Initially, she was frightened by the prospects of the school, not knowing what to expect from the nuns who administered the curriculum. Dressed in their habit they seemed imposing and severe and for someone of her tender, well-meaning disposition, this produced a measure of anxiety. However, upon the familiarity that the first several days produced, she was calmed and happy to be on the way with her education.
Besides one other girl in the class whose name was Nellie, the balance of the students was Catholic. Afton and Nellie were confused by the constant efforts that the sisters made to get Nellie to attend mass and catechism while at the same time leaving Afton completely alone.
“Nellie,” said the nun responsible for catechism, “we hope you are attending lessons today. They begin at noon.”
“Can you tell me,” she inquired in frustration, “why it’s always me that you push along to mass and you never bother with Harris?”
“Nellie, Afton is Mormon.”
“So am I.”
“No, your father is Catholic so you are Catholic and you ought to learn your Catechisms. The only way you will do this is if you attend your lessons. They start at noon.”
Afton lived in the dorm with six other girls. The coursework was rigorous and exhausting. The students were allowed very little free time and were expected to apply themselves to their studies round the clock.
Upon completion of the classroom work, Afton was assigned to a hospital where she was to continue her studies and gain practical on-site experience. At the hospital, she lived in a large dorm room that was situated on the top floor. Life in this room was chaotic as the fourteen nurses whom she shared the room with were assigned in groups to different shifts staggered throughout the day and night. While one group was trying to sleep another would be up getting ready for the next shift while still another was studying.
Her studies and work in the hospital proved to be all that Afton had hoped for when she applied for nurse training and she devoted herself wholeheartedly to the work.
In August Afton took a break from the
“Well, how have you been Afton? You sure disappeared from school!”
“Yeah, I’ve been in a nurse’s training program here in Salt Lake.”
“Wow, that’s quite a change! How have you enjoyed it? I’ll bet it’s been a lot of work hasn’t it?”
“Oh, it’s been wonderful and yes, it has been very hard. It’s just what I have dreamed of doing and it’s so rewarding that we are working full-time at the hospital. What have you been doing?”
That was a good question and he didn’t quite indulge in answering it completely, at least not then. It would have been more than she would have wanted to know. How could he ever explain that he had enlisted in the military service then, regretting that, had obtained a dismissal? He then would have to go on to explain that he had been accepted to an officer’s training program and that he was expecting orders to report for duty at any time. He didn’t believe that she wanted to know all that just then.
he finds her at the prison
Having renewed their acquaintance at the Y-Day dance, Paul and Afton agreed to meet the following day. As Afton was going to be at her parents’ home, she gave him the address.
When he set out in his father’s Model-A Ford to find his way to Afton’s home in Sugarhouse he made sure he had the scrap that he had written her address on in hand. Finding an address in the cities laid out by the Mormon Pioneers was never difficult and he did not expect any trouble finding 1400 East 2100 South, although he did note the oddity that both street numbers were even hundreds. He thought that he must have miswritten one or the other so he thought he may have to ask among the
To his great dismay, the address led him to the main gate of the Utah State Prison. He checked the address over and over to see if he might be on the wrong block or even if he might have confused the East with the South. After checking and rechecking he keep coming to the same place. Slowly the realization started to settle over him that in his boldness with this young coed he had entirely misread her.
“O, I’ve been had for a good joke, haven’t I!” he thought. “She pulled a good one on me. Sent me all the way to the State Prison! It couldn’t be something simple like, ‘Sorry, I’m not free tomorrow’ or even simply not being home when I come to call. No, she really had to dash my boldness by sending me to the State Prison! She must be having a good laugh with her friends tonight!”
With the last measure of goodwill that he could muster, he pulled the car up to the gate and drove through the high, chain-link fence and leaned out the window to ask the guard for help.
“Would you mind helping me here? I’m afraid I’m a bit confused. I was directed to this address but somehow I must be lost. I’m looking for 1400 East 21st South.”
“You’ve got the right place,” the attendant replied.
“The right place?” he thought to himself and his last measure of hope sunk.
“Hey, what’s your name there, son?” asked the guard as he leaned out of his box to have a look at Paul in the face.
“Well, uh, it’s Felt, Paul Felt. I’m looking for Afton Harris but I’m not having much luck finding her.”
Paul shares the secrets of sneaking out of dorm rooms
The rules governing the nurses at the hospital were comprehensive and strictly applied. They not only set forth the conduct that was expected of them while they worked but extended to every conceivable aspect of their lives when they would eat, sleep, study and when they would be allowed to leave the premises. For example, the younger class of nurses, to which Afton belonged, was required to be in the dorm each evening by 9:00 p.m. seven days a week unless they were working a late shift.
