The aftermath of a great war leaves everyone trying to rebuild old lives or begin new ones. The end of World War Two found my husband and me both eager to get started on our future together.
Lynn had spent six years, from 1940 t0 1946, in the U.S.Navy and was relieved to be a civilian again, especially as our family now included two small daughters. He continued going to sea, serving now as a Marine Engineer with the U.S. Military Sea Transport, and our new way of life began to take shape.
Looking back over the hectic war years, it occurred to us that something important had been overlooked in the rush of our modest marriage. We’d never had a honeymoon!
So in 1949, six years and 4 months after the “I Dos,” we dropped our two daughters off with my mother, loaded up our 1940 Studebaker Champion and, with gasoline no longer rationed, we headed south. No “Just Married” signs smeared our car windows, no tin-cans rattled and clanked along behind, there was no rice falling out of everything, just the two of us enjoying perfect autumn days as we drove through the colorful Ozark mountains.
Our destination was Monterrey, Mexico. We didn’t speak a word of Spanish but somehow muddled and mumbled our way across the border. An American insurance company, Sanborn’s, had offices in every border city, ready to insure travelers with cars for any time spent in Mexico. They also provided maps and guide books so we felt well prepared.
By the time we’d spent a week in Monterrey we’d fallen totally in love with the country, the people, the culture and the history. Our time was spent sightseeing, going through the wonderful museums, browsing the gift shops and eating real Mexican food; in other words, being tourists.
Feeling adventuresome, we decided to spend a few days in Saltillo, at that time still a small colonial mining town in the mountains. Driving up and down the hilly streets, we were delighted by the beautiful, black-eyed children who ran out at every turn, waving their arms at us and shouting “Una Via!” “Una Via!” We smiled and waved back, calling “Hello! How are you?” in English, pleased at such a warm welcome.
Fortunately for two dumb gringos, true Innocents Abroad, there was almost no traffic, We later learned “Una Via” meant “One Way” in Spanish and we were definitely heading backwards everywhere we went.
As in all honeymoon lore, our most treasured souvenir of a fabulous trip made his appearance nine months later, welcomed by his two big sisters and his proud parents. We parents were also busy cramming Spanish lessons in our spare time, anticipating our next trip to Mexico.
Life has a way of happening and quite a few years passed before we were able to see our dream come true. We made brief stops in Mexico a few times but it was some years before we had a chance to spend any quality time there. We’d lived in the Panama Canal Zone for nearly 12 years, driven through every country in Central America and chosen Guatemala and Belize as close runners-up to Mexico as favorites. We’d also traveled extensively throughout our own 50 states and most of Canada.
When the chance to revisit Mexico finally came, we eventually drove through every state, or “estado,” on numerous trips, usually with a small travel trailer bouncing along behind. Over the years of our retirement we spent months at a time in both the beach town of Mazatlan and the lovely old city of Guadalajara, enjoying the many friends we made.
And, yes, we did improve our Spanish.