A WARTIME LOVE AFFAIR THAT LIVES ON

THE HUMAN RACE

 A WORLD WAR II ROMANCE THAT BEGAN

AT THE MAJESTIC BALL ROOM

      It was a night in November 1944. Rain was pelting the sidewalks, lightening was sparking across the Pacific Ocean, and World War II was raging when two 18-year-old kids — a sailor on shore leave off the USS La Grange and a 10-cents-a-dance girl — danced their first dance together.

     Jack Perry, a tall rawboned signalman soon to head off to war aboard the attack transport, had ducked out of the storm into the Majestic Ballroom. It was a legendary haunt at The Pike, an amusement park in Long Beach, California where big bands played and servicemen swayed and jitterbugged with girls for 10-cents a dance.

     Across the packed ballroom floor was Ruth Balding, a statuesque blonde. She had blown her first paycheck as a bank trainee on a coral-colored gaberdine dress with gold-rimmed buttons running down the front.  

     A couple of hours earlier she sat alone in the garage of her parents’ home in nearby Harbor City crying. The storm was ruining her life. She loved to dance. Besides, she wanted to show off her pretty dress that cost a whopping $28. At the last moment, a friend gave her a lift to the Majestic.

     And that’s when the shy swabbie, who grew up in Ajo, a tiny copper mining town in Arizona, forked over a dime to dance with the daughter of a shipyard worker. Although Jack couldn’t jitterbug, one ten-cent dance ticket led to another. And another. And they fell in love.

     But that’s not the end of the story.

     Several weeks later their romantic interlude ended when Jack shipped out headed for a war in the South Pacific which included the invasion of Okinawa. Months later, measured by a stack of censored love letters, the USS La Grange pulled into San Francisco Bay.    

     As the ship’s launch, loaded with sailors, neared the dock, there was a lone woman standing there to greet it. A teary-eyed ten-cents-a-dance girl named Ruth. She had taken a Greyhound bus to San Francisco, talked her way past the shore patrol, and stood alone, shivering in the cold, waiting for the sailor boy who couldn’t jitterbug. The one who, despite kamikaze attacks on his convoy and the fear of death, wrote all those bushy love letters.    

     On November 3, 1946 they were married. Now in their 80s living in Torrance, California, the love affair continues. “There isn’t a day that goes by — with the exception of an occasional catastrophe — that Jack doesn’t make me laugh,” said Ruth. “Happiness. That’s what love is.”

 — Boots LeBaron —

(This and many other human interest stories

interspersed with poetry and essays are featured

in Boots’  current book, THE HUMAN RACE

by Boots LeBaron available on Kindle and in

 paperback on Amazon)

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