Longtime San Pedran Donna (Harlan) Erdahl tells the story of how she and her family first learned Japan had bombed Pearl Harbor and USA officially entered World War II Her siblings worked in the shipyards, launching ships, how patriotic all citizens were in the war effort, scrimping and saving ration coupons.

Born in Nebraska, Donna’s parents were farmers and in 1936 and decided to move to California during the great depression when she was four years old. They first settled in Lomita, then moved to San Pedro (SP). Her father Wayne worked at Todd Shipyard; her sister Kathleen worked at Bethlemhem Steel taking the ferry from SP to Terminal Island;  her  mother Elsie worked for Phillip R. Park SP  chemistry lab studying kelp from the local Pacific Ocean.  Her mother Elise had been a school teacher in Nebraska previously and loved to write poetry, a gift that Donna inherited.  Because they were poor and could not buy clothes in stores, Elise would sew all the clothes for her family.

Donna attended Bandini Street Elementary, Richard Henry Dana Middle, and San Pedro High Schools (W’1950). She was a good student and in the prestigious honor service group Knightettes. She continued her education and attended Hollywood Presbyterian Nursing School, graduating  in 1953.Soon after she earned a position with the new San Pedro Hospital and was appointed as a tour guide showing off the town’s new hospital to the local community.

She worked with Dr. Roy D. Smith, M.D. (my Grandfather Mardesich’s physician) during this time, who introduced her to his older son, Robert Smith M.D, who was returning from the war in Korea. Donna and Robert married in 1954, and had four children.  (They later divorced). Donna continued her nursing career. In 1976 she married Dr. Robert Erdahl, D.D.S. (he passed away in 2009).

The Smith family have been in SP since 1902 when they moved here from Baker, Oregon. Progenitor Charles Smith was past postmaster general of SP, with five generations residing in the port town. Currently Donna’s daughter Leigh Smith works in communications with the Los Angeles Harbor Department and recently acted as producer for the short documentary film The Smell Of Money, directed by Jack Baric, and produced by Port of Los Angeles, that had its world premiere at the 21st an. LA Har. Int’l. Film Festival. The link to view is below.

Filmed when she was 91, now at 92 Donna is lovely as an “ingénue”.