By Larry Clinton
Daisy Hollingsworth, who served as Office Assistant to the President of Marinship during WWII, recalled some of her more entertaining memories in the book The History Of A Wartime Shipyard, which is part of the Sausalito Historical Society collection. Here are some excerpts:
It is hard to describe such a position as I had. Every type of party was arranged and worried through. Breakfasts, luncheons, dinners, receptions, for two guests or two hundred, with wartime rationing, were a challenge. Podesta and Baldocchi's best, the blooms from Marin County gardens and even lupins picked near the railroad tracks at Gate 5 helped to make all these affairs beautiful.
In between were the thrice-weekly meetings of the Operating Committee, where the problems of the yard were thrashed out. To save time, luncheon was served in the President's office, the guests often including important Washington officials, executives from other yards and industries, but most often men from our own yard. This was fun. Knowing who liked what best (eschew cucumbers, go lightly on garlic dishes, and serve the best possible desserts) was a goal to strive for. The hectic parts did not show, such as food that did not arrive, more guests than planned for, a birthday cake dropped on the floor and carefully repaired and served just the same.
Little happenings come to mind that are interesting because of the people involved: the need to suggest to the President that he change "that yard hat" when leaving for San Francisco; Bing Crosby and the President starting down to a yard program in a fine drizzle; Marian Anderson singing before thousands in the yard on an improvised platform and receiving an ovation; Sally Rand showing some craftsmen her wedding ring made of different colors of gold, an exact miniature of the World Champion Rider's belt her husband had won; Ida Cantor, coming along with Eddie to be the gay butt of his jokes; Boris Karloff, so frightening on the screen, turning out to be a soft-spoken and charming man; Gertrude Lawrence rewarding bond winners with kisses; my changing stockings with a frantic sponsor who had discovered a run in one of hers at the last moment.
The most picturesque guests were the sons of the King of Saudi Arabia. They were tall men and carried their beautiful long white robes with distinction. Even more exciting to look at was the Nubian slave who was their bodyguard, wearing weapons with jeweled hilts, reminding one of the Arabian Nights. The Arabians' signatures were the most unusual in our guest book.
The brother of the Queen of England, David Bowes-Lyon, thought our yard a wonderful one, and took time to really see it, but did not get paint on his suit (we kept handy a special paint remover to render first aid to many a bedaubed visitor after a yard tour). Sir Amos Aver, head of British war shipping, and other English naval officers were most interested in our high outfitting docks and other new ideas not to be found in traditional shipyards.
Dozens of French, Russian, and Netherlands naval officers; congressmen, writers, United Nations Conference delegates, as well as the top executives of every type of company, visited Marinship. Occasionally a trip was arranged for wives while the husbands attended meetings; Muir Woods never disappointed a single one of them.
The gayest of breakfasts were those in the cafeteria in the early morning before a trial run of one of our vessels. A couple of strips of bacon and even butter for the hot rolls were treats indeed because of rationing. Everyone sparkled with a feeling of adventure.
At long last came the day when, the war over, the Office Assistant, like many others, could go back to her home and garden and plan a party for four or eight instead of two hundred.
On June 1st, I’ll be giving an illustrated presentation on Sausalito’s Contribution to WWII Then and Now at the Star Of The Sea Church’s Duggan Hall, 180 Harrison Ave., starting with refreshments at 6:30 PM. If you’d like to join us, please RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Burlesque dancer Sally Rand cavorting with hardhats at Marinship.
Photo courtesy of Sausalito Historical Society