Monthly Archives: February 2023

Chapter 28-The Life and Times of William Roy Caple-Hurricane weather-1943

Roy knew that if he went to Texas his time spent with Verle would be brief but he decided to go anyway. Any time together was better than none. He boarded the train in Tacoma and arrived in Houston on the 25th of July, 1943. He found accommodation in a hotel near the base. He and Verle enjoyed supper that evening at a nearby restaurant. Verle told him all about the training he was doing. Roy caught him up on all the doings in Puyallup and Bremerton.

On the morning of the 26th Roy rose early as he normally did and strolled into the diner attached to his hotel. He grabbed a Houston newspaper to read over breakfast and sat at the nearest empty table. He turned his cup over for coffee.

A pretty young waitress filled it. “Good morning, don’t think I’ve seen you here before.”

 “I’m here visiting my son. He’s stationed here at Ellington Field.”

She handed him a menu. “I wouldn’t plan on seeing him today.”

“Why not?”

“Big storm brewing, I can feel it in the air. I recommend you stay inside the hotel all day.”

“Really,” said Roy. “I was planning to take a long walk and see some of the area when I finished my breakfast. This is my first time here.”

“Well, if you do go out, I wouldn’t go far, maybe over to the hardware store on the next block and get yourself a flashlight.”

“A flashlight?” asked Roy.

“Power’s bound to go out” she replied, “you don’t want to get caught in the dark without one. Now what would you like to for breakfast.”

“I’ll take the special,” said. Roy.

“How would you like your eggs? she asked.

 “Over easy’”  

After she left Roy opened up the newspaper he’d grabbed.

 The headlines read ‘First Storm Warning of the Season.’

The article warned of 30–40-mile winds and small crafts advised to stay put. Sounds like a nasty day all right thought Roy as he set the paper down and sipped his coffee. But nothing I’m not used to with our winter storms.

After he ate, he put on his hat and went outside for a stroll. The sky had a particular weirdness to it and the air was so still.  Don’t think I have ever seen the sky look this.

He walked not straying too far from the hotel as he got his daily exercise in. He decided to stop at the hardware store and pick up a flashlight and batteries just in case. At the last moment he decided to add a couple of chocolate bars in case the diner closed early. Around 10 rain began to fall and the wind began to pick up so he headed back to his room to read. He was glad he had packed an extra western in his bag, it looked like he’d have plenty of reading time today.

At noon he headed down to the diner for lunch. Outside the wind howled and rain pounded on the pavement.

A new waitress waited on him. “I’ll have the burger and fries,” he said as she poured him a cup of coffee. “Looks like quite a storm out there.”

“Yes,” said the waitress, I don’t think we will have power much longer.”

Looking out his room window when he returned after lunch, he noticed the rain was flying almost horizontal so great was the wind

 Now and then he saw a shingle or other small debris sailing in the wind. He decided standing next to a window wasn’t such a good idea and shut the blinds.

Roy spent the rest of the day lying on his bed reading as the wind howled and rain poured outside. He was glad he’d heeded the waitress’ warning to not stray too far away this morning. He wondered how his son was doing at the base but he wasn’t too concerned. Surely, the Air Force would have the cadets tucked safely inside the buildings. In the late afternoon when the winds subsided Roy ventured down to the lobby. The man at the desk warned him not to go outside.

“Why not?” asked Roy, “The worst seems to be over. My legs could use a stretch.”

“It’s a hurricane,” said the desk clerk. “This is just the eye. The winds will return for your safety I urge you to stay inside.”

The desk clerk was right the winds did return though they weren’t as strong as earlier. When it grew dark, he went to bed. At midnight he awoke to find all was calm outside.

The next morning, he was surprised by a knock on his door.

 “Mr. Caple you have a phone call down at the desk.”

 Roy hurried down to the lobby where the man at the desk handed him a phone.

“Hello,” he said taking the receiver.

“Daddy, it’s Verle. Did you weather the hurricane all right?”

“Yes,” said Roy, that was quite the blow. I spent the bulk of the day stuck in the hotel. Good thing I brought extra books along to read.”

“It was quite a blow,” agreed Verle. “I heard the winds clocked in at 132 hours here at the base. But the good news is I’ve been given the entire day off.”

“You don’t say,” said Roy, “that’s good news indeed. That will more than make up for not seeing you yesterday and being trapped in my room.”

“I need to go,” said Verle, “but I will meet you at your hotel in about an hour. Maybe we can grab  some breakfast then.”

