Arrival in Los Angeles

So began our lives in California. We lived first in East Los Angeles, almost to Montebello. California was a whole new world to me. The landscape was different, the house (at that time mostly Spanish in design with red tile roofs and stucco walls, were so very different from Utah and Colorado or Idaho, which are pretty much the same. I was thrilled by the giant Joshua’s on the way down through the desert and then when we dropped down through Cajon Pass and saw palm trees, hibiscus, and geraniums that reached up to the eaves of the houses, I was speechless.


Al had rented a house for $35 per month. It was the depression, remember! The house to me was absolutely great, after the shabby old houses in Utah. This one was stucco with hardwood floors, a fireplace, fairly good sized living room, two bedrooms and bath in between, kitchen with a breakfast nook. All we lacked was furniture, for it hadn’t come yet. We slept on the floor and ate some of our meals at the home of one of the fellows that worked at the trucking company where Al worked. Their name was Babcock. They had two daughters, the oldest of which was sort of a brat, but they were nice people and very good to us while we all lived in the same neighborhood. I was so sick; I really couldn’t appreciate California at first. In fact, I really didn’t like it. I worked in the yards–our back yard was all fenced in and at the back was a row of garages with apartments over them–quite a common practice in California then. In our yard at the foot of these garages were brown stumps scattered in a row along the entire end of the yard. They were brown and dead looking and I told my neighbor one day that I was going to have to dig them out. They were so ugly. “Oh No!” she screamed. They are poinsettias and are dormant now. Soon they will start to grow and by Christmas they will be beautiful flowers.” I could hardly believe her words, but did resist pulling them out and sure enough, pretty soon green shoots started up on them and they were gorgeous at Christmas time and for months. Before this time I didn’t know that such flowers were real. I just thought they were painted on Christmas Cards and didn’t actually exist. I had about the same experience at the North side of the house. I was raking and digging to put in some flowers and there were thousands of bulbs in the ground. Finally I asked my neighbor what they were. I had been throwing them away by the dozens. She said they were Calla Lilies; the kind you see on sympathy cards all the time. I didn’t dream that they just grew all by themselves in a person’s yard. I was heartsick. “I’ve dug them up and thrown them all away.” I wailed. But my neighbor just laughed and she that I couldn’t possibly dig them all up they were so prolific and that if I watered the area, they would come up, and they did and were beautiful. It soon became apparent that winter in California just meant a different group of flowers, a few rainstorms and the darndest lines of traffic. (The traffic we learned about more when we moved to Arcadia near the Santa Anita Race Track.

While we were living in this first rental house, Mother and Dad and the family decided to come down and visit us. They went by way of Colorado I believe, in order to look after the property there and take care of some business and then they cut across and through the desert. One night they stopped about midnight and got a motel and were planning to come the next day. Mother got up early the next morning and got everyone up and they hurried and got dressed and in their car and were on their way when someone happened to look at the time and it was 2:00 a.m. They had been asleep about two hours when Mother awoke and looked at the clock wrong. While they were in Los Angeles, we showed them all over Los Angeles and even took a trip to Catalina Island. I think this was the first, last and only trip I ever took over there. I remember packing a lunch and that we had cucumbers and I was going to peel them to go along with our lunch and I think it was Dad who said that they were good not peeled so I left it on. Why remember that little thing, I’ll never know. But, we had a good visit with them. This was before Marilyn was born so it must have been the first year we were in California because I have pictures of me with them at that time and I’m pregnant.

Hollywood didn’t particularly interest me but I loved Forest Lawn, the La Brea Tar Pits, and Farmer’s Market, the beach, Rose Bowl and all the other tourist attractions. I wasn’t selfish about my attachment with California and wanted to share it with everyone. As soon as friends or relatives came from the East, I immediately mapped out plans for each day and come dawn we were off for a round of gazing and gawking. I was the one who did all the gazing and gawking, enjoying it over and over again…Fern Dell, the bubbling Tar Pits, the beach, etc., while my guests gave everything bored glances and probably wished heartily that they were back in South Bend or Kalamazoo. Usually, after a few days of this, they packed up and started for home, while I stood, a frustrated figure, on the front steps calling piteously at the vanishing exhaust pipe…”But you haven’t seen the Rose Bowl, or Chinatown or..”

It didn’t particularly matter to me that ‘on a clear day you can see Catalina.” The fog only made the row of Eucalyptus and Palm trees down the block more stately; my neighbor’s cascading sheath of purple Bougainvillea more beautiful.

