07 November 2020

A return to the states.

AUTOBIOGRAPHY. December 1943. USS Barnett returns dad to the states and an opportunity to go home for Christmas.

The Transport Barnett, docked at the Destroyer Base in San Diego, and we were disembarked into the Navy Recruiting barracks, and told we could go on liberty. Here we were, forty odd bedraggled Marines, clad in khaki uniforms that had never seen a laundry, field shoes, most of us needing haircuts, and all of us with a pocket full of money, being turned loose on San Diego. It was December, and it was a cold December. We cleaned up as best we could and piled into taxis for the six or seven mile ride to the city lights. To a man we were fascinated by the sheer magnitude of everything. I had not seen a full-size train for almost a year-and-a-half, and when we had to stop to let one cross, it was if we were in Oz. Everything was so magnificent and foreign.

Horny as usual, I went seeking a whorehouse, and it was a blow to discover that they had been legalized out of existence. I went pub crawling, and the town threw its arms wide open for us. We were survivors, and they knew by the fact of our nondescript uniforms that we had just returned from the battles of the South Pacific. Nothing was too good for us, my money was worthless, and we had to do no more than regale them with stories of our deeds and exploits to keep the booze flowing. The Military Police and Shore Patrol looked the other way at any disturbances we made. In one of the bars I met a lady of the night, and we came to terms, and the best I can recall, it was the only money I spent that night. I recall getting back to the Destroyer Base, drunk, laid and happy.

The next morning we were trucked over to the Marine Corps Recruit Depot, where we were issued a complete set of new uniforms, seabag, and as was the custom in those days, blankets. I drew what pay I had on the books, and went down to the ticket office to buy a ticket on the Santa Fe to Chicago. It was December 22, and I had hopes of getting home for Christmas. A bunch of us left San Diego that evening and I made connections out of Los Angeles on the Scout. Ahead lay 3 days of travel, drinking, storytelling, a short romance which involved a lot of heavy petting, but no scoring. (A crowded train is not the best place to make out.) We were sidetracked in Kansas City for 10 hours and I had my Christmas dinner in the dining car instead of at home. I arrived in Chicago at dawn on the 26th of December and took a taxi out to where Mom and the girls were living. In the 18 months I had been gone, Mom and Dad separated, and Mom and the girls were living on 26th and Sacramento Avenue. Dad and was living out in South Chicago at Uncle Ivan’s tavern. I had known nothing of this until I arrived back in the States and got to the house. I knew they had left Oak Lawn, but the separation came as a shock to me.

Christmas had been delayed and that evening there was the usual gathering of the clan to welcome home the conquering hero. The Jordons, in mass, Grandma and Scud, and Dad showed up too. We greeted each other and spoke the first words to each other in over 2 years. I was truly glad to see him, and vowed to try to make amends, and establish some sort of relationship with my father. He offered me the use of his car for the time I was to be home, which I accepted gladly. Tom Jordan had married Lorraine Johnson, and they were there, and she started in on me with the come-ons, and remember whens. I passed. All in all it was a very enjoyable homecoming, the only discord being the break up with the folks.

I took Dad back to the tavern, so I could take the car, and he told me his side of the story, and of course I had heard Mom's side earlier. I told both of them that I wish they would patch it up. The girls were at that time 8 and 6 and Mom and Florence were both working and it wasn't much of a life for any of them. I had been writing to Irene Musalo, a second cousin and the next day I went to see the Musalo family, and Irene just had to take me over and introduce me to this friend who was dying to meet me. It was love at first sight. Evelyn Calzaretta, a wee little Italian girl. The pheromones went crazy.

I had promised Dad that I would take out the daughter of a friend, and he had arranged for me to have a date with Marie Loncar, and I hurried back to keep that date, but my heart and mind were only for Evelyn. I took Marie out to dinner and to a show, but as it was an arranged thing between parents, we both knew it was a one-time deal. (Marie’s mother wound up marrying my Uncle Ivan so Marie in fact became a cousin of sorts.) The rest of my leave I spent with Evelyn, and the back seat of Dad’s Chevy got hot, steamy and sticky. Mom was complaining that I wasn't spending enough time with her and the girls, and dad wanted me to spend more time at the tavern and I didn't want to do anything but catch up on my screwing. I was in love again, not for the first time, and I assure you, not for the last. My leave ended and they were all down at the Dearborn Street Station to bid me farewell. I swore undying love to Evelyn, and promised to return home in one piece, and headed back to California, and whatever new adventures awaited me.

“A lover who reasons is no lover”

Norman Douglas