On August 25, 1944, I received my orders to proceed on Sept. 25 to Seattle, Wash. And report to the APA Pre-Commissioning School in connection with the USS Bollinger (APA 234) which was being built in Vancouver, Wash. and very soon to be commissioned and staffed. I was to be the assistant supply officer and the disbursing officer of this new ship. After completion of my course in Wellesley on Sept. 13, I went on leave and returned to Hilda and my family until Sept. 25 when I began a four day cross country train trip. Fortunately, being an officer, I traveled first class in a Pullman berth. It seems that the Almighty either has a sense of humor or was testing me since Yom Kippur was one of the days I was traveling. Needless to say, I fasted and my fellow officers pleaded with me to at least drink. However, Mendel, alias “nails” would not succumb to temptations of the flesh when his soul was of greater importance. By coincidence, when I left Hilda and Kenny at the age of six months, a year previously, it was Rosh Hashonah night.
On Sept. 28, I reported to the APA Pre-Commissioning School at the Hotel Fry in Seattle. Finally, on Dec. 3, I received orders to report to Astoria, OR. for the commissioning of my ship the USS Bollinger. On May 9, our ship arrived in Seattle after we participated in the invasion of Iwo Jima. Since we expected to remain there for at least 2 weeks, I grasped at the opportunity of having Hilda come out to Seattle and visit me. We hadn’t seen each other for over 8 months so we were both salivating at the thought of “touching” each other and more.
On the morning of May 11, I went to pick her up at the train station. That morning I had to go to a bank to pick up Japanese currency since there were plans to attack the Japanese mainland which did not happen because of the atom bomb. Whenever I had to go to a bank, I strapped my 45 caliber pistol to my body and be escorted by my 2 disbursing storekeepers. I had made a reservation for Hilda at the Olympia Hotel which was one of the better hotels in town.
I requisitioned a jeep for my trip to the bank and, with the 2 sailors in the rear of the jeep, I arrived at the train station to reunite with my wife. You can imagine our joy in seeing each other after a long absence. We drove to the hotel, checked in and went up to the room. I will leave it to the reader’s imagination as to what occurred immediately after we found ourselves alone. You can just envision the pent up passion that engulfed us after 8 months. After being in heaven for a short period of time, I left my beloved and rejoined my storekeepers who dutifully remained in the jeep. They shot meaningful glances at me throughout our trip back to the ship knowing full well what went on in the room.
Hilda and I spent the most enjoyable five days together. It was like a second honeymoon, although we never had a first. Of course, the time flew as usual because we were both so happy and on the afternoon of the 16th we said our farewells not knowing when we would see each other again.
On August 14, 1945, Japan surrendered and my greatest joy was that I was finally going home to Hilda and Kenny to be with them with no interruptions. I felt that I would be released in about a year. A point system of discharge was released by the Navy and it was terribly unfair. Firstly, no credit was given for overseas duty or combat service. Also, a married man with 3 children and a single man with a mother as a dependent would receive the same number of points.
We arrived in Frisco after visits to 2 cities in Japan and to the Philippines on Jan. 6, 1946. Being a disbursing officer and the custodian of large amounts of cash and checkbooks, I could not be relieved of my duties until the Navy could find a replacement for me. Almost all supply and disbursing officers were in a hurry to go home and were not interested in remaining in the service. I could see myself hanging around for at least another 6 months.
Perhaps my daily prayers helped. When Capt. Richter heard of my plight, he assured me that I would be relieved in a few days. He had a friend, a Lt. Cdr. in San Francisco at the Twelfth Naval District, who would help me in getting home. He made an appointment to see her which I did a day later. She, too, was a doll and empathized with my predicament. She asked me if there were any supply officers aboard my ship who were USN or USNR staying in the service. When I answered in the affirmative, she wrote orders directing my Captain to transfer all my funds and public property in my possession to Lt. R.C. Zell, USN, the supply officer of my ship.
On Jan.16th, the transfer was consummated and I was detached as the Disbursing Officer of the Bollinger. I stayed in Frisco going through the procedure of being released from active duty and also waiting for transportation to my home. I left Frisco on the evening of the 22nd and arrived home on Saturday morning on Jan.26. I just realize that I entered and left the Navy on a Saturday. Perhaps, it is only a coincidence or an act of God that on the same day I returned to my son, Kenny, his zivik or basherta, as we would say in Yiddish, was born. Jeannie entered this world on Jan.26, 1946.
Arriving at my in-law’s home on Carroll Street in Brooklyn, where Hilda and Kenny resided for my 2 ½ years in the Navy, my joy and anxiety in the thought of my being reunited with my wife, child and immediate family was beyond description. Although I had seen Hilda 8 months previously, holding her in my arms again was sheer bliss.
