The Year Everyone Got Married

Listen to this episode

Josh Levine, Josh Levin: In this season of one year, we’re focusing on 1942 telling stories about the homefront during the most tumultuous year in U.S. history. The best way to understand what it was like in America 80 years ago is to talk to someone who actually lived through 1942. So we sent our producer Sophie Summergrad to interview a very special guest.

Speaker 2: Bubba, can you tell me your name and how you related to me?


Mildred Summergrad: My name is Mildred Summergrad and you are my granddaughter, Sophie.

Speaker 2: My grandmother, Millie is 98 years old. I call her Baba. Her family emigrated to the U.S. from Ukraine in the early 1920s. A few years before she was born. And they settled in New York City. Baba grew up in a relatively new and sort of unique housing development in the Bronx.

Mildred Summergrad: Somebody had built something called the Coops, the Workers Cooperative Colony. It was three separate buildings, all connected to each other. Beautiful buildings with beautiful grounds.

Speaker 2: The Coops were thought of as a kind of progressive utopia. They had everything you could imagine right at your doorstep.


Mildred Summergrad: We had a library. We had a daycare center, food shopping ride in the building. There was a grocery store and a butcher and a fruit market. There was also a lot of activity. There was a chorus that people could sing in. And the most important things we had to do was Sure.

Speaker 2: Sheila Just me in school in Yiddish. The one at the Coops was cultural, not religious. It was a place where kids in the neighborhood could go and learn Yiddish on the weekends. And my grandmother loved it. She can still remember all of her teachers names.


Mildred Summergrad: But Soule Friedman, Tehran Mayor Gelman, who happened to be related that someway to us because his son married Lolo, my cousin.


Speaker 2: The show when she was 15, there was one person at the sheila who really stood out to her, another student in the class. His name was leo.

Mildred Summergrad: He had a shock of black hair and all the girls were in love with him and all the girls liked him. And I was very attracted to him right away. He was very handsome, very good looking, very sexy.

Speaker 2: Baba kept telling me how sexy Leo was to my great embarrassment. Leo is my grandfather. I call him Zadie.

Mildred Summergrad: Zadie definitely a sex symbol. I really mean it. Very sexy. Very, very sexy.

Speaker 2: He liked her, too. It turned out they would flirt constantly in class.


Mildred Summergrad: I had long curls, and we had these deaths that had ankles in them. And he would sit behind me and he would dip by curls into the ink.

Speaker 2: This wasn’t just a school thing. Baba and Zadie would flirt outside of class, too.

Mildred Summergrad: During that time, I had chickenpox and we lived in this apartment, which was on the ground floor, and my mother tied my hands behind my back. I showed the scratch. I stood in the window and this handsome young man of this white sweater stood outside and threw me kisses.

Speaker 2: Did you guys ever go on a first date?

Mildred Summergrad: I can’t say that we went on a date. I don’t think such a thing even existed for us. We went to the park. That’s what we learned. And we would sit outside the park very late, and my father would come out to call me, to come home, to bring me home.


Speaker 2: They stayed together when they graduated high school in 1941 and 1942. So they were still a couple as America went to war.

Speaker 4: We interrupt our program with this morning to bring you a special bulletin. The Senate has unanimously passed the war resolution. I repeat that once again, the Senate unanimously passed the war resolution in 1942.

Speaker 2: Babar and Zaidi were both in college in New York City and still living at home with their parents. Their experience of the beginning of the war was pretty similar to other Americans. Rationing. Worried about the news overseas and feeling uncertain about the future. She was 18 and he was 19. A year too young to be drafted. But then in November 1942, that changed.


Speaker 4: Swift action by Congress to lower the draft age to 18.

Speaker 2: President Roosevelt signed a bill that made more than a million teenagers eligible to be called up.

Speaker 4: The more the younger troops that we have in the field, the sooner the war will be won.

Speaker 2: Zaidi was now required to register, but he wouldn’t necessarily have to go to war right away. The Army had introduced a special program for students called the Enlisted Reserve Corps.

Mildred Summergrad: They said if you’re in the enlisted reserve, you won’t leave college. So he joined the enlisted reserve.