It wasn’t long before Afton discovered that among the fourteen other nurses with whom she shared a room, a well-organized routine had been quietly established to help one another when a social engagement extended past the curfew hour. The most important and crucial piece of information was that a lock on a window in the basement that opened to ground level had been permanently disabled. This was the secret route of escape and reentry. However, getting through the window was only half the challenge because the course from there to the dorm room four flights up lead through stairways that were trafficked by supervisory staff as they went about their duties. Here the student nurses on duty were engaged as sentinels, posting themselves along the route to give the go-ahead to the errant nurse.
It was plain to Afton that some of the nurses from the program were better than others at getting in and out of the room after 9:00 p.m. Some of them seemed to come and go without the slightest apprehension while others, herself included, were possessed with fear at the possibility of getting caught. Whatever enjoyment was to be had by extending an evening past this curfew was clouded by the dilemma of getting back to the dorm unnoticed.
Paul and Afton walked gingerly up to the basement window where Paul reached down and gently slid the old wood-paned window open along its tracks. By moving it very slowly the whole thing could be accomplished without too much noise. Then as Afton swung her legs in and jumped down onto the floor she caught her hand against an object on the window ledge: “PING,” the sound seemed to reverberate to every corner of the darkened room. Of course, the stratagem required to move stealthily was not lost on Paul who had learned all he needed to know at the Mission Home. As he grew more and more attached to Afton, her ability to get back unnoticed became more important to him and despite all his efforts at caution, one evening almost ended in a fiasco.
Paul quickly closed the window while Afton, her heart pounding in alarm, ducked as fast as she could behind the big upright piano that stood nearby. She sat in motionless dread, holding her hands with tightly clenched fists up to her face as one of the sisters come into the room to investigate the noise. She was sure that she was going to be discovered and a thousand thoughts of what would happen to her filled her mind.
What relief came over her when she heard the sister leave the room and close the door behind her. “Now,” she thought to herself, her minions had been assigned to the care of
Afton Invites a Patient Home for Thanksgiving
Afton had been assigned to the care of
“Hey nurse,” he called out to each and every nurse that attended the ward, “I got nowhere to go on Thanksgiving. How ’bout inviting me home with you.”
To his great surprise, upon asking Afton, she replied affirmatively. “Sure, you can come along with me. My daddy will be happy to have you.”
“Listen here, I’m serious about this. Will ya invite me along?”
“I sure will, if you just get well enough. I promise that you can come to dinner at our place!”
Later Father Morton, the chaplain from the prison came to visit and one of the first things he heard was the happy news from the hospitalized prisoner who had secured an invitation to a turkey dinner. He viewed the chaplain as the key to securing permission to go.
“Father, listen. I’ve got great news and I need your help. I got invited to Thanksgiving dinner. They gotta give me permission to go. It’s with that nurse right there and her family. You gotta help me here! They’ll let me go, won’t they?”
“You mean that nurse right there?” he said pointing over at Afton. “Are you planning to have Thanksgiving with her family?”
“Yea, that’s the one.”
“Oh, I’m sure that will be all right. Sure, I can get permission for you to go over to her family’s place. Hey, tell me one thing, did you happen to take a look at her name tag?”
“Her name tag? Why, what does it say?”
“Come on over here nurse and let him see who you are.”
Afton stepped up closer and his eyes focused on the word “H-A-R-R-I-S.”
“Harris! You ain’t the Warden’s daughter, are ya?”
“That’s right! And if you’ll get better you can join all
As Afton and her class progressed in their studies they were moved into smaller dorm rooms that were occupied by only six nurses. They were delighted to find that their room, of all the rooms on the floor, had direct access to the fire escape. Now they would be free of the frightening walk up the four flights of stairs from the basement when they stayed out late. Unfortunately, this also meant that they were called into service by girls from the other rooms on the floor who would tap on the door to be let in and would then half to dart under the bed when one of the sisters would happen along while they were coming or going.
Paul and Afton continued to see one another through the balance of the summer and into the fall. The realization that Paul could receive orders from the Navy any day instructing him to report for duty became increasingly burdensome as their fondness for one another deepened. It was a topic they didn’t discuss much as they both felt cautious about revealing the depth of attachment that they were feeling for one another. For his part, Paul was aware that whenever he was with Afton he felt an elevation of spirit and attitude that was unlike any romantic attachments he had known.
Wish to read the rest of the romance story? Well, visit the HeartFeltForm – this beginning taken from Vol. II No. 6 dated 15 April 1993