“Sounds good,” said Roy. “See you soon.”

He handed the phone back to the desk clerk.

“Everything okay,” the man inquired.

“More than okay,” said Roy. “My son has the entire day to spend with me.”

When Verle arrived, they hugged.

” How did you happen to get the day off?”  asked Roy.

“Because of the storm. You wouldn’t believe what we cadets went through yesterday.”

“You weren’t caught out training in the storm, were you?”

“Not exactly caught,” said Verle, “more like sent out.”

He lifted the cuffs on his long sleeve shirt back to reveal bruises.

Roy gasped, “how did you get those?”

“They sent we cadets out to hang onto the ropes holding the planes down so they wouldn’t blow away. Guess they were more important than we are. Once I had a hold, I wasn’t about to let go. I thought those fierce winds would blow me away.”

“But what are the bruises from? “Asked Roy.

“I had gloves on but when you are reaching and holding on for dear life, a gap forms between the glove and your jacket. Those raindrops came down hard. Let me tell you it felt like being stung by unending horde of attacking hornets.”

There were also shingles and seashells flying around like whizzing bullets sometimes those hit too.”

“I can’t believe they made you do that,” said Roy. “How long were you out there?”

“A long time they sent us out around noon. After four hours the winds began to subside and I thought they would let us go in. But instead, they said it was the eye of the hurricane.

Roy nodded, “I was told that too when I headed out for a walk.”

“Well anyway,” said Verle, “we were told the winds would be coming from the opposite direction. So, we had to turn all the planes around. Then the winds came back and we held on again except they weren’t as fierce so it was easier. Still, they left us hanging on out there until nearly midnight.”

“That’s about when I woke up,” said Roy. “I noticed the wind had died down.”

Verle nodded. “Boy did it feel good to hit my bunk last night.”

Roy was aghast. “I can’t believe they’d treat you that way. Did anyone get seriously injured?”

“I heard of several broken bones.”

Roy shuddered, “I’m glad you are okay.”

The two spent the rest of the day chatting about the doings back home and surveying the damage done to the nearby town.

After supper that night. They hugged good-bye.

“Thanks for making the trip to see me,” said Verle. It was a long way to come for such a short visit.”

“It was worth every minute of travel to see you again. Besides I enjoyed seeing a new part of the country from the seat of a train. And now I can say I have experienced a hurricane. That will give me something to tell my fellow builders.”

A bus drew up across the street. “There’s my bus, give my love to everyone back home.”

Roy watched as his son boarded the bus. The next morning, he rose early and headed home.


Authors Notes:

Most of this information came from my father’s written story of his experience during the what became known as the “surprise hurricane”. Because of oil production in that area of Texas the military did not want the enemy to know a hurricane was headed for the Houston area and therefore the residents received little warning of how severe the storm would be. His father did come for a visit and weathered the hurricane at the hotel.

Chapter 27-The Life and Times of William Roy Caple-1942-43-War Years

In June of 1942 Roy drove his car off the ferry  and headed for Puyallup anxious to see his son who would be home again after finishing his first year of college. Like he had done during WWI, Verle would be working in Tacoma’s shipyards over the summer.

 As he neared his home just off Pioneer Way, he decided to make a slight detour and swing by the fairgrounds. He wanted to see for himself if the reports that the grounds had been turned into an internment camp for the local communities Japanese population were true. As he approached he saw that both the fairgrounds and adjoining parking lots were filled with makeshift housing surrounded by barbed wire fencing and guarded by soldiers.  

Frowning he turned away from the fairgrounds he had so freely walked in the past and wondered what would become of the crops and just ripening fruit so many of the Japanese farmers in the area had tended. Over the years he had interacted with these farmers on many occasions and his son had counted several of their sons as friends. He had never known any of them to be anything but good, loyal American citizens.

Once parked he grabbed his carpet bag out of the trunk and headed into the darkened house. Like all the houses in Puyallup he had months earlier covered the windows with black curtains and blinds. Once inside he flung open the curtains flooding the main floor with sunlight.

Glancing out the back window he saw his mother-in-law, Mattie approaching the back steps. He opened the door noting that the bucket of water, shovel, and sand he had left next to the door still stood. A requirement for every house in town ready to put out any incendiary bombs that might fly.

“Welcome home, Roy, ” said his mother-in-law stepping into the house and setting a plate of cookies on the table. “Papa’s gone to the train station to fetch Verle. It will be so nice to have him here for the entire summer.”

