Thursday, January 14, 2021

Leaving Home --- The First Year

On January 13, 1962, at 11:55 pm, I boarded a World Airways airplane at Honolulu International Airport.  The flight would take me to Oakland, CA where I would meet my new husband.  It was the beginning of married life for me to a young Marine.

It would be a very long 13 hour flight landing in Oakland at 1:30 pm the afternoon of January 14, 1962.  Because it was January, everything looked so dreary.  I immediately wanted to go back home.  The only good thing was that John was at the bottom of the steps waiting for me.

My mother had made me a new outfit to travel in...a beautiful powder blue wool dress with a powder blue coat made out of velour fabric.  My grandmother had given me money with instructions to go to Liberty House and purchase a pair of black patent leather pumps, a black hat, black purse and gloves.  It was a beautiful outfit, yet I had been so uncomfortable while on the plane and having to sit for hours.  Smoking was allowed on the plane during those days and I was absolutely miserable from the smoke.

Grandma had also sent a bouquet of red anthuriums to deliver to her sister, Ida, that lived in Oakland.  John had a couple of uncles that lived in Castro Valley and he had borrowed the car of the uncle I would be staying with.  So after finding a pay phone to call Aunty Ida and getting directions, we drove over to her house.  Most of her family gathered at her house for Sunday dinner and so I got to meet family members I didn't know.  I had met Aunty Ida once when I was a young girl.  We visited for a little bit then drove over to John's Uncle Charles's place.  Charles and his wife Alice lived in an apartment over a dry cleaners.  It was just a 1 bedroom apartment and not very big.  Charles and Alice were just a little bit older than John and I.  John was 20 and I was 19.

My first dinner in California was tacos.  I had never had them and wasn't too sure what they were.  It took one bite to decide I didn't like them.  Alice had put some hot spice in the meat and I could not eat them.  I had never had ice tea either.  I drank lots of it that night to cover the burning of my mouth.  I decided then I did not like Mexican food and I still don't like it although I probably eat more of it these days.  I even will fix tacos once in awhile.

Mom had lots of relatives in the Bay Area.  There was one cousin who lived in Hayward, Julius and Mary Alfaro.  Julius's mother was my grandmother's younger sister.  I had met them when they traveled to the islands on a vacation.  Mom wanted me to visit them, which we did do the 2nd Sunday I was in California.  We had a lovely visit.  Mary  asked me what I would be doing with myself while John had to be in Oakland.  I told her I didn't know.  So she told me she would come over and pick me after she dropped her children off at school and I could spend the day with her.  I was so relieved when she told me that.  The first week I had been at John's uncles was absolutely miserable.  He was laid off from his job so he was home during the day.  They lived on the main street through Castro Valley where a lot of businesses were located.  I went for a lot of walks that first week so I wouldn't be in the apartment all day.  Alice was going to beauty school so she was gone all day.  She would be so irritated when she came in at night and I was very uncomfortable being there.  

It was great being with Mary during the day.  She taught me how to cook a few dishes and taught me things like how to set a table, table manners and lots of other fun things.  Her Italian neighbor Anna would come over sometimes and loved visiting with her.  One morning when Mary came to get me she walked up to the apartment and knocked on the door.  Usually she would pull into the back parking lot and honk and I would walk down to her car.  When I answered the door, she told me "get your things, you are going home with me".  She told me that she was not happy with me being there with Charles alone, so she was taking me home.  John found out where I was when he got his weekend leave and hitch hiked to Castro Valley.  Charles told him where I was.  He actually was relieved Mary had come for me.

I was so homesick.  I missed my Dad most of all.  And I missed the type of food we ate at home.  I was not too much into "haole" food. 😀  It was such a huge adjustment, being so young and immature did not help much.  But it was my new life, I agreed to marry someone who would take me away from all that was familiar to me and I had to learn to adjust to my new life with all the unknowns.

