Red Cross Dividends

By Marjorie Lyon

April 23, 1952

Dividends are hard to explain. Sometimes you earn them and sometimes they are just thrust upon you. It seems to me that the dividends that come from Red Cross Motor service are of the latter clan. Through the years, they never fail. It may be a dull day, and you are a bit tired after an Opera the night before – then some child smiles or a patient makes a remark in brogue, and the day’s job is more than paid for!

I can’t tell you of all the dividends I’ve had. Once I tried to make a list, but it just went on and on. Beside the smiles, there are occasional unexpected kisses, and so many funny sayings. Or a long ago patient may swing off a passing truck with a grin and a “Hi Mrs. Lyon!” Youngsters and an occasional old man ask you to stop the car so they can get on the front seat beside you. Crippled old ladies thank you quaintly for “the pleasure of your company.” Men paving the street move a wooden horse with a broad grin when you tell them you remember them you’ll remember them in your Will. An old Sea Captain remarks – on a specially bad bumpy street “Why it’s just like the bounding Main!” After a few sharp corners, a small boy strapped to a board says “Gee this Red Cross car is just like a merry-go-round.” Some of the sayings are remembered for their incongruity – for instance, the quiet old man who was going to the hospital to have his foot amputated, surprised me as we passed the crenelated tower of the old Armory by saying “Reminiscent of the Norman Conquest, what!”

Then of course there are the tangible dividends due to the Red Cross uniform, such as getting a low tag at a Take Your Turn Store when you should have had a high one; the butter or eggs thrust upon you during rationing days; the interesting foreign dishes your patients give you to eat (even Italian wine at 9 in the morning); the help you get (so willingly) in carrying patients or bundles, etc., etc. One drunken man even climbed through a window for me, to open the door for a locked-out patient! I don’t know whether that was really a dividend, as I was afraid that he would either fall into the area or burglarize the house! And just yesterday I was a bit late going to the Opera when a policeman who remembered me moved a NO PARKING sign so I could park my beach wagon right on the Opera block!

Then came the personalities one meets and remembers: the woman from Poland who spoke German, Arabic, Greek, French and English, beside Polish; the woman inveighing against sheer stockings who boasted she wore woolen underwear all the year round and three pairs of stockings in winter, and ended pathetically “and then I still have chilblains”; the old lady at the City Hospital whose bed I was making (laboriously as it was very dirty) and when I said cheerfully “I’m just about done now” replied “and you’ve just about done me too”!

Then there are amusing situations in which you find yourself due to the job: once I went to an American Legion Meeting where there were nothing but men; once I bumped my car full of crippled service men over the curbstone right under the Fenway Park grandstand going to a Ball Game. Once I saw a basketball game between teams of paraplegics in wheelchairs; and I went to a Fishing Club with Chelsea Naval Hospital boys.

Of course there was the tragic thrill of being at the Dock to see our boys off to the war, and the happy thrill of meeting the boats years later. One or two of the boys insisted they remembered me; and sometimes we were given souvenirs or foreign coins.

The astonishing way people remember you! Like the woman I met after 20 years who greeted me by name and said she never had forgotten because I used to carry her boy up the stairs. That boy is well now and she told me so proudly that he was in the Army.

And surely, to go on with the dividends, I never would have taken courses in Map Reading, Convoy Drill in trucks, Motor Mechanic, nor learned close order Infantry Drill if it hadn’t been for Motor Corps!