Archive for the ‘students’ writing’ category

Vignettes – Bev Hardy

April 25, 2010

Ace and I had been married less than a month when his mother’s health got worse. Grace had strongly disapproved of me 25 years before. She didn’t change her mind over the years. When she was in her 70’s she came to Calif. From Illinois to get a face lift. Her Doctor was in Beverly Hills, which she couldn’t change, but she refused to take an apartment in Beverly Hills, because that was my name. Needless to say we didn’t tell her when we married. She died 2 or 3 years later. Never having known. Ace was an only child. His father was dead. There was no question, Ace had to go back to Illinois to take care of his mother.

Johns heart cauterization had turned out well. For the first time in his life he was allowed to carry on all normal activities including gym class. Before our honeymoon I had never been farther north on Highway 101 than Rufugio State Beach. I thought this would be a great time to retrace our honeymoon trip with the kids. Ace thought I should have someone else who could drive in case of emergency. To keep Ace happy I asked Betsy Baker who was 19 and had a driver’s license to join us. She was one of 11 kids and her folks were happy to send her along. (This was a family wanted a Bakers dozen (13 – 2 adults, 11 kids) and could afford the 11 kids. Both were college graduates and he had made a small fortune inventing things used in the space industry.) So Betsy, John who was 16, Ann 12, and Barbara 10 and I headed North in our VW camper.

We didn’t spend any nights in Malibu – too expensive! I planned to have us stay at the Miramar in Santa Barbara. As we went through Ventura the kids wanted to show Betsy the “island”. We had had several fun filled Girl Scout camping trips there. It isn’t really an island but it seemed like it was. It is adjacent to the County Fair grounds, just North of it. At high tide the only way to get the cars, which are parked on the fairground side is over a railroad bridge. The North side has a fair size rive cutting off access. There are several trees, but no tables or rest rooms, so it is primitive camping. We waded over to the island, looking for a small sea horses that we usually found there and keeping our eyes out for interesting seashells. Then we saw the pelican. It just stood there, looking sad. It was skinny and bedraggled looking.

When we walked up to it, it made no effort to walk away. We soon discovered that someone had tied a cord around it’s neck, making it impossible for it to swallow. It was starving to death. We cut the cord and holding it in my arms I waded out into the ocean to let him get wet and see if he wouldn’t drink some water. (I learned later pelicans don’t drink water – they get the fluid they need from the fish they eat.) I dipped it’s beak in the water, lifted it’s head and stroked it’s neck. It seemed to swallow some, but maybe a little didn’t hurt it. Holding the pelican we waded back to the car. Betsy sat in the front passenger seat holding the pelican. We got some wild looks from pedestrians and other cars as we went in search of a fish store and a public phone, where I hoped to find some kid of listing for a bird rescue place. We found the fish store first, where we bought some medium size whole fish. I showed Betsy how to lift the birds beak up, put a fish in in mouth and message its neck to get it to swallow. So now we drove along with her feeding fish to the pelican while people gawked. We finally found a phone, but had a lot of trouble finding the bird rescuer, arranged to meet her in market parking lot, handed over the bird to someone who knew what to do and headed north to spend our first night at Mir-a-Mar in Santa Barbara.

The kids loved the Miramar. The sand cleaned up some from the oil spill, but even so I soon got adept at removing tar. There were tennis courts, swimming pools, a train to eat in, free popcorn, shuffle board and a small minature golf course. We found out we could rent a small cottage for only $35 to $45 a night and later had some wonderful birthday parties there.

On we went to Cambria. Heading North on Highway 1 we came to a place called Morro Bay, and just as Ace and I had done we drove in, looked at the rock, read the historical information and headed out. We didn’t think much of the town. There was nothing to do there. We all had fun in Cambria. We stayed in the last motel North of town. The desk clerk stall remembered me from the honeymoon. They also had a miniature golf course and it was just a short walk to moonstone beach where the kids all found small moonstones. The only thing of real interest on the main drag was the Tin Soldier Store. They enjoyed the big battle scenes in the back room. After a dinner in the smorgasbord restaurant across 1 at the north end of town, we were tired enough we went back to the motal to get ready to take off for Big Sur the next day.

We loved the Big Sur area and spent several days in a cheap motel whose cabins were just below Highway 1. We had to drive up the hill to get to the highway and as we pulled out we pulled right into the scene of a traffic accident. It was apparent that the woman who left shortly before us was hit by another car as she entered the highway. Everyone was just standing around looking and doing nothing. I parked the camper and got out. The motel was located on a straight short stretch of the road, with blind curves on each side. The worst wrecked car was blocking one lane with the drive still inside moaning. It was her side that had been hit. I sent Betsy to the down hill side and John to the uphill side to direct traffic. Then I headed for the woman to see how badly she was hurt. It was still amazing me that all the other people were just standing around looking and making no effort to help.

