1952 - 1955


The USS PATAPSCO returned to Pearl Harbor from Japan-Korea in mid December 1952. Our application for Naval Housing had been approved and we had one end of a brand new duplex with three bedrooms and big back porch waiting for us.

I bought a $100 dollar Chevrolet four door sedan we could use until our 47 Buick was shipped. Morena's brother drove it out to Los Angeles where Morena's college friend Claude Parkhill kept it until the PATAPSCO came to California. I had it loaded aboard and we brought it to Hawaii in the cargo hold.

Morena and the children had taken the train from Little Rock to Los Angeles via a compartment on the Pullman car and then on to San Francisco. Video cameras did not exist If Morena's experience of being cooped up with six children ranging in age from Marobeth seven to Don and Dave twenty two months could have been recorded it would have made an entertaining TV show. Their favorite activity was ringing the bell for the porter. Morena finally made a deal with him that he would ignore it when it rang.

Changing trains at Los Angeles with a close connection, six children , and all their baggage could not have been accomplished without the help of an angel in the form of baggage man who managed to get them on the train just as it started to move. When they got seated a man near by inquired, "Are they all yours?'

Eventually they got into the hotel in San Francisco. For dinner Morena ordered Kentucky fried chicken and fed the small fry while sitting in the empty bath tub.

After overnighting in San Francisco the military transportation people put the family on one of the MARS class two deck flying boats. These huge propeller planes were used to transport passengers and freight. When the personnel officer saw the size of Morena's tribe he put a nurse on the plane just to help her.

The 200 mile per hour flying boat took almost 12 hours to make the 2200 mile trip to Honolulu.

I met them at the seaplane base. I hadn't seen the family for five months and was amazed at how much they had grown especially the twins.. Exhausted Morena breathed a sigh of relief as she turned them over to me.. Our household goods had already arrived and I had the house already set up man fashion, but subject to complete rearrangement to fit the lady of the house's taste.

I bought a supply of comic books as welcoming gifts for the children. When we were settled in we could hardly wait to go up to the Pali where we had been married 11 years earlier. We assumed the children would relive the same thrill we would experience. Instead of being enthralled as we were they ignored the indescribable beauty of the Pali and it's surroundings valleys and waterfalls. They sat in he car with their noses buried in the comic books.

As with most houses built in that era our house only had one bathroom. (No house unless it is custom made is built to accommodate six children). We had an adequate yard and some space unimproved in back so the children could spread out. Since the weather is semi tropical the children were outside except for eating and sleeping. We made bunk beds using the dressers for the foot board of the upper bunks. All five boys slept in the same room. Marobeth had her own room.

The Navy had several private beaches nearby so we did a lot of swimming the year round. One of the best military beaches was at Ft. DeRussey on Waikiki beach where we often went.

Marobeth and Jonathan attended Pearl Harbor elementary school. Jonathan was about as tall as his first grade teacher. Jimmy started to school the next year. One day school let out early without any advance notice. The school bus stop was several blocks from our house. Although he had never done it alone before Jimmy found his way home.

We attended a new Baptist church in Kalihi Valley about six miles from home. It was a good church with solid teaching and preaching by pastor Young. At an evangelistic campaign, Jimmy practically ran forward when the invitation was given to receive Christ and confess Him publicly.. Marobeth and Jon followed. They were baptized the next Sunday afternoon at the older Olivet Baptist church.

My primary ministry outreach was to the military. I held an early morning service on the ship before going to church.

There was always an overflow crowd of servicemen in the downtown area of Honolulu. There was also an overflow of bars.

Working with a couple of other fellows I secured the second floor above a bar and established the ARMED FORCES VICTORY CENTER

The drawing card was free coffee and cookies and a place to relax.

The Navigators sent Herb and Betty Atwood out to run the center. A number of volunteers were always available and we had an aggressive and fruitful evangelistic ministry. Chaplain Bernt Opsol, with whom I had gotten acquainted in Japan, was aboard a repair ship, which never went to sea. He didn't have his family with him so spent many of his evenings at the Center. When he finished his obligated service he became president of the Lutheran Bible Institute in Minneapolis. (We recently received a translation of an article he had written in a Norwegian publication about our co-laborship)

But our most solid ministry was with couples. We started a Bible Study rotating to various homes. One of the women who became a Christian, Charlotte, was a former air line stewardess married to a Navy Captain. She hit the ground running as a Christian and has not slowed down. She phones us from Orlando several times a year and on our wedding anniversary sent us a $500 check.

