Shirley the American Doll

‘Shirley was unlike any British doll,’ Ann remembers, ‘They were all baby dolls. But Shirley had long, slim legs, a beautiful dress and long, red hair. She was like a forebear of Barbie dolls.’ G.I. Wally Weilenbeck sent her the doll when he returned to the USA after the war. Here she is, being hugged by Ann, who is standing between her Mum and Dad. When Dad was called up to fight in the war, Ann and her Mum went to live with her grandparents in Alresford.

As I explained in HQs, billets and campsites, there was a 47th Infantry Regiment  camp in The Dean, where the mobile home site is nowadays. Ann’s grandpa was the landlord of ‘The Dean Arms’, only a few doors down the road, and because it had a piano in the bar ‘with things like Home on the Range‘ it was inevitable that the GIs acquired a taste for warm English beer and spent much of their time there. The garden behind the pub backed onto their campsite and so four-year-old Ann, her Mum and Grandma could visit the cookhouse without setting foot on the road. ‘It was so exciting,’ she said, ‘Going off and eating food you’d never tasted before. They filled me up with chocolate until I was sick.’ Ann also remembers eating ring donuts and having a thing about their butterscotch pudding. Ann put me right about the location of the cookhouse. The present brick building on the mobile home park wasn’t built until after the war, she explained. I was right about Hambone Junior living there though. She remembers seeing Hambone on a number of occasions, but unfortunately can’t visualise him.

Ann remembers riding the short distance into Alresford with the soldiers in their jeep – ‘The Americans never walked if they could drive somewhere!’ and they took her and her Mum on a trip into Winchester on one occasion. That was a wonderful treat, because few civillians owned cars in those days, and no-one could get the fuel to drive them during the war.

Ann’s Mum kept up her correspondence with Wally Weilenbeck and his family until the 1970s. Ann showed me her cherished photos of Wally, his wife, and their three children – and if by chance you are reading this post Dottie, Carl or Joe, your dad’s friend Ann would love to hear from you again.

Iris Crowfoot and Ann Hone (nee Springer)

4 thoughts on “Shirley the American Doll”

  1. Have loved reading anything about my beloved home town. Read my ‘memories’ on ‘I went to the Dean School’ I was in the RAF in the 40’s and the only thing I remember about the Yanks in Alresford that they were ‘overpaid’, ‘over-sexed’, and over here.

  2. Having talked to “Iris” about what I could remember from 1943/4 (I was only 3/4 at the time!), it has spurred me on to find out what I could about the Weilenbeck family! Searching through a box I have of letters and photos of my mothers, I found perhaps the last letter from Wally’s family which was dated Christmas 1975. It also confirmed the spelling of Wally’s surname. On the internet I discovered that Wally had gone on to serve in Korea and Vietnam, died in 1992 and was interred in a Veterans’ Cemetery. His son, Carl, died in 1972 and he can only have been in his 20s. He was also buried in the same cemetery which leaves me wondering – did he also serve his Country in Vietnam and, perhaps lose his life there? Wally’s wife, Dorothy, died in 2006. Son Joe is around 66 and living in Texas. I am unable to find his daughter as she is probably married and therefore has a different surname. I think I shall leave the story there and keep the childhood memories.

    1. Hello Ann,
      I’ve just been looking through my notes and discovered that one of the soldiers whose marriages to Alresford girls I recorded in went on to fight in Korea and Vietnam (Ambrose Speer) and another had a son who died in an air crash en route to Okinawa whilst serving as a US Marine aged 21 (Elvin Martin). The lives of Wally, Ambrose, Elvin and their sons traced 20th century history through their service.

      Link to LCpl Brian Martin’s memorial

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *