The Gospel, according to St. Dan, Drancy, Aug. 5, 1945
To follow the somewhat erratic history of Dan, it is perhaps more feasible to follow through chronologically, beginning on or about the 9th of July, at which time he was planning to leave Drancy for Calais on the 12th.
July 10 – At breakfast, Lt. Shirk casually asked if I were ready to “parti” to Calais. “When?” “Today!” “But I thought it was to be the 12th.” “We’ll leave today. Are your clothes packed?” Thus began a week of hectic preparations and worries. I had to send a telegram that A.M. to Calais, notifying them of the change of plans; then I had to get my laundry from the laundry; then I had to get my official papers from the C.O.’s office; that I had to get my cigarette and candy rations from the PX, then I had to pack; then I had to eat early lunch —-. We arrived at Calais about five PM — half an hour after the telegram. The Lieutenant and his chauffeur left for Ghent almost immediately, leaving orders that I was to wait there until a truck came to take me back to Paris. By a curious coincidence, Robert and Maurice (Chiche’s brothers) arrived that same evening from Algeria, relegating yours truly to a position of an all-but-forgotten kibitzer, while emotion rained after four years of frustration.
July 11 to 16. Feverish preparations, trying to get the necessary papers in order and church arrangements settled. I had to hitchhike to Lille and back to have a seal affixed to certificates. The same day Chiche went to Boulogne for other papers, only to learn that she needed my papers too. The church arrangements broke down very soon because the Catholic Church frowned on a “mixed” marriage. The day before the marriage we were still in doubt. Chiche and I went to Bologne that morning and got the final papers. In the meantime it developed that no marriage can take place in France until ten days after all the papers are in order and the banns have been published! No banns were in evidence at the City Hall. But the fault was not ours so everything smooth out at the last minute – – even the church arrangements, because we decided to be married at the Protestant Temple after the civil ceremony at the City Hall. Late that night a dusty traveler Lad) arrived from Marseille – unexpectedly — he having already written that it was impossible to come. It was a thoroughly pleasant surprise, after two and half years of separation.
July 17. Ah, fateful day! 2 knots were tied – – both by men who took a personal interest in our marriage. All of Calais seems to have turned out for the occasion, for it was the first Franco-American wedding in that area. The first ceremony took place in the marriage hall at mairie. Mr. Hubert Desfachelles performed the ceremony as mayor, altho’ he was deputized for the affair as his own request. I think he was as nervous as we. It was “the first time” for all three of us! We drove to the Temple immediately afterward, where the Rev. Dubois officiated at a double ring ceremony. He said later that he had never seen the church so crowded for a marriage ceremony. There were many more who waited outside the door for a glimpse of “les espoux” as we came out. No rice was thrown, partly because there was no rice to be had, and partly because it is not the custom here to waste good food in such prodigal fashion. After the church ceremony the public was invited to the “vin donneur” which is the French equivalent of a reception, during which time wine and cookies are served to all who can get in. Fortunately, the Senechal home is across the street from the Temple (hence the name “rue du Temple” for the street on which they live)
Page 2 of the Gospel
so we were quickly embarked on this ceremony. Later, when the public had left we were served a sumptuous feast which represented hours of preparation and diligent searching in the black market for such luxuries as chicken and wine and a multitude of other dainties that no longer exist on the open market. That night there was dancing. “Chiche” and I heard that there was horseplay afoot, and we escaped upstairs shortly after midnight to our room. We locked both doors and kept vigil during an hour or so, during which time “they” tried to find a way to enter.
July 18 two August 1. An idyllic existence, during which time there was no worry or care save the possibility that the truck might come to take me back to Paris. For two full weeks I lived like a civilian on vacation, altho officially, I was in Calais on “Temporary Duty”. Furloughs are not authorized by the American Army to visit Calais, as it is part of the British sector – – but in order to permit the marriage, the 1st Sgt. arranged to send me on T.D. I suspect I am the only American on record whose solel “duty” during three weeks was to get married and enjoy a honeymoon! The truck came one afternoon about 3 P.M. while I was playing ping-pong with “Bob”, my new brother-in-law. Departure was mercifully swift. We had to leave immediately for Ghent where we spent two days.
Now, back in Drancy, I await the day (perhaps tomorrow) when Chiche will come to spend several days with me. The Army has not announced anything new about future plans. We are waiting to be “alerted” from day to day, but no new indications are manifest that such a move is near.
Lad arrived back in Marseille just in time to miss the boat! He is with the rear detachment and has left already for the Pacific, I presume. He doesn’t know just what route he will take, but usually the troops pass through CZ (Panama) and stop off a while in Hawaii. Love. DAN
Tomorrow I’ll post Lad’s account of the festivities. Thursday and Friday, a letter from Grandpa posting updates on family members for family members, a quite comprehensive missive.