Rosalind Foley
Novelist                                                                                                                              Screenplay Writer 
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More About Rosalind Foley
We never know where life will lead us. 

When my youngest child started school, I was able to enroll in creative writing classes at the 
University of Louisiana in Lafayette, to study first with Carl Wooton, PhD and then the southern 
giant, author Ernest J. Gaines. 

 It was during this time that a neighbor happened to mention that during World War II she rode
 to school in the truck with the German POWs her father transported from the camp in Rayne to
 the fields where they worked. I was dumbfounded, never having known that thousands of 
POWs had made up our wartime labor shortage, planting and harvesting rice, sugar cane and 
cotton.

The writer’s ‘what if?’ took off. What if a wounded American rice farmer returned home and found Germans on his land? What if his land was in that area of the state where Cajun and German immigrants had lived companionably for years? Would that cause friction? What if. . .

I began asking friends, classmates and casual acquaintances what they knew about this history. They told some remarkable anecdotes. Looking for background material for my fledgling story I of course went to the library. A strenuous search unearthed only one brief article in a history periodical. To my amazement the era had never been documented. 

I attended the Germanfest in Roberts Cove where people shared reminiscences. By now I was getting phone calls from others who had heard of my interest and the information was piling up. A mutual friend at the university put me in touch with Dr. Matthew J. Schott, a historian colleague to whom I presented the material. He recalled as a child being outraged that his mother gave lemonade to a crew of German POWS who were pruning azaleas under guard on the neutral ground in front of Schotts’ New Orleans home; this while Matt’s older brothers were fighting the war. His mother’s response was that if her boys were prisoners, she hoped some other mother would be kind to them.

After that, the story that became HERO’S WELCOME got put aside for two years when Dr. Schott received a grant from the university that allowed us to continue to fill in the historical gap. It set us on a journey neither of us could have imagined.

My primary role was to gather taped oral history and if possible to gather information from former Louisiana POWs. Some of those contacts led us to Otto Fernholz, a Camp Ruston former POW, who came to be interviewed and the following year arranged a meeting with a large group of POWs in Hagen, Gemany. On that trip we also visited and taped more taped interviews with men in Vienna, Bad Pyrmont, Bramsehe, Berlin and Munich. 

Later, Otto, Matt and I coordinated a return pilgrimage to Louisiana by eleven former POWs and some of their spouses. For me, the highlight of this was a teary-eyed meeting in Baton Rouge with a large group of American former POWs of the Germans and Japanese, each of whom stood, gave his name and told of his experience. Needless to say, it was deeply moving. Their trip drew the attention of the print and television media and brought an outpouring of mail from around the world.

The culmination of the POW project was an exhibit at UL of photographs, correspondence, POW art work, camp newspapers, diaries, memorabilia, documents, etc. most of which is now in the university archives. In the days before standardized forms, county agents prided themselves on eloquent type-written narrative reports. These proved some of our most valuable material.

Those days my late longsuffering husband never knew what to expect. Probably the oddest thing I came home from a local interview with was a rough ball retrieved from a barn. It was made of tinfoil from chewing gum and cigarette wrappers which the farmer’s POWs had collected.

Things at home settled down after that, and I got down to work on HERO’S WELCOME. My children tell of falling to sleep to the click, click of keyboards. I’m fortunate that some of them live nearby. The others give me an excuse to travel. We are a close and affectionate family.

My husband was a native of New Orleans. That’s where we were married. I am glad he did not have to see the heartbreaking aftermath of Katrina.

But Lafayette is where we settled, and although I am merely an honorary Cajun, I live happily here in a place that is large enough to be somewhat cosmopolitan and small enough to be friendly. How many people get to be where the people are varied as the spice in their food and where there is something always blooming? 

“A job is what we do for money. Work is what we do for love.?
Marysarah Quinn