First Installment: The Childhood of Wanda Roberson Reasor
Courtship and Marriage of
Wanda Roberson & Lee ReasorWhile working in Madison, Indiana as a beautician I met Lee Reasor, the man who was to become a big part in my life. I almost got fired from my job because I wouldn't talk to the customers. I sewed some new clothes, completely by hand and spent my first Christmas away from home all alone. One day I was looking out the second floor window of the shop and saw this short young man walk over to a car. He was all alone, but stood there laughing. I recognized him and remembered that the Reasor boys from near Grantsburg worked in the State Hospital for the mentally ill. This was just before Christmas of 1939. I spent this my first Christmas away from home at the home of my boss' sister, the Chrismans who lived on a farm north of Madison. My boss was Ted Hamms, who was at least seven feet tall, big boned and masculine. I was lonely and miserable even though they were most kind to me.
Twin Reasor boys Gordon Lloyd and Garland Lee
After the holidays, I found enough nerve to call the hospital. This was really something because I was so shy--and I still to this day dislike making phone calls. I asked if they had a Reasor working there and the operator said yes--two Reasors-which would you like to speak with. I said, "It doesn't matter, either one." I talked to Lloyd and found out that they went to English for Christmas and that I could have gone with them if I'd called sooner. Anyway, we made arrangements for them to come down and visit me. Lloyd was dating Hazel East and Lee was involved with a girl named Margie (short and fat) but very sweet, Anyway, they both came to see me, I only had known them slightly from seeing them in town. Lloyd was quite a ladies man or flirt and had often fed we girls peanuts on the streets of English. I was five years younger than they, which didn't make any difference now, but when taking peanuts from him I was too young to know anything except to giggle. Lee and Lloyd were twins. We all three went to shows and out to eat a few times. Lee got me a date with one of his friends and we double dated one night. He was with Margie. I started fixing hazel's hair and some other girls from the hospital so the boys would bring them down. Lloyd was shorter than Lee and since I was quite tall, at lest three inches taller than Lloyd, it sort of worked out that I dated Lee. He quit seeing Margie (I think). At first he made it quite clear (in words) that he was not ready to get serious and I assured him that I was only eighteen and felt exactly the same way. However he tried to kiss me goodnight for several nights. I would get in the door and wouldn't let him. As dumb as I was about men, I sure played my cards right. Not getting what he wanted, kept him coming back. His car had an old fashioned horn that sounded like aw oo ga and I found myself listening for that sound.
Lee and I were happy just to be together and I found it so comfortable not to feel pressured to talk all the time. He was the first boy I ever went with who made me feel this way. There was a big tree out in one of the fields at the hospital where we parked the car and spent hours together. He also tried parking in the cemetery, which I wouldn't stand for. We would drive around the hospital and listen to the inmates screaming and moaning, I'd get scared and sit close, Lee wasn't making very much money and we had seen all the shows in town so there wasn't much else to do. We went roller skating a lot and that was great fun. My favorite song to skate to was the Woody Woodpecker song. Lee informed me that he preferred brunettes and I was a blonde.
We went on a moonlight excursion on a steam boat up the Ohio River. This was neat. I spent days making a new green skirt, sewn by hand, to wear with a new plaid jacket I had bought. I even had a new turquoise colored hat to match. A hat was very important to finish out my outfit at that time.
I think I only worked in Madison about six months at $10 a week and I decided to move to New Albany, Indiana and work. Lee took me to the bus and I think I knew then that he was in love with me, only he was fighting it all the way. Marie, my sister, had gone to beauty college and was in New Albany so she and I lived together. I started working in the New Albany Beauty Shop in the Liberty Bank building. Hazel Roberson, my cousin, started working too and we managed the shop. It was one of a chain. We did assembly line type work. We advertised a fifty cent permanent which didn't even include a neck trim. We would curl the hair, comb it out and send them on their way all frizzed up. We started a ten cent neck trim and saved up enough to buy a ten dollar radio. Our most expensive permanent was $2.50 . We mixed our own solution. With the $2.50 job we included a little oil in the solution. Hazel would roll the curling rods from one side and me on the other. We could roll a head of hair in a very few minutes. Needless to say we didn't develop our talent very much, only became fast and expert in rolling perms.
Lee came to see me about every four weeks. He had joined the army and I loved the uniform. He gave me a little gold locket and my first wrist watch. He was always so good to me and although I went out with other boys, I managed to be free when he came into town.
Mom and Dad had moved to Louisville (Buechel), Kentucky, and built a new house. I decided to take the Kentucky state board and get a job over there. Lee and Lloyd took me to Lexington to take the state board. I had met Laverne Curtsinger and had lined Lloyd up with her. Lavern and I became best friends and double dated soldiers from Fort Knox. We would meet them at soft ball games and lots of places where we shouldn't have been. She was older and a little more worldly than I. We went into bars in big hotels once or twice on New Year's eve with our dates. We went to Service Club dances and met soldiers there. I had a better job and was living at home, no expenses except for bus fare, so I had some nice clothes. I bought my first long formal. It was lavender satin with a full circle skirt and I felt regal in it. Dad didn't like me going to Service Club even though one of the chaperons took us and brought us home. He really got mad and made me feel like a sinner wearing that long dress. But I went anyway and enjoyed wearing it.
