Waggoners Gap is a spiritual place with unique natural beauty and breathtaking vistas overlooking the Cumberland Valley near Carlisle, Pennsylvania. It is also a pivotal locale in the sweeping story of two disparate families fighting for survival and success in the dark decades surrounding World War II. The Genero clan is at the heart of the story, which tracks the trials and travails of mother, father, son, and daughter whose lives are inevitably affected by a richer and more influential family, the Monarch clan, who control industry and primary employment for most of the people living in the shadow of Waggoners Gap. The generational confluence of these players takes place across a range of time in American history that includes World War I, the Great Depression and culminates in World War II when the Genero children—brother and sister—both enlist to support the war effort. During this time, the lecherous younger Monarch takes over the booming textile business and secretly begins to siphon off profits while mistreating his employees, including the Generos. The saga winds from Waggoners Gap through area colleges to Army training bases, ships at sea, battlefields in Europe and the Pacific, and back again as truly colorful characters develop and influence each other through the decades. Through it all, in spite of deadly hardships overseas and dark dealings on the home front, Waggoners Gap draws the players together and repels them like a spinning magnet.
|Publisher:||Warriors Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||5.25(w) x 8.00(h) x 1.18(d)|
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By Tony Peluso
Warriors Publishing GroupCopyright © 2012 Tony Peluso
All rights reserved.
(25 years earlier)
October 8, 1918
Maternity Ward, Room 12
Saint Mary's Hospital
A magnificent fall morning, the soft, southern breeze pushed bulbous clouds in a promenade through the cobalt blue sky. The wind was dry, guaranteeing a warm afternoon and the prospect of a cool, pleasant evening.
The leaves on the maples, oaks, hickories, and other hardwoods had begun to change from dark green into the splendid canvas of fall hues: white, gold, crimson, vermillion, and burnt orange.
Resting in her bed at the small Catholic hospital on Hanover Street, Marta Brumbach Genero gazed through her window toward the ridgeline northwest of town. Propped up in her bed, she could make out the trees that rose like a towering, multicolored fortress. The panorama stretched to infinity.
Mrs. Genero's eyes were bright with exhilaration as she tried to rest from her labor. Though her baby was healthy, fat, and gorgeous, she was not at peace.
As she cradled her nursing son, Marta stared out the window, interpreting the beauty of the fall leaves as a sign from God. Just before she'd entered the hospital, she'd gone to that special place at Waggoners Gap and prayed hard. She had assumed that all would be well with the baby but she had worried about her husband.
Phillip couldn't be with her at the birth of their first child. He was in France with the American Expeditionary Force, fighting the Kaiser's army. She hadn't seen her husband since the winter, when he'd spent his leave with her before shipping out to France as a rifleman in the 82nd Division's 328th Infantry Regiment.
That winter interlude had been bittersweet, passionate, and romantic. Their baby boy was the miraculous creation from that brief time together.
The first moment that she saw Phillip leaving old Alfie McDuff's Tavern, she fell in love. She loved him still, with a fierce loyalty she held only for those deepest in her heart. On that cold winter's night, he was walking down High Street laughing with his boisterous friends. The young men were all a little drunk, Marta recalled. They were showing off, as young men will. They made snowballs and playfully tossed them at each other.
I remember the way Phillip looked with white snowflakes melting in his jet-black hair, she thought. I tingled when he looked at me with that beautiful white smile When he gazed into my heart with those deep, penetrating blue eyes, I knew I was a goner.
Marta's husband, Phillip Genero, was the second youngest of six sons of Italian immigrants from Milan. Over the last 20 years, the family had run a prosperous bakery in Hagerstown. Phillip was the first son of the family to be born in the United States. He finished his education at 16, left home, and traveled north to Carlisle. He found a job at the Monarch Clothing Company.
The locals found Phillip's friendly manner and infections sense of humor irresistible. The young ladies liked his good looks. He was industrious and worked hard as a factory hand before the local board drafted him at the onset of the Great War.
Marta wanted him to come home. He wrote letters, but the words on the cold paper were small consolation. In the last two weeks, she'd received only one short and somber letter from her husband. Phillip told her very little of the war and almost nothing of the battles in which he'd been engaged. Lately, Marta had been having premonitions.
* * *
Marta's family was Pennsylvania Dutch. In contrast to her husband, she was very fair and petite. She had long blonde hair that flowed in graceful waves down her back, and soft brown eyes. The young men in Carlisle thought she was the most beautiful woman in town.
Marta had been raised in an Amish family on a working farm near Lancaster. As a child, she led a normal Amish life, filled with hard work, strict religious duties, and unending family responsibilities.
When she was 15, her mother died, leaving her the eldest girl in family with eight brothers and sisters. She tried to keep the family together, but working on the farm, caring for her siblings and dealing with her distant and unaffectionate father proved to be too much. After she left Lancaster to participate in the traditional Rumspringa Year—when Amish youths leave their culture and live among the English to examine and test their religious commitment—Marta realized that if she returned home, she could not survive. After much soul searching, racked with guilt, but trusting in her instincts, she sent her father an emotional letter asking for guidance. Receiving no response, she traveled west, seeking domestic employment in Harrisburg, Camp Hill, or Carlisle.
