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Chapter XIV – That Golden Gate and Beyond



How often we had thought of and talked about entering that golden gate! “Open wide that golden gate, California, here I come”. It was worth being delayed a couple of day» by the storm, which caused us to sail under the majestic bridge — the gateway to home — at 0600 on April 3, 1945. How beautiful it looked! Even though we could scarcely see those graceful spans through the fog, we could feel its outstretched arms, and the enfolding embrace of its warm welcome for some of its wayward sons. This feeling was accentuated when, after certain formalities (mostly red tape) aboard, we had the privilege of setting foot on our own soil for the first time in several years. It was more than three and one- half years since I had left home. I guess some of our people actually did lie down on their bellies and kissed the pavement — to carry out the threat they had made to do just that.

Immediately after we left the Old Puebla we were loaded into waiting buses (they probably didn’t want us to get scattered), which took us to a military receiving station and hospital on the south side of the city. Until we were logged-in there, and their processing began, I hardly knew whom we belonged to; we were almost orphans until we were attached (loosely) to this new, temporary command. After we had been at this big, bustling place only a couple of hours we were given the opportunity to go over to Treasure Island to buy uniforms and other items we needed. As we took these bus rides those seven hills looked like a seventh heaven, and the bridges seemed like beautiful rainbows, at the end of which was the pot of gold we had waited for, and finally had reached.

Before we went to Treasure Island, however, I managed to slip in a phone call to Rosie — the first time I had used a phone in more than three years, and, more importantly, the first time I had heard Rosie’s voice in more than three and one-half years. An indescribable thrill!
She aimed (in spite of hell and high water) to get up there within the next day or two, and “McPheeters church” would be our communications center. Also, Razzie Truitt was now 12th Naval District chaplain — with his office right down town. So, we had a good communications set-up.

To get back to our Treasure Island deal, they were ready and waiting for us with salespeople and tailors, and of course we were loaded! They did the altering of these uniforms within a couple of hours — while we were shopping for other things. Although Rosie had sent one blue uniform,
I bought a new one, since I knew my pre-war ones would be too big. I still weighed at least thirty pounds less than I had before the war. I had not yet had a chance to get down to McPheeters “shop” to pick up the things Rosie had sent, but the next day I did manage to get away from the receiving station, and took a trip downtown. Of course, I alerted Dr. McPheeter’s office and Razzie as to the imminent arrival of Rosie, who had not been able to give us a definite E.T.A. as yet. But, in her own way, through adventurous faith, involving a series of unbelievable events (to those who think only in terms of mere coincidences), Rosie miraculously made it in record time. It is unnecessary to go into detail here with this very personal and (we think) rather romantic story. Suffice it to say, that it was in line with our motto that says, “Anything that ought to be done can be done” … with God’s help.

When my friend McPheeters learned that Rosie was going to join me, and that we were going to be in San Francisco over the following Sunday, he immediately went to work on me to get me to speak (which meant preach) at Glide Memorial that Sunday evening. I was not too enthusiastic about the idea, since I didn’t really know just what kind of shape I was in; also, I was enjoying my freedom so much that I just wanted to continue being as free as a bird. But the invitation became more interesting, when, after I had hesitated, Dr. McPheeters added — in his deep, sonorous voice: “Well, Brother Brewster, since Mrs. Brewster is going to join you here, and you want to stay in the city at least a few days, I can arrange to have you both stayas our guests for a week or more at the Hotel Californian”. This hotel just north of the church was owned by the Glide Foundation, of which the pastor of the church was an ex-officio meeker. So, since accommodations were scarce I gave him an affirmative answer. So, we were assigned one of the best rooms in the hotel — without the five day limit, which was in effect at that time. Rosie’s only thought was that she ‘didn’t want me to become too involved too soon — wisely realizing that what I needed was plenty of good normal living, including a lot of relaxation.

The next day I went into town again. It had been determined that I need not stick around the receiving station, and could stay in the city as long as I would be staying in the area. So I stayed at the receiving station just two nights, and could have gone to San Diego then, but as long as I was in San Francisco I was just required to let them know where I could be readied. As soon as I got to the Glide office this second time, the word (which had just been received from Rosie) was that she would land at the airport that afternoon. I didn’t lose much time alerting Razzie Truitt’s office, since he wanted to know as soon as I got the word. My good friend arranged to, have an official car and driver to take the two of us out to meet Rosie at the appointed time — and we were not late for this appointment!

I think I have never had more anxious moments than those spent in waiting for that plane to show up and land. When it finally did land and Rosie alighted, I must have been in an 8th heaven. She looked more glamorous than any movie star possibly could have. I still say that I think Razzie, who seemed almost as excited as I, grabbed her and kissed her first, but I did a better job than he did! On the way downtown Razzie sat up front with the driver, and let us two lovebirds sit in back holding hands, and trying to think of what to say or ask about next. After all, we had only been, married eighteen and one-half years — and the last three and a half had been an absentee arrangement — arranged by others. We were driven to our hotel, where we spent eight days, and no money, not even for meals eaten at the hotel. I must say, in self defense, however, that we did eat many of our meals away from the Californian.

