Anachnu: Bob Holloway

Bob Holloway

Bob Holloway

By Donald H. Harrison

Donald H. Harrison

Donald H. Harrison

SAN DIEGO — One memorable day when Bob Holloway was in high school, his track coach said that he was such a good long distance runner he’d like him and other members of the team to compete at summer track meets up and down the state.  Thrilled, Holloway came home and told his mother and step-father the news.  His step-father refused to give permission, saying the teenager had to work with him in his business. That led to an argument, and Holloway stormed out of the house.  He made his way north to Montana and although he was still a 15-year-old boy, he found work as a ranch hand, herding cattle and repairing fences.  His training as an Eagle Scout had prepared him for the outdoor life

Then a real Montana winter came.  The freezing weather and the wind made it seem like 50 degrees below zero, and the clothes Holloway had brought with them were intended for California sunshine.  “S-s-south!” Holloway told the ticket seller at a bus station.  By the time he got back to San Diego, Holloway was 17, old enough, after a brief reunion with his family, to join the Marine Corps.  As the Korean War was going on, the Marines welcomed him with open arms.  They sent him to boot camp at MCRD, rifle training at Camp Matthews, and for advanced infantry training at Camp Pendleton.  His next stop was supposed to be Korea, but the law said 17 year olds were too young to be combatants. So before he could get to Korea, the Marines ordered him to return to California, where he went through training again until his 18th birthday.

“So I ended up in Incheon, Korea, in February 1952.”  After he was assigned to an outpost where his unit listened for tanks, troop movements and artillery fire, the Marines learned that there was another outpost nearby – one manned by North Korean soldiers.  On February 25, 1953,” his unit staged a raid on the Communist outpost.  “A mortar came in and knocked me unconscious and really screwed up my left leg,” Holloway recalled.  “I got gangrene and at that time there wasn’t much you could do, but there was a new antibiotic—terramycin—and that saved my leg from being amputated.”  While he was lying on a gurney, his commanding officer hovered over him for the few seconds it took to present him with a Purple Heart.  “It’s not much of a war, but it’s all we got,” the officer told the wounded Marine.

Holloway was transported from Korea to a succession of military hospitals in Hawaii, San Francisco, and San Diego – the latter being Balboa Hospital.  While he was healing there, Holloway took advantage of the fact that San Diego High School neighbored Balboa Hospital.  He went to classes and earned a high school equivalency degree, and then, using his GI Benefits, he enrolled at San Diego Junior College (today called San Diego Community College) for an associate of arts degree.  Then it was on to San Diego State, where he earned a bachelor’s degree.  Over the next six years, while studying for a master’s degree, he taught elementary school.  After he obtained his master’s degree, he taught science and math at the secondary school level at Point Loma High School, San Diego High School, Patrick Henry High School, and Pershing Junior High School.  Most of his career, 23 years, was spent at Pershing.  After a total of 34 years, Holloway retired from the public school faculty, but not from teaching.

As a second career, Holloway opened a video production company and also taught a course on small business management at the Foothill Adult Center in El Cajon.  Marlene was one of his students.  They were married in 1986, two years after Hollowayand his first wife, Louise, ended their 28-year marriage.  Holloway had two grown children, Robert and Nanci, and helped to raise two boys from Marlene’s first marriage, Aaron and Nathan.  Marlene’s business was wedding invitations, so the couple often found both their services needed by the same clients.  To further aid them, Holloway got himself credentialed for conducting weddings.

Bob and Marlene Holloway

Bob and Marlene Holloway

Up to that point in his life, religion “didn’t make a lot of sense.”  In contrast, Judaism “had a lot of logic to it – as a science teacher, I appreciated logic.” Several years after he and Marlene were married, he learned that when Aaron and Nathan would come of bar mitzvah age, he, as a non-Jew, wouldn’t be able to participate in the ceremony.  Wanting very much to participate, and with encouragement from Marlene and her relatives, Holloway decided to explore converting to Judaism.  He visited several rabbis before deciding that Rabbi Aaron Gold of Tifereth Israel Synagogue was the one with whom he would like to study.  Marlene studied for an adult bar mitzvah at the same time that Holloway studied for conversion.

Last year, the Men’s Club of Tifereth Israel Synagogue honored Holloway as its “Man of the Year,” taking special notice of Holloway’s record as a volunteer for the synagogue.

Holloway said he was inspired by a sermon given by Rabbi Leonard Rosenthal, who was Rabbi Gold’s successor.  Rosenthal told of people who desert the synagogue once their children are grown, not realizing that as a continuing institution the synagogue needs their help to make certain the next generation of Jews also are educated.

“I wrote a letter to the synagogue saying ‘I can’t increase my dues but I am willing to serve in some capacity as a volunteer.  I can pick up the parking lot, I can hose out the bathrooms, I can work in the kitchen.  I can do anything that needs to be done.  I don’t want to teach, or fold envelopes; I want to do something that is humble.’

“They jumped on that, and I have been volunteering a half day every Friday ever since.  I go to the synagogue and work for Charles Davis (Tifereth’s maintenance supervisor).  He gives me something to do, usually in the kitchen.  And I also became the resident gardener, and I’ve migrated into other stuff as well.  Charles and I have developed a real good relationship!”

Those who attend the all-musical Shir Chadash services once  month at Tifereth Israel know that Holloway is also a fine clarinetist.

“Music was my first passion,” he said. “I grew up in that era when teachers were rare, so the last period of the day the coaches would come in and proctor the study hall and they would have 7th and 8thgraders there – 150 kids.  I was always misbehaving with rubber bands.  The coach would say ‘Get in the back room there!’  Well, that was the band room and I found an old nickel plated Selmer clarinet.  I put a reed in it, three holes here and three holes there, and I started with ‘Mary Had a Little Lamb’ and ‘Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star’ and I took it home.  Two weeks later I got transferred to the orchestra.  I couldn’t read music a lick, but I could play it.  The guy next to me would say ‘that’s a D; that’s a C,’ and so on, so I learned Treble Clef.”

After running away from home, he worked in various places before reaching Montana. “I was in the San Joaquin Valley picking tomatoes, and in Yakima, Washington  picking apples.  I went to Spokane, and enrolled in school there, ran cross country and came in second in the state finals. The school band gave me a clarinet.”

Whatever Holloway does, it’s with enthusiasm.  Once a Marine, always a Marine.

Harrison is editor of San Diego Jewish World.  He may be contacted via [email protected].  Comments intended for publication in the space below must be accompanied by the letter writer’s first and last name and by his/ her city and state of residence (city and country for those outside the U.S.)


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