23 October 2009

Before the bombs -- The power of WWII, part 1

Whether our parents would have married eventually is an unknown.  What is known is that the bombing of Pearl Harbor made it happen as it did.  I’ve always believed that World War II was the most powerful influence that shaped our family.

Boy meets Girl

Lavinia Cresap and Jack Gilbert were set up as blind date bridge partners by mutual friends.  They enjoyed the evening, but she almost didn’t date him again at all.  They commuted to San Francisco on the same train which went down Claremont Avenue in Berkeley and Oakland then across the Bay Bridge to SF.   She had gotten on one stop before he and saw him coming down the aisle toward where she sat.  She smiled up at him as he walked right by, oblivious of her.  She blushed with embarrassment.  A few nights later he showed up at her house with flowers to begin his wooing.  He simply never saw her on the train, his mind already on work.

Their courtship included many dates, but one where she said he kept asking if she didn’t want a drink – an aperitif, wine with dinner, an after dinner brandy.  This was at the Brookdale Lodge at Boulder Creek in the Santa Cruz mountains where they had gone with married friends to spend the weekend.  She said, “You’re trying to get me drunk to seduce me.”  He joked, “Candy’s dandy, but liquor’s quicker” which set off her alarms bells for a good long while.  She famously told her dear friend (later my Godmother), “Whatever I do, don’t let me marry him.” 

Jack and Lavinia had both graduated from Cal in 1937 but didn’t meet there.  Soon after graduation he began his work with his lifelong employer, Zellerbach Paper Company, and she began work for Dupont as a bookkeeper.  In ROTC as an undergraduate he was already on active reserve with the army.  His job involved a lot of travel – over his working life perhaps two weeks out of every month.  And he wasn’t all that eager to settle down.

Boy Loses Girl
Her parents, Andrew Bruce Cresap and Grace (Arnold) Cresap thought their eldest daughter needed to get away. So in 1941 when her good friend, Mary Alice married Carl Kindt and moved to Schofield Barracks where he was stationed in the Army, Vin’s parents convinced her to sail for  Hawaii and stay there awhile – keep Mary Alice company, get a new job, and maybe meet someone new.

16 Oct 1941 Lavinia Cresap, 26, sailed alone on the S.S. Lurline from San Francisco to Honolulu.  She arrived Oct 22nd.  

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