On the morning of Thanksgiving 1941, I had a lot to be thankful. My name is Robert Lee Peters. I hailed from a poor family in South Carolina. There were two boys. I was the youngest. I knew from a very young age that the only thing that would raise me up from this poverty was education. I attended a one-room schoolhouse and was fortunate to have a teacher who took an interest in me. My ability to comprehend everything taught to me amazed Miss Wright (my teacher), and I became a special project for her to see succeed.
The one-room classroom only educated children to the 8th grade. When it was time to go to high school many of the children discontinued their educations. They went to the farms to help their families eke out a living. Miss Wright spoke with my parents. She pleaded with them to support me while I attended high school. She told them that someday at the end of my studies, I would return to the family farm and help them in more ways than they could ever imagine. I finished high school in three years.
Mr. Bradley my high school counselor wrote a letter of introduction to a previous classmate of his at the University of South Carolina. He made arrangements for me to take a scholarship examination. The rest was history. A month after the exam, I received a letter from the university offering me a four-year scholarship that included room, board, and a stipend. I was going to college.
At the beginning of my first year at the university, I was required to take as one of my studies Army OCS or Officers Candidate School. One of the up-sides for taking this military training was to receive the monthly salary that it offered the participants. I knew that when I graduated, I would have to serve four years as an officer in the United States Army.
Every summer for the first two weeks of my vacation, I would be training at a military base and learning all its fundamentals. I would spend the remainder of the summer months helping my family on the farm. And then at the end of the summer, it was back to Columbia and my studies.
I remember the 20th of November 1941 as if it were yesterday. My roommate, John Major came bursting into the room to begin packing to go home for the Thanksgiving holiday. As he was putting some clothing into a suitcase, he inquired about my plans.
“I intend to spend Thanksgiving here. I was told that they are serving Turkey for the students who will be remaining on campus.”
He stopped packing his suitcase and turned toward me. “Why don’t you come home with me? We have a big house and plenty of room. My little sister Julia is always pestering me to introduce her to one of my friends at the university. She’s very pretty and I think you might like her.”
“Are you playing matchmaker?” I inquired.
“No, Robert! I’m inviting you to my house to have a Thanksgiving dinner not to meet my sister. But, it’s like I said, she is very pretty.” He opened his wallet and showed me a photograph of his family. There were his mother and father in the middle, John was to the right and Julia, his sister was to the left. It was a recent photograph taken just before he returned to the university this semester. And it was as he said, she was strikingly attractive. John stands six feet in his stocking feet and comparing her height to his, she must be five six or seven in stature. John once told me that his family origins originated in Demark over a hundred and fifty years ago. That would explain why Julia appears like a Viking Queen, standing there with her long blond hair draped over her shoulders and hanging down halfway toward her waist. It accentuated her chiseled good looks and slender body. She truly was a sight to behold.
I told John that I would accept his invitation to have dinner with his family. But, before we could leave, I explained that I had to contact my parents and wish them a happy holiday.
There was a pay phone in the hallway of our dormitory. Mother answered the phone on the second ring. I explained to her that I had semester examinations in a few weeks. It was essential that I study over the weekend. After exchanging a few other comments, I assured her that I would be thinking about her and the family this Thanksgiving. With the words “I love you,” I hung up the receiver.
I put the few decent clothing I owned into my suitcase, closed the lid and headed for the door with John in pursuit.
John had a car parked a few blocks from campus at a service station. We loaded our suitcases into the trunk and began the two-hour drive to John’s family home.
We drove north for about three hours and I enjoyed the country-side of South and North Carolina. The foliage had already had changed for the fall season, but much of its color was deposited on the forest floor. John said that growing up in North Carolina was every kid's dream. He had attended a private high school and rubbed elbows with some of the States wealthy. What I knew about John in the three and half years we shared a room, he was in his element.
John’s parents had a home about an hour’s ride outside the city limits of Raleigh. As we drove along the private road that led up to the homestead, I got the message that it was more like an estate. There was a twenty room mansion with stables and surrounded by a hundred acres of beautiful fields and virgin woodlands.
About three-quarters of a mile from the main road, we parked between the stables and the mansion. Riding toward us from one of the many fields that surrounded the structures was a woman dressed in riding gear. She was riding what John described as an Andalusian. He said that when the family was vacationing in Spain a few years ago, Julia had rented a horse to ride. When she saw a grey Andalusian, she begged her father to purchase it for her. After an expensive financial transaction, the animal was shipped to their home in North Carolina. The thought crossed my mind this young lady is somewhat spoiled.