Posts tagged ‘world war 2’

May 14, 2012

Robert Elliott Hail

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May 14, 2012

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March 4, 2012

Grandpa in WWII

Grandpa served on the USS Kadashan Bay CVE 76 during WWII, as the ship’s photographer. Here are some photos.

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April 8, 2010

Bernice Helen Knapp Hail

Bernice Helen Knapp was my great grandmother on my mother’s side, born in 1898 in Illinois. She was my mother’s father’s mother. I never knew her but I always felt very close to her, and my mom says that I remind her a lot of her. I hope I am like her. My mom says that Bernice liked things “to be pretty” (and so do I). She hated her name and liked to be called “Betty.” I wish I had more photos, but she was very beautiful and she looked very kind and beautiful inside as well.

From what I know, she left home at 16 years old. Her mother, Adaline Young, died when she was only 4 years old. Her father remarried and I once heard whisperings that she did not like her stepmother, who was a very strict woman…. Where did she go in 1914, and why? Was she alone? I think she went to live with her aunt and uncle.

Well, I have one letter she wrote to her sister Mildred in 1921 right before her wedding to my great grandfather Roy Hail. I love this letter.

Fresno, Cal.

Feb 2, 1921

“My dearest Mildred:

“Honestly honey, am all run out of excuses, telling people why I haven’t written sooner so will have to tell you the honest to gosh truth, I’ve been chasing around so much and really attending to so many things, I’ve thrown everything else to the winds and given all my time to those other things.

“As you see, I am now down in Fresno, staying for a few weeks with my auntie and uncle [Ben & Cora Knapp] with whom I used to live in Oakland. But I’m down here for a purpose of course. Have been head over heels in dressmaking ever since I’ve been down here, and still am but am coming along famously. Have my wedding dress nearly done. The embroidering is all finished and is done in this darning stitch, about eight inches deep in the shirt. If you want to look up Pattern No. 2738 Butterick, which shows the way I’m making it. Very simple but awfully pretty I think. Here is a sample of the goods.

“I’m sure you want to hear about everything so am going to tell you about our plans.

“We will be married in my auntie’s home, the 20th of this month and are going to decorate the whole house in Peach and Almond tree blossoms. Won’t that be sweet? Then we all are going down to a big cafe her for the wedding breakfast. After that, Roy and I will depart for the south driving down in the car. But best of all honey, we have a wonderful brand new home all ready and waiting for us to move in. Roy just bought it a few weeks ago and really it is a dream. I can hardly yet make myself believe all these wonderful things are happening and I’m really going to have a home, all to my own to live in. I have been without one ever since I was 16 you know, so can you blame me for being so happy. I hardly know just how to explain about the house to you but will try. It’s so hard to do it justice. Well there is a wonderful big living room with a fireplace, built-in writing desk, bookcase, etc. Lovely dining room with a built in buffet and beautiful indirect electric fixture over the table. French doors between living room and dining room. Two darling bedrooms, big kitchen with a tiled sink (bathroom is also tiled) and an adorable breakfast room which I am going to furnish all up in wicker. There all wonderful hardwood floors throughout the whole place – a regular dream home but Roy and I call it our “Love Nest.” We have wonderful furniture to go in it too but will tell you about that after we get all settled. Goodness, doesn’t that sound funny.

[part of the letter is missing]

“…hat and one of the real big gray vails which hang way down to your shoulders. Won’t I look bridey tho!

“Must tell you a funny experience I’ve had while trying to practice up in the art of cooking. Decided to try my luck with a cake. Was just going to put it in the oven when I discovered I had forgotten the eggs. But it was too late then and into the oven Mr. Cake went – eggless n’ all. It rose perfectly lovely and turned a beautiful bronze but to save my life, I couldn’t get that cake out of the pan. At first I treated it gently, then got rough, but nothin’ doing. It was there to stay. Both my auntie and I struggled for quite a while when finally to our horror, it gave one awful sigh, shimmied, and fell into a thousand pieces (curtain) (behind the scenes). Served as a pudding in little dishes with lemon sauce on top, to be eaten with a spoon. That, along with some cremated bun completes my week’s practice. Poor Roy, he will be a regular hero when I get thru with him.

“Do you know I’ve been sending so many snap shots away lately, I haven’t a single one to send to you, but you head the list for the next one sent out. I sure want you to get at least an idea of what Roy looks like. Nothing like the original tho’, of course. Will love to hear from you again soon.

Love, Betty.

I have many questions. Why was her sister not at her wedding? My think it was because she was too far away. How did Bernice and Roy meet, and how long did they date before becoming engaged?

I have one more letter of Bernice’s, where she writes of her home and misadventures in cooking after she was married.

March 15, 1921

“Dear Ol’ Pal [Mildred]:

“Was so glad to get both your letters. You see I haven’t answered the one sent to Fresno yet so will answer them both now.

“Really dear, I hardly know just where to begin telling you about everything. I have so much I’d like to talk to you about and I would take forever to write it all.

