Posted November 1, 2009 by mylacollier
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MY BIG DAY – JULY 16, 2009
Bev Hardy

As I walked to the plane, I was going back over the details of how I had managed to let myself get talked into this. At 83 years old, I should have known better. What was I doing here? I was afraid of flying and afraid of heights. I hated roller coasters. If my kids knew they’d probably say “don’t”. I was the first in the plane, and couldn’t even figure out where to sit. There were no seats, much less a bathroom or drinking fountain. The old retired United Parcel plane was just an empty shell inside, except for a couple of long things that might be called benches. As my instructor came in he told me to sit straddle legged on the bench.

Lloyd my 80 year old retired psychiatrist friend and his instructor were next. I tried to tell myself that if he wasn’t scared, then I shouldn’t be. But I was! Then came Shelly Anderson.
This was all her fault. Shelly had been a friend for years. She was also my massage therapist. When I saw her last February she was bubbling over with excitement and delight. She had just been sky diving for the first time! As she described the thrill of it, I made the mistake of say, “It sounds like fun”. A few weeks later she had called wanting me to set a date. I had the presence of mind to ask her about the altitude. When she told me 12,000 feet, I explained that with my troubles breathing at 4,000 feet altitude, my doctor would never approve. I had assumed that was the end of it.

Then on a Wednesday night in July she called to tell me that my friends Kathy and Stan Carr and Sharon and Lloyd were going tomorrow to jump and that she had arranged for oxygen for me in the plane. My excuse was gone. I figured I could gain courage from my friends, especially Stan and Kathy, although I did wonder about Stan’s hurt knee. It wasn’t until the next morning after I got in the van, that I found out it would only be Lloyd and I jumping. When we got to the hanger in Lompoc, we had to fill out a long legal form that needed to be initialed every 2 or 3 lines. I carefully read it hoping to find a loop hole to get me out of this. Ah, at last, I found on page 3, “I have told my doctor I am going to do this and my doctor approves”. “Hey, Shelly I called out I can’t initial this. I haven’t told my doctor and I won’t lie”. Shelly called out to Lloyd our psychiatrist friend – “Hey Lloyd is it okay if Bev jumps?” Lloyd said “Sure” and my last excuse was gone.

As the plane lifted off I was thinking that if this killed me, at least I had lived an interesting and full life. And, if I didn’t make it, it would be an interesting way to go. Although I hated flying I decided I might as well enjoy the view and look out at the beautiful Lompoc flower fields. The instructor hooked us both together and instructed me to tuck my legs back when he told me to and to keep my hands hooks in the straps. We had been the first in and we would be the last out. The wind poured in when they opened the doors. I watched the others go. Then it was our turn. I tucked my legs under as told. He leaned over. I have enough trouble with balance on land. When he leaned over I thought I was going to fall flat on y face inside the plane and instinctively put my feet down. I tucked them under as he straightened up, but could not stop the instinct when he leaned over again. He finally had to give me a big shove to get out the door, and then I could tuck my feet under.

My Certificate reads: “Be it known that Beverly Hardy has experienced that adrenaline rush of a lifetime, by willfully leaving a perfectly good airplane at 13,000 feet, and flying earthrward in excess of 120 mph –

The free fall was only supposed to last a minute. When I finally got up the nerve to open my eyes, I was face down with the earth rushing up to meet me. I closed them again and started counting to 60. I got to 30 seconds and figured it should be over, but it seemed to take forever for the parachute to gently open and slow us down. The instructor had asked me several times on the way down if I was okay. I just nodded my head yes and was amazed I could hear him. Then as we floated gently down I enjoyed the flower fields and the colorful parachutes below us.

Yes, I did it once and will never do it again. I felt good having done it, to know I had conquered my fear. There was another added benefit. My husband died 8 years ago. This was the first time in 8 years I had sat in a man’s lap. A friend asked if I had screamed on the way down and I told her, “No, I was afraid my dentures would fall out.” Yes I did it once and will PROBABLY never do it again!!

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Posted November 1, 2009 by mylacollier
Categories: Info for Students, Life Story, Life Story Class

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A CLOSE ENCOURNTER WITH THE LAW
by Shirley Palmer

This is a story that we can laugh about now, however as it unfolded I was “shaking in my boots” as the saying goes. It was October 1984, a warm day in Southern California. My Mother-in-law had passed away on September 10, 1984 in Cave Junction, Oregon. Her instructions were that she was to be cremated and she wanted half of her ashes to go down the same river where my Father-in-law’s ashes had been strewn in 1978 when he passed away. His ashes went down a river which was his favorite fishing hole. So ½ of her ashes were to go down the same river in Oregon and she wanted the other ½ divided – ½ on her Mother’s grave and ½ on her Father’s grave – both buried at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Glendale, Ca. The instructions were explicit, and all of her family understood, so after her Memorial service at her Church the family men set off for the fishing hole and dumped a portion of the ashes into the river. We women of the family chose to stay home and fix dinner, since there were a lot of rattle snakes in the area of the fishing hole, and we didn’t choose to encounter them!

