March 17, 1957


We checked into a motel for the night, and the next morning Van went to Navy Housing.  He mentioned that he had received a letter saying that temporary housing was available.  They almost laughed in his face.  He also told them that we had come from Cuba and drove cross country with a sick wife and 3 kids.  But that didnít matter to them.  So Van came back to the motel with the bad news and a newspaper.  We checked the ads and he went looking.  After a couple of days, he found this furnished apartment in Chula Vista.  It was fine except the old man that owned the place had his apartment on the other side of a door in our kitchen.  He would knock every night just after supper and come in and talk.  I guess he was lonesome, but it was close to bedtime for the kids.

Van didnít have to report for duty yet; he had transfer leave of thirty days from Cuba.  We checked Bob and Dorrie into the Chula Vista school system.  We knew we couldnít stay in this apartment very long, so we read the paper daily looking and checking out houses somewhere.  The Sunday paper came out with an ad for 21 new houses to go on sale at once.  It sounded good, so we went out to check.  They were great. Nice big homes and a large yard., but we didnít feel like we could commit ourselves. 

We had an address of a friend, in fact, she was Bobís fifth grade teacher in Cuba. It took some time but we finally found where they lived. They were happy to see us and hear that we had duty in San Diego.  Their house was so small in comparison to the one we had just seen.  The next day, we decided to take a chance and look at the houses again. The houses were three or four bedroom and we could check them out then decide which one we would like.  We were going for the three-bedroom house until the salesman told us that the four-bedroom house would be only $5.00 a month more.  We decided on the 4 bedrooms and picked the one in the middle of the block.

One thing he told us that I would never forget was that a highway would be built in the back yard area and that we had an easement of 35 ft. He was sure the highway wouldnít be built for another 20 years.  They would landscape the front yard, but the back yard was up to us.  We signed on the dotted lines and every chance we had, weíd ride out and look at the yellow house. Van never drove out to the house the same way.  There were three different highways to get there.  I was getting very confused. After about a month, when we saw the salesman, he informed us that he was pretty sure we would get the house.  We could rent it and move in now if we wanted too.  But, he said, if you donít get the house, youíll have to move, but if we were rejected, he would have known by this time.

So we moved in.  The Navy delivered all our household goods that came from Cuba and the East Coast.  We had to find some legal papers for Van and we went through five barrels before we found them.  The wonderful part was that I wasnít tired and I felt real good and I could breathe normal.  We also found out that the house was in El Cajon and not in San Diego. As I write these memories we still live in this house.

We signed the escrow on May l5, 1957, one month after we had moved in.  We were thrilled with our new home.  Schools were nearby and the new elementary school would open on our street, Naranca, one block away in September.  Junior High was about five blocks and the High School about three and Church could be in walking distance too.

Bob and Dorrie took a bus to Magnolia School, but Dorrieís bus was for kindergarten children and had different hours.  One afternoon, the bus was early and by the time I was where I was to meet her, I was told the bus didnít stop and no one got off.  So I hurried back to the house.  I didnít know what to do.  No telephone yet and no car, Van had reported to work.  My neighbor across the street noticed that something was wrong and came out to talk to me.  She told me to call the school on her phone and talk to the principal.  I did and he told me to call the school bus depot.  No luck.  The driver said all his children got off.  Not long after, Van came home.  When I told him, he started to drive the neighborhood streets.  He finally found her coming up First Street crying her eyes out.  She said she didnít know where she got off the bus.  She was the last one on it.  She walked until she saw the double row of trees and hoped it was First Street.  We were sure happy she was okay. I called the principal back and told him she was home and safe.  He was pleased that I called back because he was getting very concerned and ready to call the police.

We still had a lot of work to do in the house.  We put all the drapes up first.  We felt we needed to have some privacy.  The windows were from ceiling to floor and 10 ft wide in the living room.  The bedrooms were the same except they were 6ft wide.  The floor was tile squares, so we would need carpeting, especially in the living room.  The house came furnished with a stove, but no refrigerator. We had neighbors, the Tates, on the left side of the house and new neighbors, the Armstrongs, on the right side came from Ohio in July.

Vanís new duty station was with the Tug Boats at the Naval Station.  He was very happy with his job.  Usually, you never know what you are going to be assigned or if you will enjoy your work.  He was thrilled with this assignment.  His hours werenít too bad.  He had lots of time home. 

