I’ve been in several conversations lately in which it was suggested certain buildings be torn down and the land converted into green space and a small park. One sees this being done in the business districts of many cities and towns. In Washington Court House a building burned many years ago and the lot was turned into a nice little park, right on a corner in the downtown area. I don’t know if anyone ever sits on one of the provided benches but it sure looks nice to those driving by.
All this talk about small parks reminded me of an experience I had in Greenock, Scotland back in the early 1960s. My ship, the USS Mills (DER-383), was supposedly the first US war ship to visit Greenock since World War II. The residents literally treated us like returning heroes and rolled out the red carpet.
Greenock, like much of Great Britain, had been bombed by the German Luftwaffe during the war. Being young and ignorant, myself and most of my friends weren’t aware of such or to what extent the town and its people had suffered. I learned later that close to 280 people were killed during two nights of raids in 1941. Over 1,000 more were injured, many seriously, and the brunt of the “Greenock Blitz” fell mainly on the civilian population rather than the intended shipyards. Of 18,000 homes 10,000 were damaged and 1,000 destroyed.
On one of our early visits to the community myself and a couple of buddies were walking, wearing our Navy uniforms, down the main street and we passed a small park nestled between two apartment buildings. As we strolled by an older woman came out of the park and began to speak to us. She spoke in a heavy Scottish brogue which we hadn’t developed an ear for yet and we hardly understood what she was telling us.
We reacted to her words with smiles on our faces and the occasional chuckle and nod of agreement. After a short time she became angry with us and walked off in a disturbed state. Being obviously perplexed over what had happened a gentleman who had witnessed the scene walked over and related that the woman was telling us, that an apartment house had once stood on the site of the green space and that during the war the Nazis had bombed it and her husband, and others, had been killed. She was telling us about how she often visited the park and how much she appreciated the aid America had provided.
We never saw the woman again but I’ve seldom passed such a green space that I didn’t think about her.