Speaker 2: Zaidi signed up on December 14th, 1942. It was supposed to at least buy them some time. But the nation was at war. Everything that seemed solid could fall apart in an instant. The only thing that Baba and Zaidi felt absolutely certain about was each other. The very next week, they made a sudden decision about their future.


Mildred Summergrad: We decided at the beginning of Christmas week that we want to be married. I mean, we wanted to be married at the end of the week. Nobody said, you wait two weeks away, three weeks, nobody said anything. Not his parents, not mine. We really wanted to be married. There was nothing practical in what we decided to do. We were both in school. We had no money. And maybe we was naive enough to think that it would just work out and everything was going to be okay.


Josh Levine, Josh Levin: Molly and Leo weren’t the only ones who wanted to exchange vows. In 1942, marriage was a national obsession. In this week’s episode, you’ll hear about a small town in Arizona that became the wedding capital of the United States. You’ll hear about the scolds who warned that wartime marriages would never work. And you’ll hear what happened to million Leo, who were very much in love, very unprepared for what would come next.


Josh Levine, Josh Levin: This is one year 1942, the year everyone got married. In the days after the United States joined World War Two, every American had a lot to think about, whether the country would survive, whether they’d be safe, and whether they should grab a hold of someone before it might be too late.

Speaker 5: There were a lot of hasty marriages that came about as a reaction to the beginning of the war and the fact that a lot of young men were being sent away.

Josh Levine, Josh Levin: Emily Yellin is the author of Our Mother’s War.

Speaker 5: So, you know, an 18 year old who had a girlfriend might marry her because who knows what’s going to happen next?


Josh Levine, Josh Levin: Was romance any part of it?

Speaker 5: Define romance.

Josh Levine, Josh Levin: In 1942. The definitions of romance and courtship and love were all in flux. One young woman wrote a letter to the magazine Good Housekeeping, saying she wasn’t sure how to feel. She was 19 and her boyfriend had just gotten drafted. Under those circumstances, a promise to love and to cherish until death do us part was a weighty thing. There was a chance he could get seriously hurt, but might never come back home.


Speaker 5: And she said, Perhaps my reasoning is perverse, but it seems to me that the world’s chaos and uncertainty are reasons for marriage, not for postponement. On one level, it was very romantic. On another level, it was almost something that you could just sort of, Well, we might as well.


Josh Levine, Josh Levin: That couple did get married on New Year’s Day, 1942. A whole lot more Americans made the same decision. After Pearl Harbor, requests for marriage licenses doubled in Minneapolis, Philadelphia and Fort Wayne, Indiana. And the marches down the aisle kept on coming all through December when million Leo got engaged. Add them all up and there were more weddings in the United States in 1942 than had ever been recorded in a single calendar year.

Speaker 5: 1.8 million weddings. And that was up 83% from ten years before. Two thirds of the brides were marrying men who were newly enlisted in the military.

Josh Levine, Josh Levin: There’s a great photo spread in Life magazine of a wedding at Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas. It’s a mass ceremony in a gymnasium with seven brides and grooms standing underneath cascading streamers. My favorite detail is that there were actually supposed to be ten couples, but three of them got impatient and decided to elope. Weddings in 1942 were typically rush jobs, often planned for a soldier’s brief furlough if they were even planned at all.

Speaker 5: You’d go, you’d get married and you’d be gone. Your family wasn’t there. It was just the couple and the person performing the wedding and maybe a witness or two that might have been paid.

Josh Levine, Josh Levin: The rules of matrimony were changing on the fly, getting rewritten for a new era of American austerity. The New York Times reported that because of the sugar shortage, the frosting on wedding cakes had become less ornate.


Speaker 5: So a lot of people missed out on a fancy wedding, but they didn’t miss out on the opportunity to marry somebody.

Josh Levine, Josh Levin: Millie And Leo’s wedding definitely wasn’t fancy, but they did choose what felt like a glamorous date.

Mildred Summergrad: Only we said we’ll get married on New Year’s Eve.

Josh Levine, Josh Levin: They had only one week to prepare for the ceremony. Leo’s mother was a seamstress and she got right to work.

Mildred Summergrad: As mother made me a black dress with a beiges set. It seems to me it should have been white or something, but this is what she made. I really don’t know.