The over weight woman probably in her late 50’s was hyper ventilating and complaining of her hip and back. From the damage to the car, it was conceivable she might have broken her back. She was jammed against the steering wheel. She was sure she was dying. The car windows were open and I reached in and took her pulse, double checked it on her neck. I timed her pulse rate (with John’s heart condition, I was an old hand at this.) I assured her that she had a good strong pulse and she was doing great and wasn’t going to die. I lied a little. Her pulse was racing and irregular, but the minute I assured her she was going to live, it started slowing down, and quit hyper ventilating. One of the things I realized when I first got the car was her little dog, a chihuahua’s left rear paw was being pinched by a crease in the body of the car. It was hanging upside down right next to the back window. It’s eyes were open, but it wasn’t moving or making a sound. I just prayed it would stay that way. I didn’t want anything upsetting the woman whose hand I held, while she continued to calm down. By this time a few people began to come over and peer into the car. Then two guys came over talking about pulling the dent out, and before I realized what they planned, they had readed in and were trying to free the dog. The dog started screaming in pain and the woman’s pulse went crazy. They couldn’t get the dog loose. About this time two rangers arrived and took over. It was probably 15 minutes after the accident, maybe more.

I headed down hill to take over for Betsy who had indicated she needed a break. The two kids had been doing a good job. I found myself very pleased to find out how nice drivers are. They couldn’t see the accident, but when they saw me standing in the road with my arm up, they stopped. Meanwhile John was letting a string of cars through. I walked up to the bend so I could see John’s signal and then I’d have my cars move to the other side of the road and send them through. We had no uniforms, we were nobodies, but everyone followed our directions. Over a half hour had passed before more rangers showed up to take over for us. We soon left Big Sur, headed for Monterey and then home. .


Easter Sundays – Shirley Palmer

April 25, 2010

When we were first married Easter Sunday meant going down to my in-laws house for a family Easter dinner. My husband’s sister, her husband & their son and Bud and I would all go down to Bud’s parents home for the special dinner. Some years Bud’s other sister and; her husband would drive down from Fresno to join us – and sometimes Bud’s Aunt and her daughter would join us as well. It was a big family dinner party. My one memory of those days was that our nephew who was about 9 wouldn’t eat ham, so there always had to be another meat at the table for him. This totally amazed me, as I’d always been told to eat what was served – no questions asked. But I guess Grandma wanted to spoil him, so he always had something special.

As the years progressed and our children were born and reached the age of Easter egg hunts, we’d color eggs and hide them out in our huge back yard. They’d start out with empty baskets and run to spot the eggs before the other one did. We had a boy and a girl – 2 yrs & 4 months apart. One year after the kids were in bed, Bud took out a dozen eggs and hide them under plants, flower bushes etc – low down so they could easily spot them. He went outside with the kids and I’d hear him saying – “Did you look over here?” – “Did you look over there?” All of a sudden he came running in the house and grabbed all the colored eggs I had left in the baskets and went running outside with his pockets full of eggs. I’d see him send the kids to one side of the yard and he’d drop an egg under a tree and then say “Oh I spot one!” and they’d come running. What had happened was our Norwegian Elk Hound Dog had feasted all night long and eaten all the eggs we put out – so Bud was making a quick cover up – dropping eggs – kicking the dog to get away and calling the kids. It was quite a sight. The kids were too young to realize the eggs they found that the Easter Bunny left outside were the Easter eggs from their baskets – as they had chocolate bunnies etc. and I was quick to refill their baskets. Our trick worked – the dog (Inga) was in big trouble.

The next year we got smart and hid all the eggs up in the trees – where the branches came together. We’d fool Inga this year. Well in the middle of the night it started to pour rain – so when the kids got up to go outside we had trees with all sorts of colors running down their trunks – and white eggs waiting to be discovered – which wasn’t much of a challenge – just follow the colored tree and you’d find an egg. By this time we’d invited some neighbors kids down to join in the hunts – so it was more like 3 dozen eggs out there. Despite the bad weather one or two years – we had the egg hunt for years.

My kids left for school before I left for work, so I was usually in the bathroom putting my makeup on and they’d come in and kiss me good-bye. This one morning Gary (our son) said I left a letter for you on the kitchen table Mom. Well that was unusual – but I said O.K. – hoping it wasn’t something from a teacher where he was in trouble. They went off to school – I came out and on the kitchen table was a letter – “To Mom” – Teri (that was our daughter) and I know there is no Easter bunny – we’ve know a long time. Would you kindly leave some money so we can walk over to Sav-on’s after school and buy the kind of Easter candy that we like!” Love, Gary and Teri. Sav-on’s was about 3 blocks from our house – having to cross a major intersection, but there was a signal there. So I left some money with the instructions to be careful crossing the street and to stay together. And to call me at work when they got home. They did exactly as they were told – they were so happy to get the candy they liked – not what I had been buying. So that was the end of the Easter Bunny at our house. They still enjoyed Easter Egg hunting in the back yard, but by this time we had added a Black Labrador to our family, so the trick was keeping 2 dogs from eating our bounty!!

