#WorldPostDay – I’ll be back when Summer’s in the Meadow

#WorldPostDay – I’ll be back when Summer’s in the Meadow

Our final story today to mark #WorldPostDay is from a written story in our oral history collection. It was submitted by Melanie A. Ippolito in March 2020 on behalf of her parents Muriel Mitchell and Raymond Friscia who came to Northern Ireland as a GI during the Second World War.

Muriel Mitchell and Raymond Friscia on their wedding day

Muriel was born in Belfast in 1922 and she lived with her family on Posnett Street during the war. In May 1942 she met American GI, Raymond Friscia at the Albert White’s Ballroom in Belfast. Raymond was from New York and at 25 years-old he had recently been stationed as part of the 5th General Hospital at Musgrave Park. On arriving in Northern Ireland, he wrote some letters home to his mother:

We arrived in Ireland and all is safe and well. Northern Ireland is very beautiful, everything is in bloom. I have never seen so many beautiful flowers in all my life. Their trees are so old, the country is so green and well taken care of, everything is just so.

About our set up I can’t say very much only that we have a lovely building for our hospital. It has a big outdated swimming pool, ten tennis courts and two golf courses nearby, so you can see we have it really nice.

About the people, well it seems you are in a different world- they are 100 years behind the times. The few cars they have they drive on the left side of the road; the steering wheels is on the right. You see more horse drawn carts and bicycles. The homes are old and beautiful, especially the estates of the landholders. I wish you were here to see it all, especially the flowers.

The Irish people are very good to us, and the girls are not bad. They play all American music and are starting to dance the way we do. I went to Belfast the other night to a dance and had a very good time.

In December 1942 Raymond was sent to England, so he was separated from Muriel for nearly three years. The couple married in Donegall Square Methodist Church in September 1945. Throughout their separation they wrote almost daily to each other about what they were doing as well as how much they missed spending time with each other. In one such letter Muriel wrote about buying her wedding dress;

My Dearest Ray,

            Today has been a very busy day for me. To begin with, this morning we were extra busy at the office but as usual we had our 15-minute morning break for tea. During the break I asked the girls if they knew of a good dressmaker who would make me a dress and wouldn’t take too long. Kathleen Quigley told me she knows a girl, a friend of hers and she offered to meet me this afternoon and take me to her as she was sure the girl would oblige and make a dress for me inside a week or two. You see, Ray, it takes 11 coupons to buy a woollen dress readymade and 9 coupons for a silk one, but I haven’t that many. I decided the only thing I could do was buy material as it only takes 6 coupons that way……

         Then we decided we would go in the shop and look at the things just for fun. That did it, Ray, I ended up buying the loveliest little suit I’ve ever seen. It’s a London model and the only one like it the shop had, what is more it took 18 coupons. After I fitted it on, I said, “Gosh, but I wish I could have this, but I can’t as I haven’t anything like 18 coupons.” Then I got a wonderful surprise as the girl in the shop said, “I tell you what, I’ll accept your new period coupons, but don’t tell anyone or I’ll get into serious trouble.” You see, Ray, we were issued with new coupons a few weeks ago but the shops aren’t allowed to accept them until September. I didn’t even dream of asking the girl to take my new coupons because it seemed hopeless so you can guess how surprised and pleased I was when she herself suggested it. As of yet I haven’t the suit home with me as I hadn’t enough money. I gave the girl 2 pounds and my 6 coupons and told her I would call back with the rest of the money and 12 coupons. I’ll ask Mommy for the money and won’t tell her it’s for my wedding suit……

Muriel & Raymond’s relationship survived on ink and paper for the duration of the war as it was really the only way the two could keep in touch apart from the odd phone call or visit on leave. From reading them it is clear that these letters were very important to them, with censorship often causing them much frustration as well as the frequent delays in post resulting in weeks without any letters, only for a three or four to arrive all at once. Melanie has complied and edited the approximately 2000 letters they wrote to each other and published them, I’ll be back when Summer’s in the Meadow: A World War II Chronicle: Volume I 1942-1943, Volume II 1944 & Volume III 1945-1946 available on Amazon.

Did you know any GI brides like Muriel? Did you write letters or plan a wedding during the war? If you would like to share your memories, or the story of your parents, please get in touch with our Oral History Coordinator at projects@niwarmemorial.org or on 07588 634847.

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