I can recall walking up the stairs to the second floor apartment, my arms laden with many toys, including a wooden horse, and seeing my wife and son at the head of the stairs. Their incredible happiness at seeing their husband and father returning from the war unscathed was indescribable. As soon as I entered the first room at the top of the stairs, which was the kitchen, I enveloped both in my arms and couldn’t release them for quite some time. It was amazing that Kenny, who was 20 months old the last time I saw him, sat on my lap and wouldn’t leave me for the rest of the day.
After 1 year living with my in-laws and 1 year living with my parents, it was time to have our privacy. We rented an apartment in a new 2 family house at 4514 Glendale Court in Brooklyn. We occupied the larger apartment on the second floor and paid $ 450 monthly.
On August 2, 1948, we were blessed with our second son, Dennis Mark. I always wanted a daughter because of the affection that my brother’s daughter displayed towards Murray; more than his 2 sons displayed towards him. I liked the name ‘Denise” and if we were to have a daughter that was the name we would give her. So when our son arrived I told Hilda that we would name him Dennis. He was a doll from birth, lovable and extremely happy. He did not inherit his brother’s habit of crying constantly; although Kenny did so because of infections in his ears.
When the Korean War broke out in 1950, my brother in-law’s family, after the experience of fleeing from Europe in 1940, became justifiably alarmed and decided to take up residence in Brazil in 1952. Having been in the textile business in the US, they formed Nailotex S.A. in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Although Nailotex engaged an accounting firm to prepare its taxes and financial statements, they needed someone who was proficient in cost accounting in order to price their spring and fall lines before going into production. In January 1955, they asked me if I was interested in coming to Brazil twice a year to accomplish their needs. I didn’t need too much persuasion to accept their offer. The thought of visiting a country that I had never been to sealed the deal. Also, the compensation was very attractive.
Thus, on Jan. 8, 1955, I made my first trip to Brazil and my last trip was in 1973 when Nailotex was sold. I, therefore, made 36 trips to Sao Paulo and enjoyed every one of them. On each of my many trips I always came home with a gift of jewelry for Hilda. Brazil was known for its semi-precious stones and most of the gifts were of this type. The others were gold and silver items of jewelry.
Hilda accompanied me on 3 of the trips; all during Lent when the Brazilians celebrated carnival. We enjoyed watching the “escola de sambas” – the school of the sambas-. The dancing and the music are beyond description. In this same year, 1955, Hilda decided to spread her wings and return to a career. When we were going “steady”, she emphatically stated to me that if and when we would marry, she would want a large family and I, of course, agreed with her. After our marriage, she sang a different tune repeatedly informing me that her ideal life would be a career, no children and living in Manhattan. In fact, I would jokingly retort that I had grounds for an annulment, she deluding me and not advising me of her true intentions prior to marriage.
At any rate, Dennis now reaching the age of seven and old enough to be cared for by a maid, gave my wife the opportunity to fulfill her ambition. Also, it is possible that my making twice a year trips to Brazil was another factor in her seeking employment. My brother-in-law, Al, who was a partner in the Garden Nursing Home asked her to become an assistant administrator in the Home. In order for Hilda to be able to go to work, we hired a wonderful, compassionate maid named Ethel. She really was the surrogate mother to Dennis for many years. Since he was a problem child in school and a doll at home, he conveyed his most private feelings to her.
Whenever Hilda went with me on my trips to Brazil, We would frequent one or two of the “night clubs” called boites where we would sit for hours enjoying the Latino music. Many weekends we would go to a beach called Guaruja with Edith and Joel Rosner, Al’s sister and her husband.
Our first trip to Europe and Israel occurred in May 1965. Whether this was due to celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary or not, I can’t recall. I would take a 3 week vacation in January in Florida and another 3 week vacation in May to travel. Our first stop was in London where we spent a very enjoyable and enlightening time. We liked London so much that we revisited this city 4 more times on our future trips. On all our trips, we would first go a European city for 1 week and then go to Israel for 2 weeks.
On Sept. 14, 1965, we celebrated our 25th anniversary at a party tendered to us at the home of our dear friends, Anita and Jack Walker. Among the many guests were our two sons, our close friends, the Lupkins and the Judds. Hilda presented me with a sterling silver esrog box inscribed “To my Darling Husband on Our 25th Wedding Anniversary”. I gave her a pair of sterling silver three arm candelabra inscribed “To My Lovely Dear Hilda on Our 25th Wedding Anniversary”. Kenny and Dennis gave us a beautiful sterling silver shaped box with a floral décor inscribed in Hebrew “To Our Dear Parents on their Wedding Anniversary”. Pearl, Hilda’s sister and her husband, Bert, gave us a Dutch silver “Reindeer and Sleigh”.
