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GRADUATION Kate’s Journal


Episode 14
Alameda, 1944

It is hard to recapture feelings which you had 70 years ago. The events of our lives spring up in chapters, but how we actually “felt” at that time escapes us.

No one changes their mind more frequently than a teenage girl, and when it comes to boyfriends just when you’re in, you’re out. That’s the way it happened to me the summer of 1944. The new one had a classy little 1936 blue Ford coupe with spotlights and pipes, the old one had a horse. I couldn’t wait to have it parked in front of my house. The occupant also had a blue and gold block sweater to go with it, signature of a high school VIP.

Sam & friendsSam Rasmussen, second from left. Owner of the blue Ford

In spite of having a steady boyfriend, life went on in my life as a senior at Alameda High. As a result of our being caught drinking in the local movie theater, my friend Nancy Cranmer’s parents shipped her off to Westlake School for Girls in Hollywood, where Shirley Temple was going. My Aunt Connie ( Corinne) campaigned for me to go as well, taking me away from any bad influence I might have in Alameda. My Grandma’s dream of me being a second Shirley Temple when I was a child would mean I would at least be a classmate. Where they planned to get the money was a mute point.

I liked Nancy a lot; her nickname was Flea for some reason, and she was in my wedding later on. We discovered that we had a similar event in our family history in that an ancestor was burned at the stake in England. Her ancestor was Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury, and mine was Bishop Nicholas Ridley; Bishop Hugh Latimer joined them in the event. A lovely memorial of the three martyrs stands at Oxford, England, as a grim reminder of Bloody Mary’s power.

oxford martyrs

Meanwhile, the boy with the blue Ford took over my summer, and I found a steady boyfriend in Sam Rasmussen.

The draft hung like a specter over all our boys, and Sam enlisted in the Merchant Marine Cadet Corps whose training camp was nearby in San Mateo. I had two or three spiffy evening dresses to wear to the weekend dances. Someone had left these lovely dresses on one of the Matson ships, and by virtue of Uncle Fred, I inherited them. There was often something left in a cabin after the ship hit port, with no forwarding address.

All in all, I did OK from things rich passengers left on board as they departed. Great Uncle Fred was an executive in the company, and Dad’s cousin was Captain of one of the ships. That’s also how I got my first camera, a fancy Leica.

Graduation class Couyote Hills MM AcademyGraduation class Coyote Hills Merchant Marine Corps 1944 Sam in middle of front row

Graduation came for me and it was bittersweet. Sam would be graduating as well and shipping out. The night of my graduation I looked for Sam, but he hadn’t come for some reason. The reason came clear soon enough when I found I had been “dumped”.

kayti hi schoolGraduation day, June, 1945

I spent the rest of the summer on the beach at Cottage Baths in Alameda, feeling sorry for myself, though my mother was understanding about the breakup of my “big romance”, since I was only 17, she and my father, still overseas, felt better than I did about the whole thing.

My next move was the same as most graduates; get a job or go to college. I decided to get a job first and think about the rest of my life later.

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15 comments on “GRADUATION Kate’s Journal

  1. It must be quite fascinating–and macabre–to know you have an ancestor who was burned at the stake. Would make for an interesting short story or novel. Bet there’s a lot of story behind that!

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  2. I never thought much about it until we visited Oxford and saw the memorial. It was always just a family story. Religion causes so much of the world’s troubles–then as now.

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  3. A great episode. Sam really stands out in the photo among the group of boys and ditto for you among the girls. Did he dump you because he was moving or something?

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  4. Who can know what goes on in an 18 year old boy’s mind? He actually found a new girlfriend unbeknownst to me. (grin) And he also was shipping out for a year. The war was nearly over, and he didn’t want to “miss” it, so instead of continuing in officer’s training, he shipped out as an engineer, and they went to the South Pacific. The oldest man on the ship was the captain and he was 28. It’s amazing that all our wars are fought by such youngsters.

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  5. I can imagine Sam being popular with girls. Most Sams are. The air of nonchelance as shown in the photo would have been irresistable. He could not have done much in that year he was shipped out.

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  6. You were so lucky to be able to go to work rather than college, since that was your inclination. I was only sixteen when I graduated from high school, and I would have been better off working for a couple of years, but I’d done well in school, and it was a Big Deal in the family that the first of us would go off to college.

    I smiled at your tale of getting dumped. That happened to me once, in rather dramatic fashion, but now I realize it was the best thing that could have happened. We do recover, don’t we? And besides — you getting dumped by Sam clearly wasn’t the end of the story!

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    • I was 17 at graduation, and had no idea what I wanted in life. As it turned out, I went on to college after I had both girls in school. It was probably a harder road to follow, but in the meantime I married, held a couple of jobs, and bought a house, and realized I was an artist.

      Yes our hearts can break but life isn’t broken.

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  7. I am struck by the difference between the photographs of both the four young men and the men in the Merchant Marine graduating class AND their obvious masculinity. When I look around today at the young me, many of them seem weak. They certainly don’t look manly. It’s weird. I see this in airports, shopping malls, and other places where a cross-section of men might be. They often look effeminate or androgynous. I rarely see “men” but I do see a lot of “guys…” I believe the women’s movement (while I ascribe to much of that) has contributed. I realize writing this is very gauche but I don’t care.

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  8. I meant “young men”
    I meant “young men.”

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  9. Great post! Time flies, doesn’t it?

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