Roy nodded toward the cookies. “Why don’t I put on a pot of coffee to go with these cookies. I agree it will be nice to have Verle back home again even join him on weekends.”

Roy enjoyed spending weekends again with his son. They listened to the Rainer’s play baseball on the radio and caught up with the news they each had, of their weeks activities.

As he prepared to leave for Bremerton on Sunday the 30th of August after enjoying an afternoon celebration for his  son’s 20th birthday. Verle said, “Daddy the air force cadet program is offering a deferment until after graduation. I have decided to sign up with them.”

Roy nodded, “I suppose it is inevitable you’ll have to serve.  At least this way maybe you can get your degree first.”

He didn’t tell him that of all the armed forces choices his son could have made this was the one he least liked.  As a covered wagon boy Roy didn’t trust those flying machines. He didn’t like the thought of his son being in one.

Toward the end of summer his son-in-law had purchased a small lot of land in Navy Yard city on which to build a house. In their spare time he and Jack soon erected a one room shack for the family to live in while they went about building a house. By fall they had the house finished enough to move into. Tearing down the outhouse they were grateful to once again have indoor plumbing

On Christmas of nineteen forty-two the family gathered once again in the Puyallup. Like the year before it was a subdued affair. The tree glittered with lights and tinsel and like always, presents sat under its boughs but Roy couldn’t shake the fear next year’s holiday would be very different. Already many of his friends’ sons and acquaintances had left for wartime duty. Even though his son had a deferment for college he didn’t believe it would last.

After everyone had left for home Christmas evening, Roy sat with his son munching on some leftover sugar cookies.

“Daddy, I am having a very hard time concentrating on my studies with this war looming over my head. Maybe I should enlist now and get it over with.”

Roy stood and stared at his blackened curtains that felt like ocean waves engulfing him. He couldn’t lose his son too.

“Verle, I understand the uncertainty you are feeling over the war. I feel it, too. No one knows what their future will hold. I also know now, might be your only chance at a higher education.”

He eased himself back down into his chair and leaned towards his son sitting in the chair opposite his. “Your next term starts in a week. Stick it out one more session and then decide what you want to do.”

At the end of the holidays Roy went back to the hustle and bustle of the Bremerton Navy yard and set to building housing for the workers flooding the city.

In late February his son-in-law got his marching orders. Jack would serve in the Navy. The first of March saw him leave for basic training in Idaho.

He and Iva added a red pin for Jack to the world map they’d hung above the kitchen table help keep track of the ever-changing events of war.

Roy thought maybe they should return to Puyallup, sure he’d now find work in nearby Tacoma. But Iva was determined to keep the house in Bremerton for Jack to come home to when the war ended. He’d feel better being nearby to help her, so he stayed.

As his son’s winter quarter drew to a close Roy got the call he dreaded.

“Daddy, I got a letter today. My deferment ends when this quarter. Believe or not I am relieved to finally know.”

Roy’s hands began to tremble. “When do you leave?”

“I haven’t gotten my orders yet, the letter said I would be hearing soon on when and where to report.”

With his heart pounding, Roy eased his trembling body into a nearby chair. “Okay, let me know as soon as you get word.”

“I will. My last exams are the end of next week, if I haven’t heard by then, I’ll stay in Puyallup until I do.”

After work on Friday March 20th, 1943 Roy headed his car onto the ferry bound for Tacoma to join his son in Puyallup. When he arrived at the house, he found it empty.

Verle’s out visiting friends, he thought. He made himself a pot of coffee and bite to eat and settled into his favorite chair, to read.  An hour later he heard the latch on the front door click, as Verle entered the house.

 Roy rose from his chair. “Out visiting friends?”

“No, my orders arrived today. I am to report to Fort Kerns, Utah on the 28th for basic training. I went to the train station to make reservations. I leave here on the 26th.”

Roy sighed. “So soon.”

 He gave his son a hug, “I will be here to take you to the station.”

On the morning of March 26th Roy arose early. Outside it was dark, rain poured from the sky as though it too, felt the heavy sadness within him. Dressed he went into the kitchen. Upstairs he heard the water running, no doubt Verle would be down soon. He set a pot of coffee on the stove and popped bread into the toaster for their breakfast.

His son’s packed bag sat next to the front door. How was he going to keep himself together when he left him at the train station? For once he was glad his beloved Mae wasn’t with him. It would have broken her heart to see him off.

Neither he nor Verle ate much of the toast and jam he’d laid out.

