Wilfred Bank and Myrna Gardner

Recorded September 19, 2004 Archived October 1, 2004 38:57 minutes
0:00 / 0:00
Id: SPP000845


World War II stories; story of falling in love with wife at first sight.


  • Wilfred Bank
  • Myrna Gardner


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00:02 My name is Myrna Gardner and I am 51 years old and today's date is September 19th 2004. I'm in the storycorps booth at Grand Central Station and I'm here to interview my father.

00:20 And he is Wilfred Bank, my age is 86 and very fortunate to make 86. I was born.

00:33 August 15th 1918

00:36 Which makes me 86 years old, of course the day today September 19th. And the location is Grand Central Station and I'm with my daughter murder who lives in Greenwich Connecticut, and I'm here to start off asking some questions to get you talking about some of the highlights of your your long and happy life. One thing that I've always been interested in is your life as a kid in New York City. I know that you lived in New York City until you were 18 years old.

01:14 But what I'd like to know about is if you felt it was exciting to be in New York during the Depression was it sad? Was it hard overall how when you look back? How was it?

01:31 As I remember, I live on 48th Street and 9th Avenue, which was closed that called Hell's Kitchen area. And the depression time. Is it very sad for everybody has a very very top and I was very lucky both my parents worked on 48th Street. We have an apartment there and

01:53 Going back. What did I do? We we had no television a radio. So all I did do a lot of reading. I went to museums and Natural History Museum of odd.

02:06 And I did see things and one of my memories would remember when depression time came along.

02:14 They had a big big parade on 5th Avenue and are a National Recovery Act. I went at 9 in the morning to 9 at night and I saw every Union everything everything going out. I live around the corner of Madison Square Garden and my folks had a laundry service. So every year the rodeo came in I went through all the rodeo shows Garden. Did you see any famous people people that I would know of no one girl from Oklahoma, very beautiful woman. You're still coming to the store and of course.

02:50 She married Milton Berle, but you such a sweet woman that I remember her very well. And of course at the rodeo came the brawn & Bailey Circus not and at the Belvedere Hotel, my folks had the bands. They used to have Glen gray Casa Loma been stayed there and other all casters to do and and all the men then of course the very nice is I remember in New York. Are there other big events in New York that you remember going to?

03:25 Yes, I'm a square garden Amendment President Roosevelt came to speak. I went I got into the garden at that time. I heard him speak and I used to go to the hockey games there. And those are the events. I remember very well. I think I remember you telling me did you go to Valentino's funeral Street reference pulling Negra and I remember that and the block was jammed with James at the Catholic church that we tween 8th Avenue and Broadway and I and I saw I saw the funeral yet. Yeah, I'll be right murder. I / I forgot all about that thing. I really did see that. Do you remember the difference? I mean, can you actually remember before the Depression hit and after?

04:13 Yes, the things changed things that changed things very very dramatic change and I know both my parents are work 6 days a week from 6 in the morning till 8:09 at night. And actually I didn't see very much of them. Now. What did you think when you were that ad age? What did you want to be when you grow up?

04:36 Actually things are so bad. I had no idea what they had. No idea that no plans just day-by-day and did you work?

04:47 Well, I sell my father out and we are on 48th Street and 8th Avenue and I used to walk way over the two Dissidia and first day of year. We had a couple of customers. I used to carry the laundry bags that I remember doing that other Saturdays and what would you do for fun? When you had a chance to have fun fun? I had was I used to read all the time. I was really really mature for my age is everything New York Times world history and I wasted our live in New York public library 25th Avenue and 42nd street, and there's one on 53rd Street and library and when I went to public school was right across the street where I lived, I remember that time when I started school over there and of course as a youngster, I always tell you the story as to get beat up every day and then one day

05:39 I hit the top guy there and I had my red upstairs. I said to my mother Mom. I'm not going down anymore for 3 months. She says why I said I won't come out alive. So my mother decided that she didn't want to bump the crow after we moved to the Bronx at the Bronx 70th Street and Fulton Avenue Woods Cross, Claremont Park, and of course and Claremont, will you see the boys used to shoot marbles all the time and and the boys on 3rd Avenue's to come over like the gang's then steal all of my last night beat up this fellow and and I ran upstairs in the fellow says you better go upstairs because you won't come home and life and I was upset or three more months with mother said, what is it with you? I says, well, I guess I just don't take it. I can handle him right then and that's how I remember my youth. I like what I like to play baseball and I join the American Legion team member they gave me an orange shirt shirt there the sweatshirt.

