Albion Monitor /Features


...they married in 1943, in the sleepy Russian River town of Guerneville...

Decca: Everyone said it [Guerneville] was nice vacation place and so on. I made inquiries; I hadn't been outside San Francisco because I'd been working very hard. And we wanted to go away. We didn't want to get married in San Francisco because we were afraid of the press. I knew they'd pick it up immediately, and I was sort of frightfully pleased for once not to identified as a Mitford.

We didn't know the area, and people said its awful nice there, the Russian River, and so we called up and got a hotel room. It was called Redwoods Hotel; I remember it being cottages, with sort of a central place where they had meals.

We were married by a female Justice of the Peace who was pitch-hitting for her husband who was off at war. But first we had to hitchhike to Santa Rosa to get the license. In those days, perhaps it's still true, to be married in California you've got to have a blood test against syphilis. So we did all that, and we hitchhiked, got the license, and we got back to the Justice of the Peace.

We'd been stopping off in haystacks on the way back from Santa Rosa, and Bob had a lot of straw stuck in his hair. She said we had to have witnesses, which we'd forgotten. So she was sentencing two people who were fishing without a license and they stood up for us, they were the witnesses, -- these two fishing violators. One of them during the ceremony kept picking bits of straw out of Bob's hair.

This Justice of the Peace kept saying, "But don't you want to be married in the redwoods? It's nature's cathedral," and all that. We said no, no, no: we just want to get it over as quickly as possible. We thought it was ridiculous thing anyhow; we didn't believe in marriage, but we had to. It was against government regulations to have two government employees living together without being married.

Another thing about that trip: Kay Graham, [who later became] owner of the Washington Post, was a great friend of ours, me and Esmond, in Washington. She'd sent me an introduction to someone out here who lived in Marin County, and this woman had been very friendly. She'd written several times to say, "Do come and see me."

Decca and Dinky
Decca and Dinky, about the time she met Bob
She kept writing, so when Bob came out, and we decided to get married, I thought this would be the perfect time to take her up on it, and leave Dinky with her. That was arranged. The bus went through Mill Valley and it was arranged that she would come and meet the bus, and I would hand Dinky out to her through the window with her suitcase, while we went off to get married.

Years later, while I was writing the American Way of Death, a boy showed up, a seventeen year-old freshman at Cal. He called up right out of the blue, and said, "There was a story in my family that you had a baby and threw it out the window to my mother. And you left it with her for about two weeks, then came back to fetch it." He turned out to be a smashing boy -- in fact, he helped a terrific lot on the original research for the American Way of Death, and he's in the acknowledgments: Peter Rand. But this boy remembered hearing all his life about this amazing circumstance with Dinky being thrown out of the window. *

The Making of a Muckracker

Albion Monitor October 9, 1995 (

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