Dorothy Mae James
by Dan Reddell
|Click on photos to enlarge|
1. Dorothy & cousin Herman Self in Childress TX. 2. Dorothy (near back) in second grade in TX. 3. Ida holding Dorothy. Ida's brother Henry Swann, and sisters Lorene, Ruby & Rosie.
1. Dorothy in 1929. 2. Dorothy, Ruby, Lorene and Uncle Henry. 3. The James and Conaway families picking cotton on the Culbertson's farm in Childress TX. Large woman on left is Mrs. Culbertson, owner of property, and the property the James family share-cropped.
1. Ida, Dorothy, Owner, Lorene, Uncle Henry & Ruby picking cotton. 2. Finally reached Oregon. Couple in back on left, Rudine and Jim Gallian gave them the ride. Dorothy to right of Jim. Ida--middle left. Conaway's aunt who just got out of prison for murdering her seven step children. Lea and Esta in front. 3. Rudine--a wonderful woman who helped the James family escape to Oregon. She and husband Jim sold their Chevy Roadster and bought a Chevy pickup so they could bring the James family with them. The girls rode in the back for the whole trip. Refer to Dorothy's Story.
1. Dorothy on bridge over the Colombia river in Klamath Falls, Oregon just after arrival from Texas. They lived under a canvas cover until moving on after a young mother in a nearby campsite drowned trying to save her children.
1. After moving to Sacramento, CA from Eugene, OR, life became fun for Dorothy. Here she is in these three photos on the river between Sacramento and Lake Tahoe where her father took a job building a cabin. 2. Dorothy with best friend (left) Helen Cooper and her soon to be husband, Don. 3. Dorothy and Don putting on a show for Helen.
1. Dorothy near Lake Tahoe. 2. Dorothy's lifelong friend, Madge Conaway (right) hugging a friend. 3. Helen Cooper and Dorothy play tennis.
1. Helen and Dorothy in new matching outfits at the State Fair. 2.Helen and Dorothy. 3. Marvin Boots and Dorothy. Marvin's brother was "sweet" on Dorothy but was killed in a car accident before much of a romance could bloom (unlucky him, lucky me!)
1. Dorothy at the State Fair. 2. Helen and Dorothy. 3. Dorothy and her father, J.B. The car belonged to Gilbert and Lea Etta Nixon. Lea Etta's brother, Les Reddell, had fallen madly in love with Dorothy after being introduced to her by Les's best friend, Joe Dunn. Joe's father, Leo, was a brother to J.B. James' first wife, Margie Dunn. J.B. and Leo taught music schools together on the plains of Texas. After Margie died giving birth to her seventh child, Leo and wife Lena moved to Amherst Texas and became neighbors of the William Harve Reddell family. Joe followed Les when he moved to Bakersfield, CA and suggested they go to Sacramento to visit "Uncle Jim." The occasion of this photo was the second visit of Les to see Dorothy. He came with his sister, Lea Etta, to introduce her to his new love. The hat, boots, and guitar belonged to Les. J.B. jumped up on the hood at the last second.
Not long after my mother, Ida Pearl Swan, age 22, married my father, James Bowman James, age 29, they moved from somewhere in Texas, around Kirkland I think, to homestead 120 acres near Clayton, New Mexico. I was born on August 29, 1916, in New Mexico, on that homestead.
From what I remember hearing my parents and older half sisters and brothers say about those years in New Mexico, they were hard, unpleasant years, filled with poverty and illness. Farming wasn't profitable because the growing season was too short. Winters were long and cold.
My dad built a two room house there. Connected to this house was a half-dugout. A half-dugout is a room in which half of it is dug in the ground. The other half was above ground and had stone walls. In this place, my birthplace, lived my mother, 22 years old, my father, 40 years old, my five half brothers and sisters, Artie age 14, Rosey 12, Otha 10, Ruby 8, and Lorene 4. They were that age when I became a member of the family.
Dad tried to farm his land, but the summers were too short to raise cotton. Then he tried to raise broomcorn. The whole thing turned out to be a failure. My sister Ruby said we almost starved to death.
While living there, mother stepped over a rattlesnake in our kitchen with me in her arms.
