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