In July, we decided that we needed a patio on the south side of the house, so we didnít have to sit in the house all the time.  This was California and everyone lives outdoors.  We had the patio built.  Cement floor and beamed roof.  Van said he would put slats on the roof himself.  The men pressed Mexican pictures in the cement floor and they looked great.  So on the 4th of July, Van started putting the slats on the roof.  It felt like it was getting pretty hot, so I checked the temperature. It was l04 degrees.  I asked Van how he was doing, and he said okay.   I told him how hot it was.  Next thing I knew, he was down from the roof.  He said he wasnít hot until I told him.

First patio in 1957 Ė kids & Pinto, our dog

Our neighbor across the street informed us that they had sold their house and they were moving north.  They had a porch swing, a swamp-cooler, and several other things for sale if we were interested.  We were and we also ended up with their dog Pinto.  The kids were thrilled.

We spent the rest of the summer working on the outside of the house as well as getting settled on the inside.  Still had weekly chores to do like washing clothes and hanging them outdoors to dry.  Worse, was the ironing.  It could get pretty hot so I would get up early in the morning and do the ironing before it did get too warm.  Everything had to be pressed then, Dorrieís dresses and Vanís uniforms.

More neighbors arrived as well and the children had plenty of playmates.  The Armstrongís had 3 girls and 1 boy; the Tates had 3 girls and 1 boy.  Our new neighbors across the street had 4 boys and 1 girl.  Plenty of children for the new school.

The new school, Naranca, opened the first week in September.   Bob and Dorrie were no problem getting registered as they were already in the school system.  Carl was another story.  They said he couldnít go to kindergarten because his birthday was one day too late.  He was ready for school because he went to pre-school, but that didnít count.  His friends were the same age but born earlier in the year so they were accepted.

The mothers on Naranca all became acquainted and started to have Coffee Time at ten in the morning.  When there was a birthday, someone would make a cake.  We all joined the PTA also and some became officers.  Halloween was a big celebration. The school would have booths and games.  The kids naturally all dressed up and everyone had a good time.

In 1958, my parents came out to visit us. They thought it was great.  Couldnít believe the great weather we had.  Van took a day off and we all went to Disneyland, which had opened in 1956.  The trip there was a two-lane road with lots of orange trees on both sides.  My folks couldnít get over how different California was from New England.  My father couldnít believe the difference in construction of the houses.  They really enjoyed their trip and I think that was the first time that they both flew in a plane.


Tijuana, Mexico

When we were here about nine months, Van received a promotion to Warrant Officer. The Navy told him that Cuba was considered shore duty now for him and he would be transferred to sea duty.  We couldnít believe what they were saying, but that is what they did.  They transferred him  to the USS Bennington, CVA-20 and he went out to sea again.  He was really enjoying his Tug Boat duty.  To me, that was sea duty.

Vanís promotion to Warrant Officer 

At least we did not have to move again and I had good neighbors in case of emergency.  His ship was headed for the Philippines and he was an officer now with a different kind of duty.  He made several trip there and home in the next two years. It was during one of these trips that I received word that my mother had passed away.  There was no way I could go home, so I called home and told them that Van was at sea and I just couldnít go home.  I had good friends here that helped me through the crisis.

Then one day Van wrote that there was a cargo ship stationed at Subic Bay.  The Officer in charge was going to be transferred so he decided to try for a transfer.  It so happened that everything was falling apart here at home.  The hot water tank flooded and Dorrie said her rug was all wet.  Took care of that mess, then the washer stopped working and so did the vacuum cleaner.  The TV picture wasnít very clear, but you could see it and. hear it.  We needed a man around the house.  After I received that letter, I wrote that I was already packed and ready to go.  The only thing that was working was the car, so I never mentioned it.

When he returned home from that trip, he was pretty sure that he was going to get the transfer.  Told us all about Subic and how good it would be for the kids.  Before the transfer came through, I wrote my father about it, and he decided to come out for a visit.  He stayed about ten days and he seemed to enjoy his trip.  He was a man of few words and I could see how much he missed my mother.  When he first saw me after he arrived at the airport, I could see the shock in his face.  He said I looked just like my mother.

The transfer came and we were ready to pack.  We had shots to get and Passports to get.  They asked so many questions about me and where the family came from and when did they arrive in the States.  My father had to answer the questions I didnít know about.   When Pop left for Fall River, we had the Navy come and do the packing. I went to tell the schools that the kids were leaving, and Bob had discovered in summer school that he liked working with radio and electricity.  He made sure he told his teacher that every time he was absent, he was getting shots for his trip and he would come in late.




updated: 20.11.2011