Out in the car Roy switched on the windshield wipers. “Looks like it is going to rain all day. At least you should have dry weather in Utah,” he added in an attempt to lighten their somber mood.

Verle nodded. “Not that I expect to be given much time to enjoy it.”

Neither said much after that. From time to time, when he thought Verle wasn’t looking, he stole a glance of his boy, trying to drink him up in case this was the last time he’d see him. How could be sending his little boy off to war? He’d never been anywhere far from him.

In Tacoma Roy turned onto Pacific Avenue. Though now daylight the street sat gloomy and dark. Ahead the cars headlights flashed on the big copper dome and the sweeping arches of the train station. When they entered the interior, they found it packed, with military personnel coming or going from various destinations.

Verle set his bag down near a bench. “Daddy, you stay here while I find what track my train leaves from.”

Roy took a seat on the bench. “Will do.”

As he waited, he looked up at the skylights that sat at the top of the rotunda dome. Like the rest of the windows, they’d been painted black painted black to keep enemy planes from spotting them from the air.

Would light ever enter this world again, would life ever seem normal, again?

He spotted Verle scurrying back towards him. He pointed to a sign. “I leave from track four. We should go over there.”

When the conductor called all aboard for Portland. Verle stood shifting his feet from one foot to another. “Guess it’s time to go.”  He reached for his bags.

Roy took them, “Allow me.”

He walked him outside to the loading platform and set the bags down.

His eyes welled up into tears as he gave his son a big bear hug. “Remember to write, the family is counting on you coming back.”

“Don’t worry,” said Verle, “I’ll be back just as soon as we win this war.”

Roy watched as the train carrying his son disappeared from sight and slowly trudged back to his car and headed for Bremerton. That evening he and Iva stuck a large blue pin on the map to designate Verle’s location along with the red one for Jack.

The next month brought little news from Verle, just a postcard saying he was alive. After another month went by a letter arrived.

Dear daddy,

After a month of marching and learning to live the military life, I will be sent to the aviator cadet center in Santa Anna, California. There I will take tests which will qualify me as either a pilot, navigator, or bombardier.

Roy shuddered. He doubted he’d ever feel comfortable with air travel. The thought of anyone one, much less his son, up in the air still seemed utterly foolish to him. And on top of that there would be enemy planes trying to shoot him down.

To keep from thinking of the unthinkable things the future might bring he kept busy with work or adding finishing touches to the house he and Jack built not that long ago.

 On a warm day in May Roy came home and sat his hat on a shelf in the front coat closet as Iva greeted him with a glass of cold lemonade. “Thought you might like something cold instead of your usual hot coffee.”

“That does sound good,” he said as he eased himself into the comfortable chair he now thought of as his own. “What’s for dinner.”

 “Burgers and fried potatoes.”

“Nothing wrong with that,” said Roy smiling. “You know that’s one of my favorites.”

“I know. They’re Jerry’s favorite too.” She handed him an envelope. “We got a letter from Verle, today.”

Roy set his glass down and took it from her hand. It had been a while since he’d last heard from his son.

Dear Daddy,

I have news. The air force has classified me as a navigator. I am happy with this appointment. It was my first choice. Next I go for navigation preflight training at Ellington field in Texas. If you look on a map, it’s about fifteen miles from Houston. Didn’t you always say you wish you’d gone to Texas when you were a boy and lived so close to the state line? Why don’t you catch a train and visit while I am there?

 Give my love to all the folks in Puyallup. And tell Iva to keep those cards and letters coming.

Love, Verle

After dinner he and Iva moved the big blue pin for Verle to Texas.

Daddy,” Iva said, “are you going to do it?”

“Do what? “

“Go to Texas.”

“Are you sure you could get along without me?”

“Of course, I’m a grown woman. Jerry and I will be just fine by ourselves for a few days. You work so hard you deserve some time off and you could see if Verle is really doing all right.”

Roy couldn’t help but smile. His daughter had always been protective of her little brother.

“I reckon I can think on it. It’s not like I need to go tomorrow.”

Chapter 26-The Life and Times of William Roy Caple-1930-1941

Iva and Jack didn’t stay in Tacoma. Before long they moved to a place near the Puyallup Fairgrounds. Though Roy hadn’t been crazy about the marriage, Jack had grown on him. When they announced they were expecting a baby Jacks’ parent’s gave them permission to build them a small place on their property to save on rent.

