Central Veteran Julian Smith Remembers WWII, His Dear Army Friend, and His Life After the War

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Part II:  Julian and Velva

Julian and Velva Smith shortly after their wedding in 1946


By Elva Jo Crawford

When Julian Smith got out of the Army in October of 1945, he was determined to bring some sense of normalcy into his life.  First and foremost, he really wanted to get married.  Next, he wanted to make a home for himself.  Last, he needed a job.

About two weeks before Julian’s discharge from the Army, he had phoned his brother, who was working in construction, and told him that he had to have a job for him when he got home.  He told his brother that he first wanted to take a couple of weeks off to rest and visit family.  He would have a little cash to make a few purchases and to take a little time off, but then he wanted to go right to work.

The first thing Julian did on arriving home in Mississippi was to go to a jewelry store in Brookhaven and buy a ladies' engagement ring, size 6, and matching wedding band.  Keep in mind that Julian did not even have a girlfriend at this time.  However, he was on a mission to find his bride, and this was his first step.  The engagement ring set stayed in his pocket, ready for the right girl when she came along.

Next, he purchased a complete hand-made cedar bedroom suite.  This he stored at his mother’s home.  He would need this furniture for his future home.  Now he was ready to go to work.

Julian’s brother had secured a job for him in construction in Casper, Wyoming, and by the late summer of 1946, Julian was in Casper working.  He shared with some of his co-workers there that he was looking for a “good” and “nice” girl to date.  He asked if they knew any girls that fit that description.  Everyone kept coming back to Julian with the same name – Velva Rose Druwenski.

Velva was a local girl, born and raised in Casper, where she graduated high school.  After high school graduation, Velva and some girlfriends had gone to California to attend college.  After attending college for a while, they all decided to stop and join the war effort.  They got jobs as typists at Northrup Aircraft, a private airplane factory in Hawthorne, California.

Even though the airplane factory was privately owned, they were making airplanes for the United States Army Air Force, and all the work there was very top secret.  Velva and her girlfriends were required to get security clearances, and coming in and going out of the office required passwords and special IDs.  There were guards at all the doors.

Eventually, Velva got promoted to work in the plans and blueprints office, copying and binding blueprints for the airplanes.  This required even tighter security going in and out of the office.  After she worked at Northrup for about a year and a half, her mother became ill and Velva had to return to Casper to care for her.

So, Velva was in Casper by the time Julian came there to work.  Since he had gotten such good reports about Velva, Julian decided to give her a call and ask her out on a date.  Velva was a little taken aback at this request for a date from someone she had never met, and was also surprised by Julian’s deep Southern drawl.  Velva told Julian that she would have to ask her father about this.  Her dad told her to just use her best judgment and make her own decision  – he would let her go on the date if she felt OK about it.  Additionally, Julian had no means of transportation and had requested that Velva ask her dad for permission to use his car to take her out on a date.  Velva’s dad agreed to let them use his car.

Just a few weeks after Julian and Velva started dating, Julian got hurt on the job and had to be admitted to the hospital for a few days.  When Velva found out he was in the hospital she went for a visit.  That’s when he proposed to her and put the ladies' size 6 engagement ring on her finger.  It fit.  However, Velva was not ready at that moment to say yes – she would have to think about it.  Julian asked her to wear the ring while she thought about it.  He also asked her to give the wedding band to her father to keep in a safe place while she made her decision. 

September 2, 1946, less than one week after Julian got out of the hospital and under a year after he was discharged from the army, he and Velva were married at the Lutheran Church in Casper, Wyoming.  The couple eventually moved to Mississippi and then Louisiana for work.  Unbeknownst to Julian, when Velva and her sister were much younger, they had both decided that they wanted two things from a husband when they got married:  A simpler last name than ‘Druwenski’, and a man who would move them further south, out of the cold Wyoming winters.  Both girls got their man – Velva, of course, married a ‘Smith’,  her sister married a ‘Miller’, and both couples eventually settled in Louisiana.

After some time working construction in the Baton Rouge area, Julian landed a permanent job at the Kaiser Aluminum Plant in Baton Rouge.  It would mean the couple could have a steady income with benefits.  They purchased a home in Baton Rouge and lived there for many years.

During their time in Baton Rouge, they became good friends with Gordon and Virgie Hutchinson, who attended their church.  When Gordon and Virgie moved back to Virgie's hometown of Central, they encouraged Julian and Velva to move to Central as well. 

So, every weekend Julian and Velva would go driving in Central looking for a place to build a home.  At the time, over 40 years ago, Central seemed like a million miles from everything.  There weren’t a lot of subdivisions in Central back then, but someone told the couple that E.G. Rogillio was going to build a small subdivision off Hooper Road called ‘Lazy Lakes’ and that they should call him.  They did, and set up a time to meet with him.  At the time, the subdivision was a cow pasture with no streets.  They met in the cow pasture with a map of the proposed subdivision and saw what Rogillio had available.  For 100 dollars he would hold a 2½ acre lot for them until they could sell their house in town and build their dream home in Central – and that’s just what they did.

Today Julian and Velva are both retired and have lived in their Central dream home for 40 years.  September 2 of this year marked their 65th wedding anniversary.  They have three grown children – one daughter, Laura Knight, and two sons, Rudy Smith and R.L. Smith.  They have six grandchildren and nine great grandchildren.  The cedar bedroom suite that Julian bought 66 years ago still graces one of their bedrooms.

Velva and Julian Smith at home in Central today.  

Velva is holding one of the family treasures she brought 

from her Midwestern roots – a little girl's pink silk coat 

made by her grandmother, Bertha Drwenski, a little over one hundred years ago. Five generations of girls in their family have worn it, including Velva herself, Velva's 

daughter Laura Knight, and her great granddaughter, 

Britton Addison Knight. Velva has also kept much of her 

Midwestern accent.







1 Comment

  1. Keith Holmes

    November 16, 2011 at 11:27 am

    What a wonderful story. Hope to read more. What makes Central a special place to live.

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