Posts Tagged With: San Francisco

USS Goldsborough, DDG 20

USS Goldsborough DDG-20.jpg

USS Goldsborough, DDG 20

It was my brother’s ship. A big old destroyer. I was living in Honolulu, and spent a lot of time on that ship when it was in dry-dock. Bill and I hung out together all the time for over a year; much of that time was spent on the Naval Base, as my husband was out to sea on an old pig boat sub off the coast of where I was not supposed to say.

It was the Viet Nam era, and I normally met Bill at Pearl after I got off work. The Goldsborough was in dry-dock, and this one particular day I had to use the lavatory. Bill supposed the Commander was not going to be showing up, so he just told to use the commander’s unit and to be quick about it. I very confidently told him about all the boats I had learned to go potty on. My poor bro believed me.

When my mission was accomplished I took a look at all the gear and pushed some buttons, turned this knob, pulled on the ring it was much like flushing the Coast Guard Cutter and the Submarines I’d been on. Well, I found out they aren’t all the same.

My brother was freaking when I told him I pushed this, turned that, and pulled that little doo dad there!! But he got me covered ASAP.

(I think I feel him laughing over my shoulder right now: “Aww, Sis, don’t go public with the toilet.. Please?”)

Bill didn’t live long enough to learn what a blog is. And now my poor dear bro, I miss him so, is my subject . He is such a special guy that I just want to share him with everyone. And if you think I made a mistake in tense, I didn’t. He often comes to me in my dreams, cheering me on.

After the bathroom event I inadvertently blew serious cover on PEARL HARBOR’S TOP SECRET MILITARY CODE NAME in the Officer’s bar!

I wasn’t even drinking, Bill and me and a couple of guys were playing cards. Somehow or other I said the phrase so closely guarded (not!) and the entire bar froze into silence.

They watched as I was swarmed by a bunch of uniformed men who escorted me to a room filled with uniformed officers. Bill insisted on staying with me. I needed to convince everyone that I had no idea where I’d heard the phrase I thought so amusing.   I didn’t know, and was terrified I was going in the clink.

My brother had to talk real fast, and I can’t imagine his feelings about his job security. I mean it was a stupid sounding password, and I thought sounded hilarious for the tropics. I thought everyone would get a laugh.

I believe Bill was kind of glad when my husband arrived and we went stateside again. Back to Northern California, San Francisco, with the famous cool and foggy weather.

Years later, we were a family, a daughter and a son and a great job with Chevron. We had an opportunity to travel the world and we did our best to hit as many continents as we could. South America and Antarctica are the two the kids and I missed.

But all the joys of travel bring potential problems. While returning from a holiday our family was held under armed guard because we didn’t have an international visa. Chevron’s Mr. Ten Percent had neglected to provide one, and In Saudi Arabia the potential for serious trouble was everywhere. We could, depending on which way the wind blew, end up as hostages or worse. Here we were in the Jidda airport for 24 hours, arrested and under armed guards. Both kids were very small, 3 and maybe six going on 7. The little guy was tired, hungry and ticked off and expressed his frustration by giving the armed soldiers the raspberries….which is not as belligerent as throwing shoes at them, but is hugely offensive and unacceptable behavior! Fortunately, Arabs are often softies, especially when dealing with children. They seemed to appreciate that I did my best to apologize to them in my not-very-classic Arabic.

A very important lesson came several years later, when we were back in the States, and I was driving home from an afternoon wedding in which I had not imbibed. I don’t like champagne, so my nieces and nephews – and me, well, we had this champagne fight. Nobody was hurt, but boy we were soaked!

When it was time to go home I remembered it was late Sunday evening, and I hadn’t washed my son’s baseball uniform!  He had a game Monday afternoon, and for the first and only time in my driving life I looked around, coast seemed clear, and I put the pedal to the metal:  Go!

I blew right past a county Sheriff’s car and heard the siren, saw the lights.

They pulled me over, and though I passed all the usual tests you see on TV– backwards alphabet, finger to nose… counting and what not, even my breathalyzer was under the limit at that time.

But, I sure didn’t pass the scent test as my pretty pink jumpsuit reeked of the fermented grape.

Then they had me walk the straight line (in high heels – men don’t have to, huh?) And the coppers had no choice: I wobbled in the soft dirt with my damn left leg. I felt hecka pain inside my left hip for the very first time. I probably looked like I was staggering, as it sure felt like it.

So, right or wrong I was arrested, read my rights, and one Sheriff took my car to drive my kids to my nearby friend’s house; and the other drove me and the patrol car to the jail.

For 2 whole hours they “held” me in a cell with several crazy women. Scary, scary, crazy women.

Yes. It was a “wrongful arrest” – Yes, I really should have got a big fat speeding ticket…. instead of a… valuable lesson, hmmm? I am okay with the whole ordeal, and in many ways it was.

