“Tomorrow … Just You Wait And See”

The other day, longtime Westporter John Gould took this beautiful image of bluebirds in his dogwood tree.

(Photo/John Gould)

John moved to Westport in 1965. He played drums and sang in just about every bar in Westport. He played for Keith Richards’ birthday and anniversary — and Keith invited him to play with the Stones at Madison Square Garden. He also ran his own tree surgery company, was a commercial diver, and was a noted amateur soccer player.

John now entertains appreciative residents at nursing homes. He’s just completed his memoir. 

But back to the bluebirds. John writes:

I call this photo “Tomorrow … Just You Wait and See.” It’s from the song “(There’ll Be Bluebirds Over) The White Cliffs of Dover,” a song I remember from my childhood.

It looks to me like Mrs, Bluebird is asking Mr. Bluebird, as they look into the  future: “When is this going to end?”

It is a question on everyone’s mind today, as it has been many times in the past.

Bluebirds have always been special to me. I grew up in London during World War II. I’m lucky to have survived, including the London Blitz and the Battle of Britain.

My dad was killed in the Royal Navy when I was almost 3 years old.

Three of my uncles were wounded — two in Africa, one in Russia. Another became a prisoner of war.

At home in London, hundreds of planes came from over the sea to drop thousands of bombs on us day and by night. My mother, sister, grandmother, granddad, aunts, cousins and I would shelter in the cupboard under the basement stairs. There wasn’t much room, but we made sure we all fit.

The London Blitz.

For one nonstop spell, the London Blitz lasted 57 nights in a row. The noise from the exploding bombs was deafening and frightening.

The war lasted for 6 years. But we took Winston Churchill’s advice: “Keep calm and carry on.”

It’s strange. With food so scarce and strict rationing in force, there always seemed to be an empty tin can of Spam or corned beef lying around in the streets. I honed my soccer dribbling skills by kicking one all the way home from elementary school, over the ankle-twisting loose bricks and rubble of houses, some bombed as recently as the night before.

When the air raid sirens sounded, I broke into a sprint home.

The war seemed endless. The Nazis were massing in France, only 21 miles away, preparing to invade us. Yet we would never surrender!

And like Churchill said, there would be no end until each of us lay choking in his own blood upon the ground.

It was depressing, seemingly hopeless — even for a child, wondering how I could protect my own family.

Then, like a rainbow, suddenly appearing in the gray London skies: a miracle! America came into the war! God bless America!

An American soldier, with a new friend.

Suddenly there were Yanks with names like Hank, Chuck and Pinky in the streets. They had left their own homes and loved ones to come help us, and fight alongside us against the Nazis.

My memories of them are of their super-smart uniforms, and their generosity to me.

My mother would send me out to ask for a shilling coin for 2 sixpences for the gas meter. They never took my 2 sixpences, but always me a shilling for the meter, a fistful of their pocket change — and gum, just for me.

God bless America!

The war dragged on. Everyone longed for it to reach a happy conclusion.

Songs were played over the radio to lift our spirits, and give us something to look forward to.

One such song seems particularly appropriate for our challenging situation today. “The White Cliffs of Dover” was written in 1941 by Walter Kent (an Englishman), with lyrics by Nat Burton (an American). He did not know that bluebirds were not indigenous to England. But they are now — in our hearts.

It was beautifully sung by Vera Lynn. Now Dame Vera Lynn, she is 103 years old (and probably still singing).

When I came to America, I lived in Westport for 26 years. Though I no longer live there, I always try to attend the Memorial Day parade, to honor all our fallen heroes in all our wars.

It means a lot to me. Both my sons played in their schools’ marching bands, making stirring, heartwarming music. How sad that it’s not happening this year.

I love Westport, and the many friends I made there. I’m concerned for their welfare. But reading “06880,” I am reassured and proud of the positive response to these terrible times. So many wonderful Westporters endeavor to help each other out.

The Chucks, Hanks and Pinkys are still on the front lines. Thanks, guys and gals!

When World War II ended, a million of us went to Buckingham Palace to celebrate with the King and Queen, princesses Elizabeth and Margaret, and Winston Churchill.

All waved back at me and our welling sea of happy people, from their flag- bedecked balcony.

Together, as in the past, we can bring about an end to terrible times. My bluebirds can see it!

Here’s looking forward to rejoicing on that beautiful day.

And every day thereafter.

John Gould

39 responses to ““Tomorrow … Just You Wait And See”

  1. Bill Kutik

    Thanks for the stirring John Gould excerpt, Dan, and the song. Has his memoir been published? Can we buy it? His description of the Blitz reminded me why on my own reporting trip to London in 1981, everyone I interviewed 45 or older talked about the WW II as though it had ended last month, instead of 36 years earlier! I get it.

  2. Charles Taylor

    Heart Stirring Indeed. Thanks John!

