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A Special Connection During an Era of Social Distancing
When Beverly Moglich submitted a story about her childhood to Holiday Retirement’s resident newsletter The Daily Mail, she had no idea how much it would resonate with a reader more than 2,500 miles away.
The Daily Mail was created as one way to keep residents connected while sheltering in place. It was started by Holiday Retirement community staff, but residents quickly took over the content as their own, eager to submit short stories, jokes, and activity ideas. It’s become a tradition that residents look forward to every day.
Nostalgia Sparks Newsletter Entry
Moglich is one to make the best of any situation. She has an attitude of gratitude even during challenging times. When her husband passed away six months after they moved into Stone Lodge independent living community in Bend, OR, Moglich said, “I was thankful I made friends with residents before he passed away, so it didn’t put me into a lonely spot.” When she was asked to shelter in place as part of safety measures during the pandemic, Moglich focused on the goodness around her. She honed in on the cheerful staff delivering meals, the shimmering Aspen trees outside her window, virtual exercise on YouTube, her beloved dog Brady, and new ways of connecting with family through technology or writing humorous pieces for them such as: “Pandemic 2020 Home Permanent: Otherwise known as a disaster.”
It’s not surprising that when staff began delivering meals to apartments as part of shelter in place efforts, Moglich turned to positive memories instead of focusing on how she missed the dining room experience. She was inspired to write an entry for The Daily Mail titled, “I Love Room Service.”
Moglich began her story, “My first experience having room service was at age ten sailing on the Matsonia cruise ship to Hawaii in August of 1940. My father was stationed at Pearl Harbor and my mother, younger sister, and I would be joining him after a long separation, to live in Honolulu.”
She went on to describe her time on the famous Lurline ocean liner through the eyes of a child: the room service, their glamorous state room, and being seasick. This trip was a stark contrast to her next voyage, less than two years later. Moglich described leaving Honolulu as an evacuee after the Pearl Harbor bombing. This time the Lurline was outfitted as a troopship. “No room service for this trip,” wrote Moglich. “The same size room for my mother, sister, and I going over was now a shared room for twelve people. Three stacked bunks on each of the four walls. One bathroom.”
She closed the piece cheerfully, noting the silver linings of sheltering in place like answering the door in red silk pajamas, watching the sunrise with Brady every morning, and gaining a couple of pounds. Moglich signed off: “If you see a woman walking who is wearing a large straw hat, shaggy hair, but it is its natural color, sunglasses, blue exam gloves, and a green mask that makes me look like a Ninja Turtle. Stop and say Hi. Maybe we can chat!” That chat would happen, but not quite the way she expected.
Meanwhile in Ocala, Florida
Sue Vance lives in a cottage at Marion Woods in Ocala, FL, another Holiday Retirement community. She moved there from Somerville, FL in 2017. “I had my own home, and I decided I needed to be where I would have a little more help,” she said. “This works out well. They serve our meals and do housekeeping once a week.”
Vance was flipping through The Daily Mail and stumbled upon Moglich’s story. When she saw mention of the Lurline ocean liner, it quickly took her back to another time.
As a teenager, there was only one way that she wanted to celebrate graduating from high school -- a cruise on the Lurline ocean liner. Vance worked at a bank and pinched her pennies to save for her dream trip. About six months after graduation, she finally had enough cash. “It was my first big trip, so it was pretty memorable,” she said. “I will never forget it.”
Vance and her best friend scraped together just enough money for two tickets in the lowest class available. “I was in what now would be the quarters for the help,” she said. “We didn’t even have a window or a restroom. We had to go down the hall for the restroom.”
Vance recalls that things back then were a lot more formal than they are now. During their 3-week voyage, they were required to dress formally every night, despite their less-than-formal accommodations. She recalls fun happenings like fashion shows and having “snack parties” with several other girls. They’d cram into one person’s cabin and sit on the floor eating and chatting. Vance loved every minute of the experience.
“We were able to do just about anything anybody else could do on the ship,” says Vance. “Even though it wasn't the greatest accommodations, we shared the same food, same entertainment, and same snacks.” The trip is one of her favorite memories and has inspired 20 more cruises so far.
After reading Moglich’s piece, Vance was eager to connect about their experiences on the same ocean liner that had held such wonderful memories for her. “It excited me because I'd never run across anyone who had been on it,” she said.
Connecting Across the Miles
Vance penned a letter to Moglich and made copies of photos and passenger lists from her trip to include. She dropped in a note to the community’s manager asking if she could deliver the correspondence to Moglich, and sent it on its way.
“She went to great effort to include seven pictures and a passenger list printed on shiny paper,” said Moglich. “It was just really great that she was so excited about it all and went into such details. It was really fun.”
Vance wasn’t sure her letter would reach Moglich. She was thrilled when she received proof that it had.
“She contacted me via email, and that really excited me that she should take the time to make a connection with me,” said Vance.
The two spoke on the phone about their voyages. Their trips on the ocean liner were over 10 years apart. Moglich experienced the Lurline as both a lavish pre-WWII vessel and as a stripped down troopship with responsibilities like transporting military personnel and their families. Vance sailed aboard the Lurline post-war in 1959 when the great ocean liner had been restored to her top-liner status.
“We talked about what I recall in Hawaii, and what I recalled about the ship,” said Vance. “We didn’t talk too much about our life experiences. That will come.”
The two also discussed Moglich’s self-published book Memoirs of a Navy Brat, that takes readers through her experience as a young girl during World War II and witnessing the attack on Pearl Harbor at age 12 firsthand.
“She ordered my book and is going to be reading that,” said Moglich. “We will probably talk again after that. I think she’ll be especially interested in the part about my trip over to Hawaii and the difference to hers.”
Before the pandemic, Vance was planning a trip out West. When it’s safer to travel and she can resume her plans, Vance might have an additional stop along her route.“I’m very pleased to get to know Beverly, and to share our experiences,” she said. “I hope we can continue our relationship and maybe even meet.”