After church on Easter we tried to do something special. One year I remember we drove up to Solvang and walked the village and had a Danish dinner. All dressed in our fine duds – I wonder how I walked all day in those high heels.

Well now fast forward to Grandchildren. One year our daughter and her husband wanted to go away for a week for their April Anniversary, so they brought their 2 kids down into the LA area. The other Grandparents had them the first of the week – I was to get them Thursday through Sunday (which was Easter). When the other Grandpa delivered them to me – his comments were – “Well good luck – we’ve been sick all week!”. Encouraging introduction!! I was working in Glendale at the time and went down to the Cuban bakery to get some of their meat pies for Easter lunch and was going to make a spaghetti salad – had a nice menu planned. By Saturday my husband was sick – bad flu! The kids were much better. They were like 2 and 5. Bud was laying out on the chaise lounge on our deck as the weather was warm. He was doing better by Sunday, when it hit me hard. I tried to get John outside to hunt for Easter eggs – I had only hid a few on the deck – above the dog area. I felt just awful and kept running back into the house to the bathroom – to do “my thing”.

Finally I came outside and here is John with an empty basket and I started saying – “did you look here?” – didn’t work. Finally he handed me the basket and said – “This is dumb!!” I said O.K. with me – and went and laid back down on the couch. About noon our daughter and husband arrived. Bud’s outside on the lounge – I’m in the living room moaning on the couch and daughter Teri says – “What’s wrong?” I explained the kids came down sick and were kind enough to pass it on to Bud and I. She asked me where Candy was – I told her in the Den destroying our telephone! At that point I could have cared less about the phone. She went in and got her and said, “Mom – she in her warm jammies – it’s almost 100 degrees outside. My comment was that I hadn’t noticed and I was sorry – but this had not been a good day. So they packed up their kids – together with the meat pies I had purchased and headed out. Bud and I spent the rest of that Easter Sunday stretched out, sleeping – running to the bathroom – and wondering why Grandchildren are so quick about sharing their germs. The next thing – I woke up Monday unable to open my left eye – I bathed it with eye wash and went to work. My fellow workers told me how bad I looked, which brightened my day. Then my boss came into my cubicle and said, “Shirley – I want you out of here and to the Dr. pronto – I’m sure you have Pink Eye” I got it from my grandkids last year and you look exactly the same. So off to the Dr. I went and yes, I did have Pink Eye. John had been kind enough to share that with us along with the flu.
Well we’ve had many pleasant Easters since those years, but it’s fun looking back. Life seems much simpler when you get old – go to church, make something to contribute to the dinner you’ve been invited to, eat, enjoy the company and then go home and rest. Praise the Lord for Easter and all my Easter memories.


March 22, 2010

Some people had condos in Baja. Some in Hawaii, some in Florida but we were able to take our condo everywhere we went. The COW was our Condo On Wheels. Life with the COW began with the purchase of a Dodge Cummings Diesel truck in 1990. The goal was to pay off the truck and then buy a fifth wheel trailer before I retired. We already had the list of the National Parks where we wanted to volunteer. We subscribed to Trailer Life magazine so we would have some idea of what we wanted in a trailer. Our parameters were thirty feet long and a slider (something new at that time). 30ft. was the maximum for many state and federal parks. The slider because we were sure we wanted to entertain and have that extra space. After all, we were moving into this trailer from a four bedroom house, full time.

We searched in Oregon, Washington and California. We even checked out places like Quartzite and Yuma where all the snow birds hung out. The deal was made near Disneyland. We bought the COW with the understanding we would stay on their lot the first night and do all our cooking, showering and etc. The next morning, having never towed a fifth wheel, I pulled our brand new thirty foot fifth wheel onto the Santa Ana Freeway. Our first stop was Camper’s World.

Any time you take up a new hobby or interest there are always those minimal expenses required to be a groupie. For full time RVers there are the sewer hoses and their leveling tracks. The decal that has you fill in the states you visited is another requirement. My wife made a flag that gave our home town. There are electrical adaptors, water pressure controls, bubble levels on three corners and a very large one front and center so you can see it through your truck rear window while backing into you place for the night. If you are not level all kinds of bad things happen. First is no sleep. The coolant in your propane/electric fridge will puddle and cause great expense.

Our second stop was supposed to be Tip’s Restaurant. When I pulled into the parking lot and around the back, they had blocked off the far end where I had expected to park and pull out. I was now in a long narrow parking lot with a right angle bend and impossible to back out. On the other hand, that was the only way out (how many have backed any kind of trailer?). My wife had to jump out and give me hand signals. It is amazing how difficult it is to keep someone in your mirror when this mammoth trailer keeps getting between her and the mirror. This is when I found out it was a mistake to not buy walki-talkies. This was reinforced when we pulled into a RV campground in Bakersfield and people in lawn chairs watched and listened to the entertainment my wife and I produced while trying to back into a space. This was the last time we would be the evening’s entertainment. Of course, we were often in those lawn chairs waiting for other RVers to entertain us.

Another lesson learned was when, in a hurry, I forgot to chalk the wheels before yanking the release on the trailer hitch. Unfortunately there was a slight up hill and the trailer immediately rolled backward and landed on the sides of the bed of the pickup. Ouch! The hurry was for a doctor’s appointment. When I arrived late and he checked me out he claimed that I had high blood pressure and prescribed a medication. That charting follows me to this day and every doctor asks me about it.

In short time we had seconds of everything for the kitchen and minor repair tools. There were still times when we wanted a spice or tool and remembered it was out in the trailer. There were many shake down cruises with a group of others with the same interest.
Soon I was volunteering every other weekend at Redwood National Park, taking the COW and spending Saturday night up there with a view of the surf on one side and Fresh Water Lagoon on the other side.

In Feb. of ‘98 I retired and in March of ‘98 we were on the road as full time RVers. Our word for it was homeless. Our second National Park was Rocky Mountain National Park. There were two big surprises with the COW there. Our first morning there was no water. The supply hose had frozen. On June 19th we got three inches of snow. The snow piled up on our awning and bent the rods. The solution is to leave one end down and let gravity keep the awning clean of snow.

The water was also frozen the morning, September 13th when we took off for our third volunteer position, Padre Island National Seashore. When we got there the water temperature in the Laguna Madre was 82 degrees. We arrived a day ahead of schedule so we pulled out on the 65mile stretch of free camping beach and were pleased that we were self contained. We woke to the sound of surf. I peeked out the window and the salt water was coming up to about four feet of the COW. WOW! Vicki was not even fully dressed when I had the truck running and trying to do a quick U turn to head back up the beach and the only driveway. You guessed it. I turned too sharp and got stuck in the sand. We ended up unhooking the trailer and dug a trench in front of the tires and filled them with our leveling blocks and dirty clothes and managed, in four wheel drive, to drive out. We then hitched the COW back on and drove the wrong direction till we found a blow out to turn around in. A blow out is a place where there is a space between dunes and high tide washes all of the trash that arrives along that part of the gulf coast, but that is another story. And that is just part of the first year of six and a half years with the COW.

Chuck Mills

*Friends are……………..*

March 22, 2010

Generally speaking, life is good; very, very good, as a matter of fact. But “sometimes sadness is all there is”, a partial quote borrowed from Rick Bragg’s recently read memoirs entitled _ All Over but the Shoutin’_. Sadness overcame me during the month of February, 2010, for within a two week period, three long time friends passed away. One was a gentleman who had been part of a cluster of family friends dating back to the early 1960’s. The other two gentlemen were also long time friends, but even more crushing was that they were mates of two very close girl friends. Ouch!

These happenings stirred me to reflect on friendships over the years that have certainly helped bring richness to my life. Webster defines a friend as a person (or persons) whom we know well and are fond of; a close acquaintance; one who is helpful and reliable. I go on to add more personal definitions of a friend throughout the following passages.

“Friends always have a special place in the heart, have special understanding and are thoughtful; one who shares and cares”. Enter *Elaine. B*ack in 1962 she came into my, I should say our, lives with her husband and two young children around Jill’s age (then two years old). Our family and hers seemed to have so much in common: loved our kids, attended a newly-formed dance club in town, participated in church activities, hosted dinner parties, sun-bathed, picnicked on the beach; you name it. We moved to San Jose in 1964 after Harvey’s Cal Poly graduation, had our second child, Jodi, in 1965, relocated in Santa Maria and returned to Morro Bay in 1968, stepping right into our life of four years previous. Then things changed drastically for her and her husband (and, consequently for us too). They separated, reunited, separated again and finally divorced. A totally contented stay-at-home Mom was forced to plunge into what turned out to be a successful career, but not without some very difficult times that brought us even closer together. To this day, no matter the miles that separate us, we are able to continue right where we left off from the last contact. One of our very close long-time mutual friends is one whose companion of thirty years passed away in mid-February, as mentioned above. Our shoulders are there for her to lean on through this troubled time. After all, isn’t that what friends are for?