06:39 And it was a picture I play there, but most as high as your mother sent me to a Jewish parochial school days ago 7 the Morning by the separate night extra work a couple of miles and I went there till I graduated and then I decided depression time because all my tutors I had where it really starving ice to bring him a loaf of bread every Friday and a tremendous respect for the gentleman that came from Europe and I said to myself if they didn't make it. I'm not going the same profession. So I decided I want to Clinton High School David Clinton just know all boys school.

07:17 And of course I had to write on the train and the trains are wonderful to the $0.05 as of right up the Mosholu Parkway and I want the Clinton there for four years and I got a very good education and and I'm going back now. Those are my Years in New York. I had a very good friend.

07:42 And then he and I are planning to go to college. I was going to go to City College and he was going to go to University, Wisconsin. And this was 1940 when I graduated apartment 1936.

07:55 My school and the last week before

08:01 September his mother called me and says we'll

08:05 I can't let Mary go to Wisconsin. He's only 15 years old. Can you change places with him as I certainly will and I set that wears Wisconsin. She says to the Midwest. So I said that my mother like to go to University of Wisconsin. I'm going to change with Maurice's. All right, so I she says I get a ticket for you on the bus, which is about $10.

08:29 And then you can go and I don't think you left. So I started out and a little laundry bag I hitchhike out there cuz of people those days really pick you up was very nice. And I stayed in Farmer's Barn the Sandusky Ohio. Remember then I got the Cleveland and Cleveland. I change the tickets got my $10 back and I remember so well Billy Rose has the aggregate say the big swimming thing there without on the Hogs. So I volunteered and nausea and I saw the show that way so I should miss that and I cut the Wisconsin nurse at the register. I'm going to replace It Don't Fit Don't forget. It's that time only 1% of people went to college in the 1936.

09:18 So I had the things so I said to him and I have no money. They said don't worry about it. But we have a meal job for you. And that time was a farmer labor party follett's the governor and his brother was Saturday and every student Wisconsin had a male Jack got a job and I remember the place and establish Cafe on University Avenue, right? I worked 1 hour and I got a sandwich and then I had no place to sleep. They gave me a room that cost $24 we got no money, so I clean the house and I must say that I had a wonderful wonderful education economics and then I met Jen personnel management over there in industrial economics.

10:01 And every summer

10:03 I got a job as a children's wait on Sullivan County is Swan Lake.

10:08 I used to work there.

10:10 I would like to Children's wait wait, I used to work in the morning and 6 after 6 of my time up the floors about 10 times a day with the kids around everything on the floor. And then in the morning at 75 kids and everybody went went there different type of an egg different type of a cereal and the lunch hour. You always say serve the same lunch boil chicken chicken soup nighttime vannata is a sour cream and then at midnight I was a casino boy at a table to the Grand Casino and these people pay $7 a week for the children and never stop dating and I ended up figuring is 75 kids are half of that was my $35 a week and I worked over a hundred hours that was helping me to go to college and they did that for four years.

11:04 And when I got the college it, Wisconsin I met two wonderful people in school Good Fellows.

11:11 Very funny ones from Chicago and welcome Walden New York Julius lease and why was it called a moth Blindside became my friends in college and high school already had that had many close friends because Clinton with 10,000 students are so many. I really didn't get to be friendly with anybody.

11:33 I went to college for 4 years and then

11:38 When I graduated 1940 with my degree a ba degree industrial economics.

11:45 I worked in the mountains and Julius Rosenwald in New York, which is about 35 miles away from where he works at the meet will we ever have a chance? Please come down and see me I said well, the only time is a week before Labor Day with slow which is August 24th. I remember that day very well.

12:05 They went down there and knocked on the door and its sister Edson.

12:11 Love at first sight.

12:15 It's such a beautiful beautiful woman and the funny part. I went to school with him for three years and never know we had two sisters never mention this family and I looked at and I was a gorgeous day and that day be celebrated. I may I was there for the day and we drove up they drove me at Tilden drive a car fixed a car from New York to Perkins Drive, which is something Beyond mountains up there and we had a lovely lovely luncheon over there and I was with this Selma all day and I couldn't keep my eyes off as just such a beautiful woman very verbal, very smart assistant and she was going to Albany teacher's college to be a teacher and that was 1940.

