Frank and Joan Montalbano of Franklin Square celebrated their 68th wedding anniversary this year. Joan recalls their courtship during World War II.
My husband, Frank, and I met in 1942 at a dance hall in St. Albans, England, called Victoria Hall. I grew up in the area, which is just north of London. Frank, 22, was stationed some 50 miles away at Thurleigh air base with the American 8th Air Force, 92nd Bomb Group. He was a staff sergeant. I was 17 and worked on the assembly line at nearby DeHaviland Aircraft Co., putting together fire walls, engines and wings for the British Mosquito planes.
Frank was very nice. We both loved to dance and saw each other a few times at the hall whenever he was able to get a leave. About a month later, we began dating. He would take the train to St. Albans, then ride his bike to my house, taking shortcuts across farmland. On one trip, he was chased through an open field by a very large bull. My family, including my seven siblings, loved Frank, and within a year he was asking my parents for permission to marry me. We picked out a ring, and Frank proposed during a train ride to London one evening. It took six months before we were given permission to marry by the U.S. Air Force and the British government.
We were married on April 7, 1945. When the war ended, Frank was shipped back to the States, but I had to stay behind and wait for my papers to be processed. In March 1946, I finally boarded the USS Bridgeport bound for New York. It was a former German ship that had been captured by the Americans. I made lasting friendships with a few of the other war brides on board. The voyage to New York lasted 14 days and 10 hours; I and many of the other passengers endured sea sickness.
I was flabbergasted when I saw New York City for the first time. It was so big and breathtaking. Frank was at the dock to meet me. It was wonderful. We stayed overnight at the Victoria Hotel in Manhattan.
We settled in Brooklyn near his family. His mother taught me how to sew and cook Italian food. Frank got a job as a car mechanic, and I worked in a dress factory. In 1968, we moved to Franklin Square. We were blessed with three children and eventually were able to bring them back to England to meet my family. We now have six grandchildren.
Frank worked at Benson Chevrolet in Brooklyn, first as a mechanic then as manager, until the dealership closed in 1979. He then worked as a road maintenance service consultant for Nassau County Department of Public Works until he retired in 1989.