On our frequent trips to the beach, others complained about the sand in the sandwiches, or that the breakers were either too small or too large; the sun was too bright or hadn’t made an appearance, but I never ceased to have a reverent feeling of thankfulness at being privileged to sit and watch this mighty Pacific, or to stretch out on the sand, lulled to sleep by peaceful relaxation by the ever-changing voices of the breakers. I always wallowed into the surf and bravely stood in the path of the waves. While others dove neatly through them without ruffling a hair, I always managed to be right where the churning billows broke and each wave took particular delight in tossing me about in it tumultuous rolling much as a summer squash must feel in a garbage disposal unit. Each time, when the water was twisting my right leg in one direction, my left in another and the rest of me six ways at once, I promised myself that if I came out alive, I would hope for shore. Each time, I stood up, found myself all in one piece, took a deep breath, grinned, and let the next one grab all 140 quivering pounds and begin the whole process once more.

That was my California.

Al was making $100.00 per month then, as I remember it, but we lived quite well on it. Paid the rent and small utilities, about $15.00 for groceries and I paid $5.00 per visit each time I went to the doctor we had chosen for when I had the baby and by the time I had her, I had paid him $55 which was his fee and the hospital fee for the small hospital he had near his office.

The grocery stores were different then. On the front were the vegetables and fruits. Bananas were 5 pounds for 10 cents. There were no metal baskets on wheels so the boys in the front would collect what one bought in their white aprons. For 75 cents I would have the apron filled to the top with fruits and vegetables. Then I’d buy a pound of bacon for about 25 cents and a little other meat which all in all would come to $l.50 of my $10 budget. I’d buy the groceries I needed for about $5.00 including everything (soap, toilet paper, etc.) Then to the back of the store where the grocery and meat department were, for 75 cents, I could buy a very large beef roast that would last us for days in one form or another, and everything else was in comparison to the above prices. We ate well.

I can’t remember anything exciting or very interesting happening for the next few months except that on January 6th, our third daughter, Marilyn Joy was born. There were no problems and she became out charming, fat, laughing third daughter. She was always a joy and was as far as I can remember the three girls got along fine.

HOUSE #2 on 624 Margaret Street

(Information from Linda and Joan:) The house was a frame house Mom and Dad lived in before moving to Bella Vista on Dewar Street were little frame homes common to that area and time in the 1930’s. All were two bedroom homes with similar yards.

I was quite miserable for the first part of my life in California due to my pregnancy. I fell once on the cement–sat down hard on my rear, and was afraid that it might have affected the baby. Also, that winter I think it was Joan started crying in the back yard. She didn’t sound like she was screaming hurt so I didn’t rush right out, but she kept on so I finally went out there and she had a nail that was in a board run up her arm about three inches. The nail was still there and the little child was crying for me to come and rescue her. I felt terrible and at first didn’t think I could pull the nail out, but as with most things that have to be done, I did it. Then I rushed her to the doctor so she could have a shot for tetanus. It developed that at that time the tetanus shots were made from something in horses, and many people were allergic to it, and Joan was one of them. She was only about two years old. The reaction was terrible and for three days I sat by her in our big chair made into a bed for her and put compresses on her body because she broke out in hive-like swellings and cried and cried. She was so miserable and I felt so terrible for her, but after about three days she recovered.

I remember at this time also that Linda kept getting lost. She would get three or four doors up the street on the front sidewalk and couldn’t tell where she lived and I would hear her calling for me. “Mother, I’m lost,” and I’d go out and rescue her.

We began going to Belvedere Ward in the Church. We actually met in a real L.D.S. Church building; one of about three or four in all of Los Angeles basin. The first time I took the children to Primary in the middle of the week, the poor president had to take charge and play the piano. When she finally found out that I could play, she took me to task good naturedly for sitting there and listening to her struggle through the Primary songs, when I could play so well. So, of course I was the new organist. Her name was Cora Flaherty and she and her family became very good friends and although several of the family are dead now, including Cora and her husband, we still have friends among the family. They had twin girls who babysat our children for years. Fern, one of the twins married and moved away, but Fay married and lived in Temple City, where we lived later in Arcadia and we continued our friendship with her and her family. Fay just died a very painful death about a year ago.

