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Night Photography in Virginia

Last Chance Night Club at Camp Patrick Henry, Virginia, 1945

U.S. Army Signal Corps GI's shown with their dates on the dance floor of the Last Chance Night Club at Camp Patrick Henry, Virginia, 1945

U.S. Army Signal Corps
GI’s shown with their dates on the dance floor of the Last Chance Night Club at Camp Patrick Henry, Virginia, 1945

 

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7 Responses to “Last Chance Night Club at Camp Patrick Henry, Virginia, 1945”

  1. Jaime Rae says:

    As the Angel stood quietly in the corner of the room, he listened to the muted click of their heels on the ageless wooden dance floor, listened to the sweet melody of their whispering giggles. They looked across the room at the young soldiers, blushing as the soldiers returned their gaze. One of them stepped out boldly, the gentle swishing sound of her dress filling the room. The Angel observed her confidence, hearing her thoughts of wanting to take charge of the dance floor. He smiled, and instantly her friend pulled her back to their group, and she was once again surrounded by the safety of their laughter.
    The Angel adjusted the dim room lights, increasing the illuminance just enough to accentuate the silver outline of their lips and the soft tenderness of their hair that they had so lovingly styled for the dance.
    And then he saw her, standing back in the shadows, her eyes sparkling with stardust in the darkness. He stepped forward, opening his wings, changing the underlying melody of the music, the dynamic of the room. They couldn’t see him, but they could feel the change in the air, and suddenly they felt empowered to step forward to the young scared soldiers, to approach them. Their loving smiles filled the young men’s hearts as they asked them to dance. The softness of their lips spoke words of comfort to the young men, caressing the fear out of their minds of what was to become of them. They gave the soldiers this one moment, this one song, this one night, to forget about the future.
    They could still see the young boys deep within the skin of the men as they guided their timid hearts to the dance floor. Songs that they had never before heard, and would not hear again flooded the air of the nightclub, with words that were familiar to all of them. The room transformed into a place that none of them could remember visiting; although they all knew that they had been there before, dancing just as they were now, so very long ago. The dance floor filled with couples meeting once again, with souls no longer longing.
    As he continued to walk across the dance floor, his wings softened, his energy became more even as he chose his form, just like the young soldiers, wearing the khaki uniform with the crisp creases, the shoes with the high shine. With each step he could see her more clearly, there in the shadows, timidly watching the dancers. He listened to her thoughts about love, and how she noticed the muted click of their heels on the ageless wooden dance floor.
    As he stood in front of her, he could see all of the universes in her eyes, even the secret ones, the ones that only the Angels knew about. She gazed at him, and he saw the falling stars creating brilliant bursts of pure radiance. She saw the cerulean of the sea in his eyes, every cloud in the sky, and the warm clear waters of the oceans that she had never visited, but had swam in many times. He held out his hand to her.
    She reached out to him, placing her hand in his, the delicate ivory skin warm to the touch, and followed him to the dance floor. And they danced to their own ancient melodies, knowing that the song would last forever.

  2. Kim Drew Wright says:

    Reveille

    He’s in the army now, a-blowin’ Reveille…He’s the boogie woogie bugle boy of Company B.

    They’ve started up with that song again. The world’s gone mad with joy. Laughter like sniper bullets flash through any crowd, rapid-fire catching. The men transformed, little boys in church bursting to get out of their uniforms and secret-code grinning. Caught singing snippets.

    He puts the boys asleep with boogie every night…And wakes ‘em up the same way in the early bright.

    It’s strange to be standing here snapping shots of happy faces. I can’t sleep, so I watch the dance halls fill and empty. It’s like this every night since the news. Their dancing feet stomp on planks, reminding me of the thud of grenades. I anticipate more than laughter. Russian accents blend with our GIs, but the voices twirl instead of clang. Feet fly frantic like we’re beating out flames, not fanning a fire. The smoke is seeping in, though – rising. We are surrounded by grey. Is it wrong to have a pinch of fun while dancing around unmarked graves? Anybody’s name could be etched here.

    They clap their hands and stamp their feet…Because they know how he plays when someone gives him a beat.

