There are several Phoebe’s in the family, Phoebe Jane, Phoebe Catherine, two Phoebe Gloria’s, and the latest, Phoebe Rose.
My Aunt Phoebe [Catherine] was definitely one of the more adventurous of my relatives.
She was my grandmother’s older sister, so, technically, she was my great-aunt, but we never went by that strict a formality. Slightly odd, since she could be quite strict and formal – as one born in 1890 was wont to be.
Born in Colorado in 1890, she married in 1907, and, in the Federal Census of 1910, she was a widow, living in San Francisco. By 1920, she was living in New York City, working as a nurse on ocean liners, traveling the world.
She never remarried.
In 1940, she had a face-lift and a new birth certificate saying she was born in 1905. She then joined the Army Nurse Corps.
She spent several years back in California before heading off to The Philippines in late 1942.
The hospital she was working in was bombed, and she was buried under ruble for three days before being rescued. She had a bad back for the rest of her life, but it never slowed her down.
After her discharge, she returned to New York, but moved back to San Francisco in the mid 1950s and she and her sister, my Aunt Dolores moved in together after Aunt Dolores’ husband, my Uncle Tommy, died.
It wasn’t exactly a perfect arrangement – Phoebe was 8 years older than Dolores – and could play “older sister” quite well. Still, they managed until 1970 when Aunt Phoebe passed at 80 years of age.
At 70, she was taking my brother and me downtown to the luxurious movie palaces of the day for first run movies and to silver service, white tablecloth restaurants, learning the correct fork to use or how to properly use a napkin. She never raised her voice – it was a stern look that got us every time.
Their 5th floor apartment in Stonestown was great for kids… running up and down stairs, dropping bottles down the trash chute to see how much noise we could make, pushing all of the elevator buttons – you know… typical unsupervised kid-stuff.
In later years, I always went over to set up their aluminum Christmas Tree – using a shopping cart from QFI to bring it up from their basement storage area. My grammar school friend Bob Brandt and I would jump on the 18 Sloat and go over to and play Canasta with them after school now and again.
I have several small things she picked up in her travels, including these two little hand-carved pieces.
Program for The Military Ball held at the Hollywood Palladium, April 15, 1942