Scenes from a Life - Ruth’s Story - 1944-45

Scenes from a Life - Ruth’s Story - 1944-45

Among Ruth’s files is a letter addressed to her at Ogontz Junior College, dated Dec 11, 1944, from a man named Evan L. Synnestvedt, an agent with Standard Life Insurance Company in Philadelphia. He wrote to say that he’d found Ruth’s wallet on a train. He indicates that the wallet contained $29.67 and “certain papers which I assume would be of some value to you.” He tells Ruth that he has left her wallet at the Lost & Found at Reading Terminal and she can pick it up there by providing proof of her identity.

It made me wonder where Ruth had been going on the train, how she had lost her wallet and what those “certain papers” might have been. Her father had died 3 months earlier, and this would have been her first Christmas without him. Up to this point in Ruth’s records, there are very few clues to her relationship with her mother. Did she come here to this house, where her mother still lived, for Christmas that year? Did her mother ever visit Ruth at Ogontz? Did they spend time together during Ruth’s school holidays? Despite the many little details that exist about Ruth’s life, some of the really big questions about her life remain unanswered.

However, it is clear that Ruth loved travel and adventure, which may have been developed through all of her travels with her father.

In February, 1945, perhaps during some type of semester “break” at Ogontz, it appears that Ruth traveled to the city of Tacloban, in the Philippine province of Leyte.

Only four months earlier, in October, 1944, General Douglas MacArthur and his assault troops had landed on the beaches in Tacloban, which had been occupied by Japanese forces for the previous two years. MacArthur’s troops took control of Tacloban, while the US Navy defeated the Japanese in the Battle of Leyte Gulf. Tacloban became the temporary capital of the Philippines.

So, what was Ruth doing there, as a 19 year-old college student?

It seems she was there with two of her friends from Ogontz, Rae Deacon and Joan Deacon, and their parents, Bess and Wallace. Ruth called Bess and Wallace “Mom” and “Pop”, so she had clearly spent significant amounts of time with the Deacon family. Ruth and the Deacon family may have traveled to the Philippines together, but there’s no indication of how they got there – by air? By ship?

It appears the Deacon family was visiting the Lindsey family, whose son, Aris Lindsey, later married Rae Deacon in June, 1945. Aris was an Army Ranger and he had been a prisoner of war. Had he been a POW under the Japanese forces who had occupied the Philippines? Had he just been freed, with the liberation of the Philippines by MacArthur’s troops and the US Navy?

Aris’ brother, Bob Lindsey, was in the Navy. Had he been involved in defeating the Japanese and liberating the Philippines?

Their father, Brigadier General Julian R. Lindsey, had been a military man since at least 1901, when he had been stationed in the Philippines with the 15th Cavalry. Soon after the end of World War I, Julian Lindsey led the investigative team that traveled to the Argonne Forest in France to the site of an infamous fire fight in which a young Sergeant named Alvin York captured 132 Germans, including four officers. (For more, see the 1941 film “Sergeant York” starring Gary Cooper, or the Sergeant York Project) During the 1930’s, Julian Lindsey had been the commander of Fort Knox.

So, it may be that this gathering of the Deacon family and the Lindsey family there in the Philippines was a celebration – of freedom for Aris, of liberation for the Philippines, of families reunited.

And there was Ruth, in the midst of it all, having another adventure, and making a little celebration of her own . . .

While there, she assembled a scrapbook. A very unusual scrapbook. It contains locks of hair from dozens of young military men, each of whom wrote little notes to her and signed their names next to their lock of hair. Ruth also collected locks of hair from every member of the Deacon family and the Lindsey family and each of them signed her book and wrote a note to Ruth as well. On the front cover, Ruth scratched out the word “SCRAPBOOK” and wrote “SCALPBOOK”.

The more I uncover about Ruth, the more obvious it becomes that she was an unconventional woman, an adventurer, and a true original. Stay tuned for more . . . Meanwhile, here are photos of a few pages from Ruth’s “scalpbook”.

Posted by Melanie Tagged as: city life lancaster pa ruths story

Next: Lancaster City Culture - 2nd Sunday Flavor Fair

Previous: Scenes from a Life - Ruth's Story - 1943-44