On February 13, 2020, the Aunt of my heart, Paulette “Chiche” Guion, wife of Daniel Beck Guion, passed away at home surrounded by members of her family. The following piece was on display during the calling hours and at the Trumbull House (where she lived) after her beautiful Memorial Service. I asked her Granddaughter, Melissa Feller Kascak, if I could post this to tell the story of meeting Uncle Dan from her viewpoint. Now you have the same love story from both perspectives. Enjoy.
Paulette Jeane (Van Laere) Guion – 1924 – 2020
On November 1, 2019, my Grama (Paulette ‘Chiche’ Guion) who was 95 years old told me the story of how she came to fall in love with Dan Guion and how she came to America. When I got home, I wrote down our conversation to the best of my memory. Here is her story:
I was 20 years old when I first met Dan, in 1944. I knew him only as ‘the American.’ He had been going to my aunt’s café near Paris when he was stationed there for drinks and dancing with his military friends. He got to know my aunt and when he told her that he was going to be stationed near Calais, she told him to look up my mother. He went to my mother’s house and introduced himself as the American and asked the person that worked at the pharmacy downstairs, (we lived upstairs) to ask my mother to buy him an alarm clock.
The only Americans we knew were the ones in movies who were cowboys or gangsters. So when I came home from work and learned that he had just been in the store I rushed to see if I could see him through the window that looked onto the street. I saw him leaving in his khaki colored uniform. I wanted to see what he looked like. Then we learned that he had bought his own alarm clock, so we thought that was the end of him.
Several weeks later, there was a knock at the door and my mother went to see who it was, and he said “It’s the American,” so she let him up. He sat with my parents at the table in the kitchen while they ate by candlelight. I was sick at the time, so I was laying on a cot in the corner of the kitchen since that was the only place that was warm. I must have had the flu or something. So, all I could see was his hands from across the kitchen and I thought that he had nice looking hands.
A few weeks later, I was coming home from my sister’s place and I came through the door and said, “It smells good in your kitchen, Mrs. Senechal!” …and there was the American standing there! I was a little embarrassed. But he had not seen me up until then. I was the tallest one in my family, my parents both only came up to my shoulders. So there I am, standing there, and I finally got to see what he looked like, not down on the street or in the candlelight! Well, after that he kept coming by and ‘practicing his French with my father’… but we fell in love.
He escorted my mother to a meeting, and he had his arm in hers, he was walking on the outside like a gentleman should, and he was trembling. He told her that he and I were in love and that he wanted to marry me. Well she said that she would have to talk to my father.
Of course, they ended up saying yes. We got married in July, but the dress maker wasn’t too happy with me because we kept saying July, August, July, August… She made my dress after all.
(Did you know that you would have to go live in America when you said you would marry him?)
Well, yes, but I didn’t care… because I loved him so much!
Then I had Arla 10 months after we got married. Some people thought we ‘had’ to get married, but no. It was 10 months. We just didn’t waste any time!
It was hard enough for my family to have to say goodbye to me, but we also had Arla and they didn’t want to let her go. She was 7 months old. We went to America on a war ship and we stopped at England to pick up more girls, war brides, some of them were going to get married when they got to America. We were on the ship for 11 days. It was all camouflaged still. I was in a bunk room with 5 other women. And one woman came in, all in her fur, and she saw the crib in the middle that they had put for Arla and she said “A crib?? We’re going to have a baby in here??” Well, I ended up getting seasick because it was the open ocean in December and the water was rough. Guess who took care of the baby? That same woman who had complained and she was happy to do it. Dad couldn’t help because he was on another level with 30 something men.
We were on the ocean for Christmas and I was kind of happy about that because I wasn’t with either my family or his, just my baby and my husband. We had to eat in the dining room with lots of other people, including the captain, and I saw these men that were dressed so differently, I had never seen it before. They were Hasidic Jews (now I know) and they had the black clothing and the black hats and the long curls. I told Dan I didn’t want to eat in that room with them and he was not very happy with me for saying that. Of course, I got over it and we ate with everyone else.
One of the men on board said to me excitedly when I was below deck, “Chiche, do you want to see the statue of liberty?” I said yes and got my coat and went to the upper level and he pulled out a tiny statue replica from his pocket!
When we arrived, it took hours and hours and hours to get off the ship. It was 7:30 at night by the time we got off. We go to the house and the family has dinner all set up, roast beef, mashed potatoes, and MILK to drink. I thought to myself, what am I doing here?!
Then the next day for lunch, my sister-in-law comes and gets us; “Lunch time!” In France, we have a full meal for our mid-day meal. I go into the room and the table has paper plates. Paper napkins. And HOT DOGS! I really thought I was in the wrong place then.
There was a New Year’s Eve party at the house in the next couple of days and they were wearing long gowns. I had never worn a long gown a day in my life. So, we go to Bridgeport and I get a gown that was pink and black, and I had to get black shoes. The night of the party I sat upstairs in my room and did NOT want to go down to that party with all those people! I didn’t even speak English yet! I stayed in my room a long time. Then Bissy came up, and to this day I don’t know what she said to me, but she got me downstairs! And everyone was looking at me! I guess I would have looked at a foreigner, too.
Transcribed as told to Melissa Feller Kascak on November 1, 2019.
I will finish out the week with the rest of Grandpa’s letter, addressed to Dan, in response to his letter of momentous import, including comments and the response of the Trumbull folks to his engagement and other news of Trumbull.