Our cow tried to swallow the floor mop. Dad ran a broom handle down her throat and un-choked her.
Sometime before I was three, my mother gave birth to a baby boy named Harold. He died two weeks later. They prepared him for burial and he lay in the house until the grave, not far from the house, was ready.
My half brother, Otha, took a trip up there a few years ago. He said the stone walls were still standing, and he found the little grave.
The man who owned the property told him he would care for the little grave. My mother was dad's second wife. His first wife was Margie Dunn. They had seven children, five girls and two boys. Artie came first, then Rosie, then a baby girl that didn't live long. Otha, Ruby, and Lorene were the next three. Little Margie was last, and her birth was the cause of her mother's death.
Marrying a man with six children, the oldest 14 and the youngest less than a year, was quite an undertaking for a young 22-year-old woman. She adored the baby, but the first tragedy of her married life occurred when little Margie died from diphtheria a few months after she and dad were married.
I know very little about mother's family. I just canít remember her fatherís first name. Her mother's name was Mattie. Mother had an older sister, Lula, an older brother, Ed, and a younger brother, Henry. I never knew Ed. He was killed by a neighbor over an argument about a debt. The man had hit Ed, who sat down on a wagon tongue and told the man he ďhad been bested.Ē The neighbor apparently didnít think he had been bested enough. He got a gun and shot Ed and killed him. The man stood trial, but we donít know the outcome.
Uncle Ed left a wife and two little girls. I met Daphene and Della after they were grown and I was still a little girl. I only saw them once. I remember thinking they were very pretty. (Mother was born September 15, 1892, somewhere in Texas.)
I was seven the first time I met Aunt Lula. She was married to Lonny Coble. They had three sons, Iven, Harry, and Alven. Once again, when I was 11, we visited them. That is the only time we saw them when I was growing up. I liked all of them. Mother thought Uncle Lonny was one of the best men she ever knew. I know my mother thought a lot of her older sister, and it seems sad to me that she only saw her twice after she got married. Aunt Lula lived into her eighties.
I saw Uncle Henry occasionally while I was growing up. He was in the Army in World War I. He was close to 30 when he married Dessie Howell (I'm not sure about the spelling of the name). I was eight at the time they came by our house to see us on their honeymoon trip. I didn't see them again for about 20 years. They had three girls and two boys. The youngest boy died with cancer of the kidney when he was three. It was such a sad story to rear Uncle Henry tell about it.
My Grandmother Mattie died when my mother was 12. She died from pneumonia. Mother and her younger brother, Henry, continued to live with their father until he died when mother was 19. I don't know anything about who her grandparents were.
Mother did say her mother's grandmother was an Indian. What tribe I do not know. In talking about her parents, I could tell my mother loved her father more than she did her mother. This seemed strange to me because I loved my mother more than I did my dad. Her father was a cotton farmer in Texas. She talked fondly about riding on the wagon with him when they took the cotton to the gin.
When my mother was 16 months old, she rocked her cradle over into the edge of a fireplace and burned her left hand. Parts of all her fingers were burned off and the thumb grew down to the palm of her hand. How much of a handicap this crippled hand was to her I never knew. She did her housework as any other mother, so I never noticed it. I do remember she said it was one reason she never learned to sew.
After mother's parents died, she lived with her sister, who was married then. She also lived some with an uncle who was a chiropractor doctor. His wife wasn't well so mother earned her keep by helping with the housework. Mother also worked for a while in the Palmer house. She liked these people but I don't remember their name.
This is the way my parents met. My mother was either visiting or living with her sister who was a neighbor of the sister of my dadís first wife. She had been taking care of dad's children after his wife died. I think they only knew each other a short while when they were married on July 15th, 1915. They each had reasons besides love and romance for getting married. Dad needed a wife and mother for his six children. Mother, at the age of 22, was almost considered an old maid in those days. She also needed a home, since she hadn't really had one since her father died.
I believe they were in love with each other. I never thought they were right for each other. Dad was an extravert; mother was an introvert.
