War Bride: WWII collection donated to Franklinton museum

Published 1:06 am Sunday, December 8, 2013

Through a collection recently donated to the Varnado Store Museum, visitors will be able to learn about Iris Cole Morris’ experiences as Franklinton’s first English war bride.

The photographs show Morris, 89, and her husband, the late Lee Roy Morris, at the time of their service during World War II. Also included in the collection is the couple’s wedding photograph, along with newspaper articles and pictures of the streets of Franklinton taken during the late 1940s.

Director Terry Seal said the items will become part of the museum’s military exhibit, which is on display each May and June.

Morris also discussed her experiences during that time, beginning in Sept. 3, 1939, when Britain and France declared war on Germany. Barely 15 years old at the time and living in her native England, she heard the radio announcement from Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain and King George VI that the country was in a state of war.

“I remember that we were so scared,” she said. “We did not know what happened, what was going to happen.”

She said her worst memories of war were the air raids during 1940 and 1941, when many bombs fell near the family’s home and they had to seek shelter.

Called out to service when she was 17 1/2, Morris joined England’s National Fire Service at the age of 18. It was strict, she said, but she enjoyed it. Her duties included such things as testing fire alarms and working in control rooms.

She went to several different stations, but she said her favorite was West Moseley. That’s where she met Cpl. Lee Roy Morris, a member of the U.S. Army 8th Air Force, at a dance around January 1944.

They were married Aug. 17 of that year. Morris, then 20 years old, said they had to go all over town looking for a church, as most had been destroyed by bombing.

After a difficult boat ride from England, Morris arrived in her husband’s hometown of Franklinton in April 1946. It was smaller than she’d imagined, and, looking around, she told him it looked more like a village than a town.

Morris said it was an adjustment getting used to the differences in food and ways of speaking, but her mother- and father-in-law were nice and patient. Within a matter of years, her own parents and siblings had made the move to Washington Parish as well.

Morris and her husband ran a service station in Franklinton, where they made many friends. They were charter members of the VFW.

In 1954, the couple and their son, Clifford, moved to Bogalusa. Morris said she enjoyed many things about Franklinton, but she was anxious to get to Bogalusa, where there were other English war brides.

She said they formed a club they called the British Wives Club. It had about 15 or 20 members in the beginning but grew as brides from other countries were invited to join.

Lee Roy Morris ran a service station in Bogalusa for a time, spent 20 years repairing televisions and then went to work for the post office, where he was employed until his retirement. Iris Morris said her husband, who died in April 2002, was a good man who worked hard and did the best he could for his family.

In addition to her son, Morris’ family includes a daughter-in-law, Linda Williams Morris, and two grandsons, Derrick and Dusty and his wife, Sarah.

A Pink Lady at the Bogalusa Medical Center for about 30 years, Morris has also been a member of the American Legion Magic City Post 24 Auxiliary since the early 1970s. It was through talking with a friend at the Legion that Morris got the idea to share her photos with the museum.

She said she thinks it is wonderful that they will become part of a display. Seal said she is happy that Mike Henley, a member of the Legion, put Morris in contact with her.

Seal said she is pleased to have the photographs from Morris’ early life and will also be displaying a story drawn from the oral history about her experiences during that time.

Additionally, Seal hopes Morris will be able to come and speak in the museum annex one day while the military exhibit is on display.

The public would be invited to that event.