By Del Starr, a pseudonym, all rights reserved. Posted July 22, 2015

Be Sure to Wear Some Flowers in Your Hair

In spite of the thought that they must live in San Francisco, it was a happy group that entered the Presidio for the first time. The 30-day leave had been nice but they were now anxious to get back into their own home and relax a bit. The kids wanted to just be out of the car for a while.

It was also payday, and Gary had not been paid since he left Germany. When he went to pick up his check, however, it was only for $100.00! For an entire month! Since there was still some money left from the trip, it didn’t seem a terrible situation yet. But…..

When Gary and Dianne presented themselves for government housing, they were told that there was none available at the moment and they would have to find housing on the local economy. That was problematic on the meager $100.00 they had received.

They looked for some time for anything that would be within their reach and found only a small two-bedroom duplex on “the other side of the tracks.” Actually, it was most nearly ON the tracks as the tracks were only about 50 feet from their door.

Furniture could not be delivered because they didn’t have either room for it or means to move it when government quarters should become available. The duplex was furnished only with a cookstove and Gary and Dianne struggled. They were able to purchase a cheap couch from a thrift store but had no beds. They slept on a pallet on the floor as did the three children in the other bedroom.

They suffered through the first month but when Gary went to get his next paycheck, it also was for only $100.00 for the month. Rent on the duplex was $100.00 per month and Gary had to drive 30 miles and cross two toll bridges to reach the Presidio. Life was becoming a bit more complex.

Gary investigated to learn why his check was such a small amount and learned that because he had taken some advance pay to finance the trip, his paycheck would remain at $100.00 for a period of about six months. Gary and Dianne were devastated. How would they feed their babies?

A routine was finally developed. Gary would purchase one pound of hamburger before he left the post and Dianne would cook it up in spaghetti to cover two meals. There was no salad, there was no garlic bread, only spaghetti. The kids didn’t mind at all but Gary and Dianne soon tired of spaghetti. It was an especially poor diet for a pregnant woman.

Dianne decided to try to make some Jello, a favorite of the kids, but they had no refrigerator. She tried anyway and set the bowl outside at night to chill. The Bay area, in California, is not known for its frigidity and by the next morning, the Jello was little more than a heavy syrup. They were all disappointed but drank it anyway.

Kitty Mow adjusted to the move quite well and scouted the neighborhood for her favorite foods…mice. Dutch, however, suffered a bit. He had to be tied outside and he didn’t like it. He was a very insecure dog and if Dianne and Gary would leave him, he would bark constantly until they returned. The neighbors didn’t like him any more than Dianne did.

The kids thought it all rather fun. They enjoyed the activities of the neighborhood children and especially liked the newspaper man who would give them handfuls of rubber bands.

Dianne and Gary worried about their family. No furniture, no money, no hope, and they now detested spaghetti. There was no indication when they might be able to move into government quarters.

Dianne’s pregnancy was growing heavier and heavier. The little pallet on the floor for sleeping was getting harder and harder and she could not rest. The only solution was to go once more to the thrift store and find an old mattress upon which to lay her weary body. Of course funding for the mattress had to come from the $100.00. The rent payments were falling farther and farther behind.

Gary put up a notice on the bulletin board at the base, stating that they had a male dachshund to give away. It was soon answered by a civilian man who said that he and his wife had a female doxy that needed company. Dutch would have a doggy door and be able to enter and leave the home at will. Dianne was greatly relieved when Dutch moved to his new home but rued the day that they had determined to fly him home and the cost involved in flying him. She couldn’t help thinking of the food that money would have provided now for her little ones.

She was getting closer to delivery and it was January. Gary was concerned about bringing a tiny baby into the dilapidated duplex and once more approached the folks at post housing, expressing his concerns. Emergency accommodations were sought and Gary and Dianne were assigned to temporary quarters across the Golden Gate Bridge from the Presidio.

Oh, how excited they were as they made plans to move. The old couch and mattress would stay in the dilapidated duplex, possibly for some other needy family, as the government would provide furnishings for the temporary quarters. A real bed! An honest-to-goodness couch! And a refrigerator! Dianne felt so relieved. She knew that the baby would be safe coming home to the sparkling hardwood floors and the insulated quarters. Besides which, being government quarters, there was no rent to pay and the $100.00 would go a lot farther.

