My Story, page 8
by Dorothy (James) Reddell
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 one's 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 in-laws, they should 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 didn't 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 Ricky 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 didn't 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 wasn't 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 didn't 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 Hodgkin's 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 to buy his headstone, which says "From All His Cayucos Friends." 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 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