The War is Over and Bob Arrives

1945 - 1946


Enroute to Farragut

We continued on our way to Coeur D’Alene, ID The USO helped us find a place to stay with kitchen privileges.  Our landlady seemed very nice, only we found her very strict .One rule was that the doors were locked every night at eleven o’clock.  One night, we went to a movie at the base about 20 miles from home  and the movie was long.  We got home after eleven, so Van climbed in the window of the root cellar and unlocked the front door to let me in.  We never told anyone.  There were several other Navy people living there also.

I went to work at Woolworth’s 5 & 10-cent store right away.  Had no trouble getting a job.  We moved to an attic apartment, which was much better than one room and getting time to use the kitchen.  We were enjoying the area and I liked my job, but it was so COLD.  It was early September and already in the 40’s.  I was happy to be at work where I could defrost.

To go to bed at night I would wear a flannel gown and my bathrobe and socks.  Our only heat was a coal stove.  Van had to get up at five, so he made a fire in the coal stove and set my clothes on a chair nearby so they would be warm when I got up.  But by that time, the fire was always out.

I mentioned so often that I was so cold that some evenings when I would get home, the apartment would be nice and warm.  My landlady knew what time I arrived home and she would go to the apartment and make a nice fire in the stove for me.  She was very helpful and kind. And she knew that I appreciated coming home to a nice warm apartment.

One weekend, Van had duty, so I didn’t expect to see him.  He was able to have someone standby for him and he was going to surprise me.  Well, he did surprise me!  When he arrived at the apartment escorted by Shore Patrol, one of my neighbors came upstairs and told me someone was waiting downstairs to see me.  When I saw Van in his bloody uniform and bandages on his head, I could have fainted.  He assured me that he was okay, but that the car was totaled.  He slid on some glare ice and hit a tree.  He asked the Shore Patrol to bring him home, in case he couldn’t get home on Monday.  He asked that I would stop by the garage where the car was and I get all the papers that were in the glove compartment of the car.  The SP took him back to the base and I spent a very restless and worried weekend.

On Monday, I did go to the garage where the car was towed.  It was a total wreck.   The attendant couldn’t believe that he wasn’t hurt, especially since I told him that Van had to kick the windshield to get out of the car.

Farragut Base was about 20 miles from Coeur D’Alene and it was a camp for German Prisoners.  But now that the war was over, there would be some changes made and Van was being transferred to Everett, WA. to await further orders. So, we decided that, since I was pregnant, it was probably best that I go home.  He left before I did.  I had to wait a month for a reservation on a train going east.  I continued to work and I finished the Christmas counters for the manager. When I told him that I was expecting, he made me promise that I would not lift any boxes.  It was a long, lonesome wait, but finally my train finally came. One of the other tenants drove me to the depot and I was on my way.  The train was very crowded and you had to stand in line for the dining service.  Half way home, I stopped at my Uncle Chris’ home at Notre Dame, IN and spent Thanksgiving with Aunt Clara, Uncle Chris and their boys, Brendan and Kevin.  Uncle Chris taught Economics at Notre Dame University for over 35 years. Chris was like an older brother to me, since he had lived with us at Durfee Street.  He was a substitute teacher at my high school when I was a junior.   He had lots of papers to check every night.  He left Fall River when he was appointed to Notre Dame and married Aunt Clara and they made their home in South Bend, IN.  When Thanksgiving was over, I returned to Fall River.



It was good to be home again, but I was very exhausted and ended up with an asthmatic attack and was in bed for almost a month.  My poor Mom, she was an angel without wings.  She was always there when I needed her.

My pregnancy wasn’t bad, the only problem was that month in bed, but after that I was fine.  Then my time had come and off to the St. Anne’s Hospital.  Van was home so that made things easier and Robert Edward Van Cleef arrived on May 20, 1946.  They kept me in the hospital only 3 days, so Van had almost two weeks to spend with his son before he left again for California.  Bob was a noisy baby.  Everyone said that he would probably be a bos’n mate like his father.  After he got over those bad colic spells he had every day at 4 o’clock, he was a good baby. Aunt Gert, of course, was still living with us at Durfee Street.  It seemed Bob always started crying when she came in the door.  I felt terrible about it, but there was nothing I could do.  She didn’t complain, but she would remark about it. She had never married or lived with children around except for our family.    Brother Billy was five years old when we all started living together.

After Bob started to walk and talk, I would put him on the front porch in the playpen.  He would talk to all the neighbors as they went by, especially Mr. Kennedy.  He would stop and talk to Bob on his way to town and again on his way home.  Bob really enjoyed that and so did Mr. Kennedy.

Uncle Leo and Bob, 8 weeks old

Bob with Grandma Fagan

Mother and Son


updated: 20.11.2011