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Far from Home

Memories of World War II and Afterward

Mary Herring Wright

Publication Year: 2005

“She’s got no more business there than a pig has with a Bible.” That’s what her father said when Mary Herring announced that she would be moving to Washington, DC, in late 1942. Recently graduated from the North Carolina School for Black Deaf and Blind Students, Mary had been invited to the nation’s capital by a cousin to see a specialist about her hearing loss. Though nothing could be done about her deafness, Mary quickly proved her father wrong by passing the civil service examination with high marks. Far from Home: Memories of World War II and Afterward, the second installment of her autobiography, describes her life from her move to Washington to the present. Mary soon became a valued employee for the Navy, maintaining rosters for the many servicemen in war theaters worldwide. Her remarkable gift for detail depicts Washington in meticulous layers, a sleepy Southern town force-grown into a dynamic geopolitical hub. Life as a young woman amid the capital’s Black middle class could be warm and fun, filled with visits from family and friends, and trips home to Iron Mine for tearful, joyous reunions. But the reality of the times was never far off. On many an idyllic afternoon, she and her friends found somber peace in Arlington Cemetery, next to the grave of the sole Unknown Soldier at that time. During an evening spent at the U.S.O., one hearing woman asked how people like her could dance, and Mary answered, “With our feet.” She became a pen pal to several young servicemen, but did not want to know why some of them suddenly stopped writing.

Published by: Gallaudet University Press

Title Page

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pp. v-vi

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1. A Trip North

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pp. 1-16

The bus droned along the highway on its way to Washington, D.C. I watched the peaceful countryside roll by, with banks on each side covered with shortleaf pine and cedar trees and patches of snow here and there. Could this really be me, Mary Herring, not even a year ...

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2. The Start of My Big City Life

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pp. 17-22

I didn't know it then, but this would be the last time some of this crowd would ramble about and have fun together. We were fast approaching the time our paths would diverge and we would begin to travel in different directions. Only a day or so later I received a long white ...

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3. A New Job

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pp. 23-35

Well, my Cousin Mary hadn't forgotten me. She had had an important appointment and had asked Lloyd to pick me up. He said he went, but didn't see me anyplace and thought I probably hadn't come or would be on a later bus, so he left, intending to ...

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4. Cute Boy on the Train

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pp. 36-47

Sunday was my only day off, so I felt I could sleep even later than usual. But one Sunday morning, quite early, one of the kids came upstairs and told me I had a male visitor downstairs. Since Sam had always been able to find a bus traveling to wherever I might be, I thought ...

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5. A Place of My Own

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pp. 48-67

By now, Eunice and R. C. were living in their new apartment. I had gone with them to see it before they moved in, and I fell in love with the place. It was quiet and old-timey. The house had been built way back, probably in the 1800s. It was large and had back stairs as well as front stairs and funny little ...

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6. Happy with My Life

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pp. 68-87

Summer was wearing on, and we had fun. Mama wrote to tell me that Sam was catching the bus to see me and what time someone needed to meet him. I was overjoyed to hear this, because I missed my baby brother and our time together, both good and bad, meaning play ...

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7. Changing Times

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pp. 88-103

By now, it was fall again and my second year out of school. I remembered how beautiful the woods were around Raleigh, those that were behind our campus and also the woods at home, especially out by the pond. I felt lonely for the first time in a good while. I had not been ...

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8. Home for the Holidays

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pp. 104-117

My request for leave to go home for the holidays had been granted. Once again I took to the streets of Washington in search of gifts for my folks. I'd read an advertisement in an outdoor magazine where some dog breeders in Pennsylvania were selling AKC, or purebred, dogs of ...

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9. A Visit from Mama

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pp. 118-131

Signs of spring had started to appear. The oak tree outside of my window showed small swelling buds, the grass was turning green, and I caught the flu. I woke up one morning feeling terrible and asked Mrs. Moseley to call in sick for me again. I found out that Mrs. Mosely and ...