  3. Roseann Spengler

    This one brought tears and hope this morning. Thank you, Dan.

  4. Perhaps the loveliest guest piece ever read on 06880. Just beautiful.
    And to think we are being asked to sacrifice by sitting on a couch.
    Lovely Mr. Gould.

  5. Dorothy Robertshaw

    Thank you for this beautiful enlightening story one of my moms favorite songs was Blue Bird but she is always a Robin to me since we have an abundance of them around here and my dad is a cardinal…. 👍Have a great week

    Sent from my iPhone

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  6. Michael Calise

    Incredibly poignant. Your best piece ever Dan!!

  7. Deborah Johnson

    Thank you Dan for this wonderful story. I wish there was more.

  8. Bob Stalling

    Agree, best piece ever…gave me goose bumps.
    Thanks you John Gould and Dan.

  9. Amy Saperstein

    Beautiful piece and gives such great perspective on the current situation. Love the amazing bird photo as well – Our family always looks for yellow, red and blue birds – and this “bluebird” is all of them in one. Thanks for the great story!!!

  10. Susie Kowalsky

    Enjoyed listening to John play at the Black Duck with friends when I was a teenager. John would play at my husband’s home at Christmas time & family get togethers in the 80’s. I was so happy to see him again forty years later to hear him play at The Greens at Cannondale in Wilton where my mom lives now. He is my mom’s favorite performer and really gets the crowd going at the Green’s assisted living facility. Hope to see him there again once the lockdown is lifted.

  11. David Squires

    Wow, just wow! Great piece of writing, and wonderful slice of memory pie!
    Truly painted a picture of another world in my mind. I too, remember Johnny playing The Black Duck back in the day… Thanks both John & Dan for sharing. Very Moving piece.

  12. Mary Cookman Schmerker

    This is wonderful. It gives us a lot to think about. I hope John is published soon. I have memories of Westport during WWII even though I was very young. I’ll bet others who read your blog do also Dan. None of us would have experienced the loss or the terror of bombing that John experienced. However looking back we might discover that we developed a resiliency that helps us to cope during stressful times.

  13. Fred Cantor

    Johnny B Gould: fantastic! This is wonderful and, just like a memoir I recently read written by someone who lived in and escaped from the Warsaw Ghetto, it helps put our current crisis in perspective. And, of course, it touches on what it meant to have in England’s time of crisis a great leader such as Churchill—whose speeches I read while at Coleytown El and who I found inspirational as a young boy.

    I can affirm what a terrific soccer player and all-around great guy Johnny was when we played soccer together years ago. I believe he also wrote a musical.

    Best of luck in finding a publisher with this.

    PS—and that’s an award-winning-quality photo as well.

  14. Ann Urciuoli Allard

    Thank you for your lovely story. When the blues hit me during these difficult quarantine days, I will remember your strength during WWII and the bluebirds. God bless you. God bless us all. Thank you Dan 06880

  15. Jay Charlton

    Sent from my iPhone

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  16. Jay Charlton

    Yes, that’s himself🎵

    Sent from my iPhone

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  17. Ray Flanigan

    Beautiful job and memories of WW2 by John Gould one of my closest friends from back in our Westport days. My dad was one of those “Yanks” and I’m familiar with not only this song but many of the others that I heard my Dad sing to us while we were growing up. “Over There” “I’ll be Seeing You” and many others. Johns contributions to Westport in his days performing locally were great, but his contributions to Westport soccer in his years of Coaching the “Bridge Grill U-23 team” were huge. The Bridge team of Murphs, Hunters, Hollingsworths, Williamsons, with Shane Kennedy in the nets and great American talent too many to mention proved once and for all that Americans could play the Worlds game, and play it well. Once a Westporter, always a Westporter. Ray Flanigan, Bethel CT.

  18. Pamela Dewey Singer

    I reared my children in France and I would always remind them that the people over 60 were children in the big war so they had special psychological mapping..I so much appreciated this memoir and recounting in times we as Americans cannot imagine unless we were the young men and women who stepped forward. Thank you for posting this and JOHN you look radiant. its the music in your soul!!!!

  19. Richard Dana Kuchta

    John,
    Wonderful piece! Also very timely considering what fate has done to us. My wife who works at the Westport Library brought my attention to your piece because of the W.W.II connection. My father and five uncles were W.W.II Combat Veterans. They all made it back although Uncle Joe was very bitter as he was a P.O.W. for over three years. Growing up on stories of W.W.II I developed creating military dioramas which I have been doing for over 65 years. They are mostly antiwar and taking from my family in the war call myself “Six Star Legacy”. This combined with my playing Jazz Drums 57 years helps me get through this period in our history.
    Because of my history background I keep telling people that this situation is not as bad as what Great Britain went through during the Blitz.
    You can see how your article stuck a cord with me as I greatly appreciate it.