Dad was born January 14, 1876. in Birmingham, Alabama. His father was Jonathan James. His mother was Sarah Self. I know nothing of grandpa's family. I heard family stories that three brothers named Self came from England and settled in Tennessee. My grandma was a decendent of one of them. Dad said she was part Irish.
I remember seeing my paternal grandparents once when I was about 11. They were old then. Grandpa died not long after that, and grandma died when I was 14. They both lived into their eighties. They were farmers. They were probably married during the Civil War. I was told that one of grandma's brothers was a captain in the Civil War. Grandma had ten children, eight boys and two girls. Four of the boys died before adulthood. When dad was about eight, spinal meningitis struck his family. He became ill while at school and the last he remembered for some time was riding home on a horse behind an older brother. When he regained consciousness, one of his brothers was dead and had already been buried.
Another brother, Delmestie, was never well. He suffered severe back aches. One day when he was 15, he laid over an old trunk with a curved top. Suddenly, he announced that for the first time, he was out of pain. Then he died. Apparently his spine had snapped. Doctors said his spine hadn't grown as the rest of his body grew.
Dad's brothers who grew up, married, and raised families were Bea,
Ben, and Henry. His sisters--I just can't remember the oldest one's name. I never met her. The youngest, who was also the youngest of the family, was Emma. Dad was next to the youngest. Uncle Bea was the oldest. I never saw or knew his family, except one son I met once.
Uncle Henry was a Methodist minister. His first wife died after having six children. His second wife was a school teacher. She had five children. This family came to see us once when I was a child. That was the only time I ever saw them when I was a child.
In 1957, I visited Uncle Henry and Aunt 0lie. They lived in Norman, Oklahoma. He was 83 and retired but still driving his own car and still doing some singing and preaching. We visited them again in 1964. He was almost 90. He had slowed down a lot and couldn't see very well, but still had his outgoing personality. We met his youngest son and his wife. We also met one of their daughters when we went on to Washington, D. C. Her husband was an administrative aide to a senator. He was from New Mexico and had been governor.
I saw Aunt Emma and her family twice while I was growing up. Her husband was Jess Terral. She married him when she was 14. They had several children. I saw her again in 1957.
Dadís oldest sister died in a mental hospital. Dad said her husband caused her to lose her mind. He was cruel to her and the children.
Uncle Ben and his family were the relatives I grew up with. When my family moved back to Texas from New Mexico, we went to Uncle Benís. I was three and arriving there was my first memory. It seemed like there were children everywhere. Best of all, they had a girl my age who became my best friend while we were growing up.
Uncle Ben and Aunt Annie had 11 children. Two died in infancy and six boys and three girls survived to adulthood. Their names are Mentie, born in 1900, Holly (male), Elmer, Cecil, Elbert, Kelcy, Miley, and Mildred, and Elonzo, who was partially paralyzed on one side and retarded.
Uncle Ben was a cotton farmer, a better one than my dad. He never owned his farm, but they always lived in a big old house and had plenty to eat.
After we returned to Texas from New Mexico, my dad settled down to farming on the Culbertson farm. It was a large section of land cut up into smaller farms.
Our house was a large, old two-story place. It is the first house I can remember living in. Uncle Ben's house was a few hundred yards east of us. I can remember four more houses nearby. Each family farmed a part of the Culbertson farms. In one of these homes northeast of us lived my dad's cousin, Walter Self (grandma's family), his wife, Mary, and their four sons, Roy, Charley, Herman, and J. C.
Herman was my age and one of my first playmates. I remember thinking all these cousins were good looking. They had black hair, dark eyes, and olive complexions.
I never saw any of them after I was 14 when we moved away from that area. They were the only relatives of my dad's I ever knew, outside of his immediate family.
My sister Esta Lee was born while we lived here. I was five years, seven months old. My oldest half sister, Rosey, and oldest half brother, Artie, both were married during this time. I barely remember either event.
From the Culbertson farm, we moved a few miles north to another farm.The house was much smaller, far too small for our big family. My half brother, Otha, had to use the dugout for his bedroom. Two events stand out in my memory that occurred while we lived here. One, I started to school; the other was the most wonderful Christmas we ever had. We never got to have a Christmas tree, but this Christmas, my dad helped a neighbor get a tree and trim it. We and the neighbor's children didn't get to see it until Christmas Eve night. I had asked for a baby doll and my half sister, Lorene, who is four years older than I, asked for a mama doll (one that could say "Mama").
