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Step back in time: Guam in the 1930s

Updated: Oct 5, 2022

By Mar-Vic Cagurangan

When his parents died, William D. Rhodes found old photos of Guam that piqued his curiosity about the island where he was born during the pre-war period.

Rhodes’ father, Clarence Grady Rhodes, was a Navy man who was stationed on Guam in 1936. His mother, Gedie Rhodes, was a school principal.

“My father mentioned that he moonlighted as the projectionist at the movie theater. He told me the name associated with the theater and other things was a ‘Mr. Butler,’” said Rhodes, who was born in 1937 and now lives in Georgia.

Grady Rhodes’ deployment ended in 1939. “When his tour on Guam was complete, his relief was George Ray Tweed who was one of several Navy men who failed to evacuate before the Japanese invaded,” Williams Rhodes said in an email.

Tweed was able to escape capture from the Japanese during their occupation of Guam in World War II, and was the only American to survive the entire occupation in hiding with the help of CHamoru people.

Grady Rhodes was later stationed on Oahu, where his family joined him in early 1941. “After the attack on Pearl Harbor, dependents were evacuated on Easter Sunday,” William Rhodes said. “He was on ship's company on the USS Astoria (CL-90) for the remainder of the war years.”

In 1948, Grady Rhodes was deployed to Shanghai for his first post-war overseas duty, with his family tagging along.

Although he was born on Guam, Rhodes' "experience" of the island had been elusive since his family left.

During this trip, William Rhodes had his first brush with Guam since his birth. “En route to Shanghai, a layover night was spent on Guam. I know that my mother was in contact with native friends for a short while, but we children stayed in our quarters,” he recalled.

As a naval aviator, William Rhodes landed at Andersen Air Force Base on two occasions in 1969. “The purpose was for refueling, so I had no opportunity to go anywhere, or see anyone,” Rhodes said. “That really completes my Guam experience.”

Rhodes shared the photos he unearthed from his parents’ collections. “I found the pictures after both of my parents were dead, but I wanted to get an update on my knowledge of the island,” he said.

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