13:00 Anyway

13:02 When I graduated University Wisconsin had an interview with Sears Roebuck in Chicago, and I went to the Sears building and the man said to me that you know something.

13:13 You have a draft now. Why don't you finish the year you were one night, then you'll come back. There's a job waiting for you in Pittsburgh and the Golden Triangle and personnel management, and we could use men but your background is it just finished a year? Well,

13:33 After I met Salman, this is 1940 Thanksgiving time. She came she came for the weekend and Julia's invited me again. I went up there to one of the weekend and she brought a friend Uber lease.

13:48 Bernice was a roommate and then

13:52 Bernice's father was a doctor in the Veterans Administration. They moved to Maywood, Illinois that wrote to my friend offer off of meta and they got married that I worked. All right, so after Thanksgiving and I had a jobs in New York. Nothing really concrete. I worked in the Diamond District carat diamonds from one store to another one at that time part time and I didn't know electric for ilgwu and really really didn't amount to much.

14:22 February 1941 I wouldn't sell it service.

14:28 Of course.

14:30 That time

14:32 I went to New Jersey drive to another place and I was drafted into an a unit was called 198th.

14:41 Coast archery Delaware Newark Delaware, most of the people there from Newark Wilmington Dover Delaware, and I was with them.

14:54 Wow, that Maneuvers and then we was sent to Cape Cod afternoon, which was updated Yankee division up there was up on the cape that I stay. There was very nice. And of course we had at the time of Vaughn Monroe. So they have a Friday night. It's very nice campgrounds within the place is called.

15:17 And I'm Anubis. We went to Provincetown in the cold cold water. We used to do some Landings and thing like that well, and then we will be moved over to Oswego Fort Ontario and like many officer called me in his will.

15:35 You don't deserve Christmas Isis. I don't.

15:38 Is December now? 1941? Why don't you take a furlough? That's a sure I definitely will take a furlong.

15:48 And he says that then you come back and why we're all gone. You'll stay there. You'll do kpu, Dugan Duty. Whatever has to be done as well and December 7th.

16:01 I went to see it and football game and I'll never forget as long as I live.

16:06 It wasn't the Yankees Stadium and I remember was the New York Giants playing the football Dodgers in football a very cold with a very cold Sunny gorgeous day and a full house.

16:18 And they announced that by Pearl Harbor you could hear a pin drop and of course the Army fellows in theaters Stadium. It didn't cost us anything because it was free of charge the service. So we walked we walked and walked out.

16:38 In the field and everybody just sat there.

16:42 And the people was stunned and I walked up.

16:46 Up to the train station up there, 61st Street and a woman about 80 years old gets up and gives me the see that's his lady. I'm Not Dead Yet, please and as soon as I got home, I have a telegram report back to my unit and the unit moved out.

17:07 Lewis Watson United aircraft Factory and that time and I that crab factory.

17:14 We had no guns. We took broomsticks and put out the window. So the enemy is just think that we had guns. We stay there now.

17:23 At the place there.

17:26 You couldn't leave Nicole to all the fellas wanting to get home. So we were on 36 hours and 36 hours to go off. So somebody would go to Delaware to see their parents. I would put in the 72 hours and when my turn came I left and I went to see salmon Albany because you know, I don't remember she had a bad cold hits a cup there and when I came back my commanding officers to me will

17:55 The general is around here to pick you for OCS school and you weren't here and you really can you really put you in the brig for going without leave, but it's worse that you missed the opportunity. It's just one of those things and all these men with no CS went to Germany in the best stoner allowed after what I found out. So to me it was no big deal things like that. Never bothered me anyway.

18:26 Because that happened to me.

18:28 They took me out to another outfit to a combat outfit. I went to the Cow Palace without a second after that can be shipped out and I believe was the first boatload overseas at that time after Pearl Harbor and I went on the matsonia, but I was very lucky at the Met Sonia. I had the bridal Suite 250 two guys and the trip was 36 days because of the first boatload man submarines with us, and we're afraid of enemy attacks and actually and I remember we had one meal every day to say milk in the morning. We had an orange for the vitamins.

