Barely Young

Life was cheap back then, but money was scarce.
Always seems to work out that way. Good steaks
were about a dollar and a half. Some life.
That was before he went into the service.
He and another intern would give blood
to get money to take their girls out to dinner
at the Blue Room in the Roosevelt Hotel.
They’d go see the big orchestras to dance and eat,
it was a nightclub, a fun place, everybody was down there.
Apparently he had plenty of blood to spare,
though it’s not as though they went every week.
The intern from Georgia who would go with him
was a skinny little thing and he used to feel sorry for him
having to give so much blood. It was after
they had graduated from medical school,
before any of them went off to war.
They were in their twenties, barely young.
An intern in those days earned $35 a month,
Chief Intern $60. Three of them had tried to run the hospital
but then finally, having known it was coming,
they left for the war.
It was pretty bare at the hospitals
with so many young doctors signing up.
Some were rejected for minor ailments.
A few were lucky enough to be sent home.
They took the ones they wanted.
Life was very uncertain in those days.
“And do you know where I was when the United States
was pushed into the war? I was lying on my bed
listening to the New York Philharmonic
when they interrupted the orchestra to announce
that Pearl Harbor had been bombed.”
It was a Sunday afternoon, she tells me, and she was waiting
for my grandfather to come see her.
It was the day before his 24th birthday
and the sky was a perfect blue.
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