“I would be happy to build it for you,” said Roy when they told him. “With a little help from my brother Richard we can have it built in no time. But are you sure you will be okay living in a place without running water.”

“It’s okay at least it will be all ours,” said Iva. She smiled and added, “And you can be sure I will be by often for a warm bath or to do some laundry.”

Roy chuckled, “the two of you can come by anytime. The house seems lonely without you around.”

On September 29th, 1939, Roy sat on his porch basking in warm sunlight when his son-in-law pulled up in front of the house in his car.

 He jumped out of the car wearing a broad smile. “It’s a boy!”

Coming up onto the porch he handed Roy, a candy bar, “Here you go Grandpa.  Iva and baby are both doing well.” 

He patted Jack on the back. “Congratulations! There’s nothing like the moment you welcome your first child into the world. Now tell me about him. Have you named him yet?”

“Yes, we named him Jerry Verle. He has dark hair and blue eyes like his mother and all his fingers and toes. We can’t wait for you to see him.”

When Roy held the new baby in his arms for the first time he felt filled with the same love he’d felt when he’d first held his two children, if only Mae could have been there with him.

He wasn’t the only one smitten with the new baby so were Mae’s parents. Iva brought the baby round frequently, which gave her grandmother the opportunity to fuss over him and give motherly advice.

Meanwhile Verle excelled in school especially in Math and Physics. His teachers encouraged him to go on to college. Roy wished with all his heart he could help pay the necessary tuition but he barely had the funds to keep food on the table.

On June 5th, 1940, Roy and Mae’s parents sat proudly in the audience at Puyallup High School and watched Verle graduate. He found himself wondering where his son would find employment. There still were no jobs to be found in the community. And now there’d be the competition of another graduating class.

With the war escalating in Europe, Bremerton’s Navy yard, hummed with activity as boats from overseas sailed in for repairs. That summer Jack found work there and he and Iva moved.

 A new bridge had recently gone up over the Tacoma Narrows, eliminating the time-consuming ferry ride. So, Roy saw them frequently on weekends.

During one of Iva’s visits, Verle grumbled. “There’s no work to be found around here. I can’t spend the rest of my life picking berries.”

Iva scooped little Jerry up off the floor. “I bet you could find work in Bremerton. Why don’t you come back with us and look?  We have an extra bed in Jerry’s room.”

Verle Looked at his father. Roy could see the hesitancy on his face.

“Tell you what,” Roy said. “Leaving today is kind of short notice. Why don’t you let him mull it over and he’ll let you know next week?”

Later that evening Roy advised his son, “Go over and look around, you have nothing to lose. If you find work great if not you come back home.”

The next weekend Roy loaded his son’s suitcase into the car and they headed across the Narrows bridge for Bremerton. Roy had heard tales of the bridge moving up and down when the wind blew. Iva and Jack said they’d never encountered it. As he returned to Puyallup that evening a storm began to roll in. By the time he reached the bridge it was quite windy. Ahead in the center of the bridge he noticed a car disappear only to reappear a few seconds later as the bridge moved up and down.

 “Now see why they call it Galloping Gertie,” he said to himself when he reached the other side. But they say that’s what it was designed to do.”

Verle found work in the shipyards and settled in with his sister’s family. Roy felt a bit lonely without him.  But the boy still had plenty of friends in Puyallup, so most weekends he made the trip home.

On Friday morning, Nov 8, 1940, Roy went to the corner store near his house.

Mr. Bryan looked up from the newspaper spread across the counter. “Roy, what do you think about the bridge collapsing last night.”

“What bridge? I haven’t heard about it.”

“Why ‘Galloping Gertie’ over in Tacoma. Don’t your kids cross it, often?”

“Yes, I’m expecting Verle this evening.”

“Guess he’s going to have to go the long way around if he’s coming this weekend.”  said Mr. Bryan. “Can you imagine that great big bridge and all the money spent on it and it only lasted 4 months.”

“Was anyone on the bridge when it went down?”

“No, one guy did try to cross but he got off before it collapsed. Here look at the picture. Sure, looks like it was a galloping.”

Roy looked at the photo. “Thank God no one went down with it.”

Listening to the news on the radio that evening Roy was surprised when he heard the latch on the front door click. Looking up he saw his son standing in the doorway.

“Didn’t expect to see you this weekend with the bridge being down.”

“I found a ride going the long way around. Can you imagine that long bridge just collapsing? The good news is they say the old ferry system will be running across the narrows by next weekend.”