When we finally got to see the tree, I thought it was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. And wonder of wonders, there was a beautiful baby doll nestled in its branches, and nearby was a big mama doll. There was no doubt in my mind who they belonged to.
My only other memory of this night was that I took my doll to bed with me and the next morning when I awakened, it was gone. I was really upset until my mother explained she took it out of my bed after I went to sleep so I wouldn't accidentally push it out of the bed.
When I was nine years and eight months old, my little sister, Leatrice Joy, was born. She was mother's fourth child and her last. I thought she was a beautiful baby and I adored her.
When she was about two, the depression started. We were always so poor it didn't seem to make much difference, except up to then dad seemed to always have a job of some sort. Now he was out of one and couldn't seem to find one.
For a few months, we were homeless. We moved in with my oldest half sister. From there we moved in with another half sister. We couldn't stay there but a few days, as they only had room for themselves in a one-room apartment. At that time, there were six of us.
Our next move was into my oldest half brother's house. Their house was larger, but they had two small sons. With the six of us, it was crowded, besides what it did to their grocery bill. I don't remember how long we stayed there. I do remember I was hungry most of the time. I'm sure we had regular meals, but there was just not enough food to really fill us up.
My half sister, Lorene, told me later she thought our sister-in-law purposely didn't cook enough hoping to encourage our parents to move. My half brother had a good job in the oil fields. Finally, he told dad he would let his full sisters, Ruby, Rosie and, Lorene, stay with them. But my mother, two sisters, and I had to leave.
He gave dad the money to buy us a train ticket and sent us to Mansfield, Texas, to stay with mother's sister, Aunt Lula. We stayed about three months. Then dad went back to Childress (Artie lived in Electra) and found a job doing carpenter work. He sent us the money to come home on.
Dad had rented an apartment in a fairly nice house. It was great having a home of our own again. I liked living in town. We had other kids to play with.
From there, we went back to Garden Valley where my first memories started, back to my old school. There we lived in three or four different places until I was 13. About this time, Lorene got married at the age of 17.
Shortly after this, we left that part of the country forever. We moved up on the plains close to Lubbock, Texas, to a little town named Abernathy. Dad tried farming again. As usual, we had just a bare living, but part of this time we had a good house to live in, a nice vegetable garden, and pretty flowers in our yard.
The fall after my sixteenth birthday was our last work on a farm. Dad and I picked cotton for a family until winter came. We then moved to Lubbock into one side of an old duplex. That was a hard winter. Our first experience on welfare came that winter.
Also, an old family friend appeared. We had known him and his family in New Mexico. He and his wife were separated and she and the children had gone to Oregon. His youngest daughter, Madge, was a friend of my childhood and is still a friend of mine. He, Mr. Conaway, visited us quite often that winter and he usually brought some food with him.
I had my first date that winter and thought I was in love. It didn't last long, as we left for Oregon in May. He did write to me once and sent me his picture. The following Christmas, he sent me a gift, but I never saw him again.
Sometime during that winter, we met a man and his wife who lived nearby. He was my mother's age and his wife, Rudine, was six years older than I, but we became best friends. For some reason, Jim Gallian wanted to take our family to Oregon.
My dad had enough love of adventure left in him that he took him up on the offer. Jim sold his almost new Chrevolet roadster and bought a Chevy truck. One bright spring day in May, I think it was the 16th, the year was 1933, we began what was the most wonderful and interesting experience that had ever happened in my young life.
Our few belongings were loaded into the truck and consisted of our few clothes, some bedding, and some cooking utensils. When we left that morning, I will never forget the feeling of adventure I had. It was shear delight just to contemplate the new places we were going to see and each night camp out in a different place. I am sure my poor mother felt entirely different about the matter. It must have been a traumatic experience for her. I didn't realize that until I became a wife and mother.
