The Years Leading Up To World War II
Agatha, Adolph and John (Three Lives)
The world in the 1930’s was heading for a provocative climax. The Germans and the Japanese were aggressively invading neighboring countries in their murderous grab for power. In stark contrast, America was approaching a creative crescendo. Hollywood was trumpeting Margaret Mitchell’s “Gone with the Wind”. John Steinbeck and Ernest Hemingway were producing some of the greatest novels ever written. Teenagers were swinging to the Benny Goodman and Glen Miller bands while Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers were dazzling Americans with their dance choreography. The opposite of creativity is war. These were ironic times indeed.
Yet, from the famous to the infamous, after the dust settled, no one’s life would ever be the same. Certainly the furthest thing from talented Johnny Allen’s mind was the deadly, political turmoil he would be thrown into on the other side of the world.
1938: Ann Miller and Johnny Allen
Fourteen year old Johnny “Cotton” Allen was never one who bragged, though he very well could have. He had just won the first chair in Houston's Deady Junior High School Orchestra’s clarinet section. Earlier his grandmother had turned him on to music one day because of a country group she heard on the radio. Young Johnny Allen liked the idea but wanted to do something musically more contemporary. Benny Goodman was the "King of Swing" and among the most popular artists in the mid 1930s, so it was only natural he took up the clarinet along with his dance school achievements.
Johnny was one of the premiere Houston, Texas schoolboy talents of the day. At the Able School of Dance he was learning modern, tap, and ballroom techniques. However, it had always irritated the ambitious teenager that he had to wait each week for his private dance lesson with Mr. Able. He thought Mr. Able was wasting too much time with that Ann Miller girl.
Beautiful Greenway House in Devon
Mystery Writer Agatha Christie
Agatha’s family had always been well off but she, in her own right, had become wealthy enough to buy the home on the hill overlooking the Dart River in Southwestern England. The minute she and her husband Max learned that Greenway Estate was up for sale they rushed to arrange the purchase. The historical Greenway House was famously known as the birthplace of the half-brother of Sir Walter Raleigh. After buying the estate Agatha and Max would hence spend all their summers at Greenway House. They would come home from their Mideast travels and rest easy in their beautiful vacation home overlooking the English countryside.
Greenway House would soon become the inspiring location where Agatha continued some of her most intriguing mysteries solved by popular Detectives Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple. The quiet new owner of Greenway House would soon become the most wide-read writer in the world.
Chancellor Adolph Hitler
Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain of Great Britain had just met with German Chancellor Adolph Hitler in September 1938 and had in hand a signed appeasement agreement (The Munich Pact) guaranteeing England would do nothing in retaliation for Germany’s aggressions in continental Europe. In exchange, Germany would not attack England. The previous bloody conflict with Germany (WWI) was devastating and Chamberlain wanted to avoid another war at any cost. The English leader, with his heart in hand along with the agreement, proclaimed: “Peace in Our Time”. Adolph shrewdly used this delusion to continue his ugly, blatant grab for power.
1942: Neville Chamberlain and The Dubious Munich Pact
The war in Europe and the Pacific was looming as Johnny Allen graduated from Milby High School in Southeast Houston. His older brother Robert had already joined the United States Air Force and was stationed in Europe. As Hitler continued his aggression in 1940, Great Britain faced aerial attacks from the German forces during "The Blitz".
Johnny Allen had continued his creative endeavors and had been noticed by all the local talent scouts but world events were forcing him to quickly make some serious life-altering decisions. The Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo was very interested in acquiring him for their popular show. They were the premiere ballet troupe touring the United States at the time but Johnny knew he would be drafted soon. A decision had to be made…does he join the troupe temporarily and then be drafted into the Army or does he join another service? In late 1942 he and his circle of friends would be pushed by circumstances to sign up with the United States Coast Guard.
Johnny Allen traveled to New York for training before he was shipped out of Manhattan Beach in early 1943 on the USS Leonard Wood. During rough weather he, along with the other “unseasoned sailors”, suffered that illness where you would have to get better before you could die. They lost their guts over the side of the ship or in the bucket by their bunks! He trained in the states and was sent to the European campaign. While his Coast Guard unit was on the beach during the Sicilian Invasion nineteen year old Johnny went looking for souvenirs. Unfortunately, when it came time to leave, his commander did not notice his first class Seaman John Allen was not present. Consequently the wayward soldier was taken in by the U.S. Army troops in Sicily. He was finally reunited with the Coast Guard at Greenway House Mansion in Southwestern England.
Earlier, the English Admiralty had requisitioned Agatha Christie's Greenway House because of its strategic location overlooking the Dart River. The U.S. Coast Guard was given permission to use it as an officer's mess, a club, meeting place and restaurant.
Johnny Allen and Agatha Christie became acquaintances (Kindred spirits of sorts). She was a creative middle-aged successful English mystery writer and he was a talented nineteen year old American first-class seaman.
War Ends and American Soldiers Come Home
Everyone knows how the war ended. Adolph's Third Reich had been defeated and he reportedly committed suicide. Agatha Christie's writing career took off and she eventually became the best selling author in the modern world. She lived a long successful, creative life and died on the 12th of January 1976. Her Greenway House is now a registered English Historic site.
Johnny Allen was honorably discharged from the US Coast Guard in 1946. He married a beautiful woman and they had three children. He revisited his youthful creative endeavors two times by opening dance schools in Galena Park, Texas and Durango, Colorado.