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Frisco - Chris Sarno Memoir

Chris Sarno hadn’t been home to see his parents for almost two years because of his commitment to the Marine Corps. His first contact with anyone back at home in Massachusetts came shortly after his arrival in San Francisco. There was a five-day processing period, and during that time, he called home. When nobody answered the telephone at his parents’ home, he called his grandfather Edward Shanahan, who lived on the second story of the two-family home that he owned in Medford and shared with his daughter’s family. Always close to the Irish grandfather he called "Papa Eddie", Sarno said that it was an emotional conversation on both ends of the telephone wire when Junior Sarno said the words, "I’m home, Pa." The elderly gentleman, who had really been the major breadwinner in the family and a primary caregiver for Chris Sarno and his siblings, was happy to once again hear the voice of Junior, his maternal grandson "I almost broke down talking to him," Sarno recalled, "because I loved my grandfather." In a few days, grandfather and grandson would hug in person after a too-long separation caused by the Korean War.


While his orders were being processed so that he could go home, Chris Sarno basked in the company of other Marines in Frisco. He stayed at the Marine Memorial, which was an exclusive club for current and former Marines. The combat Marine felt at home in its atmosphere of Marine decor and Marine comradeship. While staying there, he walked around San Francisco, just drinking in the pleasure of seeing American people, American automobiles, American movies, and enjoying American food. For $35.00, he also purchased his first pair of dress blues. "I remember breaking out my blues in my room for the first time," he said. Just as he was putting on his jacket, the maid wanted to come in and do up the room. She was a black woman about 30 years old. "She was quiet, and she was going about her business," Sarno recalled. "I was standing in front of the mirror putting on the blues to see how they looked when she said, ‘Could I ask you a question?’ When I told her, ‘Yeah, sure,’ she asked, ‘How old are you?’ When I told her I was 20, she said, ‘You look like you are 15 years old. And you’ve just come from Korea?’ She was just amazed that I looked so young." Although a salty combat veteran at the crusty old age of 20, Chris Sarno was still youthful in 1952. "I wanted to be 21 so I would be old enough to get a driver’s license, be able to vote, and legally buy beer."


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