The American War Bride Experience

GI Brides of World War II

What I brought to the U.S. in 1946

By Avice Wilson

I soon found out that the clothes and shoes I brought to the USA were much too hot to wear in the summer, and inadequate for the Buffalo, N.Y. winters, so they were soon replaced! My dome-topped trunk was my mother's that she had used to go to boarding school during WWI, and our instructions ordered us to paint our name beforehand on the outside in large letters. My family was very upset that they could not give us much in the way of wedding presents; few such material gifts existed in the shops at the end of WWII. They gave us linen - an heirloom tablecloth cloth vintage 1870s from my grandparents, beautiful handmade tray clothes from an uncle and aunt who'd spent time in India, linen damask napkins from another uncle and aunt. My father gave us a complete set of silver tableware, a dozen of every piece, from his jeweler's shop. Friends gave us small pieces of silver, which were carefully packed in the trunk. My mother allowed me to pick a cake plate, a milk jug and a cheese cover from her tea set. I never needed the damask napkins or the tray clothes; they were of no use in our U.S. lifestyle.

I spent hours before I left England writing out my favorite English recipes for roasts and stuffing, puddings, cakes, biscuits, scones, jams and jellies. Those too, though battered, are still in use. Friends gave me their favorite recipes, now also serving as happy memories of many of them. My grandmother always insisted on having copies of all the photos taken by the family, so I coaxed her into giving me a bundle of them.

I took a few favorite childhood books, Stalky and Co., Lorna Doone, Palgrave's Golden Treasury, the Oxford book of Modern Verse, a 19th century leather-bound copy of White's History of Selbourne. And a 1943 marriage manual that intrigued younger members of my husband's family!

I don't remember any limit on money. I had about 250 in savings in England. I transferred them later to a bank account I set up for myself.

My husband met me at Staten Island in August 1946. On the day of my arrival, 22 of his family got together, and had planned a welcome dinner held that evening. My eldest sister-in-law asked me what I needed for setting up a household. Two weeks later, his mother, aunts and sisters gave me a shower party. They overwhelmed me with their generosity, for the gifts included a complete dinner service, sheets and blankets, besides smaller household items.

Avice arrived on the USAT George W. Goethals on Aug. 6, 1946 under the name of Avice Rita Grasso.

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