I would be at Mary's until John was released from the Naval hospital.  He had a medical condition while he was stationed in Hawai'i and was sent to the Naval Hospital in Oakland for treatment.  He reported in to Treasure Island for a few days while he awaited his orders to his new duty station.  His orders were to Camp Pendleton in Oceanside, CA (north San Diego County).  He had to report in at 1600 (4:00 pm) on a Wednesday (don't remember the date, it was early March) and so we packed up our few belongings, loaded them into a Chrysler car that we bought for $150 and left about 8:00 pm on a Tuesday night to drive to Oceanside.  We drove down Highway 101, through San Francisco and down the coast.  Soon after leaving the Bay Area we hit very thick fog and just had to creep along not really being able to see the roadway very well.  By the time we got close to Los Angeles it was early morning so the driving became easier.  

We arrived in Oceanside about noon on the Wednesday and immediately bought a newspaper so we could find an apartment.  The first apartment we looked at was across from the beach and the Pacific Ocean.  It was a studio apartment for $50/month, with a deposit of $50.  We had about $100 and so we were able to convince the land lady to waive the deposit.  The apartment was upstairs in the main building.  This property had been a motel that was turned into apartments.  It was a large complex and most of the tenants were military.  We were able to move right in.  We had two rooms, one being the living room/ had a sofa bed...and the other room was the kitchen.  There was a bathroom between our studio and the one next door and we had to share the bathroom.  I wasn't sure I was going to like that, however it turned out to work rather well.  Our neighbors were a great couple.

There was a window in the kitchen that looked out to the street and the ocean.  One day I was standing there looking out and asked John if I looked hard enough, did he think I could see Hawai'i.  He laughed and said to look all I wanted.

Our neighbor on the other side of us had a lot of people coming and going.  We would discover that she was a "lady of the night" and it was young Marines coming to visit.  

John had 13 months to do until he was discharged from active duty.  That year we spent in Oceanside was fantastic.  We lived in the studio for a few months then moved into a 1 bedroom across the hall.  John's buddy from Hawai'i had been transferred to Camp Pendleton and he spent a lot of time with us.  He wanted to get out of the barracks so we rented the bigger apartment so he could share it with us.  John had put in for housing on base so we were in the 1 bedroom just for a couple of months.  We were able to get a trailer on base for $42 a month.  It was the size of a small travel trailer but it worked for us.  Brent would sleep over once in a while, sleeping on the couch in the living room.

After we had been there for a few months, John got orders to go to Mau'i TDY with another guy.  We packed me up and I went to stay with one of my sisters in Simi Valley, north of Los Angeles.  I was going to be there for a month, had to sell our car and then go home while John was on Maui.  I was able to go home, however soon as I got there, he told me he had orders to return to Camp Pendleton.  I had to stay at home for a month before I could return to California.  I spent Thanksgiving with my family that year and our 1st anniversary apart.

Unfortunately that marriage would end in October 1971.  There were too many strikes against us to make it work.  Our only child was born in November 1969.  He left when she was 10 months old and it took a year for the divorce to be final because we got back together for a few months.

In our Bible Study at church we are studying 12 women of the Bible.  Yesterday we talked about Mary, the mother of Jesus.  The theme of her story was her courage.  She was a young girl, a virgin, when she was visited by the angel Gabriel, with the message that she would bear a child.  She showed such courage...being willing to accept what the message meant for her.  Since yesterday was the anniversary of my coming to a new place, I thought of the courage it took for me to walk onto that airplane and go to a new place, begin a new life that I was so unprepared for.  I've also thought of the courage it took to live out the days of being alone with a very young child to raise.  It was a huge struggle and there were times when I thought I couldn't do it, yet I kept on going.  That took courage.

A constant in my entire life has been that I know I have someone who has always been with me, guiding me a long the way, holding my hand, surrounding me with gentle arms and huge amounts of love...that someone being my Lord and Savior, Jesus.

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