I guess we had such a poor life in Texas, she probably had hopes that things might be better somewhere else. She was 39 at the time and dad was 56. Thinking back over the years, it seems strange that I can't remember ever discussing her feelings about that trip.
to this point, I haven't mentioned the part that music played in dad's
life. One reason is he was involved in all that before I was born. I
remember when I was about six years old he left to go somewhere to
teach a singing school. The only other time I remember him teaching
singing was when I was about 11.
It seems odd that he could teach other people's children how to read and sing notes, but he never taught his own children how. Dad had a good singing voice and loved to sing. If he had had an education, he probably could have made a career out of his teaching. I remember overhearing a woman tell my mother that with the talent my dad had in music, it was surprising he hadn't done more with it.
My dad explained how a singing schools worked in those days. In areas where music wasn't taught-in school, a group of parents in a community would get together and decide to hire singing teachers. The singing teacher would teach so many weeks for so much money. Often this was in conjunction with a religious revival being held at the local church.
Students would learn to sing and read notes in the day time and practice their singing at night at the church service. .Another job dad would take sometimes would be as the song leader for these revival meetings. When we attended church, dad always was the song leader.
Another reason dad's music career didn't last through my childhood was that music had begun to be taught in schools and singing school went the way of the horse and buggy.
Back to our move to Oregon. Our first stop for any length of time was at Canon City, Colorado. We were camped close to the state prison. The reason for this stop was for Jim's pension check to catch up with us. I'm sure dad had very little money when we left Texas. No doubt we lived on Jim's pension checks the same as he and Rudine did. This is just conjecture on my part, as I knew nothing about their financial arrangements. I don't see how dad could have had any money, since we lived on welfare all winter.
After staying at Canon City for a few days, our next stop, except for camping overnight, was at Klamath Falls, Oregon, on the Columbia River. We ate our first fresh salmon there. Again, we waited for one of Jim.s checks.
After about a month of traveling, we arrived in Eugene, Oregon. We went straight to the Conaways. I had fun there. Madge and I hadn't seen each other since we were about 11, but we liked each other as well as ever. She had a sister, Oleta, just a year older than I, and Madge was a year younger. We all three had fun together.
Rudine and I got a job in Swifts Packing House plucking feathers from chickens. Dad went to work picking cherries. Jim just lived on his pension. Of all the years we knew him, we never knew of him working.
Rudine always had a job though. We stayed in Oregon about two months. Then dad decided to go to California. In the park where we were camped in Eugene, we met a family who was on their way to California. They invited us to go with them. This family consisted of a husband, wife, three children, and a bachelor brother of the husband. They had two old cars, so they had room for all of us. When Jim found out Dad's plans, he decided he and Rudine were going to California and he would take us. So that's the way it happened.
I was glad we didn't travel with the other family. Even though the bachelor brother was a lot older than I was, I had a feeling he had more than a passing interest in me. He seemed middle-aged to me, but he was probably about 30.
When we reached Sacramento, we found another campgound along the side of a not-much traveled road between Sacramento and North Sacramento. We were not the only campers there. People were camped on both sides of the road for about a half mile.
Jim bought them a nice tent, but we just had the tree we were under and a piece of canvas over our beds.
Rudine and I got a job in the Del Monte Cannery right away. Dad worked some at a large fruit stand close to the camp. Eventually, he went to work on the W.P.A. Two years later, I met Leslie Reddell on July 2, 1935. Four months later, on November the first, we were married.
The depression was still on when we were married. Jobs were still scarce. Les had a new 1935 Ford car and less than $200 in the bank. We bought a two-room cabin, which was part of a motel that was being moved. Les gave $50 for the cabin and moved it to an acre lot in Gardenland, a suburb of North Sacramento. He bought the land for $10 down and $5 a month payments. At the same time, Les loaned my dad $10 to make a down payment on a lot next to ours.
Dad had bought a cabin at the motel before Les appeared on the scene. So Les and dad managed to get both cabins moved on the lots before we were married. We were married by a Methodist minister in his home with just my mother, dad, and my two sisters, Esta and Lea present.