Another of the other wives, Alice Lapham, was married to a Warrant Officer. Once she got started reading the Bible and memorizing Scripture she became a female Sergeant York in the Christian army. She was willing to witness to every thing that moved. When she left us for San Diego that community soon felt the impact of her presence.

We are still in contact with some of the others involved in that study.

In 1953 we had Dawson Trotman come out to Honolulu for a week end Conference. He stayed with us. Don and David were in the head bumping stage. They put Dawson to sleep by the rhythm produced by bumping their heads on the cinder block wall. They developed a pretty mean beat which got louder and louder as they got older. Apparently it didn't do any harm other than give them calluses on the back of their skulls.

Morena dressed the twins and Joe alike with the result that they were often mistaken for triplets. In the Honolulu parks there are many pools of water with the surface so covered with broad leaves that they look like flower beds. Once while we were walking through one of the parks, David fell in one of them. . When he was asked why he fell in his answer was, "A birdie pushed me."

January 1955 was moving time again. We had traded our 47 Buick for an almost new 1952 battleship sized four door Buick . We shipped it back to San Francisco ahead of us. A friend loaned us his station wagon.

The movers who came to pack our things have always had a way of packing everything in sight. Morena put her purse in the front car seat of the station wagon to prevent it from being packed When she looked for it later it was gone. We found out one of children thought that the car was no place for a purse and put it on the piano. We didn't know whether it was stolen or packed until our things arrived in Virginia Beach two months later.

Since her glasses, driver's license, and ID card were in the purse we had to hustle around to get them replaced immediately.

Our neighbor offered to fix lunch for the children. She told us later that it was the first lunch she had ever fixed where she used an entire loaf of bread and a full jar of both peanut butter and jelly. plus an entire box of cookies.( We kept from going bankrupt in Hawaii by shopping at the Navy commissary where a box of cereal cost 35 cents. Peanut butter was also 35 cents a jar. We could buy a week's supply of groceries for 35.00 dollars)

We moved to Fort DeRussey, the military recreation center at Waikiki until January 21. When moving the military paid 8 cents a mile for children five and over. We conveniently delayed our departure until Joe's fifth birthday, January 21st.

We rode the same MARS flying boat the family came out on 26 months earlier. The seadrome was located in the ocean adjoining the Honolulu airport. It was extremely windy the night we left. After starting his takeoff run the pilot fired the JATO (jet assisted take off) bottles at the strategic moment and after an eternity of bouncing we were finally airborne for the 13 hour flight to San Francisco to land at the Alameda Naval Air Station

Our friends, the Lokkesmoes, had picked up our car and had it gassed up and we were ready to start our 3000 mile drive to Virginia Beach. Although temperatures were normal for January in the Bay area, we felt like we had landed at the north pole. I couldn't keep warm. The younger children were even willing to keep their shoes on.

Since there was no Interstate Highway System until President Eisenhower authorized it in 1955, you can realize how different traveling was in those days.

We knew it would be a challenging trip so we did our best to prepare. We got each of the children a thermos bottle and Scotch checkered zipper bag to keep their entertainment stuff in.

I strung two home made hammocks on each side of the car and attached to the roof (inside of course) for the twins to lie in. Jonathan appropriated the shelf below the rear window as his throne. Joe sat in the front seat with Morena and me and the back seat was the domain of Marobeth and Jim with the twins and Jonathan often leaving their perch to sit, fight, and tussle with them and each other.

Since the bored kids had so little to do they took up the slack by drinking from their thermos bottles This meant a lot of rest stops to get rid of surplus water and to re-supply the thermos bottles. Once they were out of the car, mom and dad had to become as tough as drill sergeants to get them back in. A few minutes after one stop David said he had to go to the bathroom. We of course told him he had just been to the bathroom. He admitted he had but said he didn't use it because , "It was not clean".

On the third day Joe was getting weary toward the end of the day. He asked, "When are we going to find one of those little houses to stay in?"

We took the southern route and eventually got to Little Rock. Since nobody could accommodate a family our size, Morena, Marobeth and Joe stayed with Morena's parents while I took the twins and Jon and Jim to visit my family in Missouri. I outfitted the boys with long handled underwear, and overshoes to cope with the below zero weather and snow. We were not yet acclimated after so long in Hawaii. My folks opened up an unused north bedroom and put a wood burning stove in it but it still got cold after the fire went out. The kids renamed it the "COLDY"" room. It still bears that name today.

After a couple of weeks in Missouri, (Jon and Jim went to school) we went back to Little Rock from whence we resumed and completed our journey to Virginia Beach.

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James W. Downing
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