The summer of 1941 Roy and Verle enjoyed following their baseball teams, while the Nazi’s conquered the Balkans and invaded the Soviet Union. Still the conflict seemed distant to him until August 11th when the  newspapers reported a badly damaged British warship had limped into the Bremerton navy. Then he began to worry the U.S. would soon become involved.

Home on a weekend at the end of August Verle confided to Roy, “Iva, and Jack haven’t charged me any rent. I saved most of my earnings and have enough to swing a year at the University of Washington. What do you think? Should I go?”

“Verle, you have no responsibilities to hold you back.  Yes, go! “Your Uncle George Mackay has a house near Green Lake. It isn’t far from the University. I’m sure he’d let you stay with him now that his two girls are gone. That would help you save on rent.”

At the end of September, he left Verle at his brother-in-law’s house happy to know he’d still have family to keep tabs on him. Two weeks later Roy decided to accept his daughters invitation to look for work in Bremerton.

As the news from Europe became more dire by the day, the Bremerton shipyard hummed with activity bringing with it an influx of thousands of new workers. With housing in short supply his carpentry sill were needed. In no time he landed a job building needed new housing. He took Verle’s place sharing a room sharing a room with his grandson and an adopted a cat named, Blackie.

Each day he scanned the headlines of the newspapers. The news from Europe seemed to grow more ominous by the day. He knew it was only a matter of time United States would be drawn into the conflict and both Verle and Jack would be prime candidates for conscription.

On October 9th, he, Jack and Iva discussed the war news over dinner.

 Jack took a sip of his coffee. “Seems like Japan is growing restless again.”

 Roy nodded. “Didn’t you say your sister’s husband is stationed at the naval base in Hawaii.”

 “Yes, and my sister is living there, too.”

Iva began to clear the table. “Surely, they are safe, its’ not like they are in Japan.”

“I suppose you’re right,” said Jack as he rose to switch on his and Roy’s favorite radio show.”

On the morning of December 7th Roy awoke to a cloudless day.

“What a beautiful day,” he commented to his daughter as he sat down for breakfast at the kitchen table.

 He looked over at Jack, “After we eat why don’t the two of us go out and see if we figure out the reason for the racket your car started making.”

“Good idea , agreed Jack, “I could use you know expertise.”

After eating the two men donned their jackets and went out to work on the car. Meanwhile Iva switched on the radio to listen to music while she washed the dishes. Mid song the music stopped.

An excited sounding announcer shouted. “We interrupt this program to report Japanese planes are bombing Pearl Harbor.”  

Iva dropped her dish rag and ran to the front porch. “Jack, Daddy, I’m not sure what it means but the radio says that Pearl Harbor in Hawaii is being bombed. Isn’t that where your sister is?”

Jack stared up at her. “Oh my God!”

Both he and Roy laid their tools down and hurried into the house where they spent the rest of the day glued to the radio. It wasn’t until late that evening they remembered the tools they’d left out in the street with the car’s hood still up.

The next day the fear in town was almost palpable. Everybody thought Bremerton with its vital repair facilities would be the next target for the Japanese. At work in the in the navy yard Roy along with everyone else kept their ears on the radio and eyes on the sky.

One of the men working with him said ,“What should we do if we see a Japanese plane on horizon.”

“Run for cover, I guess,” Roy answered, wondering exactly where that would be.

And what about Iva with Jerry and Jack? Would they be safe? Would his son be across the bay in Seattle? The thought of something happening to one of them sent chills running up and down his spine.

On his way home that evening he joined the grim-faced cluster of people in front of the newspaper office to read the fast-breaking news come over the teletype. That night Bremerton conducted their first blackout.

On December 9th the phone awoke Roy at 2:30 A.M. Outside his door he heard Jack scurry toward the kitchen to answer the phone. His heart pounding  he rose, dreading the worst.

In the kitchen he heard Jack say, “thank you for letting us know.” Turning around and seeing Roy he smiled. “It’s good news, Western Union called my folks.  Sis and her hubby are alive and well.”

Later they learned his brother-in-law hadn’t been on duty that morning. Running to get to the navy base he had fallen into an old outhouse pit and it had taken him most of the day to get out, perhaps saving his life.

