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These are my next door neighbors, Betty and Glenn Thornton. I haven’t met them yet–we just moved in a week ago–but I already know a lot about them. Glenn is a retired engineer from an airplane assembly plant. I think he worked on landing gears or stabilizers. He spends most of his day outside cutting the grass, fussing with the shrubbery, sweeping the garage–anything to keep himself occupied until he spies another person. I’ve been warned: don’t let Glenn get you in a conversation or you’ll be there all day. You’ll hear how airplanes are constructed down to the last rivet, then he’ll move on to his military career. He was in the Army’s 27th Infantry Division and saw some bloody action in the Battle of Saipan in June 1944. When he finishes mopping up the Japanese, he moves on to what it was like growing up in Kansas during the depression. I guess it’s like a newsreel run backwards.

Betty, on the other hand, is as quiet as a church mouse. Living with Glenn I suppose that’s to be expected. Years back she did modeling–of hands. Her slender hands would display bracelets and rings, watches, nail polish that sort of thing. Evidently, she used to wear white cotton gloves around the house all day keeping her well-moisturized hands in perfect shape for the next photo shoot.

If you’re wondering how I know all this, it’s courtesy of our neighbors on the other side–Tanya and Bruce. They’ve been over every day welcoming us and giving us the lowdown on the neighborhood. They’re our age and already Bruce is planning barbecues and nights out for dinner. He’s the take charge type and a bit of a know-it-all.

This Saturday I’m going to wander outside and let myself get lassoed by Glenn. My hunch is that Bruce doesn’t have it right. I figure anyone who’s grown up in hard times, survived combat on the other side of the world and then lived an honest hard-working life is worth listening to.

Story by Will Conway

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