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10. Terrible News

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pp. 132-155

Life was pretty much back to normal now. Spring was rapidly passing, and we were into early summer. The nights were warm, and we still didn't have central air conditioning on the fourth floor of the Annex, so we now had permission to go down to the ground ...

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11. Big Decision

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pp. 156-160

I still had moments when I wasn't sure whether I was going to stay home or return to Washington. I'd go out to the pond, read my letters, and think about Arlington and the Navy Annex and my friends. Sam was in his last year of high school and driving the school bus. He'd ...

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12. Back Home

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pp. 161-164

Life was good again. All of us attended Sunday school every Sunday. My cousin Capjack was the superintendent and asked me if I'd teach the Beginners Class. Now that was a real honor, when at one time I couldn't even have a part in a program. He told me he knew I could ...

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13. Together Again

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pp. 165-170

Winter had set in, and Iron Mine was quiet. The teenagers were busy with schoolwork. Many of the adults had found jobs working on base at Camp Lejeune and Camp Davis. Jacksonville, North Carolina, had overnight become a boom town. The men and women who worked ...

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14. Victory at Last

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pp. 171-173

The Pacific War had ended not too long after the European War. Harry Truman became president after Roosevelt's death, and he ordered the atomic bomb dropped on Japan. It was so devastating that it ended the war right then. So I guess that avenged Pearl Harbor. By now Maxine and ...

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15. A New Beginning

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pp. 174-185

Well, this is the year of our Lord, nineteen hundred and fifty-five. I was still in Iron Mine, but living a very different life. Eunice and Jimmy returned from Detroit and built themselves a nice brick ranch-style home in Pender County. Bennie and Frank also built new ...

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16. Hurricane Hazel

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pp. 186-193

One morning after I'd just come back from down home, the school bus came back and let Red off. Surprised, I asked why they'd let school out so early. She didn't know exactly, but said someone had said something about a storm. Looking at the sky, I saw it was clouding ...

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17. Ups and Downs

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pp. 194-197

Different people have been curious as to how I managed to raise my children and care for them without being able to hear, and they have asked me about it. I never thought much about it at the time, but looking back, I think it was due to Mama's teaching and the instinct ...

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18. Holidays without Mama

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pp. 198-201

It was nearing Thanksgiving, and I was wondering how I'd deal with it, and also with Christmas. It was the first holiday without Mama, and I'd have only my little family to cook and plan for, when I'd been doing it for a crowd, not to mention the empty place that had been Mama's. I decided ...

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19. Cousin Bert

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pp. 202-205

The holidays were past, and once again life settled back into a routine, with the usual after-Christmas letdown and bad weather. One night Cousin Bert Williams had come over to spend the night. She often did that now. Toward evening she could be seen coming along a path across ...

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20. So, the Winter Is Past and Gone

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pp. 206-208

Spring was budding again. Maple trees taking on a reddish hue. The daffodils Papa had planted on Mama's and his little boy Bud's graves were blooming in profusion. Sometimes I rode to the cemetery with Papa, and we'd weed and work around the graves. Other times I'd walk with ...

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21. Changes

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pp. 209-225

Sometimes when I look back and think about the many changes in my life, it seems that no matter how many changes took place, one thing never did - I always managed to get into some kind of adventure, whether here at home as a child, off at school in Raleigh, in Washington ...

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22. A New Time

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pp. 226-232

There's not much to tell about the girls' school days after they changed schools. Mary was at Charity for three years, then it was changed to a middle school for seventh- and eighth-graders. After that they had to go to Wallace-Rose Hill High School, the formerly all-white ...

E-ISBN-13: 9781563683299
E-ISBN-10: 1563683296
Print-ISBN-13: 9781563683190
Print-ISBN-10: 1563683199

Page Count: 240
Illustrations: 8 photographs
Publication Year: 2005