World War II Through The Eyes of a Beverly Hills Baby Jun02


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World War II Through The Eyes of a Beverly Hills Baby


For me, my actual life that is, everything began as the result of a 1920’s popular novel finding its way across the more populated world to Cardston, a tiny farm town in Alberta Canada.  Beverly of Graustark was then and still is a romantic adventure about a young girl who left her home in Washington D.C. and traveled far from home to a quaint country called Graustark where she met and fell in love with the handsome, young, Prince.   Ahh, so very romantic!   Like most romance tales of the time, there was the expected beautiful heroine, Beverly, and of course a charming hero, the Prince of Graustark.  But what was so different in this fantasy, what made this story so amazing to all of the young women who passed the already five year old book eagerly around between them and caused them to swoon at the outrageous adventure was not the Prince, you might find one of those in any story, however In Mr. McCutcheon’s book it was the girl and the traveling that made it so different.  

A single girl traveling off alone, quite gaily, to a foreign country was nothing short of unbelievable, even outrageous!  Girls simply did not ever just take off and do anything so… daring and modern, men and boys, certainly, all the time.  But girls or women, not in the 1920’s they didn’t.  The few that may have discarded public mores were either vilified or worshipped depending upon the public mood.   

Yet the 1920’s girls everywhere, cities and farms alike wanted to think of themselves as “mod”, like those in the moving pictures and novels.  They bobbed their hair, painted their lips, shortened their skirts, and even rouged their exposed knees to dance the Charleston, but travel?  That was quite simply out of the question.  

Fanny Ellen, the perky little five foot tall brunette who would one day become my mother,  was the middle child of the nine who filled the tiny farm-house of the hard working  young man from Scotland and his sweet, red-haired, Irish, wife, now working hard at making their new life in Alberta Canada.  Fanny Ellen knew they had come from a place far away, so in her new mood she reasoned, why should she have to stay put here?  

After Fanny Ellen finished reading that old beat up copy of the Graustark tale, which was making the rounds in her school, she knew that she was more than envious of the brave, young, Beverly, but was actually determined to emulate her… somehow.  Those thoughts filled her mind as she went about her tasks on the thriving farm trying to think how she might accomplish that new goal.   Stuck out in the country with the cows, it didn’t seem to be too promising an idea, but she could dream.  And in her dream she was a different daring person with a different more dramatic name.  Her name… How could anyone with a name like Fanny Ellen be anything but a farm wife?  She decided then and there to change it.  She mused over this new challenge. She wanted to be known by something befitting a heroine searching for romance, like maybe what?    Two famous movie stars Billie Burke, now remembered mostly as the beautiful Good Witch in the movie Wizard of Oz and Billie Dove, an equally glamorous actress came to mind.  That’s it, Billie.  Yes, she would tell everyone to call her Billie starting right now.   This was at least a beginning.

Suddenly in 1924 a possible chance to travel arose and the brave 17 year old, now nearly most of the time called Billie, was determined not to miss it.  An older sister, Florence, had married and moved to San Francisco.   She overheard two of her sisters planning to take the train to visit Florence in California.  Fanny Ellen, oops Billie, pleaded to be allowed to go with them.  Her Father said, “Absolutely no!  You are too young.”  With her dream so close to coming true, she wouldn’t listen to “No.”  She continued to wheedle and say whatever it would take to be allowed this wonderful trip to the United States, right next to Canada to be sure, but still another country.  Even if it wasn’t across an ocean, to her it was still another world beckoning her to come find adventure … just like Beverly.  

Her father tried to bribe her with a promise to buy her a violin, something he knew she desired.   Poor fellow hadn’t read the wonderful Graustark novel, so he didn’t understand how strongly she felt.  Even so, after the two older girls said they would watch out for her, he reluctantly caved.  

That turn of events was very lucky for me.  In fact, not just lucky, it was vital to my very existence on this earth. 

In California, Florence’s husband , Curtis, had just purchased an automobile and suggested that the five of them might enjoy taking a drive down to Los Angeles where they could visit the girls’ brother, Grant, and his buddy Chris, who had gone together to that city to find work that they deemed to be more interesting than raising wheat or potatoes.  Chris was born on a potato farm in Idaho. 

Fast forward…  In Los Angeles Billie found her own loving Prince in Chris.  The tall blue eyed, very blonde, young man, whose Father , Elias, brought his bride, Pollie, from Denmark to Idaho for a new, more full filling farm life, and the beautiful little, brunette from Canada, by way of the United Kingdom, were married in the Los Angeles City Hall.  

What a charming couple they were.  He treated her like the delicate doll he thought she was and she ate up the romance and excitement, even the uncertainty, he brought to her formally beyond boring life.  

They enjoyed a thrilling honeymoon by taking the boat to the water resort town of Avalon on Catalina Island, just twenty six miles off the coast of Los Angeles, after which they set up house in a small apartment and began to enjoy all that Southern California had to offer and what Chris desired most, warm, soft, weather all year round.

  The group who had come south with five left for the north with five, as brother Grant decided to accept the ride to San Francisco and return with his sisters to Canada, where he chose to resume his family life as a farmer.

Beverly Hills was a small suburb of the fast growing village of Los Angeles which was gaining fame with the motion pictures being created within its borders, so as time passed Beverly of Graustark became a forgotten women as Beverly Hills  confiscated the name.  Although Beverly of Graustark remained the role model in Billie’s mind, as she and Chris lived the adventurous life she had envisioned.  Chris worked what jobs he found available.  For awhile he was an extra in the movies.  Any young man who could stay on a horse and ride fast could find himself hired in one of the popular movie Westerns being churned out regularly on the picturesque, barren, deserts surrounding L.A.   

Sometimes he drove a delivery truck, carrying furniture or other merchandise for department stores.  He and Grant had only last year helped build a small dam in Alberta, so he called upon that experience to work on various projects that this new part of the country needed.  But for enjoying life as a newlywed, California had everything they could want.  They bought an old car and spent weekends happily exploring the beaches, mountains and deserts.  Billie loved the mountains and lakes the best.  Maybe they brought her a touch of the lovely tree filled summer wonders of her home in Canada.  Chris reveled in trips to the high deserts.  He saw all of their beauty and couldn’t get enough of the warmth they brought to his cold weary bones.  

Billie found, all too soon, that she was expecting a baby and a wave of homesickness for her big family swept over her.  Chris’s father had two farms established, one near Downy Idaho and another not far from Billie’s family farm near Cardston, where Chris had become friends with Grant.

  Lars Eariel Christiansen, Chris, was an only child.  As a very young boy he was often left to tend to the Idaho land and its contingent of turkeys and live stock, while his father, Elias, rode up to Alberta to plant or harvest the other property.  The very young man became quite self reliant while living alone and taking care of both himself and his Dad’s second farm.  He did not know how the two farms had come to belong to Elias; he only knew that he was needed to help maintain one enterprise or the other.  His mother had died when he was younger and although he had some cousins on neighboring farms, he was mostly alone.

The Cardston farm came to mind with Billie’s new condition and they decided to return to that farm, at least until after the baby came.  The wooden house had been neglected since he went to California.  He knew that the harsh weather changes in the north could have wreaked havoc on it, but he could take care of that.  His years as a loner had developed him into a very capable man.  His goal now was to make and keep his beautiful wife safe and happy.

They settled into the little, old, Cardston farm house, made comfortable with his handy work.  But with all of his ability he couldn’t prevent the coming tragedy.  The plan was to live on his farm, grow a little wheat and entertain all of her family and old friends while waiting for their child.  Then when her time was close they would move to the town of Cardston to be near the hospital.  Her Father had a meat market and apartment there that they could stay in.  Meanwhile the house rang with happy voices and music.  All of the family members played instruments and loved to sing and dance.  Chris was not a dancer, nor could he sing but he loved the company, something he never had much of before Billie,

In the winter farming the land was out of the question.  He had his small crop of wheat in before the ground was frozen solid.  Very soon they would leave to live in town to await the baby.  Meanwhile Chris had time to tend to some much needed house improvements.  Suddenly an especially mean storm hit the area and it snowed heavily, as only an off season Canadian storm can, riding the prevailing wind down from Alaska and covering the formerly golden wheat fields with ice and snow. 

Everything froze to a halt. There was no going out into that.  But unfortunately the baby didn’t know any of those things and chose that much too early time to signal his Mother that he was on his way to being born.  Simply put, Billie was now in labor and wanted to go to the hospital.  She dressed as warmly as possible, while Chris went to the barn to try to get the old car started.  It wasn’t at all willing.  Over and over the desperate man cranked it from in front with the hand crank, until finally he got it to turn over, then quickly ran to the driver’s side to jump in hit the gas and try to keep it going until it was warm enough to drive.  Convinced it would keep running without him, he rushed in to carry Billie out.   They managed their way out of the barn and onto the rough, snow covered, path that led to the short unpaved road to the highway.  

Billie clung to the cold, metal, door handle as they bumped along the icy dirt road.  Soon they would be on a paved highway that might even, if they were lucky, possibly have been cleared by the over-worked snow plow operators.  But they never found out.  

The old Ford rattled down the first little hill, but failed to climb up the next incline.  A little bit up and they slid, skidding back down on the ice.  He gunned the engine and tried several times to get up the hill.  Back down they came each time.  With Billie moaning at the pains, Chris knew they would have to go back to their house.  However, the car would not go back up the incline it had just descended.  They were stuck at the bottom between two ordinarily easy slopes.  Off across the field, the house was barely visible through the falling snow.  But Chris knew he could carry her back to it if he walked the now snow covered, flat wheat field instead of the hilly road behind them.  She clung to him as he struggled to keep from slipping.  Fear of dropping her kept him strong and moving not too quickly they were finally, gratefully back inside the still warm house.  

With Billie safely in the bed, under heavy wool quilts her mother had made for them, Chris, without even pausing to catch his breath, restarted the fires in the stove and the fireplace.  A pot of water was soon boiling with the scissors inside being sterilized.  He had delivered enough farm animals in his time to know a little of what to expect.  But this was different.  This was his beautiful wife, Billie, and their very own baby!  It stood to reason that he was worried about what was about to happen.  

A very small, weak baby boy was soon born and wrapped in soft blankets.  An exhausted Billie had fallen asleep.  It had been a hard night.  He put the babe in a basket near the warmth of the stove and ran back to the barn to ride his horse out after the doctor.  The two of them came back as quickly as possible with the conditions being so severe.  Horses in the barn, they rushed inside where they found Billie still asleep but fine.  The premature child, their son, in spite of Chris’s best efforts, had not survived.


Fifteen months later, April 4, 1928, still in Canada, but living in town well in advance of its birth, they had a healthy baby girl and named her, of course, Beverly.  Billie knew that this baby girl was born to make life an adventure and they would tell her so. 

In fact I had heard so much about it that one day as an adult, browsing in one of my favorite places, a used book store, and a book with the title, Beverly of Graustark, almost leaped off the junk table at me. I picked it up and after examining the cover, perused the pages.  It was twenty five years old and in surprisingly good condition. Even though it was marked an outrageous, dollar seventy five cents, I knew I had to buy it.  I think I was surprised that this book I had heard so much about actually existed. 

The story held up quite well and if her adventure didn’t sound as unbelievable as my Mother once found it to be, it was a cute little romance and I sometimes even pointed the old book out to others, explaining that I was not named after Beverly Hills after all.

Talking about Beverly Hills reminds me that my daughter Nancy married a young man from Beverly Massachusetts.  He explained to us that Beverly was one of the oldest towns in that State.  He himself was a descendent of the Alden’s, who came there on the Mayflower.  His mother’s maiden name was Alden, which she gave him as a middle name.  A man who was from the town of Beverly subsequently traveled to California where he founded a small suburb of L.A. he called, Beverly Hills, to honor his home town.  The Beverly story had gotten deeper  

In 2005, when my daughter became a Grandmother as  her daughter, Ashley, gave birth to a baby girl and named her, Beverly, maybe after me, her Great-grandmother, or her Father’s home town, or perhaps both, I took my now ancient copy of Beverly of Graustark, down from the shelf where I was preserving it in plastic, and wrote a short bit of  the Fanny Ellen, AKA Billie story, placed it into the book and gave it to the new baby Beverly’s mother so that one day in the future she may understand a bit of her Great-great-grandmother’s life.  Could it possibly stir her on to a life of adventure also?  Could I even imagine what an adventure might be in that far distant future?    

When I was not yet a year old my parents began to plan their return to California, which was interrupted when they learned that Billie was already pregnant again.  Once more California would have to wait. 

On September 28th 1930 another baby girl joined the family.  They named her Avalon after the only little town on Catalina Island where they had honeymooned.   Ahh, yes, Catalina, California, warmth!  They were so anxious to get back that even though Billie was still nursing the new baby, they packed the old car with their few belongings, lots of diapers and eighteen month old, Beverly and  left Canada heading south.  I remember the trip very well.  

Certain events stay in your mind in the form of pictures.  For example I had a distinct picture that I wondered about in later years.  I questioned my Mother about it.  As I still saw the picture, I was comfortably on the lap of someone I couldn’t see.  What I could see was a room with very soft light, like lanterns here and there. I was looking at what I now recognize as a piano with a blond haired lady playing it.  A dark haired lady stood on the far side of it and played a violin.  My picture can’t hear them, but I know they are singing.  Another lady gave a bowl of something to whoever was holding me.  I looked down at it in his hands and see a piece of toast in milk with a spoon.  I was given a taste of the toast on the spoon and I liked it, so I was fed more between the spoon holders bites. “That was it.  I looked at her in anticipation, waiting to see if this was something she might recall.

Mother smiled.  “Yes, I may not remember that exact day   but I can explain it to you.  First my sister, Florence was the only one who played the violin and as she lived in San Francisco when you were born and only came for a short visit when you were one year old, that sets the time.  Two other sisters played the piano, both blondes, and we very often sat around singing with the piano.  But nearly every night my Mother brought my Father a bowl of hot toast, drizzled with honey and filled with warm milk. So you were on my Dad’s, your Grandfather’s lap.  Anything else?”

“No, I just remember that clear and for some reason satisfying scene and often wonder about it.”


I was talking pretty well at one and a half, but not knowing the words for everything, I carried many very impressionable picture memories in my brain, and this trip was one of them.Dad and another family wanted to go south and had heard that a new highway was being built to shorten the route to the United States.  It was pretty close to being completed, but not opened due to some difficult sections that still need to be engineered.  If the workmen could use it, well, Chris thought, maybe we could too.  They decided they would stick together and try it.

