Eleanor & Curtis

My grandparents, Eleanor and Curtis Domingue, passed away this week; my grandma last Friday, and my grandpa early this morning. They would have celebrated their 71st anniversary this October.

On the occasion of their 60th anniversary, my grandma took time to compile memories of her and her family’s life into four books and presented one to each of her four children. My dad scanned them all together and passed them along to me.

Of all the stories, the one that has stayed with me is the story of how she and my grandfather met by chance, fell out of touch, then reconnected by chance over a year later.

We pick up the story in 1944, when a 17-year-old Eleanor lived in Oceanside, CA, with her sister, Mary, and Mary’s husband, Henry; waiting tables at the White Kitchen and helping care for Mary and Henry’s young daughter, Sharron.

Here is the story of Eleanor and Curtis, as told by my grandma, Eleanor (lightly edited for clarity):

My job at the White Kitchen is how I met your dad. The Navy and Marine base was only about a half mile from the restaurant, so I dated servicemen. There was no bus service; it was a very small town, and everybody walked to where they wanted to go. I had a date with a Navy man, his name was Miller (in the service, men went by their last name), but he unexpectedly got called for duty. We had planned to go out to a movie, so Miller asked your dad to come to the White Kitchen and explain it to me, and take me to the movie. Your dad told him that he didn’t have any money so Miller gave your dad his wallet to take me. That almost sounds unbelievable!

I told your dad that I had to take Sharron with us and that was ok with him. Sharron was almost two years old at that time. The movie we saw was Laura, but I didn’t watch too much of it — I kept thinking how good looking your dad was, and I really liked him better than Miller. (Not too long ago I asked your dad to rent the movie so we could watch it.) After the movie date, your dad would come by the restaurant every night when I was getting off work and we would have a drink. He told me he didn’t have much money because he was sending his mom his allotment and he was only getting $13 a month. I was sending my mom money every month, so it seemed like we were meant for each other. Besides, he didn’t need any money because I always had a pocket full of change and I didn’t mind spending it.

We both liked to jitterbug so we always went to places where we could dance. Many evenings after dancing we would walk to the water and out on the pier and sit and talk. Then he would walk me home. There was a fenced area on side of Mary’s home where Sharron could play. It had a glider swing and some evenings your dad and I would sit there and talk. Most evenings he just walked me to the door and said, “Goodnight, see you tomorrow.” We had been seeing each other for a long time before he kissed me. Dad claims that he was “shy”.

In December 1945, Henry was getting out of the marines and they were moving back to San Antonio. Your dad was still overseas. We had continued to write to each other and I knew he was getting back to California that month. Henry put off leaving as long as he could and finally he said we had to leave. I remember how sad I was in the car driving back to San Antonio. Your dad got to California the day after we left.

In 1947, my best friend, Dottie, wanted me to go with her to California. My mom said I could go if I saved the money, which I did. Once I had the money, Dottie and I took the train to Oakland, California; that was where she wanted to go and I didn’t care where we went. On the train we met some sailors and they asked if we had any games that we could play. I had a deck of cards in my makeup case and when I opened it I had your dad’s picture taped to the inside lid and the sailor saw it. He said, “I know that guy – we are from the same small Louisiana town.” He gave me your dad’s address, so I wrote to him. That had been one and a half years since we dated in Oceanside, and we renewed our old friendship through letters.

When I got back to San Antonio your dad came to see me. He was getting in on the Saturday that my mom was going to have Pat and Patricia baptized. My mom told me if I was going to marry Curtis she would ask him to be Godfather, and me Godmother, to Patrick. I told her that I would know as soon as I saw Curtis. Aunt Mary took me to pick him up at the train station and I remember she told me she wouldn’t wait by the car so if I wanted to kiss him I could. My mom and I had planned to meet in the bathroom when we got home and I would tell her if I was going to marry Curtis. She wanted to know right away because of the twins’ baptism. I told her “yes” that I was going to marry him. Although he hadn’t asked me yet – I knew that he would.

He did ask me before he left to go back to Louisiana. I had always said I wanted to get married on my mom and dads 25th wedding anniversary, so we decided that dream could be fulfilled and we married on October 18, 1947.