Feminism on Trial
Having met in a bar slightly less than two years earlier, it was ironic and perhaps appropriate that Ginny and Jack should begin their married life as proprietors of a bar. But, like the bar Jack had worked for on the Hermosa Beach wharf, No Regrets was no classy Villa Lipani either. Ginny described it as "nothing fancy just a little neighborhood bar with stools, a few tables, and a pool table. It was the kind of place where working men felt comfortable stopping for a few beers with their buddies after a long day, or bringing their wives for a night out."
The name, too, had more than a touch of irony to it. In later years Jack would say that there were times he felt like crossing out the word "No."
But, despite its lack of class and affluent ambience, No Regrets was Jack's dream come true. He had always wanted to open his own bar and here was his chance. He relished it, at first, hobnobbing with the customers, drinking and shooting pool with them, and just "being one of the boys," as Ginny put it. He even sang occasionally, something he hadn't done since his glory days at Villa Lipani.
The newly-hitched couple moved into a nice apartment in Torrance, close to the bar, and Ginny, for the first time, began to enjoy the life of being just an ordinary housewife. Jack tended the bar some of the time and hired bartenders to help out the rest of the time. After a long, turbulent year and a half on the road, Ginny settled into a comfortable domestic routine and was confident enough at this point to invite her parents out for a visit. Her father, who hated to fly, begged off but her mother came out, along with Jack's parents. Although the situation seemed, to Ginny, to be a bit uneasy, their parents who at first opposed the union appeared to be finally accepting it. After all, they shared a common religion, nationality, and working class ethic.
However, this blissful state of affairs didn't last long. The neighborhood was changing and, for No Regrets, not for the better. Dark-skinned ethnic Samoans began moving in as the more affluent whites moved out. Jack welcomed their patronage at the bar but most of his less racially enlightened regulars did not. They became no-shows, and the Samoan customers, apparently, were not spending as much money as the regulars had done. Business was slipping and there was nothing they could do to stop the downslide. In desperation, Ginny offered to tend bar so that they could lay off the other bartenders and cut down their overhead. Jack agreed and she gave up her domestic lifestyle to work the day shift. Jack worked the night shift.
Watching his dream of prosperity slipping away, Jack reverted to his old familiar pattern of drinking heavily and beating up on Ginny. But, according to her autobiography, there was something different about this time. She was no longer just passively accepting his violence. Though not openly challenging him or physically attempting to fight back, she resisted in other ways. Sometimes she would barricade the door to their bedroom. On other occasions she would flee the apartment, sometimes taking refuge in the apartment of a sympathetic male neighbor she anonymously called "Sam Allen."
In later years, as an outspoken feminist and advocate for the rights of battered women, as well as in her autobiography, Ginny would explain why she stayed with Jack through such a long, agonizing period of abuse. In her mind, which was firmly rooted in the reality of the times, there was almost no choice.
The term "battered wife syndrome" did not exist in the late '60s when Ginny was going through it. There were no shelters in which battered women could seek refuge and counseling. When the abuse occurred women were expected to stoically and silently endure it and remain with their partners in spite of it. Naively, many of them believed their husbands would "change" one day, and stop using them for punching bags. But burying one's head in the sand does not make a problem go away. When the issue came out of the closet in the 1970s and afterward, it was too late to help Ginny cope with her situation with Jack but it wasn't too late for it to enable her to reach out and help others who were suffering like she had.