Les and Dorothy Reddell

By Dan Reddell

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JBDotGuitar.jpg (68198 bytes)  momdad39ford.jpg (51904 bytes)  Les and Dorothy met as a result of old family ties. Several fathers in the Reddell, James, Swan, and Shelton families were killed fighting on the Confederate side of the Civil War. After the end of the war, segments of these families left Mississippi, Georgia, and Alabama and settled in Arkansas, Texas, and Oklahoma. 

Dorothy's father, James Bowman James, made his living picking cotton and holding two week music schools, much like revival meetings, in which a whole town would participate. 

J.B. James' partner was Leo Dunn, the brother of his J.B.'s first wife, Margie Dunn. After Margie died giving birth to their seventh child, the families went their separate ways. 

Leo and his wife, Lena, went to a new town that was formed on the panhandle of Texas called Amherst where they became neighbors of William Harve and Anna Novella Reddell. The Dunn's son, Joe, became best friends with the Reddell's son, Les.

J.B. met and married Ida Pearl Swan. They homesteaded a parcel of land in Clayton, New Mexico where J.B. tried to raise cotton, but the weather was not suitable. Here, in a dugout with dirt floors, Ida gave birth to Dorothy in 1916. Later they moved to Childress Texas, near Lubbock.

In the early 1930s, all the families were experiencing the hardships of the dustbowl era. Dorothy was picking cotton with her father one day, and when they weighed the cotton at the trailer, there was more sand in the sack than cotton. Her father said it was time to go to California.

 The trip west was a "grapes of wrath" story, but Dorothy said it was the greatest adventure of her life. They landed in Eugene Oregon, but ended up in Sacramento, California, in 1933.

Les was picking cotton with his sister, Lea Etta, and her husband, Gilbert Nixon, one day on the Reddell farm in Amherst, Texas, when a similar thing happened. Les, tired of the sand and drought, threw down his cotton sack and told Lea Etta and Gib he was going to California. They said they were coming with him. Their trip was easier. Les had a brand new 1935 Ford but barely enough money for gas.

Joe Dunn met up with Les Reddell in Bakersfield California. Les had leased a farm and was growing cotton. Joe was a musician and Les played the guitar. Before long they had a band called the Oklahoma Night Riders and were playing on an experimental Television station, sponsored by the Bakersfield Ford agency.

One day, Joe told Les they should go to Sacramento and visit his "Uncle Jim, who had a real pretty daughter named Dorothy." Les said "That's the girl I'm going to marry."  And that is the way it turned out.

Dorothy and Les had the following children:

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1. Gene Reddell was born December 12, 1936, in Sacramento, CA. 

2. Dale Leslie Reddell was born October 14, 1939 in Sacramento, CA. 

3. Daniel Lynn Reddell was born August 4, 1947, in Los Angeles, CA. 

4. Richard James Reddell was born December 21, 1948, in Porterville, CA. Richard died January 30, 1962 at 14 years of age, in Cayucos, CA. 

5. Sheril Ilene Reddell was born December 11, 1954, in Porterville, CA.

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1. Les & Dorothy just after getting married on Nov. 1, 1935. 2. Les delivering drugs for Afleck pharmacy in Sacramento. A big change from picking cotton & farming for a living. 3. Les & Dorothy with their first son, Gene.

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1. Gene and Dale with their grandmother, "Mom", Novella Reddell during the war years. 2. The family just after Dan was born in L.A. and just before moving to the new farm in a small town near Porterville in the San Joaquin Valley, CA. 3. Gene, Les holding Dan, and Dale, just after moving to the farm in 1947.

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1. Les and Dan & the new 1953 DeSoto. 2. Dale, Dan, Gene in front of a vehicle that would be a big part of their farm life--the haybailer. 3. Gene & Dale with the 1953 Chevy pickup, and essential farm tool.

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1. The family on a picnic at Bartlett Park in the early 1950s, a beautiful park in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains, just outside of Porterville. The park is now at the bottom of Success Lake. 2. Ricky and Danny waiting for the bus to take them to Pleasant View school in the community of Poplar. 3. The family just after the birth of Sheril, the daughter Dorothy longed for. Dorothy took the photo, circa 1956.

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1. Roby Street in Porterville. Les sold the farm and moved the family into the city of Porterville, where he began building "spec" houses full time. This is where Ricky was diagnosed with Hodgkins Disease, a fatal lymphoma at that time. 2. Gene, his new 1957 Ford, Dan, Ricky, Dorothy, Les, and Sheril. 3. Les, Sheril, Ricky, Dan and a small trailer Les borrowed to take the family on vacation to Morro Bay for Dan's 10th birthday in 1957.

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1. Les working on the cabin in Camp Nelson, a vacation place in the Sierra Nevadas above Porterville. 2. Dan learns how to fish for trout. 3. Dan and Sheril on the pier in Cayucos fishing during a run of Red Snappers.

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1. Ricky, Sheril, Dan, Les & Dorothy. Since Dan has the camera, the family must be on vacation somewhere.  2. Dorothy in the kitchen of her new house on Cobb Ave., in Porterville. This was the nicest home Les had built for the family up to that date--1959. 3. The boys at Christmas, 1959.

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1. Dorothy and Sheril with Dale's 1957 Ford behind. 2. Les, Sheril and Ricky in the small boat Les bought to take the family out on Morro Bay. It is parked in the back yard of the first house Les built in Cayucos, just as the freeway to Hearst Castle was being constructed- 1960. 3. Ricky in Cayucos as his life was coming to a close.

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1. Dan on steps of new oceanfront home on Beachcomber Dr. in Morro Bay, 1965. 2. Les sold son Dale the Beachcomber home in 1975 and he and Dorothy bought a home Dale was building in Atascadero, CA, 20 miles inland. 3. Dorothy and Les spent much of their time traveling and camping in a variety of vehicles. After the fifth-wheel trailer, they purchased and used R.V.s

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Dorothy and Les Reddell at their fiftieth wedding anniversary in 1985. They had raised five children, four to adulthood, and were enjoying good health and a good life. At the time of the photo, they were living in Atascadero, CA. After Les died in December of 1992, Dorothy continued living in Atascadero until 1999. 

She continued to take the R.V. camping with her camping club, taking widowed camping members with her, until the day the brakes gave out on a steep descent on a mountain road. The R.V. hit the lead vehicle and pushed it over the edge of the road where it traveled down a steep embankment into a ravine. She was able to bring the R.V. to a stop. Fortunately, no one was injured. Dorothy gave up her wild ways soon after and moved to Morro Bay, near her children. 

She enjoyed going to the gym, meeting with her sewing club, participating in the Art Association, and helping the Newcomers Club until her death August 30, 2002. 

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Email Dan Reddell: bayshoredan@aol.com