After the War

After being shipped back to the states, Babbitt spent a few weeks in San Diego. Then he was sent to Cape May, New Jersey where he was given a furlough. He was pleased and felt very relaxed. However, there were times when his heart was heavy as he remembered those who had not lived through the war. He recalled the exhilaration he felt at returning home to his family:

I came home to Orange. I crossed the country on the Santa Fe Clipper. That was the fastest way. We had sleeping quarters and there was a beautiful observatory from which we could see all the sights as we went along. We came over the Rocky Mountains and it was the most impressive scenery I ever saw. It was a little scary too. You’d look out on one side and it was a one-thousand foot drop. Whew! On the other side, you stared right into a blank wall. So I got home and I was happy for the chance to rest up. My brother happened to come by. By then he was in the Marine Corps and was stationed in Pensacola, Florida. He was also married. His wife, Peg, was with him along with their dog. It was a cocker spaniel named Topper. We had a wonderful reunion, spending time with mom and dad and visiting folks we knew around the town. It was great! It turned out that I was returning to Cape May at the same time as Robert and Peg planned to go back. So my brother offered to drive me back to Cape May. When we were about half way to Cape May, Robert said, “”Do you want to drive little brother?” Robert got into the back seat with Peg and Topper. It was dusk and it was just beginning to get dark. I got behind the wheel and pretty soon they were all fast asleep in the back seat. I had both hands on the steering wheel and I was very alert. As a driver, I had trained myself not to become so relaxed that I would, unintentionally, go into a trance. But as I drove along and dusk turned into night, everything seemed so peaceful. The tumult of the war was behind me. I let myself slip into a state of deep thought, only half noticing sights along the highway. After a while, I wasn’t noticing anything at all. Rather abruptly, I woke up at the Cape May military gate at 2:30 a.m. I rubbed my eyes and turned in the seat to shake Robert to his senses. Then the realization came to me! I had no memory of the last 100 miles I had driven. I was fast asleep over that last leg of the trip. Somebody or something drove that car. It wasn’t Robert or Peg so I knew it was spirit that saved our butts. I didn’t tell them anything about that. I just thanked them and said my goodbyes. I waved to them as Robert turned the car around and drove away. Then I turned and faced the gate. I was about to begin the final phase of my military hitch, serving with the Cape May Transport Company under the command of Major Snow. As I walked to the barracks, I was still a little shook up about the realization that spirit had taken over the steering wheel for me when I fell asleep.

At Cape May, Babbitt drove trucks and settled into the life of a peacetime soldier. He received his sergeant’s stripes. Then one evening he went to a USO dance where he met Jean Schramm. “She was a very attractive brunette and I was instantly drawn to her. We danced together and found ourselves getting serious immediately,” he said. Before very many days passed, they were discussing marriage. In hindsight, Babbitt later realized it was just an infatuation and that they had moved too quickly. He had gone into the military as an inexperienced 19-year-old and he was never involved with a woman during this military service. He was glad he followed his father’s advice about keeping his fly zipped. Babbitt said he knew some men who went to brothels and were involved with women throughout the time of their military service. “They were sorry later,” he said. Schramm and Babbitt were married by a minister in a very informal ceremony at her parents’ home. Roy and Alma Babbitt made the trip from Orange to Cape May to be present at the wedding ceremony and they participated in the low-key reception that followed.

Elwood Babbitt completed his military hitch and received his honorable discharge from the U.S. Marine Corps at Quantico, Virginia, on Sept. 12, 1945. He had served four years and five months. His discharge papers note that he qualified as a rifle marksman on May 16, 1941 and that he was certified as an automotive equipment operator. It also states that he served in the Pacific Theatre of Operations from July 1, 1942 to Sept. 29, 1944. From Nov. 4, 1941 to May 1, 1942, Babbitt was at Pearl Harbor. Under the category of battles, engagements, skirmishes and expeditions, it is recorded that Babbitt participated in the defense of Pearl Harbor from Japanese sea and air attacks on Dec. 7, 1941; that he participated in the capture and defense of Guadalcanal, Aug. 7, 1942 to Dec. 9, 1942; the capture of Saipan Island, June 15 to June 22, 1944 and the capture of Tinian Island, July 25, 1944 to Aug. 9, 1944. Babbitt was recommended for the Good Conduct Medal and was issued the Honorable Service lapel button. The character of his service was rated “excellent.” At the time of his discharge, Babbitt’s monthly pay rate was $81.90.That was low pay for having risked his life but it was nearly as much money as he would ever earn. He was very proud to have served his country. However, he was careless in safeguarding the mementoes of his service. “I got some medals but I don’t know where they are. I guess I threw them away a long time ago. I wish I hadn’t but they meant nothing to me then,” he said.

