Tomorrow, July 22, is my mother’s birthday. She would have celebrated 92 years had she lived past age 52. She left me plenty of memories, starting with the circumstances of my birth.

World War II was the event that inspired my birth, right on the cusp of the Baby Boomer generation. The energy surrounding a war is fertile ground for creating and destroying . During that time there was plenty of anger, a thirst for revenge and retribution, along with a strong surge of sexuality that resulted in marriages and births, not necessarily in that order.

The war brought two career military men into my mother’s life; within five years  she had married, divorced and remarried.  The first, Capt. Victor Hobson, a graduate of West Point, was my father. He was shipped off with the infantry to the war in Italy before I got to know him. The second, Capt. Darby Williams, who graduated from the Citadel in South Carolina, appeared on the scene right after the war. He had spent the war training troops at Ft. Belvoir.


Garnette Motley

Garnette Motley

When my mother, Garnette Motley, graduated from high school in 1940, she was ready to leave small town life in Danville, Virginia, to head south to Ft. Bragg, near Fayetteville, North Carolina. Even though the US wasn’t involved in the war yet, many people felt it was inevitable, including President Roosevelt.  Mom had family in Fayetteville, which made it easier to get a job as a clerk-typist at the Army post, a typical low-paying position for women in those days.

Mom, a true Southerner, was naturally friendly and flirtatious and would have been considered a “dish” (an old compliment). What could be more fun than being among lots of available young attractive men in uniform?  I could see from old photos that Victor was a handsome man—he was tall, had dark curly-hair, and was very intelligent. Those were passionate days after war was declared and sex was a natural result. Apparently, they didn’t use protection, so little Victoria was conceived without the benefit of marriage vows. Mom was so embarrassed about that fact she didn’t tell me until I was 19. Being a “modern” girl by that time and in a time of “Free Love,” I thought the circumstances made my creation much more exciting, besides, Victor did the honorable thing and they got married before I made my entrance.


Victor Hobson

Victor Hobson

Major Hobson wasn’t in my life for long; I wasn’t even a toddler when he went to war. I believe my mother was in love with him but I’m not sure it was fully reciprocated. War may bring passion but it also brings separation, and the marriage was essentially over when Victor left. Mom and I went home to Danville and lived with her parents until fate, and Mom’s brother Penn, stepped in a couple of years later with an introduction to another Army officer, Darby Williams. Captain Williams was stationed at Ft. Belvoir, Virginia, and met my aunt and uncle at a church they both attended in Northern Virginia.

Love struck again for Mom, and it turned out that my birth father, Victor, who was stationed in Trieste after the war, had met a lovely and vivacious Italian woman he wanted to marry. Mom obliged and took the train to Reno, Nevada, the best way to get a quick 6-week divorce in those days. Capt. Williams joined her when she was free; they got married in Reno right after the divorce was final and celebrated at the Top of the Mark hotel in San Francisco. Dad went on to Bavaria, Germany, as part of the US occupying troops, and my mother and I sailed to Europe to join him. And so began the second chapter of my life as an Army brat.


Darby Williams

Darby Williams

I’ve wondered occasionally what life might have been like if Mom had stayed with Father #1 since Father #2 was more than challenging. I did meet Victor and his family when I was 21 (I’ve written an Amazon Ebook about him and written about both fathers on my blog), and discovered he had also been a difficult father. Victor and I bonded nicely when we reconnected, however, and I got to know him and his wonderful family.

My conclusion: my mother followed her heart, had some good years and some very trying ones, but that’s life. My sister, brother and I wished she had lived longer, of course. Military men, especially of the WWII generation were not easy to live with on the whole. I think they kept their anguish and frustrations bottled up or took it out on their families; thankfully, marriages seem to be more open and communicative these days.

One Comment

  1. your Mothers history is absolutely fascinating.. and so typical of those trying war years… when the men went far off and the women were left with the double duties of both partners at home.. They had to be tough,, life demanded it then.. and
    still does today, for most women who married military men.. ask me, I know.. love you Victoria.. you are one fine daughter and friend.. Becky Goddard Rizek’60..

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