Peggy just tried to cheer up soldiers

first_imgThe young woman working in the cloakroom at the Hollywood Guild Canteen during World War II had a knack for spotting lonely servicemen a long way from home. They had a sad, faraway look in their eyes as they walked into the private home that had been converted into a hotel for servicemen coming through Los Angeles on their way to war. What they needed as much as a hot meal and a cot for the night was a little cheering up. “Will Rogers’ ranch isn’t far from here, soldier. Do you want to visit it while you’re in town?” Peggy Bolenbaugh would ask. “I’ll mail the pictures home for you, and let your parents know you’re doing fine,” Peggy would tell them as they were leaving the Hollywood Guild. But she had a favor to ask in return: Could they please send her a military patch from their unit? By the end of the war, more than 300 military patches had been sent to Peggy, thanking her for her kindness when they came through Los Angeles on their way to war. Today, Peggy Bolenbaugh is 93, and living at the Casitas Care Center in Granada Hills. Most of those men she befriended are gone, but their children and grandchildren aren’t. Every day, when the mail arrives at the skilled-care nursing facility, one room always gets more mail than all the others: Room 200, where Peggy lives. The photographs she snapped more than a half-century earlier of young servicemen standing at Will Rogers’ hitching post wound up in hundreds of family photo albums around the country. Stories of Peggy’s tour for homesick soldiers, and how she asked for their military patches, got handed down from generation to generation. Descendents of those soldiers and sailors and Marines have written her letters, and she’s written them back. They exchange birthday cards and keep up on each others’ lives. Some even come by to visit. “When they’re in Los Angeles, families still stop by with that picture she took of their father or grandpa at Will Rogers’ hitching post,” says Kathy Haugh, Peggy’s clinical social worker. “She gets more mail than anyone here.” In later years, Peggy took those World War II patches out of the drawer and sewed them on an Army blanket she bought at a surplus store. During the Vietnam War, she sewed on more patches – some of them sent to her by the sons of the fathers she befriended during World War II. During Desert Storm, she added a half-dozen more – a few of them from grandsons. When she finally stopped sewing last year, Peggy had 352 military unit patches on that Army blanket. “A friend of mine has a son who co-founded the Vietnam Veterans of Oregon Memorial, so I sent the blanket up there,” Peggy said Wednesday, getting ready to mail a birthday card to the daughter of one of her World War II soldiers. Ron Cannon, director of the U.S. Department of Labor Veteran’s Employment and Training Service in Oregon, said the blanket is on display at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and may soon be moved to the state Capitol for thousands of visitors to see. “We call it Peggy’s Labor of Love to homesick young lads,” Cannon said by phone from Oregon. “The history of the blanket is fascinating. It’s a brilliant work of art. Every patch has its own story of love and honor. “It’s so obvious that this woman’s heart and soul went into every patriotic stitch she wove into the fabric.” Dennis McCarthy’s column appears Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Sunday. [email protected] (818) 713-3749160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREBasketball roundup: Sierra Canyon, Birmingham set to face off in tournament quarterfinalsTheir faces would brighten and that homesick look would be replaced by a smile a mile wide. Will Rogers, America’s greatest humorist? Heck, yes, they wanted to see where he lived. So the next day, Peggy would take a carful of soldiers out to Will’s ranch house in Bel-Air, where his sister would give them a tour. Then they’d step outside and have their pictures taken standing at the hitching post where Will tied up his horse when he was in town. “On the way back, we’d stop at the beach because so many of them had never seen an ocean before,” Peggy recalled. For a few precious hours, she made them forget their loneliness and where they were going next. For a few hours, she became their mother and big sister. last_img

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *