The End of the Story… Or Is It?

In grandma’s 1942 diary, she added a note on February 6, 1944.

Up til the first part of June this book might as well not be — the 1st part just disgusts me — then came June — Zip — The Chicken Coop + good times + August + Zip again — I loved him — (maybe I still do) — oh — damn! — what good will it do!!!!!!!!!!!!

IMG_3149This was the month before she would see Zip again for the first time since he left Port Angeles in November 1942. In one of his letters, Zip mentions that it had been a year since he heard her voice (via telephone) and 15 months since he’d seen her. An eternity in the life of a teenage girl.

By March of 1944, grandma had lived in North Idaho for nearly a year. She writes to Zip that she isn’t going out and having fun, and he tells her she’s a fool not to. He encourages her to go out with other boys, too. In early 1944, he’s planning for his leave and planning to meet up with her. A telegram confirms their rendezvous.

And then silence. There’s not another letter from Zip until December, and then just a Christmas card signed “Bob” — maybe it was harder for him to write after he shipped out to the Mariana Islands, or maybe they decided to call it quits after their date. I wish I knew. But whatever happened, it wasn’t the end. There are only 5 letters from Zip in 1945. On January 2 he writes from “somewheres in the Marianas”:

Seems a long time since I last heard from you + you had my address when we were back in U.S. didn’t you?… We have just arrived on this island, but have been working + such down by Equator a long ways from U.S… Always glad to hear from you Pat + often think of you.

Grandma wrote a long letter and enclosed a picture at the end of January. Zip writes on Feb 6:

Not much to write about Pat after a person is overseas, but I enjoyed your nice long letter + if you get any more pictures I would appreciate them. I doubt if I can get any for some time of myself.

The last three letters from Zip come from California in August of 1945, where he had some reconstructive surgery after being injured on Saipan. On August 13, Zip writes:

Yesterday I received your enjoyable letter of July 5th. I often wondered what had happened to you. Quite a bit has happened to ol Zip since I wrote last. As you can tell by address I’m in the states + have been since May. I got fouled up on Saipan + sent me back to states to hospital. I’m getting plastic surgery on a few scars on my face + will be fixed up about as good as ever in couple months… Well Pat if you want to write me I’ll be glad to answer. Sorry but at present time I don’t care about having any pictures taken!

After such infrequent letters previously, grandma seems to have picked up the pace in the summer of 1945. On August 23, Zip writes:

I received your very nice letter + picture today. Very cute picture. First picture of you I’ve ever had of you smiling. Like it also. So three years ago I was out with you eh? Lot sure has happened since our last date on my leave…About caring whether I want to hear from you or not, well Pat that’s up to you. I do enjoy your letters + pictures… I get this weekend off. Don’t know where I’ll go yet. Maybe Coeur d’Alene! How about that Pat. Don’t worry about your letters sounding silly as they never did… Well Pat nearly time for lights out. Like that picture. Nice legs also. Like to see more of that!

Since this is the last letter from Zip, here’s the whole thing. Sept. 6, 1945:

Dear Pat,

I received your very nice letter of Aug 28th. So you think this hospital looks nice eh. Well honey it looks like a prison to us + furthermore it is a place worse than a prison. Guess you know how I love this place. Well Tues. I expect to go up before the survey board + if everything goes okay I’ll be a civilian inside of couple months. What do you think of that Pat?

About Calif. the only part I like is the beaches. Course I’d be a liar if I didn’t say I have had lots of fun. I go to Santa Monica + L.A. once in a while. Went to dance at Ocean Park Sat. nite. Harry James was playing. Had pretty good time. Do you go to many dances where you are? What do you do for fun? Still like to give beer to cattle Pat?

It has really been boiling last week. Even nights are very hot + I do mean hot. Give me good ol Wash. weather. Might have a little rain but beautiful country.

How’s Ginny? Tell her I said hello. While I’m writing a hot poker game is playing. More noise. What a deal eh?

Well Pat sure would enjoy some more pictures + maybe if I get time I’ll have one made. Look much better than I did a few months ago. Practically good as new!

Enjoy your letters Pat. Love, Bob

Norco Naval Hospital
Norco Naval Hospital

As far as I know that’s the last letter grandma ever received from Zip. Did she stop writing? Did they ever see each other again? Who knows. It sure seems like they wanted to see each other again. Would he have made the trip over to Idaho after he got out of the Navy? Maybe he did.

I don’t know if I will ever know how this story ends. But I do know what happened to grandma. She had her first baby in December of 1946 — my uncle Phil. She started dating grandpa Frank before, during, or after her pregnancy (he wasn’t the father). I’ve never figured out exactly how that went down. In any case, my aunt was born in 1948, and my mom in 1949. Grandma was a depressed, resentful housewife. Grandpa Frank was a drunk. And he cheated on her. But he was never abusive and always took good care of the family. He quit drinking sometime in the 50s and he was there with her when she died in 1983

And what about Zip? My research shows that he owned Zipse Paving in San Jose from 1962 until he died in 2008. He had a wife named Lydia (also deceased) and a son named Bob Zipse, Jr. who appears to be retired and still in San Jose.

68 years have passed since that last letter from Zip. The war ended. Life marched on. Grandma loved grandpa Frank is a way. But he was never Zip. He didn’t write letters. He didn’t dance. He wasn’t her one true love in the way Zip was during the war. However her affair with Zip ended, it’s hard for me to believe it just petered out. They spent three years longing for each other. At some point grandma removed all of the photos of Zip from her photo album. She was hurt, somehow. Maybe (probably) he started dating another girl after the war.

It makes me sad that they never got the chance to find out if they could be happy together. If I turn this story into a novel, I will at least let them meet one more time after the war… before life takes them in different directions.

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