We hadn’t been there much more than a couple of months or so when they divided the ward and the old Belvedere Ward where we were then attending stayed that way, but everyone in the Eastmont area to the East were divided into a ward that took in all of Eastmont, Montebello and Whittier. We met up over a bank in Whittier and it was quite a drive to Church. But, we were only there for it seems less than a year when we were divided and met in a lodge hall in East Los Angeles near where we lived and not too many blocks from the Belvedere Ward. At this time the great surge of baptisms began in California. Also, members of the Church were moving there (as we had) from Utah, Idaho, etc. It seemed that a ward just got going good when they were divided again. Somewhere during this growth and ward changes, I was made Primary President and like Sister Flaherty, I sat in all meetings watching the door for new people in the ward so we could speak first for people to work in our organization. Sometimes I worked at three areas of the Primary at one meeting, but the ward was growing fast all the time.


We found a little house on Margaret Street a few blocks away that was smaller than the one we had but we felt it was one we could afford and would be a start. It only had two bedrooms and a funny large half porch and half room on the back, but we were glad to have it. But soon we found that the place outside and in was infested with fleas. They didn’t bother some of the family, but Joan and I were loved by the durned bugs, or insects or whatever they were. Poor Joan soon was a mass of bites from head to foot. We tried everything to get rid of them and Al finally got some kind of brown oil and sprayed it everywhere until the yard was a dirty brown mess, but it did get rid of the fleas and soon Joan was better. I made a playhouse I remember, out back of the garage. There was a fenced area and little sort of house with boards here and there, but the girls wanted it all cleaned out and fixed up for a playhouse. So I started the task. I moved one large board and a snake was under it and wiggled away. I was scared to death and screamed and ran, but did go back and finish the job, looking under and around everything to make sure no other snakes were there before proceeding. At this time Linda was taking piano lessons and she sat at the piano and cried most of the time saying that she didn’t want to play the piano. But I kept her at it crying and all and she began to do very well. Later Joan and Marilyn were also started but neither of them kept at it…or else I had lost strength and fortitude enough to keep them at it as I had Linda and while they learned to play, they didn’t achieve the technique nor proficiency that she did.

We only lived on Clela Street for a year or so. At that time we acquired a fun dog named Skipper. We decided to buy a home, which could be done at that time with almost no money. It was a little frame two bedroom home set back on the lot with an apricot tree and several others at the back, a large lawn, a palm street and a few flowers in the front. We always planned to build on and remodel it. In fact, I think that someone had started to build on back of the kitchen and there was a large unfinished room there that we used for storage.

Some of the memories I have of that house are of the Burgess family next door. She was a widow and had a daughter Twila and son, Dale and it seems to me she had another son, but he was married at the time I believe. I’ll have to ask the girls about this. Twila was our babysitter for years and we loved the whole family dearly. Twila had a hanger she called Nebuchadnezzar, or some such name, and she was always threatening the girls that if they weren’t good she would take Nebuchadnezzar after them, but I’m sure she never used it. (Joan replaced Napoleon with the above Egyptian king which was the correct name.)

Another memory is of the man next door that isn’t the pleasantest in the world. He worked nights and had to sleep days and I can imagine his horror when a family with three young and noisy daughters moved in next door. He tried to be as nice as he could and we tried to be as quiet as we could, but much of the time neither worked. I felt that we could not completely stop the girl’s activity and while we wanted to be as cooperative as we could, it was their right to play outdoors and make some noise; most of the time they played back behind the house. This was the time of Tarzan’s heyday. The girls would strip to their underpants, tie wash cloths front and back and play Tarzan by the hour, swinging from the limbs of the trees and giving the Tarzan yell and in general have a wonderful time, but not acting much like dignified little girls. It is amazing that they didn’t fall and break a few bones but they never did.

Also, by the time Marilyn turned three, the three girls started to sing together. The two older girls took lessons at a dance studio of which there are pictures in this history. They sang for church things and for anything else that could be scrounged up. Marilyn sang the melody with Linda on 2nd and Joan singing the alto. This would continue until Linda graduated from BYU.

Another memory from here is that Joan had wandering feet and sometimes didn’t come right home from school. This wasn’t the greatest of areas to live because there were many wild and wooly Chicanos in the area and a lot of other rather rough and tough people. I always had to have the children come right home from school so I knew they were okay. Several times Joan had gone somewhere to play even though we had made it very strong that she must come home. Finally, one day after hunting her for ages and finally finding her, I cut a willow and took after her with it. I guess I didn’t know my own strength because the willow made terrible marks on her legs. I felt awful. I had to keep her home from school for a couple of days until the marks healed. I don’t remember whether that made her come home promptly or not. It probably didn’t, but I suffered much more than she did over it.

About this time Al was doing better at his work, as far as money was concerned, but he came home one night and said that they were going to bond all the employees. He knew that he couldn’t get a bond so said he was going to have to quit and go into business for himself. A short block or so from where his work was in downtown Los Angeles, on the East side, was a huge pepper tree that had a pit beneath it and was for rent. He rented it and went into business for himself. From the first he did well and began to make more money than he’d made with his old company. He finally went from the pepper tree to a building which he bought in the area.