    Things rumored to be true – are. I’ve sent piles of dry pictures home. Bodies piled up like lumber, staving off the cold days of 1944. SS Suicide has docked in Nazi towns. Cyanide-spiked lemonade given to daughters, party guests blown to bits by hosts. I worry that it makes me glad, but the smell of burning climbs barbed wire and hangs in the streets, smothering any compassion I may have felt for party-line followers. We have liberated bodies. Skeletons are dragged out and fed powdered milk until they can find their humanity again. I’m searching for humanity, too. We all are, that’s why they’re dancing and I’m filling every frame with strong arms holding on to swirling smiles, tight like the world might depend on it. Don’t stop the world; we need it slightly out of focus.

    He really breaks it up when he plays reveille…He’s the boogie woogie bugle boy of Company B.

    That is why they’ve started up that song, again. A peppy tune to rebuild bloodied rubble. And, that’s why we’re here. We are the bugle boys playing reveille. Shouting out the cry for the world to wake up. I cannot sleep. I will never sleep again. It’s the spring of 1944 and we are all awake.

    “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” was written by Don Raye and Hughie Prince, and originally recorded by The Andrews Sisters. It ranks sixth on the “Songs of the Century” list by the Recording Industry Association of America.

  3. Sarah Pezzat says:

    That Elizabeth Jones

    In a book store, around 1970, an aging science fiction writer named A.J. Green met a cute young scientist at a book signing. She was fresh out of grad school, and a long time fan, and had stood in line for an hour to get his autograph on a first edition of his short stories, printed in 1945. She said,
    “Can you make it out to: my long lost Elizabeth Jones?”
    He had not flirted with cute girls when he was young, but he did now. It was harmless, and cute girls would put up with anything from sweet older men. They chatted about her degrees (Physics, Mathematics) and her love of science fiction while the few remaining fans shifted their weight from foot to foot. She took a good look at him and said,
    “If you met me back in your twenties, do you think you would take me out?”
    He wouldn’t have dared. He said,
    “Sure. Yeah, I would.”
    She smiled and leaned over the table.
    “So, how, hypothetically, would I get to meet you? What in can you give me?”
    He smiled back.
    “Hypothetically?” He thought about it, then opened his mouth to give an answer that might work.
    “No, don’t tell me!” she said. “Write it down. I don’t want to screw it up.”
    He wrote it down, in the front flap of her book. She examined it and then looked at him.
    “No, that isn’t going to work. Try again.”
    She flipped the book back to him. He thought about it for a full minute, and then wrote something else. She took the book from him and examined the inside flap again, then looked at him expectantly.
    Now he remembered: these were the exact words that were spoken to him by a comely William and Mary professor on the dance floor at Camp Patrick Henry at the end of the war (and they had definitely worked). Why had he never thought about her since then? What was her name? He gasped.
    “You’re that Elizabeth Jones?”
    She clapped her hands and danced in front of him, laughing with happiness.
    “It worked! It worked! You remember it but I don’t! A.J., tell me, how old was I when we met?”
    He nodded, amazed. She had made a point of telling him. He remembered.
    “Thirty-six.”
    Flushed and tearful, grinning, she said,
    “In nine years, I’m going to invent a time machine!”

  4. Thomas Maluck says:

    “How Wallflowers Wilt”

    You remember the taste of martinis
    ordered as a round.

    You remember cold feet
    that stumbled rather than go numb.

    You remember the center of the dance floor calling
    instead of the center of your bed.

    You remember forgetting your umbrella
    and crossing the street anyway.

    You remember going in circles that never stopped
    until they did.

    You remember an unsent letter
    and the heart it still holds.

    You remember dance steps
    and where they could have led,
    the glance of a lifetime
    and words left unsaid.

  5. Melanie Griffin says:

    German Guilt

    It tangles in my blonde hair
    skitters across my blue eyes
    smears my pale skin
    that refuses to tan.

    It cuts the air
    with my Oma’s accent,
    razing her W’s to V’s
    stealing her H’s from T’s and vowels.

