2009 The Year of Valley History
Sketch of Iwo Jim - by James Fecht - Archives of The Museum of the San Fernando Valley
Among the effects of James Fecht was a hand written manuscript about his return from World War II and the events surrounding his eventual business partnership with Joe Hosler. It gives not only insights into the lives of two long term associates but also life in the San Fernando Valley in 1945. In large measure it was the influx of veterans and the resulting “baby boom” that changed the Valley many disjointed Los Angeles suburbs and a few independent cities, into one of the greatest urban populations in America.
Memories of Joe Hostler by James L. Fecht Part One
“My first meeting with Joe Hosler was in October of 1942, while I was stationed at Camp Pendleton in the Marines.
I was invited to spend the weekend with the Glen Barnes’ family in North Hollywood. During the World War II years, it was customary for families to invite young servicemen into their homes to keep up their morale and to entertain them on weekends.
This particular family (the Barnes) were neighbors to the Hosler family, two doors down the street, and their teenage son of the Hosler’s, named Joe.
On the first visit of mine to the Barnes’ home, I was treated royally, best meals, so unlike service chow. The Barnes’ daughter Joye, paid the way of this poorly paid serviceman, as we took in the latest movies and malt shops along Lankershim Boulevard in North Hollywood.
We usually walked everywhere, with the gas rationing limiting how much driving one could do. So this one afternoon after a movie matinee, we strolled down Chandler Street to visit a machine shop that her father Glenn Barnes owned and ran.
Joye’s father greeted us and started showing us around the machine shop. I was amazed to see about as many women as men working at the lathes, mills, grinders and drill presses, but then I realized all the younger men were off to war, and the ladies were pitching in to help make the aircraft parts that they were turning out there.
Joye led me over to where a young seventeen year old boy was turning out precision parts on a turret lathe. When she introduced me to the operator, young Joe, she seemed extraordinarily anxious for us to become friends, but I think Joe and I just took it as a casual meeting that October 1942.
In January of 1943, Joe and I met once again, this time on my visit to the Barnes’ home. Joye had invited a classmate from Corvallis Girls’ School, and Joe to go along with us on a double date down in Hollywood. The four of us rode the Red Car down through the Cahuenga Pass, long before there were any freeways. I thought the clanking of the street car added a romantic element.
Evidently Joe and his date thought so too, as they seemed awfully lovee-dovee to me throughout the trip, as well as during dinner at the Brown Derby, then later at the show at the Palladium.
That was the last time I saw Joe for almost three years. My years were spent in the South Pacific while Joe’s time was spent more up in the Central and Western Pacific. I would hear about his adventures from time to time through letters from Joye but we never got close enough out there for a visit."
Editor’s note: While Jim was in the South Pacific in the Marine Corps, the high school girls he had fallen in love with, contracted spinal meningitis. She was taken from the Valley to the contagion ward of County Hospital where she was exposed to polio and came down with that disease by the end of the week. High fevers caused her to lose most of her hearing and left other life-long effects. Because of the extensive time that she was out of school, she was denied permission to graduate with her class at Corvallis High School.
"The climax of Joe’s and my service activities happened about the same time. Mine was with the Marine’s campaign on Iwo Jima Island where some of my buddies didn’t make it, but where we annihilated the Japanese defenders, so close to their homeland that it led them to go to extreme means to defend themselves. That’s when the Japanese accelerated the use of their fanatical Kamikaze pilots. Joe’s ship was the unlucky target of one of these dive-bombers but Joe was lucky to come out of that terrible conflagration alive. A lot of his buddies didn’t make it either.
We were both sent back to the States for a rest from our outfits about the same time and this is when we met again in June of 1945. I was in a great rush to marry Joye Barnes on my thirty day leave. I proposed. She accepted, her parents approved, and all preparations were made for our wedding at Saint Charles Church in North Hollywood. All preparations were complete except one; I didn’t have a best man. I didn’t know anyone in the San Fernando Valley, but who should drop by the Barnes’ residence on his leave, but the neighbor boy Joe Hosler. You can bet on the rest of the outcome.
