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|Photo by Judy Sparks
Mothers Day 2013… Marcella & son Steve Sparks
Photo by Brenda Humphreys, Regent Care Center
|Marcella, just before belly laugh above left…
USS West Virginia (BB48) December 7, 1941
Vernon & Marcella Sparks c1940-41
They served too! “The forgotten WWII spouses and mothers…”
“Laura planned a few outings for just mother and daughter to bond. One special day happened to be Mother’s birthday. She took Mother to Shore Line Village in Long Beach for a special lunch. The Lighthouse was a favorite. They serve some of the best seafood and it is right on the water.
Mother is very sentimental about Long Beach. She and Dad were married in Long Beach where they spent Dad’s 6 weeks of shore leave until he shipped out to Pearl Harbor on the USS West Virginia. The following is Laura’s recollection of what Mother shared with her that day while reminiscing the early days of marriage in Long Beach.
Mother and Vernon wrote letters to each other for 5 months. Vernon’s letters were full of news about the possible war in the Pacific, uncertain where he was going, and how much he missed Mother and hoped that they would soon see each other. His letters were full of humor in sharing his numerous adventures aboard ship and his feelings of love began to emerge more with each letter. Soon, Mother and Vernon began to speak about a possible life together, promises turning to commitments to each other as it became apparent they longed to be together.
Mother’s trip across the country was full of sites, landscapes and interesting things she had only read about in books newspapers and magazines or heard about on the radio. After some research I was able to conclude that Mother must have traveled on the Union Pacific from Minnesota. The passenger train traveled along the Mississippi River and then headed west across the country close to the old highway “Route 66” to the Pacific Coast, arriving in downtown Los Angeles.
When the train arrived at last to the Pacific Coast the beauty was breathtaking, just as Vernon had promised. The exotic palm trees, blue clear sky and the warm weather were wonderful. Just as Vernon promised, he was waiting at the train station with open arms. He brought along some friends with a vehicle from Bell. They were married on March 18, 1940 in Bell, California, by the justice of peace, with a promise from Vernon that they would someday be married by a Catholic priest.
They spent a blissful honeymoon in Long Beach, which was most fun and exciting to Mother. The beaches were beautiful where they spent a lot of time sunbathing while getting to know each other in the pleasant and romantic salty sea breeze. Long Beach was a fun city during those years. The city was like a huge carnival. Long Beach was a major port for the US Navy. There was an abundance of entertainment catering to sailors on shore leave. Vernon romanced mother with her first shrimp cocktail, and exotic tropical fruit drinks with tiny umbrellas. Marcella was amazed at all the fresh produce sold at outdoor farmers markets. She enjoyed avocados for the first time, oranges, lemons, grapefruit, and many other treats. She would have never known there were so many different kinds of lettuce. Fresh salads became a lifetime habit for Mother.
Long Beach had many street markets where Japanese Americans would bring produce and other goods to sell from their farms that prospered on Terminal Island. Mother told me with much sadness and regret, she had a close friendship with a young Japanese American woman, one of those vendors. The day after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Mother went in search of her friend for comfort. Everything was gone. Mother’s friend and the other Japanese American vender’s had just disappeared as if they were never there. This was a very sad time for Japanese Americans who became victims of WWII. Most were sent off to camps for the duration of the war.
Finally it was time for Vernon to ship out on a short training cruise to make sure the USS West Virginia was ready for the rigors of sea duty and possible combat. Marcella stayed with Vernon’s friends in Bell temporarily. When Vernon took his last leave, he moved mother into an apartment on Lime Street in Long Beach. She became lifelong friends with an older couple living in the same apartments. The older couple was childless at the time, and treated Mother as a daughter. Many of Vernon’s shipmate’s wives were settled in the same area of Long Beach, which provided her with a good support group and new friends.
On September 11, 1941, at the old Saint Mary’s by the Sea Hospital, Marcella gave birth to Gerald Vernon Sparks the first son of Vernon. On December 7, 1941, the Japanese attacked the US Naval Pacific fleet in Pearl Harbor by complete surprise. War was declared on Japan by the President of the United States within days of this terrible historical event that changed America forever.”
With honor, respect, and lots of love… Happy 95th birthday to my mother, Marcella. In honor and remembrance to all the military moms and spouses from WWII who served America too!
Reconciliation: A Son’s Story click to order