The occasion prompted me to express my long harbored feelings that I had for my beloved partner in life. I wrote the following letter:
This is the first time in my life that I am writing to you while not being separated in distance. In fact, as I am writing these words, I am gazing at your beautiful face as you are dozing on the couch.
As we say at the Passover Seder, ma nomar, ma nidaber (what shall I say, what shall I speak?) My heart is really too filled with emotion to articulate clearly my feelings on this milestone in our lives, the 25th anniversary of our wedding.
To tell you, “I love you”, would sound too much like a cliché and, of course, would be insufficient to express to you how I really feel towards you. A little incident 27 years ago taught me how strong my love is for you and since that day that love has become stronger with each passing day. So, just to tell you, “I love you”, is hardly any news to you.
To tell you, “I respect you”, should also not be something revealing to you. In the 29 years that we know each other, I have always asked you for advice and guidance. Many has been the occasion when I was troubled and groping for the proper and wise solution.
Your incredible wisdom, common sense, and mature understanding always rescued me from the dilemmas that befell me. How many times have I praised you and even envied you for having the right saying or the right thought at the right time. Your capacity for human understanding and for your transmitting your warm personality to others has made you beloved by young and old, by the healthy and infirm. So, to tell you, “I respect you”, is also nothing new to you.
To tell you, “I am proud of you”, that you have heard hundreds of times from my lips. Your beauty, carriage, dress and just plain CLASS has made me the envy of many a man. When you enter a room, all eyes stare at you; when you stroll in the street, all eyes follow you. You are always clean, neat, impeccably dressed and, of course, crowned always with a great big smile. Yes, Hil, I am truly proud of you and know that I will continue to be until we are called to Paradise. So, just to tell you, “I am proud of you”, again does not startle you because you have heard it before.
To tell you, “I am grateful to you”, for the wonderful sons that you bore in your womb for me; again this would be repetitious since I have not ceased telling you that. After the Almighty, I credit you for their marvelous upbringing. I can never forget the difficult years you spent in rearing Kenny with a father thousands of miles away while I was in the Navy. His childhood illnesses and problems you bore alone.
I was stern with the boys at times; however, you tempered my severity with the warm love of a mother. Thus, you were an ideal partner in the rearing of our sons and, incidentally, you are quite aware of how grateful they are to you for the manner in which they were raised. So, just to tell you, “I am grateful to you”, doesn’t really surprise you one iota.
What I will say to you now is that, “I need you”, more than you can ever imagine. I need you now and for the next seventy years. Without you I am just a floundering man. The many times I have been separated from you have shown me vividly what your presence means to me. So, please Hil, stay close to me for many years so that I can enjoy your warmth, lively disposition, hearty laugh, gorgeous face, exciting body, wise counsel and, above all, your precious companionship. I repeat ma nomar, ma nidaber. What shall I say? What shall I speak? Nothing more than that I NEED YOU.
All My Love,
Hilda loved to travel, get out of the house, and especially play the slot machines in various casinos. If I would say to her at midnight or later, “Hil let’s go”, she would reply “I’m already dressed”. We went numerous times to Las Vegas and stayed at Caesars Palace and she would stay at the slot machines to the early hours of the morning. She also enjoyed the shows that the various hotels had to offer. Every time we went to Vegas we visited Dennis and his family in California. We also went several times to the Bahamas while in Florida, to gamble at the casinos. I, personally, was not an avid gambler but went along because I knew that Hilda enjoyed this pastime. It is possible that her desire to gamble was genetic since her father loved to play the stock market and play cards with his friends. Also her sister, Chippy-alias Corinne- played the market and loved gambling. Years later, when we ceased going to Vegas, she would say to me at least twice a year “Mac, let’s go to Atlantic City”. She would play many hours while I would get bored and retire to the bar to smoke a cigar and drink beer.
From 1965 to 1998, we traveled to many foreign countries. In May 1965, we made our first trip to Israel. Every time we visited Israel, we would first visit a European city for 1 week and then visit Israel for 2 weeks. We did this till 1998 when we stopped traveling abroad due to our advanced age. During this period, we visited London, Rome, Zurich, Paris, Aruba several times as well as Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Oslo, Stockholm, Helsinki, Madrid, Venice, Milan, Florence and Curacao. Each and every trip was sheer happiness and joy of being together with love and affection.
We made a train trip to California to visit Dennis in 2007 which was an experience that we never forgot and created laughter whenever we thought about it. We always wanted to go cross country by rail to see and enjoy the scenery of our beautiful country. Unfortunately, we chose the southern route and all we saw were farms and junk yards. We were told by Dennis later on that we should have selected the northern route whose scenery would be more interesting and enjoyable.