I was 17 when I joined the Navy, and upon high school graduation was immediately sent to the San Diego Naval Training Center for Boot Camp. Upon completion of "Boots" and a short leave home, I was given the opportunity to attend a basic engineering school and upon graduation was sent to Treasure Island for assignment to a ship and overseas duty.
The Christmas holidays were coming fast, and I was becoming a bit lonely, thinking of home in Smithfield. Plus I saw many sailors packing their bags for Christmas leaves, but thought I wouldn't be eligible because of the previous leave. But why not? So I submitted a request and, to my surprise, it was granted as of December 23. I hurriedly packed a small bag, put on my winter uniform, caught a train to the Oakland Train Depot, bought a ticket and was on my way that night.
It was a long trip with many stops, arriving in Ogden Christmas Eve. I hurried up 25th Street to the Greyhound Depot, but was told, "Sorry, no buses until 11:00 am tomorrow." Christmas Day!
I walked back to the train depot feeling discouraged, sat down and asked for Heavenly Father's help. I stepped out onto Wall Street and stuck out my thumb. I was mighty cold, but I did get a ride.
I was dropped in Brigham City about 11:00 pm on the Tabernacle corner, but had no luck getting another ride. Things in Brigham were pretty much closed, but I saw a lighted sign about 2 blocks north and found it to be a small hotel. The manager invited me in to warm up. there was very little traffic, but about my fourth trip back to the corner I could see two headlights, and I offered a silent prayer. Maybe it was a loud one! The car turned east. (That was the road going into Sardine Canyon and over the mountain into Cache Valley.) They saw me and stopped.
The car was warm and comfortable. What a blessing. They asked who I was and where I was going. The wife said the were the Bowmans from Lewiston and had just left their son, a new Navy pilot, at the train depot so he could return to his station in California and duty in the Pacific.
About 1:30 or 2:00 am they let me out at 160 South Main in Smithfield just in front of my home. I was elated and rushed up the driveway to the side back door. I knocked lightly a few times, saw the hall light come on, the door window curtains pulled back a little, and I saw my Mom's eye. What a surprise! They didn't know I was coming. The door opened, and I was greeted with hugs and kisses from Dad and Mom.
After the shock and some conversation, they suggested not waking my 7-year-old sister Helen, and that I could be one of her Christmas presents. What a joyful time when she came into my bedroom and saw me, even before she had gone down stairs to the tree.
What a great "I'll Be Home For Christmas" that was..."Just you wait and see!"
|Christmas 1943 (the previous year) Helen, Myrle, Ralph|