19:13 And we had a hard boiled egg.

19:16 And then we had an ice cream pop and we lined up the next day the same thing same thing for 36 days. And on the boat. We had the guns. Are we trained and we got to Australia.

19:30 We landed in Brisbane after 36 Days.

19:34 And it brings baby got off still. He's so they they send us the Ascot racetrack. We slept with a horses used to sleep all the time. We slept over there.

19:46 And they have to be in there for a couple of days in Brisbane, which is a beautiful beautiful city in Australia.

19:55 They have a one-man Japanese submarine that bomb Sydney Australia and they got a very very panicky. So we had 1800 men and they put us on they call it the train which to me was it 2 years old trolley 3-foot gaze when 15 miles an hour and every hour he stopped for ability and it took us a couple weeks ago that and doing the rain we got soaked the cabin, We got the Darwin Australia, which is it passing Northern Territory was replaced Alice Springs. We got there and we settled in at an edge phone call Bachelor Ajram, which is 65 miles from Darwin.

20:44 And I have to go to the dentist and up and down when it's red dust, so I got on the truck.

20:51 And I got to the dentist which out the shower.

20:54 Darwin

20:56 And the next day was over there and I have to have a cup of molar is pulled and they had to novocaine and that gave you the novocaine the Japanese attacked over there that they're playing that. I'm in the chair and they were already booked, and I yelled to the doc is Doc. Where is it? And then you send me to hell with your bank. See I said Put it but I'm in the chair so that overcame wore off.

21:21 So I had to stay another night. The next night next day is safe for 3 days. They attacked everybody about 9. I remember that he finally pulled my molars off that I thought myself if I ever go out for a little while. I'm going to go to another dentist anyway.

21:37 Got back to my outfit which is another 65 miles from now. And while I was there with the big battle of the Coral Sea battle. I remember the first B-17 sang. The Japanese battleship was which is the first and tell Mikasa left in Philippines and he landed on the edge, and I helped him with him and his wife and the furniture to take off at The Bachelorette drone. Well, then we got orders.

22:09 Invade New Guinea

22:13 And then we got the dog while we shot down about 34 Japanese planes.

22:23 And every night the Japanese language come over while night so we wouldn't sleep in the hole. We used to call him washing machine shali and and to be sure that we wouldn't get out of the El trenches.

22:37 You always drop one bomb.

22:39 I got a New Guinea.

22:42 With three days, and there's a terrible terrible storm at the dry heaves. I didn't eat for 3 days, and we landed in Port Moresby at that time.

22:53 And the first week I thought I would die because I was not used to seeing the Alligators or snakes and the noise is there but eventually you get used to it while we're at in Buna and if the bun up

23:08 We tracked over the Owen Stanley mountains.

23:12 And then we went up.

23:15 Part of Australia was Goose app. That's Ave Dover Dora and all that and I always had my Mesquite in that on sorry shouldn't get malaria and my leggings and then when I was there, I had three wonderful animals as pets I wanna be a small kangaroo and I had a cockatoo and there was a goanna I would eat the rats the rats used to be 18 to 20 inches long and They Carried a text from the tuna Gris and you'd get scrub typhus. So these animals anytime of Japanese with the grass that was taught the screen the new right away the enemy was there. So basically very good friends.

23:58 Well, I was going to be in the over there for two years.

24:02 I was the last one of the list to get a fair loan. So I

24:07 Got my pillow.

24:10 And the trailer was to Brisbane now Brisbane from there the 3000 miles away.

24:17 So I got a boat two-week furlough got down there. It's like a month to get down there and get a month away for the boat to come back and I came back and it was rainy season pouring rain and I landed in French oven the Getty and I walked a couple miles to my office and my office wasn't there to me is like a nightmare that pouring rain and I walked another couple of miles of my pack there and I sent the outfit where is 102nd regimental combat team? Do we never heard of it? But you never heard of it.

24:57 Anyway

24:58 I went back to finish shopping. And the first thing you want me to do is unload the boat and I said that's not for me and I waited and I got a plane and I couldn't go back to United States and my papers. So I went to the Marshall Islands Saipan and then we talked a mother and a West Highland IL and every time I land there someplace there's always an army unit. And of course, they always gave me food and I will put me on KP that was a they always they always welcomed me while I waited around for weeks and weeks and roll over and then I'll and another Marshall Island and the

25:36 Sesame

25:38 You'll have to sleep maybe a hundred yards away because you're from New Guinea and we just came back from United States and your malaria infested. I said, I'm not playing if I wasn't even though I did have Dengue fever. I was very lucky to get malaria.

