I Remember Dad: Hickam Airfield

By Richard Mabey Jr.

A very rare photo of my mom, Janet Kemmerer Mabey, sitting on the rock wall of her home on Boonton Avenue when she was 15 years old.

At 18 years old, my beloved father was shocked to see the devastation and destruction that men can do unto men. As many of you know, Hickam Airfield borders Pearl Harbor. The two places, etched in American history, almost merge together as one place.

In the Summer of 1943, at the age of 18, my dad was shipped to Hickam Airfield to become part of the illustrious Seventh Army Air Corps. His heart filled with an uncanny devotion to a 15-year-old girl, whom he had only seen, from across the street for about five minutes. But, in that five minutes, my dad fell deeply in love with Janet Kemmerer.

It was at Hickam that Dad made friends with Tommy Andrews, who hailed from Haskell, New Jersey. These two men, from small towns in northern New Jersey, found themselves in this strange place that had been brutally attacked by the Japanese, less than two years ago. Rumors abounded at Hickam that the Japanese were planning another attack on Hickam.

Both, Dad and Tommy, were assigned to care for and do small repairs on the planes, mostly on the infamous P-51 Mustang Fighter Planes. Both young men felt the homesick blues. Both young men longed to be back home to their respective hometowns. There was one big difference between these two young men. Tommy was an only child and my dad was the fifth of nine children. Sadly, Tommy’s father went Home to be with the Lord when Tommy was just eight years old.

Tommy became my dad’s best friend and confidant. And, yes, Dad did tell Tommy about the cute girl who sat on the rock wall on Boonton Avenue. The girl, Janet Kemmerer, whom he fell in love with at first sight. The very girl whom Dad had never spoken to. But deep in his heart, Dad knew Janet was the girl for him.

For whom among us have known a truth so deep in his or her heart that it speaks with abundance clarity? So clear, does the love beat within the chambers of the heart’s center, that a hundred wild horses could never tear it from the deepest chambers of the heart’s inner core.

Dad atop the wing of a P-51 Mustang Fighter Plane. His best friend, Tommy is standing beside the wing of the plane.

And, from everything my dear, beloved father ever told me; he prayed every night to meet Janet Kemmerer when he returned to the mainland, to his hometown of Lincoln Park. Dad told me that every night that he was at Hickam Airfield, he dreamt of returning home to the house that his father built at the end of Mabey Lane, in the little nook of Lincoln Park.

My dad and I would often take a week or so and ride out to Gettysburg and walk just about every square foot of that sacred battlefield. I remember this so very well. It was back in Year 2000. Dad and I were walking along the edge of that big field where General Pickett made his charge. And, as we traversed that historic field, Dad told me that while he was at Hickam Airfield, he knew deep in his heart that he was going to marry my mom. Dad told me that he never had any doubt about it.

The good Lord provides. There is no doubt about it. God provided my dear father with a good friend in Tommy, during his long time at Hickam Airfield. God provided Dad with a knowingness, that abideth deep in his heart that he was going to marry Janet Kemmerer, the cute girl who sat on the rock wall in her front yard on Boonton Avenue. And of an utmost, amazing, endearing miracle; Dad came home from the war, safe and sound.

How many of us have looked into the eyes of our beloved father? Saw his pain. Saw his joy. Saw his fears. Saw his strengths. How many of us have thought what it would be like to be the man who was responsible for bringing us unto this physical world? How many of us have felt our father’s pain?

My father was a man who dropped out of high school to join the United States Army, in the midst of  World War II. He endured the heat and trying moments at Fort McClellan Army Base in Anniston, Alabama. He returned home to Mabey Lane, for a one-week leave, before departing to Hickam Airfield in Hawaii. And, in that week, for about five minutes he saw the young girl, sitting upon a rock wall. She stole his heart. And Dad fell in love with Mom at that very moment in time. Dad never stopped loving Mom for his entire life.

Richard Mabey Jr. is a freelance writer. He can be reached at richardmabeyjr@hotmail.com. Please put on the subject line: My Life Publications.  




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