The highway now named the Logan Pass is a masterpiece of man over the land.  The Rocky Mountains dominate the earth all the way from the north in Canada to the border of Mexico in the south.  As soon as you leave Alberta you are faced with an extremely steep drop.  This new road zigzagged straight down to a valley far below.  In the places where the road is simply not there, workmen had laid long split logs to connect the two sides.  Even as a not yet two year old passenger, I remember that road and how I felt about it to this day.  I had the back seat to myself as we came to one of those crazy log bridges.  Mother had been up front holding the baby while Daddy drove.  

I became aware of the situation when I noticed that Mother was now driving and Daddy was gone.  Up on my feet, I looked out of the windows.  One side was a steep cliff straight up, clear out of sight.  The other side was a close, way too close, drop also right out of sight.  Out the back window I could see another car stopped at the edge of the finished part and close to the two huge flat logs that overlapped it.  I scurried to look over the front seats and there was a man carrying a lantern and walking across one of the logs.   Worse was my Daddy walking on the other log, with a lantern in his hand, too.   I was horrified!  I wanted to get out and help my Daddy across so he wouldn’t fall off.  Mommy hushed me.  She said she had to concentrate to keep the tires of the car lined up even with the lanterns.    I stretched forward to watch over the hood of the car, stricken silent, as I saw the great gap in the logs and the awesome drop below.  I breathed again when at last we pulled onto the real road and stopped.  There we made it!  But no, Daddy and the man turned and went back across the logs to guide the other car across.  Once they were all safely on this side, much relieved, I flopped down to rest.  It had been exhausting to oversee that trek twice.  

For years after, whenever we drove up a mountain, which was at least once a year, I would look out the window and try to see “that” road.  None ever looked the same, until in my fiftieth year, my husband, Bob, decided I should get to see my old hometown. My family had never returned to Canada.  The war got in the way of casual travel.  The trains had military priority and gas was rationed.  Also we had been busy moving our way up the State with the Metropolitan Water District.

In 1978, with our own four kids grown and gone, we set out to enjoy a cross country drive.  From California, east, through more desert, finally north to beautiful Montana and onto a road that climbed into the Rockies. 

A strange feeling came over me as I looked up the high, straight cliffs we were climbing and back far down to the tiny turquoise pools surrounded by evergreen trees.  Suddenly I knew.  “I’ve been on this road before!”    I announced.  “Not likely.”  Bob informed me.  “This road was not here when your folks came to California.”   I kept soaking in the scenery, up and down.  “Then why do I recognize it?”  This IS “That” road.  I told myself.

The fabulous Pass flattened out at the top and we pulled into a combination rest stop, cafe and museum, built to celebrate the completion of this magnificent engineering feat.  At the entrance was a sign announcing “Logan Pass” giving the start and completion dates.  It was finished while my family was living far away on one of the lowest places in California, the town of Indio.  Beyond the café one could walk out to a platform and stand on that high Rocky Mountain edge view from above the entire area just driven.

Back home from that very enlightening trip I asked my Dad about Logan Pass.  

“Yes.” he said.  “Some of us who had taken the long way down a few times decided that we could use the new, shorter, incomplete, road if we worked together using cut offs  the work men were using.”   I knew I remembered that road and I did! I couldn’t wait to give that information to Bob!


     Due to Mother’s favorite book, as a baby I heard about Beverly Hills constantly.  People who visited always ask me my name.  Properly I would answer, “Beverly.”   Most would smile and reply “Beverly Hills?”  It wasn’t long before I caught on that Hills must be part of my name, so when asked my name I would then reply, ”Beverly Hills.”  For some reason they often laughed at that.  But they also often questioned Avalon’s name, or corrected her pronunciation to Evelyn.  

The Hills addition finally dropped out when I was in Kindergarten, where we were expected to learn how to spell our own names.   Beverly Hills Joy Christiansen was quite a page full, even after dropping the Hills, at my teachers insistence, it took me a bit to be able to spell a last name with twelve letters in it and I had to tilt the page to get it all on.    

My sisters and I once talked about our long name.  We were in our bunks, but not yet sleepy, so I began teaching them to spell it.  As they gave up the challenge, we agreed that we would not marry anyone with more than six letters in their name.  Unbelievably, we each have six letter last names now.  

Skipping ahead of Chris and Billie’s part of this story, I am reminded of how surprised I was when one of my Grandsons , Grant, gave the whole long name to his son… all twelve letters right between his first and last names. How I wished my father could have known about that!


What the Christiansen’s found on their return was that arid southern California, in the warm south end of the long, narrow, state, was being held back by the fact that it was a desert.  Lack of water prevented development by people wanting to bring business and farming to the area. The weather was great.   Chris and Billie both preferred the desert warmth to the chilly winters of Canada or Idaho.  Chris would just have to find some kind of work to do here to take care of his young family.  But first, I need to mention that on their way south, they found that Billie was expecting again… Not again!

The only thing to do was stop at Chris’s father’s farm in Idaho to await the new baby.  Fun, fun, fun for me,  I spent my time chasing turkeys and laughing at their strange gobbling as they ran, playing with the new baby kittens when I could coax them out from under the house, and sitting at the little table with a B carved into the bench that a workman made just for me.  He made a bench with an A for Avalon, too, but she couldn’t sit on it yet. One day I was upset at somebody for something and wanted my mother.  She was in the hospital with the new baby.  I have no idea how I knew where to run, but I ran to the hospital, arriving with a tear stained face and a very dirty dress.  A nurse found me and took me to a little room with a high bed in it.  She washed my face and hands and dusted the front of my dress and told me to wait right here by the bed while she finds my Mother.  The bed had a very pretty china doll sitting at the pillow with a long ruffled dress spread out in front.  I was told to look at it but not to touch.  So I leaned up on tip toes and marveled at it.  She was so beautiful.  That doll was probably half of the reason I began to make china dolls at a later stage of my life.

Foot note: I spent years making a set of fifty original china dolls of our First Ladies wearing my handmade copies of the gowns they wore when their husbands were inaugurated as President of the United States.  And they are now in the National Archives.   I never imagined that outcome.

I actually got to see Mother, but I was so taken by everything in the hospital that I didn’t remember to tattle on whatever made me run.  Very quickly my Daddy came and took me home.  I do remember well that he took me back there with him to bring Mother and the baby home.  We stood in a room full of tiny cribs with babies in many of them.

“Okay, now which one shall we take?”  Daddy seemed to ask me. So I chose a cute, sleeping, bundle in pink.   Daddy reached down and lifted a red faced, screaming little thing.  “No, Daddy!”  I insisted, “This one.”  But he ignored me, took my hand in his, with the screaming baby on the other arm and led me out.  

That substitute baby wasn’t too bad when it wasn’t crying, and I liked that they named her Carol, just like the Christmas Carols we had been singing in church.  Carol was born January 7, 1931.                                    As soon as Billie gave the word the five of us continued south.  The wonderful Doctor who delivered Carol told Billie she would ruin her health having so many babies so close together and gave them a newly developed birth control powder with directions.  Carol was their last.   


As the water shortage became a serious challenge, the California powers that be decided to construct an aqueduct to bring the much needed water to the southland from Colorado.  Chris immediately applied to help build it.   The line of men seeking work ran around the block.  Chris always joked in later years that he didn’t think he had chance of a job in that line up; although he was willing to take anything he was offered.  So he applied for a very high up position, which he knew he was not remotely qualified for, to put himself above the others.  He was thankfully offered a much lower job as a chain man for the surveyors, and our family was immediately moved to Indio. It was the first staging area for the men who were to begin the huge project.

In the almost non-existent town of Indio Mother and her three little ones were parked in a small wooden house that also housed black widow spiders and ants, as it sat on a large sandy lot home to bigger red ants, horny toads, crickets, rattle snakes and many little wooden out-houses spaced around to service the other scattered homes on the block.  Our house was the only one on the square with indoor plumbing.  At that time I liked the outside bathrooms better.  They were handier than stopping play to go inside and the one with a big tub for bathing was an enclosed swimming pool to the children and very welcome on those hot, hot days.

  We settled in to live happily as we waited for our Daddy to come home on weekends, when he would tell us about his fascinating new job helping hundreds of men build that fabulous set of channels and tunnels that would carry water to the participating little cities, which were part of the great, new, Metropolitan Water District.  

It seemed to me that there were very few people living in that area in 1931, and I considered myself a big city girl. I missed watching all of the traffic, my favorite new word. I loved to watch cars go by.  Beverly Hills was my name and I liked the crowded stores and heavy traffic. I could sit on the front lawn back there and pretend to count as the cars whizzed by.   And lawn?  Green grass was non-existent here.  Nothing grew around us unless watered by rain and I don’t remember ever seeing it rain.  But I only lived there for two years.  I was out where the land was flat and dry, often covered with dozens maybe hundreds of kinds of cactus.  Some were taller than the house, lots were short and fat, many often bloomed with huge white candle stick like spikes of flowers others were small, beautifully colored and delicate.  In spite of the fur coat they wore of dangerous needles, I slowly grew to love those unique things about the desert.  Palm trees were abundant and date farms a major industry, not yet much else.  

All of the children on our block ran carefree, playing as we chose with what we found in this rather strange environment.  A warm breeze blew most of the days, but sometimes it was a hard wind that carried sand into your eyes and whipped the paint right off of the cars, or anything outside. 

My parents soon discovered a big, big, lake called Salton Sea where we could cool ourselves off on Daddy’s weekends at home.  Although what I remember most about those desert excursions was sitting in the hot car while Daddy struggled to get the car loose from the sand that spun around the tires preventing us from going forward.  He’d gather scarce reeds and sticks to pack under the rear wheels, trying to leverage us out, while mother sat in the driver’s seat to step on the gas when he called.  Once he used the baby’s blanket to stuff in front of the tire because there wasn’t enough growth around.  It worked but Mom wasn’t too happy.   

I often gazed out at the vast sea of water we had been paddling in and wondered why Daddy had to go so far away from home to get some more water when there was so much right here.  But I kept forgetting to ask him. The most fun was when the tunnels grew closer to Indio; Daddy would drive us out to climb down inside of them.  Big men like Daddy could stand up in the huge cement tunnels.  Sometimes we had to climb down a built-in wall ladder into a deeper part. All were dark and we had to carry flashlights.  The tunnel air made you have a damp feeling and they all smelled like wet cement…  Of course, I was the only one who got to go inside.  Mother had to stay out to hold the babies.  There was not water in them yet, but there was a shallow, rock strewn river beside them on the outside. I played in it, stepping from one green slippery rock to another, while they unpacked the lunch.


 I soon learned that as small as Indio was, it had lots of schools.  There was a big brick school right across the road from our house.  As mother and I sat on the cooler front porch while the babies napped, we would watch the children play on the large grounds.  I was a very grown-up nearly four years old, and we would talk about how I would go to that school some day as soon as I was older.  I couldn’t wait.  Why can’t I just go there now?  I envied the children as they laughed and ran about with balls and rode high on the swings.  “Soon.” Mother would say.    

On the first day of the next semester after I turned four, Mom decided that I should be able to attend school now as I wanted to so much.  She found a neighbor to look after the babies and dressed me in a dress and shoes and socks.  We mostly just played barefoot in our underpants in the hot, dusty, sand that was absolutely everywhere.  

We walked across the narrow carless street and up the steps of that impressive two story brick school we had been observing for months.  I stood next to mother trying to understand what it was the lady at the counter was telling her as she waved her arms this way and that.   I followed my mother out of the building and down the steps before she stopped to explain that this school was for Catholic Children and the public school was up that way a bit. I was disappointed that the school right across the street was not to be my school, but I looked up ahead trying to see the school for me.  Two blocks this way and one that way we came to a very much larger school.  It was about four stories high.  There were children running about and some peeking out of upstairs windows.   This really did look like a fun place.  Mother read the sign in front and explained that the children lived here all semester, as their homes were far away on Indian reservations. 

Disappointed again we kept walking.  I looked back trying to remember the way home.  The next school we came to was small but still not too far to walk to, we decided, even though right across the street would have been better.  Mother was beginning to have second thoughts about me going to school at all.   However, we were wrong again.  This school was for Spanish speaking kids. Not me.  We kept walking.  Two more blocks up and around the next corner we finally came to another school.  Hooray! This was actually the public school for little kids like me, not very large, but with a huge playground and lots of equipment.    Children were already throwing and kicking balls about.  Mother stood and watched for a few moments.

“This is quite a long way from home for you to walk alone.”  She said.  “I’m afraid you will get lost. “   She looked worried.  I was afraid I was not going to get to go to school after all.   I hurried to assure her that I would be okay.   I could watch carefully when we walked home and memorize the way.  We looked back and talked about how we had gotten here passing three other schools, then, thankfully we slowly went in and I was enrolled in kindergarten.   As Mother walked me home she taught me the way. 

After that I took myself.  I was always very early as I had learned that they kept the balls in an outside closet so we could take them out to play while we waited for the line-up bell to ring.   Another little boy was often early also and we kicked the ball back and forth having fun.  But a strange thing happened each day.  As soon as the bell rang we all lined up in front of our rooms.  As Junior and I stood noisily playing in the line of children in front of the kindergarten, a teacher came up and said very nicely, “Junior I told you that you do not line up over here.  You may play here if you like, but you must line up over there,”   She pointed to what looked like a small brownish shack far across the grassless field, “Remember, Junior, you go to the Negro school across the way.”  I got used to that speech, but didn’t know what she meant by he had to go to Negro school.  If I were Junior I would rather go to this one, too.  I really had no idea what a Negro was.  

I had two terms of kindergarten.  They had learned, after my first semester, that Mother had fudged my age a bit to start me early.   No problem, they just popped me back into kindergarten.  I got pretty good at doing kindergarten.  I also got pretty good at starting over in a new school.  

The first thing I missed in my next school was the pink-eye line.  I went to school with a bandage over one eye and not finding a line to have my bandage changed; I asked where the pinkeye line was.

