Thursday, March 11, 2010

Dogs and Other Pets I Have Known

It seems like when I was a kid we always had a dog, fish, turtles, birds or all of the aforementioned. There was generally always a dog. They were my favorites. Most of the time they had a much longer life span the the other creatures we had. All the fish and turtles ended up in the "pet cemetery" in the back yard with a match box as a coffin. Of course, we always had a full blown ceremony to mark their passing and then promptly went about playing catch or retrieve it with the dog.

The first dogs I remember was brought home by my brothers. The story goes, that they found them in a burned out tree stump in a cotton field. Their mother had decided it was time for them to get along without her and was nowhere to be found, so Joe and Charlie brought two puppies home. One for my Sister Geneva, they named him Sandy and one for me and they named him Rusty. Original, don't you think. I'm sure you can tell by their names what color they were, they appeared to be full blood German Shepard. Well, Rusty followed me everywhere I went and one day he followed me to the outhouse. This outhouse was family sized, it was a two seater. Don't ask! I don't know why they would build a two seater. I think that carrying family time a bit too far. Being only about four years old, I assumed when Rusty whined to get up where I was, that he wanted to go potty, so, I helped up on the seat. You can probably guess what happened next. I was in sooooo much trouble. They had to move the outhouse back off the hole and lower my mother down so she could rescue the puppy. I never quite understood why, but, shortly after that, momma found a new home for Rusty. Sandy grew up to be a really great dog, Rin Tin Tin type dog. He was very protective of the whole family, but, especially us kids. Geneva and I used to take him with us when we went to the store. He would set at the door and wait for us to come out. If a man was walking toward us, Sandy would put himself between us and the man. He was never trained to do this, we were his kids and he watched over us. When we still lived on the Limoneira Ranch we had to keep him tied in the front yard a lot and this one boy named Buddy would walk by and tease Sandy. It turned out later that Buddy was related to the people we lived next door to after we moved into Santa Paula. One day Buddy was visiting and we were all playing softball in the neighbors back yard. Sandy and the neighbor dog Trixie were setting on the sidelines watching us play and chasing after stray balls. Well, someone threw the ball, someone hit the ball, and Geneva ran after the ball. Then it happened. Buddy pushed Geneva out of his way and just as he reached the ball, Sandy reached him. Three days later they released Buddy from the hospital and sent him home to continue his recovery. Poor Sandy couldn't understand why he had to be tied in the back yard. He had after all, only done his job, protecting Geneva. After Sandy developed a game called kill the chickens and pile them on the porch, momma and daddy decided they needed to find him a home in the country where he had room to run. A rancher came by to see him and decided he was just what he needed to guard the gas pumps on the ranch. A week later he brought him back and said he was too good at the job. No one could get near the pumps but the rancher, the hired hands couldn't get much done with empty gas tanks in all the equipment. We gave him away two more times only to find him waiting on the steps of the school when we came out. The last time I saw Sandy, I put him in the car of the fourth person we gave him to. I always thought he stayed that time because one of his kids put him in the car and told him good buy. I kept looking for him for months, expecting to find him waiting after school. I hope he liked his new home. I really loved that dog. (more to follow)

Monday, January 18, 2010

Games We Used to Play

Remembering the house in Santa Paula made me think of how we kids used to entertain ourselves before the technology age. I thought myself fortunate to have one doll who's eyes had not been poked out by a niece or nephew. I loved my dolls, even the ones that had been maimed. One of my favorite rainy day past times was my box full of paper dolls. I remember begging momma for the old Sears & Roebuck catalogs, which was where a lot of my paper dolls came from along with the furniture I cut out for their houses. I learned early on that I could paste a picture of a chair to a piece of cardboard, cut a slit in the bottom and make a stand for them. I spent hours playing in my room pretending. I had Barbie & Ken long before someone started manufacturing them.
Outdoor games with the neighborhood kids included games like Mother May I, Simon Says, Red Rover and a favorite if there were only two of us, was Annie, Annie Over. One of us would stand in the front yard and one in back. We'd holler, Annie Annie Over and through the ball as hard as we could to clear the roof and go over the house. The person receiving would have to guess by the sound of the bounce where the ball was going to end up. Fun, Fun, Fun. Then there was always playing Hide & Seek in the scary church yard next door. Hiding in the shadows of the big stone wall or down in the basement stairs. There was this huge tree in the neighbors yard with a rope tied to one of the limbs. We used to climb up on the fence and swing off on the rope playing Tarzan & Jane, or I preferred to pretend to be Sheena of the Jungle. I still have a scar on my side where I caught a nail on that fence. I remember, too, that I could climb up easier then I could climb down. I followed the older kids up on the roof of the garage, they all climbed down, but, I was stuck, too afraid to climb down. My hero, big brother Joe, came to my rescue. He could have told me to jump off the roof of our two story house and I would have trusted him to catch me.
That reminds me of another time my hero was there when I needed him. My sister, Geneva and I had been to the library. When we came out it was pouring down rain and the wind was blowing like crazy. We had and umbrella, but, the wind turned it wrong side out. Then we finally reached our street and were standing across from our house. I looked down at the raging river that running down the gutter and had a vision of being swept away and into the drain at the end of the block. Geneva didn't have a whole lot of patience with her little sister, so she jumped the raging river and ran home leaving me there screaming in absolute terror at what I thought my fate might be. Then, there he was! Coming across the street was big brother Joe. He straddled the raging river, picked me up in his arms, gave me a comforting hug and carried me home. How I loved him.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