Perhaps we should have felt guilty because of spending this time away from the boys and the rest of the family; but we didn’t, since we felt that we needed this time alone at this particular juncture. Our sons (Leland sixteen and Leonard, eight) were in good hands, and Leland, at least, was mature enough to understand our feelings. We did see several of our friends, who came to see us at the hotel during that week, which was all too short. We were glad to see these friends, some of whom came from quite a distance, over in the Sacramento valley, where we had served two churches back in the thirties.

There was one visitor who came to the hotel the next day after we arrived, whom I wasn’t so glad to see, and I probably wasn’t very nice to him. I offer a belated apology — wherever he is. I have reference to a young, smart-alec reporter from one of the papers, who apparently thought that a “naive, emotionally upset chaplain” would answer all his dumb questions just the way he wanted them answered, and that he could come away with a dramatic scoop for his paper. Perhaps I had lost some of my mar- bles, but I guess I hadn’t lost all of them, since Rosie said that I wasn’t as “wacky” as I might have been. At any rate, I simply didn’t like the way this young guy operated, and didn’t tell him much. I may have told him that if he wanted to hear more he could come to the church on Sunday evening. I doubt that he was present, however. Ex POWs of any kind were a curiosity, since Americans had scarcely had this experience before. Any chaplain would probably have been even more of an exhibit “A” — especially if he were the first and only Navy chaplain to be coming back from the Philip- pines. This may have seemed somewhat dramatic to some people, (I hope it did to Rosie) but 1 was satisfied with the story that the Navy Public Relations office put in the papers. |

Even though my young reporter “friend” probably did not attend Glide Memorial church that Sunday night, a lot of other people did. Dr. McPheeters, evidently circulated the word pretty widely, since there were friends and acquaintances from as far away as two hundred miles in this capacity congregation. Of course the war was still on, and anything of this kind was very current, and perhaps timely, although gasoline was pretty hard to come by.

I don’t know whether or not the Glide Foundation felt repaid for the hundred dollars worth of hospitality they had invested in us, but Dr. McPheeters and Razzie were quite complimentary, and a number of others said they were repaid for coming — some of them must have had a hard time securing the gasoline for the trip at that time of rationing. In the half hour at my disposal (I may have taken a little more) it would have been impossible for me to begin to tell all that had happened during those three years. So I hit some of the high spots (and some of the valleys, too) and told the congregation that “there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother”, who stuck by me in all these situations — including the deepest depressions. This text (supplemented by others) became the theme of most of my sermons and talks during subsequent days. Of course I aimed to direct my fire with the particular situation in mind. If I could have found a better text and/or theme I would have done so.

The only other speaking engagement, during this interim in San Francisco was at an informal gathering during the week at Epworth University Church in Berkeley. This was where we had spent the third year of our ministry (1932-33) working with University students. Although none of these young people (softie already thirty-five) was still in the group,, we were among friends and mutual friends of days gone by. I hope it was a worthwhile occasion for those present for those present — as it was for us. Rosie was not anxious for me to take on too much activity, and in her wisdom, due to her concern, finally convinced me that I was really a convalescent.

I was in a patient-in-transit status, and had to go out to the receiving station a time or two (for paper work) during that wonderful week. When I let them know that I would like to leave for San Diego on April 12 (Leland’s sixteenth birthday) I was issued orders to report to San Diego Naval hospital on or about 15 April — for further tests and treatment.

So, on the morning of April 12 we boarded the Daylight Limited — leaving the hills of our shangri-la in the mists of the morning. We left with mixed feelings — but not with sadness, for now we were going home {that beautiful word) to our sons and parents, and the rest of our family and friends. My brother Houston, the market owner who had furnished the food , for that wonderful package, had notified us that he and his wife, Dixie, would meet the train that evening in Los Angeles; and drive us to Long Beach, where bur boys and other loved ones would be waiting.

Our train trip was enjoyable but uneventful until we reached Santa Barbara about four o’clock. Before the train had pulled out, the brake- man tapped me on the shoulder (I was in uniform, of course) and relayed to me the message they had just received: “President Roosevelt has just
died”. Immediately the car began to buzz with all of us wondering (out loud) what would happen now — with our war-time Commander in Chief out of the picture^ at the very climax of this global war. Apparently Mr. Truman was not only not well known, but, as it turned out, he had not been briefed on the details of our procedures, But, that is another story.

We were met by Houston and Dixie, who had done a lot of nice things for Rosie and the boys while I was away. The four of us “just had” to have dinner at the Union Station, so when we got to Long Beach it really was an expectant, excited and perhaps curious group which met us on the front lawn of my sister Allie’s home. Poor little Leonard was almost lost among the grown folks, but it didn’t take us long to find each other; this was the case with Lelanjl, my mother, Mother and Dad Traver — and all the rest. I suppose, for some, it was as if one were returning from the dead, which wasn’t far wrong. We weren’t able to stay in Long Beach longer than overnight, since I was expected to check in at the San Diego Naval hospital within a couple of days, and I was anxious to at least see old 919 “C” Avenue in Coronado before going to the hospital — probably to stay awhile. Rosie had driven to the old Pontiac to Long Beach on her way north, so on April, 13 the four of us piled into the trusty buggy (I was a passenger) and headed south on old familiar 101. The sea was never bluer, the spray and foam of the waves never more refreshing than now — with our family intact, … joyously heading for home!

 Dog Named Brownie - Illustration by Rosella Brewster