“It’s the friends we meet along life’s path who help us appreciate the journey.” Enter *Mary*, dating back to the late1960’s. We first met when a large group of stay-at-home Mom’s congregated at a neighborhood vacant lot to play volleyball three mornings a week after the kids were sent off to school; except for Jodi, who was still a preschooler. She became very adept at amusing herself along the sidelines during the games! An off-shoot of the volleyball group was our own Weigh-in Club, of which Mary was also a part. Any resemblance to the popular Weight Watchers meetings was purely coincidental, for we rushed into a member’s house, removed every article of clothing short of indecent exposure, hesitantly stood on the scales, cheered as though we had won a million dollar jackpot when we we would eek out even one-eighth of a pound loss from the previous week, reluctantly placed $1.00 into a kitty for every pound of weight gain, and hastily gathered around the table for, you guessed it, refreshments! I shudder to think of the collective number of pounds gained and lost over the period of the two or three years we went through the motions of dieting. No matter, we all have fond memories of that time in our lives.

The outgrowth of the weigh-in group was the formation of a Birthday group, if which Mary was a part. To this day, we gather to celebrate each of our six birthdays over lunch, we break our necks to find the best “You are special” cards and bring small token gifts to replace the lavish gifts we once exchanged.

It was Mary’s husband who became quite ill before this past Christmas, was whisked off to the Hospital Emergency several times, but was ultimately sent home to be surrounded by his family before losing his fight against lung disease in mid-February. Helping her get through one of the most difficult journeys of her life by listening, caring, and attempting to bring cheer, love and kindness to her has been, and will continue to be, my mission.

“Bestest” buddy. Favorite memories wrapped up in our friendship. Our paths crossed; forever grateful”. Those and similar phrases appear on greeting cards or face-to-face frequently from *Cindee*, a friend since the 1980’s, when our paths crossed at Morro Elementary. She was working as a clerical aide and I was teaching. Harvey and I had just started getting into bicycling and I encouraged her to venture out… and the rest is history for us. What adventures we’ve had! A couple credit-card bike touring trips with our husbands to San Diego, a week long Pedal the Peeks tour in Colorado to celebrate her 50^th birthday, a week’s tour looping around Idaho, Utah and Wyoming with another friend Maureen for starters. Cindee and I were also instrumental in organizing a group of six other Bike Club gals (named ourselves Wild Wacky Women) who were interested in loading our touring bikes with all the necessary gear for an annual four or five day camping trip, pedaling as far north as Carmel and down Highway #1 on one trip and south to Ventura and back on another trip. In the past two or three years, the Wild Wacky Women trips have been greatly reduced to a day ride, without packs, followed by a nice lunch, where we can catch-up with each other’ happenings. Cindee and I continue to bike as much as her full time job schedule will permit and we also are two of a Morro Elementary alumni group of six, self-named the *Sexy Six*. Who but ourselves would bestow that title upon us? Periodic get togethers keep our friendships alive and well.

Another group of seven Morro Elementary alumni, again self-named the *Nymphs, *also add dimension to my well-being. If laughter is good for the soul, and I truly believe it is, it’s no wonder that I have these “laugh lines” a.k.a. wrinkles as a result of our gatherings throughout each year. Truly a terrific group!

“You know, we are the luckiest people in the world to have a circle of friends who get together almost every Friday night for food and fellowship!” Truer words were never spoken than by one of our *T.G. * (short for Thank God It’s Friday) *Group* last Friday night as we were sitting around our dining room table; a fire blazing and several lively conversations swirling around over dessert and coffee. This group is comprised of nine people; three couples and three widows and for most of us, dates back to the early 1980’s. The idea was born while we were all still working and looking forward to unwinding at the end of the work week. We are all retired now, but still look forward to getting together almost every Friday night at someone’s house to unwind, as some of us lead almost as busy a life as we did before retirement. We’ve been there for each of our widowed friends, one whose husband passed away in 1996 and the other two who lost their husbands in 2002. But we’ve also shared many happy times. Our relationships are even further strengthened through involvement in organizational and fitness activities.

“Friends always seem to go out of their way to make other people feel special”. This statement certainly holds true with the *San Luis Obispo Bicycle Club*. The Club’s mission statement is to promote safe and legal bicycle riding for recreation and transportation. But in all the years I have been involved in the Club, I have witnessed a much broader unwritten mission; that of being there for our members in times of need, whether it be a death, a major injury, a surgery, an illness, an accomplishment or any reason to make someone feel special. Connecting with members through choices of daily organized rides, special rides, lunches, bi-annual potlucks and volunteering for our big fund-raiser rides helps build friendships. Gatherings with a small intimate group is an added plus!

“Friends are fun, fantastic, fabulous, warmhearted, free-spirited, amazing, amusing, extra-special, super sensational…. and a whole lot more!” This message came to me in 2008 from a wonderful eighty-six year old gentleman, Walter, who was one of the participants on my *2003 Cross Country* bicycle trip. He passed away last year, but this was exactly the same feeling I had for him and the other cyclists on that trip, particularly Elizabeth, my roommate; Daniel, my riding buddy, Steve, Bob and Peter (who succumbed to a heart attack last October).