The temporary quarters were at a much smaller post known as Fort Barry. It was very “country” and as the military horses were housed in the area, at night the horses would be turned loose to roam the installation. A small creek ran outside the back door. Trees surrounded the living quarters. It was good. In fact, it was very good. Dianne felt she could stay there for the rest of her life and never wish to move.

Gary’s job at the Presidio was in the welding shop and he thoroughly enjoyed it. Dianne began once more to bake from scratch as she had for their entire married lives and soon the house was enveloped in the odor of fresh bread and cookies. Even the children appreciated the move though they had suffered little (they thought) at the duplex.

Kitty Mow again adjusted very well and the family was complete.

In February, Janelle arrived. She was a beautiful baby, blonde-haired and blue-eyed, and Gary and Dianne were very proud of her. Tenderly, they carried her home and placed her in the little bed that was to be her home for the next few months. Dianne had never been able to breast feed her babies, so she prepared bottles for little Janelle so that when she awakened in the middle of the night, Dianne would be ready for her. The family retired for the night, Janelle in her little bed at Dianne’s side. Dianne slept with one eye open, as the saying goes, alert for the slightest whimper from her infant girl.

The family awakened the next morning, Dianne with a start, realizing that Janelle had not awakened during the night. She immediately leaned over the small child to see if she was still breathing. She was!! “Oh thank you God,” Dianne breathed. From that very first night, Janelle never awakened at night and Dianne was able to rest well every night.

Janetta was delighted with her baby sister. She enjoyed Brian and Brad but she instinctively knew that Janelle was her own gender and she hovered over her like a mother hen.

Gary had occasion to work at the on the freezers Commissary one day. They had malfunctioned and were full of ice cream. It would soon thaw and be wasted, so the workers were invited to take it home with them. When Gary arrived home with all sorts of ice cream, Dianne was excited for the children and thankful for the refrigerator/freezer. There were about four other children housed in temporary quarters and the kids enjoyed sharing their ice cream with them.

One little boy was so appreciative that he asked Janetta to marry him. Janetta was by now five years old, and the little boy was the same age. Janetta ran home to tell Dianne that she was “engaged.” Dianne smiled at the attempts of the children to be grown up but inside her heart she cringed, knowing that Janetta was growing and maturing and it wouldn’t be long until she really was an adult. Dianne longed to keep her from having to suffer the same things that she had suffered though she knew one thing that Janetta would never have to worry about. Dianne would never use Janetta as Grace had used Dianne.

Finally, permanent quarters opened on the Presidio and once again it was time to pack. It was not a large move though, as their furniture was still in storage awaiting this day. The day it arrived was like Christmas. So many boxes, so many memories, all their possessions, the children’s toys, everything! They were finally at home on MacArthur Street in the Presidio of San Francisco. One small item bothered Dianne. When she unpacked Gary’s clothing, there was the blue dress and the fishnet stockings. But of course, they were a memento of that wonderful evening in Germany, so she packed them onto the top shelf of the closet.

Here, there were flowerbeds to work, grass to mow, a playground at the end of the street in which the children could play, and two bathrooms. The family of six needed two bathrooms. Once again life was good… and secure.

After settling in, Dianne determined to win a post housing award by improvements to quarters and she began cultivating and planting the flowerbeds. She was intrigued by the many varieties of geraniums. So many differently scented ones. She took clippings wherever she could, and soon the house was surrounded by geraniums. She also planted her trademark “Tropicana,” a florescent orange-colored rose. She had planted one in each area in which she had lived and this was to be no different. All of these perennial flowers were interspersed with annuals and it was a riot of color in Dianne’s flowerbed. Sure enough, she won the award from the post commander for improvements. It hung on the living room wall.

Gary took an interest in raising tropical fish and soon the house was full of tanks of all sizes. There were guppies in 10 gallon tanks and mollies in 15 gallon tanks. He raised mostly live-bearing fish but there were a few egg layers also. Dianne and Gary enjoyed turning on the tank lights in the evenings with the house lights off so they could just watch the fish. They found it to be very relaxing after the children were in bed.

Gary had a wonderful sense of humor and would play “kid games” with the children. He would delight in having water fights with them and often, Dianne’s floor would be covered in water. She enjoyed the children so much that she didn’t complain and would even enter into play with them. Gary would sometimes take a bucket of water and sit on the roof of the storage shed. When a child passed by the shed, Gary would delight in dumping the bucket of water over them. Laughter permeated the home. But Dianne was feeling uneasy.

It wasn’t long until they knew that the family would soon number seven. Dianne was happy. She enjoyed the family and one more child would just make it that much happier. Except for the fact that she still felt uneasy.