My best friend and her husband were coming, but it started pouring down rain and they didn't arrive at the appointed time, 1:00 p.m. We decided they weren't coming, but they arrived just as the ceremony was over. We left on our honeymoon immediately. We spent our wedding night in a motel near Fresno. We stopped near Bakersfield and visited Lea Etta and Gib Nixon, Les' sister and her husband. Then we proceeded on to Los Angeles, my first visit there. We stayed two nights with Leslie's cousin, Hubert Self, and his wife, also his wife's mother and sister.
We spent some time on the beach. My first look at the ocean. We stopped at Lea Etta's on our way back. Les had previously farmed in this area and some farmer owed him some money. He gave Les a cow instead. So we borrowed a trailer and took old bossy home with us. Not everyone takes a cow home with them at the end of their honeymoon.
Les didn't have a job from November to March. We got by somehow. In March, we both went to work in the cannery when it opened up. I only worked a few weeks when I became ill and discovered I was pregnant. Our first son was born December 12, 1936.
I was extremely ill almost the whole nine months before Gene was born. Morning sickness was also afternoon sickness. This miserable illness was with me through all five of my pregnancies, but having a darling baby was always reward enough.
Harve Eugene Reddell, our first baby, was born in the Sacramento County Hospital. Les was working for Aflack Drug Store delivering medicines on a motorcycle. His salary was $12 a week. That was not enough to pay a doctor and hospital bill, so for the first and only time, we accepted welfare to pay for the birth of our baby.
By this time, we had moved our little two-room cabin and cow from one side of the city to the other. Les had traded our acre in Gardenland for a half-acre on 25th Avenue in the south part of Sacramento. Our equity in the Gardenland acre paid for the half-acre.
The day we brought our new son home from the hospital was the day our new refrigerator was delivered. Only one who has had to do without ice through many hot summers or put up with the inconvenience of an old ice box with ice in it occasionally can appreciate the luxury of a refrigerator.
Up to that time, our furnishings had consisted of a few old second-hand pieces, bed, dresser, sewing machine, table and chairs, and a three-burner coal oil stove I cooked on. A new washing machine (agitator/wringer type) and a secondhand radio we purchased after work in the cannery opened up helped a lot.
When Gene was a few months old, Les took out a loan of $1200 to build our first new home. By that time, his parents had sold their farm in Texas and had moved to California. Pop had built them a trailer house they were living in.
The day the first load of lumber was delivered for the house, the last thing I did before I went to bed that night was go out and just stand and look at it and think, at last I'm going to have a home, a real home with a bathroom. Les nor I had ever lived in a house with a bathroom. We have owned and lived in much larger and nicer homes than this one in the intervening years, but I have never had quite the same feeling for them.
Two years after building this first home, we sold it for $2200 and moved into a much nicer home, but I missed the first one like one misses a friend that has gone away. Leslie and his dad (Pop) built our first home. By that time, Les was working for a trucking company, so he helped Pop in his spare time. By the time they built our second home, Pop was building houses to sell.
While living in our first new home, our second son, Dale Leslie, was born on October 14, 1939. Our financial situation was a little better by that time. Leslieís next job after the drugstore delivery job was as a section hand on the railroad. The hardest work he ever did for 35 cents an hour was that one. He worked there one summer. Then he got the trucking job--a 75 cents an hour. The increase was a nice raise.
When Dale was born, I had a pretty young woman doctor and she agreed to a home delivery. She brought a nurse with her. Les also assisted. After the delivery, Leslieís mom stayed a couple of days with us. Then my mother came for a few days.
Not long after we built our first new home, Les built a two-room house on the back of the lot and rented it out for $10 a month. In the meantime, after renting our first little two-room cabin to a family with four children for $10 a month, Les sold it to a couple for $1000, including half of our half acre. When Dale was a few months old, we moved into our second new home in the same area of town on 16th Avenue. While living here, Les quit his trucking job and he and his brother- in-law, Gib Nixon, got a job working on Castle Air Force Base in Lemoore, California.
Gib and Lea Etta had moved to Kettleman City. We moved in with them. We just left our home in Sacramento and took our clothes with us. After staying a few weeks with Lea Etta, we rented a little one-bedroom apartment, furnished, and continued to live there until the Lemoore job ran out, about three months in all.