    With best regards,
    Richard Dana Kuchta

  20. Such a lovely story! So well put and indeed, most inspiring. I think we needed this today; I know I did. God bless us all.

  21. I concur. One of the best pieces you’ve ever published Dan. Every millennial should be made to read this.

  22. Celeste Champagne

    Just to echo the meaningfulness of this John Gould piece today. The right story at a time when it’s so needed. Thank you for publishing it Dan. It notes John no longer lives in Westport, but where is he now located? The beautiful birds look like they could be at home in our area:-)

  23. Danielle Dobin

    What a beautiful post!

  24. Helen Malyszka

    John, thank you for this amazing article. Just like everyone’s comments you touched my soul and lifted it high, today. I am very fortunate to know John Gould, one of the most talented people you will ever meet. I cannot wait for John’s book to be published as I know he has many more beautiful and touching stories to tell. And, I know that his brilliant musical should be on Broadway already.

  25. Ann Chernow

    Thanks for publishing this remarkable memoir, we sometimes forget in he midst of this pandemic situation, that we have exerienced worse….To add: my uncle Joe , a combat vet of WWII, landed at Anzio, Italy and wrote me letters about the devastation and horror that had to be dealt with for two years; it’s easy to forget terrible times, we have to focus on helping others and the positivity/probability in the near future of an end to the current horror. .

  26. Barbara Costa

    This was such a beautiful post! Thank you so much for sharing it. Your blog makes me feel the lovely warm spirit of Westport, even though I don’t live there yet. The photo of the little girl kissing the GI was really moving. The soldier’s casual posture, the simplicity of the little girl’s gesture…very moving.
    Thank you, Dan.

  27. It is my most sincere hope that lo these many positive comments inspire our beloved friend John to publish his memoir. He is a brilliantly talented writer and musician, and we should be very proud to have such an incredible human walking among us. ..particularly during this dark and tragic time….

    • Mary Schmerker

      You said it better and with greater eloquence than I did. Thank you.
      We do need to hear from those who have survived tough difficult situations and come out with grace and forgiveness and stronger than they would have if they had not gone through those times and situations.

  28. Perhaps you could pass this on – JG might try All Things That Matter Press. They’re small, but like to publish stuff from people of a certain age, They’re a traditional publisher and easy to find online.

  29. Linda Grabill Parker

    What a wonderful post , Dan – especially for those of us who are in the throes of “World on Fire” , on PBS . And kudos to you , John Gould – truly enjoyed your moving reflections and story . Thanks , and be well !

  30. John Knofla

    Hats off to you John… a wonderful story from a wonderful guy… Thanks for sharing !

  31. Mark Bachmann

    Wow, a fascinating guy, a great story and a wonderful photo of the little birds. Londoners who lived through the WWII bombings have a lot to teach us about endurance and about the importance of staying loyal to our friends. They can also remind us that our current anxieties are not as overwhelming as they may seem and that people are capable of making it through a lot worse.

  32. Jane Nordli

    Hard to imagine what the Brits endured during the Blitz, and yet, somehow we they endured, and flourished later on, as John has throughout his life. I love stories of the miracle of the Nazis not managing to invade the little island that could. Churchill and Roosevelt. The GIs, the RAF. The Good. The other song Vera Lynn sang has resonance now, too, doesn’t it? “We’ll Meet Again”…Hope it’s sooner than later.

  33. Lovely & amazing: 57 nights straight of bombings? The stoicism in the face of suffering is so unreal & to be respected. Just a wonderful retelling of a horrible time w/glimmers of hope & happiness, seen through a child’s eyes. Thank you very much, indeed.

  34. Suzanne Horelik

    I, too, love this song, particularly my memory of John singing it at The Redding Roadhouse decades ago. A gentleman with many incredible talents. I was not aware of his writing talent, but very much look forward to reading his memoir once published to learn more about his extraordinary life! His poignant description of surviving London in WWII brings much hope to our own ability to get through this pandemic. Thank you, John, for sharing – and I’m excited to hear more!

  35. Robin Massa

    “Keep calm and carry on” together we shall get through this!! We must all think of ourselves as comrades in an invisible war. Be Kind,Grateful, Giving and Understanding. Together we stand. Divided we fall! We’ve gotten through worse.. we shall rise again..and be a greater ,stronger America!

  36. Scott Broder

    Thank you Dan for constantly sharing the beauty in life with such poignant real life stories. We are blessed in this town to have so many wonderful caring people. John, loved your most touching descriptions of the bombings of WW2 in London and the analogy of life moving forward with the bluebirds.
    Beautiful and thought provoking now. 🙏🏼

  37. Tom Kashetta

    I am not surprised by this piece. John has so much talent. This is just amazing. Love you old pal !!!!!!!