I would not know the real story of my gimpy hip and 24 degree scoliosis for nearly 20 more years. But first I danced a Hula with seven other beauties at the Sudanese Club; I also took up Belly Dancing. I ran in the Hash House Harriers, that famous worldwide running club that pops up anywhere one finds Brits their Beer.

And at the age of 50 I learned to play tennis and was recruited to a Senior Women’s team in another town. Within four years and a lot of worn out tennis shoes, my team went to USTA National Tennis Championships in Tucson, AZ. ranking #5 of 25 teams in the USA. Champion or not, I was not able to play tennis after that. Not yet. But.. next summer, I’m thinking?

Sometimes things in life have to go down the way they have to go down. I safely learned a very important lesson: MY fabulous judgement can be faulty, even when I’m stone sober.

However, there is one issue that still floors me. It is the hat/uniform/badge “power thing” that some peace officers, male and female, can really get caught up in. I’m afraid it may be a part of some problems we suffer now in our country right now with renegade cops and outraged populations. Hats/Uniforms/Badges. Think about it.

But on that evening, at the Sheriff’s office, I was being booked and fingerprinted by a pimple faced jerk behind the counter.   He wanted to know what color my underpants were.

Obviously he was playing Pimpled-Power-Man to my Trapped-Woman-Woman.

So I just told him the straight truth. I told him I was going commando!   No UnderRoos for this lady, Sonny! I took his little power away and Pimples gasped and nearly fell off the high chair he had been sitting on. It is hard to express just how very satisfying that was.

I don’t know what our parents would have said had they got to know a grown up me. But believe me, I do know that my brother truly would have been ROF and cheering me on. I think he still does.

(The USS Goldsborough was purchased for parts by The Royal Australian Navy, but I’m not telling Bill!)

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People who know poverty commonly will assist others in need;  people who have never experienced poverty frequently condemn the poor for being poor.  This is our American society in our new millennium, and it hasn’t always been this way.

Not everyone passes judgment on the delights of poverty.  Not everyone will label offers of help via community funds as some kind of scam initiated by the poor,  believe it only encourages “them” to remain poor.

 I grew up poor and thankfully, I lived my young life unaware of the “ungenerous factor” often present in today’s idea of charity.  I am sad when I hear people with bootstraps (resources) believe others should get resources by pull themselves up by the bootstraps.  I never knew what bootstraps were, or where a person could go to get some.  But I hear it more and more these days.

I was an Operations Officer for a prominent San Francisco Bank in the winter of 1971.  It really was a “dark and stormy night” when I caught the 41 Union bus, rode it home and met Mary.  It rolled up and over Russian Hill, crossed Van Ness Avenue and came to my stop.  My apartment was four doors up the hill on Union Street. 

I waited in turn to exit the bus, butted my umbrella against attacking raindrops, and then raised it a little to see how deep the water was in the gutter, judging if I might need to jump across puddles to prevent damage to my high heel suede platforms. 

I was surprised to see all cars had stopped at the intersection, none were moving, including a police unit.  There was a small woman, wandering round and round with no coat, no hat, and no umbrella.  And nobody made a move to remove her from the intersection, not even the police, whom I thought should at least arrest her.

I rushed across the street to the police car, asking them to please pick her up as she would surely get killed.  They said she was not breaking the law.  They said they had no right to pick her up. 

Shocked and disgusted with “law” I then walked into the intersection, and asked her name, had a conversation with her while everyone waited in their cars. 

She said she thought her name was Mary.  Not wanting to leave her, I invited her to come home with me, have a bath, a hot meal and a good night’s sleep.  Then we could sort things out in the morning. 

It was impulsive of me, but my mother brought home strangers occasionally who were caught between a rock and a hard place.  All it took was a clean-up, a meal, a good rest and some tips for finding a temporary job and off they went.  In retrospect, this was not a great idea for a single mother with two young children.  My brother and I were never harmed, at least not harmed by strangers.

When I brought Mary in our apartment my husband surprised me by being absolutely furious.  He was uncomfortable and wanted me to turn her out, and I said I could not.  But I promised I could find a place for her as soon as possible.

To his credit, Larry put up with me putting up Mary over the next several days while he went to University full time, and I worked full time.  Mary surprised us by doing all the house work and preparing meals.  She was feeling very sure that Mary was her real name, and she was beginning to think she might be from Arizona, mentioned the names of some people.  I wrote them down and I went to the library to get magazines and books with pictures and maps of the Arizona area on my breaks and lunch hours.    I also checked San Francisco’s homeless shelters, gave her estimated age and description, the dark cotton pants and white blouse she was wearing when I first saw her.   I found Mary had cycled through them all a few times; the most recent was Harbor Lights. 

