My Story, page 7
by Dorothy (James) Reddell
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.
Up 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. 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 only 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, Helen Cooper, and her husband Don 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. Leslie's 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 home delivery. She brought a nurse with her. Les also assisted. After the delivery, Leslie's mom stayed a couple of days with us. Then my mother came for a few days.