California or Bust

Life really changed when I was in the eighth grade.  Dad had gone the summer of 1948 to a Legion convention in Los Angeles, Ca. and came home all excited about going to "God's Country" .....California.

While he was out there he visited a cousin of his, Nellie Kingsbury Wilson, who lived in Hemet.  Hemet was in Southern California in Riverside County and at the time I thought It wouldn't be too bad if a town had the name of Riverside thinking that I would at least have my ponds, rivers, and etc.  Little did I know that all I would find was a whole lot of sand, palm trees and cactus!  The rivers were there, but they were dry and only had water in them when we had gully washers.  Come to find out my rivers were basically used for flood control 

Needless to say, we older kids didn't like the idea at all of moving, as Sonny was in High School and what a time to make such a drastic change. Before we even realized it, auctioneers had shown up to auction off all of our belongings except some of our personal things, in March of 1949.  Gone was the beautiful furniture and even our beds.  We were promised new when we settled in Hemet.  We didn't find out until after the auction, but the auctioneers had what they called "shills" in the audience and they ended up with just about everything.  The money the folks had planned on just wasn't there.  Not only did we have to pay our percentage to the auctioneers, but they got all of our things for about the cheapest prices ever. 

We packed up some of our personal things and took them to our Grandma Bancroft's up in Pepperell, MA and what was left fit in an army surplus trailer that we would be pulling behind our 1943 Hudson Hornet car. Sonny and Freddy even managed to find a way to bring their hockey skates, and their skis! I still have Sonny's hockey puck that he had engraved his name on.

Here we are in front of Grandma Straitiff's home in
Pepperell, saying our last good-byes.

    This is the army trailer.  Everything that we owned was stuffed
into this tiny area.  Our barn next to our home in So. Sudbury
is in the back. Those houses in the back were on Church St.

Mom was to travel with Charlie and Bobby on the train and I would be in the car along with Sonny, Freddy, Dad and our dog, Betty, with the loaded old black open trailer covered with a tarp and tied down with ropes behind us.  We left a couple of days before my 14th birthday.

Things seemed to be going pretty good until we got to Painsville, Ohio on the first day of April.  You know, April Fools day? Painsville? <smile> The car would take a couple of days to repair and we were supposed to meet Mum and the boys in Chicago, ILL. as Dad had gotten us on the "Welcome Travelers" radio program.  I don't even remember how we got to Chicago but I have a tape recording of the radio program.  Dad apparently had been on the program on his way back from the Legion Convention in California and he was told to bring the family when we went back through. So he did! 

Mum got silverware, pots and pans, and us kids got clothes and we all were treated to lunch. I don't remember much from that point on until we were somewhere out west in the desert. Betty, our dog, was having problems having to sit in the car between two kids all day long so Dad stopped and got a box of Exlax.  Don't ever give even a dog a whole box of the stuff!!!  We let Betty out of the car and she took off across the desert like lightening struck her.  We waited at least 2 1/2 hours for her to come back and come back, bless her heart, she did!  We all thought we had lost her for sure.

Sonny collected post cards along the way, so I have quite a collection of them along Highway 66 that we traveled on. I can almost feel us in the Wigwam Motel!!  When I see travel programs about that highway, I sure can relate to it and even remember being in some of the motels. 

Life in California

Crossing into California from Arizona, we had to pass through an inspections station.  The men at the gate asked if we had any fresh fruit with us, well, Dad was so tired and worn out by that time, that he shot back a smart remark and we ended up having to completely unload the trailer for them to inspect and then reload.  You could really tell it hadn't been gotten into since we left on the trip so needless to say, none of us were happy campers and the atmosphere in the car all the way to Hemet, you could have cut with a knife.

We finally arrived in Hemet on April 12th, when the temperature was well over 100 degrees. We all thought we had ended up in that place "down below."  I cried when I realized that Riverside sure didn't mean lots of water. And where were my trees?  

Hemet was a nice little valley nestled among the San Jacinto Mountains.  On the south side of the valley, was towards the San Diego area; to the east, was Palm springs; to the north Riverside/San Bernardino and to the west, Los Angeles. Hemet did have trees, and green, well, greener than most areas there but not like my Sudbury. 

Aunt Nellie was very gracious and welcomed us.  The restaurant that Dad had purchased used to be a Mexican one and it still had some of the dishes, etc in it. I have one of the blue crinkly glass cream pitchers that has a lot of air bubbles in the glass.  It is a nice keepsake and I love having it. 

