Saturday, July 02, 2016

July 2, 2016, column:
Sometimes all it takes is faith in God
By Mike Haynes
            Iris Warneford had finished business school and landed a bookkeeping position at age 16. For her job in London, she took the train from her family home in Harrow, 30 minutes northwest of the center of the city.
            Her father and brothers were painters and decorators, and her mother worked hard at chores such as stirring the clothes with a wooden stick as they boiled in a pot on the stove.
            Iris was in the habit of attending dances and occasionally going to the cinema when, in 1939, newspapers and radio announced that England was at war with Germany.
            “And then the bombing started,” she recalled last month just before leaving Amarillo after half a century to live in Bryan, closer to her children.
Iris and Wayne Houghton are shown just before their marriage
in Harrow, England, in the World War II era.
            Iris was a war bride, one of many English women who married American soldiers. She became Iris Houghton when she wed Coloradan Wayne Houghton, and they wound up spending most of their lives in Amarillo.
            Iris saw firsthand the Blitz, Nazi Germany’s sustained bombing of London and other British cities. “They did an awful lot of damage,” she said in her still-strong British accent. “They bombed Buckingham Palace – not a lot of damage. They bombed Westminster Abbey.
            “That’s to break the spirit of the people; that’s what that is. But it didn’t work, of course. It was the other way around; it just toughened you up. It was worrisome at times, but I never was frightened.”
            The suburb of Harrow wasn’t spared. “We lost all our windows,” Iris said. “Our front door was blown off. One block over – you know, the houses are connected – it took half the block.
            “Every night before it got dark, the air raid warden would come over to see if you had a visitor or if you were not there.” That check was in case a bomb fell. “They didn’t want to dig, take manpower, if there was nobody there,” she said.
            Faith in God and in the nation’s resolve kept citizens calm and carrying on. Iris’ family was Protestant. She was married in the local Church of England parish, and her parents are buried there. But meeting Wayne Houghton put her on course to an Amarillo church she attended for 45 years.
            Wayne was a bombardier in the U.S. Air Force, stationed near London. Laughing, she recalled her father’s advice: “He said, ‘Iris, you can go with the Canadians, you can go with the Australians, even the New Zealanders, but don’t go with those Yanks.’ I looked right at him and said, ‘Don’t worry, Daddy, I won’t.’”
Iris Houghton thanks her Sunday school
class  at Hillside Christian Church in
Amarillo in April 2016 just before
moving to Bryan.
 (Photo by Mike Haynes)
After rudely, according to Iris, asking only her to dance and not her friends, she and Wayne dated and were married in Harrow. After their daughter, Marykay, was born in England, they moved to Grand Junction, Colorado, and eventually to Amarillo, where Wayne worked for the post office and Iris for Pioneer Natural Gas. They later had a son, Bob.
Looking for a church in the 1960s, the Houghtons heard about a new one meeting in a school, Paramount Terrace Christian. Minister Roy Wheeler and his wife, Elnore, were giving it a growth spurt, and the Houghtons joined within two weeks of visiting. Iris stayed through this April (Wayne died in 1995), having seen the church’s move and name change to Hillside Christian.
“We loved it. Still love it,” she said.
At age 92, she’s adjusting to a new home in Bryan. But Iris has been through the Blitz. She’s heard the overhead buzzing of “doodlebugs” and wondered where those Nazi V-1 bombs would drop. She has moved to a new country where she was welcomed but where the tea isn’t made properly and she waited 18 years to become a citizen in order to avoid offending her parents. She’s still  keen on the queen – 33 months younger than Iris – but she’ll appreciate the fireworks on July Fourth.
Leaving Amarillo friends after decades of church and community activity is hard, but no worse than having a brother with PTSD after he was evacuated from a French beach in 1940, a brother-in-law killed in Africa in that same war, losing a faithful husband and grieving a Marine grandson who died in the Middle East in recent years.
And she certainly knows the upside of life. Scores of Hillside Christian friends hugged and laughed with her before she moved downstate. Even remembering that European war, her face brightened as she described its end 71 years ago:
            “People were dancing in the street, the flags waving – oh, we were so glad it was over.”