Josh Levine, Josh Levin: Millie didn’t get to choose her dress, but she did pick out something special of her own.

Mildred Summergrad: I had a job at a place called the Russian Art Shop on Fifth Avenue. And there I saw an old ring. And I don’t know how much it cost. Probably $10 or $5 or something. And that was the ring.

Josh Levine, Josh Levin: On New Year’s Eve, 1942. Leo and Millie went to a rabbi’s apartment. They were joined there by both sets of parents. Millie, sister and three friends.

Mildred Summergrad: Those are the people that were there, nobody else. It was just a small room. I don’t even remember what the ceremony was or anything. It was very perfunctory. It was it was like a big nothing. I mean, the whole wedding took like 5 minutes.

Josh Levine, Josh Levin: So a million Leo’s big nothing was quintessential. 1942 a moment. Mentors personal occasion conducted with zero fanfare. It was a scene that got repeated over and over every day all across the country.


Josh Levine, Josh Levin: But there was one little town out west in the middle of the desert that hosted more ceremonies than pretty much any place in America. There was nothing more commonplace in 1942 than a quickie wedding. And if you wanted to get married fast, one place did it better than anywhere else. In 1942, Yuma, Arizona, population 5300, hosted more than 22,000 wedding ceremonies.

William Lutes, Bob Lutes: We’ve seen it all with all these thousands of weddings, you know, people coming in and out and all kinds of characters coming through there.

Josh Levine, Josh Levin: These two men know more about the Yuma wedding business than anyone else. They grew up there in the 1930s and forties, and they’re both still living in town. More than 80 years later.

William Lutes, Bob Lutes: Hi, my name is William Lutes. They call me Billy now, and my brother Bob is here with me. Go ahead, Bob. Yeah, I’m Bob Lutes and the brother. I’ve always lived in a wedding chapel. Three different wedding chapels lived in one now. And by the way, we even live right next door to each other, too.

Josh Levine, Josh Levin: Have you guys always been close?

William Lutes, Bob Lutes: No. No. We fight like hell.

Josh Levine, Josh Levin: In our interview, Billy and Bob got along great for the first couple of minutes. Then I asked them to tell me a little bit about Yuma.

William Lutes, Bob Lutes: It’s right on the border of Arizona, California border and close to Mexico. It’s 180 miles north of San Diego. No, it’s not north. Let me let me do it. We’re right between Phoenix and San Diego. We’re on the southern tip of Arizona.


Josh Levine, Josh Levin: Bob Lutes is the older brother. He was born in 1935, two years before Billy.

William Lutes, Bob Lutes: I was born in 1937, and we were both born in a house, too. There was a hospital, but we were born in our home on first Street, first in Magnolia.

Josh Levine, Josh Levin: Their mother, Georgia, was a homemaker. Their father, Ah H Lutes owned small businesses in Yuma. A lot of.

William Lutes, Bob Lutes: Them. They had a restaurant down on Main, two blocks of Main Street. It was called the Green Spot. The restaurant was a taxicab company and a arcade and and a bowling alley.

Josh Levine, Josh Levin: And that feels like I should just name random businesses and see if you had it.

William Lutes, Bob Lutes: Well, he had a drive the liquor store later on It was a popular.

Josh Levine, Josh Levin: In 1940 when Bob and Billy were around five and three years old, their father found yet another line of work. He got elected Justice of the peace. That made him one of the go to officiant for civil ceremonies in town. The marrying judge of Yuma, Arizona.

William Lutes, Bob Lutes: That’s how we got started into the wedding business. It was a very lucrative business. If you were the justice of the peace and he was justice of the peace for ten years, he presided over 60,000 weddings.

Josh Levine, Josh Levin: Yuma had first become a wedding hotspot in the late 1920s. That’s when the state of California started requiring a three day waiting period for couples who wanted to get married. It was known as a Gin Marriage law passed during prohibition and designed to protect couples from drunken bad decisions. What that law actually did was drive lovebirds from Southern California across state lines to Yuma.


William Lutes, Bob Lutes: We had the movie stars come. There was like Tom Mix, Betty Davis, Charlie Chaplin, Loretta Young, Victor Mature. Yeah, I remember sitting on Joe Lewis’s lap.