25:54 And that night Remember December 7th that needs a Japanese parachutes and they went over late stay at some of the guys in the attention and I was lucky I had no gun because I was on furlough to finally after a couple of months.

26:11 I got a plane and they landed in Tacloban.

26:15 Which is in the Philippines Southern Philippines Leyte Island, and I got to

26:22 Attract a look at my office now was writing and as soon as I was writing somebody spotted mises Banksy where you've been looking for you for months and months and I really United my outfit and then I got to my outfit and they my outfit was need to log with the other part of Leyte Island. We went over the mountains and we were a nipple which is the other end of the mountains. And of course I was sent out.

26:50 With low radio 593 radio

26:54 It's 6 weeks and we kept track of the general Yamamoto. Remember that very well and the every time the Japanese said why don't you have my number was active 31 at that time? Why don't you answer them and then I wouldn't answer because they spot of my outfit I would have been I wouldn't be here tonight. I never answered and one of my officers you won't get a fair loan. You don't answer while I never answered and the Japanese. I think it was Japanese rose or whatever name was his why don't you answer it? Why didn't answer anyways going back and forth. Finally after 3 weeks left and he was shot down. It was killed in a plane. So I think that's

27:37 We had a little help with that thing of that site where we track them down anyway and January.

27:45 Remember 1945 it was pouring all night, and we got the invasion notice for the Philippines.

27:55 We got on the boat in the pouring pouring rain, and we ended up in a place called Batangas and Lewis on 7th and Southern islands of Japan we invaded and thank goodness. There was no Japanese at the show. Time cuz I can't swim night Landon about 6 weeks 6 feet of water and the waves the waves just threw me a short. And from there. We fought all the way up to like tile and Patrick River remember the places

28:30 And then this is the Philippines Del Norte and we waiting there to invade Japan to tell me now. I have to come up well before we leave the Philippines and you coming home tell me they today what your responsibilities really worst part of your regimental combat unit while I personally was in the communications. I carried it a shortwave 593 radio and every time we landed some place I used to bury the lines to the gun position do the Japanese when tracing and take the telephone light and we have to bury him and then we'll go from from where to where like, what were you doing? Well done positions spread out and everybody had that Communications and I was like Communications and we have to take the line telephone lines by amount to decomposition for the telephone.

29:30 Do I place so we have to bury them so we could contract them and that's what I did. They wouldn't be seen. That's right. And of course.

29:42 When I wasn't in the in the northern part of Darwin.

29:49 I just sleep one night to have a 6-7 months because every other night they scab over the bombs used to catch catnips. That's what you do people raise me. Sometimes while I take a nap during the afternoon at a lot of practice during those days when you were stationed in one place for a while, what would you do on a daily basis? What would a day be like I would put in 3 or 4 hours on the radio communications. Then I would have God Duty go over the gun that protect the area and in the days when it's like that and and in the New Guinea for 2 years yet So Fresh So Fresh So fresh vegetables or anything like that.

30:31 Dehydrated eggs dehydrated milk

30:35 Things like that. So when I get to the Philippines. Nice or chicken life of my gosh and they want to Filipinos make me a chicken. That was just like God sent the chicken somebody at the two years and you know something when you're young you can live on that stuff is strong. How do you say how do you think the word changed you when you look back on my philosophy changed because when I got out I said to myself I seen so much casualties in death and all that that I'm going to be nice to everybody because life is so beautiful everyday is just a beautiful day and and and I always carry that stuff laundry when I work in a plant and I had all these women and never yelled at anybody. I always thought of somebody else and everything else. It's it may be more think of other people consider other people goes like to meet cave so dear.

31:28 Did you have direct experience with death many with people dying all around you that for children? I brought myself how lucky can one be and then we had bombing continual vomiting. So I was looking so you got out of the army because I have a 25 points and I have to say God bless President Truman drop the atomic bomb and because of that we were relieved and I was sent that was in August and July.

