Welcome Home (Segregation Story #2) Illustration

Picture from the Library of Congress
Welcome Home
The year is 1945

Reprinted by permission of the author, Dorothy Scalzo (written at age 21 in 1945) No change has been made to this story. It is exactly as it was written over 60 years ago by the same author who wrote Back of the Bus, now a young wife, with a husband just home from World War II.

I was attending college when the U.S. joined other countries in the war against Germany. My brothers and many of my high school and college friends were enlisting. The same was true for my campus sweetheart, Mike. We had often talked about getting married someday when we had graduated. But now Mike felt so strongly that if he had a wife to come home to, instead of a girlfriend, he would make it back home safe and sound. I guess it was fortunate that we spent his last weekend pass getting married because, after spending over a year on the front lines, Mike was safely home at last!

As he said: "I've got to get back to civilian life, and you have to get used to me as a husband, instead of that young trumpet player who came down off the stage to jitterbug with a cute red-head I spotted! Only---guess this is as good a time as any to tell you that I'm not quite home for good yet. After we made peace with Germany, I fully expected to continue on toward Japan. Then the war with Japan also ended. I found out on the boat home that I am just 5 points short for enough to be discharged. And guess what - that Purple Heart I turned down was worth exactly 5 points."

"What Purple Heart? You never told me you were wounded."

"Oh, it was nothing much. I just dove into a fox hole to escape enemy fire and it happened to be covered with barb wire. I saw too many really wounded. Now they deserved that Purple Heart. I didn't know it would have helped me finish my tour of duty several months sooner! Dottie, I just thought of something else you have to know right away! I'll still jitterbug with you. But - after walking clear across Germany, I plan to never walk anywhere again unless it's absolutely necessary!"

A week or so later, Mike had to report for duty at an army base near Durham, N.C.. I followed right along after him. The town people welcomed the soldiers' wives and rented part of their homes to us. My room even had a small kitchen area. There wasn't much for me to do during the day. I spent lots of time sitting on the front steps talking to my landlady's little girl. One day, a cute little colored girl walked by and I asked if she was coming here to play.

"My goodness. No. She's colored. I can't even speak to her!"

I told Mike about it that night. He said:

"I certainly am sorry to hear that. You know, there were a lot of my buddies in the army that were colored. Some of them didn't make it home either. Makes you wonder how their Welcome Home is going to be. Guess it's not the time to make waves though."

When Mike got to be with me for the next week-end, we took a bus to look at Duke University campus. We spent the whole day walking----so much for my husband's plans to never walk again! I guess making me happy qualified as absolutely necessary!

The bus home was crowded. We were lucky to find seats together. At the next stop, a colored lady got on. Naturally, my husband stood and offered her his seat. She seemed very frightened and said: "No, no, no." The bus had stopped and the driver told my husband to sit down. Instead, he helped the lady down to sit beside me. She was shaking from head to toe. Then my husband turned to the driver and said: "All I have to do is lean out of this bus and yell 'Soldier'. Now, get this bus rolling!" The poor little colored lady could hardly wait to pull the cord and get off the bus. Guess it's still not time to make waves. Welcome Home, Soldiers.

Next ... 10 years later .. Rosa Parks

Special Section, Segregation in America, Index