“The pink what line?”  No one seemed to understand me.  In Indio all warm days were possible pink-eye days.  The nurse had the children line up outside of her office where one by one she changed all old bandages for a fresh one.   On warm days the desert is plagued with knats, tiny almost invisible flying insects that swirl in dense blackish swarms.  They get into your eyes and spread a disease we knew as pink-eye that makes your eye puffy and red often gluing your lids shut with yellow stuff.  The school rule was:  If you had one eye bandaged you went to school, but not if both eyes were bandaged… unless you had brother or sister who could lead you around when you were not sitting in class.  The pink-eye line could run the length of the hall.  Here I was only a few miles north in the town of Banning and they had never heard of it.  I found the nurse and explained how she must take my bandage off and cleanse my eye lid with something, I didn’t know what, and give me a new square of gauze taped to my head.  Once it was well I never had pinkeye again.

We moved every year after the two years in Indio, as Daddy followed the progress of the aqueduct.    Whenever I did think back on Indio, I was amazed at that memory of such a tiny town having five separate elementary schools and enough children to fill them.

For some reason we never grew tired of moving.  In fact, all three of us children loved it.  The middle sister, Avalon expressed it best one day, as Daddy drove us through an old neighborhood.  We girls searched out the windows of the back seat of the car, taking in the sights of houses and streets where we used to play ”Kick the Can”  and “Ollie Ollie Oxen Free”, then a field of almond trees where Daddy spent an hour untangling my kite one tree after the other.  When I saw some familiar people just as I left them sitting on their front porch, I found I was feeling a little sad or sorry or something.  Then I heard Avalon ask softly, “Aren’t you glad we’re the ones who go?  I’d hate to be those people who have to stay behind.”  That was it exactly! I was feeling sad for the old neighbors I saw stuck in the past, while we adventured on.  Perhaps our Mother had passed on a little dash of her adventurous Beverly of Graustark gene to us.

In the next three years we moved from Banning to Sierra Madre then to Eagle Rock followed by Highland Park.  Hollywood was next in line, Highland Park lasted several years.  We three girls hardly noticed the time passing without another move as life had become more interesting.


Our Father’s Dad visited us from Idaho and intrigued us with stories of his farms and our Father’s youth.  Mostly though it was the horses we envied.  The three of us suddenly wanted a horse more than anything.  Our own parents had had to, I repeat, had to… ride a horse to get to school.  How lucky could they get?  We pleaded with Grandpa to send us a horse.  He had several and could spare one. I believed he would really do it if we pleaded nicely.  We thought we could keep him in the old chicken coup.  Every year on Thanksgiving a large dressed, turkey appeared at our house like magic from Grandpa in Idaho. A horse was much larger of course, but we only wanted one!  We would share it…honest!  

The horse didn’t arrive, however  one Saturday our Dad took us up to the hills above Eagle Rock, one of the many suburbs of Los Angeles we occupied at one time or another, where we learned that a man who had a stable of rental horses had agreed to give us riding lessons each week.  We learned only much later in life that our Father was working around the stables to pay for our lessons, while we rode in the large rink, practicing keeping a proper seat in sync with the horse and learning about the different gaits followed by how to cool our horses down, remove their gear and brush their coats until they shined.  Then we were each given a shovel to clean up the smelly mounds in the stalls. About this time two of us began to think owning a horse was not such a great idea after all.  

  As money was not plentiful Dad often worked deals like that to get us some of the pleasures we enjoyed.  Someone else he knew had a beautiful mountain cabin high above Big Bear Lake, Dad learned that they did not have a road leading directly to the property and they had to park at the bottom of the hill and tote everything up the foot path to the cabin.  So he offered to widen the path and build a road up to the top in exchange for one week of vacation time for our family while he built it.

When he wasn’t out there shirt off, shoveling the path and propping rocks where needed, creating an automobile road, he would take us down to the lake where we swam, rowed, and fished.  Mother made us help keep the cabin nice and tidy.  For three summers in a row we played while Daddy worked at something around the cabin.  He had made the road so nice that we could take our bicycles down to the lake on the last year.  I know that we children did not actually appreciate what he was doing for us.  He always gave the impression that he enjoyed working those projects, so we didn’t worry about him.

Both parents made an effort to protect us from the world’s problems.  They thought childhood should be carefree, but only if we did our chores properly.  From the early 1930’s, before the Indio years and a little beyond, the United States suffered a depression.  We heard about it only in hind-sight.  We believed that we ate bread and milk for supper each night because we liked it so much.  Mother gave us each a tall glass and we broke the bread into tiny pieces into the glass, she dribbled honey into it and filled the glass with cold milk.  We ate it with a spoon and never missed the meat and trimmings we couldn’t afford.  Many men knocked on our door asking to work for food.  Mother always gave them a short chore, chopping wood for our little fireplace or raking the big dirt yard, and then she fed them some of whatever she cooking at the time… 

I remember feeding one myself in Indio, when was four, not yet in school.  Mother was busy out back hanging the wash to dry.  I was hungry so I made myself a peanut butter sandwich and took it out to the front curb to sit and eat it.  A young man came and sat beside me and told me how good it looked. My parents always fed anyone who came to their door, so I offered to make him one.   Times were different in those days with so many out of work, wandering from place to place searching, yet we never locked a door or feared a stranger.  

He asked, “Do you have an onion?”  “Yes.”  “Do you have any mustard?”  I nodded yes again.  “Okay, slice the onion, put lots of mustard on the bread and bring it out.”

I climbed up on the chair, set my sandwich on the counter and cut two thick slices of bread, poured it heavily with mustard from the jar, cut the onion up and piled some on. It looked so good that I left my half eaten bread and peanut butter behind, and made me one like his.  I took them out to the curb where we sat and ate them.  He thanked me and went on his way. I discovered that mustard and onion sandwiches were delicious.  Yes, times were so different then.  People were once so trusting and trust worthy

I don’t understand what happened.  I lived from age four to eighty four and should know how it came to be that we now always feel a need to keep our doors locked.  I would be shocked if one of my children even spoke to a strange man, much less fed him.  I certainly taught mine to be wary of strangers.  Yet the papers are full of stories about kids taken, sometimes even from their beds.  I feel that I should know why we have become so distrustful and why we really have to be, but I don’t!


Thanks to the Metropolitan Water District Daddy had a job, even though it was a low paying one, it was a job that so many men did not have in those early days.  However, he was such a talented worker that by the time the Aqueduct was finished he had been promoted up to one of the top men who ran the M.W.D.   He was in charge of the Hollywood, Beverly Hills area, delivering the water that changed life for all who came to our part of the State.

At that point, we moved once again.  But it was scarcely noticeable.  Our school did not change, nor did the Town name of Highland Park, and we were still part of L.A.  Only the address was different. We were on the street of Great Oak Circle, named after the huge Oak tree that grew at the top of the hill where the street ended in a big turn-around called a Cul de Sac.  The house was a little bigger and so was the yard which as it turned out was a very good thing during the war.  The long dry dirt yard began at the back porch, beyond the laundry room, behind the kitchen and ended at a four story tall row of Eucalyptus trees that stood like fat soldiers standing guard over the rickety abandoned old chicken coop.  The yard was bracketed on the left by the garage, set beyond the house with a cement driveway leading to the street and on the right by a wide flat terrace that somehow gave life to a row of fruit trees, fig, apricot, and kumquat.  The figs and apricots proved to be wonderful, large, and juicy.  I never did figure out what a kumquat was for… not eating in my opinion.   I am reminded of the flat part of that yard when I see the French Open Tennis on television. We looked down from the porch upon a rectangle of hard packed dirt that didn’t even grow a weed.   Our Dad soon had a net across it and a set of badminton rackets and birdies with which we soon became pretty good at playing the game.  This was our only true sport if you don’t count roller skating, riding our bicycles and eventually swimming in the local public plunges.  

The giant eucalyptus trees attracted us.  One day we three climbed upon the chicken coup roof  with a box of nails and some hammers from the garage and began to pound nails into short pieces of old coup wood, which we then nailed into the smooth, spicy smelling, tree trunks.  Stepping up upon that newly nailed board, we attached one after the other and side by side we soon found ourselves almost up to where the branches of leaves began.  These trees were not conducive of supporting a tree house as there were no side branches, so we just went straight on up.  It was fun until we were discovered by Mother, dangerously high, looking down at the roofs tops far beyond the neighbor hood.  As a result we found ourselves, for some reason, forbidden to climb our hard earned steps any more, or even climbing onto the rickety roof.  But for awhile we had some great look-outs.   No one cared enough about it to climb up and tear them out, so for the rest of their days they stayed on the trees looking like a set of rail road tracks to the stars. 

With this move we were now living on the opposite side of busy Figueroa Blvd. where the big yellow electric street cars came to the end of the line on their trip from the center of down town Los Angeles and beyond.

We would have had to cross this highway to get to school every day, except the city had built a tunnel in front of Annandale school so we children would not be run down by the street cars.

Life was all fun and adventure.  We often climbed to the top of Poppy Peak, our one nearby high hill, and looked off toward the Pacific Ocean.  It took the Yellow streetcar about an hour to reach down town L.A. and another hour to get to the beach.  We couldn’t see that far, but knew they were there and we thought the view was magnificent and well worth the climb.  If three little girls could climb it regularly, it wasn’t Mt. Everest, but was our peak and we felt some childish pride in reaching the top.

I guess our Dad knew that war might be eminent because he suddenly took an interest in short wave radio.  He came home one day with a beautiful walnut cabinet almost as big as me. It housed a grand Philco radio with short wave and regular stations.  It also contained a recorder where Dad could place a little plastic record onto a turn-plate and have us talk or sing into a microphone, which magically cut our voices onto that disk. Because that turn-table also played commercial records he acquired a stack of old ones he and Mother knew well.   We heard them all over and over.  Cute songs like, So Long Oolong, Making Whoopee, Your Feets Too Big, and Has Any Body Seen My Gal.   We loved them and danced all over the living room to those crazy tunes.

Daddy drove a company truck that occupied our garage and Mother didn’t drive, but we owned a big black Hupmobile, stored in a rented garage across the street.  Once a year the puffing, roaring, beast was brought out and tuned up for our vacation trip.  Daddy spent a week running the motor, changing the oil and other things to make sure it could carry the five of us, our family size tent, along with food, cooking supplies, our clothes and at least two bicycles all the way up the winding mountain climb.  The constant noise made, right in the driveway, right in front of the house, as he gunned the engine and clanked with tools, fussing over it all that week embarrassed me.  I complained… “What will the neighbors think?”  Daddy didn’t seem to care.  And of course we didn’t know then about that long ago car that could not take them up the hill when he so desperately needed it to.  The story about our brother was told to me many years later by Mother when I came home from the hospital with a baby of my own.  As we sat side by side while I fed the new babe, she confessed the sad story of her first infant, which she had never even seen or held.  

I saw her sneak to wipe the tears that rolled down her cheeks as she spoke.  They told me why they never talked about it. 


The large, polished wood, Philco radio was the center of the living room in the same way the big flat screen T.V.s are today   every afternoon we three girls rushed inside to listen to our favorite programs.  We sat cross legged on the rug in a silent semi-circle a couple of feet in front of the cloth covered radio speakers, spell bound by the adventures of “Little Orphan Annie”, “Jack Armstrong- All American Boy” and finally sit quietly intrigued by the spine tingling mystery stories spun by, “The Shadow Knows” which aired each week day one after the other.  Somehow dinner managed to be ready just as the third broadcast was over.  

The routine became this.  Our parents cooked and set the table in the dining room, the open area directly behind where we sat at the radio, then we ate together, after which the three of us kids cleared the table and did the dishes.  I always had to wash because I was the oldest. Avalon and Carol dried them and dusted off the table cloth, so we could all retrieve our private  stashes of  poker chips and have an all family poker game full of fun and easy games Daddy taught us, like “Deuces wild” and “Baseball”

One of those nights, there was a knock at the door, Daddy went to answer it.  We all watched as he opened the front door, just across the living room rug from us.   The Mother of one of Carol’s little friends stood there and asked my Dad, “Is Johanna here?”  It was dark outside.  All of us children were supposed to go in at dark.  Daddy turned to us for an answer.  Johanna was clearly not with us.  Her Mom saw us all at the table with the cards and chips and turned back to Daddy.

“Aren’t you ashamed?   She huffed crossly. “Teaching your children to play those evil card games!”  She spat the words out looking quite disgusted at the thought.  We held our breath, surprised by the angry statement.  What would Daddy say?   He turned from us to her and so softly we could barely hear it replied,   “I’m not walking the street at night looking for them am I?”  

I wanted to tell her that sometimes we played Monopoly.  But not feeling sure she would even consider that to be any better, what with the play money and all, I never did.

Late at night, after we had gone to bed, we could hear Daddy turning the short wave radio dial, trying to catch current news from across the oceans, where other countries seemed to be at war.

Suddenly the radio had completion sitting beside it.  An equally beautiful walnut piano just fit on the long wall.  We were to learn to play it and lessons were arranged for.  For two years we took those lessons without really ever getting any good at making music on it. Some people are just not musically talented.  We have talents at something else.  We just had yet to discover where they were.   

I own that piano now and sometimes get out some pages of my ancient music and try to play them, even though my parents are no longer here to tell me I must. I don’t play any better than my childhood quitting place, but it’s kind of relaxing and brings back old times.  I have grandchildren who make it sound great. It’s amazing what wonders musical talent can do.  I keep it around really for them to play when visiting and eventually I try to remember to show them each the W.W.2. bullet hole in the side.   No one ever notices it until I point it out.  Then I have to explain how it got there. 

“Well, way back in the big War when your Grandfather had to carry guns to protect California’s water from sabotage, he brought them inside to clean them one night after we children had been put to bed.  Your Grandmother complained.  Don’t clean those in here.  They look dangerous.   Don’t worry.  He told her.  They are empty.  He placed the rifle across his knee to polish it and BAM the gun fired and shot straight into the piano…right there.  Our bed room was behind that wall and Grandmother was upset that one of us could have been hurt.  But he thought she was mad because the beautiful polished walnut piano now had a hole in it, and immediately promised to have it fixed so it would not show. But Grandmother said, no. I want it to stay there forever so the children can all see what can happen with an empty gun…  And there it still is!    


In 1939 we rode in that long black monstrosity, I mean Hupmobile, to Big Sur, a special mountain park  tucked high in the redwood trees with a tiny bend in a river, that we called a lake,  just right for kids like us to play in all day long.   The water was crisply cold, but shallow enough to get warmed with the full sun.   There were different lengths of logs floating about that we could play on.  Most of us struggled until we got pretty good at standing up on a floating log and pushing ourselves about with a long pole.  It was tricky because the logs rolled if you didn’t stand just right.

