Libraries are such beautiful places.  Regardless of the size or institution, there is a calm, unhurried atmosphere about them, be it the small branch library of a city, or a massive edifice at a university.  And I am always awed by the thought that libraries have stored, and available, all the knowledge of the world. Yes, there are annoyances such as whispers which seem to travel farther than muted speech, and, at times, small children pestering a parent.  And at the University of Californiain Berkeley, the parabolic ceiling of the main library (at least when I was a student there) could reflect the quiet talk on one side of the room, to an equivalent spot on the other side; a rather eerie experience.


That Sunday morning I valued the quiet of the main library at Stanford University. I could have been at the bus school library, but there would be too many friends there. After four quarters in the business school, I had finally learned how to study: no radio, no coffee or soda; no planning on what to do that night, just a one track mind.  Only a few students were in this great room, hunched over their books, turning pages, scribbling in their notebooks.


Though I was deep in my own pursuit, I began to sense an activity in the room, a buzzing, increasing in volume, and students joining and talking with excitement to each other.  The words “Pearl Harbor” and “Japs” were repeated over and over, as the news was passed along.  I arose and joined the group, and got the details of the Japanese dawn air attack on the U.S.fleet in Oahu.


I was shocked, but excited, by the event, as were all of us.  Were we about to be attacked?  Would we be bombed, and were there any bomb shelters? I immediately realized my life would soon be changed.  Even though I had enrolled in a Marine Corps program, and was deferred from active duty for another year, I had given little thought to the nations’ disagreements.  I hurried home to the radio, where we all searched for more news.  I was living in Palo Altowith my sister, Jean, her husband,Del, and their two sons, Norris and Jeffry. Del had been appointed “block warden”, and was soon putting up black cloths over all the windows, and then progressed around the neighborhood, advising and inspecting the same.  As the days passed and we got more news, it appeared we were not in any immediate danger.


Within two weeks I received orders from the Marine Corps to report to the Marine Barracks in Quantico,Virginia, on February 2, 1942.


Finals were over, Christmas was coming, and I had a month before reporting for duty.  I took employment with  Price-Waterhouse, one of the big public accounting firms, which, I felt, would provide me with some money and some experience in auditing.  In public accounting firms there are partners, associates and just plain auditors.  I was just a plain auditor, working under various seniors, as needed.  In the month I was there, I reconciled bank accounts, footed columns, and mailed confirmation requests related to four different audits.  One, I recall, was at the Union Oil refinery in Pinole, and another for a lumber company, which took me and the senior to Klamath Falls, Oregon, arriving by sleeper, at four in the morning, and then to a hotel for a foolish attempt to sleep some more.  This was my first travel outside ofCalifornia, except for Lake Tahoe’s Nevadaside.  While I carried an adding machine to most audits, one of the seniors insisted I do all additions in my head: a rather onerous requirement, at first, but surprisingly easy after a while.


The Marine Corps Quartermaster sent me a voucher payable to Southern Pacific for travel from Berkeley, California to Quantico, Virginia, via Chicago, Pittsburg, and Washington D.C. with upper berth for night travel, leaving Berkeley the evening of January 29, and arriving in Quantico the morning of February 2.  I was spending my last days in Sacramento at my father’s house where my sister, Marjory and her husband, Manual Dutra also lived.  Southern Pacific graciously allowed me to change my itinerary so I could have some stop-overs.


I arranged for a two day stopover In Des Moines, Illinois, to visit my Uncle Archibald, his son Jack and wife, Helen.  This was the house where my grandmother Louisa had lived for several years, and from where her letters kept us apprised of the activities of our many relatives. Here, too did I ;learn this was a dry state, but not if you belonged to the country club where Jack and Helen took me.  Many years later, while surfing the web, I found Candie Wilson, who was Jack’s daughter, and since,  Candie has fed me a great deal of information about the family.


My interest in having a few hours in Chicago was to visit some of the hotels whence emanated the beautiful music of the big bands. I checked into a room at the YMCA , wandered around, checked out the ball rooms of a couple of the hotels, but had no money to dine at them.  I looked overLake Michigan–nothing to see, and was never so cold in my life. One nice memory – I found a basement lounge with a great black piano player, and a warm atmosphere. 


The next leg was a day trip to Pittsburg on coach, then changing trains with an upper berth for the trip to Washington.  On boarding the train, I met up with my old friend from Sacramento Junior College and Stanford, Bob Woods, who, too, was headed forQuantico, but had no berth reservation.  So we both squeezed into that upper, and, unfortunately, he was no Marilyn Monroe.


After the chill ofChicago, and the dismal dirty snow covered scenery toward Washington, I was looking forward to the “sunny south”.  How ignorant I was to think Virginia was in the South.  The latitude of Washington the same as San Francisco, but that city doesn’t have the Pacific Coast climate, and I stepped out of the train station to the chill of a light snowfall.  I returned to the warmth of the station, and two hours later boarded a local train to Quantico where the weather had not improved.


One and a half months earlier I was engrossed in an accounting text in that quiet library, and now, here I was, standing in line to get issued GI clothing, and nervously wondering what to expect in boot camp.









George W. Parker


July 2010

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