Fanny Flagg’s famous southern novel Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe came out in 1987, the year I married an Alabama native from the same home town area of Birmingham as Flagg. I instantly felt at home with her and loved her story of a hometown café run by a woman (her grandmother’s youngest sister).
Now Fanny Flagg has a new book out, The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion and she takes her readers back to the Café for a story about the last of a group of courageous women I’ll bet most of us have never heard about. As Flagg relates in an interview with the Daily South, she only learned about them by accident when she called the new owner of the Whistle Stop Café in 1999 out of the blue from her home in California and, just before they hung up, had the following exchange with her:
Mrs. McMichael: Oh, by the way, we have quite an interesting group coming in for lunch today. They are the last living members of the WASPs who are in town for a reunion.”
Intrigued, Flagg asked, “Who are the WASPs?”
“It’s a bunch of gals that used to fly military planes during the Second World War.”
Flagg had never heard of the WASPs before, but being a white knuckle flyer, she explains that she was very impressed and decided to buy the gals lunch. They earned it!
In the interview, Flagg then recounts how she had completely forgotten all about it until a year later when she was sent a book about the WASPs written by Nancy Batson Crews. Nancy had been at the reunion lunch at the café that previous year. It was almost 12 years later before Flagg had time enough to actually do more than just flip through the book and admire the photos. Once she did, Flagg knew it had to be her next project. http://thedailysouth.southernliving.com/2013/10/24/writing-the-all-girl-filling-stations-last-reunion/
I haven’t had time to even order Flagg’s new book yet, but I did look up the history of the WASPs on the internet and learned about a piece of American history that had regrettably eluded me. I recommend that you take a moment to read about these remarkable women at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Women_Airforce_Service_Pilots, http://wingsacrossamerica.us/wasp/, and http://waspmuseum.org/.
And don’t forget Flagg’s new book: Thanks, Fanny Flagg for bringing their memories alive again!