Now I can see the ocean from my window and think of our old logs as I watch the young folks ride a new board called a Stand–Up-Paddle, or S.U.P.   It’s a big improvement over an old log because one can actually carry it from place to place.  However our old logs were a bit more challenging.   

Dad did most of the outdoor, campfire; cooking in a black iron pot he called a Dutch Oven. Everything that came out of that thing tasted wonderful … even biscuits.  I learned all I know about cooking from him.  Our Mother was a good cook also, however as Dad had the truck and spent many hours on the road, passing stores, he did the food shopping and as he knew what good deal he had purchased on route that day, he had grown into the habit, formed when he was a loner, of doing the main part of the cooking.  

One evening the Park Ranger in charge of the Camp Ground came round, going from one camp site after another, telling all guests that a big bonfire was planned for that evening and he was looking for campers willing to help entertain.  Did anyone here sing, play an instrument, or dance who would be willing to go on his list of acts.  He held a clip board with a few names already on it. I didn’t hesitate.   I stepped up and said I would sing a song.   He poised the pencil to write as he asked my name.  Mother interrupted.  “No, dear let’s let Carol sing.  She knew something I was yet to learn.  I could not carry a tune…I still can’t.  Carol, who we all knew had a beautiful singing voice, shook her head, an adamantly, “No.”   That surprised us as Carol, three years younger, has since babyhood been the family’s show off, or should I politely call her our family floor show, whatever, she constantly sought the limelight and performed her cute little baby songs and poems gladly, but to Mother’s chagrin, not tonight. 

Avalon was not even considered.  She was easily the beauty of us all, as a teenager she was often mistaken for the movie star Lana Turner.  But she was very shy and promptly hid behind Mother if a stranger even came near.  

I had just turned eleven and being the oldest was quite confident.  It occurred to me that I could sing something I learned over our new radio.   “I will,” I repeated and gave him my name.   Mother was still shaking her head, No.  “We’ll see.”  She finally told the Ranger.  He shrugged and left for the next camp with my name on his list.

The men from other camps wandered to ours, or any one’s, where it could be heard that a car radio was on.  Men all around the park camp sites and some women stood clustered beside the cars listening to the news.  When the news ended they stayed in groups to discuss what they had learned.  It seemed to be very important. But remarks like, “I guess I’ll be going!”  or ‘My son is the right age.”   “Will we be next?” “No. Roosevelt won’t let them.”   “I have a cousin still in Poland.”  Those disconnected words all meant nothing to me.  

I wandered off to find a quiet place to practice my song and be sure that I really remembered all of the words.  A lady named, Kate Smith, had a record that was repeated often on the radio.  I had sung it with her many, many times, always we were a duet.   We still were, in my head.

That evening we went to the large, rustic, camp center, where logs with smooth flat tops had been made into long rows of benches that faced a fairly big stage.  Below the front of the stage the bonfire served as lighting, along with a few more electric types strung high above.  The tall trees were fragrant in the light breeze.  Their height made the area darken quickly as the sun went down, then straight up the stars shining far brighter and more plentiful than those in the city, filled the sky.   

I slightly recall that my soft spoken Mom tried to convince me, I shouldn’t go on.  I cannot, even now, explain why I was so stubborn except even now, I am,   But when the Ranger called my name, I stood and marched myself up to the stage and stood center front, took a hefty breath and  all alone began to belt out the song I had sung along with Kate Smith so often.  Now, with her voice accompanying me, though only in my own ears, the two of us sang her new hit song, “God Bless America.”

When it was over, the entire audience stood and applauded me.  My first and last public song and standing ovation!   How was I to know that the entire audience had spent the entire day listening to the radios announcing that Germany’s Hitler had broken his promise not to take any more countries and had marched into Poland, and that England had promptly declared war!  Were we next? Minds were full of unanswerable questions.  God Bless America was what everyone wanted to hear at that exact time.

  It was months before I understood all of that, and why Mother didn’t really want me to sing.  I heard some of the little records Daddy had made.  Carol had a beautiful voice her songs were sweet to hear.  I was enthusiastic but often off key.   Listening to my own voice sing was an eye opener.  I simply was not any good.  Maybe our Dad had a tin ear also, as he always encouraged me to join in his recording sessions.  I thought that hopefully when I had sung at camp, Kate Smith had somehow kept me from going too far astray.


When the people were finally all tuned to the reality of war, it was the beginning of a different life for all of us.   I can only report what it was like in Southern California and the people I knew.  The total of my world stretched from the booming L.A. suburbs and Catalina Island on the west in the Pacific Ocean, to the mini-cities of Ocean Side, Santa Monica, Redondo, Manhattan Beach and Malibu, then inland to Beverly Hills and Hollywood, over the foothills to the vast San Fernando Valley and to the little towns south in the foot hills of Burbank, Glendale, Pasadena, Eagle Rock, and Highland Park.  All of these spread out little communities were beholden to the center of Los Angeles.      

As the war became the driving force in our lives I always remembered that it had started for me that night in Big Sur.  China had been fighting off an invasion of Japanese for a long time, but that was all too far away, in Asia, to take seriously. But now add to that the English fighting Germany and most of France already fallen to the Germans along with the Netherlands, Norway, Poland and Czechoslovakia, and Hitler deciding to turn Germany’s attention to taking the Soviet Union, then Italy’s, Mussolini, feeling that Hitler was the most likely the eventual winner and siding with him, there was war raging all around us.  Still here we sat surrounded by Oceans… Safe?

Very soon supplying the growing armed forces and our front line Allies across the Atlantic with essentials caused shortages to us.  Shipping was sending important things abroad and stopped bring us bananas, one of the first things to disappear from our stores.

Rationing became a topic of conversation then a reality.  The parents stood in lines to apply for ration books filled with little tear out coupons indicating when and how much we could buy of a given product.  It wasn’t exactly simple either.  First you had to present evidence of every person in your family to be given a book for each.  Then you had to declare how much you had in storage of every rationed food.  If you owned a freezer, we didn’t, a count of the pounds of meat or butter was necessary.  That’s only two of the rationed items.  

My parents were raised in the Mormon Church.  They were taught to be prepared for what may come such as an earthquake, flood or tornado.  A war was not mentioned.   Most Mormons stored emergency foods.  My Father more than average, as he liked to save money too, so he usually purchased in bulk.  We had large cloth sacks of sugar and flour, many cases of the canned things they liked.  Dad took his notebook to the basement like area, where he stored large sacks of supplies and counted them all.  To his surprise he already owned nearly the full one year supply of sugar.   He listed everything in storage because he didn’t know exactly which things were being put on the rationing list.  Sugar, butter, coffee and meat come to my mind instantly; Non foods rationed were shoes, some leather goods and gasoline.  Cars themselves were out of production, as jeeps and tanks took president over autos.  If you needed a car you had to find an old one for resale.  There was a lot of fixing up old things going on as new stuff became unavailable. 

Shoes … they had always seemed to be a problem.  After we left the bare-foot life behind in Indio, keeping three active kids in shoes was a challenge.  Daddy even purchased an up-side-down, iron foot looking thing mounted on a short pedestal that he could use to try to repair worn out soles.

I for one was always finding myself walking around with a hole on the bottom of my shoe and my foot touching the ground.  At first Daddy tried to cut a piece of heavy card board and fitting it inside the shoe.  He couldn’t understand how I always managed to get it wet, where upon it disintegrated and became useless.  With this new gizmo he could place the needy shoe onto it snugly to work on the bottom and find some way to attach a new sole on top of the old one with a piece of leather.  It kept him pretty busy.  But we were growing, so I was the lucky one who got the new stuff, while my sisters got hand-me-downs.  He may have to go back to repairing with this new rationing thing. I wondered if the iron foot was still around.

Mother was a different problem altogether.  She claimed to be exactly five feet tall.  Most of us came to believe that she fudged that last inch.  However she loved…I repeat, loved… high heels.  She was fortunate in one way, as her feet were very small and the salesmen always carried the “sample size four” to show new shoe models.  When they became last year’s models, these tiny, barely used, shoes were usually put out on sale for a much lower price.  She had a closet full of these bargain shoes and she always wore them… no flats!  Even her supposedly comfortable, house slippers had high heels.  If she bought a new dress, she tracked down a pair of shoes to go with it.  Cute hats were her next favorite thing.  Mother never stepped out the door without her hair nicely arranged her make up on and wearing, besides high heels, a hat and gloves.

The gloves were a must, not just for fashion, but to hide the fact that she had two fingers on her left hand missing.  The first one was cut off when she and the siblings were playing around a tractor, when it was equipped to plow the field.  A two year old she innocently touched a sharp plow edge just as a brother at the controls caused it to move, leaving her tiny finger on the ground.  An older brother grabbed the finger and the baby and rushed back to the house.  A doctor arrived and attempted to reattach it.  It didn’t take.  And yet again, a year or so later, playing with the ever sharp axe, she somehow accidently lost the next finger.  As a young adult, Billie had developed the habit of having two fingers on her many soft gloves stuffed with cotton to disguise the defect.

So now, with rationing, shoes might have been her most difficult contribution to the war, except for two things, coffee lovers were often offering to exchange a shoe stamp for her coffee stamp, and two, we three daughters could buy the cheap and not rationed school shoes made in Mexico.  Those rather sloppy little sandals, made with countless tiny straps of leather woven over the toes and pulled across the back, became the shoe that most school girls wore.  They had a recognizable slap, slap, sound as the girls walked the school hall ways. 

All canvas shoes were also excluded from rationing as the shoe problem was the leather. Shortage or not exactly a shortage, but the need to use it to shoe and equip the military. But good heavens, canvas shoes meant tennis shoes!  No one would even think of wearing those things out in public.  They were strictly to play tennis. My but haven’t times changed?  We felt that tennis shoes were clunky and looked so dorky.  Even worse you would have to wear socks.  That was not going to happen.  We school girls never, never, wore socks, at least not past kindergarten age.  We wore classy, flats and penny loafers and low heeled pumps, especially shiny patented leather ones for church and Easter Sunday and of course, dressy fashionable sandals, but all without socks.   We often faked long stockings made of silk, which had gone to war as parachutes.  A brown eye brow pencil was used to draw a line from our heel to above the knee, which gave the appearance of the seam down the back of those desirable long sheer stockings.  We living in California, at least, could not understand why the phrase, “Bobby-Socksers” was used to describe us.  I never saw anyone wearing them as a teen.  They belonged to lace up shoes and little kids and babies.       

Gas was more complicated.  A family car received an “A “card and a little coupon book with A’s on each tear-out coupon.  They, whoever they were, someone somewhere in power, could, with  good reason, of course, change how much Gas each coupon allowed you to buy.  A three inch square label with an “A” on it had to be pasted in the corner of the front windshield that must match your book.  The gas station person took the coupon to justify the sale.

A “B” book and B label was for a few people who must use their car for work.  “B” would get you a little more gas.  The most gas was for emergency vehicles, ambulances, police and others that had a “C” in the window.  My Dad’s Metropolitan Water District truck had a “C” because he was in charge of protecting the water reservoirs and pumping stations.  Those things, if harmed could be a disaster to our former desert.  With this in mind my Dad now carried two guns; a rifle hanging in the rear window of the truck and a hand gun if necessary to defend the water if he found anybody trying to poison it.

   Sometimes it felt as if we were playing a game of “What if?”   We planned for something quite unreal.  Surely that war won’t come here.  We have big protective oceans all around us.  On the other hand, the photographs  in Life Magazine showing the reality of what was happening in far away countries kept us preparing for the worst… which, of course won’t happen to us.  Will it?

On Sunday morning of December 7, 1941 reality grew closer.  While sitting on the floor of our living room, Avalon, Carol and I did what we always did at that time on a Sunday in December.  We finished reading the funny papers and began to paw through the colorful ads advertising Christmas toys, trying to decide what we wanted Santa Claus to bring us.  The radio was on and my parents jumped closer to it when the announcer began to excitedly tell the world about the Japanese bombing Pearl Harbor on Hawaii.  Like a puff of smoke, Santa Claus disappeared from our thoughts as it seemed to us that we would all be bombed and dead before Christmas. We had seen the Magazine pictures and the News Reels at the Saturday movies.  People who got bombed were as dead as one of Daddy’s ducks, when he came home from a hunting trip.   My sisters and I always felt sorry for the poor dead ducks laid out on our driveway. 

Our parents tried to explain how far away Hawaii was.  But the man on the radio soon asked the question… “Was California next?  Had the Japanese bombed our fleet out there to prepare for invading California?”  What he said made sense to me that is why I still remember it.  He went on to explain that California was cut off from the rest of the States by the Rocky Mountains which had only one or two real highways winding through it.  And that they were not very useful when it snowed.  Yes, the Japanese could invade us and take the Rocky Mountain roads out of play, leaving us in California to fend for ourselves.  So we had better get ready.”   It’s hard to believe now, but there were but few planes then and no airlines.  A couple of railroads had been built, and trucks struggled to get through in good weather, so everything sold to the populations on the west of the Rockies had to pay a premium for the cost of getting it to us.

Little Carol didn’t know whether to cry or not. She looked to me for guidance.  I wasn’t.  So she didn’t either.   Avalon sat on Mother’s lap for safety, but she did that even without a war.  Mom and Dad tried to bring the subject back to Santa Claus.   

Mom promised us, “Of course the Japanese will not invade California.  It’s too big and people like Daddy have guns ready to defend it.  The Japanese know that. We will be here for Christmas… lots of Christmases. “   I tried to help by smiling and agreeing, so Carol did the same.  But when we went to bed that night, in the dark, we both admitted that we were still a little bit scared.  If we were scared, we knew Avalon would be.

As rationing went into effect, some ex-neighbors were visiting.  The men began to talk about the rationing problems.  The man told Daddy that he lost quite a few coupons to prepay for his storage of food.  My Dad laughed as he admitted.  “You should see mine.  The sugar book is almost empty already.  I had two full twenty-five pound sacks.”    The guest replied, “I lost most of my Coffee book for the same reason.”’

“We don’t drink coffee. “ Dad told him.  “I can give you a couple of my coffees now and when I start canning my boysenberry jam next spring, I can trade you some jam for more sugar.”

