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Valentine’s Day proposal leads to 70 years of marriage

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George and Jo Aguiar – happily married after 70 years – hold a menu from the North Beach Delmonico’s restaurant, “Slapsy Maxie’s,” where he proposed to her in 1941. Notable diners – Hollywood star...

GLENN KAHL/The Bulletin

POSTED February 11, 2012 1:25 a.m.

RIPON — It was a day of skating together with many girls who were excited to meet and skate as couples with the soldiers from Fort Baker and GIs who were anxious to share some special time with the girls from San Francisco whether they knew how to skate or not.  There was a snack shop at the rink where the couple remembers enjoying sodas and hamburgers with fellow GIs.George Aguiar, 21, and Josephine “Jo” Maniscalco, 20, are now both 91 and live in Ripon’s Town Square Apartments at Bethany Home after spending 35 years of their retirement in Grass Valley where he had built another two of his homes.   They had lived most of their adult lives in Belmont where he had also constructed a new home for himself and his wife and one for their daughter Linda.

The day of his proposal was unique as was their actual wedding that was the “talk of the town” in the Bay Area.

They had gone to dinner at the fashionable old Delmonico’s Restaurant also known as Slapsy Maxie’s that they agreed was a favorite for its spectacular stage shows.  Sitting in the booth next to them were three Hollywood stars willing to sign their dinner menu:  Jackie Gleason, Ben Blue and Sid Tomack.

The menu included fruit cocktail or shell fish cocktail, Soup Du Jour, French lamb chops for $2.50; Roast Tom Turkey with Dressing and Cranberry Sauce, $2.50; New York Sirloin for $3.25 and a Filet Mignon with Mushroom Sauce for only $3.

Their wedding was equally dramatic as they were chosen from some 30 candidates to be married in the special feature in the closing night of the annual 1941 Food Show at the San Francisco Civic Auditorium.

 It was billed as “San Francisco’s Biggest Wedding of the Year.”  The date was Oct. 11, 1941, and the time was at 9:30 p.m. notably the best attended event in the city as well. They were married by Judge Herbert C. Kaufman.

In a Bay Area newspaper article the nuptials were trumpeted to be in the “best storybook tradition.” The bride is a “curly-headed, strikingly attractive brunette.” The groom was described as being tall, dark and handsome.

The gifts and prizes they received as being part of the Food Show presentation had been left in the auditorium overnight.  When they went back to claim them the next morning, they learned someone had stolen all of their gifts.

Born in Brooklyn, George had enlisted in the Army in 1938 and had been last assigned to a base in Hawaii assigned to the harbor defense of Pearl Harbor before coming back to California where he expected to go back into civilian life in 1941 .  After meeting Jo, he remembers thinking, “That’s it!  I have to stay here in California.”  He was stationed at Fort Baker at the mouth of San Francisco Bay on the other side of the Golden Gate Bridge in Marin County. 

Back in California at Fort Baker, George said all guys were heading out the door one Saturday night. Asking his buddy where they were going, he was told about the skating rink where they would go to meet girls every week.

His buddy, Chuck, introduced him to his girlfriend – eventually a big mistake.  It was over Christmas and that buddy was soon off to his home in Washington State to visit his parents for the holidays.  When he left he told George to take care of his girl, returning a month later to see that Jo had become attached to his buddy.

“You stole my girl!” he remembers hearing from his “friend” on his return.

After he was released from duty he was drafted back into the service in 1944 and assigned to field artillery duty and was stationed throughout Europe getting out again in February 1946 after the war’s end.

George remembers he and Jo would always go to her folks’ house after roller skating and her mother would always have food on the table for them.  In fact he was continually invited to come back for dinner saying her parents really seemed to like him.

Jo told a story of her father this week, saying he had been in silent films in his day and was seen as a credible actor.  There was a move to bring him to Hollywood, but she said her mother was upset with his acting after seeing him on screen kissing an actress in a scene.

Jo said she had learned later that the mail her dad was sent from a Hollywood studio never reached him.  Her mother had intercepted those letters when they were delivered to their home.  He never had a chance to kiss another woman on screen and spent the rest of his life fishing in San Francisco Bay.

At 91, George is still driving his car and made a special trip to buy his traditional Valentine Day chocolates – See’s is his favorite – with one box going to his wife and the other to his daughter Linda Pool of Oakdale. His first chocolate purchase was at the Polk Street store in San Francisco, he remembered.

— Glenn Kahl
staff reporter

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