Josh Levine, Josh Levin: Those celebrities helped kick start the wedding business in Yuma. But it reached its high point in 1942.

William Lutes, Bob Lutes: They’d come from San Diego, the Navy, and they want to be married before they were shipped overseas. And we were one of the few places that could take care of them. Immediately they would come here by bus, loaded a greyhound, and the train always had people getting off of there. And there were like. Eventually they were like ten or 12 wedding chapels in Yuma. You would cross the bridge right away. You would see Wedding chapel in the right, Reverend Coleman’s wedding chapel.

Josh Levine, Josh Levin: Reverend James Coleman was the Lutes family’s main competition. He was a black minister and had white and Latino colleagues at the ready in case a bride and groom didn’t want to get married by a black man. Reverend Coleman offered other services as well. His chapel was actually a drive thru service station.

William Lutes, Bob Lutes: And a car wash business, and in the back of the house he had a big ramp you would drive up your car on and they would stimulate the bottom of it. And he was always in coveralls. He married people in coveralls, I think.

Josh Levine, Josh Levin: The Lutes family lived within sight of Reverend Coleman’s wedding car wash. Their home doubled as a chapel to when couples stop by during business hours. H Lutes would direct them to the courthouse to get a marriage license. Sending them away was risky. He needed a way to guarantee that they’d come back to his chapel and pay them his $10 fee. That’s where seven year old Bob and five year old Billy came in.


William Lutes, Bob Lutes: So for a long time, Bob and I as little boys, we used to have to ride with these couples to the courthouse to accompany him to be sure they got back to us.

Josh Levine, Josh Levin: You were like the collateral.

William Lutes, Bob Lutes: Yeah, we were keeping the the wolves away from him. And that was good.

Josh Levine, Josh Levin: That’s how the kids helped out during the day, at night. They had a different job.

William Lutes, Bob Lutes: My dad would put me up in front of the wedding chapel, and he put a ping pong table out there, and I’d still playing ping pong, waiting on the watch for people driving across from the river into Yuma and I’d be on the watch for them to run them down.

Josh Levine, Josh Levin: No matter the day of the week or the lateness of the hour. RH Lutes was always open for business.

William Lutes, Bob Lutes: He very people really truly all night long and 24 hours. When the courthouse was closed, the county clerk lived right next door to us and they were awakened all during the night to it was pretty hectic. My dad was he ran around in his bathrobe all the time. He’d sleep when he could.

Josh Levine, Josh Levin: There’s an old photo of Bob and Billy’s dad standing in the middle of their living room. He’s wearing a suit, not a bathrobe. And he’s facing a man and woman who are holding hands. It’s not a private ceremony. There are a bunch more couples sitting up against the wall waiting for their moment before the marrying judge.

William Lutes, Bob Lutes: And there’s people in uniformed Navy uniforms, and they’re waiting in line to get married and always watch the uniforms all the time of all branches. It was that was part of the attire. You just seem like everybody every man had a uniform.


Josh Levine, Josh Levin: Was anybody back then wearing wedding dresses?

William Lutes, Bob Lutes: Rarely would you see a wedding dress at our home.

Josh Levine, Josh Levin: About how long would one of these ceremonies be?

William Lutes, Bob Lutes: Oh, 30 minutes, 58. More like it. We had we listened to him. His ceremony used to be able recited at my sleep. You know, Dearly beloved, we are gathered here at the sight of God and these witnesses to join these.

Josh Levine, Josh Levin: Bob and Billy heard that ceremony over and over again in 1942. But by the end of the year, the numbers had started to taper off. Gasoline rationing meant it might take an eight week supply of fuel to drive from California to Arizona. The Yuma marriage business took another huge hit in 1943 when California repealed its three day marriage waiting period. The final blow came a decade later.

William Lutes, Bob Lutes: We heard it was a state campaign, actually. They lobbied for the legislators to change the law, and it was rumored that it was because of the churches.

Josh Levine, Josh Levin: That lobbying campaign worked in the 1950s. Arizona passed its own 48 hour waiting period and required the couples get a blood test for syphilis before getting married. Those stricter rules paved the way for another city to become America’s wedding capital.