About this time we had a hot spell. This was before air-conditioning and in that little frame house we nearly suffocated. The heat went to 106 degrees or something like that during the day and the humidity was bad and the entire area suffered for about a week. We would go out and turn the hose on the roof of the house and let it run for a time trying to cool things off. I never remember suffering with the heat more than then.

Also, while we were living in Eastmont Ward there was a Bishop Richardson and we were very friendly with his family, in fact, the entire ward was very close. We also became good friend with a family named Stanley. John and Lila and their two daughters; Joan and Dorma? (Mother handwrote it and it was illegible.) This friendship has continued on and there will be more about them later.

I remember that I always went past the home of the people we stayed with when we first went to California. We always stopped and took their daughter to Church since her parents were completely inactive so we always took her. On December 7, 1941, we dropped their daughter off and the mother came running out and said that the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. We rushed home and turned on the radio and began hearing all about it. This was before TV, so we depended on the radio for all the news along with newspapers. So now we were well into World War II. The War cleared up the depression and everyone had a job that wanted one and made more money than ever before. Also, at this time everyone was buying war bonds and many organizations would hold programs to see them. Our ward did this and got donations from various companies to auction off and the money used for war bonds. Our ward had a program and one of the donations was a beautiful new full size mattress. Much to our dismay they called Linda up to take the numbers from the box and she drew our number and we were given the mattress free. I can’t exactly remember how all this worked but anyway, she pulled out our number and we were very embarrassed by it, which wasn’t her fault, of course. We had that mattress for years and I brought it to Provo with me, but the poor thing finally gave up and I probably gave it to D.I.


The financial condition of the world was becoming much better and we were prospering a little more. After living there in the house we bought for two or three years, we had a chance to buy another home in Bella Vista on Dewar Street, a subdivision to the North of where we lived. It was a much better living area in the first place and ten times better home in the second. The house we bought consisted of a large living room with a fireplace and an alcoved dining room—not an alcove really, but the dining room was at a right angle to the living room, but not shut off from it. There was a kitchen that was quite nice, but not large enough to eat in and two bedrooms and bath. There was a detached double garage. By the ‘L’ of the living room and dining room, outside was a walled in patio with a fireplace. The yard was quite nice and we enjoyed the house very much. While the Dewar home was better than where we had been, it was still East Los Angeles which was going Latino, and not the most desirable place to live. It still only had two bedrooms but in general was much larger than any we had had before. It was quite a new area so on the West were only fields. Linda always loved horses. She drew them. She studied about them and finally persuaded her Dad to buy one for her, so Al bought one and kept it tethered there in the field. His name was Nikki. Al had someone come and build a small stall and corral on the next door property even though the property wasn‘t his. The girls loved the horse.

By this time Linda was12, Joan 10 (Actually mother, Linda and Joan were 11, and 9 if I was seven, which I was) Marilyn 7, and I found I was pregnant. My pregnancies had all been very hard, although the later two not as bad as the first. At this time Very and Bob were living in Southern California in long beach. I think they were both working at the ship building plants or something about the military. Vera also got pregnant, after many tried, and so she had the same doctor who promised to ‘put you out of your misery’, I guess, but promised no pain.

The war was still on and we had to have ‘blackout blankets’ at our windows because we were afraid of Japan bombing us. We had those blankets for years even after the war. (Mom, I have one and they never seem to wear out.) We also had air raids where the sirens would blast and a block captain would check to see that we didn’t have any lights showing. Also, we had ration books and were limited to some products we could buy.

Meantime Al was making good money and I went to night school to learn accounting so I could take care of the books. As long as I took the financial reins, we did fine, but Al didn’t want me to work, but things would go pretty much wrong as soon I quit doing his books, so I would go back.

For all three of my former pregnancies the doctor had given me Castor Oil to start the pains (which it did) but with this baby although I wasn’t having regular pains, I felt sure that the time had come for the birth, so I went to the hospital. Everything seemed to go fine and they finally ’put me out,’ but I woke up during the very worst of the birth and I was really upset that I didn’t sleep though the whole thing. But, they put me to sleep again and when I woke up it was all over and I asked what I had had. (We didn’t have ultrasound then so we would know) They said it was a boy. I couldn’t believe my ears. When they first brought him to me, I took off his diaper to make sure. We were very thrilled. We named him Steven Alma and he was a joy to all the family. It was interesting that up until the time he was born we were still having babysitters (usually one of the Flaherty twins or Twila) and when he was born we started leaving him with Linda who was almost 12 and the other two girls.