“That sounds good to me.  I can’t get started in the morning without my coffee.   They said its okay to trade.  One guy even said I shouldn’t have admitted to having so much in storage, but I had to be honest. ”  

Daddy frowned.  “I agree.  To withhold on your list wouldn’t be honest.  Honesty is more important than having more.”     I never forgot those words.  My Dad has said many wise things that stayed with me.  I have repeated them to our children and grandchild and now our Great-grandchildren. As I write I will put them in as they come up.

Many of my friends had fathers now in the army.  Worried that ours might leave also, I asked him.  He explained two reasons.  “First I’m a little too old.”  He smiled “I was too young for the last war, now I’m too old for this one.  If the military gets around to my age guys, then I’ll go.  However I am needed more right here doing my job protecting our water supply.  That’s why the new guns.  I always was a food hunter in Canada, deer, moose and birds.  But not much to hunt down here…  unless I come across a saboteur.”

I heard him telling another man that he had to watch out for the long passages the water lines took by the many fields worked by Japanese farmers.   Most of them may be good people, who welcome the water for their farms, but most are not citizens and many have a history of sending money home to Japan and taking frequent trips there, we have no choice but to mistrust them all. Well… at least watch carefully.  In any war water is a prime target.  I know that was true in the last war.  We in California are especially vulnerable and the unsympathetic Japs here know that.  They took out so many of our ships and people at Pearl Harbor, that the ships left here in San Diego had no choice to go out to sea to pursue the war where they can find them, leaving very few behind to protect us.  They know that, too.  It’s always very dangerous to have your enemy living among you, and not know which they are.  Both men agreed that something would need to be done, neither was sure just what.  Many of the young men who grew up in our schools had already joined the Military Service and were fighting Hitler in Europe.  We had to respect that.  They also knew it wouldn’t take very many working against us to aid their fellow Japanese if they were to invade.  

The West Coast may have been technically cut off from the rest of the Country, but they had the resources and the people, plus the will to mobilize and soon the lower half was rapidly producing aircraft while the north produced ships.  We were becoming a country of our own, on our own, succeeding beyond expectation.  I don’t know what the East Coast was doing, but according to the news reels and magazines, they seemed to be filling England up to the hilt to make that one big charge across the channel, so they must be doing all right.  

In the Pacific we appeared to be taking a beating, but our stuff was on the way.  We all hoped that soon the tide would turn.  Someday this whole war would end.  But it didn’t feel like soon.

So with a food shortage and rationing my Dad, the former farmer sprang into action.  The whole yard, except the Badminton court was planted with food things.  He grew the best big tomatoes, the longest green beans, huge zucchinis and altogether enough food to trade and share.  The old chicken coup was repaired and filled with chickens and a few rabbit hutches.  Meat was no longer a problem at our house, unless of course, if you longed for a beef steak, which I never did, and still don’t… plus we had plenty of eggs.  

After I came upon a place behind the garage where Daddy hung the rabbit skins to cure, I asked about them. He said he sold them to someone who used the soft, furry, leather to line warm gloves for our Alaskan troops.  With our guys lining the whole Coast from Alaska down, we felt a tad safer from invasion.  Occasionally there were reports of a submarine being sighted off shore.  Some large balloons flew from the coast of Japan, across the Pacific Ocean on the westerly wind to the coasts of Oregon and Washington, carrying incendiary bombs they hoped would start fires.  One even passed by the West Coast and made it half way to the next.  They were usually spotted and tracked.  Some of the things that were reported may have been rumors started by the enemy to worry us.  Other things may have happened that we didn’t hear about until long after the war was over.

I’m not sure just when and how Dad became a bee keeper, because not until we moved to the Hollywood Hills, just above Beverly Hills, did he keep many hives at home.  I only know that our Highland Park garage held several five gallon cans of honey and a machine to clear it before it was put into smaller containers. He told us that he moved the hives as the crops bloomed in orchards or fields where the farmers needed them. He also had a supply of little white boxes to pack with a dozen or so bees.  It seems that a few doctors ordered them to use as a cure for something.

Bees were always with us, buzzing around.  We did, after all, have a yard full of attractive fruits and things.  But our Father taught us that the bees would not hurt us if we remained calm, so we did.  At school when the other kids spotted a bee they ran screaming, with that action they were far more likely to swat at one and get stung.  My sisters and I just stood unafraid, watching the others behaving so childishly funny. We were never stung.

Our sugar rationing problem was pretty nearly solved.  Although sugar was still needed for many of the things my parents canned each year. Daddy’s boysenberry jam was neighborhood famous.  They continued to produce and can long after they had a need to do so.  They were, I suppose, following the Church mantra of being prepared.  But really I think they just loved working together.  While making jam they looked so happy and the house smelled wonderful.

It’s almost embarrassing to tell you now that when we were emptying their final home in Sun City California after Mother died, we had to bury dozens and dozens of beautiful, but rotten, smelly, jars of foods they had canned for emergencies and stored in a shed behind the house.  The hot Sun City weather had ruined them all. 

Still in Highland Park, I started junior high and my walk to school was a little bit further.  Just across the street from the school was a short row of stores.  The most important one to me was the Sweet Shop which sold huge ice cream cones for a nickel.  I mean huge!  The regular shaped cone fanned out at the top to hold two scoops.  But this store put two more on top of them and a fifth one in the middle on top of those.  Even better you got to choose what flavors you wanted where.  It was a difficult thing to do because they had so many flavors.  Not 31, but a lot!  

That store starred big time in my life.  I can’t begin to list how many things I know today that I learned there.   I’ll tell about those a little later.

We were located a good distance, but still walk-able, from two very large public swimming pools.  In the hot summertime we were willing to walk that half an hour to get to one or the other.  Then we spent the whole day before returning home.  The Eagle Rock Plunge was up passed the end of the line for the streetcar so no sense in paying ten cents to ride part way, so we walked,  The pool charged five cents each for a towel and a key to a locker for our clothes and things while we played in the water.  The key was on a very large safety pin that we could pin to our bathing suit strap. At noon the pool was emptied of people for lunch time.  We took our lunch sacks out to a park table and ate after which we checked a chess set out of the game room and played with that for a while until one o’clock when we paid another nickel to get back into the pool.  Being quite blonde like our Dad, I began to notice that often my sisters’ hair was a pale green.  Someone told us that it was the pool water.   We still stayed in until the pool closed at four in the afternoon.

Another day we might choose to go down in the opposite direction to the Highland Park pool.  It was a little further so if Dad was going that way we begged a ride in the truck.  We’d still have to walk home but that was okay.  One day we arrived after a long walk to find the pool closed, which was puzzling because we could see through the chain link fence that it was full of kids.  So I asked why we could not go in and was told that the pool was closed every Wednesday so the Colored children could swim.  Sure enough a second look revealed a pool full of Negro children.  “But why?”  I asked, “Why do they get a day all to themselves?”    I did not really understand the answer.  “Because they are not allowed in on any other day… Just Wednesdays.”  

We stood there, disappointed after our long walk and talked about it.  We had not noticed that there were no coloreds in the pool when we were there.  The whole pool was filled with all sizes of different looking kids.  Whose idea was it any way that they needed a separate day?  Theirs, or whose?  Certainly not ours, we three agreed that these kids should just come on any day they wanted to and we should also.  We began the trek home.

One day Dad decided that with the guns in the house, he had just purchased a cute little pearl handled one for our Mom; we should all learn how to handle them.  He drove us to the desert, where we watched as he set up paper targets and tin cans to begin our practice shooting.   He took us one at a time and taught us how to hold the rifle, then the hand gun and to shoot at the target.

I hated the noise.  They were so loud that I had to cover my ears whenever he shot.  When it was my turn I found that it was even louder when held close to your face to line up the sight.  I tried them each once and retired to the car to shut out the terrible sound.  No more guns for me.  Carol loved the shooting and took one turn after another when ever Dad was willing.  I have a photo of her holding the rifle and smiling.  Luckily, there are no pictures of me cringing.

I opened the car door and climbed in to shut out the noise.  Mother and Avalon had beaten me to it. None of us seemed to want another turn with the guns, so we did what we usually did on our desert treks; we walked off in the opposite direction hunting for flat rocks that looked like something else.  Mother liked to take the unusual ones that looked like a rabbit, a cat, a house, frog or an auto, anything, to stand around her flower bed.  They did look rather cute there.  She had slowly acquired a charming collection.  They were found mostly in the dry river beds where the odd shapes had been accented by water wearing them thin, like a giant oatmeal cookie.  Our Mom liked them to be about one foot to a foot and a half tall to match her existing border.  She could be very fussy about how cute they were, as every time we moved, the rocks had to move to.   The not so cute ones didn’t make the cut.

In the distance we could hear Dad and Carol practicing shooting.  When it stopped, we went back to the car, comforted to know that if those awful Japs invaded, we had our Dad and our baby sister ready to protect us.  

Suddenly one morning our school decided to practice for an air-raid, which of course would never happen, but we should be ready.  Everyone was given a post or a chore. Some stood high on the roof to watch for planes.  The big boys were given a pail full of sand and a shovel to carry to an assigned post and be ready to throw sand onto any incendiary bombs that might be dropped from a plane to start fires.  Some girls were in the gym to take care of injured.  I don’t remember what else we practiced for, except I was shown a closet marked with a paper sign that read MORGUE.  I was told that it was where the bodies should be taken. If I should need to take one there, I should remember where it was; otherwise I could go to the gym and help with the injured.  I opened the door and saw a very tiny room with brooms and mops taking up most of the space.  Good! They must not be expecting many bodies.

We were shown charts that had black silhouettes of Japanese planes, so we would know if we saw one.  That was because every night grown men and women sat up to watch for those planes and sound a warning.    The only plane I ever was able to recognize was our P38.  I loved those and when I heard a group of them coming I’d rush outside to watch.  I truly wished to be a boy for those brief, crazy, moments, so I could maybe fly one.

Air raid sirens were often tested so we would know what to do if we heard one blaring.  The men who served as Air-raid Wardens in each neighborhood walked about to see if anyone had light showing around their newly placed Blackout curtains.  Every light must be off or not showing so the bombers would not know where people or buildings were.  As far As I could tell both were just about every place.   I think everyone was supposed to go inside at the sound of the siren, however my friends and I rushed to the persons house that was the highest uphill where from the top windows we could watch toward the ocean, and see search lights combing the sky and lighting, up briefly the small blimps that were tethered along the shore to prevent planes from coming in low.

I was twelve and my best friend, DeLayne, called, Dee, was nearly so, when we decided that we would like to work at the Sweet Shop.   It was on our way to everything, school, the Saturday movies, the public swimming pool, and downtown Highland Park, so we always stopped there to buy five cents worth of penny candy to last us the day for any event.  They had the largest selection of penny candies in town.  One large glass case held about thirty open boxes on the bottom shelf where kids of any age could see them.  Their huge five scoop cones and the other things on the ice cream menu were on the other side of the store by the long counter with the high round red plastic stools.  The impressive candy side was filled with trays of the many varieties of chocolates all hand made by Mrs. Brownly, who knew everything there was to know about candy making. Bright silver and gold boxes sat atop shelves waiting to be filled with the customer’s choices.  She made everything in the well stocked room just behind the curtain to the public shop.  Children dashed to be the first in line for their favorites as soon as school was out.  It was noisy but worth the wait.  Everyone loved the place.   DeLayne and I decided that if we wanted to be in on the action, that was the place to work.  

We dressed nicely and went down to apply for a job.  The man who owned the shop was nice to two inexperienced,  young, Junior High girls seriously explaining what good workers they would be and how as students right across the street they could run right over and be ready when the after school crowd came in, as they always did, and they were two of them, so they knew.

He asked our ages and we told him, twelve and almost twelve.  “Well.”  He said kindly “You’re a bit too young.  At least Dee is.  Although at twelve you can get a work permit from the school, saying you may work.  Come back when you have those and I will consider hiring you.” 

He certainly sounded sincere.  We were sure he meant he would hire us if we had work permits.  We would work on that right away.  We had until June 7th when Dee turned twelve.  I really didn’t think he expected to see us again and actually he never did.

  Dee and I went about applying for work permits and then in June we presented ourselves proudly to the Sweet Shop, eager to go to work.  We dressed to look a bit older and hopefully more reliable.  We knew that the war had made it difficult for small businesses to hire adult workers as they were all either in the service or working in a defense plant making airplanes and such.  Kids everywhere were working at adult jobs.  For some reason, I didn’t understand, none had thought to apply at the Sweet Shop before us.  A couple of the boys who had gotten early drivers licenses were permitted to leave school early on Friday in order to drive big rig trucks up to the Bay area, of San Francisco where war plants were building ships as fast as they could.  Ship supplies needed from down here were carried up and equipment for the airplanes came back.  Up on Friday night and back on Sunday it was a very good paying job for a school boy.

The man was not in when we returned to the Shop. Mrs. Brownly, the candy making lady, was behind the counter this time.  We explained why we were there.  We wanted to work.  We had work permits and were both old enough now.  She said politely that she didn’t need anyone just now.   Very disappointed we didn’t give up.  “But the man said he would hire us if we got these work -permits.”  We held them out for her to see.  “So here we are just as we promised him.”

She stopped.  “What did the man look like?” She asked.   We described him and repeated that he had said he would hire us.  And we know we will be very good workers.  She paused and looked us over.  “I can only use one.”  She told us. “and beginning pay is twenty-five cents an hour..”  

“Oh no! We both have to…want work here.  We’ll both work for the twenty-five cents an hour and split it ourselves.”  Actually at that point we would have paid her twenty-five cents for the privilege of working in her Sweet Shop, if we had twenty-five cents, which we didn’t.   She was quiet for an eternity, then she, somewhat reluctantly agreed to let us try for awhile to see how it went.  She gave us a couple of pages of paper with the menu and prices and some directions on making the sodas, milkshakes and malts and sundaes, told us to start Saturday.  We skipped all the way home to study it and memorize everything about our first real paying,  well, half-paying job.  

I actually had been making some money by baby-sitting.  The pay was pretty good for those times at fifty cents an hour.  I had some pretty regular families.  Usually my Mom took my calls and told my where to go and when.  One family I complained about.  I told my Mom not to take any more appointments from them as they had five kids and they were just too much work.  Dad over heard that and interrupted with.  “You should take that family for half price.  They sound as if they really need the time out.” I backed down and agreed to take them, but the half price suggestion was out.

