Thursday, February 14, 2013

A Return to Blogging: My Grandfather at the Naval Academy

My friend Deja has recently inspired me to blog again. Unfortunately, I don't find much time to write with an 18-month-old and a 3-month-old, but perhaps I can share something I've been editing recently. Last summer, my grandmother wrote a series of emails to her progeny telling stories about my grandfather who passed away about 40 years ago. My dad asked me to edit them, and I am finally making progress on the project after months of procrastination. So here is a little bit about my grandfather, Douglas Eagar:

"Politics seem to enter in to so many things—certainly they do in appointments to the military academies. When telling about Douglas's appointment to Annapolis, Calhoun [his father] always contended that his connections got it. Gertrude [Douglas's mother], on the other hand, was convinced that his appointment was secured because of a girl whom Douglas was dating, who, according to her, was in love with him and who happened to be the niece of a Tennessee senator. I myself think it was the latter. (Of course, I was that Tennessee senator’s niece.)

"I did not hear from him until long after he took off for his adventure, which is no wonder because the midshipmen were informed that the Navy needed to get them out to the Pacific as fast as it could. So there would be no vacations, and they would go through the academy in three years and then out to sea. I think, while this was necessary, it had some harmful ramifications. While looking through some “Lucky Bags'” (the year book), I saw, in each one,  “In Memoriam” with names of boys, the midshipmen who had taken their own lives. Douglas had already had two years at Georgia Tech, so he was the second from the top in his plebe (freshman) year and was in the upper 10th of his class at graduation. He was helpful to others who were struggling through at the academy; he was a great teacher—the other boys probably learned more from him than from their teachers. I will tell you what his first classman (senior) yearbook said about him:

Harry Douglas Eagar
Chattanooga, Tennessee

After spending two years at Georgia Tech, Doug finally succumbed to the lure of the sea. The transformation from a “rambling wreck" to a "savoir" he took in his stride. Though he preferred sleeping or reading a magazine to reading or studying, he was still always ready to offer a helping hand to the troubled. Though he was a good lacrosse and soccer player, his greatest enjoyment always came from sailing. During youngster year he seldom dragged; however, first class year found him an ardent admirer of the fairer sex. That same personality that served Doug so well with the women will assure him many friends in the years to come.

"I received a letter in late May inviting me to come for June week and graduation. Now what girl in her right mind would turn down an invitation like that? I called my mother, packed, and boarded the train for Annapolis! I had been dating a fellow I knew from home who was at West Point but had never gone to June Week.

"Gertrude and Johnny [Douglas's brother] had come for the graduation. Johnny was only about 12 years old then. We saw the all the interesting sites you see when you visit. The most fun was sailing with Douglas. Then came the big and special hop; it was the big event before graduation the next day—much excitement! The hops were held in a huge armory and usually some well-known band played, but I can't remember whom it was. For my high school May Day ceremony I was told to wear a long lavender gown—at the time that color was only for old ladies or those in mourning, so my mother was furious and had a hard time finding material to make it. But she did find some lovely lace, and the gown was actually very pretty, so I brought it for the hop. Gertrude and Johnny watched the Hop from the bleachers, and Gertrude told me that Douglas and I were the only ones she could spot on the dance floor because my dress was the only lavender dress there. I think she liked that.

"After the hop was over, Douglas was taking me back to the house, and we stopped and sat down on a bench. As I have said, Douglas was always shy, but that last night he said, “I think I love you.” I was completely taken aback. I had always been able to tell who had crushes on me, but this sounded pretty serious. I was only 19, and a serious relationship was far from my mind. I did not feel that way about him, so I didn't know what to say. I just blurted out that I thought that after college I would become a nun (actually the last thing I ever thought I would be). He never said another thing, just took me to the house. Do you know, though, I think it was then that I really thought about him, not as just a beau but as someone I should think more seriously about.

"The next day was graduation—more excitement! Then after that, Gertrude, Johnny, Douglas, and I went over to Baltimore and took a train back home. I saw Douglas once more before he took off to Pensacola. We had a picnic on the mountain with some of his friends. Someone there took my picture and gave it to him. I did not know it at that time, but Gertrude had it blown up and framed, and it went all over the Pacific with him."

1 comment:

Deja said...

oh, i'm pleased to have inspired! and this is very cool. a worthy project, indeed. i miss hearing more of your thoughts.