The Waving Girl - A Love Story
Every time I visit Savannah I take a walk along River Street to visit the statue that represents one of Savannah's favorite stories, the life of Florence Martus who was known as the Waving Girl. The daughter of a sergeant stationed at Fort Pulaski, Florence moved to a cottage along the river near the entrance of the harbor with her brother George because he was the keeper of the lighthouse at Cockspur.
The way I understand this story is that her life at the remote cottage was lonely for her. She developed a close kinship with those on the passing ships and welcomed each one with a wave of her handkerchief. The sailors began returning her greeting by waving back or with a blast of the ship's horn. Eventually she even greeted the ships arriving in the dark by lantern. She did this for over forty years. This is a beautiful story but I prefer the speculated story.
There is a lot of speculation about the Waving Girl having fallen in love with a sailor who never returned to Savannah. Legend has it that when she was 18 and still quite innocent, a dashing Navy lieutenant visited Elba Island and began romancing her. He was from Cape Cod and had come down from his ship's berth in Savannah to join one of the tours she gave at Fort Pulaski. Perhaps he intended to add her to a long list of romantic conquests in various ports around the world. Less likely, he truly fell in love with her but was unable to keep his promise of marriage. Regardless, after a whirlwind courtship, his ship lifted anchor and he departed Savannah with the assurance that he would return and marry Florence Martus as soon as possible. As a token of his love, he gave her his white Navy neckerchief, which she tearfully waved as his ship passed Elba Island on its way to ports unknown.
The facts, however, about why she started and continued the waving tradition for so many years remain a mystery but in my mind I cannot fathom why she would have went to all the trouble if not for true love. When I think about this love story it brings tears to my eyes. Do I have what it takes to go the distance and love someone for all my years? I used to stare out into the river and back at the statue of the beautiful girl for many hours, daydreaming about what it must have been like to be in love with one man so much that you would dedicate your entire life to welcoming him home.
In any event, the Waving girl of Savannah legend is pretty popular and if you visit Savannah the statue in her honor is one of the things you want to see. It is located at the Southeastern end of River Street and her statue overlooks the Savannah River just as I imagine Florence overlooked it so many years ago. If I haven’t convinced you with my story, another reason to see it is that she is a creation of Felix De Weldon, which if you have visited the Iwo Jima Memorial in Arlington, VA you will be familiar with his work. I am not sure if it is the love story or the fact that the statue has the connection to the Iwo Jima Memorial but every time I stand near it I feel warm inside and it makes me want to visit it over and over again.
THE WAVING GIRL'S VIEW OF THE SAVANNAH RIVER!!!
ONE OF MY FAVORITE MILITARY MEMORIALS!!!! - IWO JIMA MEMORIAL!!!