Lee was still writing to me and my big moment was walking to the post office for the mail. He came to see me quite regularly and I found myself comparing every guy I went out with to him and when Laverne and I would talk seriously about the future, it always included Lee. I talked Dad into allowing me to accompany Laverne to Battle Creek, Michigan to see the boys. They were sure they were being sent over seas and we just had to see them once more. The war (World War II) was in full force and there was an urgency in our life. We felt the need to live each day at the fullest. We rode the bus and the boys had arranged for us to sleep at the visitor's center on base. We tried to spend every minute of that week-end together. I am sure that I realized how much I loved him after this week-end. We went back home wondering if we would ever see them again.
Lee and Lloyd managed to pass a test and get transferred to the Army Air Corps. In the month of March 1942, Lee came to see me. On the night of March 28th we were in the living room. Lee had never mentioned marriage except a few times he had asked me if I'd marry a staff sergeant. He was a corporal. I had visited him one day at Fort Knox where he was on assignment. His brother Gerald drove me down. I spent a few week-ends with him at his parents home. Our romance was mostly by mail and visits about every six weeks. As we sat there on the couch that night in front of the fireplace, he reached his hand into his pocket and said here--and gave me a diamond ring. Not a work about "will you marry me" just here. It was a beautiful ring and I was so thrilled to wear it. I kidded him later about forgetting to give me the magnifying glass but it was so dainty and I loved it.
Hazel Roberson and Joe Bye had gotten married and they invited Lee and I to spend a week-end with them. Hazel was sure it would help snare Lee for me, if we could see a happily married couple. This was on Easter Sunday week end and we went to sunrise service Easter Morning. It was this week end that we decided to get married on April 18th.
I had attended churches of almost all kinds and knew Lee was a Mormon. He told me the Joseph Smith story one night long before this April 18th. We were parked out by the barn at his home. I had attended the Free Methodist and Holiness mostly and couldn't believe that their shouting and going to the altar for saving and sanctifying was for me. Still when I heard this Mormon story, it was just a bunch of malarkey (hillbilly word for stuff). I was so confused and couldn't swallow it.
Lee and Wanda's wedding photo with
Lloyd and Lavern on their right.
Lloyd and Lavern on their right.
But since I didn't have anyone special to do the marriage ceremony, we went to the mission home in Louisville and arranged for a Mormon Elder to do it. It was to be at Dad's house on Saturday afternoon at 3:30. Lee was staying with Amzel and Russel and true to form I wasn't to see him on Saturday until the time of the wedding. I had bought a new suit. A pink silk dress, street length, with little blue bows printed on it. It has a navy blue princess-line coat, called a riding-cote. I wore navy slippers and a pink straw hat with a navy bow. I don't know why I didn't consider a white dress. Probably the expense for something I would wear once. I needed something that I could get lots of wear out of and I wore this outfit for several years and always felt well dressed in it. Lee wore a blue pin stripe suit.
We had asked Lloyd and Laverne to stand up for us in the ceremony. Now, Hazel, my cousin, had been my best friend for years, but Laverne was so much more involved in my present life. When Hazel came over that day I felt so terrible about not asking her to be a brides maid that I asked her to stand in too. Since she was alone, my brother Norman walked in with her. We rented two large candelabra and that was the decoration. I wore a gardenia corsage, my favorite flower. The ceremony was short. I had wanted Darlene Roberson Tellman to sing, but there was no piano so I bought a record of Bing Crosby singing, "I Love you Truly". We walked into the living room as it played.
My first glimpse of Lee was minutes before the ceremony when he came to my bedroom door. He was so white and nervous I couldn't believe it. When I was putting on my make-up I noticed the big clock ticking and I thought it was ticking my life away too fast. An unsure feeling came over me and I hid the clock in the closet so I couldn't hear it tick.
I know my father cried that morning. He always cried when his children were getting married. I had insisted that Lee ask for his permission and when he did Dad's answer was, "Do you want her tagging around after you all you life?" To me Dad had said, "You know he is going off to war, don't you come back here wagging a baby." We knew that Lee would be leaving but we wanted as much time being together as we could get before he went to war.
Lee was the only boy that I ever dated that Dad accepted graciously. I could go any place, stay out all hours and he didn't seem to mind. I resented this at the time and it made me so mad I thought about quitting Lee. Years later I was so happy that my father thought so much of him.
Wanda and Lee After the Wedding
Third Installment: The Wandering Life of a War Bride