Gene started to kindergarten in Kettleman City. Dale had his third birthday while we were there. It had a nice little library, so I did a lot of reading. We moved back home in November.
When World War II started, Les went to work for the government at McCleland Field as a carpenter. To my regret, we sold our 16th Avenue home and moved into a government owned housing tract closer to Leslie's work. The house was roomy enough, but it was almost a shack compared to our home we moved out of. Renting was not like owning oneís home either. I really disliked living there. I missed my friends and neighbors across town. Also, I missed Leslie's folks, including his sister and family.
They had all moved back to Los Angeles. Here in Parker Tract we lived closer to my parents, but I didn't enjoy visiting them as I had in the past. As the boys grew older and rowdier, they seemed to bother my mother a lot. She was having a lot of nerve trouble.
On the 18th of August, the day after World War II was over, we moved to Los Angeles. Les drove an old secondhand pickup he had bought just to move our belongings and I drove our 1942 DeSoto.
I should put in a few words here about how World War II affected us personally. Actually, we were very fortunate. We had no one close that was in the fighting. Les wasn't drafted because he had a government job.
The rationing of sugar, shoes, and gas didn't really affect us. We managed to have all we needed. It was a terrible thing just to hear and read of the awful killings, especially when the atomic bombs were dropped. To think that many men, women, and children had to be killed before the war would end was tragic. It was wonderful news to know it was over.
As renting a house in Los Angeles was impossible, we moved into the house with Leslie's mom and pop. Before anyone moves into the home of their inlaws, they think twice. They had plenty of room in their four- bedroom house, physical room that is. My mother-in-law seemed to turn from a good friend to an enemy overnight. I can see her side of it now. They hated to refuse to let us move in with them, as we couldn't rent a house. We could have bought one, as we had over $5,000 saved up, but Les and they seemed to be against that. The idea was to wait until we could buy lumber and build our own.
Pop was selling real estate by that time. He found a good buy in an old one-bedroom house. He bought it and we rented it from him. After six months of living in someone else's home, I think I would have settled for a tent. We needed two bedrooms, but we got along fine because there was a nice sized dining room Les and I used for our bedroom. Here Gene started to school in the fifth grade and Dale in the third.
It was here we met two families that became our lifelong friends, Leslie and Lois Smith and Bob and Marvel Barchenger. It was also here that I became pregnant with our third son, Dan. By the time he arrived, Les had built us a nice two-bedroom house, and also another one, same plan, next door to it. He built these houses while working full-time at Paramount Studios.
When Dan was nine months old, we bought the farm near Porterville and moved on it the 16th of May, 1948. Les sold one of the new houses while we lived there and Pop sold the other one for us after we moved. By this time, I was again pregnant with our fourth son, Ricky.
I didn't see the farm until the day I moved on it. The house had been a garage. The living room was 9 x 20. In back of that was the kitchen and a very small bedroom. On back was an added-on bedroom, a small bathroom with no tub or shower, and a service room. There were no halls anywhere. The built-on part just had a sub floor with large cracks in between each board. Bugs, spiders, and mice never had it so good.
Moving from a new house into this was devastating to say the least. Eventually, Les made it livable but it took time. To make matters worse, my usual pregnant illness was upon me. So was the summer heat of the San Joaquin Valley, which we were very unfamiliar with. That was the most miserable summer of my life.
The day after we moved in, a dust storm blew up, the first I had seen since I lived in Texas. The things I put up with in that house were very much like the things that Betty of the book The Egg and I had to contend with on her chicken farm.
I had a stove and also neighbors that could compete with Ma and Pa Kettle. Here are a few of the nerve-racking, aggravating things that gave me a bad time when we first moved in. Mice all over the house. Cockroaches in the cupboards. The toilet stopped up. Hunks of tar in the water. No cooler. A little oil stove to cook on. No tub or shower. Mosquitos so thick we all looked like we had measles in no time.
