The USO Dance That Changed His Life

Today we celebrate Military Spouse Appreciation Day.  And our guest blogger tells the kind of tale that we love at the USO, and it seems especially appropriate with Mother’s Day coming up on Sunday.

Earl Ladewig was a young soldier heading into World War II when a chance encounter at the USO changed his life.  This is his story…

Earl and Freda Ladewig on their wedding day, May 18, 1942.

I was drafted into service on Nov 7, 1941 from Harvey, IL.  I was sent to Cheyenne, Wyo for basic training.  On Jan 1, 1942 I was sent to Lowry AFB, Denver, Co.  The greatest impact that Denver had on me was this:  I rode into town on the Colfax streetcar, and as we passed the capitol building and headed downhill to Broadway there was the City & County building of Denver lit up in all its Holiday splendor.  I had never seen a sight like that before. (Never around Chicago, were I grew up)   About two weeks after my arrival in Denver I read a notice, on the bulletin board, that the USO was sponsoring a Square Dance at the University of Colorado campus near Colorado Blvd.  I had been a square dancer for several years and loved it, and I knew that people who square danced were friendly outgoing people.  The dance was scheduled for 17 January.  I decided to go, and go I did.  During the dance I met 3 sisters who were volunteers for the USO trying to do good for the lonely servicemen.  One sister, “Freda” was exceptionally friendly and I danced almost every dance in their square.

During our talking I learned that the girls were also scheduled to attend ballroom dancing at the old Rainbow ballroom (USO sponsored).  I indicated that I would try to be there also.  I went to the dance (18 January 1942, also my 23rd birthday).  Lo and behold two of the sisters were there but Freda was not.  I was disappointed, because it seemed we were very compatible.   However, Freda had told her sisters that if I was there they were to bring me home.  (The sisters didn’t tell me why Freda wasn’t there.)  When they told me Freda asked them to bring me home, I jumped at the chance.  Turns out Freda had a date and skipped the dance.  (Incidentally I had a girl back home whom I had asked to marry me, but she said we needed to wait until I got back from service.)

So to make a long story short, I started visiting with Freda and her family every night, always had supper with them.  Freda and I became very close friends.  After we became extra close while visiting Cheesman park in April 1942, I asked her to marry me.  She hesitated and so I told her I should think about it.  A week later I asked her again and she said yes. (At this point I did not feel I had a commitment to the girl back home, these were two different personalities and Freda’s by far was most compatible to me.)  At about this time I learned that our company, to which I was assigned at Lowry, was going to be shipped out, had no idea where. (Remember WWII started on December 7, 1941)  Freda set the date to be married on May 18, 1942. (Later I learned it was her mother’s birthday.)  It was such that “We would get married on he 18th if I was still here, otherwise we would wait.”  We did get married on the 18th of May 1942 and I shipped out on the 6th of June 1942. I had a 3-day pass and we spent our honeymoon in Colorado Springs. Our company was sent to Fairbanks Alaska.

Freda and I had nine children, seven of whom are still living.  Freda died in 1996. The 54 years we had together was a wonderful loving experience.  I wish every day that Freda was still with us.   And although I know I am forgetful these days, I can not remember Freda and I ever having an argument or saying cross words to one another.

Our children are grown now, and believe me, they are a true blessing to me at age 91. just as their mother was for 54 years.

I THANK THE USO FOR MAKING IT POSSIBLE FOR ME TO MEET FREDA. – Earl