Marta found a position in the home of Daniel Monarch, the younger brother of the Monarch Company patriarch. She became his nanny and cared for his two young children.
Though relatively uneducated, Marta—who was very bright—had taught herself to read and write. After two years, she persuaded Daniel's older brother to allow her to work in the clothing factory as a clerk, where she could gain clerical skills and expand her horizons. She found a small apartment to share with an older, widowed woman in Carlisle, near the main office of the clothing company.
After she'd failed to return to the Brumbach farm, the Amish congregation in Lancaster expelled her. The Amish commonly shunned their members who wouldn't conform to their lifestyle. Since her relocation to Carlisle, her family and friends In Lancaster had refused to acknowledge her existence.
Marta had understood that her family would abandon her. She thought she could endure the isolation. As time passed in Carlisle, the reality of their rejection grew far worse than she'd imagined.
At 18, Marta was still a teenager in an era nearly Victorian in its approach to sex. Amish society hadn't prepared her for the physical desire that blossomed within her. One man, who was grateful, considerate, and discrete, inflamed her passion. She succumbed without considering the consequences. There was only one drawback—her lover was married.
Their illicit relationship continued for many months. Several times Marta tried to stop it, but her intense sexual needs always overpowered her guilty conscience. Her lover understood her weaknesses and how to exploit them. Marta realized that the break with her Amish past was complete.
Marta's rented room was a block from the local Catholic Church. When walking to work or to the market, she passed the church and watched the faithful gather. After a few months, she noticed that on Sunday, her one day off, the Genero boy attended the 9:00 a.m. mass.
Ever since the first time she saw him with his friends on High Street, she'd kept track of Phillip. The glint in his eye showed a sense of humor and fun, yet he'd also been protective of his friends, making sure they were all safe. He liked to play and was a good church-going member of the community. He fit in large groups, yet somehow seemed a bit detached from them. So Marta thought he might understand the feeling of loneliness she felt, even in a crowd. The thought that he could protect her, understand her, desire her—combined with his masculine strength and physical beauty—drove her to distraction.
In order to see Phillip, Marta began attending the Catholic services. She arranged to take classes for converts. When she went to mass, she always tried to find a pew near him. Over time, Genero noticed Marta, and their relationship ignited.
Within six months, Marta had converted to Catholicism and accepted Phillip's proposal, all on the same Sunday. In her heart Marta was still Amish, but her people had shunned her and turned her out. She could not imagine a way back. Although driven primarily by her desire to tighten the bond with Phillip, she took the classes seriously, and tried to find grace and beauty that she could hold for herself. She loved the feeling of belonging to a community once again.
The night that Marta revealed her feelings for Phillip to her married lover, he recoiled as if she had plunged a white-hot poker into his heart. Though he'd behaved like a cad in seducing her, he could not bring himself to stand in Marta's way. He quietly left her room and headed toward Alfie McDuff's to lick his wounds.
When Marta and Phillip traveled to Hagerstown to meet the Genero clan, her beauty, modest demeanor, kindness, and devotion to Phillip impressed the whole family, even though she was not Italian. The Genero clan could see that beyond her physical beauty, Marta was a twenty-carat diamond in the rough.
All of the Genero men, father and brothers alike, were smitten by this blonde goddess. Mama Genero pretended to be aloof, claiming the matriarchal right to reserve judgment. Secretly, mama was pleased that her bachelor boy had decided to settle down.
Phillip and Marta married a few months after the engagement and moved to a small farmhouse northwest of Carlisle at the base of the ridgeline under the road that connected Cumberland and Perry Counties. For Marta, the opportunities for intimacy, without the guilt of a forbidden relationship, were a marvelous release, inconceivable in her earlier life.
Marta loved Sunday afternoons after church. If the weather permitted, she and Phillip would cuddle together on the little wooden swing that they crafted for their tiny front porch. Once they were in each other's embrace, it was never long before the touching became more and more intimate, stimulating, and irresistible.
When they could no longer stand it, Phillip would sweep Marta's petite form up in his big arms and carry her into the house. Where they chose to consummate their love depended on how long they had been teasing each other on the swing. Many times, they never made it beyond the tiny foyer. While often sweet and tame, at times Phillip's desire swept over them both, exploring sexual depths not plumbed in catechism. When Phillip discovered Marta's enthusiastic responses, he felt liberated and honored that such a kind, gentle, and yet wantonly passionate beauty had chosen him.
The young couple continued to work for the Monarch family, but spent most of their free time alone, exploring their passion. It was an idyllic, extended honeymoon that world events would soon shatter.
In the spring of 1917, Congress declared war on Germany and America joined the allies in the Great War. The Cumberland County Draft Board selected Phillip in the fall of 1917. Genero reported for basic training at Camp Gordon, Georgia in October 1917, leaving a tearful wife at the Carlisle train station.