Speaker 4: Glorious days and glamorous nights with around the clock activities. Yes, Las Vegas is truly America’s favorite playground, where recreation is unlimited.

Josh Levine, Josh Levin: Yuma is a very different place now than it was in 1942. That small town of 5300 is now a city of 100,000. You might go there to play golf or for the annual balloon festival. But if you want to get married, it’s probably not high on your list of destinations. The Lutes brothers would like to change that.


William Lutes, Bob Lutes: Bob But I took it over in 1962 and it’s still going today. We are the only wedding chapel in Yuma that I know of and it’s a very nice service. We still perform them.

Josh Levine, Josh Levin: Can you give me the pitch on why I should get married at your spot?

William Lutes, Bob Lutes: Well, I. We’ve been going since 1940, and a lot of happy people have gone through here. We really do a nice job. It’s a it’s a full service. It’s affordable, but with dignity. And, you know, it’s. I don’t like that, you know, like that or write that language. Always tell by, but it sounds like a mortuary.

Josh Levine, Josh Levin: Bob and Billy have seen thousands of happy people on their wedding days. But in 1942, the days and weeks after that ceremony ended brought a whole different set of emotions. We’ll be back in a minute.

Josh Levine, Josh Levin: I want to tell you about a project from Slate that I think you’ll find fascinating. In the last decade, the word fascism has started showing up in conversation and headlines and in political rhetoric.

Josh Levine, Josh Levin: But what does the word really mean? A few years ago, three of my colleagues produced a special series on fascism in the 20th century. They looked at fascism in six countries starting during the period we’re covering on this season of one year. Then they used that knowledge to examine fascism today in America and the rest of the world. Slate’s Fascism Academy is available only to Slate Plus members good slash fascism. To sign up today, or if you’re already a member, you can use that link to listen to all six episodes right now. Again, that slash fascism.


Josh Levine, Josh Levin: Just two weeks before Leo and Molly got married. He had joined up with the enlisted Reserve Corps. That was the program that promised students they wouldn’t be drafted until after they graduated from college. But in June of 1943, with the war still raging, that promise fell through.

Mildred Summergrad: Six months after we got married, they cleared out City College and Sally was immediately drafted. I mean, I was like, crushed, you know, And I think he was, too. But he held it together. He really held it together. And I think we were probably more matter of fact about that. We should have been at that. Maybe we didn’t know what else to do. He went in a suit by himself to Penn Station. Nobody went with him. Nobody accompanied him. He just left in his suit. And for the first three days, they didn’t give him any uniforms. They had them digging ditches in his suit. And it still to this day, bothers me that he went by himself to the train to go to be in the army. And and we all of the house at our house. And he just went.

Josh Levine, Josh Levin: Leo was sent to basic training in California. Molly followed him out west and stayed with an aunt and uncle. The newlyweds saw each other on weekends, but Millie eventually had to get back to school in New York. The solitude she felt living in her parents apartment was both excruciating and expected. In 1942, millions of other women were struggling with the exact same thing. But even if they didn’t have anyone to talk to, there was somewhere to look for advice.

Speaker 5: It’s a book called So Your Husband’s Gone to War, and it was written in 1942 by a woman named Ethel Gorham.


Josh Levine, Josh Levin: Author Emily Yellen owns a vintage copy of that book. I asked her to read me a couple of passages.

Speaker 5: You’ve been going along, depending on the world now. The world, your world, the world you and your husband have lived in together is going to depend on you.

Josh Levine, Josh Levin: The cover of So Your Husband’s Gone to War has a bunch of illustrations of a woman dressed in red. One of those pictures shows her standing on a stepladder, hammering a nail into a wall. The caption reads, Taking over male chores. The book is full of practical advice for women on how to buck up and meet the challenges of life on the home front. Things like building a wardrobe in a time of rationing and fending off predatory men. But it also acknowledges the emotional realities of wartime.

Speaker 5: You’re going to be lonesome. You’re going to be unhappy. And many as the time you’re going to be mad, you’re going to learn how to wait. And wait and wait. Waiting for letters. Waiting for phone calls. Waiting for leaves to come. Waiting for leaves to end. Waiting for this war to be over with. So you won’t have to wait anymore. Well, I almost started crying for Millie.

