The Girls from Santo Tomas




The Girls from Santo Tomas

The war was over; peace had returned to the land.  The soldiers framed their medals and ribbons and hung them on the wall, turned in their arms and turned to the plow, the factory, or school. Mothers came home from the factory and shipyards and turned to the kitchen and office jobs.  Birds were singing again, children played in the streets and all was well in the land.

The government thanked the victorious warriors by sending them to college.  The colleges thanked the government by increasing tuition. All was normal again, capitalism recovered its rightful place, and any pool of money was quickly slurped up.

I got my share too. Returning to Stanford in spring of 1946, I had two quarters to complete, so there I was, living again, with my sister, brother-in-law and three nephews, drawing tuition and some living allowance under what was known as the G. I. Bill.  Though I returned from the war in October, I had been delayed in enrolling, for I had accumulated some one hundred days of unused leave in The Marines but could not use the government assistance until those one hundred days passed.

The house was on Ramona Street in Palo Alto, a half-block fromCalifornia Avenue. At that time California Avenue had a railroad crossing from the west, and a bus route traveled from west of the tracks, east to Middlefield Road,  north to University Avenue, then west through the shopping district, across El Camino onto Palm Drive of the campus, heading for The Quad with that great view of the Stanford Chapel in the distance. I had no car so this was my weekday route to the campus.

Occasionally two girls got on the bus shortly after I boarded, also headed for the campus. They were very pretty, and one, Shirley Silen, was a really sexy blonde with a slim waist, a full bosom pressing against that buttoned blouse, and legs that wouldn’t quit.  The other, Betty, a brunette, was O.K., but that blonde – wow!  We soon got acquainted and I found out they had been living in thePhilippines, where their father, Bert, owned a radio station. When the Japanese took overManila, their family, along with some four thousand other non-natives, was interred in the Santo Tomas University complex.  There they managed to set up their own government, teaching their children, and assigning duties, including some agriculture.  But their captors treated them badly, segregated the sexes, broke up families and many were killed or starved to death. The Allied invasion of thePhilippinesfreed them.

Six months later I was a free man with an accounting job, a new apartment in Menlo Park, a used LaSalle automobile, and a bevy of friends partying every weekend.  I call those my “Salad Days” – a time to play before looking for a wife.  But I kept thinking about Shirley, so one quiet evening I phoned their home and asked for her.  I was told she was not in, and that I was talking with Betty, who asked what I wanted.  I replied I wanted to take Shirley to a movie, with which Betty immediately said she would go with me. What could I do?  I was cornered, so the two of us went out. And a while later we went out again, but when I tried a little smooching, preparatory to necking and who knows what else, I was promptly rebuffed, and told that I should have dated Shirley – “she likes that kind of thing”.

Oh Lord, how could things have gone so wrong?

I took Betty out a few more times; she was more like a sister and I enjoyed her company.  One evening when I arrived for a date, she invited me in.  This was the first time I met her parents.  They were sitting around their dining room table having dessert, with which they plied me.  They had another guest – a wartime news announcer aboard battleships passing on to the troops the developments in the war and at home. He was of moderate build and spoke quietly, but then demonstrated his reporting voice, by speaking emphatically, in an octave lower, and in measured words, as did Edward. R. Murrow.  It was very impressive, as if God was speaking.

He then showed me a device lying on the table – he called it a recorder – a new invention on which you could record voice or music and then play it back. He asked if I would like a demonstration, and turned on a recording he had made a short while earlier at the table. We heard a gaggle of voices, like many people speaking at one time, the clink of wine glasses and laughter. Then the sound of a phone ringing in the distance, and a voice that sounded like Betty’s saying she would get it.

The chatter continued until Betty returned to the room and was asked who was on the phone.  Her reply, “George”.  “Are you going out?” “I guess so”, she answered, “but he is such a bore.”  Needless to say, I turned a brilliant red, and was speechless.  But so was Betty, who had not known the conversation had been taped.

Well, something had to be done about my reputation.  The next time we dated we joined my party friend, David Leonard, a WWII pilot, a bookkeeper with one of my accounting clients, and crazier than I, full of song, patter, and fun. Betty said it was the best time she ever had.

I still think about Shirley


George W. Parker

March 6, 2013

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