“A Friend is one who listens and cares”. Relatively speaking, the *Life Story class members *are the “new kids on the block” of acquaintances for me. For two and one-half sessions, I have had the privilege of listening to a member who has shared about her growing up in Hollywood (a sharp contrast to my early years on an Iowa farm), the trials and tribulations of traveling cross country with toddler twins in a Volkswagen bus, the wife’s exacting memoirs of a husband who unfortunately was unable to write his own story, a daughter who has patiently, but happily, recorded dictated stories of her mother’s life, the on-going debate of whether the toilet paper should roll over or under the roll; to name just a few of the heartfelt interesting readings that I have had the privilege of listening to each week.

Sadness *had *overcome me when I started to labor over this segment but by the time I finished, I took to heart the belief that friends have a gift for seeing the sunny side of things. They have a natural enthusiasm for living that flows out to warm the hearts of those around you. My heart has indeed been warmed through the many friendships over the years. Hopefully your heart has been warmed in the same way!

Joan Petersen

Teenage Years Ages 13 to 19 by Gaby Levine

April 19, 2009

Memories of Manual Arts High School

I attended Manual Arts High School, on S. Vermont Avenue, from the middle of 10th grade until graduation.  I think I really grew up there, and developed confidence in myself.  The atmosphere at Hollywood High, my previous school, was definitely cliquey, plus I didn’t live very close to school.  Manual Arts was within walking distance if you had time (I’d walk home from school with a friend when the weather was nice), and I found it easy to be friendly with everyone.  Well, I do remember one boy I disliked.  We were both in a summer ceramics class, and he began boasting that he had poured gasoline on a cat and set it on fire!  Even then, I wondered if he was telling the truth, but still —-.  He showed up at our 40th Class Reunion, and seemed like a very normal person, but I didn’t ask him about my memories of ceramic class!

I was taking the college prep classes, but by taking summer school, I freed up class time for some electives.  I remember taking sewing, so I could get some expert advice when making my clothes.  The teacher very nicely agreed that I didn’t have to work on the beginner projects, as long as I wasn’t disruptive to the class!  I also fitted in Spanish for the whole time.  I really liked learning a foreign language, and although I don’t have time for more classes, other languages still intrigue me.  

Once I was 16 years old, I always had a part-time job.  For most of high school I worked at the Woolworth’s in downtown LA every Monday night.  I think that was their open-late night.  My usual job was taking care of the ‘small hardware’ counter.  That’s can openers, etc.  Not too many people come by Monday night and buy can openers, but we had to look busy, so no standing their with our arms folded, waiting for customers.  It took about five minutes to dust the whole thing, and that left about two and three quarter hours to rearrange the stock!  I started to accost passers by – “Wouldn’t you like to look at the nice new can openers?”  The trick was to leave AS SOON as the store closed, so that when you were out at the bus-stop in the dark, there were still a lot of people around.  I was late one time, and a man approached and wanted to start a conversation.  I was really scared.  I just told him I didn’t know him and didn’t want to talk to him, and turned away.  Thank goodness he didn’t persist, and I got on the bus with a great deal of relief!  Anyway, by working the one night a week, I was guaranteed full time work for the Easter week and Christmas holiday seasons.  That was usually daytime work, so no problem.  I often worked at the candy counter.  I remember that at Christmas they would have these big glass fronted bins of assorted loose candies under the counter.  People would indicate which assortment they wanted, and we would scoop out the amount they wanted and put it in little bags. The candy looked lovely, at least at first, with the bright, shiny colors and varied shapes.  I tried it, of course, but sadly, it all tasted the same!  

Later in the week, after we’d scooped for  a while, little chips would come off (the candy was not individually wrapped), and the containers would develop a rather dusty look.  One time one of the staff managed to drop a whole carton of candy while trying to refill the bins, and the little pieces spilled all over the floor!  Oops!  I couldn’t believe it when the supervisor told us to sweep it up — AND PUT IT IN THE BINS AND SELL IT!  Talk about the 3 second rule!  I have a feeling that’s what’s been going on at those peanut processing factories! 

We had a shopping center not too far from our house with a Broadway and a May Co.  They did pay a bit better than Woolworth’s, so when I heard that they were hiring temporary help for inventory, I went over and signed up.  I think it was the Broadway that hired me, and I was called in several times for inventory.  It was a bit frustrating, because they would give us the lists of items, and we just had to count up how many were on the shelf, and mark it down.  The problem was – say I was counting ladies lingerie.  OK – there are the blue, underwire bras, sizes 36C.  Four of them, mark it down.  Now, next to them are the pink plain bras, size 36C.  THEY’RE NOT ON THE LIST!  Have to find the supervisor and ask – what should I do?  It might be – write it in at the bottom, or it might be – add it to the pink underwire bras, or it might be – just forget about them!  It never made sense to me!

