A STATESIDE BREAK
It had been almost two months since we had provisioned ship in Pago Pago. We were
low on fuel, food and ammunition. It was good news when the Skipper announced that we
were heading back to Samoa to refuel. After a quick stop in Pago Pago, it was back to sea.
Rumor was solid that this time we were on our way to Pearl for reprovisioning and for
minor ship maintenance. The crew was ready for a little needed recreation after the
adventures of the past couple of months.
Pearl Harbor was considerably more orderly than the last time we were there. The
battlewagon USS Nevada was floated again from where she had been beached. Ford Island
appeared to be back in full operation. Battleship row, along side Ford island, was still
stark evidence of December 7th. The USS Arizona sunk at her moorings, was still there.
The USS Oklahoma still lay upside down at her moorings. Some of the other battleships,
the USS West Virginia the USS Tennessee had been moved out for repairs.
With the USS San Francisco ready for sea again, we got underway for an unknown
destination on the 22nd day of April 1942. Once out of sight of the islands, we joined up
with a sizable convoy made up of the refloated battleship USS Nevada several transports,
and a handful of destroyers. The Skipper's announcement that we were bound for San
Francisco, brought on a record pandemonium by the crew.
We sailed under that glorious Golden Gate Bridge on the first day of May, and moored
at a pier at Hunter's Point. The city of San Francisco really rolled out the red carpet for us.
If you were from that ship, the keys to the city were yours. We had no idea of how long we
would be in port. There was about three week's work to be done on the ship but no one
knew for sure how long we would be here. Those of the crew who were married, could get
every night off, if not, the man would draw rotating watches which amounted to a couple of
nights off and a night of duty. Liberty started at 16:30. Those who had the night off had
to report in for duty at 6:00 am, otherwise it was on board by midnight. I was still single
but I had plans.
Once ashore, I placed a call to a Miss Betty Jane Woltersdorf back in Van Horne, Iowa.
Needless to say, she was surprised and elated that I was back in the States, but was even
more so when I suggested that she get aboard The City of San Francisco and meet me in
California to be married. She agreed wholeheartedly! Looking back, her folks must have
been made of great faith and understanding to permit her to do that, but they did, God bless
Somehow I got a couple of days off. An apartment, complete with doorman, fountain,
fish and flowers, was located at 601 O'Farrel and was available for the sum of $90 per
month. That was my entire monthly wage including my 50% for flight pay. In negotiating
with the manager, she found that I was from the USS San Francisco. The price
immediately dropped to $60 per month. I took it. It was a very plush set of rooms,
complete with an equipped kitchen. The same apartment, now changed very little, is still
there. A little hasty shopping for civilian clothes completed the preparations for the big day
The train, The City of San Francisco, was separated from its engine in Oakland and cars
bound for San Francisco were carried to the Embarcadero by ferry. My wife to be, stepped
off that train car that morning in the full California sunshine, a radiant beauty. We spent
the day making airline reservations for Reno with United Air Lines and did a bit of
shopping. In California, a marriage license would have taken a week to obtain, so it had to
be Reno. The days were flying by and it was already May the 4th. Our UAL DC-3 flight
didn't leave until 3:00 p.m. On arrival at Reno, we were met at the airport by a station
wagon, one passenger of whom we remember well. She was a sarcastic old gal that
quipped "Yu commin' over to git married? - You'll be back".
By the time we got to the Marriage License Bureau, it was a little after 6:00 p.m. local
and the office was closed. We were relieved to find that it would be open again at 7:00
p.m. There, while waiting, we met Bob and Ethel Horne to be, who asked us to stand up
for them. We agreed, provided the favor could be mutual. Once we had the licenses, we
escorted them to a Justice of the Peace where their marriage was performed. The Justice
turned out to be a musty little old man with a great deal of long white hair. He loved birds.
He was very proud of his Dicky Bird, a canary that was housed in a floor stand cage sitting
next to his telephone. In the process of calling for a taxi at the conclusion of the ceremony,
I accidentally knocked over the cage. The next thing we knew, the old Justice was down
on his hands and knees comforting his fallen eagle. It was hilarious.
After many profuse apologies to the Justice from all present, it was just a short taxi ride
to the manse of the First Baptist Church of Reno where we were met by the Reverend and
Mrs. Adam Brewster. We had a quiet and orderly ceremony with organ music by the
minister's wife. No birds or other distractions. From there we taxied back down town and
consumed a couple of big Reno steaks. It was after 9:00 p.m. when we finally got to the
restaurant and it had been a long time since food. As I remember, I not only ate my own
but also a good part of Betty's too. Our plane left around midnight. Two tired, happily
married people flew back to San Francisco that night. The War in the Pacific was a long,
long way away.
Betty and P.A., Bride and Groom
The three week honeymoon went by like a flash of lightning. We had our wedding
pictures taken at a studio on Geary, rode the cable cars up Powell, toured Twin Peaks, and
walked all the way one Sunday afternoon, to the Golden Gate Park. In May, there were
flowers on every street corner. One of the highlights was a pheasant under glass dinner atop
the Mark Hopkins Hotel. The orchestra that night was Joe Riechman's. One night it was
dinner at the Palace. The topper of them all was a steak dinner which Betty prepared for
three friends off the ship. It was marred only slightly by a coffee silex that had to break
half way through the dinner preparation. Betty always insisted that she didn't know what
she was doing however, she never convinced a one of those guys that she wasn't a modest
expert. We never knew where she got all those ration stamps for that super steak dinner
but we probably guessed right.
Our arrangement on my departure was just about that simple. I would not be told when
we would be going back to the Pacific but I had a pretty good idea as the day got close.
Our plan was that if I failed to show up one evening, I wouldn't be back for a while, and
Betty was to board the train for Van Horne, and that is the way it happened. One day I
found myself aboard ship and on my way back to Pearl. Betty waited a couple of days and
boarded the train for Cedar Rapids, Iowa. It was tough to leave.