I learned that homeless people in 1971 could only stay at a shelter for 72 hours.  Then they had to leave to return 90 days later.  With the handful of shelters in 1971 they, like homeless in 2014 spend most of their time in the streets until they could roll through shelters again. 

I pled with Harbor Lights to take her back in, perhaps get some psychiatric assistance, find who she was, if she had family.  I really hoped to help her home. 

They finally agreed.  Elated, I took time off work to rush back to the apartment. 

I found my husband lying on the sofa in our living room watching cartoons and eating fried bologna sandwiches.  He jumped up and explained that his last two classes were cancelled so he came home.  Oh, yeah, Mary was not in the apartment when he came home.  And it’s just a good thing nothing was missing. 

I said I wished that he had found something missing. 

He said he thought I was crazy. 

I said if she stole, we could report it and finally she’d get into a facility with food, water and medical care:  jail.

I went back to work and my department manager called me into his office.  He’d discussed Mary with a Senior Vice President.  Both men sat on charitable boards, and they both had pulled strings with the shelters for Mary.  They even arranged a psychiatric evaluation specifically regarding amnesia. They handed me the information and contacts to get her back in the cycle and treated.  Everything was set up.  It was hard to tell them it was a few hours too late and Mary had disappeared.  For a long time I kept the paper work.

I think about Mary frequently, wondering if she ever made it home, to Arizona.  If she is still alive she would be in her eighties now, perhaps nineties.  I’m grateful that for a while she experienced shelter, food, clean clothes, a bed, the use of the shower, the use of our TV and Fritz, our rabbit.  My hopes for her have always been that she did find her way home; that she lives, or lived, happily.

My hope for our world, in particular this great country of ours, is to become a more generous and kinder nation again.

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San Francisco Quake, The Big One

In the fall of 1905 San Francisco experienced a series of twenty-five or thirty minor earthquake shocks, but nobody was terribly surprised. San Franciscans liked to brag about living in Earthquake Country, and nobody gave much account to these rolling lesser quakes; and by the time Christmas passed and 1906 was rung in, the fall flurry was a distant memory.

Enrico Caruso was in town on Tuesday, April 17, 1906, appearing in “Carmen” at the Mission Opera House and Lulu wanted to see this young operatic phenomenon, however it was considered inappropriate for a woman heavy with child to appear in any public place; certainly not be seen at social soirees.  Lulu understood this, yet she pouted and cried herself to sleep in her second floor bedroom that evening.  Lulu’s real name was Lou May, but she preferred the turn of the century diminutive “Lulu”.

Her two children, Cecil, three years old, and Dorothy, not quite a year and half, were tucked in their cribs in a downstairs bedroom across the hall from Lulu’s older sister Georgie, and her brother-in-law Edgar Bernard.  

Lulu had sought refuge in Georgie and Edgar’s home by telling them a bit of a fib. Her husband, Amos Earl Rodman was a business professor, heading up the Cal Berkeley Business School. Lulu confided to Georgie that Rod had tired of her, calling her a fat donkey. He said she was generally useless. He berated and mistreated her, even knowing she was with child!  He nearly drove her to taking her own life!

She did not share that Rod suspected  she had been with another man, and one of his own staff, at that. .

Actually, Lulu could not be certain which man really was the father, as occasionally Rod had put demands on her. But she told Georgie and Bernard that Rod was tired of her. With all the mess of three pregnancies in as many years, he said she’d lost her looks. There was no hesitation on Georgie’s part in giving her younger sister and  babies a home. They must stay out of the reach of such a heartless man.

Lulu kept it to her self that Rod was convinced that she had been seeing one of his own teachers on the sly. She didn’t mention Rod had moved out of their bungalow near the University, abandoning all three, knowing she was in the family way. Her sister and brother-in-law, bless them, gave Lulu and her children a place to stay until she could get back on her feet.

And so, she rested comfortably in the upstairs bedroom, gathering her strength to deliver this third, surely the last child. As she reached term, Georgie took to bringing her meals, changing her linens and tending Lulu’s babies, as Lulu said, she was unsteady and the stairs were so steep.

On April 18th, 1906 a.m. Lulu slept soundly in her second story bed, floating in that warm,dreamy, creamy liquid state that precedes any noticeable need to open an eye, to greet a new day.

And as she slept, disaster silently gained momentum deep in the earth beneath the hills of San Francisco.  The North American and the Pacific tectonic plates, which gently shifted and shoved past each other, moving the city North at pace of two inches per annum, began an infamous battle that lurched the city of San Francisco North by a full fifteen feet in less than a minute and half..

The earth first moved at 5:12 a.m. Lulu jerked awake, then lay frozen for the forty long seconds of the first tremor. Confused and frightened by screams and shouts from unseen people punctuated with crashing of glass and china all around her, she rolled her heavy body to the side of the bed and sat with  feet dangling, while several big chunks of ceiling plaster broke loose and splattered white powder on her long black braids.