The building was part Western and part Spanish motif with
a New England Cupboard sign on it. <smile>

Aunt Nellie's home in Hemet. It was located
on what is known as Park Hill. When we left in 1990, Lloyd
Wright (Nellie's nephew) the attorney from Los Angeles, wife was 
living there but she has since passed away. 

Vernor and Nellie Kingsbury Wilson with my
Dad, Lloyd in the middle.  I never knew Vernor
as he passed in 1946 in Los Angeles before we arrived in CA.
Vernor Wilson b. 10 Aug 1878 in NH   d 21 Jun 1946 in CA
Nellie Kingsbury b 1888, Wy  d 1964, CA
Married 1912/13  


 We lived in the smallest house ever, only two bedrooms.  I got the small room, the four boys got the other one that barely fit the four single beds we bought and mum and dad slept in what was supposed to be the living room on a convertible couch.  The kitchen was nothing more than an old porch that had been enclosed but we ate most of our meals at the restaurant any way.  I don't remember the bath room at all, but I know that it did have one!  hahaha 

The tiny house.  Mum and Dad are shown here at the gate.  
My bedroom was on the left and the boys on the right.

 We all started school even thought they only had about 6 weeks of it left.  It was a good thing too as in California the 8th graders had to take a constitution test and I hadn't taken one before.  All of us were far ahead of the others in our studies so we didn't have to struggle to catch or keep up which was great.

The kids during lunch one day asked me if I wanted to go to the drug store for some chili beans.  I never had eaten chili beans in my life and I didn't have a clue what they were except I knew what beans were!  Can you believe that for the next two weeks I had chili beans every single day for lunch!  The first time sitting at the lunch counter, I asked for a tonic to go with my chili and they all said I was in the right place, but why did I want tonic?  Come to find out some of my Yankee words were really foreign to them out in the west!  I learned to call it soda pop or a coke from then on. I learned also that they didn't have frappe's but they were called milk shakes.  Back home, milk shakes were only flavored milk without ice cream!

Fleeting memories of living there during school years: Initiation day where I had to dress up funny with burlap for clothes and climb to the "S" on the Mt. to white wash it;

Initiation day at San Jacinto High School.

 ....playing soft ball and being called "Boston on the run";  Sonny raising rabbits behind the house in a hutch (a big one); Freddy and Sonny building a hot rod; learning how to drive the folk's car while they were working and couldn't stop me. I drove it up and down the driveway and around the parking lot when there was enough room. I had the responsibility of the two younger boys which was really hard on them as I didn't know how to be a mom. 

The restaurant didn't last very long as the people that Dad had a hand shake deal with, ended up by taking us for what little we did have so for a second time in less than two years we had to start over with absolutely nothing.  I don't have a clue on how the folk's got the house in Hemet unless it was Aunt Nellie,  but we moved in time for me to start the tenth grade. Freddy was in the 11th grade and Sonny was a senior.  We all made friends and some of them I have had since that time and we still keep in touch quite a bit. 

Life in Hemet and Friends

One of the very first friends I made in Hemet was Mary Mastro who had been in the area only a year from her native Italy.  Her uncle owned the Grandolfo's Italian restaurant in town.  What wonderful memories I have of Momma (Mary's mom), her dad and Aunt Gina and Uncle Frank.  Momma made home made bread sticks and bless her heart, she always managed to "over brown" some of them for us kids! I have her recipe in my cook book too, along with Mary's lasagna sauce!  Mary and I, and some times other kids we ran around with, would invade the restaurant when it was closed and cook rib steaks!

What fun we had with our slumber parties!  Mary's bedroom was an upstairs one that you reached by outside stairs so we always felt we had our own hide-a-way up there.  To this day, whenever I see or have a lemon drop, my memories go back to those parties.  

The town was so small at that time, that all of us girls could walk down the middle of the main road in town at night,  from Mary's house to the restaurant, about a block, and not even see one car!  The only thing we would disturb would be the dogs as they started to bark.  Can you imagine young girls parading down the middle of the street in their shorty nighties in this day and age? 

Mary and I spent a lot of time together as I never had a sister and neither did she.  She only had one younger brother, she called Pete, but his real name was Perry. Life for me was strange as I didn't make friends very well but I was a good listener and mother image for a lot of them which helped the loneliness. I was also the "designated driver' even before the word was invented so I did go to a lot of parties!  I attended all of the dances at school too as I either helped selling the tickets, decorating or refreshments. I didn't feel left out at all.

