|Postcard, c. 1945|
Yesterday, we had some time on our hands between errands in town (Abq) so we decided to divert over to Ernie Pyle's place on a little height above the University.
Ernie and his wife "That Girl" built the small, simple and very pleasant house then on the edge of Albuquerque in 1940, the only house they ever owned as a couple apparently, and they lived there for a month or more each year while Ernie was working first as a Traveling Columnist for Scripps-Howard, then as a War Correspondent for Scripps-Howard. His wife Jerry was also traveling and writing during the same period.
It was in his latter capacity as War Correspondent that Ernie gained his largest audience. Americans followed his war dispatches from both the European and Pacific Theatres eagerly. He was the writer, after all, who created the character and coined the still-current sobriquet "G.I. Joe" to represent the ordinary American caught up in the patriotic fervor and wartime mechanism that swept the country just before and during WWII, fervor and mechanisms that were kept going through various strategies long after it ended.
It was in his latter capacity that Ernie was killed on some god-forsaken island in the Pacific just weeks before the end of the War in the Pacific. Ever since, he's been iconicised as the quintessential American war correspondent. In my view, it's a very well deserved accolade. The man could write, passionately, emotionally, and truthfully. And not only about the horrors and triumphs of warriors in field and foxhole, either.
There's a small collection of Pyle's works (one of them signed by himself) in the glass case in our library at home as my father was quite fond of his works and apparently had the opportunity to meet him at some point during the War. It took me a while to appreciate Pyle, but then, that's the way it is with kids.
The City of Albuquerque acquired the Pyle home from his estate in 1948 and decided on one of the most unique and appropriate courses they could have done for it. They decided to preserve it as a house and as a memorial to Pyle, and to operate it as the first branch library in town.
To this day the city has maintained this objective and promise, and it's wonderful.