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Sunday, August 4. 2013
My dad had grown up outside of Marlin, Texas and my mom, a Drâ€™s daughter, grew up outside of Abilene, but as we looked for a house far outside the city limits of Houston, far at the time was over 5 miles, we finally settled on a 3 bedroom bungalow 6 miles from the western city limits. Moving in to the new house in October of 1939, everything was fine until August of 1941.
We had moved in without any problems, the â€œnewâ€ wasnâ€™t even off the house and we had moved into a brand new, incorporated, subdivision. Being west of Rice Institute (now University), the subdivision was aptly named West University. â€œWest Uâ€ as we called it had, and still has, its own fire, police and water departments.
Houstonâ€™s urban sprawl now has encircled â€œWest Uâ€ and driven prices sky-high! Our 3, bed room, frame, house and lot, had cost $3,900. Today lots are over $200K and homes over $500K. Back then, the streets were paved with oyster shell, drainage ditches lined the streets, but on calm and still days, when new shell was applied to the streets, the smell was overpowering! Now â€œWest Uâ€ is a model, pricey, yuppie haven, not the almost country place of my youth.
The radio had alerted us of a storm thrashing around in the Gulf of Mexico and apparently headed for landfall on the upper Texas coast, back then storms weren't named. It hit between Galveston and Freeport and unknown to us, was headed our way. Now, with satellites and radar we can tell within miles of where one of these monsters will hit, but back then it was just an educated guess. To me, not yet 6 years old, it sounded like a lot of fun, but looking back, I just donâ€™t know how we survived without the TV weather folks, with their foul weather gear on, telling us what to do, how to pack our survival items and not to drive our cars into the deep water!
The storm made landfall and bored inland. â€œWest Uâ€ is about 60 miles as the â€œcrow fliesâ€ from the coast and we received almost the full fury of the storm! The rain was first, beginning in mid morning, then the wind, strengthening and making noises that I had never heard before. By early evening the lights went out, the telephone was dead and we had lost all power. Lightning flashed, thunder roared, the rain came down in sheets, but our new house held together! Then everything stopped!
The hurricaneâ€™s eye was passing right over us my mom and dad explained to my sister, H.R., and me, as they took us outside for a quick look around. It was dark but we could tell that there were no clouds above us, the stars were out and there was no storm, wind, rain or lightning. Our parents hurried us back inside and we waited for the onslaught to begin again, and it did with a vengeance! More wind and heavy, rain, not as much thunder and lightning, but the storm pounded us until morning.
The hurricane had moved away and following my dad outside, we both heard a tiny â€Mewâ€ and looked under the edge of our house (it was built on a block foundation and raised about 18â€ above ground level) and found that the source of the â€œmewâ€ was a tiny, yellow kitten. Picking it up, I discovered later that it was a male, and as I ran back inside, yelled, â€œMother, can we keep it?â€ She replied, â€œIf your Dad says so.â€ He was easy on this one and "Tom" lived with us for the next 14 years.
Not knowing it then, but we had a much bigger and deadlier â€œstormâ€ coming our way on December 7, 1941!
Posted by Jon Bryan in Weather at 12:42 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
Wednesday, December 7. 2011
How could this be happening? That was the Nationâ€™s question on the morning of December 8, 1941. Roy Bryanâ€™s question was how did I, a civilian, end up in a shallow trench on a beach on the Island of Oahu, with a 16 gauge, Winchester, sawed off shotgun, watching the sun come up over Diamond Head, waiting for the inevitable Japanese invasion?
The Bryan family has always had an urge for new, different things and to keep moving west. Uncle Roy was my dadâ€™s brother and his urge caused him to leave Texas and migrate to Hawaii in 1939. By then, he was already, like his dad, Peyton, had been, a skilled carpenter and there was plenty of work available and waiting for Roy in the Islands.
It all started on December 6, a Saturday. Roy, 25 at the time, was a carpenter and had been doing some interior work on a battleship for the Navy and while working there he had become friends with some of the sailors. There was a big party in Honolulu that night and he was going to attend with his sailor friends. He hoped it wouldnâ€™t be an all nighter, because he had also planned to go fishing later in Aiea Bay, eat an early breakfast, then sleep most of Sunday.
The party, like all big parties, was loud and crowded, but the exceptionally pretty girls kept him there to almost midnight. His sailor friends invited him to come back to the ship with them and spend the night there. He replied, â€œNo thanks buddies, Iâ€™m going fishing in the bay and sleep in most of tomorrow. Iâ€™ll see all you all on Monday.â€
The fishing was good as usual and he had a nice â€œmessâ€ for supper that night. The morning was breaking and he enjoyed the sight of Ford Island and Battleship Row across the bay. It was just after 8:00 AM and Roy thought that it was a good time to be rounding up his gear and heading back. From out of the north he could hear airplanes, nothing unusual since our Country was beefing up our Pacific defenses because our relations with Japan were rapidly deteriorating.
The planes kept coming, and when they cleared the hills, he could see they werenâ€™t the big, B17s, that had been ferrying in, just single engine planes that didnâ€™t look like the F4Fâ€™s or SBDâ€™s that flew off of our carriers. Strange, but as the planes came screaming in, he could clearly see the red ball on the wings and fuselages, just as the first torpedoes were released, their targets being our battleships â€“ Japs!
He could hear the rattling of machine guns, then feeling the concussions from the thunderous explosions, with his mind racing his first action, as the battleships were being hit, was to get behind a coconut tree, peer around it and watch the spectacle. He clearly saw the Arizona, or the ship berthed beside it, being hit, then there was a great explosion and he thought of his friends aboard who had invited him to spend the night with them. The poor guys! Then, the torpedo planes, finishing their work, along with their fighter escorts, were leaving.
He moved to gather up his gear, when he heard more planes approaching from the east. More Jap planes, more death, more destruction, as he snuggled down behind his tree and watched the bombers pound our Pacific Fleet. The harbor was all confusion, ships exploding and maneuvering trying to keep the channel clear, fires raging on the ships and on shore, sirens screaming and black smoke spiraling skyward! A scene from hell! And, even though he had watched every minute of the attack, but for fate, he could have been more in the middle of it and doomed on the U.S.S. Arizona!
The Japs flew away and Roy thought, this means war with Japan. Finally moving off of the beach he tried to drive toward Pearl Harbor, but the roads were closed. He was stopped and told martial law had been imposed and he was to report to â€œsuch and such a placeâ€ and await orders, his guess was that all able bodied men had been â€œdraftedâ€ into the service, or home defense.
The officials were positive the Japs would invade the Islands, Oahu especially, and, he was right, all able bodied men were guarding the beach for the next several nights. No invasion, but the world and the Hawaiian Islands, along with Roy, would forever change after that day, December 7, 1941!
Roy Bryan told me this story when I visited him just before his death, wanting to make sure that it was recorded and saved for future generations. Having visited the U.S.S. Arizona monument in Honolulu Bay several times, there are 2 Bryans forever entombed in the ship (no relation), but for a quirk of fate, Uncle Roy would be there too.
Posted by Jon Bryan in Ancestry at 08:05 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
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