Wednesday, March 2, 2011

"Van" and "Hoppie"

Last week I received a message from the daughter of Jay C. Van Zandt. "Van" had served in the same port company as my grandfather. His daughter recently retired, so she has had time to go through his old WWII stuff. While reading a letter sent to his sweetheart she found a mention of my grandpa Cortland. She was good enough to mail me a copy.

The letter talks about the GI's free time in Antwerp. It appears to have been written in June of 1945, after the Germans surrendered. Sgt. Van Zandt and my grandfather went to a movie together (see page 1). "Hoppie" had to get back to work, but Jay continued on to Antwerp's Royal Museum of Fine Arts and a tea room.

He later meets William Wilhoit at the Sergeants Club for a swim. I didn't see Wilhout's name in the 304th Port Company roster, but this may be because the ink was faded. The two men travel on to the Red Cross club for coffee and doughnuts. At last they return to their housing at Tampico Flats. My grandpa would have been sore to miss those favorites... if it weren't for the indigestion "Van" got from them.

Van Zandt's daughter is still reading through letters, I can't wait to see what else she finds.

I always knew my grandfather as "Corty," so it was funny to learn he actually preferred the nickname "Hoppie." He told me that his brother had laid claim to "Hoppie" when they were young, so when Cortland left for the Army he took the opportunity to use it himself. After returning home he went back to "Corty," which remained his nickname until he moved into an assisted living home a few years ago. One again he found himself away from the people who knew him only as "Corty" so he was able to bring back the old favorite "Hoppie."

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