The following April, Tina was born. Grace had decided to come to San Francisco for Tina’s birth. Dianne was not disturbed about it for she knew Gary would not succumb to any advances by Grace.

Tina was just three days old when Gary, Dianne, Grace, and the now large family, drove up to St. Helena to view the home of Ellen G. White. Though it meant little to Gary, Grace and Dianne were enthralled to see the living quarters of their prophetess. Grace took pride in telling everyone, “That baby is only three days old, can you believe it? Look at them. Three days old and they are doing so well.” Grace of course, was remembering her own labor and delivery and her ten-day stay at the hospital.

Grace stayed on for two weeks after Tina was born and then went back to Seattle. It was probably the best time that Dianne had ever spent with her Mother since she had first married at nearly seventeen years old.

Dianne was now twenty-eight years old.

Gary would leave the Army after this stint and he and Dianne decided that they would return to Portland, Oregon to make their home. Everything now was focused upon “when they got out” though the time was still nearly two years away.

Dianne’s unease kept growing and she finally faced Gary with it. She was disturbed by the blue dress and the fish net stockings. Gary tried to placate her by telling her that they were only a memento but it bothered Dianne greatly. Gary was not acting right either, though Dianne could not place her finger on it.

He began to ask Dianne to put color in his hair and to do it up in rollers. Dianne accommodated his requests but it left her feeling sickened. Dianne did a lot of sewing for the family and Gary asked her to make shorts for him “just like hers” but different, in that Dianne’s shorts were loose-fitting and Gary wanted his to be skin tight.

They had been attending the Seventh-day Adventist church in a nearby town and Dianne rejoiced at having God in her life and an appearance of religiosity, at least. No mention was ever made of her former marriage or involvement in the church.

Probably because of Dianne’s restlessness, the couple began to argue. A lot. There wasn’t ever a real reason to argue, it was only that feelings were on edge. Dianne had problems trying to figure out what Gary was trying to portray with his dyed and curled hair and his skintight shorts. She was so disturbed that she suggested that they obtain marital counseling. Gary agreed.

After a couple of sessions with the counselor, communication began to flow more smoothly. Gary decided they didn’t need any more counseling and so they quit going. But it wasn’t long until they were back in the old mode of arguing nearly every day. They did well at keeping it from their happy family, though, and the children grew and thrived.

A few more months of arguing made Dianne ready to leave the marriage. Gary begged her to stay and Dianne told him she would only stay on the condition that they follow through with the marital counseling. Once more they attended counseling sessions. Again it had a positive effect upon the marriage. Communication began to flow smoothly once more and Gary again decided they didn’t need any more counseling. The entire routine repeated itself once more with more sessions with the counselor, more promises, more improved communication, dropping out of counseling and another return to arguing. This time though, they were close to Gary’s discharge from the Army and they got caught up in the excitement of finding a home in Portland to purchase and preparing themselves for what they hoped would be their final move.

The day to clear quarters finally arrived, Dianne bade farewell to her cozy home on the Presidio, and the family moved into the Guest house for the final separation from the military. The final payday came, and Gary went to get his check but it had been withheld until his final separation. Once more the family was without funds and the children were hungry.

Gary went over to the Safeway grocery store to see if he could find something cheap for the kids to eat. This time they had no cooking facilities so they would, of necessity, have to eat instant foods, which were even more expensive. Gary however, had happened upon a banana sale. He could purchase an entire 40-pound box of bananas for $1.00 and he came back to the Guest house grinning from ear to ear, toting 40 pounds of bananas. The children were allowed to eat bananas whenever they desired. They thought it was great!!

Tina was still a tiny baby and she had to have her special baby foods but even she was able to eat a bit of banana here and there. It wasn’t long until the rooms they occupied were permeated with the smell of bananas. Tina and Janelle’s diapers smelled like bananas, the smell of bananas was on the breath of the rest of the children, the garbage buckets were full of banana peels. Dianne mentions today, that she is curious what the maids thought when they came to do up their rooms and the garbage cans were always heaped with banana peels.

The day of finally mustering out arrived and the family, now flush with not only the missing paycheck but also with travel pay and mustering-out pay, had their first really solid meal in a week. By now they had two station wagons. Dianne drove one filled with their plants and fish tanks and Gary drove the other with the belongings they would need until their furniture arrived. The children were divided up between them and they started out on their way to Oregon—home for Dianne.