Joe didn’t have much choice but to say yes, after all the neighbors on Landale Street and all the young girl classmates of Joye’s at Corvallis Girl’s school all banded together to get Joe to participate in the wedding. It didn’t take much coaxing when Joe found out that Joye’s maid of honor was another one of his old lovee-dovees that he had dated while he was in high school.
With the war still going strong, Joe and I were sent to different stations until the was finally over and we were able to go home. Joye and I moved in with the Barnes, and like all young couples melted into peacetime living. I started working at Universal (Studios) as an apprentice electrician and Joe started working with an engineering firm in Hollywood.
Joe had known Bernadette for a while and when he proposed she accepted. He started remodeling the guest house behind his parents’ home for them to live in. Joe’s brothers Robert and Jimmy provided some help and lots of advice. Bernadette’s brothers Larry and Tim helped with the plumbing and I gave his some tips on his wiring. After their wedding they had an almost like new guest house to live in.
The young married couple also would throw the best parties around. Just inviting the members of the old Landale Street work-up baseball team and their new married mates would fill up the guest house and spill out into the backyard of the elder Hostler’s home. There would often be at the parties, the Louis Briels, Eddie and Bobby Lonnegan, Bob and Don Edwards, George Smith, the Dick Noeltners, Ruthie Williams, the Bob Parkinsons, and Joye and myself.
At one of these parties, Joe informed everyone at his party except me that he was going to play a trick on me and for everyone to go along with the gag. He had rigged up a microphone to the radio in the house and ran the mike cable outside where he couldn’t be seen. Bernadette had about three card tables of poker going on in the house with nice quiet music on the radio.
All of the sudden an excited voice came on the radio saying, “We interrupt this broadcast to bring you an important announcement, the United States has just gone to war and all ex-Marines are to report back to Camp Pendleton.” He kept repeating the announcement and I kept trying to get everyone to quiet down so that I could hear all about it, but no one would pay any attention. I really thought it was real, as Joe had disguised his voice very effectively, and I was in a real panic trying to get everyone at the party
to quiet down and listen to the broadcast. When I finally couldn’t get anyone to listen, I pulled my wife away from the ladies’ poker table and told her it was urgent that we go home right away. It was just as we were heading out the door that Joe and his electronic cohort Louis Briel came in laughing through the door. They didn’t realize how worked up I had become and it took quite a little while to calm me down, while everyone at the party stood around laughing at me. "
Editor’s note: For many years James Fecht experienced physical and psychological problems related to his service in the South Pacific. He recovered well from burns that he had experienced under “friendly fire” but it took him years to recover from his exposure to malaria. When he first returned from the war, he took cover when there were loud or unexpected noises, especially when he was sleeping.
Marines who had served on Iwo Jima were prepared for the invasion of the Japanese homeland, and expected massive losses. Hospitals in the San Fernando Valley, such as Olive View in Sylmar and Birmingham Hospital (now Birmingham High School) were preparing for an in
flux of thousands of casualties. Servicemen and women were taught that the treacherous Japanese leaders, who had attacked the United States at Pearl Harbor, were capable of anything. A false surrender and resuming of the war was not implausible.
"All the young married couples started having babies as the same time. It was called the post war baby boom, and it was right. Joye and I had Susan and Joe and Bernadette had Nadette, and each married couple followed right in line. This started putting crimps in our party going and a lot of the old gang started drifting off to jobs and homes in far away places."
Seattle Nightspot "Coon Chicken Inn"
American soldiers on leave from Fort Lewis - July 20, 1945 Collection of The Museum of the San Fernando Valley
Souvenir Photograph from Club Cotton, 8500 Bothell Way, left Jim and Joye Fecht, Earl McCrackin and unknown woman Montana, Holmes and unknown woman - North Dakota.