Birth to Five Years by Joan Peterson

April 19, 2009

Picture this……a modest, very modest, white clapboard farm house nestled in a hollow with a creek(Bear Creek) running along the edge of the farm and meandering through the south pasture a short distance from our house. Limestone bluffs covered with lush green vegetation bordered the creek.Tranquil, peaceful sounding? Correct. But some time (exact time unknown) on a Friday in April, the 13th in fact, 1934, this peaceful setting was probably interrupted by some loud wails coming from the bedroom of this unassuming farm house in rural eastern Iowa, three miles from the small town of Monmouth in Jackson County.

Bear with me for a moment while I put that momentous year, 1934, in perspective. What were some happenings in the U.S. and the world? The British liner Queen Mary was launched in September; the first federal prisoner arrived in Alcatraz in August; 2500 fans saw Babe Ruth’s farewell at Yankee Stadium in September; FDR dedicated Boulder Dam (Hoover Dam) in September; Hitler became head of state and commander- in-chief of Armed Forces in Germany in August. As for April 13, I was fascinated to learn that I was born on the same day as Thomas Jefferson, but not the same year! His

was 1743.

After six years of marriage, Verna Gladys (nee Marwitz) and Floyd Glenwood Propst welcomed their first-born bundle of joy, Joan (pronounced JoAnn) Dorothy Propst. This bundle of joy must have turned into a nightmare, as I was reportedly a very colicky baby for the first six months. Nevertheless,I obviously thrived from being showered with love and attention, for our extended family lived within a six mile radius of our home.

That extended family consisted of my mother’s mom (Grandma Mary Franck) and the families of my mother’s sister (Aunt Eva) and half-brother (Uncle Alvin). Grandma Franck lived by herself when I was born but she had been married twice before that. Her first husband, my mother’s father, Ed Marwitz, left the family when my mom and aunt were very young. There was so much anger and hard feelings toward him that when his body was found alongside the railroad tracks somewhere in Missouri, the entire Marwitz family refused to claim him; therefore left the authorities to do with himwhatever. (That seems so sad to me but then I don’t know the full story). As a result I never knew a grandfather on my Mom’s side. 

My Grandma later married Bill Franck, had one son, and then Mr.Franck also left her. No one ever talked about him, especially in front of my grandmother. In fact, it was not until I was married with two children, that my Mom asked me one day as she and my Dad were wintering with us in Aptos, CA, if we would drive her to Santa Cruz so that she and the rest of my family could meet and visit her step-father (my step grandfather!). I knew that such a man had existed but it was the first time that I realized he was still alive or that she might like to make contact with him.

It was an interesting visit, to say the least, listening to them talk about the past. My mouth is still agape on that one! My poor grandma, who was left with three young children to raise, showed much kindness toward me, always greeting me with sweet queries of “How’s my little Honey?”, but she must have been kinda hard on her husbands!

My father’s parents (Alma and Frank Propst) also lived on a farm not far from us. Since my Grandpa Propst died when I was five, I don’t have a lot of memories of him, but I do vaguely remember him at some family gatherings, looking very distinguished in his shocking-white full handle bar mustache. Seeing pictures of his father’s long flowing gray beard suggests that beards and mustaches were a fashion statement in their time. I was twenty before my Grandma Propst passed away, so I had fond memories of many family gatherings at her house in town. My father’s sister (Aunt Lena Pence) and brother (Uncle Ralph) lived with their families on nearby farms as well. Seven cousins resulted from the above unions, but they ranged in age from four to eighteen years older. My parents were in their late 30’s when I was born, which put me about half a generation out of sync. I was a pre-teen before they began to recognize me as an o.k. kid, especially the boy cousins. We did, however, grow to become quite close through the years. Three of them are deceased, but those of us who remain keep in rather close contact with my brother and myself, in an attempt to keep the family ties going for our children and grandchildren—but largely just because we want to!

When I was two and one-half years old, my brother’s birth on Nov. 5, 1936 increased our immediate family to four. He was given the name Galen Leroy Propst, but he unofficially changed it to Lee after leaving home to join the Navy following high school graduation. His birth also occurred at home.

Wow, what a brave Mom! Understandably, not many details were ever discussed about either of our home births.Being only two and a half, I do not have clear memories of his arrival or the months that followed. But I know that life was not easy for my parents. The country was just coming out of the Depression when I was born. My Dad worked hard farming the 105 acres, growing and harvesting corn, oats, alfalfa and caring for cows, pigs, sheep and chickens and raising cattle to sell. My Mom worked equally as hard taking care of two young kids, cooking, cleaning, gardening and helping with outside chores. 