Overnight the city of Bremerton was fortified. Barrage balloons, held in place by long cables that could entangle enemy planes, encircled the city. Thick smoke screens were put in place to impede an enemy plane’s view. Nets were erected in Rich Pass to allow ferries to come in and out but not submarines. Air raid sirens and drills were conducted each morning at 9. Soon anti-aircraft guns were displayed throughout the city, in schoolyards, parks and sometimes even in backyards. Roy helped Iva and Jack install the required blackout blinds on all their windows. The Puget Sound Navy Yard was the only place on the Pacific capable of repairing large battleships so naturally people feared the worst. 

The town filled with even more young people coming to work. A town with insufficient housing before Dec 7th, now had people living in tents, garages and converted chicken coops. Roy felt grateful he and his family had a house to live in.

Life had again changed. Now his and everyone’s thoughts were on the war.


Author’s notes:

Most of the information about Bremerton before and during the war came from memories both my dad and aunt wrote or recounted to me. Some came from newspaper articles and a book titled ‘Victory Gardens and Barrage Balloons, A Collective Memoir’,’by Frank Wetzel. In it he gives a very factual account of the events in Bremerton during this time as well as his and others memories as teen-agers living in there at that time.

Chapter 25-The Life and Times of William Roy Caple-Live Goes On-1933-1938

It wasn’t easy for Roy to go on after Mae’s passing. Numb with grief, he went through the motions of life, but deep inside he felt as though he’d died too.

Three weeks after her death, Iva looked at him over the breakfast table. “I told Auntie Hazel I would go over to her house after breakfast to help her and Grandma with the Thanksgiving dinner. Grandpa got a turkey from the neighbor’s farm for us to have. You and Verle are to come just as soon as that football game ends.”

Roy sighed. If he could have his way, he’d send Verle to dinner on his own and skip the day all together. He was in no mood for celebrating. But he knew if he did Hazel would be over nagging at him to be there for his family.

“Don’t worry, we’ll be there. Shouldn’t we bring something?”

“I got us covered,” said Iva. “I told them I’d bring a sack of potatoes. And grandma is making her apple pies. You know how you love her pies.”

“I do,” he agreed. Though not even the thought of her tender pie crust and sweet tasting apples sounded appealing. He’d no appetite since Mae had departed from him. Grief hung over him like a heavy winter blanket.

For his son’s sake, he’d agreed to attend the annual Sumner-Puyallup high school football game like they had since the youngster became old enough to understand the game. The two towns had played a game every Thanksgiving since they’d both had teams.

The game began promptly at eleven. It was only nine, he supposed he had time to sit a bit and peruse the newspaper, except he could never concentrate on reading anymore. His thoughts always wandered to Mae and that horrible day 3 weeks ago. Her death had left a massive hole in his heart, one he thought would never heal.

At 10:15 he donned his overcoat and hat and he and Verle headed for the town’s football field.

Roy noticed the boy needed a haircut. I have been neglecting him.

“Daddy, do you think the Vikings will win this year?”

“Well son, that would be nice but their win record isn’t very good.”

Verle kicked a rock down the street. “I know but wouldn’t it be great if they did.”

Roy looked down at his son and smiled. “I reckon it would.”

The smell of roasting turkey mingled with baking pies and bread filled the air when he opened the front door of Hazel’s house. For the first time since Mae’s passing, he actually felt hungry.

Mae’s father, Alex, sat in a rocker in the corner of the front room. “So, boys how was the game?” 

Roy hung his hat and coat on the hook next to the door. “Puyallup lost as usual.”

Iva entered the room, wiping her hands on an apron. Roy noticed it was the one Mae had favored.

 It should be her wearing it and she should be working in our kitchen. Mae always hosted Thanksgiving dinner.

“I’m starving,” said Verle, “when do we eat.”

“Soon,” said his sister. “Auntie Hazel said we’d put dinner on the table as soon as you got here.”

His children and in-laws crowded around the table, loaded with platters of food. Mae’s father gave a simple blessing and began to carve the turkey. A job Roy had always held when they’d hosted Thanksgiving. Suddenly his appetite left him as his thoughts went to all he’d lost in the last three years. A mother, sister, and now his beloved wife.

“Say Roy,” said his brother-in-law, Daniel interrupting his thoughts. “Any word about town on work I might find?”

“No,” said Roy. “Wish I could find more myself.”

The family made feeble attempts at idle chit chat but no amount of pretending could hide the fact the most important member of the family was missing.

Roy decided he couldn’t go through this again at Christmas. He’d take up his half- brother Milo’s offer to spend the holidays with him in La Connor. Puyallup held too many memories of Christmas past.

In January Mae’s parents decided to move back to Puyallup. Roy was grateful they’d be nearby to help with the children. Iva was a teen now and try as he might, there were times when she needed another woman to talk over things with.