A Little More History

Before the war daddy went to work at Limoniera Ranch just outside Santa Paula, California. As I recall his duties were irrigation and setting out and lighting smudge pots when the temperature dropped into the 30's. Limoniera was mostly lemon groves and if the temperature dropped below freezing it would ruin the crop of lemons. Wind machines had not been invented yet, so the only way to keep the fruit from freezing was to set out these metal pots with things on top like chimneys and round bottoms filled with coal oil. When those things were burning through the wee hours of the morning, you would wake up with black soot in your nose and ears. Pretty gross! During some of that time, momma worked in the packing house, sorting, wrapping and packing lemons. Yes, they used to be individually wrapped. We lived in a little house on the ranch that I think was part of daddy's compensation for his work. A mexican family lived next door to us and introduced our family to tortillas. We haven't quit eating them yet. I remember my brother Charley trying to wrap momma's oakie beans up in them the way he had seen the mexican's wrap their refried beans in them. He had a terrible time trying to eat it that way. You could tell he hadn't been long off the farm.

When the war began in 1941 Daddy got a job at the Port Hueneme Navy Base, so we moved into town. I still remember the address, 133 Davis Street, Santa Paula, CA. The house was a big two story house with three bedrooms and a bathroom upstairs. The downstairs consisted of a large entry, french doors off the entry into the living room, next was the dining room, to the left of the dining room was the kitchen and a small eating area and a very large walk-in pantry, actually a small room, lined with shelves and room for the icebox. On past the dining room was a small bedroom with an outside entrance that led to the driveway. Beyond that room was large bedroom and a bathroom. In the very front of the house there was a sunporch that ran from the front porch all the way across the front. When you came up on the front porch, you could enter the house through the main door or go to the left and enter through the sunporch and through more french doors into the living room. We lived in that house for four years, longer than any other house until I married. There was another room on that house that was not accessable from inside the house. It was just a small room with a private entrance. Momma rented that room out to a man that worked with daddy at the base. She also rented out one of the bedrooms upstairs. There were so many people who had left family at home and come to where they could get work. The depression really wasn't over for most people until the war began and many people think that is all that brought our economy back. One thing is for sure, when the war started, if you wanted to work, you could find a job.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Setting the Stage

With the beginning of a new year and another birthday looming on the horizon, I can't help but consider my own mortality. It seems more important then ever to pass on to my family the history that I grew up hearing stories about and the history that I lived. These things that shaped who I am and where I came from should not be lost in the struggles of everday life, they should be told and retold from generation to generation and being the only one left to remember, I will try to pass it on to those of you who will read this. ( The picture is of me and my sister Geneva, taken in the year of my birth.)

My parents migrated from Oklahoma to California in the summer of 1935. They came with everything they owned and five children loaded on an old 1920 something pickup truck. They worked as they went and bartered with things they had for things they needed. They had left the farm in the midst of the great depression and the Oklahoma dust bowl. They came and worked in the fields of California, the not so kind word for them was Okie and the less kind word was fruit tramp. My parents were proud, hard working people not used to handouts and refusing to take any. When they got to Pasadena, daddy got a job with the WPA, which was a government program to put people to work building the infrastructure of many towns and cities. You can still see plaques on some corner sidwalks marked with a government seal and the letters WPA on them. I don't remember these times because I was born a year and a half after they got to California.

The history that I lived and remember first hand is when our country was in the midst of World War II. Both of my brothers were over seas, Joe in Europe and Charley in Asia. Things here at home were less then wonderful. I remember rationing, you couldn't just go buy a bag of sugar or a pair of shoes. You had to have rationing stamps for those items. Everything was going into the war effort. The people at home only got a limited amount of those things that were also needed for our armed forces. They came first and we were, at least in our home, content with that. We were patriotic (I still am). My sister, Geneva and I took our dimes to school and bought stamps that we pasted in a book. When the book was full we would redeem the book for a US Savings Bond, at that time referred to as War Bonds. Even the children in grade school were proud to do their part. I remember washing out tin cans, cutting the bottom out of them, crushing them and putting them in a box along with foil we had taken off gum wrappers and cigarette packs. These were set out at the curb for the Boy Scouts to pick up along with the newspapers . You see, your generation didn't start the recycle thing. It was in full swing in the 40's, we even saved and recycled string. Don't ask me what they used old string for. But, we all did what the government asked us to do for the war effort.