by Lucienne Louise Blanche LeBarbier Davis
I was born Lucienne Louise Blanche LeBarbier on July 24, 1926 at Normandie France. We moved to St Malo when I was 10 months old. I went back to Normandie only once when I was 6 years old. My mother was from Normandie on the north coast of France. My brothers were born in St. Malo Brittany. Our lives were pretty normal. I remember going on the beach when I was 5 or 6 years old. On Sunday we would go to soccer games, rugby and horse races. Until Sept 1939 when England and France declared war with Germany. I was 12 years old at that time. Our lives were never the same after that. The men went to war. We still went on the beach (until 1943) in the summer and to school, of course, in the fall.
In 1940, the Germans bombed Normandie and my grandmother, grandfather, my aunt Lucienne, and her daughter, Chireville, came to St Malo in a boat. They stayed with us 2 or 3 weeks. Then the Germans came to St Malo in June 1940.
June 1940 the Germans occupied my hometown and most of France. My hometown is on the coast, the English Channel, across from England. My grandfather sat on the porch and watched them come down the street in trucks. He
shook his head. He fought in World War I. It was not easy for him. My grandfather was a veteran of World War I. There was a curfew. We had to be in by 10:00. My father went to the South of France in 1940. He couldnít come home. The Germans would have put him in a prison camp. I was glad to find out in 1998 that my father was in the Resistance. My brothers had never told me that. My mother used to sew for people, but she went to work for the Germans to make a living. I remember it was hard for her to pay the grocery bill sometimes. About 1942 we didnít have anymore coffee, sugar and other things. They put mines on the beach and we could not go swimming anymore. We started getting pale, not enough to eat and not enough sunshine. During the 4 years of occupation, we had to color our windows dark blue. No light was supposed to be seen outside at night. It was harder on my two brothers. They did get hungry a lot. I think we did get about one meal a day. No breakfast. I guess you get used to it.
Sometimes I wonder what my life would have been like if there had not been a warÖ.
I remember those days, there was lots of TB. Two young women I knew died in their 20ís. Not having enough to eat didnít help.
Today, August 28th, I am thinking about the day I passed by a fence with Russian prisoners and one asked me to get him some bread. A German soldier stopped me and said if I got bread for them, they will all fight for it and I might get hurt. To show me he threw salt on the ground and they fought for it like wild animals.
Things kept getting worse. In 1941 we had to move from our home. The Germans did want the house. We moved in the 6th floor of an apartment. It was the summer when 35,000 Germans came to St Malo from the front and they brought lots of fleas and typhoid. Fleas were in your bed. It was terrible. In the Spring of 1941 I had to get a typhoid shot. I was 14 years old. I fainted when I got the shot because I had not eaten breakfast. It was about 8:00 in the morning.
1943 We went in the shelter everyday. We came down from the 6th floor. I sometimes wonder, as fast as we were going, why we didnít fall and break our necks. Every morning at 6:00 the English planes would come to bomb the German ships. Our apartment was between the port and the sea (beach). It was a bad place to live. One time they came around lunch time. Our window was open. My mother and I grabbed each other. We should have gotten down on the floor because shells were
coming through our bathroom window. My brother, Robert, was sitting in it. The shell came over his head and went into the wall. Luckily, he was not standing.
In the Spring of 1944, everything was getting bad. I was hungry. We did not have any soap. My mother was making it. It was horrible stuff. I didnít want to wash my face with it. We got sea water and boiled it to get salt. We could not buy clothes. During the 4 years of occupation we had wooden shoes.
D Day everybody had to be in by 6:00 at night. There was a rumor that the Americans debarked in Normandie. We could not play the radio and we didnít get any newspapers.
July 31, 1944 it came time to leave town. The Americans were getting close to my hometown. People were supposed to evacuate St Malo. My mother, grandmother and I left on a bicycle with only a suitcase . We walked 28 kilometers the first night. We slept in a windmill. The artillery got so bad that we had to leave. Somebody let us stay in their cellar. My brothers went another way with their friends. They almost got shot because the Germans thought they were saboteurs.
The first Americans that I saw were in a Jeep. My mother and I were walking to the grocery store from the cellar. My grandmother picked flowers on the side of the road to give them. An American threw a pack of cigarettes and it hit me on the side of my arm. OhÖdid it hurt! They apologized and gave us a ride to the store. Funny, what you rememberÖ.one of them had a little moustache like Errol Flynn. I think of them often. Most of them did get killed in my hometown.
August 1944, when we came home, after 3 weeks, we could see smoke from a long way off. St Malo, my hometown, was burning. It was 90% destroyed during World War II. There was an American truck stopped in the middle of the road. They were giving pork chops on white bread to kids and me too. It was so good. The white bread made me think of Wonder Bread. The hot pork chop went through it. You know how fresh wonder bread is, you mash it and it stays. The first cup of coffee I had in 4 years was Nescafe. It tasted so good.
A friend of mine married a man from Holland. In 1945 we went to Paris. He was in a camp with the Americans. She and I went to visit him one Sunday. It was there that I met Johnny. I didnít like Johnny the first time I saw him. I thought he was too white. French people were tanned and darker skinned. Johnny was so white that he looked sick (unhealthy). We saw each other every Sunday from August to November. Then Johnny left.
We wrote to each other for 1 year 9 months. Then Johnny got papers ready and I
came to the US. I arrived in Norfork VA. Johnny picked me up and we took a Greyhound bus to Jackson where Billy picked us up. Leonard and Marian Fielding
Took us to Corinth Mississippi that night and we got married, Sept 15, 1947. We were married 2 weeks and then Johnny went to New Mexico. I stayed in Jackson
until the 1st of November and then I went to New Mexico. I took a train and had to change train stations in Texas. I could not speak English. I just showed my ticket to
people and they helped me find the right train. We lived 2 years in New Mexico and then came back to Jackson.
I remember when I first came to Bemis. It was so quiet. There were lots of old people there. They asked me many questions, but they did not ask about the war. A lot of them had lost their boys to the war. I didnít want to ever talk about the war until a few years ago. I remember someone trying to get me to eat peanut butter. I could not stand it. I used to like to go to the movies in Bemis. They had a skating rink and a swimming pool. I stayed with Johnnyís people two months and then went to Albuquerque, New Mexico.
My three sonsÖhow much I love them. They are very good to me. They help me all that they can. Accidentally, they are as American as Apple Pie. They think Jackson is the only place in the world. Lucky for me.
Donít you think that the town you grew up in always has a special place in your heart, no matter where it is?
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