* * *
After Phillip's induction, Marta intended to keep working in the bookkeeping department at the clothing factory. Her immediate boss was the owner's son, Randall J. Monarch, Jr.
"Junior" was dissolute, lazy, and disreputable—an aberration from the otherwise respectable Monarch sons. He'd been a poor student in high school. He'd attended two Ivy League colleges but failed to complete even one semester.
As an adult, Junior acted like a spoiled and petulant adolescent. His father had given up on him. Now the two men could barely tolerate each other. Junior Monarch supervised the bookkeeping department at the company, because his father felt that Junior could do the least amount of damage in that position.
Junior fancied himself a great lover. For several years, even after she married Phillip, Junior had tried to seduce Marta. Abusing his position in the company, he attempted every trick and stratagem—to no avail.
Ever the amoral lecher, Junior had attempted to take advantage of Marta in Phillip's absence, but Providence interceded when she learned she was pregnant. As soon as she confirmed her condition, Marta left the clothing company. Phillip's brother Angelo and his wife moved to Carlisle, opened a small bakery near the college, and stayed with Marta in the farmhouse to help with the pregnancy. Expecting to stay home to raise her child, Marta began her new domestic life with no regrets.
Just before noon on October 8, 1918, Marta decided that she must name the baby boy after her husband. Due to her relationship with her former boss at the clothing factory, she could never use the word junior as any part of her son's name.
When the nurse arrived in Marta's room with the birth registration documents, the new mother wrote "Genero, Phillip Edward" in the appropriate blocks on the form. In order to distinguish her son from his father in the public record, she added the Roman numeral "II" at the end of his name.
At 1:30 p.m., the shift nurse carried Phillip Edward Genero, II, back into his mother's room for his second feeding. Holding her baby, Marta examined his features, cataloguing those that she thought were like her husband's.
He really favors his father, she thought. He has my complexion, but looks like Phillip. It's too early to tell if he'll have his father's deep blue eyes.
Marta closed her own eyes, and tried to picture her husband's handsome face. Marta couldn't shake the feeling that something bad had happened to Phillip. A cold chill ran through her body, followed by a sense of foreboding. Opening her eyes and gazing once again at the distant autumn colors, she began to pray.CHAPTER 2
October 8, 1918
Near the DeCauville Railroad Junction
G Company, 328th Infantry Regiment,
82nd Infantry Division, American Expeditionary Force
While Marta Genero was in labor in Carlisle, Phillip was in France. He stood in a quiet glade in the Argonne Forest, preparing his squad for an assault on a well-defended German position, known to G Company as Hill 223.
G Company's mission was part of a larger attack against substantial German defenses in the Meuse-Argonne Sector. The staff officers had done a good job coordinating the offensive. So far, all had gone well.
This morning, elements of the 328th Infantry Regiment would sweep from their defensive positions, move over the top of Hill 223, and then infiltrate through a series of small valleys beyond. They intended to capture the vital railroad junction near DeCauville by the end of the day.
Cutting the rail line would deprive the Huns of a logistics link and make it difficult to resupply their forces. Unfortunately, nothing ever went as planned.
A corporal for only a week and nervous about leading men into battle for the first time, Phillip suppressed his nagging fear and kept busy attending to the pre-attack details of a new non-com. Responsible for 11 men, he worried every issue to ensure that they were prepared and ready.
Genero hadn't been able to sleep. He'd been thinking about Marta. He wondered if the baby would be a boy or girl, though it didn't matter as long as the child was healthy. Earlier in the morning, he'd said a final prayer for his wife and baby. Then, Phillip put them out of his mind. He concentrated on his duties so that he wouldn't leave Marta a widow and the new baby an orphan.
Normally affable and considerate, today he was all business. The soldiers in his squad understood. With a battle looming, they stowed their griping and complaining.
"Hey, Corporal!" jibed Private Koronopolis, a young Greek-American boy from New York. "Are we going to see the Kaiser this morning? I've come all the way from White Plains to this stinking forest. The least that son-of-a-bitch could do is serve us a little coffee and strudel on this chilly morning."
"Settle down, Steph," Phillip replied. "Save your energy. It'll be a long, difficult day. We'll need all of our wits about us."
The G Company commander decided that Genero would play a special role in the attack formation. Phillip would have a simple—but crucial—task.
After the artillery preparation, G Company would jump off and drive north. Genero would anchor the left flank of the lead platoon, as it moved out in skirmish formation looking for contact. As the last rifleman in that first line, he'd ensure that the Germans didn't turn G Company's left flank, by a surprise attack, enfilade, or ambush.
The captain had picked the right man for the assignment, since Genero had proved to be a steady and dependable man in combat. Sergeant Early, the platoon sergeant, thought highly of Genero's ability. The G Company platoon leaders agreed about the left.
Excerpted from Waggoners Gap by Tony Peluso. Copyright © 2012 Tony Peluso. Excerpted by permission of Warriors Publishing Group.
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Epic, involving, and wonderful!