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A wartime love story

The Spirit of Tehachapi

 

September 29, 2018

Photo provided

Dee Dee and Eddie Bachara.

Continuing a look at the BeeKay Theatre Mural, we skip down several folk to a U.S. Marine and his pretty, young date waiting in line to see a movie. The time frame being early 1944.

World War II changed the lives of not only Tehachapi residents, but of the whole nation. The attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, caused record enlistments for all branches of the service. Many fine young Tehachapi men lost their lives. One woman, Helen Green Kent, after receiving notice that her husband had been killed in action, enlisted in the Woman's Army Corps (WACs)and was also to give her life for her country. When one knows them personally, they cease being statistics and will always be remembered.

During the war, whirlwind courtships became war time marriages before the groom "shipped out." The local drug store which, of course, had the traditional soda fountain, created a spot to hang photos of local young men and women who were serving their country.

In 1942 the U.S. Marine Corps Air Base was constructed in Mojave, just 20-miles away from Tehachapi. Young Marines came to town and were often welcomed into the homes of residents for Sunday dinner. Tehachapi, being a dancing town, found the young military men from all parts of the United States, enjoying themselves dancing with the local girls. Even the high school prom allowed the Marines to attend, for most of them were just out of school themselves and had vivid memories of their own high school proms.

Letting this story turn to a more personal note, we find a young Tehachapi High School student, Mary Louise "Dee Dee" Rodriguez, in her teens, being escorted by her mother, Mary Rodriguez, to one of the local Saturday night dances. It wasn't long before a young, good looking Marine, in his Dress Blues - Corporal Edward Bachara - asked her to dance. After a few polite words he suddenly announced, "I'm going to marry you!"

The conversation, not exactly following standard ballroom repartee, made her laugh and she told him that she was a Catholic and would only marry someone of that faith. He immediately said excitedly, "I'm a Catholic! I'm a Catholic!" At that point, to prove his statement, he began to recite prayers he had been taught as a child at Catechism classes.

After the dance he walked her and her mother home and told her he'd see her in church the next day, Sunday. She thought, "Well, I've seen the last of him." But the next day he did show up at Mass; a little late to be sure, but he winked at her as he passed by. He was sporting a black eye which indicated he'd been somewhere else after the dance, but he made it to church.

It wasn't long before he was shipped overseas to the war zones of the South Pacific. They exchanged letters for the many months he was gone. His prophetic words came true as they were married in 1945 after he returned from his overseas duty. They had a long and happy marriage. Many years later my son, Jim, would marry Dee Dee's daughter, Teri.

The local mural on Green Street next to the BeeKay Theatre shows Eddie and Dee Dee as they looked when they began their life together. They never stopped dancing. Perhaps only in the living room at home, but their children and grandchildren still remember watching them.

They are both gone now. The dance is ended, but the memories linger on.

Note: In September 2005, Dee Dee, by now a widow and suffering from a terminal illness, told her family, "Everyone has a big gathering after they die. I want mine while I'm still here to enjoy it!"

Some 60 people came to her house and, with her family and friends gathered around her, she enjoyed herself.

That day I asked her just how she and Eddie had met and she told me the wonderful tale of their first meeting at a local dance where he proposed, minutes after meeting her, while they were dancing. She died the next morning after her "party."

 
 

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