Being poor never entered my mind when I was young, but I’d heard my parents talk about starting out with orange crates for end tables and hand-me-down furniture. I do not recall ever going hungry (photos will attest to that) or being deprived of basic needs. The doll I am holding in one of the photos was my prized possession and probably one of the few playthings I had beyond paper dolls and some books. In those early years, life was quite simple. We gathered around the kerosene lamps in the evenings (electric lines had not come through our region yet) and looked forward to Saturday night baths, as indoor plumbing came later also. Any form of entertainment centered around family or friends with occasional neighborhood potlucks and Sunday visits and dinner or picnics with grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. It always amazed me that, in later years, my parents, aunts, uncles, and their friends would refer to life at that time and in even in their earlier years as “the good old days”!

One of my first vivid memories occurred sometime in my fourth year. Having trouble breathing at night, snoring loudly and being plagued with frequent throat infections, the doctor recommended removing my tonsils and adenoids. Now that procedure was NOT done at home, but in a hospital some distance from home. I remember waking up in a world of hurts, both physically and mentally. My throat was on fire with each swallow as was my neck from an ether spill while being administered that common anesthetic in those days. “Coming to” in an unfamiliar sterile, high ceilinged hospital room was a frightening experience until I realized my Mom and Dad were at my bedside. After all, they had hardly been out of my sight since birth! I probably was released from the hospital that day, obviously survived the trip home and recovered satisfactorily. I continued to grow into the next phase of my life,that of starting school at the age of five in 1939.

My Family by Bob Pettis

April 19, 2009

During the second quarter of my first year at Cal Poly in Pomona, I took a class titled “Family Life,” taught by psychologist, Dr. Louis King. My roomies assured me it was fairly easy to get a good grade from him if I followed a few simple rules. Always be on time for class. Sit in the front row, and always volunteer to be one of the first to read your paper. 

Our first assignment was to write three pages on the subject of Parents. I was very careful how I wrote my paper. I had good parents. How difficult could this be? After reading my paper, Doctor King proceeded to tell me things about my parents that I could not have imagined. He said my dad was an authoritarian, the strong one in the family. My mother was the caring and nurturing one, and had a troubled past she dealt with almost daily. She sought stability in her life more than love. The one comment that still rings in my ears was, “no one in your family has ever told you they love you. Your parents can not express love verbally.” I was stunned. 

My mother was one of 6 children. Her mother died when she was just 12. Her father was not able to keep the family together, so the two younger girls were put up for adoption, and the remaining four were sent to live with relatives. Mom ended up in South Dakota. She excelled in school, and worked for families in the area to support herself. Following high school, she attended teacher’s college for one year, and then became a one room rural school teacher. She soon leaned to set goals, live up to them, and to be an effective disciplinarian.  Her first school included several farm boys who were older than she was, and a lot bigger. That didn’t faze her.

My father was one of four children raised on a farm in South Dakota. His mother and father had both been school teachers, and expected their children to excel academically. During the worst days of the depression, all four children attended college and all became school teachers. 

Mom and Dad married when he finished college. Dad started teaching high school in rural South Dakota, and then become a farm advisor. Dad had been in ROTC in college, and in 1941, he was called to active duty. Our family moved to Victorville, on the California desert, where dad helped open the new Army Air Field there. I was born just before we left South Dakota. Following the war, my parents chose to stay in Victorville. Dad bought a Laundry and Dry Cleaning business, and it became successful. Mother became active in the community by working for the Chamber of Commerce, and then becoming an activist in her passion of helping others in need. In that little, dusty town, she started several community service organizations which continue today. 

My father’s actions toward his wife and children were always caring and supportive, and in his way, loving. But, he never learned to say those three words that would have expressed his love for his family. Nor was he comfortable when they were directed to him. On his death bed, I was alone with him, and said “I love you Dad.” I hoped in that moment I might hear the words I longed to hear for such a long time. He replied, “I know Robert.” If he ever used the work “love” in talking to any of us in his family, I am unaware of it. My mother told me that in all their years together he never once told her he loved her, but they did love each other, even though it was unsaid from him. That, it turned out, was as good as it got.

The other member of our family is my sister, Lorna. She is three years older, and was treated differently than I was. Maybe it’s because she was first born, or just being a girl, but she was always the most favored.  Lorna was the beauty queen, got more presents at Christmas, and always found it easier to get favors from our parents. A family friend, whose wife was expecting a baby, told my dad one day that his wife had given birth to a girl. My dad’s reaction was “Oh, that’s too bad. You’ll find out you can always say ‘no’ to a boy, but never to a girl.” 

Doctor King was right. My father and to some extent my mother, were not capable of telling Lorna and me how much they loved us.  And neither of us ever heard our father say those three words, “I love you.” But we were raised in a home of stability, support, and loving ways. And in my case, I was given a lot of freedom and encouraged to set my own course. I have tried to make my life one that they would be pleased with. That has been as good as it gets. 

While they were alive, I was vocal about my appreciation for what they’d done for me. I did tell both of them before their lives passed how much I loved them both. I think that made a difference.