San Diego

I arrived December 6, 1941. The people I rode with dropped me off at the U.S. Grant Hotel. I checked in there, planning to stay a night or two until I could find a cheaper room in a residential area. The Grant was located in the heart of downtown San Diego. My room was on the third floor with windows overlooking Broadway Street and the Plaza.
The next morning was Sunday, December 7. I looked out my window with wonder as service men, mostly sailors, embarked from the streetcars, coming into town on leave. Soon the streets and plaza was crowded with white hats – I had never seen so many. In those days hotels didn’t always have a radio in the room (and certainly no television). I was puzzled as the day progressed to see the white hats disappearing as their owners boarded the streetcars. I didn’t know that it was Pearl Harbor Day and that they had been called back to their bases and that life for our country was changing.
The streets became almost deserted and when the sun went down no streetlights were turned on – blackouts were ordered. It was scary. By that time I had gone downstairs and found out that our country had been attacked and that the cities on the cost were preparing for possible attack.
During the next day or two the blackouts went into full force and camouflage had been put in place for strategic areas. Blimps were flying all around. I’m not sure what they were for, had something to do with protecting against potential low-flying enemy aircraft. I didn’t know one person in the whole city so you can imagine that with the sprit of fear and apprehension everywhere that I was also afraid.
But life had to go on. The next day I got out and looked for a room. I found one at 1744 First Avenue. It was located on the street car line, which was important since that was my only way of transportation, other than walking. That taken care of, I proceeded with finding a job and enrolling in business college. My aim in coming to San Diego was to finish my clerical training. I enrolled in Jean Johnson School of Business. It was located in the downtown area.
Now I needed work with hours that would permit spending time in school. I found it as night cashier at a movie theater. The Cornet Theater was located in the east part of town but could also be reached by streetcar. I worked from early evening until the theater closed, around eleven. The streetcars let off passengers right in front of the box office and I will never forget one dark, foggy night. A man crossing the street stepped right in front of a streetcar and was run over – this all happened just a few feet from where I sat. With horror I watched as the police and the medics removed his mangled body from beneath the wheels.
I spent the days in school studying bookkeeping, typing, shorthand and commercial law. This went on for about a year until I graduated and took my Civil Service exam.

First San Diego home - 1744 First Avenue

Cornet Theater
In the summer of 1942 I began dating a young man by the name of Vernon Ward. He was leaving San Diego shortly to begin work with the U. S. Forest Service, Cleveland National Forest in the mountains east of San Diego. He suggested that I might like to put in an application. So after graduation from school I did just that. In October I began a three month appointment with the Forest Service in the El Cariso guard station office. October, November and December are prime fire season months in Southern and Central California. So began my career in Civil Service which was to continue with various federal agencies and end in retirement from the U. S. Department of Agriculture after thirty years federal employment.
I loved working there. It was a really fun job for a young, unattached girl. I was in the office with Rex Albright, the District Ranger – a fine man. Throughout the mountains nearby there were guard stations manned by forest guards on watch and waiting to fight the fires that could break out with any campers careless match. The brush and trees were so dry and the fires spread quickly. One special low bush we called greace-wood because it was so inflammable. To this day I watch the television news of the forest fires in that area with deep sympathy and understanding.
Sometimes Rex would take me with him to the fire camps they set up to contain a fire. I was impressed with the logistics of organizing and securing supplies, etc. I had lots of fun bantering by phone and short-wave radio with all the young fire guards throughout the area. When any one, or sometimes several of them came into town on their free time we’d go to the movies, etc. The young man by the name of Vernon Ward was in this group. However, sometimes they would have to leave abruptly for their stations when a fire was reported. It was an exciting, fun, and relatively care-free period but was over at the end of December. I returned to San Diego to begin the next chapter of my life.
The temporary work with Forest Service ended with the coming of winter rains and the ending of the fire season. I moved back to San Diego and began working in the office of the FHA. It was interesting, as was all my war-service appointments, each in a different way.
In some ways this period of time was a reminder of the ‘30s with the influx of “Oakies” and “Arkies” – (Grapes of Wrath). Many were coming for “war jobs” in the aircraft and shipyard factories of the west coast. Rental housing was scarce, so these hastily built temporary structures were quickly built to accommodate these families. Many were not familiar with the wonders of city living – like electricity. Unbelievable problems and complaints came to my desk daily. For instance, one day the maintenance crew was requested to do something about one families’ refrigerator. The man had used a hatchet to remove the ice cube apparatus because “it was taking up so much space there wasn’t room to put a block of ice in the ice box”.