Now we are back in Southern California on this hot October day and my brother-in-law and Bud’s sister (Carole) had driven up from San Diego and the four of us were to drive to Forest Lawn (with the bag of ashes in hand) and put half on Grandma’s grave & half on Grandpa’s grave. Only detail is that in California you just can’t put ashes anywhere – and sprinkling them on the top of a grave is not allowed. Friday night we sat down and planned our strategy – we needed a “master plan” to accomplish this illegal “caper”!! We decided that we would get up in the morning, have breakfast, then go over to Von’s Market and buy some flowers. We’d go to Forest Lawn – take the vase out – put some ashes under the vase, then fill it with flowers and go on to the next grave and do the same thing – and easy as that, Bud’s Mother’s wishes would have been complied with.

Saturday was a very warm day so I decided to wear a sundress. My sister-in-law had long pants & a blouse on (this is an important detail of the story). We drove up to Forest Lawn and after about 10 minutes of searching we finally found Grandma’s grave. Well we couldn’t find the vase to start with, but Bud with his trusty pocket knife dug around the grass and we finally located the vase, cut all the grass away from it – however try as we might – the vase would not come out of the ground. We pulled and tugged and twisted – all to no avail. There was a lady putting flowers on a grave about 25 yards up from us and I noticed she got her water from the faucet – but was watching us. She arranged her flowers – but still had an “eagle eye” on us. I told my family that we were being watched. About then Bud went to my car, looking for something to pry the vase loose. He here he comes up with the jumper cables, which was all I had in my trunk. He thought he might be able to grab on to the handle of the vase with the grips on the cables and pull it free. Once the jumper cables came out, the “spy” lady got in her car and left. I told my co-harts that I was nervous, but they were too busy trying to free the vase they didn’t pay any attention to me. It wasn’t five minutes and here comes the Forest Lawn Police Car pulling up and parking right behind my car.

Here we are the 4 of us – standing over a grave with a bag of ashes, a bouquet of flowers and jumper cables – it doesn’t look good. My sister-in-law handed me the bag of ashes and said, “Shirley, sit down quick on the ashes – you have a dress on and it will cover them up”!! So down I plopped sitting on the bag and holding the bouquet in my lap. The Forest Lawn policeman came up and asked if we were having a problem?? Bud explained that we couldn’t seem to get the vase out of Grandma’s grave. So the nice police man offered to help us!! He went to his car and got something like a crowbar and came back and BAM – he broke the vase. So we took it out in pieces and he told us not to worry – he’d go get us another one! So off he went in search of a new vase. Bud put the damn jumper cables away – I know that’s what brought the cop in the first place, and my sister-in-law (Carole) who had become the Matriarch of the family told me to stay seated – don’t move!!! The grass was a little damp, but hey – I did what I was told.

Back came the cop with a new vase – it didn’t fit – so off he went again. I wanted to pour some ashes in the empty hole while he was gone, but I was voted down as he might see them and become suspicious – maybe we’d go to jail!!! Yikes – was I a part of a criminal offense – just trying to oblige my Mother-in-law’s wishes. So there I sat for a never-ending time it seemed to me. Finally the vase arrived and nothing would do but the cop had to go fill it with water. We thanked him profusely and he just stood around chit chatting with the guys – he’d served in Vietnam etc etc. Meanwhile I’m still stuck on the ground concealing “the evidence”!! Then he did tell us that the lady that I had suspected (of spying) had reported us as having jumper cables at the grave. Bud responded, “Honestly, officer, I wasn’t trying to jump-start my Grandma”!! He laughed and finally left and I didn’t move until his car was out of sight!!

By this time I had sat on the ground so long I could barely get up. We quickly went about our chore and said “Praise the Lord” -we have complied with Mom’s wishes – almost! We still had to do Grandpa. His grave was across the street from Grandma’s and when we got there, we found the exact same situation that we had encountered before. Grass had grown over the vase. I spoke up and said, “I don’t know about the rest of you – but I’m not going through that experience again – no way!” They all agreed – but what to do??? So my sister-in-law and I took off our shoes – dumped the ashes onto the grass on the top of the grave and worked them into the grass with our bare feet – illegal – but accomplished. We did a very good job – nobody would have noticed.

And so goes the story of our near brush with the law. The four of us laughed all the way home until the tears were rolling down our cheeks. We knew Bud’s mother was up in heaven looking down on us and having one of her big belly laughs. She had one of the heartiest laughs ever. It was a story never to be forgotten. Our sister-in-law and brother-in-law have since passed on, but to this day I’ll always remember that week-end.
All of our careful planning – it was such a good plan. If only my husband hadn’t gotten out those damn jumper cables – but then there wouldn’t have been this story to tell.