    It smells of vanilla dust, history books,
    sounds like the hiss of newsfilm strips
    of shouts that cut abruptly
    to silent bodies.

    My uncles joke about it
    My mother ignores it
    My younger cousins don’t know
    what all the fuss is about.

    But I don’t speak the language.
    I wasn’t there, but I know –
    I wasn’t there, I didn’t do it –
    But I love someone who did.

  6. Cathy Allen says:

    When the war ended, the battle began.

    Twelve hours in high heels set Anne’s tired arches on fire. A good soaking with Epsom salts would not wash away the pain of war. Surgical cuts amid air raid sirens and bombed-out buildings. Wounds she could not mend; lives not saved.

    She was a darn good Army nurse, at the top of her unit. But the Armed Forces kicked her out, so she was heading back to Maryland, Camp Patrick Henry the final stop on her return. It was her last chance to remember all her patients; her sharp wits and quick hands their only shot at going home in one piece. A farewell to life on her own, before ironing boards, and baby bottles.

    Farthest from her mind was an evening of pinching and groping at the Base watering hole. However a good colleague, Midge, snookered her into meeting a friend.

    As she entered The Last Chance Night Club, “In the Mood” was in full swing and sway; trombones roaring low to hoist trumpets blurting out high notes.

    The smell of gin nearly knocked her down. She huddled closer to Midge, traversing the packed dance floor, skirting the wall holding up drunken GI’s.

    Roughly grabbed below the waist, she gasped.

    “Hey, doll, where you been all my life?”

    She firmly pushed away, “You’d better straighten up, soldier, or I’ll have you busted to parade rest!” Turning to Midge, she said, “Come on, let’s find our guys.”

    A tall oak, Anne thought when she first saw him, standing strong amongst frenzied jitterbugging and riotous laughter. “Anne, I’d like you to meet Earl,” Midge said.

    Earl shook Anne’s hand, “It’s my pleasure, miss.”

    The clarinets softened from sassy to sensuous. “I love you, for sentimental reasons…” crooned the baritone, a little boozy, yet sweet.

    Tucking her hand beneath his arm, Earl led Anne to the dance floor. They stepped in tandem, a heady foxtrot, slow, slow, quick, quick. They spoke of everything: homes, hopes, dreams. After service in the Signal Corps, he would open his own car dealership. Anne wanted to continue nursing, and raise a family, too.

    His grasp upon her waist tightened, “Where have you been all my life? You’re so easy to talk to. I wish I’d met you sooner.”

    Anne felt giddy. Was it too much to ask? A guy who loved her, as is? Or, would she end up stuck with broken promises, from an unknown man.

    Then she thought of her boyfriend, Clift. In joining the WACS, she put an ocean between them. He swore he’d stop hitting her.

    Anne wished this night would never end. The battle at home might be her undoing.

  7. Riley Slate says:

    The rays of sunlight danced across her skin like a ballerina, jumping, twirling, twisting into intricate shapes and lighting up the faint sunburn across the bare skin of her back. She lay stretched out on the sand like a lazy cat, completely still, eyes barely open, lips slightly parted. She stayed like that for a while, until the warm Hawaiian sun started to move down towards the water, and then she stood up. Her joints creaked as she got up and she picked her old, yellow backpack out of the sand. She slung it over her shoulder as she wandered back up the hill. All the tourists had gone back to their hotels now, and all who were left on the beach were island natives. She passed by a midnight bar and the owner called out to her.
    “Lola, can I offer you a drink? You look tired.” He held up a plastic cup filled with bright blue liquid.
    “No, I’m going to try to sleep tonight.” She replied. He shrugged and took a big swig of the drink.
    “It is sometimes difficult to sleep on such a mysterious island.” He said, just as he did every night. Lola continued up the beach until she got to the gravel road that ran directly through the middle of the island. She reached into her backpack and pulled out her sandals, putting them off her feet before venturing on down the road. It only took her five minutes to get back to her small shack hidden in the palm trees. She went straight to her room and laid down on her bed, staring up at the stars she could see through the window in her ceiling. Sometimes she left this window open, but tonight she kept it closed so that the loud village music wouldn’t keep her awake.

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