Phelps & Servin Phelps Family in America reprints now available
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Harold B. Phelps

Navy Telegrapher World War I and Radioman World War II

Harold Bartle 'Bart' Phelps

Joins the Navy and Gets Hitched

Thadeus and Helen Phelps took their four children including my grandfather Harold Bartle Phelps' family from Peoria, Illinois to Los Angeles in 1899. The family moved several times, to Pasadena, Altadena, Los Angeles, and Glendale. None of Bart's sisters had any children. Bart left high school and got a job as telegraph clerk for the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad in Winslow, Arizona from 1910 to 1914. He was paid from about $95 per month.

Bart enlisted in the Navy on November 4, 1914. The pay rate was $17.60 per month. "Skinny" (his nickname while in the Navy) spent WWI in Honolulu and on various ships around the world, including posts in the Pacific, including Hawaii, Alaska, San Francisco, the Philippines, New Guinea, and Bremerton, Washington.

In early 1919 while living in San Franciso, a friend of Bart's asked a girl if if she knew a nice young lady for a double date with Bart. The four went on out to dinner on a double blind date where Bart met Annie Elizabeth Christy. In August Bart shipped out for Hawaii. Lt. Phelps was stationed at Wailupe from 1919 until 1922.

S S Manoa
S.S. Manoa was an American freight and passenger steamer that sailed for the Matson Line from San Francisco to Hawaii.

Eight months after Bart was transfered to Wailupe, Betty sailed on the Matson ship S. S. Manoa from San Francisco on 30 March 1920. Very shortly after she arrived, on April 6, they were married. No invitations were sent, only an announcement afterwards. Only a few friends of very short duration attended the wedding.

While serving in the U. S. Navy, the family moved from Pago Pago, Samoa to San Francisco from December 27, 1929 to January 30, 1930, aboard the SS Sierra, destined for her mother and father's apartment at 525 Turk St. in San Francisco. He had long desired to see something of Alaska, and was finally able to realize his dream when he was assigned to a radio station in Ketchikan, although events quickly took an unexpected turn.

In 1937, Bart retired from the U.S. Navy and the family returned to the San Francisco Bay Area, where Betty's folks lived. They purchased a lot in San Mateo on the site of the old horse track, at 303 Seville Way. They had a 2 bedroom, 1 bath split-level Mediterranean style home with Spanish tile roof house built for $7000.

Bart was called back to active duty as a radioman. He served on New Guinea during Christmas 1944. After retiring the second time from the military in 1946, he returned to work for San Mateo County as a property assessor. Betty managed the money and had the house paid off within about 5 years.

They lived from 1937 until his death at age 91 in 1984 in San Mateo, California. Aside from a long hitch as a radioman in the Navy, he worked as a property assessor for San Mateo County. They had one son, Harold Bartle "Hal" Phelps Jr., my father.

After his death on March 9, 1984, Bart was cremated. He did not wish (as was Betty's wish) for any memorial service. Betty did not inter his ashes for several years, until after she moved to Santa Maria, CA, to live near her son.

Their son Harold "Hal" Phelps became an Eagle Scout and his Scoutmaster was black, which was very unusual in that day. Hal went to the junior college near their home in San Mateo. He and Merv Griffen shared the duty of playing the piano for school assemblies. After high school, Dad joined the Navy. He wanted to become a civil engineer and the Navy assigned him the Navy V-12 Unit, University of Kansas City, in Lawrence, Kansas, near Kansas City.