Three weeks after Steve was born, Vera went to the same hospital and had a son. She slept through the whole thing and I was glad that things went well for her. She was home from the hospital just about a week and her breast became infected and she had to go back, so I took her baby, David, and had the two of them just three weeks apart, but I was glad to do it. It was the only baby she was ever able to carry to full term and he grew into a fine man. He and Steve were devoted cousins for several years until they moved away from the Los Angeles basin. Bob got asthma from the dampness of the more humid climate so he got a job at the Naval Ordinance Testing Station in the California desert where they lived until he retired.

About this time, Don Worsley, Al’s sister, Marian’s only son, came to live with us. Marian’s husband had deserted her years before, in fact, before Al and I were married, and she had always had a very difficult time financially with the children, and also trying to raise them. Don was about fourteen and at a hard age for her, so Al said to send him down to us. We thought he would be a good big brother to the three girls, but they sort of resented him from the start, and they didn’t enjoy each other at all. We made him a bedroom in the attic of the garage and tried to make him fit in and happy, but it just didn’t work. I know that he was terribly unhappy and several things happened that made us feel that it would be better for him to go back to his mother, which he did.

I’ve forgotten to tell about another traumatic happening. I intimated before that Al had become inactive in the Church, and he started smoking. He never did it at home or around the children, but one time he asked me to meet him downtown for lunch and I did. At the end of the lunch, he nonchalantly lit up a cigarette and that was the first time I had seen him smoke. I got up and quietly left the table and went out to the car. He followed me out and felt very bad and promised me that he would never do it again. I told him that he had promised over and over again, and I always knew that he hadn’t kept the promise, and that what he should do is quit and I would know it. He finally did and later came into activity in the Church.

Also, while living in Bella Vista, my father came down to see if the sunshine would help pain in his legs. He stayed for a couple of weeks and went home. We begged him to stay longer but could see that he was failing, and by the time he reached Salt Lake, he looked so much worse than he did the two weeks before that they took him right to the hospital without going home. There they began tests and found that he had cancer, and that it was over his entire body. They said he might life for two days or six months or a year. Mother called Vera and I immediately and we didn’t know what to do. But it was decided that we would stay home until we saw what was happening in his worsening of his condition because I had the four children—three in school, and Vera had David. I think it was three weeks later that Wanda called one night and said that he was dying, so we said we would leave immediately. However, about three hours later she called and said he was gone. We found places for the three girls to stay and I packed up Steve then picked up Vera, Bob and David…..well, I can’t remember if Bob went up or not. Anyway, we hurried to Salt Lake. We had never been around death in our immediate family. I was away when Aunt Belle and Grand and Grandpa died, and no children had died, so we really weren’t very experienced with death.

They asked if I would go to the mortuary to be in the room while a good friend of Mother’s dressed Dad and I said I would. He looked very natural, just as if he could open his eyes and talk. I remember sitting a few feet away while this lady was dressing him and at one point his arm fell down off the bier on which he was lying. I kept thinking, “Dad, why don’t you put your arm back up?” and then it suddenly hit me that he couldn’t and I think that is when I realized that he was gone. We had a nice funeral and he was buried in a beautiful spot in the Salt Lake City Cemetery upon the hill overlooking the valley.

After the funeral we returned to California immediately and Mother stayed in Salt Lake. I believe that at this time Donna, who had married Ray Richins who was in the Navy, was home with her. She also went to San Francisco where Ray was stationed and worked up there. She was also a terrific secretary.

About this time Linda started junior high at a school which was West of Bella Vista where we lived. There were many Mexicans, Chicanos as they are known now, in the school but we had nothing against them except that her first day of school, some of them pushed her down some steps and she came home all bruised and hurt and from things we had been hearing about the school we decided it wasn’t for us. We were just across the dividing line so she had to go there. I don’t have the dates at hand, but sometime during this time Al’s dad died and a few years later his mother also died. Naomi and Frank are both gone and at that time I think that his oldest brother and Bill were the only two in the family living. The family was never very close to each other and I don’t think that Al even went to Hod’s funeral. One other thing I remember from living in the house on Dewar was looking out the kitchen window one day and seeing Steve standing behind the horse called Nikki with his hands touching his hind legs. I really didn’t know whether the horse was THAT TAME or not so I rushed out speaking calmly to the horse in the most kind voice I could muster and telling him to stand still. And he did, and I picked up Steve and took him back in the house.