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Descendants of William and George Phelps

Harold Bartle 'Bart' Phelps

Joins the Navy and Gets Hitched

Harold Bartle Phelps' family left Peoria, Illinois in 1897. They arrived in San Diego later that year. There was a local depression in the Los Angeles area at the time. 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 pursued telegraphy work for the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad in Winslow, Arizona from 1910 to 1914. He was paid from $17 to $95 per month.Bart enlisted in the Navy on November 4, 1914. The pay rate was $17.60 per month. He spent WWI in Honolulu and WWII at various posts in the Pacific, including Hawaii, Alaska, San Francisco, the Philippines, New Guinea, and Bremerton, Washington.

Bart (nicknamed "Skinny" while in the Navy) met Annie Elizabeth Christy in San Francisco through a friend of Bart's. in early 1919, Bart's friend asked Betty's friend if she knew a nice young lady. When Betty's friend said yes, the four went on out to dinner on a double blind date. In August Bart shipped out for Hawaii. Eight months after Bart was transfered to Hawaii, 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.

Bart wrote, "The urge to see something of Alaska came over me at an early age after reading dozen of stories by Jack London, Rex Beach, Robert W. Service and many others. I wasn't quite dry behind the ears so I put that idea in the "Awaiting Action" file for a few years. After spending the summer of '14 working nights and trying to sleep days I wasn't about to try another summer in Arizona. I took leave of absence and beat to Los Angeles and inquired around about telegraph jobs in Alaska, It didn't take me long to find that the Army and Navy had such business almost sewed up.

That left me right in the middle of a quandary. What to do? Would it be the Army at $21.00 and a horse blanket or the Navy at $17.60 and a hammock? I was making $90 a month with the Santa Fe and that was good money. I sure felt foolish taking that much of a cut in pay. I said to myself: "Now or never." I scouted around for more information on Alaska telegraph jobs and finally found an old signal corps man who had spent some time up there and he gave me a good line-up on the whole deal, same good jobs, some not so good and many of the jobs way out in the boondocks where the man were responsible for maintaining the line on either side of their station half the distance to the next station. Also that in the summer when making repairs they had to wade through swamps and hordes of mosquitos and in winter they waded through snow hip high on a tall Indian and he said Alaskan winters could be real rugged at times. I could feel my Pioneering blood begin to curdle and that Navy hassock looked better all the time. He also told me that even if I could talk the signal corps into sending me to Alaska I would still be a big recruit and would certainly end up out in the boondocks at first.

That decided me and I went to the the Navy recruiting station to see if I could pass the physical before resigning from the Santa Fe. I passed and found out later that if a fellow could walk into an Army or Navy recruiting station and possessed the necessary appurtenances such as one head with built-in ears, two arms and legs and was slightly warm, he was in the service right now, any name and any age the kid gave was taken as gospel just walk in and be breathing. On November 4, 1914, I signed on the dotted line as a "Landsman for Electrician (Radio)" which meant that I would go right to a radio school and didn't have to go through boot camp. All boot camps were quite rugged up until WWI.

It took me almost ten years to get anywhere near Alaska. Almost made it to Seward in 1919 but ended up in Honolulu instead. My girl friend came out from San Francisco and we were married April 6, 1920. Another five years went by quickly and I managed to wrangle a job at Ketchikan where we arrived on June 30, 1924 on the Alaska SS Co. "Yukon." When we steamed in sight of Ketchikan that beautiful morning, I said to Betty: "Eureka. This is the place I have been looking for these many years." It looked like a good sized town and the houses peeping out from the trees on the hill back of town made it a beautiful sight. I could see the radio towers not too far north of town, an old Marconi station taken over by the Navy in WWI and just a nice walk to town. This would be all mine for the next two years and we decided it would be an ideal place to start our family. My crystal ball must have been a trifle murky as I couldn't foresee how soon my bubble would burst."

During WWII, 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.

Bart served in both World Wars as a radioman. In 1930, Bart was a Chief Radioman and they lived in San Diego at 88 Oregon St. After San Diego, Bart was assigned to the Naval Radio Station, Naval Air Station in Astoria, Oregon.

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 went to work for the 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.

At the end of WWII, Hal was enrolled in the Navy ROTC V-12 program at Kansas State University; he finished his college education as a junior officer and went active duty in early 1945. Before he left Kansas City, he met 20 year old Annabeth Beasley, who volunteered to help at the local USO. Hal served in the South Pacific on Guam for 18 months.

When he returned to the continental U.S., he married Annabeth Beasley in Kansas City on December 21, 1947. Hal was asasigned to Naval Air Station in Chincoteague, Virginia. From there they moved to Camp Pendleton, near Long Beach, California. My brother Bud was born there in 1951. The family next moved to Great Lakes Naval Training Center, 35 miles north of Chicago. It was while stationed here that Annabeth's mother, Elizabeth Bremser Beasley, passed away.

In 1954 Hal was next stationed to 6th Army HQ, in Heidelberg, Germany. Annabeth and Bud followed in early 1955. Though a Navy man and far from the seas, he was attached to a Seabees (civil engineering) unit. While in Germany, their second son, Brian was born. The family left Germany in December, 1956 and returned to California, where Hal was assigned to the Naval Air Station in Monterey, California. They bought a house but Annabeth and Hal were divorced the next year.

Bud died in August, 2000, having never married nor had any children. Annabeth died in her sleep less than nine months later, at age 73.

Brian, the author of this site, married Susan Claypool, with whom he had Tucker. He then married Sharla Morgan, and they have four sons, Connor, Cory, Aaron, and Gordon. They live today outside Stockton, California.