The Queen of the Marines
The Marine Corps Ball falls on November 10 and Veterans Day falls on Nov. 11. These two dates are very important in my life. First, my mother’s birthday was on November 10. My father was a career Marine and having my mother’s birthday and the United States Marine Corps Birthday the same day was “the best thing since canned beer,” as my mother would say.
The second date, Nov. 11, has always been important in our family because of my father and his comrades being veterans. Every day when we were growing up was Veterans Day. We always showed respect, support, and thankfulness to our neighbors on base and in the barracks as they went off to either fight in wars or worked on the base to protect our country in other capacities.
Every year on the Marine Corps’ birthday, wherever groups of Marines gather, they host a party or formal ball. My parents attended the formal balls. Weeks before the ball, my mother scoured the countryside to find just the right evening gown. My mother rarely had her hair done and going to the beauty parlor became one of the traditions surrounding the ball.
My father took out his Dress Blues or Dress Whites, whichever the invitation specified. My job was polishing his brass. His uniform included a brass belt buckle along with other brass accessories, and I rubbed the brass until my father joked that I would rub the brass off the metal. We also polished his shoes until we could see our faces in the shine.
Before it came time to dress, my mother wore a “Magic Turban” around her head to keep her beehive hairdo tall and in place. Magic Turbans were popular in the 1960s. This piece of fabric helped keep hairdos in place while the lady slept at night or helped keep her hair in place before a social function. My mother took hours to get ready. When she finished dressing and presented herself, she looked like Queen Elizabeth! We always remember Chanel #5 floating through the air as she passed by or hugged us good-bye as they went off to the ball.
When it came time for my father to get ready, my mother had to help him. The uniforms featured a leather neck sewn into the coat, and the top button on the collar was always hard for my father. My mother helped him with that button and the two become somewhat frustrated about the difficulty and discomfort for my father. With the coat buttoned, my father was good to go.