We used to have a lot of armed force men come into town on the weekends from Camp Pendleton, San Diego and March Field to attend the dances at the Soboba Hot Springs and to cruise the town.  I got to know some of them so they ended up on our living room floor during the weekends.  They would come with five pound boxes of hot dogs, etc and always help with the dishes and the house work.  Mum and dad didn't mind as they weren't really any trouble and they always helped.

This is me in either 1952 or 53 with Eddie
Hennessey on the left and I don't remember...
Joseph L. Schmidlekoffer?  Another senior
moment as I didn't write their names on the
back...shame, shame on me!!

We had lots of fun playing tag on the bleachers at the ball park, swinging in the swings at Weston park in the middle of town and just enjoying being kids.  One time, a group of us that had stuffed ourselves into one of their cars,  were going by the local theatre as the movie let out.  The guys yelled "inspection"......the car screeched to a halt, all four of the doors would open, the guys piled out and lifted the hood over the motor and stood there and scratch their heads.  The next thing you knew, they slammed down the hood,  they switched where they were sitting, closed the doors and off we would go!

One particular night, we drove by a house that had a "for sale" sign nailed to the palm tree out by the sidewalk.  I couldn't believe it when one of the kids got out of the car, went up to the door and rang the bell and here it was about 10 at night.  The lady answered the door and they asked her how much she wanted for the tree! HA HA

Mary and I got really close over the years as when things got kinda bad at her place, she would come and sometimes spend a week with us and when things got to bad for me at mine, I went to hers.  Her folks knew where she was and was in good hands, and when I went to her house, my folks felt the same way.  It was hard for both of us as all of the adults in our homes worked and we were literally on our own and I had the two younger boys that I had complete responsibility for. 

I loved having her at my house as she was always so willing to  help me with the house work.  It seemed that it was my responsibility and I hated it like most kids.  Mary made it fun especially with us doing it together. One particular time that she came to the house for a while, was when she barbecued some steaks and accidentally over cooked (burnt) one side of them and when she served them to her family, Perry turned his over and saw the charcoal and really got mad, so I got her for a while!  I felt bad when she had problems at home but I dearly loved her coming to my house.

Mary Mastro
Here is Mary's web site...
You will love her it!!


Where We All Ended Up

This is the last family photo taken December 1952.

Sonny joined the Navy after graduating from high school and we lost him  due to a motorcycle accident  just before Christmas in 1953. Mum had major surgery every six months for about three years for various problems and life in general, was the hardest ever for all of us.

Last picture of Sonny, taken Nov. 1952 
in front of the Hemet house. Sonny passed away
December 1953 from head trama.

Freddy went into the Army first and then the Air Force and he made a career out of the military.  It was good for him as he was able to get his various educational degrees during that time and is accomplishing a lot during his life time.    

Freddie taken abt. 1953.

Charlie went to work at the Borax Mills up in Trona, Ca after school and somehow he got Hodgkin's disease and we lost him in 1967.  Charlie was receiving treatment for his cancer at the UCLA Medical center and he consented being a guinea pig for some medical experiments. He was the first human to ever have what they called, "mustard treatments".  Later on in my life, my husband, Raymond's, father, Charles Roberts,  contracted Hodgkin's and his was put into remission from those same treatments that Charlie had.  I was glad to know that Charlie's struggles helped someone especially close to me. 

Charlie in his senior year of high 
school in Hemet. Charlie passed away
from hodgkins disease in 1967.

Bobby joined the Air Force for a while and then got married and moved up North where he is today. He also has been a jack of all trades and master of none, like myself,  as he has been everything from a meat inspector to working during the construction on those atomic generators.

Bobby during his stint in the Air Force
February 1961. Bobby passed away from 
front lobule cancer on April 22, 2005.

Patty, taken 1954.

I don't know why I put myself last as I was in the middle but, oh well! I went to the Azusa area around Pasadena right after graduating and found a job at the Gilfillan Radar packaging plant.  I was at a no end in sight job; not accomplishing anything, so I decided to join the Navy and become a physical therapist. I passed all of the tests with flying colors but had to loose 5 pounds in order to be accepted.  I went home, which was in late spring of the next year. The last couple of months I was there, I quit the plant and went to work for Morrison Glove factory in Monrovia.

After having my own money, I finally decided I needed to work after being home for a while and got a job at the Snack Shack, a tiny little ten stool place in Hemet. The first week there,  I met Elmo. Four months later, in 1954 on the day after Thanksgiving, we got married in the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Hemet.

This is the wedding.  Left to right: My Dad, Mum, me, 
Elmo , his parents, Katharine and Kenneth. 
 Both sets of parents are no longer with us.