After some last minute instructions and a walk about showing us where everything was, Mrs. Brownly left us to go back behind the curtain where she was busy coating maple creams with chocolate.    I was sure she was happy to have us there because without us, she had to leave her chocolates very time the chime on the door sounded.  She didn’t say, In fact she never did comment about our work.  It was just her way and we accepted it.


This quiet day, while we were still beginners, I was washing glasses as Dee was serving up ice cream cones to a couple of kids.  You can’t imagine how long it could take for two kids to choose what five flavors of ice cream they wanted on their cones from the ten tubs open in the freezer.   

A few minutes later a young man came in and sat up to the counter. As I walked over to him, he looked up to read the wall menu and finally smiled at me as he ordered a hot fudge sundae.  Yippee! My first hot fudge, I had practiced reading the way to make everything with Dee until we almost knew it all backwards, but I had never actually done it for real.  I chose the appropriate stemmed glass and began to construct a masterpiece.  Two neat scoops of vanilla ice cream, hot fudge on top, sprinkle with nuts, swirl whipped cream from the pressure can and top with a red cherry… Perfect! I slipped a paper napkin on the counter and presented it with a smile. He looked at it and then at me and said.  “I can’t eat this.”  My smile dropped as I looked at the sundae.  Where had I gone wrong?  It still looked perfect to me, so I asked, “Why not?”  A tiny smile crept into the corners of his mouth as he answered.  “Because you… didn’t… give me a spoon!”

We learned much later that Mrs. Brownly’s husband had died shortly after we met him and she felt obligated to keep his promise.   It worked out great for all four of us.   We learned on that first Saturday that she had an eighteen year old son, Mike, who went to College on week days and worked the Shop on weekends. At eighteen, he would have been drafted, but his mother had written to the Draft Board to let them know that she was a widow, left to run their business alone and she needed her son to help her.  He was given a deferment.   He let us know that he wasn’t too happy about that as he had applied to join the Navy.  However for now anyway he should help his mother.  His father had been a candy maker also and he had learned everything from his parents.  As the months passed we saw that he could do it all. He ran the Shop ordered the supplies and helped make candy and he taught us everything he could.  Both Dee and I were fascinated with the wonderful candy making.  No candies that we ever tasted were better.  Mrs. Brownly was a quiet lady who kept her secrets to herself.  She only said, once in the very beginning, that we could taste the candy at will, but to be careful, as we would get sick of them then and it was better for a person to go easy and be sure we would always enjoy the occasional treats.  I can report that I worked there until I graduated from High School and I left with my sweet tooth intact.  Mike was more generous with the information and willingly taught us everything we wanted to know.   By the end of the first year he was like a big brother to both of us, which was great, as neither Dee nor I had a brother. 

A very nice couple came in regularly who seemed to be newly-weds as the love showed plainly on the faces.  They communicated with hand signs and read the Sweet Shop menu signs until finally they would write me a note on a small pad the man carried in his pocket, clearly used to writing notes.  It read. “One pint of vanilla ice cream, please.”  In fact that is exactly what he wrote every time.  I wondered why they always seemed to be considering the menu.  But I took down the pint the carton and the wide metal spade and began to pack the carton.  Mike had shown us how to press the ice cream down firmly with the edge of the spade,  then put it on the scale and pointed out what it should weigh.  It turns out that you get almost twice as much ice cream in a hand packed pint than in a pre-packed pint.  At least once a week the couple came in for that pint of ice cream.  It became apparent after while, that she was expecting a baby.  I wondered how that would work out.  How would they care for a baby if they couldn’t even hear it cry?  Or could it cry.  I didn’t know if those deaf people made any kind of loud noises.  I had never heard any, nor was I equipped to ask any questions.  My job was to please the customer and not be nosey about their private lives.

  The baby arrived and she was, as far as I could tell a perfect little golden haired doll.  So now I wondered who would teach her to talk.  Somebody did and she was an early talker, too.   I didn’t see them for quite awhile, but I had been on a different schedule and probably missed them.  When I saw them next, the child was walking and she climbed up onto the red stool with a smile as bright as a new penny and hair to match.  Her parents stood proudly behind her, clearly pleased to now have a spokesperson, tiny as she may be.  

The child looked at me and said very plainly in her sweet voice, “Three Ice cream cones please.”  I returned her smile as I reached for the cones, but that move brought the parents palms flat up to stop me, as they shook their heads, “no.”  After a set of signs to the obviously very bright child, they stood back and waited for her to place the order again.  She beamed happily, “Three ice cream cones, please.”  I glanced at the parents to be sure.  They made no effort to change it, so again I reached for cones.  That’s when the man picked up the baby and placed her in her stroller and wrote me a note.  It said… guess what?  “One pint of vanilla ice cream, please.”  Then he shrugged.  I laughed.  The Mother laughed. The baby even laughed.  And I was certain that the little girl would probably grow into a great assistant to them, but that she would also always have a mind of her own.

A pleasant experience with a regular customer is still with me and I never even knew his name.  He was at the counter deciding on a choice, when I heard the familiar sound of airplanes over head.  Not just any airplanes, but my familiar, favorite, P38’s!  I rushed around the counter and out the door to look up.  There in the cloudless sky above me a neat formation of six fast planes flew smoothly by.   I watched breathless with admiration.  Those comparatively small planes had two tails and two fast sounding engines, one on each side of the pilot’s cockpit.  I simply loved them! And I envied the pilots.  My customer had followed me outside and stood looking up beside me.   “Aren’t they breath taking!”  I said, not as a question.  “They sure are.”  He agreed.  We returned to the Shop and I filled his order.  He ate it while reading a magazine and left.  

Next this love of the P38 created a slight problem for me.  The next time that same customer came in he placed a tiny box on the counter and said, “For you.”   I didn’t touch it.  I was taught not to accept gifts from strange men.  This man was probably almost twice my age, which might put him to almost thirty.  How young that sounds now!  So I answered politely, “That is really nice, but I can’t accept it.”  “Sure you can. I brought it just for you. 

”I don’t even know your name.”   “It doesn’t matter.  You know I’m a regular customer. “  

As the intriguing box still sat untouched on the counter, he opened it and tipped it toward me to display a tiny, golden P38 on a matching chain.  “Oh, it’s darling!” I proclaimed.  “It’s just adorable! But I still can’t keep it.”  “Sure you can.  It wasn’t expensive. “He took it out of the box and let it rest on the counter.  “I’m employed at the plant where I help build P38’s.  We’re very proud of them too, so as I know how much you appreciate our work, I wanted you to have this.  We sell lots of them in the gift shop. Many people like our little plane.” 

I picked it up and watched it fly little circles below the chain. I really, really wanted it, but felt confused about admitting it, so I reluctantly dropped it back into the box.  “Okay.”  He said, as he got up to go, leaving the P38 behind on the counter, then pausing at the door just long enough to smile back and add “Let’s just call it a tip.“ 

I eventually gathered the nerve to pick it up and wear it and everyone who noticed it admired the tiny plane, it really was, as he said, popular with the public, but fortunately for me, no one ever asked where I got it.  I just didn’t want to try to explain it.

Many years passed and it just stayed in my jewelry box, unworn, but too valuable to me to let it go.  One day as I was taking something else out to wear, I noticed that it was not there. I turned everything out and the P38 was gone.  I had four children, who were known to have admired it from time to time. So I asked.  My nine year, old, son, loved all airplanes, so luckily I asked him first.  Yes, he had it.  He tried to explain.  “I wanted to show it to a friend who didn’t know what a P38 was.  You never wear it, so I didn’t think you would mind. “ 

  “No I don’t wear it, but I don’t want to lose it either.  It’s a War souvenir.”     Men and boys were not wearing neck jewelry in those days, so he quickly returned it to my box.  Time passed.  Styles changed.  The time came when boys and men did wear all sorts of things on neck chains, as I soon learned. 

Out of the blue, for no reason what so ever, I started a tradition of giving a piece of my old jewelry to each of my three daughters and one daughter-in-law every year.  I place out on display everything I had ceased to wear, or was willing to give away.  Gifts from my husband and family were not included.  But many things I had inherited from my Mother were popular with the girls. On “Pick Day” they each draw a card and the highest card chooses first.  I especially liked that plan, as I knew they would each get the pieces they wanted, not just what I happened to give to them.  One of the first old items to go surprised me.  Two of the girls were interested in a gold thimble I had used so much that the gold on the top had grown too thin to use.  

My sister, Carol and I had been taking a short cut home from playing in the almond orchard near our house in Banning.  I was six and she was about four.  As we scuffed our feet through a graveled area, she stopped and bent down to pick up something shiny. I waited while she turned it in her fingers.  Then she held it out to me. “Look!  I found a thimble.”  I took it and sure enough it was a very pretty thimble with an M engraved on the edge.   I passed it back so she could see the M.  She twirled it on her tiny finger then gave it back to me with a shrug.  “Here you keep it.  You sew and I don’t.”

I used it so much over those many years that I finally wore it out.  Because it was real gold I dropped it into my box of broken jewelry.  It surprised me that anyone would choose it over another more useful piece.  They both admitted to just liking the story and the age. A draw of a card gave it to one and the other took a different piece that had a story, the P38.

The P38 was chosen by my second daughter, whose second son had just been accepted by the Air Force Academy.  That seemed appropriate, but the real surprise was that the next time I saw our tall handsome, new, pilot, he was actually wearing that P38 and he has ever since. He is now a test pilot and an Air force Major with a wife and two children.  He expresses his pride in his Grandfather’s Air Force service, and is an admirer of that W.W.2 plane.   Too bad that the fellow who so thoughtfully gave it to me cannot know where it is now.   

Mike had a best friend that we never met.  He was in the service before we came onboard.  His name was Conrad.  When I first even heard of him Mike was asking if I would write to Conrad as he was rather shy and had gone into the service without having a girl friend to write to him.   In his letters to Mike he regretted that he did not know a girl he could write to, and have a picture to pin up, just like so many of the other guys did.   Mike was requesting that I be the one to write and just like a friend, tell him things about home and stuff and most important send him a picture, so that even though you two have never met, he will know who he is writing to.  I rolled my eyes.   “But I really don’t even know him. And if he was here, I know he would think I am too young for him… which I am. Anyway what do you say to a person… a guy… you don’t know?”    

“What’s to know?  He’s in the Pacific fighting Japs.  He won’t meet anyone there.  Just getting some mail will mean a lot to him.”  Mike gave me a graduation picture of Conrad to make things even.  

I agreed to do it, although I was not at all sure what I would find to write about.  Although, it had to be much easier than the last thing I agreed to do… to help the boys.  They were asking the High School girls to volunteer to go to a dance being put on for the young guys just coming out of Boot Camp.  I assumed that with the school sponsoring it and taking us to and back in the school bus that it might be okay.  I was wrong.  I forgot a very vital thing, just as I did when I volunteered to sing.  I didn’t know how to dance.  Maybe I thought it was the boy’s job to just lead us, but I was, as I admitted, quite wrong.  

On the selected evening all of we girls dressed up in our most grown up clothes and hairdos, and met at school where the bus waited.  We drove longer than I had expected.  I really don’t know where we were.  But the building was large and real live band music poured out to greet us, as did the young men wearing their various uniforms.  And gee, but I thought the guys all looked wonderful in them.  They cheered us as we left the bus and one by one took one of us by the arm to lead us inside.  So far, so good.  The fellow I was with gave me his name.  Mine was on a name tag given to us at the bus.   

Those peppy, swing dances were very popular at the time, with a lot of twirling and turning, even some throwing around…  I did my best to follow each leader and watch what the other girls were doing.  If I got by at all it was a miracle.  I felt totally like a fish out of water and vowed after each new partner that I would never agree to this again.  A couple of times I met a young man with about as much experience as I.  When one actually asked if we could sit and just talk, I was delighted.  By the time the music stopped for the evening, I had agreed to write to him and had his address in my tiny evening purse 

So even though I never had time to take dancing lessons and knew well that it didn’t come naturally to me, I was occasionally writing to another service man I didn’t really know.  My Dad took some pictures of me to send him.  Dad seemed to know what the guys would like. He took lots of glamour pictures of Mother, but that was different, she was beautiful. I would rather have sent one of hers.   So anyway, now I would write to Conrad, too.  We exchanged quite a few letters, but sadly he died, along with twelve thousand of our men in the invasion of Okinawa, an exceptionally fierce battle for an island stepping stone to our invasion of Japan.  Mike and I were both very much saddened by Conrad’s loss.  That’s when I knew that it wasn’t the number that died, but the one you knew that mattered the most, even though he was only known by his name and some letters. After that you can be appalled by the high number of deaths.   One day much later Conrad’s Mother, whom I also had never met, wrote to me to thank me for writing to her son.  He told her that my letters had made his days happier.  I showed the letter to Mike and we both shed a few tears.

With De Layne and I helping Mrs. Brownly in the Sweet Shop in every way we could, Mike was eventually able to full fill his wish to join the Navy.  Conrad’s death did not deter him, but seemed to spur him on.  His thinking was, the more men who got into the fight, the sooner it would be over and put an end to the killing.

  As long as he was in training close by in San Diego he spent his free time at home making peanut brittle, his specialty, and packing one pound boxes with chocolates getting ready for the holidays.  Ice cream was less popular in the winter, even one of California’s gentle winters, but the candy was more in demand, for gifts and parties. 

Meanwhile, sugar and cream shortages and rationing hit the Sweet Shops everywhere.  Also as those ingredients became scarce the prices went up, and we were ordered by the Ration Board to serve one half ice cream and one half sherbet.  This was a difficult feat as the customers didn’t like it.  As you can guess, sherbet did nothing for a hot fudge sundae.  But we had to find some way to make it more popular with our public.  We tried to use the sherbet by featuring orange, raspberry, or pineapple smoothies, all very popular drinks now, but shunned way back then. 

I remember a guy, who accustomed to the five scoop ice cream cone for as long a she could remember, refused to choose two sherbets for his four scoops cone.  We had decided to keep the price at a nickel by having two scoops of ice cream and two scoops of sherbet. 

