As we headed east on the Bay Bridge in our’37 Buick Sedan, my father reached over and turned on the radio. Benny Goodman’s And the Angels Sing started to play. My mother quickly changed the station. When Begin The Beguine came on, she changed it again. Finally, when there was yet one more love song crooning out of the speakers, she turned off the radio completely. My parents sat apart, staring forward in silence.
When we came alongside the Golden Gate International Exposition on Treasure Island my father said, “Hey, look boys!” Johnny climbed over to my side of the seat. I shoved him away but he ignored me and stuck his head out the window.
“Do you see it?” my father said.
“Yeah!” my brother called back. I saw it too. We had visited the fair earlier that summer and everything was exactly as I remembered it. The Temple of the Sun towered into the sky. The equally tall Statue of the Pacifica stood facing it like a giant god. The grounds were filled with thousands of people. It was a remarkable sight to see, especially when you realized that they had created the entire island just to house the exposition.
Then the fair was gone and I looked back over my shoulder. San Francisco was enveloped in a blanket of fog behind us. Up ahead the waters of the bay were a sparkling color blue. The long journey we were about to embark on came back to my thoughts. We were scheduled to board a train in Oakland in half an hour, bound for New York and from there off to Europe on an ocean liner. My mother was taking us back to the old country, but even as a boy of nine, there was something about this trip that did not add up. We had visited the Kingdom of Yugoslavia only two years earlier, which had provided my mother with ample opportunity to show off her two boys to all the relatives. Everyone had gotten to hear about what a wonderful life we had in America. I wasn’t sure why we were hurrying back there now. I was excited about the trip, but questions kept creeping into my thoughts, for which I had no answers.
According to my mother, the reason for our trip was her rheumatism. At least I had heard her telling my father as much in conversation. A doctor had recommended she get away from the damp, foggy weather of San Francisco. But then why not simply move over to Oakland? The weather was a lot warmer and drier on that side of the bay. Going back to the old country seemed like a rather extreme solution to me.