Russell C. Coile
the Potomac River. There are Great Falls and Little Falls just
upstream of Georgetown where the Key Bridge crosses the
Potomac. I was supposed to be born in Walter Reed Army
Hospital on Georgia Avenue in Washington.
However, my mother found out that I was going to be
born a little earlier than she had been expecting. Fortunately,
Georgetown University's hospital was two blocks from the
dock where the boat arrived. My mother was rushed to
this hospital instead of the Army one, and I was born soon
afterwards. My mother was Norwegian, and brought up
Lutheran. She hated being in the Jesuit Georgetown University
Hospital with a crucifi x hanging on the wall of her room and
all the nurses being nuns.
Before World War II the US Army had about 360,000
offi cers, non-commissioned offi cers and enlisted men with
no women except nurses. All offi cers and non-coms had
quarters on the fort and the enlisted men lived in barracks.
The barracks had rows of bunk beds for the soldiers. I lived in
quarters on the post all my life until I went off to college. We
lived in Army posts in Maryland, Delaware, Panama Canal
Zone, Virginia, the island of Oahu in the Territory of Hawaii,
and back to Virginia.
The fi rst house that I remember living in was in Panama.
My father was a soldier. He was sent from Fort DuPont,
Delaware to Fort DeLesseps, Panama Canal Zone. We sailed
from the Brooklyn Navy yard to Cristobal, the port on the
Atlantic side of the canal. We stopped for the daylight hours
at Port au Prince, Haiti, to unload some US Marines, and their
My father was a sergeant and was assigned to be in charge
of the telephone exchange on the post. I was about fi ve years
old and went to kindergarten. My sister Thelma was four years
and a week older than I am. The house had two bedrooms, a
dining room, a kitchen and a screened in porch. I slept in a
bed on the screened-in porch and my sister had the smaller
second bedroom. The kitchen had a coal stove. We lived there