Home to sprawling plantations, the even more sprawling Fort A.P. Hill, and historic sites such as assassin John Wilkes Booth’s death place and explorer William Clark’s birthplace, Caroline County is an archetypal rural Virginia county, far closer in spirit to the somnolent Clayton County from Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind than the avant-garde art and literature communities of cities like New York and Madrid. But for several months back in 1940 and 1941, Bowling Green, Caroline County’s seat, was the unlikely home to artist Salvador Dalí and authors Henry Miller and Anaïs Nin.
A Solid Beginning
Arnaud “Arna” Wendell Bontemps was born on October 13, 1902, in Alexandria, Louisiana, a child of middle class parents of mixed racial heritage—what is sometimes called Creole. His father, Paul Bismark Bontemps, was descended from French plantation owners living in Haiti and their slaves. After coming to the United States, the Bontemps family lived free in Louisiana for decades, and the many of the men worked as skilled brick and stone masons for generations. In addition to working his trade, Arna’s father also played music with a popular band. Arna’s mother, Maria (pronounced Ma-rye-ah) Carolina Pembrooke was descended from an English planter and his Cherokee wife. Maria taught public school and enjoyed creating visual art.
When I was a child, Thalhimer’s meant shopping—Christmas shopping in Richmond. It was one of the last grand old department stores before shopping malls took over, and it got itself gussied up for the holidays. We might come home with bars of marzipan or hermit crabs but always with stars in our eyes. It was a place of sweet and inventive dreams. Little did we know that the store’s founder had played an important part in making dreams of safety come true for many Jewish teenagers in World War II.
Robert H. Gillette’s previous book, The Virginia Plan: William B. Thalhimer and a Rescue from Nazi Germany, gave an overview of how Mr. Thalhimer managed it. In Gillette’s current work, Escape to Virginia: From Nazi Germany to Thalhimer’s Farm, readers learn the in-depth stories of two of the rescued teenagers.
"I was born on the banks of the Rappahannock River. Taken Home to White Oak where I was raised and educated in the World's finest three-room university, White Oak School--now known as tribal member, artisan and historian D.P. Newton's Civil War Museum. Spent my time there with the other Patawomecks during World War Two getting lessons between the sounds of the big guns being tested at Dahlgren. They rattled the windows as the concussion came up through our Land. It was the sound of Freedom fighting back. We loved it. Attended Falmouth High and graduated from Stafford High. Graduated from a little Indian School in a place once known as Middle Plantation. Turned 78 nearly a year ago. Not much else to say, except, I am known as Johnny Mac."
Beginning April 2, 2012, the National Archives will provide access to the images of the 1940 U.S. Federal census for the very first time. Unlike previous census years, the images of the 1940 U.S. Federal Census will be made available as free digital images at http://1940census.archives.gov. Genealogists have waited for this day for years and are eager to get a first look.
Film noir is not easily defined. The actual words come from French and mean "black cinema." It was in France during the post-war years that the term was used to describe a certain set of Hollywood films that were saturated with a darkness and cynicism that was not seen before. These movies included The Maltese Falcon (1941), Double Indemnity (1944), Laura (1944), and Murder, My Sweet (1944).
One of the sub-genres that defined classic American crime and detective movies was film noir, a style that was pervasive in detective films of the 1940s and 1950s. Film noir arose during the post-World War II period in the United States as a generation that fought in one of the most brutal conflicts the world had ever seen returned home to a changed America where jobs were scarce and the national mood seemed darker and more cynical than during the war itself.