Once upon a time, a long time ago, a boy named Cecil met a girl named Amanda in the midst of the Alberta prairies. She was selling books to raise money for college. He was a conscientious objector newly released from the Canadian Armed Forces - had spent a couple years building roads on the frontier during WWII. She came from German-Russian farmers fleeing the pogroms. He from homesteaders in British Columbia with roots in Richmond, Virginia, and Welsh blood in their veins. It took a great deal of persuasion to convince Amanda's widower father that this dirt-poor preacher boy who hadn't even fought in the war had what it took to protect and care for his only daughter. But it was done, and they were married.
Both deeply religious, Cecil and Amanda answered a call from their denomination for overseas missionaries. Requesting that they not be sent to Japan or China (the first was still hot from Hiroshima, the latter was embroiled in civil war), they ended up in Allied-occupied Korea instead. In January, 1950, they carried their 14-month-old daughter down the gangplank of the freighter ship and onto solid ground. They had arrived! Six months later my grandparents had finally settled into a new home near the Sahmyook University campus on the outskirts of Seoul and were busy learning the language.
Late one gorgeous Sunday afternoon the two of them were enjoying the mild summer weather on their back porch when Amanda heard a distant sound. "Cecil, what was THAT?" It didn't fit with anything she'd ever heard before. "Don't worry, it's only thunder," soothed Cecil, always the pragmatic optimist. But the booms increased in frequency, drawing closer. Then came the "rat-tat-tat-tat!" Amanda leaped to her feet, "That was NOT thunder!" she cried, gathering little Myla in her arms and wisely heading indoors.
Within minutes of the disturbance a car came racing up the drive. A fellow missionary woman flew into the house. "The Communists are coming!"
North Korean soldiers were pouring over the demarcation line into the South, with dangerously few minutes between them and the helpless missionaries. The strange sounds in the distance was Seoul being bombed! Springing into action, my grandparents turned off lights and blacked-out windows. Filling one tiny suitcase each, they were ready to leave in a quarter hour. Their maid, a refugee from North Korea, circled the house with a stick - swearing to protect them from the forces that had wiped out her own family. Amanda grabbed a dress and hurriedly stitched their own stash of American money into the lining; ensuring the girl's survival throughout the difficult war ahead. And then it was time to leave.
A slow, cautious drive down steep, mountainous roads without headlights was sheer suspense. Every moment they expected to be ambushed from the side or blown to smithereens from above. But they made it safely to Seoul that night. The next morning all Caucasian women and children were evacuated to Japan by the Allied forces. An open-decked Swedish fertilizer ship with capacity for 12 passengers carried over 900 women and children across the treacherous waters to safety. Civilian men followed two days later. For those two days my pacifist grandfather was conscripted into the American Army, directing traffic while watching for air raids!
But those are stories for another day . . . .