In preparing last week’s article on men entering WWII I realized that the wives had their own, equally important and interesting story to tell. I asked a friend at Primrose Care center to find me some wives of servicemen entering military service and came up with two.

In preparing last week’s article on men entering WWII I realized that the wives had their own, equally important and interesting story to tell. I asked a friend at Primrose Care center to find me some wives of servicemen entering military service and came up with two.

“The Great Illusion” is a classic book by Norman Angell first published in 1909 in which he discusses the economic cost of war ,so great that no one could possibly hope to gain by starting a war. He failed to cover the costs to families left behind. Here and next week are two such stories a generation apart.

Clifford & Helen Sikes

Clifford C. Sikes [1922-2016] entered the army initially and was through basic when his unit was placed in the new Army Air Corp. stationed in one of the eleven AAF training fields of the Second Air Force in rural Nebraska.

Clifford probably went through basic training at Lackland, AAF base in San Antonio before being sent to a 2nd AAF base in Nebraska for training in his military occupational specialty of runway construction and maintenance. Being from the rural community of Centerview 3.5 miles south of Prague on highway 99, he would have been comfortable in the rural environment all of these basis were sited in. [Centeview school remains, converted to business.]

Home on leave in 1942 about fifty citizens of rural community got together to provide him a picnic/party. Helen Gibson’s girlfriend introduced her to Clifford and in a game of spin the bottle he was given the choice of girl to go walking with down the adjacent dirt road. [ I think that is our Moccasin Train extended East a few miles.] As she tells it, they both “kinda fell in love with each other that first night.” They returned from their walk holding hands.

Clifford had to return to base and Helen went on to finish high school. Though separated, they kept in close touch with letters. [Long distance was expensive, rarely used by kids.] During that time he became seriously injured both externally and internally by constant exposure to gasoline used in runway lighting. It would require treatment at VA facilities the rest of his life. Clifford was hospitalized at the Norman VA hospital in his final months---the same facility I worked in while in OU 1954-7.

As was the custom then in September 1944 Clifford, then 21, asked Helen’s Dad for permission to marry her. He said he would consent on only one condition i..e.,“that he never lay a hand on her to hurt her.” And for the 74 years of their marriage he didn’t.

Of course, Clifford’s life as a service man was not his own so he had to get a leave to get married. He asked and received his CO’s permission asking him only if he would be going overseas soon. Of course, such information was secret and the CO assured him not. They married in Prague and three days later he was in Frankfort, Germany.

Here is the fine print Clifford was never given to read when he joined that outfit, “The training that was given to the airmen stationed at these airfields gave them the skills and knowledge that enabled them to enter combat in all theaters of warfare and enabled the Allies to defeat Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan.” Always read the fine print!

Helen on the Home Front

Abruptly forced to live independently at age 18, Helen began the life of a war wife living with Clifford’s parents in their home at the Sikes Grocery , 1900 East Highland, in Shawnee. [Now an overgrown lot.] She paid $10 a week rent to them. The AAF sent about $25 a month to his parents for some time which they were to save so the young couple could buy a car upon his return. They kept it .Meanwhile their store “Made a mint.” Helen said. Soon Helen moved to a garage on South Center Street near the old hospital paying $20 a month rent.

About her apartment, she said, “We had the very bare necessities.” She walked one and a quarter miles one way each day to her job working for the dentist Dr. Landrum above Ernest Brothers Shoe Store. After work Helen would walk an additional quarter mile around the corner for groceries from Al and James Grocery . That made her round trip on foot daily at 3 miles—half carrying a heavy sack.

After a year she got on at the Douglas plant then at Tinker where she was literally a “Rosy the Riveter riveting C-47 military transports. .” [I’ve flown in them. They were arguably the most important plane ever built, loose, windy, but reliable and vital to victory.] “It was good money.” [Then , “good” meant a dollar an hour.] It allowed her to save enough for them to buy an old car after the war.

After the war they bought a home on Draper Street on a 20-year VA loan with $29.50 a month payments. Their sons, Clifford, Jr. and Phillip attended Horace Mann Grade School. Clifford and Helen both worked two jobs to send them to college. Clifford, Sr. became Service Manager for both Ford and Chevrolet dealers here. “Our boys have both done real well. We’re real proud of them.”

We’re proud of her and all the war wives like her.