Shannon here: Historical Romance author, Elizabeth Camden shares her parents’ real life romance and a chance to win her book: The Lady of Bolton Hill. Comment on this post for a chance to win. Deadline: July 15th, 11:59 pm central time. Here’s Elizabeth:
Right after John completed his degree in Chemical Engineering, he was faced with the grim choice faced by millions of American men in 1950. The Korean War was in full swing and his odds of being called up were strong. If he volunteered, he would get a slot in Officer’s Candidate School, but waiting for his draft number to be called carried no such guarantee. John volunteered and became an army officer in 1952. Just before being shipped off he was sent for antiaircraft training at Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas.
There he met Jane, a journalism major at the University of Texas, El Paso. They met on a Saturday night at a crowded sorority party and were immediately taken with each other. John didn’t waste any time and asked Jane to attend church with him the next morning. Their first official date was at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and was quickly followed by seven more dates.
In those tense, whirlwind few weeks before shipping off to a dangerous assignment in Korea, John told Jane he was falling in love with her. Jane replied that maybe he was just a nice guy a long way from home who was looking for a little fun before shipping off for war. As she later explained, she was looking for a little reassurance, but still lacking fluency in the arcane language called Female Subtext, John replied that maybe she was right.
Wrong thing to say. Jane backed off and became a little chilly. Then came the infamous Il Trovatore incident. Jane sang in the chorus for the university’s opera, and John had been bragging to his army buddies about the fantastic girl he was seeing. He brought them along to see the show. Jane was only in the beginning of the show, and as was her custom, after her scenes she snuck into the audience to watch the rest of the performance. Also in the audience that night was Gilbert, an on-again, off-again boyfriend she had been friends with since high school. Unaware that John was sitting just a few rows behind Gilbert, she walked right past him and sat beside Gilbert.
And that was the end of that. John went to Korea and figured he would never see Jane again. He settled into building anti-aircraft towers, but couldn’t stop thinking about that girl he had eight fantastic dates with until the Big Chill descended. Six months passed with no communication, but he kept thinking and thinking about her. Finally, he broke down and sent her a Christmas card in December of 1952.
Jane replied, saying she was surprised, but glad to hear from him. That tentative Christmas card kicked-off a marathon letter writing campaign. They cleared the air about the misunderstanding they had before John left, and began to open up and discuss things they did not have a chance to cover while John was in Texas. Over the course of about a year, they exchanged hundreds of letters, and by the time John was back in the states, he was ready to pop the question.
But it wasn’t that easy. John returned to his family home in New Jersey and Jane was still in El Paso. In the days before mapquest and interstate highways, that sort of road trip took some doing. He borrowed his brother’s car and drove each day until he was too tired to keep going. He used church graveyards as the cheapest and safest place to sack out.
John and Jane were still really strangers, but had fallen in love through the course of those letters. Their reunion when John finally made it to El Paso was equal measures awkward, thrilling, and affirming. They became engaged and married on June 19, 1954.
A few weeks ago John and Jane celebrated their 57th year of marriage. Last Christmas they had those hundreds of love letters re-printed and bound for each of their seven children, so I had a chance to read what was going through their minds during that year apart. For someone who always regarded my parents as sober, traditional people, it was a strange sensation to roll the clock back and see two giddy kids with stars in their eyes, but it is one of the best gifts I have ever received.
About Elizabeth: A research librarian and associate professor, Elizabeth Camden has a master’s in history from the University of Virginia and a master’s in library science from Indiana University. She has published several articles for academic publications and is the author of four nonfiction history books. Her ongoing fascination with history and love of literature have led her to write inspirational fiction. Elizabeth lives with her husband in central Florida. Elizabeth blogs about inspirational topics and the romance genre at http://elizabethcamden.com/blog.
About the Book:
Clara Endicott is beginning to make a name for herself as a journalist who is intent on exposing the dark side of industry. In the splendor of gilded age America, she soon finds herself face to face with the childhood sweetheart who is no longer the impoverished steel worker she once knew.
Daniel Tremain has risen to become a powerful industry giant. He always idolized Clara, but when she writes an exposé about his company, her words trigger a series of events that threaten to destroy them both.
Come back July 11th for the continuing story of my real life romance and a chance to win a copy of White Pearls.