Return to Grand Rapids: Divorce and Engagement, 1946-1947

From the unpublished autobiograpy of James McNitt, 1992

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James McNitt's text Bill McNitt's annotations
Back with Peggy at her parents' house, I found our reactions strained and unnatural. There seemed to be nothing left of what once had existed. I had gone back thinking that perhaps we could pick up the pieces, but when she asked me that night if I thought it would work out, I had to say honestly that I didn't believe so. She agreed to a quiet, uncontested divorce. It was not until this agreement that I admitted under questioning that there was someone else. I was to learn later that she had been seeing other men, but by then it didn't really matter.
The next day I moved back with the aunts. They had never cared much for Peggy, but had taken pains not to make an issue of it. That afternoon I wrote and posted a letter to Lilian, apprising her of the situation, and asking her to marry me. By return mail she accepted. Now began the long wait.

James McNitt writing a letter

Dad writing a letter at 107 Logan SE, Grand Rapids

Cecile made an appointment with the law firm for which she worked, and they worked out the details of the divorce. Since it was uncontested, and there were no children, it was a simple matter. I had to get on the witness stand in court, answer a few leading questions, and it was over.

divorce drcree divorce decree

Divorce decree - images above or PDF version

Cecile was his brother Glenn's wife. 

The divorce decree was signed on June 7, 1946.

I went back to work at my old job. A married lady was let go, and Marshall Pettie transferred to another job. I once said kiddingly that it had taken two people to replace me, and Marsh had answered huffily that there was a lot more work. They had had to deal with ration coupons, admittedly.
Lilian made initial application for admittance to the United States, and found there was a good deal of red tape involved. For one thing, she had to get an affidavit from me that she would not become a public charge. She had to qualify under the British quota, but this presented no problem, as it was never filled.
Before she left Paris to return home, she took a trip with a friend named Margaret to the south of France as well as Monaco.

Lilian Harvey at Monte Carlo Lilian Harvey abd friend Margaret outside the Red Cross at Nice, France Lilian Harvey on the beach at Cannes, France Lilian Harvey and friend Janet in Nice, France Lilian Harvey and her friend Nargaret in Cannes, France Lilian Harvey and friends on the beach at Nice, France 

  • Mom in Monte Carlo, Monaco
  • Mom and friend Margaret outside the Red Cross at Nice, France
  • Mom on the beach at Cannes, France
  • Mom and Margaret at Nice, France
  • Mom and Margaret at Cannes, France
  • Mom and friends on the beach at Nice, France
When she found that it was going to take months to make arrangements, she took a job at Taskers of Andover, a large factory.

The Harvey girls: Lilian (known as Ethel to her family), her mother Eva, her sister Mary (known as Jim), and her sister Hyacinth    Lilian Harvey and family  The Harvey girls: Mary "Jim", Hyacinth, and Lilian

Lilian Harvey (known as Ethel in England) with her family in April 1947, just before she left for the United States:

  • Lilian with her mother Eva and sisters Mary (known as "Jim") and Hyacinth
  • Hy with unidentified child, Eva, and Lilian with Eva's brother Will, his wife Myra, and daughter Joan
  • Jim, Hy, and Lilian
The original idea was that we would stay with the aunts temporarily after her arrival. I had bought a maple bedroom outfit for their downstairs bedroom. In the meantime, Texaco had bought out the Muskegon Petroleum Company, a Texaco distributor. They had opened a waterfront terminal in Holland with the idea of delivering to all outlets within a 75-mile area. They asked me to move to Muskegon to handle the closing of the small distributor plant there and the setup for direct delivery. This bedroom set remained at 107 Logan Street until the house was sold in the 1960s.  We then moved it to our house in Holland, where my sister Pat used it.  When my parents sold that house, Marilyn and I moved the bedroom set to our home in Ann Arbor and it became Sarah's.  It has accompanied her to Oxford, Ohio and Iowa City, Iowa, and now (2017) is in the guest room of her home near Ypsilanti, Michigan.
All the employees of the Muskegon Petroleum Company came over to Texaco on the deal, John Stevens as area manager from his former position of president; John Kingshott as warehouseman, the Scharmer brothers, Al and Pep, and a younger driver, Bill Bradford. Larger gasoline storage was being installed at the service stations in preparation for direct delivery from Holland. In the meantime, we had to continue deliveries to all existing accounts, as well as oil deliveries to industrial accounts such as Continental Motors. Business methods of distributors are sometimes at variance with those of a large corporation, and I had to be diplomatic with these people, particularly with John Stevens. It was understood that John intended to resign after a year to take on a distributorship wherever available.
I moved to the downtown Y.M.C.A. in Muskegon and started looking around for a place to rent. While eating one evening at the cafeteria across from the Y, I struck up a conversation with a girl whose British accent I noted. It would develop into a lifelong friendship between us and Lettie Pierce and her husband, Glenn. The Y.M.C.A. was located at 297 Clay Street (the corner of West Clay and Second streets).
In the meantime I had sent Lilian an engagement ring, buried in the center of a fruit cake in a package of foodstuffs. It seemed on reflection a crazy thing to do, but the ring arrived all right.
I had never learned to drive, so now Bill Bradford undertook the job. In the company pickup truck I gradually picked up the mechanics of driving. To qualify for a license, I drove a policeman from the bulk plant to the police station and parked the car.

Dad getting into a car at the Muskegon plant

Dad getting into a car at the Texaco plant in Muskegon