The year was 1932. I was 4 years old; my sister, Sylvia, was 10.
Our father had died in May, and our mother was unable to work due to a heart condition. This made us welfare kids.
We were notified my sister and I were to spend Christmas on the Battleship Texas. At 4 years old, I knew about Texas. You know, cowboys and Indians, but there weren’t any there.
Christmas morning, our mother took us to the Navy landing, where the shore boats brought the crews ashore on liberty. My hometown, San Pedro, Calif., was home port to the Pacific Fleet until President Franklin D. Roosevelt moved them to Pearl Harbor.
We got in the boat and headed out to the harbor into San Pedro Bay. You could see battleships, cruisers and other ships of the fleet (probably 40 ships, more or less).
We pulled up to the harbor side of Texas. Up the stairs, I could see these big guns. Below the guns was a beautifully cared for wooden deck. All of us kids (maybe 20) got our tour, and of course, a nice big Christmas dinner with the crew.
It’s strange what sticks in a child’s mind. I remember the deck in the head (toilet) was covered with white hexagon tiles. I’ve often wondered if they are still there.
On the way back to the Navy landing, I don’t remember any of us in the boat having a life jacket. Could we do that today? No one would have ever thought this magnificent battle wagon would one day sit in a pond of water in Texas.
Let’s get on to moving the fleet to Pearl Harbor in 1940. It was one week before my 12th birthday. My neighbor said he was taking his niece to watch them leave, and asked if I wanted to go. And I said sure.
His niece’s sister was married to one of the crew on the Battleship Oklahoma, and when it capsized, the rescue crew that cut a hole in the side of the hull rescued him and others that were trapped.
My neighbor parked at a good spot above Cabrillo Beach. It was a good view — you could see all of Los Angeles Harbor, the bay and the breakwater. If you looked north, you could see all of the mountains with snow on them (that was before pollution).
As the ships sailed across the breakwater lighthouse, no one could imagine what lay ahead for them as they sailed on, toward their future day of infamy. The ships went sailing out.
WHAT: The Battleship Texas celebrates the 100th anniversary of her commissioning. The 2014 festival will honor the Battleship Texas and her legendary history, and pay tribute to the surviving crew members who proudly served on the ship during World War II. Patrons can enjoy music headliners, children’s activity zones, gourmet food trucks and a fireworks show.
WHEN: Noon to 10 p.m. Saturday
WHERE: The San Jacinto Battleground State Historic Site, 3523 Independence Parkway South, in La Porte
Daniel A. Nelson lives in Friendswood.