With the $32.74 allotted him for travel from Quantico, Virginia to Orange, Massachusetts, along with the pay he had allowed “to ride and build up,” during his overseas service, Babbitt and his wife headed “home” to Orange. They lived with his parents for a short time and then moved to Keene, New Hampshire where he was able to find work as a house painter. After a few months, the newlyweds became convinced their marriage was a mistake. “The feelings we had for each other sort of just faded away. I guess we fulfilled some sort of karma but it didn’t work out. We agreed that we shouldn’t stay together. Jean went back to Cape May and we got a divorce,” Babbitt said. After Jean departed, Babbitt felt no ties to the community of Keene and the thought of painting houses merely for the sake of earning a living wage never occurred to him. At the age of 24, he knew he wanted to devote his life to teaching others about spirit and the continuity of life. He left Keene and headed to Buffalo, New York to join Ted Russell. Except for his father, Roy Babbitt, and the spirits who spoke to him, Elwood Babbitt had received his greatest spiritual motivation from Ted Russell. He always stood in awe of Russell. The thrill of working with Russell in Buffalo was still apparent in Babbitt’s voice as he described that experience more than 55 years later:

Ted Russell had organized a church which he called the Cosmic Science Foundation. He rented a huge auditorium in one of the city’s big hotels. We had crowds of 1500 people who came to hear from relatives and friends who had died. They called them “messages.” Russell would stand on the stage before these big crowds and call out, “Here comes the spirit of a person. I hear the name of _________. And then he would repeat that name. Standing straight and tall, Russell would look out over the audience. If there was no response, he would say, “So nobody likes my name?” Then he would stride dramatically across the big stage to place himself in front of the person whose name he had called out. Then he would point toward someone and his voice would ring out, “The light is right over your head!” The person he pointed to would usually express shock that he was able to identify them by name. Then he would deliver the message that was coming from spirit. It might be from one or both of their parents or some other family member or friend who had died. The spirits sometimes wanted to say something they didn’t have a chance to say before they died. Often it was to say where some important papers or money had been hidden. To add proof of his ability to communicate with spirit, Russell sometimes would say when these people died or where their remains are buried. He might also tell them exactly how they died or if they had a certain disease. The messages  usually were very personal and there was no way to deny that Russell was actually communicating with their spirits. There would always be gasps and “oohing” sounds from those big crowds. Having been an actor on the British stage, Russell used his skills to make everything all the more dramatic with that beautiful, clear voice and the flourishes he put into it. Now, I was greatly inspired by all this myself because I knew that Russell could really communicate with spirits. Sometimes, I received the messages myself as they came in to Russell. When he cried out, “The light is right over your head,” I could see that light. I could see the person who was supposed to receive the message from spirit. It was really something to see and hear the emotions of those who received the messages from spirit. They sometimes cried and called back expressions of love to their relatives and friends in spirit. It was truly beautiful. I never forgot those times with Ted Russell. He appeared one night each week in Buffalo and traveled to neighboring states on other nights. We went to Ohio regularly and I remember one time in Brady Lake with Della Kingsbury who had a great gift of clairvoyance. She had started a spiritualist church there. Ted wanted to help her. They had smaller audiences of about three or four hundred people. On that occasion, Ted went up on the stage and began receiving messages from spirit. He passed them on to people in the audience. After a short while, he called out, “There is a lady here named Holland. She is in a lot of grief. No one in the audience responded so Ted pointed Mrs. Holland out. “I want to talk to you, if I may,” he said, “because your son is here and he is telling me to inform you that he is all right. The reason you are so sad is that he fell out of a second story window of the house and fell on a picket fence.” That brought a loud, spontaneous “ooohhh” from the crowd. Then the woman addressed by Ted stood up and verified the story about the child who fell from the window onto the picket fence. It was indeed her son and she was overjoyed that his life was continuing in spirit. A great pressure had been lifted from her shoulders by Ted. While she spoke, Ted just stood there in that theatrical pose. He was flamboyant but he was not egoistical. He repeatedly told his audiences that spiritual forces were bringing them this contact with departed loved ones and that he was merely the messenger. I learned a lot from Ted Russell, not only when he was on stage but also while we were riding on trains or buses, to and from his other Cosmic Foundation churches. We would talk about spirit and he would encourage. He would say, “Skippy, you have the power of creation. I haven’t got that. All I can do is receive messages and pass them on to people.

After several months with Russell, Babbitt returned to Orange and resumed life with his family and the community he had left behind when he joined the Marines five years earlier. However, on this occasion he didn’t remain settled down for very long. One of his cousins, Lillian May Goodwin, who had been a nurse in the U.S. Army told him that the federal government was looking for veterans who had been under heavy fire. A program had been formed to determine if these veterans could acclimate themselves to school work. It was both an experimental project and an opportunity for veterans to resume productive civilian lives and further their education. Babbitt had never cared for academics and he had dropped out of high school but he decided to try again. He was placed at New England College in Henniker, New Hampshire. “I gave it my best effort,” he said. “I tried to get my physical brain to take over and focus on learning. I stayed in college for one semester but I couldn’t settle down to books and studying long enough to earn a degree. However, I did stay long enough to do the work needed to earn my General Equivalency (GED) diploma. I am proud of this.” After his brief stay at New England College, Babbitt headed back to Orange, Massachusetts, and obtained a job driving a bus between Orange and the neighboring town of Athol. He felt well-qualified for this job because he was a local boy who had gained a lot of experience driving military vehicles.

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