Our First Christmas Together

December 20th, 2018

We were married September 17th in 1943, in St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Bakersfield . Les had met Fr. McGrath when he came out to  Minter Field to say Mass. The ceremony was on Friday evening and Les had to report back to the base on Sunday evening. I found a job in a china shop to fill the time each week and made friends with other service wives. Because this story is to be about Christmas, I need to skip ahead to the time when the Cadets in the Flight Training Program were moved from Minter Field to Williams Field in Chandler, Arizona.

In Bakersfield, I had hooked up with two other wives to follow the troops and by December the three of us, Irma Aspinall, Loretta Bailey and I had found temporary jobs and were sharing a room in the ­­­­El Portal Hotel in Mesa. During the week, after work the three of us would take a bus and ride for an hour over a very bumpy road to Williams Field, 25 miles away. There we could visit with our husbands in the Cadet Day Room where there was no privacy. Our marital bliss could really only be expressed on weekends when the boys would get a 24 hour pass. We girls were quite comfortable in the large room with three single beds but on weekends  one couple would keep the room and the other two would rent other rooms for the night.

A week before Christmas  we bought a scraggly little tree and made some crude ornaments. Our room looked very cheerful with our sad little tree and we kept saying to each other that we were really feeling the Christmas spirit. Inside we were feeling an empty space because never before had any of us been away from our families. We were all very “in love” and thought that should fill up any void. We three gals looked forward to having our hubbies with us for 24 hours to celebrate Christmas. We drew straws to find out who would keep the room.

On Christmas Eve Les and I went to Midnight Mass at the Field and then took the bus for the long ride on the bumpy road to Mesa. It was a magical night following the moon over the desert. We thought we were to have the room but then we discovered that on this holiday, every room in the hotel was booked. What to do? Remember the movie where a blanket made a wall between Claudette Colbert and Clark Gable? That’s what we did; we hung an intricate system of blanket walls to make three rooms. Ok, that settles the visual effects, but I have to tell you that private intimacy was not preserved.

This memory is from long ago
and it is still vivid in my memory;
Patricia Grube, ©2010