Josh Levine, Josh Levin: The waiting got the most intense when Leo finally shipped out. He was trained as a medic in 1944. His unit headed for the Philippines. He was there for the invasion of the island of Leighton.

Mildred Summergrad: And it was what they call an amphibian tank division. That means they were the tear wave. They came with boats and cleared the way of the beach for the troops to arrive.


Josh Levine, Josh Levin: Leo was at war. The only way that Molly could keep in touch with him was through the U.S. mail.

Mildred Summergrad: We communicated by letter, but it took forever to come.

Josh Levine, Josh Levin: Each day she woke up not knowing whether her husband was safe or in harm’s way. More than 10,000 Americans would be wounded in the battle of Leighton. Thousands more would be killed. When a soldier lost his life overseas. That news was conveyed by a Western Union telegram. It often began, I regret to inform you the postal system moved more slowly.

Speaker 5: So you could be getting letters from three weeks ago. But they could actually have been killed yesterday. And you know this. But you’re still receiving these letters and living in that three weeks ago time.

Mildred Summergrad: He wrote to us. He wrote to my parents. He wrote to his father, and he did write to everybody all the time. And I got the most letters, but somebody else got a letter we found out from each other, but we really didn’t know anything.

Josh Levine, Josh Levin: Even in those painful, lonely stretches, Millie never questioned her decision to marry Leo. But there were plenty of people who thought wartime couplings were a terrible idea. One of those doubters was a Columbia University sociologist. He said that many of these marriages were utterly preposterous, contracted by young people because death was whispering in their ears. Another skeptic was the rector of a New York City church.

Speaker 5: His name was Randall Frey. And he wrote a book called Marriage is a Serious Business.

Josh Levine, Josh Levin: What was he warning about? Like what? What did he think the risks were?


Speaker 5: He’s warning couples that you might think you’re doing something very romantic. But marriage is hard. Marriage takes commitment. Marriage takes effort. And he did talk about the Gulf that would happen between the couple when the man goes off to war and the woman is at home and they’re having absolutely different experiences. That was one of the major pitfalls he warned about.

Josh Levine, Josh Levin: While Leo was deployed to the Pacific, Millie kept busy with school. She also went to work.

Mildred Summergrad: At a number of jobs during the war. I had the job teaching in the. I had a job selling ladies underwear in the gimbels in out long underwear.

Speaker 5: Suddenly, in World War Two, the number of married women in the workplace was greater than the number of single women in the workplace for the first time in American history.

Josh Levine, Josh Levin: Those women worked as teachers and clerks and typists, but also as welders and electricians.

Speaker 4: Tens of thousands of women are already at work in aircraft. More are being added as fast as they fly.

Josh Levine, Josh Levin: One survey found that just 30% of husbands fully supported their wives doing industrial jobs. But for lots of American women, that work was essential.

Speaker 4: This solves the breadwinning problem for many families whose men are at war. The government’s policy is that women should get the same pay that men get for similar work.

Josh Levine, Josh Levin: The workplace wasn’t any kind of fantasy land for women. There was discrimination and abuse. But it also provided a level of independence both outside and inside the home.

Speaker 5: I call the period of World War Two for women and inadvertent revolution. By the end of the war, I think women had really stepped into roles they had never been allowed or able to step into before.


Josh Levine, Josh Levin: When the war was over, there was no such thing as going back to normal. More than 400,000 American service members had been killed, leaving behind more than 100,000 widows. The husbands who did survive were changed, man. Coming back to changed women, that dynamic was at the center of the 1946 Oscar winning film The Best Years of Our Lives.

Speaker 4: You’re not going to get that. You’re going to stay right here and eat what I cook and like it. When we were married, that justice of the peace said something about richer, for poorer, for better or for worse. Remember? Well, this is the worse. Well, when do we get going on the bitter? Whenever I get wise to myself, I guess. Whenever I wake up and realize I’m not an officer and a gentleman anymore, I’m just another soda jerk out of a job.

Josh Levine, Josh Levin: It turned out that the wartime wedding doubters kind of had it right. The record number of marriages in 1942 was followed by a record number of divorces in 1946. A story in the New York Times magazine quoted a saddened at Lieutenant. He said that overseas we goggle that our wives pictures day and night. Now we get home and our two by four pinups suddenly become strange life sized women.

