SUDDEN LIFE CHANGES Kate’s Journal


Episode 10

Torrance, 1940-1941

It’s strange to look back and realize that such a short amount of time–a mere three months actually, can bring such change in a life. Torrance High School brought me a mild amount of recognition, a great deal of embarrassment, a group of friends which I had never enjoyed before, and a sense of belonging.

The tennis player roomer brought about changes for my aunt and mother as well. Suddenly one evening I came upon them, along with my grandmother, dressed in full length fur coats. As I rippled my hands through the late squirrel’s fur, I was made aware that they had discovered a second hand store–today more commonly known as Thrift Stores. Though it was a humiliation to them to admit they could not afford to buy the same coats at the local department store, they wore them proudly. We seemed to be moving up in the world my grandmother had left behind.

My Grandpa Jim, active in the Masonic Lodge, encouraged me to join Job’s Daughter’s, which under threat of having to ride a goat, I did. I found that the circle of girl friends I already had were also members.

I remember those girls fondly, and can easily bring their faces to mind. Barbara Locke, Pat Rojo, another Barbara with long red curly hair we dubbed “Fuzzy” and Nadine Paour, who was tall, dark and beautiful. We were all at the training bra stage of our lives, which makes me laugh now to think we had to be in training to wear such a simple piece of clothing. None of us had much if anything to put into them, so I purchased a pair of rubber falsies.

After bringing them to an overnight slumber party, we all tried them on to see the effect, when our hostess’s little brother burst into the room. Trying to cover our embarrassment, we told him they were soup bowls. Now even a six year old knows you can’t keep soup in a rubber bowl. We took turns wearing our new chests to school till we tired of fishing them up from having slipped down to our waists.

It was a beautiful sunny morning in Southern California, and I was wearing the new red wool plaid suit which was supposed to be my Christmas present bought from money my Dad had sent, but even though it was only December 7, I had wanted to wear it before the holidays. I loved it so much I wore it all the way through high school.

My Dad had been gone for most of that year, the longest cruise yet, though we had no idea where he was. He could not tell us where his ship was and according to his censored V-mail letters he was “somewhere in the Pacific’, but we didn’t know where. It was apparent that there might be trouble sometime soon.

I remember the house smelling all warm and delicious from the cake my grandmother had just taken from the oven for Sunday dinner. We had two girls who boarded with us and they were hurrying to get away to the beach for the day; I had just fed our dog Wimpy and put him outside, when I heard the crackle of the big Philco radio change from music to the voice of President Roosevelt saying that “this day will go down in infamy.” I had no idea what the word infamy meant.

Everyone gathered around the radio in the bright sun room to hear the news that the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor. I stupidly asked “where the heck is Pearl Harbor?” but no one else knew either, so we got out the large atlas and saw that it was “somewhere in the Pacific”, in the Hawaiian Islands.

We did not get the news until much later, that my Dad’s ship had been in Pearl Harbor, and was moored across the channel from the disastrous bombing of the USS Arizona. The majority of America’s major fleet, including the main battlewagons, were destroyed or badly damaged during the sneak attack.

450px-BagleyDD386 USS Bagley at Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941

It killed America’s isolationism, and made the American population determined to go to war and soon after, we joined Britain in fighting in Europe.

Having been out at sea for such a long time, they had come into the harbor to take on much needed food and water, but the attack happened before that could occur, and the ship was immediately sent back out to sea.

He would be at sea for another four years. Yes, I remember Pearl Harbor, and now I know where it is.

“WHERE THE HECK IS PEARL HARBOR?”


USS Bagley

It was a beautiful sunny morning in Southern California, and I was wearing the new red wool plaid suit which was supposed to be my Christmas present bought from money my Dad had sent, but even though it was only December 7th, I had wanted to wear it before the holidays. I loved it so much I wore it all the way through high school.

My Dad been gone for most of that year, the longest cruise yet, though we had no idea where he was. He could not tell us where his ship was and according to his censored V-mail letters he was “somewhere in the Pacific”, but we didn’t know where. It was apparent that there might be trouble sometime soon.

I remember the house smelling all warm and delicious from the cake my grandma had just taken from the oven for Sunday dinner. We had two girls who boarded with us and they were hurrying to get away to the beach for the day; I had just fed our dog, Wimpy, and put him outside, when I heard the crackle of the big Philco radio change from music to the voice of President Roosevelt saying that “this day will go down in infamy.” I had no idea what the word infamy meant.

Everyone gathered around the radio to hear the news that the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor. I stupidly asked “where the heck is Pearl Harbor?” but no one else knew either, so we got out the large atlas and saw that it was “somewhere in the Pacific”, in the Hawaiian Islands.

We did not get the news until much later, that my Dad’s ship had been in Pearl Harbor, and was moored across the channel from the disastrous bombing of the USS Arizona. The majority of America’s major fleet, including the main battlewagons, were destroyed or badly damaged during the sneak attack.

It killed America’s isolationism, and made the American population determined to go to war and soon after, we joined Britain in fighting the war in Europe.

Having been out at sea for such a long time, they had come into the harbor to take on much needed food and water, but the attack happened before that could occur. Fortunately his ship suffered little damage.

He returned home for a brief week about a year later for minor repairs, but he would be at sea for another four years. Yes, I remember Pearl Harbor, and now I know where it is.

SO YOU THINK THINGS ARE TOUGH NOW?


Alaska Bears  KSR

It has been said that nothing is so bad it can’t get worse, and I’m sure that is so.  The Great Depression was certainly one of those bad times for a great many people.  Having weathered  through that one, I can vouch for a degree of discomfort and a few stories my kids think are highly unlikely, but even so, we had it good compared to a lot of people.    The pundits seem to feel that the entire world will be having another Depression soon enough.  It has become serious enough to put a capital “D” on it already.  Since the first one was “The Great” I wonder what the next designation will be.

I remember two friends we met years ago in Washington state.  They were small town kids when they married in 1939 during the Great Depression, and in her words, they were “Depressionate”!  They were both teachers, but had to keep the marriage a secret in order to keep their jobs.  When World War II was declared, they quit teaching and both went to work at the The Boeing Company in Seattle.  She worked as an IBM operator on a “monstrous, enormous machine!” ( Times have changed, now we carry computers in our pockets!)

When the war ended in 1946, thousands of people lost their war jobs, along with Nonie and Jack.  They started out thinking they would like to work in fish and wildlife management for the government, but instead were both offered jobs teaching Aleut natives in Alaska. Within 10 days they were on a boat bound for tiny Saint Paul Island, in the Pribilof Island group of Alaska, in the middle of the Bering Sea.  The nearest land mass was 150 miles away.  Jack taught all the students from fifth grade up, and Nonie taught the third and fourth grade students.  Their one and only co-worker taught first and second grades.

Japanese fleets had been located within 15 miles of the island during the war, and Japanese fishing floats came ashore regularly. There was still a feeling of unrest about the people.  They were iced in in the winter, and had no way out and no communication except for telegram and short-wave radio or the emergency weather plane.  In good weather the wind swept across the island, bringing Russia’s icy chill.  The men hunted seals, and in the short summers Jack worked in an office counting seal pelts for the government.

The U.S. Coast Guard also had a station on the island, but only five boats arrived each year, not counting a supply vessel which brought in coal and large items once a year in the summer.  A lonely existence.

In 1948 , after having been there for two years, they returned to Seattle and  resumed their teaching careers in a small town in western Washington.   Another couple of survivors of the Great Depression.

“Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul.” Emily Dickinson