She watched in disbelief as her mirrored dresser waddled from the opposite wall across the room toward her.  Just before it  crashed into the foot of her bed Lulu pulled the quilted spread up and tucked her face under it to protect her from the raining shards of mirror glass. She thought she felt them in her hair, pricking her scalp, poking through the quilt.  And she felt thin wet lines of blood running down her face.

Frozen with terror, she watched  the bay window overlooking Fillmore Street sway inward, then, buckle, and collapse, spilling  broken glass on the velvet pillows of her window seat, where she’d sat yesterday taking in the afternoon sun, sipping tea and reading.her novella.

The screams intensified and Lulu realized she had to get out of this room, away from the house, or she might die.

She carefuolly rolled back her bedspread, keeping broken glass safely bundled away from her. Then she heaved her body out of bed. Barefoot and afraid for her life, she held her belly with one hand, and reached for the wall with the other.  She could no longer see in the dark as she felt her way to the hall door. She almost made it.

The second tremor, the lesser one, was clocked at 26 seconds.  It now rippled the weak wooden floor and the walls jumped even more violently. Lulu wobbled to and fro, then  side to side, finally falling backward and landed full force on her buttocks.  She was a big framed woman, even bigger now in advanced pregnancy, and the floorboards were were severely weakened by the quake.  Lulu fell screaming through the floor into the center of the front parlor, just as Edgar was helping his wife and the babies down the shaking porch steps and into the safety of the street.

“Oh Good God! It’s Lulu, Georgie! Take the babies! Go! Take the babies! I’ll find you”

Edgar pointed to a series of horse drawn wagons with large flatbeds picking up those unable to make the walk to Golden Gate Park.  A young boy sped past shouting “Medical wagon’s coming with doctors! Medical wagon’s coming!! It’s going to Watsonville!”

Edgar leaned down and kissed his wife, whispering, “I love you, Georgie, be brave, I will find you in the park,” Georgie patted his cheek.

Men reached down from the flatbed, and handed little Cecil and Dorothy to the women then came back for Georgie. Edgar had disappeared into the house for Lulu.He smelled fire, and in the distance he saw clouds of grey smoke against the still dark sky.

Edgar pulled Lulu up from the parlor floor, asking if she could walk and she said she seemed okay. He went to the bedroom across the hall, shouting indelicate questions about Lulu’s pregnancy as he grabbed a blanket. “Are you bleeding? Do you feel any pains?”

He lifted her from the floor and wrapped her in the blanket..

“I only have scratches from the fall, Edgar, I feel the baby moving. There is broken glass in my hair so I’m bleeding a little from that.”

Lulu leaned heavily against her brother-in-law as he escorted her to the front porch, now without any steps. He jumped down and lifted her massive body off the porch.

“I’ll wait with you until you are picked up, Lu. A medical facility is set up in Watsonville. A wagon with doctors and nurses is on it’s way. You’ll be safe there. Be sure to explain all that happened with your fall through the floor. “

Edgar paused for a moment waiting for an inquiry about her children. It did not come.

“Well, don’t worry any about little Cecil and the baby. They are just scared. Georgie and some of the neighbors are with them, taking them to  the park. Shelters are being put up. I’ll join them when I can.”

“You are leaving me Edgar?  What am I to do? I don’t have proper clothes Edgar! You can’t just leave me!”

Edgar looked down at her. Lulu and her nightgown were now wrapped inside a blanket as were most women on the street. He slowly shook his head.

“You’ll manage, Lou, you always do.”

He left her waiting in the street. and rushed back into the house, collected family valuables in a Belgian Lace pillow case and stuffed it in the belly of an old cast iron stove in the basement, hoping fire would not get to it..

Lulu and other at risk-patients were taken to Watsonville. A week later she delivered her third and last child, Helen, a healthy little girl with a gentle spirit.  Helen remained with Lulu until she was adult, She was the only child Lulu reared and became The Chosen Child in her siblings eyes.  As an innocent, she had no way to change their feelings.

Cecil, barely three and a half, was sent his father’s parents in Nevada. Dorothy, the middle baby, was sent to the maternal grandparents in San Jose.

Lulu kept Helen with her, setting up an impossible situation that none of her three children were unable to reconcile. Throughout the lives of Cecil and Dorothy, Helen was viewed by her siblings as the chosen child. And, the father of Cecil and Dorothy declared to all that Helen could not possibly be his.

Lulu and Helen visited Dorothy and the grandparents in San Jose every Christmas without fail.  The next time she saw her son  he was a grown man, attending her mother’s funeral,.Cecil refused to speak to her. He sat away from his mother, with his sister Dorothy and her young family, 


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