to kiss me. It was most exciting. The next night, Friday, we had our first real date to the open house. I wore the dress that looked the best on me. The red wool with red velvet stripes. It was an exciting evening, and we were definitely falling for each other."
  • Audrey Howard Swanson
    Audrey: "From that night forward I was with him every afternoon and every evening. Valentine’s Day was coming and that Thursday and Friday I was ill, and had to be in the infirmary. I went back to my dorm room on Saturday, the 14th, but wasn’t strong enough to go to the Valentine Dance, so he came over and brought a wonderful book. A long poem titled, “The White Cliffs of Dover,” by Alice Duer Miller. It was a WWI love story made into a movie in 1944. He read the whole book to me in the parlor as I had my head in his lap. We had the parlor to ourselves all evening. The first line of that poem is, “I have loved England, and love it still,” and sometime during the evening he pinned his Dibble pin on me. We didn’t say anything. We heard each other’s heart beating… or was it my own? We were now going steady, and it was a beautiful romance."
  • Audrey Howard Swanson
    Audrey: "Spring came to Grinnell, and with it the warm and sunny days and long warm evenings. We went up the tracks with my roommate and her boyfriend with a portable radio and hot dogs for a picnic. If we planned it right, on Saturdays we could borrow a couple of bikes and the fellows would pedal us out to Arbor Lake. There was always open house on Friday nights, and lots of formal dances called House Parties. Each of the six men’s halls and each of the six women’s quadrangle halls had its own House Party. Twelve, each semester. Since I was social chairman of the Quad, I was eligible to attend all of them and bring him as my date. The dorm often had a theme for these events, such as Gates Goes to the Astro Roof or Tuxedo Junction."
  • Audrey Howard Swanson
    Audrey: "Weekends we often studied together in the library- weeknights we often studied together in the library. We went to a lot of movies in downtown Grinnell on Sunday afternoons or evenings. Sometimes he would plan a Sunday table in the men’s dining room, which was the only time the girls were invited to join...." Where am I at? Page... Oops, oh dear. "- to join men at meals. To fill out the table he invited other couples and usually also the house mother."
  • Audrey Howard Swanson
    Audrey: "The weeks went by too fast, and since he was a senior, a year ahead of me, there was an uneasiness about the future, an uncertainty as the war loomed before us all. Graduation weekend came, and his parents and brother arrived in Grinnell to stay at the Monroe Hotel in town. I got his brother a date for the Saturday night dance. It was held on the roof of the new Cowles Hall, and the weather was warm and perfect. Everything about the night was perfect."
  • Audrey Howard Swanson
    Audrey: "Sunday night- Sunday morning was the Graduation Ceremony. Afterward I was invited to join his family at the hotel for dinner. That last afternoon we went to a movie, just the two of us, and later that evening spent some time with our close friends at the beer hangout. And then it was time to say goodbye. We stood by a tree behind the chapel, and I unpinned his pin and gave it back to him."
  • Audrey Howard Swanson
    Audrey: "It wasn’t our intention to continue going steady after we- when we were once apart, but I felt tears on his cheek as his touched mine, and with only the moon to cast some light, I could see that his eyes were full of tears. I knew he cared, and was sad to leave me. The men had already signed up with some unit of the military, destined to be officers, and it was just a matter of time until each outfit would be called for basic training. They were all going to war. We didn’t discuss the future."
  • Audrey Howard Swanson
    Audrey: "He was soon called into the Air Force. I graduated the next year, and went to Philadelphia to work. He shipped out of New York City, so I was able to see him two different nights before he left for England. We had a night with friends, and spent our last night alone, dancing at Café Society uptown. We walked on the Riverside Parkway and finally, when it was almost dawn, we tried to say goodbye at the home where I was visiting. Through an open crack in the door, we couldn’t quite leave each other. We widened the crack and then narrowed it again, and said goodbye. After a few more openings and near-closings, I had to close the door. I peeked out again and saw him go down the street."
  • Audrey Howard Swanson
    Audrey: "He flew 14 missions over Germany and then was shot down after bombing Poland. The crew almost bailed out into the North Sea, but came down in Denmark. They were ten minutes from boarding a ship to neutral Sweden when the Nazis caught up with them. He was held as a prisoner of war for almost two years. Fortunately, the war ended and he was able to come home."
  • Audrey Howard Swanson
    Audrey: "In time... In due time, we drifted apart. I’m happy that he came home safely from the war, married and raised a fine family and had a most successful career. He passed away several years ago. He was such a special person in my life, that I never really forgot him, nor our time together at Grinnell. He was so genuine, and that- had that pattern that we would have said was thrown away after they made him. After my husband was killed on the highway when we were both only fifty, I turned back to my college friends for support. I saw my old sweetheart occasionally at reunions and we always remained good friends. He never failed to save a chair for me to sit next to him at dinner.
  • Audrey Howard Swanson
    Audrey: On a trip to England in the 1980s, I drove out to the wheat fields north and east of Barry St. Edmunds, where his Air Force base had been. Portions of the surface of the main runway were visible through the grasses that had taken over the fields. I picked a poppy that was growing up between the cracks and put a pebble from the runway into my purse to take home. I thought of all my love letters that had flown over the Atlantic to that small English village of Coney Weston, helping sustain a young airman whose fears increased with every mission. From the Dibble pin to the Air Force wings, there was a bond. Yes, he was a very special person."
  • Audrey Howard Swanson & Mary Swanson & Alenka Figa
    Audrey: How was that?Mary: That's great.Alenka: Do you mind if I ask one more question? Sorry, I know you’ve been talking for a while, but I was wondering: What’s your first memory of the war as something serious rather than something kind of funny?Audrey: Speak a little louder.
  • Alenka Figa & Audrey Howard Swanson & Mary Swanson
    Alenka: What's your first memory of the war as something that you understood to be very serious? I guess..Audrey: My first memories of the war that I would be getting...Alenka: As-Mary: That you'd consider..Alenka: Because your first memory of the war was kind of... it seemed like it was kind of funny. And it wasn’t, you weren’t thinking of the war as something like, very serious.Audrey: No, we didn't- I don’t think we thought of it as anything that was going to last five years. We didn’t think of it as something that was gonna take so many of our men’s lives. No, at the beginning we certainly didn’t, although we hated to see the men go instead of going off and getting a job like they had done for years and years out of Grinnell.
  • Audrey Howard Swanson & Mary Swanson
    Audrey: But... I do remember my mother, a year before that, in September. Hitler moved into Poland, and I remember my mother saying, “Someday all the boys you know are going to go to war.” And I said “Oh no," you know, "that’s not going to happen. Not anybody I know.” Well, of course, everyone I knew did go to war. Almost everyone. But that was a good question, because we weren’t that serious at the very beginning. I suppose it wasn’t long, and the men were, however...Mary: They knew they had to go.Audrey: Knowing they were enlisting, and.... yeah.
  • Audrey Howard Swanson & Alenka Figa & Mary Swanson
    Audrey: But, anything else I can tell you?Alenka: Nope, that’s great. Thank you.Audrey: That’s- been quite a while. How long have I been....Mary: 34 minutes.Alenka: Yeah! I think you're just perfect.Audrey: Well, that's long enough.Alenka: Yeah.Mary: Mom's getting a... an award this year.Audrey: I’ll just say I loved Grinnell then, and I love it now.Alenka: That's good. Yeah.Audrey: Okay.
Alumni oral history interview with Audrey (Bunny) Howard Swanson '43. Recorded June 1, 2012.
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