“Just leave it off.”  He said “I’ll pay five cents for the two ice creams.” I told him I couldn’t do that. I had to put two sherbets on every cone.  “I’ll just go out to the street and knock them off.” He threatened.    I shrugged, “So be it!  Which flavor do you want to throw away?”   I asked politely.  He was astonished.  “You’re kidding. I have to take it even if I’m throwing it to the curb? Why?”  I explained.  “If I only sell the ice cream and the sherbet is still in the freezer, when the supplier comes, he will not be allowed sell us any more ice cream until the sherbet is gone too, and I am not going to throw it in the street for you.”  Then I smiled.  ” It really is very tasty.  Why don’t you give it a chance?”  He took the raspberry and as I put it on the top, he left the store without looking back licking pink raspberry.  All of the new regulations made it difficult for the Shop to make money.  Bananas had disappeared wiping out the famous banana split.  We followed the rules though.  Everyone was in the same boat and we knew that in the big world others were out there who did not have such simple sacrifices to make.  We failed to find something clever for the low flat dishes that were designed for the Banana splits, so we put them away for the duration.  “For the duration! A term that was used often to explain the many things that had gone the way of new cars and silk stockings.

I must add that after the first two weeks Dee and I were each paid our full twenty-five cents an hour.  Even though Mrs. B didn’t compliment us, we took it as conformation of our work.  And in time we received appropriate raises, also.  Though, I still like to tell today’s children that my first job paid twelve and half cents an hour. As if twenty-five cents wouldn’t impress them enough.

Dee and I both had many other outside jobs, also.  I’ll have to explain them as I go.  But mainly there was a war to win and all adults were committed to winning it and getting our boys back home.  Even mothers who always stayed home to take care of the children worked or volunteered at something to help.

I came home one day to find a box as big as our Philco radio sitting next to the couch. A quick peek showed about a jillion very large leather gloves packed helter-skelter inside.  It was already dinner time and as I washed up in the kitchen Mother told me that a neighbor in the next block had brought it by for me.  I admitted I was expecting them.

Sitting in our home room at the beginning of the school day, a man came in who had gotten permission to speak to us.  The man was a well known Archer champion, who won many competitions before starting a small factory in his home garage to make archery equipment.  As one of his products was soft leather archer’s gloves, along with the beautiful, leather quivers that held all of the arrows.   His talk to us was prefaced with his story about his business.  Now, however he had been requested to make an item that was needed in the War Plants building planes and other metal products.  With so much welding required they had trained women workers to do the welding.  Thus the popular song about “Rosie the Riveter.”  He said he had the workers to sew the extra long, heavy duty, gloves. However for riveting they required a strip of the leather to be sewn between all seams to protect the hands from the heat and sparks.  This was his problem.  As the gloves accumulated he didn’t have people to cut the strip close to the inside so they would fit the fingers.  He would pay anyone willing to use these heavy scissors to trim the seams and turn the gloves right side out.  You don’t have to come to the factory.   It can be done at home while you visit or listen to the radio.  He took a glove from the table and demonstrated the simple, but necessary process.  I will drop off a box of gloves at any home of someone who will do this for five cents a glove.  Then pick it up in a couple of days.  With your help they can get to the factories faster.  He smiled at the promise.

You guessed it I raised my hand to help.  Now the gloves waited in the living room for my attention. I sighed and got to doing it.  It was as easy as it sounded although my hand developed a couple of calluses from the hefty scissors.  The completed box disappeared while I was at school and few weeks later another box arrived.  Sometimes when a different job took my time, I talked one of my sisters to do that simple task.  They could use a nickel a glove, too.   I know Mr. Archer, whatever his name was, was going to be as happy as I to have the war end so he could get back to the easy soft leather gloves he loved.   But he would do this one for the duration.

The next speaker that came to the school looking for help from students had a real show to present.  He put on a movie film of an apricot orchard in bloom, followed by the fruit ready to be picked.  At first I thought he wanted us to pick them, but no he got enthusiastic at what called “Camp Cutacot.”

The movie showed tents and camp fires with young people roasting hot dogs and marshmallows.  Music in the back ground had a few kids dancing in the camp fire light.  On Saturday night they had a movie to watch.  Fun, fun, fun… All we had to do to get go to this two week long, inviting, Summer Camp was spend a few hours a day cutting open apricots and removing the pits. 

I passed on that one.  I would have had to give up my other jobs to do it.  I actually loved my other jobs and this did not look like fun to me.  

The next job offers were from a nicely dressed woman.  She worked for the downtown department stores.  Christmas was coming and she was seeking young women to work in the overly busy department stores just for the season.  If you were at least five foot four she could offer a job selling in the store.  Shorter girls could be hired in the stock room opening and marking the prices on new merchandise.  I was five, five and selling in a big store sounded good.   So I applied.  The store hours were easy to work the Sweet Shop hours around.  School was out for most of the Christmas season.  I was accepted by the downtown Robinsons.  The lady who met me on the first day explained that I would be expected to dress as an adult in a black dress and high heels.  Because I was tall those things and a little more lipstick would pass me as twenty one easily.  I was given a card to get my work clothes for half price. Wow! Good deal!

It took a lot of trying on, but I found a nice fitting black dress and some fashionable, comfortable, black, high heels.  No one had silk stockings any more.  Leg makeup and tans were the fad.  I had a tan, but if it became necessary I had helped De Layne paint her sister’s legs with makeup for a fancy party, so I could do it.

In the store I was just one of the new women.  On the street car riding downtown and back I felt strange and out of place.  As if people who might recognize me, or not, wondered what I was up to. 

It must have been my Sweet Shop experience, but I was quite successful as a sales lady and earned a bonus with my sales. I was making enough money now to put most of it into War Bonds.  My Dad said that was the thing to do, he was.  If after the day work at Robinsons, you know, nine to five, which was not difficult, I often got off of the streetcar at the Sweet Shop and changed into my school clothes and apron to work the evening shift there until eleven.   

DeLayne said she found a fun job in the theater in our local town, but they opened in the evening for the movie crowd.  So she worked the Shop mornings.  If Mike was home he worked when we couldn’t. It all sounds like a juggle when I write about it, but it really went very smoothly.  

The next year I took a theater job, maybe just to see why DeLayne thought it was so much fun.  My job was at the United Artists Theater at the far end of Broadway, the main street in Los Angeles.  United Artists was founded by some famous movie stars, like, Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford, and others who wanted to have some control of how their movies were launched.  This theater was beautiful, with gilded posts and plush curtains, crystal chandeliers and magnificent murals of some of the costumed stars portraits on the side walls. This was often the choice for big movie openings.  Ina few those a designer came and measured us for dramatic costumes to accent the featured movie. I recall one for the early Premiere of Captain from Castile, a Tyrone Power movie about a fifteenth century Spanish nobleman.  At an early showing they expect the audience to fill out questions about what you liked or disliked about it, so they could remake it if necessary to please the public.   I was especially fond of the long soft ivory gown, with a deep V neckline on the pale gold top and tied at the waist with a long wide deep gold sash.  The gowns were supposed to represent the picture’s Spanish background.   I wished I could have kept it.  I don’t know why.  It really wasn’t good for anything else and it disappeared promptly when the movie moved on.    

Just in time for a new Disney picture opening, premiered on a Saturday, being a children’s movie.  I discovered that the long, long, line in front contained my family.  Carol had run down to try to wave at me, when I saw her through the window I walked out and ushered them all, right into the theater, as other people waiting patiently in line watched, wondering who those important people were. That was kind of fun, but to be honest, I really found standing alert outside of the door curtain for the whole movie, waiting to show those arriving late, to a seat with my golden flashlight, to be very boring.

I really, really, I mean desperately, wanted the next offer that came my way.  It was in our little town of Highland Park, where there were two major department stores.  The largest, best, and most expensive was Ivers.  They came to our art class to ask for an art student to come and do the window decorations while the Iver’s daughter, who usually did that job, took time off to have a baby.  Anyone interested was told to report to the Store after school.  I couldn’t go. I had to get to the theater for my job there.  I simply could not miss it.  I was on a time clock.  The next day I went to the store as soon as school was out.  I knew it would happen, but was still very disappointed that they had given the job to Marilyn, a friend of mine in art class.  I explained my prior work commitment to Susan Ivers.  It would not have been fair to just not show up.  She looked over my art work and thankfully decided she could use both of us.  

This was my dream job.  I loved to pour over the New York Magazines they supplied and find interesting and different window effects.  The attic of the store had dozens of manikins and dozens of eight foot roles of colored background paper, pieces of furniture and shelves of wigs.  I got to know all of them well.  The store had three large front windows and two more full sized windows on the side street…  The door entrances had one small special window on each side, both surrounded with a wide band of black and gold glass.  These two, Susan said, she liked to have made very special with jewelry or perfume displays. 

The way it worked was Diana, the older Iver’s daughter did the store buying and as she knew what was coming in and what she wanted featured in the big windows, she placed those things, mostly women’s clothes, on the shelves in our work room and we decided how to present them.  Marilyn and I worked very well together and I couldn’t believe the leeway they gave us to use our own ideas.  We were seniors in High School by then and finding something we could love forever was wonderful.  The Sweet Shop saw less and less of me as school and Iver’s took most of my time.  I brought in a good friend, Phyllis, to work for the Sweet Shop.  Many of our friends had expressed envy at that Sweet Shop job.  Envy right from Junior High days, when kids walked in and gasped at the sight of Dee and I standing behind the counter, long before working teens had become so common. 

As the war progressed, the schools initiated the four -four plan.  Kids who had jobs could go to school for four hours then leave for four hours of work.

There were so many things to do to “help win the War” that we could pick and choose between what we felt was the most important and what we thought might be the most fun.  I was already pretty good at sewing, so when the sewing class in our Junior High School announced that they were going to participate in a “Sewing clothing for the Russian women” project, I signed on for that.  They showed us pictures of the limited style of blouse that was in use by them.  The pattern showed a long sleeved, high necked top with a line of buttons on the right shoulder to open it.  Plain, mouse gray was the only color.  Actually it was very different from anything we wore, but these people were apparently not into high styles, they just required warm clothing, and they did seem to all dress much alike, if the magazine pictures were accurate.  Sure I could sew those.  I was given a length of that heavy gray fabric and a pattern to share.  The school had a dozen pretty good sewing machines that we would also share.  I offered to take mine home to sew and was turned down.  I had to make it in school and follow the rules. 

My back ground here was this.  My Mother used to tell me about the great talent her Mother had.  Their nine children chose their clothes out of a Sears catalog.  Not to order them from Sears, but to express their choice of styles.  Her Mother had only to see what was wanted to be able to copy it.  Sometimes they went to the store to buy cloth and thread even buttons.  Sometimes she cut up something that they had, like those large flour or sugar sacks that often had pretty prints on them that really only came to life when the sack was empty and washed.  I was very impressed and wanted to be like my Grandmother.  Mother claimed that the reason she could not sew was because she never had to learn.  Her Mom did it all. I began to cut and sew tiny clothes for my dolls.  Dad showed me an easy way to thread and knot a needle.  He knew many handy things about sewing, I guess because he didn’t have a Mother to do it all.  I decided that I would let my own children do things for themselves…And I did.

One day I saw a cute toy sewing machine in the Christmas catalog.  I asked my parents to help me write a letter to Santa Claus, so he would know I was a fairly good child, and would like to have that machine.  We were living in Banning, so I was five, but would be six in April, in case that made difference to Santa.

On Christmas morning was I surprised.  There by our tree was a full sized, table model, Singer sewing machine. And it had my name on it.   My Dad was not one to waste money on junk toy things.  He did that same thing again, when I wanted a typewriter.  He asked Santa for the real thing and a real Underwood typewriter arrived under the tree.  I never got the hang of using it, not like I did with the sewing machine, but my sister, Avalon, did and by the time she was an adult, she had founded a very prolific business with seventy five women typing away at the work she brought in above what she did herself.  But that’s her story… back to my sewing machine. 

Daddy sewed on it himself until he had it all figured out.  Scraps of old cloth were all over the place.  Then he taught me to put in the thread and bobbin and sew by pressing my leg against a little metal starter, mounted just under the table top. My feet didn’t reach the floor, as I sat on a regular chair, but I didn’t need to.  

I didn’t often get any new materiel, just little old things like an old sheet, pillow case.  Once best of all, I was given a new washed flour sack.  When I got that, I immediately decided to make our baby Carol a dress.  I cut a hole in the middle to fit her head through, then two arm holes.  After it was sewn on each side it was pretty much a dress.  The sack, once washed, had tiny pink flowers all over it, so it was a rather cute summer dress.  I put it on Carol and decided it needed to be shorter.  Good, something else to sew on my machine.  She actually wore it.  Then I went back to sewing doll clothes.  Dad was right to buy it.  I used it for the next twenty years.

I was using it while in Junior High to make many of my own clothes.  But somehow I was still not considered qualified to make a blouse for the Russians on it.  The trouble with the rules was that thirty girls were waiting a turn on twelve machines.  Plus at least ten were in line to show the teacher their hand basted stitches to get an okay from her so they get in the machine line.  I grew impatient and when I saw an empty machine I dashed over and quickly sewed the sleeve cuffs on. Now it was finished.  When the teacher saw what I had done, she grew very cross as she looked at my work.  “Now you’ve done it!  It’s ruined and can’t be used.”  She tossed the entire finished blouse into her waste basket and gave my work an F dropping my grade to a C for the semester.  The only C I got in my two years there.  I was supposed to learn to follow the rules.

I was actually a little bit put out.  When she wasn’t looking as she helped someone with a sewing machine, I picked up the sleeve cuff and on the inside made a mark with a pen.  I did not believe she was going to just throw it away.  At the end of that semester the school held an open house, so the parents could come to school and see what the kids had done.  When mine came to the sewing room we found a row of the things the girls had made for the War effort.  Hanging on a stand in the middle was a Russian blouse.  I took a peek at the inside of the cuff and sure enough, it was mine.  They also had a pile of lap robes our class had knit for the hospitals.  Among the completed little blankets I showed my folks the squares I had knitted.  We were given a skein of yarn and needles to knit simple squares that someone else would sew into blankets for wheel chairs.  

When did I have time knit squares?  Well for one, when I was patient enough to await my turn on a sewing machine, taking the street car downtown and when I was benched in Gym class having my Period.  

You don’t forget a thing like that. Last year, in 2011, I knitted a sweater a week while I was confined to a wheel chair, recovering from a broken pelvis.  I simply hate to be stuck with nothing to do.

In 1945, what was supposed to be my senior year of High School, if it had worked out that way, someone in the School felt that it was not fair for them to let the War make those of us still in school miss those traditional things like a Prom.  So they decided to find a way to have a prom dance, anyway.  Tough to do in a school where there were very few boys in attendance.

