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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I have enjoyed reading about all the random acts of kindness in your column. I recall one from many years ago.

I was a teen-aged recruit in the U.S. Army, stationed on a large rural sheep ranch near Pomona, Calif., prior to being sent overseas during World War II. We men slept in tents, ate from field kitchens, and washed, shaved and bathed out of our Army helmets.

I read in the local newspaper that the Hollywood Canteen was throwing a big party and dance for the servicemen. Since I had that weekend off, I dressed in full uniform, jumped into an Army supply truck and headed for Pomona. From there, I hitchhiked to Los Angeles and the Hollywood Canteen.

The party was a huge success. However, finding shelter for the evening was next to impossible at any price during the war years. After the gala event was over, I was dozing on a chair when I was awakened by a petite elderly lady who said she was the mother of the actor Cesar Romero, and if I hurried she would get me a place to sleep that night. An auto awaited, and with two other servicemen I was driven to Beverly Hills. A secretary greeted us at the residence and directed us up the huge spiral staircase and into one of the five bedrooms available.

Abby, we were in the home of the movie actor and art collector Edward G. Robinson! He had turned over his home to the USO while he was in New York.

I retired to a huge bed and had a good night's sleep. In the morning, a knock on my door informed me that breakfast was ready -- and what a breakfast it was!

I left a thank-you note in Mr. Robinson's study and soon was on my way back to camp.

Through the years I have watched Edward G. Robinson's classic films on television, and I will never forget the generosity of that great film star. -- REMINISCING IN RENO

DEAR REMINISCING: Old movie buffs will love your letter. To borrow a phrase from Bob Hope, another great star who did his share to entertain the servicemen during World War II and other wars and conflicts, "Thanks for the memories."

DEAR ABBY: I have been married four times. My second husband, "Mike," and I are close friends. I hurt him terribly when I left him for a younger man 16 years ago.

About a year after my fourth divorce, Mike contacted me and we met for lunch. We have been best friends ever since. He does not date -- and sometimes I think he is still in love with me. However, I cannot get past what happened between us even though it was all my fault.

Abby, do you think it is healthy to be so close to someone you were once married to? I don't see how we could ever reconcile, but I love spending time with Mike and would hate to lose our closeness. -- MARY IN ARIZONA

DEAR MARY: I see nothing wrong with having a friendship with a former spouse as long as no one is hurt in the process. As for a reconciliation -- never say "never." Stranger things have happened.

CONFIDENTIAL TO "BURNING DESIRE": "Six essential qualities that are the key to success: sincerity, personal integrity, humility, courtesy, wisdom, charity." (Dr. William Menninger)

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