When I hung out my clothes, I would hang a few pieces then take out time to scratch my legs. Our water was pumped into an overhead tank. The tank was sealed with tar which caused the hunks of tar in the water. There was an underground tank that wasn't being used, so Les re-lined it with cement and put our house water in there. No more tar. Les put out poison grain for the mice but they thrived on it. I finally got rid of them by finding every place they could get in and nailing lids out of tin cans over them.
About the time I decided we would have to turn the cabinet over to the roaches, Les found a spray that got rid of them. It took a week to unstop the toilet. Les took it outside, let it set in the sun a few days, then removed a block of wood someone had put in it. The sun caused the wood to shrink so it could be removed.
Eventually, Les built a shower; finished it with rough cement. He also covered the sub floor. He built a room on the front for the boys bedroom and made a dining room out of the little bedroom.
When Ricky was about a year old, he built a side room on for Rick and Dan. Nothing was finished; nothing was nice. It didnít matter how much I cleaned or repainted. I just couldn't keep things clean or pretty looking.
The boys tracked sand and dirt in faster than I could sweep it out. We had no lawn. I tried to raise a few flowers, but the dogs and chickens dug and scratched them up. One summer, worms became a pest. When I put Rick and Dan to bed for the night, I would have to spend time killing worms about an inch long that crawled up the walls.
When Ricky was about two years old, an irrigation canal was put in right beside our house. I didn't have a moment of peace after that for worrying that one of the little boys might fall in and drown.
Despite all the worries and drawbacks of living on the farm, it was good for Les and the older boys. It got the boys out of a big city and they learned how to work. Les had back trouble when we moved there. On the farm, he didn't have to do heavy lifting, so his back trouble cleared up.
One of the big disappointments of my married life was that I didnít have a daughter. So in the fifth and last year that we lived in that old farm house, I became pregnant for the last time. We had been married 19 years when our daughter, Sheril, was born.
By the time Sheril arrived, Les had built us a big three-bedroom home. What a pleasure to live in a nice home again. I wasnít looking forward to raising another little one by that canal, so I was very pleased when Les sold the farm when Sheril was two and we moved into Porterville--into a new three- bedroom home Les had just finished. By this time, Gene had graduated from high school and had started to junior college.
Two months after leaving the farm, we discovered a lump under Ricky's arm. That began five years of worry and heartbreak. I was never the same after that. I knew we would lose Ricky from the beginning, and I had to learn how to give him up. I didnít think I could endure it, but God showed me the way. Nevertheless, when the time came, it was almost more than I could bear.
We left the farm after living there for eight years, from 1948 to 1956. Even though we had built a new home three years before, I was glad to leave for many reasons. I didn't like living on the farm. The main one was my fear of one of my little ones drowning in the canal that bordered our yard on two sides. We moved into a three-bedroom house in Porterville that Les had just built.
For the next four years, Les built houses to sell. Our two older sons, Gene and Dale, both graduated from Porterville High School and then attended Porterville Junior College. Gene started working at the State Hospital and Dale followed his dad into the building business. They both married Porterville girls. Gene and Lynda Jones were married March 4, 1958. Within a year, our first grandchild, Kris, arrived. A year and a half later, his sister, Priscilla Anne, arrived. Now their family was complete.
Dale married Billie Zakrezski on August 11, 1961. Before long, we had another grandson, Randy, and eleven months later his brother, Rusty, arrived. That made their family complete.
We moved to Cayucos, California, July 6, 1960. Les continued to build houses for sale. The market for selling houses wasn't any better on the coast than in Porterville. In fact, it got worse. We sold some houses without a down payment.
Our daughter, Sheril, started kindergarten in Cayucos. Dan was in eighth grade and Ricky was in the seventh.
Ricky was only 14 when the Hodgkinís Disease took him away. I was so touched when they let school out the day of the funeral so his friends could attend. Later, we were presented with money that his friends had collected. We used it to buy his headstone, which says ďFrom All His Cayucos Friends.Ē However, this was the worst time of my life.
We left Cayucos after six years and moved to Morro Bay in 1966 where Les had built a beautiful beachfront house.
I love living near the beach, walking on it, gathering shells, and lying on the warm sand. The scene of the waves rolling in on the beach from my front windows and the stunning view of Morro Rock is so wonderful.
Dorothy Reddell, 1970.