Tina Nelson was born in the predominantly Mormon town of Tooele, Utah, on May 29, 1919. The third of nine children, she was the daughter of a Colorado native and Yugoslav immigrant. She had no electricity growing up and remembers doing homework and reading by lantern, which led her to believe that electricity was one of the most important things invented. As she put it, it’s something everyone takes for granted. She had a wonderful childhood. Being born and raised on the nine acres of land her family owned, she had fun with her siblings in the horse-drawn wagon on which the hay was collected.
There were some difficult times as well. Because the town was a largely Mormon community, being born and raised a Catholic excluded her from participation in certain events. Even the town itself was broken into two sections, the “old town” and the “new town,” the former being chiefly Mormon and the latter comprising everyone else. Although they were separate, there was very little discrimination. Most of her friends were Mormon, including her best friend, a friend she would cherish and spend time with all her life.
After high school, she enrolled in beauty school with her childhood friend, which had always been something she had a knack for. During the Depression, she was able to make money babysitting, for which she was paid twenty-five cents. Since Tooele was a small farming community, they didn’t go hungry. Her family would donate food to those in the community who were needy.
Feeling the need to travel, she decided to visit her sister who lived in San Diego. She fell in love with the city. She also met George Nelson there. George was a Marine who was also new to San Diego. A mild-mannered man who everyone respected, George met Tina through a mutual friend. A few months passed and then World War II broke out. George got notice that he was being sent to Virginia and he asked Tina if she wanted to go along with him. She did, and the two were married shortly after.
During World War II Tina worked in an airplane factory, feeling obligated to do her part. After that, she got a job at a local beauty salon. After World War II, Tina and her husband were constantly moving; such is the nature of military families. Her husband, George Nelson, was a man who loved his country and gave his all to the Marines, serving in Korea, Vietnam, and World War II where he was a held as a Japanese POW. He wrote a book Starvation Days: A Prisoner of War Diary, 1996. There are two copies in the Rio Vista Library, and it is for sale at the Rio Vista Museum for around $12.
When George retired, the Nelsons moved to George’s hometown of Rio Vista, with their three children. They spent a lot of time traveling the world, going everywhere from Australia to Africa to South America. Tina says one thing she has learned through all her travels is that people are the same everywhere. The one thing she would like everyone of my generation to know is to have patience: patience with your family, patience with your friends, and patience with yourself.