15 November 2020

El Toro.

AUTOBIOGRAPHY. 1943. Guard Detachment, Marine Corps Air Station, El Toro, California.

Some of my Shipmates were on that same train, and we took over the club car and again regaled the occupants with stories of our daring do. And as was to be expected the drinks just kept coming. The war was just a year old and we had been there and we had been bloodied. The home front was hungry for the sort of tales we could tell. Nothing was too good for us, and we basked in the adulation. The second day into the trip, my memories of Evelyn were fading, and my hormones were doing what hormones do, and I met two young ladies traveling to San Diego. One was going to marry her beau, who is just getting out of Marine boot camp, and the other was the sister of the soon-to-be groom. Leora Ledford. I remember you well.

To her everlasting credit, Leora was one of the few who did not succumb to my charms (read line of shit). We had fun, we laughed, we walked the streets of San Diego, eating ice cream cones, we went to movies, and we often got to the heavy breathing stage in our romance, but we never got serious. She had her standards, and a quick toss in the hay was not for her. The whole thing was over in three weeks. I was to be in a draft of men going to the as-yet not commissioned Marine Corps Air Station, at El Toro, California. All too soon the unrestricted liberty of San Diego was over. It was back to duty.

The draft arrived at El Toro on a rainy day, and the place was a quagmire, no paved roads, just muddy ruts. To walk to the mess hall was an adventure in swamp navigation. We were the Guard Detachment, and our barracks was rough lumber, unfinished on the inside, a concrete deck, exposed 2x4 walls, and solid mud as far as the eye could see. The airstrip was finished and the planes were flying, but otherwise it was pretty primitive. This was home for the next 5 months. The one good feature was, it was close to Los Angeles. My first concern was to find me a girlfriend. Santa Ana was the closest town of note, and was overrun with Air Corps people from the Santa Ana Air Corps Base. The addition of a couple of thousand Marines put a real strain on the recreational facilities of that small city, and girls were scarce. I found out in a hurry that my line of shit was not going to work here. One evening I walked into a drug store and sat at the soda fountain counter to order a chocolate phosphate when I spied a pretty girl sitting down the counter reading a school text, and drinking a Coke. I attempted to engage her in conversation, and got nowhere with the attempt. I finally walked over and forced my attention upon her, asking if I could help her with her studies. (There's a real smooth line.) She broke her silence and informed me her name was Norma Denner and her mother was the clerk in the store and why didn't I leave her alone. I was hooked. Norma was 16 and a junior in high school. She lived with her mother in a cottage in an orange grove, where the Santa Ana Bullocks store now stands. Her mother Bobbie Denner liked me and became my ally in my pursuit of Norma.

One day I was invited by Lichlichter and Huddleston to join them on one of their Hollywood weekends, as there was a girl who had expressed a desire to be fixed up with a tall Marine. Enter Inez Prober. She was 28 years old, 6-ft tall, and pretty. I jumped at the chance, and the following weekend stood up Norma, and was off on what was to be a wild and woolly two month romance with Inez. She was an actor's business agent, and was involved with Errol Flynn, Lou Costello, Martha Scott, and others. In the course of this dalliance I came to meet all of the above, plus Bruce Cabot. I attended Teresa Wright’s wedding as Inez’s escort. I was in 7th heaven, she spent money on me, I drove her car, and every other weekend was a ball. But Inez was just on the weekends on which I didn't have the duty, and it left me with a lot of free time.