“Well first of all I’ll tell you a little about our wedding. It was all simply perfect. The house was a regular bower of almond and peach blossoms, also sweet peas, ferns, palms, etc. Roy brought me the most beautiful bridal bouquet I have ever seen of bridal roses and lily of the valleys with oodles of ferns, ribbons, etc. I wasn’t at all nervous, neither was Roy. After it was all over and I had been kissed all around, I had put on my new suit, hat, fur, etc and we all went down to a real classy cafe for our wedding breakfast. Am enclosing one of the place cards. The table was decorated just beautiful and the wedding cake was wonderful. It was a great big two tier affair all covered with fancy white frosting — the kind you always see in the bakery windows. After that was all over, Roy and I got away just as quickly as we could but not before they all had thrown about a carload of rice at us. I had to empty out my hat and pockets.

“Of course our trip all thru the south was ideal and we both had such a wonderful time. Believe me honey, Roy is there a million when it comes to showing you a good time. The best is never good enough for us. Ha Ha. The hotels were beautiful every place we stopped. I believe I sent you a picture of one of them. We came back the coast route, driving nearly all the way right along the edge of the ocean. It surely was grand.

“Now we are getting all nicely settled in our dear little home. I wonder if I have described it to you or not. I hardly think I have, so here goes — There are six rooms, bathrooms and backporch with stationary tubs in it which I try not to notice very often. Anyway I send out all the washing except my underwear and the laundrys are so hard on things like that. All the floors are beautiful hardwood and the elec. light fixtures are beautiful too. The dining room has one of these big indirect dome-like lights. Everything is so nice and new. In the front room we have  beautiful Anglo Pershian rug…. Ooooooo; and the loveliest overstuffed davenport rocker and large chair, covered with blue velvet velour, all in a raised design. Of course there us a fireplace and over the mantle which extends all the across the end of the room, we one of these long “Garden of Allah” pictures, also two brass statues and two lovely Oriental vases. Roy’s grandmother gave us a piano so you  see I can peg away with my music too. We are going to get a long fern basket after a while to put in front of the window. Almost forgot to mention out floor lamp which is a beauty too.

“…Really honey, it seems so strange to have a home all to my own and to really take my clothes out of my trunk. I haven’t had them out for over eight years.

“And oh we are so supremely happy. I don’t see how heaven could be much more of a paradise. Roy is so wonderful to me in every way — no matter how small a detail. And if I want the moon, all I need to do is ask him for it.  Ha! Ha!

“Well I surely have raved on a long time about just is, but know you are interested in all our plans.

“Really dear, it makes us simply heart-sick to hear about how sort of unhappy you are, and how you are losing weight etc. I think you need a change if only for a short time and can’t think of any better place than California. I run the car all over now and we could have such good times together chasing around in it. Don’t you ever think my dear, just cause I’m so happy, I’m going to forget you for one little minute. It makes me wish all the more that I could share it with you.

“Am coming along famously with my cooking. Golly you should see some of the creations I manage to put together. The other day I made some orange pudding. I asked Roy if he had ever eaten anything like that before and he said, “I never had to.” What do you know about it but he liked it anyway as he ate two big dishes of it. But guess he gets lots of new sensations eating all the different things. I like to make  all the things with pretty names.

“I had a very unfortunate thing happen to me on the way back from Pasadena. Lost the jacket to my brand new suit and had only worn it a few times. We drove back over 30 miles looking for it but couldn’t find it. Last Saturday we went over to San Francisco and Roy bought me another one. It really is a peach and I like it really better than my other one but it sure was terrible to lose it.

“Am sure the silver cake knife is going to be just lovely and it is something we haven’t got either. I’ve made one cake and two pies already so you see how much I’m going to use it. Thanks so much honey. It hasn’t come yet.

“Must close now but do write soon again. I always love to hear from you.

“Lots of love, Betty.”

Roy died in 1929, 2 years after my grandfather was born. He was in the trenches in France in World War 1 and he was gassed, perhaps many times, and it damaged his lungs. When he caught pneumonia when my grandfather was 2, his lungs just couldn’t take the strain. Bernice never remarried. I asked my grandmother why, and she said that she just never found anyone as special as Roy.

Also, her eldest son Robert (my great uncle) was killed in action at Iwo Jima during WWII. He received the Silver Star and the Purple Heart, which was given to his wife and then later to Bernice. He was very handsome and looked just like his mother.

I feel so, so sad that her son and husband were casualties of war. She wanted a home and a family so much, and only had that for about 8 years before becoming a widow with 2 young sons. I can’t imagine what that was like – this was the 1930s, when it was so much harder for women. My grandma said she had to work very hard, she went to work in a bank and as a secretary.

My mom said she always remembered Bernice as an excellent cook. I think about her a lot and wonder about her life, especially in the ’20s and ’40s (which are my favorite decades of the 1900s).

When I get more pictures I’ll be sure to post!

(click on it to make larger)