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Dora Silvers is an east coast girl from New Jersey, but her husband Jack was from California. Jack had served in the war, and after they married in 1949, Jack wanted to move back home. Dora shares this account of her journey with her usual dry humor. Shared Stories is a weekly column featuring articles by participants in a writing class at the Norwalk Senior Center. Bonnie Mansell is the instructor for this free class offered through the Cerritos College Adult Education Program. Curated by Carol Kearns
After Jack and I were married, he wanted to move to California to be near his dad. A job was waiting for him. When I told the engineers whom I worked with, they told me, “You need a passport to get into California!” When I told Jack, he said, “I doubt it, but things do change.”
We made the trip by Greyhound bus, sleeping on the bus and stopping only to use the restroom or grab a fast meal at a Greyhound station. Our longest stop was in Texas where we changed buses and had a two-hour layover.
I went to the ladies room and washed up and changed my clothes entirely. When I came out, I had paper towels to dispose of. There was a large receptacle with swinging hinges, and a girl had her gloves drying there.
When she picked up her gloves, a ten-dollar bill fell on the ground. I asked her if it was hers. She said “No.” I held it up and asked the other ladies if it belonged to them. No one replied. I still felt guilty taking the money.
When I came out and told Jack, he could hardly believe it. Well, since we had more time to get a good restaurant meal, we looked around and found a restaurant within walking distance. This was in 1949, and we had dinner and dessert, and left a tip – all for $10.00.
Now we were heading for California. But I realized that my new white winter hat was on the bus that we left. I had secured it to the seat in front of us with my hat pin. Jack was so thoughtful; he went back and got it.
On our next stop I thought we should get some fruit. We bought oranges and apples. That was a big treat for us. We put the peelings and apple cores in a bag next to our seat. Then we both fell fast asleep.
Later, when I looked up, there were uniformed men asking people questions. We were in the back of the bus, and I thought, “Maybe I really do need a passport.”
Then they came to me and asked if I had any fruit. I said, “How did you know?” I really was only half-awake, as it was 2:00 AM in the morning. He grinned at me and I gave him my bag with the peelings.
When the bus pulled out, the lady next to me said, “That was an agriculture check. You’re not supposed to bring fruit into California.” Well, at least I didn’t need a passport, I thought to myself.
We arrived in Bell Gardens where my father-in-law and his new wife Claire lived (Jack’s parents were divorced a long time ago). This was in January. We had snow flurries, but they melted when they reached the ground.
Claire was my age and did not know too much about cooking. I decided to make ravioli, which was easy. I didn’t do a lot of cooking before I got married because I left it all to my mom.
I went to the local market and asked for pot cheese. Back in New Jersey it was next to the pickle barrel. The clerk showed me head cheese, which is jellied meat made from the head of an animal. Yuk, Yuk. It looked rather bad. I explained that pot cheese was like cottage cheese without the cream. So, I bought the cottage cheese and drained the cream.
This move was an experience for me. Actually, it was 3,000 miles from New Jersey, not 1,000 miles. But life went on.
Published: July 3, 2014 – Volume 13 – Issue 12