As things were then, the young men of eighteen would soon be drafted into the Army.  The boys who preferred another service, like the Navy, joined up at seventeen while they still had a choice.  Thus most of the guys still in school were under sixteen. The simple answer was to allow the sixteen year old boys to be our dates.  

Well forget it! They forgot to ask us.  Most of us would prefer to not have a Prom at all.  Some girls were engaged to a boy in the service.   Time passed and no boys were invited to this dance, the officials put the boy’s names and ours in hoppers and picked out couples for the dance.  We were each informed in home room who our date was to be.  It was a laugh.  The girls went around showing each other what little boy they had been assigned.  Dee and I decided to make a double date out of ours so we at least had each other.  There actually was a totally unmemorable dance and many of us attended reluctantly.  But give the school credit they did try.  Our nearly all GIRL school picture taken that year tells it all.

I would be graduating from High school this coming June.  My boss at Ivers returned from maternity leave and began to work with us.  She didn’t let us go as we expected.  We knew well that the work was not just about having ideas and carrying them out, but it was hard labor also to carry the manikin parts we wanted down from the attic and return the ones from last time.  The huge rolls of back-ground material were so heavy that we were inclined to cut to size on the attic floor rather than carry them down.  As Marilyn and I worked together those months we wondered how Susan had ever managed it at all.  So we asked.  She said she would send for the stock boys and point out what she needed and which window to take them to, and then have them take back the unneeded things.  She also apologized for not thinking to tell us to do that.


The job our Dad had with M.W.D. suddenly decided that his job of overseeing the distribution of the water would be better served from a pumping station on top of Mulholland Drive on the border of Hollywood and Beverly Hills.  This critical station needed twenty four hour monitoring.  The company purchased the house that sat on that plot and moved my Father there.  We had been in the little house with the rabbits and chickens for so long that I had forgotten the past joys of moving.  In fact this move darned inconvenient… but only for me.  My sisters had already been transferred to Hollywood schools.  I had one more semester of High School and a terrific job at Ivers Department Store.

My school suggested a different plan.  If I could stay to finish this semester, they would simply graduate me in February.  I had already completed every required class, so I could just leave early. That would be much better than moving to a new school for only one term.  If I wanted to do the cap and gown thing, I could come back in June for that.

I gave the option to my parents who were almost already moved out the door.  There would be no “here” to stay in for the last few months.  

Finally I arranged to stay with Dee’s family until I was out of school. I said goodbye to the chickens, apricots and figs.  I would never forget them.  Some of the chickens had been my pets I even named them.  It was time to move on.  Remember… I tried to remind myself… You don’t like to be left behind. 

The war was almost over in Europe.  But on the west coast we had always been more involved with the war started by Japan.  Everything about it affected us more than east coast.  We also had the large population of Japanese to deal with.  Arguments boiled over on how to handle it and finally how we did.  I could see the good and the bad on both sides.  Even today I’m not certain they didn’t choose to do the right thing.  We have no way of knowing for sure what might have happened if the Japanese were not curtailed from free movement about the state.  The more our boys came home in coffins and the more the Japanese themselves chose to die in Kamikaze dives into our ships killing more,  the more the hatred for them grew.  Some might well have been traitors to us and the ones who were not may have had to pay the price of the hate, just as our boys were. 

I made my first tour of the new house.  It was a two story Spanish style home with beautiful wood beamed ceilings and red tile floors in the entry and stairs, a huge rock fire place in the living room, and a large dressing room in the master bed-room.  No wonder my folks were so anxious to move there.   The hilly back yard even had a real badminton court and two barbeques.   Some of the bee hives had place high up behind the house, out of sight and Dad had already planted the hillside with Boysenberries on the days he had worked there before the move.  He had the District put the meters and things that needed constant observing into the house on the service porch with the washing machine, He said he could tell by watching those instruments when a commercial came on the television, during I Love Lucy because so many people watched that show that the water flow jumped quickly when the masses left their living rooms for the kitchen or bathroom.

Dee and I discussed the effects of the war as presented in the magazines and papers.  An article we read posed a problem for the young women of America.  That must be us. It stated the prophesy that with so many young men being killed, followed by the huge number of war brides being brought home by the men who married in England, France, Italy, and even Germany, Australia and the Philippines, there would not be enough eligible men left for the American girls to marry and have children.  Perhaps the law may have to be changed to allow the men to have two wives.  Dee and I talked and concluded that we would rather have no husband than one with two wives.  That was it, even if it meant we would never marry.  That article was the talk at school for a short time then forgotten in the happy excitement as the war had really, finally, ended.  I could barely believe it, it seemed as if it had been going for most of my life.  

The atomic bomb had made it happen.  To everyone’s surprise the first one didn’t do it.  Perhaps the Japanese Generals didn’t believe we could have another.  After it was dropped they surrendered. 

  Some of our men came back talking about the close call they had.  They had been loaded into troop ships preparing to invade Japan.  Trained and warned that it would be a tough fight, as all Japanese citizens were said to be armed and told to fight to the death.   Then suddenly the plan changed and without changing ships, they were being sent right straight home instead.  How lucky could they get? No one could ever tell any of them that we should not have dropped that bomb.

I had been busy going from my friend’s house to school, then to work at the department store every week day, then trying to find a way to get to my parents new home for the week-end.  The street car went straight to down town Los Angeles, then I had to find a way to get from there to down town Hollywood.  That could be either on Hollywood Blvd. or Sunset Dr.  What went there? Next I would have to get off and transfer to the bus south to Highland Blvd. where I had to go north on Cahuenga Blvd. which had a center divider that carried the big red electric street cars past the Hollywood Bowl, toward Universal Studios.  I would get off at that point and walk up the hill to almost the top of Mulholland Dr.  To tell the truth I began to believe that there was no way to get there from here.  At least not without an automobile, which few had these days.  In actual fact it could be done once you were willing to commit the time to it. I did it for the last few weeks I had left in school.  Once I was out of High School for good that wonderful and enjoyable Iver’s window decorating job became impossible. So I said good bye to them, too.  My kind boss encouraged me to go to her old art school in the fall.  I was considering that option.  For the present I needed a paying job, so I could make car payments and get out if spending my life waiting for the next street car or bus.   

I was left wondering what I would do next.  I had saved some money and my Father heard that Ford was taking deposits on the first new cars built since the war started.  We went down to an agency and I put in my deposit.  Nothing we could do but wait. By way of my recently departed school, I received a phone call from the Telephone Company.  The company had asked the school for the name and numbers of girls recently graduated.  I was called and given an offer of a job as a telephone operator.  The Company was expanding at top speed now that the war was over.   There was an office close by at Sunset and the Columbia Studio.  It wasn’t a career goal, but I could start right away so I accepted.  

I wore my grown up clothes from Robinsons and went in.  I sat there all day for two days waiting to be trained.  I f I drank coffee; I would have had a gallon of it. So many people offered to get me a cup. Finally they brought me a new offer.  They would pay me take the Sunset bus to another office out on Vermont Blvd., nearby the Hollywood Hospital.  The Training woman they had been waiting for here was out ill, but the other office would train me now and I would return to this office to work.

That move made the biggest most profound change in my entire life.  I made a good friend in my new office, a pretty blonde girl named, Mary.  We spent our free time together shopping on Hollywood Blvd.  I needed a couple more grown-up dresses and more high heeled shoes.  That’s where my first pay check went.  Most of my money was sitting in a Ford office waiting for a car.  

Once I completed training I was invited to stay in that office and accepted, even though it was a bit further away from home.

My new friend had two brothers coming home from the Army Air force.  The eldest was bringing a Texas war bride.  The younger was single and he was a pilot!  I was impressed.  Flying was to me the most amazing thing one could do.  When I worked at the Sweet Shop I could hear the planes as they flew over and if possible I’d run out front to watch them.  I especially liked the P38s.

We were married three months later.  This young stranger I had so quickly married had gone to war right out of High School and served his country by flying all over the vast Pacific Ocean delivering men and equipment where ever they were needed, and without the use of satellites and the electronics in use today.  I wonder about that as I look at our two new generations and sometimes wonder if they would be able to find the neighboring town without a G.P.S. 

I like to believe that I am misjudging them.  That if they were called upon they would be even more capable than our generation was. 


While flying in hostile, foreign, airways, Bob was visited by reality very quickly, as he watched planes and crews disappear forever.  The odds were not good that he would make it home from this war alive.  Still he carried on using his wits and judgment to be an effective, useful, pilot.  From New Zeeland to Japan he flew his C47 not thinking about going home.  His adventures there far outstrip mine as real War stories.  

I observed his very same World War through the eyes of a child who stayed safely at home, while chaos raged all over our planet. If I missed some childhood things, I don’t regret them, as my life was enlarged by the opportunities fate presented.  But for a bride who was prepared to be a content stay at home wife and raise a brood of children, it is seems, somehow, strange to simply say now… “I was married at eighteen and never worked.”  My front brain cries out… “Then what were all of those things you did from twelve to eighteen?  What about them, eh?  If not work what?” At that thought. The other half of my brain, known as the sub-conscious, came awake and called back… “Hey you, cool it! It’s simply called growing up.  Those things are no more or less than just what made you into the person you are.  And by the way, you can’t go back and change anything, so my advice is… “Just deal with it!”  That perpetually thinking half of my brain then folded back into the sub-conscious, where it usually resides quietly and is not often prodded into up front conversations.  Yes.  I do get it.  These may be my assorted War memories, but they are very likely much the same as those of all children from my time and area.  These more recent, peaceful, adult years from eighteen to eighty already have a wider variety of experiences in them which continue to mold and change me.  All women have changed.  It is difficult to imagine women in this 21st century being even a bit shy about tackling almost anything.

In his dangerous situations my eventual husband, Bob Mosier, concentrated on what he needed to do without much worry or concern.  But as the years passed and he came closer to coming home, he says he became more cautious, thinking, “I might just make it after all.”         Home at last, he missed his airplane and learning that surplus planes were for sale from the stock pile on the Arizona desert, he drove out prepared to buy one.  He looked them over, then began to think of the life he had wanted to have when he was certain he never would.  He had recently met and dated his sister’s friend, Beverly, luckily that’s me, and recalled that dream of having a home and a family, with lots of little kids to tell his War stories to.  Instead of buying that much desired plane, he went home and purchased an engagement ring.  At this writing, in 2012, we have been married for 66 years, raised 4 children, who gave us 14 Grandchildren, and so far, 12 Great-grandchildren.  All of the most wonderful things of my life resulted from just a few, tiny, unplanned and unimportant, events.

Recently we sat surrounded by forty two family members.  They also say that they are very happy about those simple twists of fate, like Grandpa coming home alive from the War and then buying an engagement ring instead of an air plane.  “Where would we all be if he didn’t?” 

Right from the beginning, my sisters and I were raised with the same love, respect, and encouragement that Chris and Billie always gave to each other.  I was content to stay at home.  Avalon ran her Company and raised two sons.   Carol married her returning young, navy man at age 17, had four children, then became a door to door sales lady for Avon Cosmetics and ended her career as a New York Vice-President with that same company.  

It’s amazes me to think that all this was set in motion way back in 1920, when Fanny Ellen Caldwell read a simple, exciting, old, book, ”Beverly of Graustark”.   Six year old Beverly Nemeth doesn’t even know that she now has an old, original, copy of that book.  One day she may read it.  I wonder what sort of an adventure it will inspire in this brave, young, twenty-first century girl.


My parents settled in Indio during that Great Depression, about which much is still written and discussed.  It is said that the old folks who lived during that time, remember it all too well and place it high on their concern list even today.  

I was in Kindergarten.  I was told that an important Presidential election was eminent.  My fellow Kindergarteners liked to talk about it and as they seemed to be firm in their beliefs that a Mr. Alf Landon must be elected, I, who knew nothing what so ever on the subject, assumed they must be correct.  It was not my teacher, but the other five year old kids who advised me to tell my Mom and Dad to be sure to vote for their man.  So I did.  “Alf Landon is the man to vote for.”  I informed my parents.  Daddy laughed, to my chagrin, and said he would be voting for Mr. Roosevelt.  Mother was officially still a Canadian citizen, however at that time she only needed her marriage license to prove that she was married to an American and was thus a citizen now. So she also voted for Mr. Roosevelt.  Which reminds me, I eventually had to use my Father’s birth certificate to get an American Passport, as I too was born in Canada.  Anyway, Mr. Roosevelt won.  Therefore my Father must have been right all along; so much for Kindergarten politics.

Mr. Franklin Delano Roosevelt was elected four times.  His slogan was always; “YOU DON’T CHANGE HORSES MID-STREAM”   Referring, of course to the War, which was the most important thing in our lives.  And he was the Commander in Chief of the Armed Services, so felt that, his plans should not be changed while we were still in that fight.  It made perfect sense to this 16 year old.  I was sure.  I wouldn’t change horses mid-anything myself. And I actually believed the “Buy War Bonds for Peace”  signs and knew first hand lots of  things were gone… “For the duration”.  Then “After the War is over we will”…anything we could dream. All of those messages were repeated so often that I knew well our goals.  But what might “Peace” bring when we got it?  The War and Mr. Roosevelt as President were nearly all I had ever known.    

When our Commander in Chief died a few months into his fourth term and Mr. Harry S. Truman was suddenly the new Commander, we felt insecure, not knowing if he would know what to do.  Even though to me, one of the next generation of adults, he seemed to come out of nowhere.  However his take charge attitude, with the slogan “The Buck Stops Here!” soon made us feel comfortable that just maybe everything will be alright.  Maybe the War will really end someday…  Maybe!

I suppose it was only natural then to begin my voting years as a Democrat.   As time passed, maybe I changed a bit, but it seemed to me that the Democrats changed more.  I thought at first that I would just vote for the man I felt was the most qualified; not the Party.  A couple of seasons later I realized that those very capable seeming men were in charge of selecting the Judges and influencing our Country in so many other ways.   I did not like what was happening as the country was changing… in the wrong direction.  The Party did matter after all.  I registered Republican.  Even that did not always make me happy.  What, I wondered, could one person do?  Alone, I didn’t win the War for us either, but I sure worked my best to help.  Peace came just as everyone said it would.  Now keeping it is more difficult than fighting for it ever was, and so the fight goes on, but luckily so does the fun.  And life is, in spite of everything, extremely enjoyable.