LIFE STORY CLASS SCHEDULE FOR FALL 2009

Posted August 2, 2009 by mylacollier
Categories: Info for Students, Life Story, Life Story Class

Instructor: Myla Collier

Section#71759; 9 wks, Mon, Sep 14 – Nov 16; 1:30-4:30pm
(No Class Nov 9)

Morro Bay Community Center, 1001 Kennedy Way, Morro Bay

Instructor: Myla Collier

Section#71671; 9 wks, Tues, Sep 29 – Nov 2412-3pm
Colony Park Community Center, 5599 Traffic Way, Atascadero


Teenage Years Ages 13 to 19 by Gaby Levine

Posted April 19, 2009 by mylacollier
Categories: Info for Students, Life Story, Life Story Class, Student Info, students' writing

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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

Posted April 19, 2009 by mylacollier
Categories: Info for Students, Life Story, Life Story Class, Student Info, students' writing

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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

Posted April 19, 2009 by mylacollier
Categories: Info for Students, Life Story, Life Story Class, Student Info, students' writing

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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.

Grandma Peggy by Linda Langston Fredendall

Posted April 19, 2009 by mylacollier
Categories: Info for Students, Life Story, Student Info, students' writing

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It’s a family tradition…Grandma Peggy’s hot rolls for every special dinner.   Nothing evokes family memories like the smell of good food, especially yeast breads baking in the oven.

 I had the luxury of not working for two years when my children were teen-agers, so I was able to spend more time with my grandmother.  She was special to me as a little girl, but I really appreciated how special she was as I got older.  She had a bright sunny kitchen with a large-paned window that looked out over her fragrant, colorful flower gardens.  I went to visit her one day and as I sat at in her cozy kitchen, watching her make those rolls, I asked her for the recipe.  As I expected, she said “honey, I’ve never had a recipe.” So I stood at her side, pad and pencil in hand, and wrote down the approximate measures. Now my daughter and granddaughters vie for the honor of making the hot rolls for family dinners. They always call them Grandma Peggy’s hot rolls. 

 I’ve always adored my grandmother.  As a young child I felt so loved and so secure with her.  My father was remote and not demonstrative and my mother always seemed so busy with her young family, taking care of a small farm with a lot of animals, tending our garden and canning the fruits of the farm.  But Grandma always had time for me.  I was in truth a homely and introverted little soul. But Grandma always gave unconditional love, always making me feel that I was so important to her, that I was somehow special, that spending time with me was all she had to do that day. 

 My grandmother never had a high school education, probably third grade at best.  When I inherited her papers, I found little note papers with words and their meanings written on them, little snippets of poems, and bits of her life story.   She spent her life trying to make up for her lack of a formal education.  She married at fifteen and her in-laws were mean and harsh with her.  She had five daughters by the age of twenty-two. She lived in tents, rented houses, and an unfinished house that she and my grandfather were building, and lost, in the Great Depression. They went from South Gate to Santa Rosa, California. They lived in a tent in a cow pasture and picked apples from dawn to dusk.  They finally rented a little house with no electricity or running water. They cleaned and painted and impressed the owner so that he let them live there rent free.  Through all this she tried so hard to make young ladies of her three surviving daughters.  Teaching them how to eat, how to walk, and how to carry themselves; she desperately wanted a better life for them.

  I spent many, many days with her over a year writing her life story in short hand and transcribing my notes on my electric typewriter at my dining room table.  There was so much that I learned about her in those days.  Personal stories that I never would have known if I hadn’t taken the time to sit down with her.  She was one of thirteen children, although only seven survived until adulthood.  She was the middle child and she told me she never felt loved or particularly wanted. She wasn’t complaining about it, it was just a fact that she was the middle child, and she was just one of many.  Her mother was bed-ridden most of her life, and therefore didn’t play a role in her nurturing.  She told me the only person who ever made her feel special was her grandmother.  Her grandmother took her fishing and Grandma caught a big fish and her grandmother told all the family about it. It was one time in her young life that she felt special.  My grandmother loved to fish… deep sea fishing, fishing in rivers, fishing in lakes. I even have a picture of her in a bathing suit and high heels, fishing.  

 She divorced my grandfather in the early forties, and by the early 50’s she had bought her own home, had nice furniture, and a nice car, all on waitress pay. She was an extraordinary money manager.  She went to Hawaii four times, went dancing, gave wonderful parties in which a lot of good food played a part, loved Las Vegas, took vacations to places I only dreamed about, and was active in several clubs. She had beautiful clothes and sparkling, gleaming jewelry, which I was allowed to go through and play with. When I was in my 30’s we took two vacations together, one to Alabama to the county her father was raised in and one to Oklahoma for a family reunion.  We went to the horse races together at Santa Anita many times.  We laughed and cheered on our horses, although she laughed mostly at me, because I picked the winning horses by the color of the jockey’s shirts.  She was full of life and loved living it…and she loved living it with me. 

 She had four sisters, and they all adored each other. They never had a cross word with each other, they were there for each other whenever there was trouble of any kind, fiercely loving and loyal.  They always lived close to each other and at times took in each other’s children when needed, or even the whole family. Times were hard, they were raising their young children in the Depression but there was always room for one more.  These are the things that has made me love and appreciate every member of my family.  They were from Texas and had that earthy, home spun humor that made them so interesting, especially when they were all together.  So my great-aunts were a large part of my young life too. Their lives, their children, their wild and wonderful stories are interwoven into these beautiful memories, and I know I am blessed to have them to love me so.