The next few years were not easy. It continued to be a struggle to make ends meet. Iva, now in High School had a job in the library which gave her the money she needed to buy clothes and other necessities a teenage girl needed.

He relished summer trips into the forest to fish and hike with his son and brother. Other times he and Verle enjoyed listening to ball games on the radio or when they could spare the time and money took in a real ball game.

In the spring of 1935 President Roosevelt created the WPA as part of his New Deal plan. It gave work to unemployed folks for public works projects. Puyallup got some of those projects and he obtained more regular work helping to construct the town’s Wild Wood Park. Although he didn’t get as many hours as he’d like it did give him a dependable income making it a bit easier to make ends meet.  

In 1936 he and Verle followed the rowing crew at the University of Washington, along with the rest of the Northwest, as they met and won one challenge after another. Now they were in the race for the gold in Nazi Germany.

On August 14th Roy rose and put a pot of coffee on the stove to boil. He fiddled with the knob on the radio and tuned into KOMO so it would be ready when Verle got up to join him. He still found it incredible, a device sitting in his dining room could tune into events occurring on the other side of the world. While he had followed Jesse Owens story with pride, it was the rough and tumble boys from the University of Washington Crew team that enthralled him. After all they were Washington working class boys, not so different from what he’d once been.

At 9:15 the voice of NBC’s announcer began to crackle over the airwaves.

“Geez, Daddy.” said Verle. “It’ hard to believe what we are hearing is coming all the way from Berlin isn’t it.”

“Hush,” Roy said.

It was hard enough to make out what was happening over the radio without his son chattering. They heard a lot of wild applauding. Who was it for? Finally they heard the American boat had won by a mere six tenths of a second. He and Verle stood and cheered. As the radio turned to other news, he and Verle went off to do their chores.

In June of 1937, Roy sat in the auditorium of Puyallup High school beaming with pride as his daughter Iva graduated from High School. How he wished Mae could have been there to see this day. The first child in either of their families to graduate from High School. It was just as well she didn’t want to go onto to college for there was no way he could have found the money to help pay her way.

On December 21st of 1938, Iva arrived home early one evening with her latest beau, Jack Bailey. He didn’t know much about the tall lanky lad standing in the room with her except he was a Bailey related somehow to Mae’s sister’s husband.

“Daddy,” she said,” We have something to announce.”

Roy set the newspaper he was reading down, “Okay, I am listening.”

 Iva clasped the hand of the young man. “We got married this afternoon in Tacoma.”

He rose from his seat. “What? How could you? What do you think you are going to live on?”

I have work, sir,” said Jack. “I am working for the Civil Conservation Core.”

 “And we found a small place to rent in Tacoma,” added Iva.

In shock all Roy could think of was the hard road ahead his daughter had chosen to go down.

He turned toward her. “Well, sister I guess you’ve made your bed, now you’re going to have to sleep in it.”

“We will be spending Christmas holidays with Jack’s folks instead of going to La Conner with you and Verle.”

“It’s just as well,” said Roy. It’s a bit late to spring a fourth person on them.”

As Roy shut the door behind the two love birds as they left to return to Tacoma, He sighed. This was not the path he and Mae had imagined their daughter would go down. He hoped the boy turned out to be a decent sort. Still he feared a marriage started on a shoestring would never last.

Little did he know that the choice his daughter had just made would change the course of his life.


Authors notes:

  1. Although I never got to taste one my great grandmother Martha Phillip’s was known for her wonderful pie crusts. I recall at my first attempt at making a pie crust both my dad and grandpa said it tasted just like hers and the pie soon disappeared as they helped themselves to seconds. I have never succeeded in making a pie crust that good again

2. Iva wrote of having a job in her high school library which gave her the money for a young girls needs.

3. My Dad in his later years, often talked about following the rowing crew of 1936. After reading the “Boys in The Boat” by Daniel James Brown, I realized what a huge this story had been particularly in the Northwest. And yes, Komo radio did broadcast the Berlin race live. If you haven’t read the book I suggest you do, it’s a great read for anyone even the non sports fan.

4. My grandfather often told us how shocked he’d been when my aunt Iva arrived home after eloping. He didn’t know much about Jack and thought the marriage would never last. He said he told her, “Sister you’ve made your bed now you will have to sleep in it.” While Iva later said she regretted eloping and springing it on her dad that way, she never regretted having married Jack..