Speaker 5: I think that the hasty marriages of World War Two certainly brought together some people who didn’t need to get married, who shouldn’t have gotten married. I also think it brought together a lot of people who ended up making it work.

Josh Levine, Josh Levin: People like Leo and Millie.

Josh Levine, Josh Levin: To finish up our story, I’m going to turn it back over to producer Sophie Summergrad.


Speaker 2: Despite being in two major battles in the South Pacific, my grandfather made it through the war safely. He traveled back to the United States on a ship bound for the West Coast. They made landfall on December 30th, 1945, one day shy of his third wedding anniversary. He called home to New York as soon as he got on shore. But back then, my grandmother didn’t have a telephone.

Mildred Summergrad: He called me from San Francisco to a candy store, which was three blocks from the house. And somebody ran all the way to the apartment to get me to receive this phone call that it was back in San Francisco and it was coming home.

Speaker 2: Do you remember how you felt?

Mildred Summergrad: It was amazing. Unbelievable. When we saw him, we did meet him at the train station. He weighed £156. He was in his uniform as handsome as could be. It was so exciting and it looked so wonderful.

Speaker 2: My grandparents were some of the lucky ones. The love between them hadn’t waned a bit. Zadie returned to school and got a degree in chemistry. Baba went to work for the city’s welfare department and they got their own place to live in the same complex where they had first met. In the years following the war, they had two children. My father, Paul and my uncle Eric, Baba and Zadie both went on to long careers in the Bronx public schools. I was born in 1991, the first of their two grandchildren. And from my intimate perspective, I can honestly say I’ve never seen two people more in love.

Mildred Summergrad: It was a very strong marriage in every way. I would say that it was a lifelong love affair that started at 15 and 16 and ended when it ended that day.

Speaker 2: My grandfather died in the summer of 2021. He was 98 years old. Babar and Zaidi were one of 1.8 million couples that got married in the United States in 1942. Their marriage was one of the longest lasting more than 78 years.

Speaker 4: Mr. Summergrad, do I have permission to record this interview? Absolutely.

Speaker 2: Ten years before he died, Zaidi did an oral history interview with the Yiddish book center. He talked mostly about Yiddish, but he did briefly touch on his service in the Army.

Speaker 4: I listed in December of 1942, and I was still a sophomore in college at the time. And of course.

Speaker 2: And he also reflected back on one key moment from his childhood.

Speaker 4: That decision to register myself and to Shula was by far the most important decision I ever made in my life. Now, that sounds very strange because obviously a lot of other things happened in my life, and I say that because I married one of my classmates.

Mildred Summergrad: You know, people get old, they get cranky, they get annoyed with each other. It never happened to us. He would always say, How lucky could I be? Then I met you. And because of you, I’ve had this wonderful life.

Josh Levine, Josh Levin: Next time on one year 1942. Technology is destroying the livelihoods of America’s musicians, so they go on the offensive and bring the recording industry to a standstill.

Speaker 4: Why should we record these things that are going to put us out of our jobs? We’re not going to play this game anymore. We want some changes.

Josh Levine, Josh Levin: This episode of one year was written by Sophie Summergrad and me. Josh Levine, our senior producer, is Evan Chung. This episode was produced by Sam Kim, Sophie Summergrad, Evan Chung and Me. It was edited by Evan Chung and Derek John, Slate’s senior supervising producer of narrative podcasts. Our senior technical director is Mary Jacob. Holly Allen created the artwork for the season. Emily Yellin’s book is Our Mother’s War. You can send us feedback and ideas and memories from 1942 at one year at, and you can call us on the one year hotline at 2033430777. We’d love to hear from you. Special thanks to Justin Willingham.

Josh Levine, Josh Levin: So were that Joel Anderson, Christina Ricci, Madeline Ducharme, Susan MATTHEWS, Hillary Fry, Bill Carey. Katie Raiford, Ben Richmond, Caitlin Schneider, Cleo Levin, Seth Brown, Rachel Strong and Alicia montgomery. Slate’s VP of Audio. Thanks for listening. We’ll be back next week with more from 1942.