Sept. 1939, Edinburgh, Scotland — Blanche Beam's mother leads her and her brother, Stanley, to the local school yard. She tells Stanley to hold his sister's hand and not to leave her side. Then their mother abruptly disappears.
Teachers load 5-year-old Blanche and her older brother into a car. After arrival at the rail station, more teachers load the two, along with hundreds of other children, onto train cars. Several hours and 150 miles later, Blanche and Stanley step off the train in the northern Scotland village of Marypark and meet Mr. and Mrs. Miller, the strangers who would take care of the siblings for the next two and half years.
This is how Blanche Beam's memoir, "A Wee Evacuee" begins. The daughter of a Royal Navy serviceman, Beam was evacuated from Edinburgh as the violence World War II flared up, and the fear and likelihood of Nazi bombing escalated in the cities of the United Kingdom.
More than 70 years and innumerable tales later, Beam is now a long-time resident of Destin and, as of 2012, a published author.
"I had been writing my stories for years," Beam told The Log. "I put them all in a book and had it published.
There are few places on Earth Beam hasn't seen in her life. After marrying an American serviceman, she lived everywhere from Japan and England, to Mississippi, Colorado and Canada. While living in Key West, she once interviewed with Ernest Hemingway when he was looking for a secretary.
"I didn't get the job because I couldn't drive," Beam said.
She's been in Destin for 16 years now, where she joined Writers In Sandals, a club that meets at the Destin Library monthly. There, fellow members encouraged her to get her incredible life stories — the evacuation, D-Day, the loss of her father, a reunion with her long-lost sibling — down on paper to share with the world. So she did.
Beam has done little publicity for her self-published collection of memoirs. That's OK with her. She didn't write it to be rich or famous.
"I really did it just to give to my pals and the people that were in the book. I've sent all of them copies," Beam said.
"A Wee Evacuee" is available in paperback for $4.53 on amazon.com. Beam has recorded an audio version of the book which she hopes to have for sale next year.