32:08 Because I came home and in the three years I collected a sword and Japanese things. I got to the Airfield Manila and they said to be the only going to take 45 lb all your clothes. You can't think of the right over everything on the ground. I got on the plane and they came to California.

32:27 And then they came home.

32:31 The Selma

32:37 And I mean, is there anything about your War experience?

32:42 You know that you would have done differently and you didn't have a lot of control when you look back on it anything that you say to yourself. I wish I had done this or I wish I had done that decisions cuz I'm here alive that come out of one piece cuz out at my office and then make it and then

33:01 Then there's a we got married in December.

33:06 The 45

33:08 Salma Salma graduated she already for two years and that we moved in Newburgh at that time. When I have a question, did you ever have any other girlfriends know I didn't love at first sight and I had and I had a wonderful happy marriage for 55 years I get there and then I'm going back to wonderful daughter murder.

33:35 Oh, I'm so fond of who lives in Greenwich Connecticut and Judy lives in Walnut Creek teachers in the college now between idea and they're very nice to me and I'm very fortunate and they wonderful people both of them able to point enough about me made a point that they should have go to college and they both went they ghosts both got message degrees and they doing well, I want to go back to stream in a little to the year experience in the war. Again. You had a college degree. I'm assuming most of the other guys did not just have to write but did you all social lies that everybody get along? I mean, what was this? How was it sort of his people to people in your unit. Well,

34:22 Really really want bodies. I mean we have one cause weight we stuck together because we have a common enemy, but I have felt some by Tony Kentucky and fellows there from back in Beckley West Virginia coal. Mine is not to let alone with everybody in fact.

34:40 I wrote I wrote articles, you know, the keep the morale up because some real really came down in the dumps a lot of time but they went up my buddies and that one of my buddies it people did they mentally did people have breakdowns. Did you see guys anybody got a breakdown? They made him cook. He wanted to the kitchen. They didn't get that. They didn't get to go to the hospital. Well very hard now didn't get a Section 8 and the fellowship we have couple of fellows there every time we invaded it went to the sugar Mills and drunk needs to get to the gasoline from from the world ways, which is a

35:21 Australian plane leaves to mix it never drunk half the wharf and then.

35:27 And what were their duties two out of Ghostbusters? You say something about very lucky. We have 5 more minutes. Is there anything I didn't ask you about that about your life or any any stories at the you haven't told today that you like to talk on the record and then we move it where I live in Prospect Street night and had a wonderful life. I work in the factory 25 years and then I rent a tablecloth Factory. What's the weather at 3 years? And then I worked for the lamp Factory for 11 years and

36:11 My life was wonderful. Merry 55 years that wonderful woman and she taught school. So it's in your English. Summer went to Columbia have a message being my wife mother and I have two wonderful daughters. They wonderful people to me and I love him and I'm very very lucky at the age of 86 then come down there and spend two weeks with them. And here I am a very fortunate man, and I appreciate life. I love everyday. I'm very optimistic. What do you think if you hadn't gone if the war hadn't happened you think your life would have turned out very differently going to Pittsburgh and work through it because the guy is very enthusiastic who interviewed me of that time. I went to the Sears building in Chicago when you were shipped out after Pearl Harbor and not everybody was at that time. Were you did you

37:11 Bitter that you were leaving and everybody else wasn't how did you feel about that? It felt better. I figured that was that was that happened to me that happened to me and how about most the people you were with on that and the Cow Palace? What was the feeling then of people that were going overseas or everybody Golden Gate Bridge, and I'm just doing the 5 in the morning.

37:38 Do we get to Brisbane those dark clouds and had a friend there the heck the FED through social 3 will.

37:45 Dark clouds were going to be in for a very rough time and he was right that he survived.

37:52 Yeah, he survived.

37:56 Well, thank you.

37:58 Give me my time is up and went so fast. We have 2 minutes left. I love my children. And my daughter is a wonderful wonderful citizen Sebring have a children very well soon as she married a loving man. That was a veterinarian and Judy is not married. Judy had a lovely life in Walnut Creek and I'm very happy very optimistic. I call me every week and they're very nice to me. And that's what life is all about. I have very good friends where I live. I was a president of a synagogue that was very active my community.

38:36 And Myrna takes after us cuz he's very active no community. And Myrna is a hard-working woman also, and I'm very fortunate but beautiful beautiful family, and I'm and I locked out.

38:50 Thank you.