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 them.

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 to come.

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.

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