Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Lottie's Photos: Terry's First Birthday, 1943

Terry and Mom - both looking stylish
This photo stands out for me because it shows my mother looking rather glamorous. It’s not how I saw her but I think it may be how she saw herself – at least when she was that age. This photo was taken on Terry’s first birthday and he is looking quite smart in his sailor suit. Mom would have been 23 and everything she’s wearing says style – the flowing dress – no doubt one she made for herself and possibly designed, the shoes, the nylons, the necklace, her makeup and the hairstyle all look fabulous. Of course, her slender figure helps a lot too. I have that necklace now and remember her wearing it. It has 8 stones on the face that I suppose are small diamonds and inside there is a photo of her and my father. I don’t know for sure but it looks like it may have been a gift from dad.

The look she is giving Terry says a lot too – “we’ll young man, what do you think about being one year old?”

In her diary mom wrote that they went to see Bert and Marge, then both sets of grandparents. She recorded each of the gifts Terry received which included two bonds – one for $5 from Gramma and Grandpa Thornally and a $25 bond from her and Dad. I guess that was something families did during the war years. Somehow, there was still time that day for my father to plant vegetable seeds in his garden and to put a coat of varnish on Terry’s toy chest.

Friday, October 9, 2020

Lottie's Photo:


Kathy, Dad and Terry in Dad's vegetable garden

I love this photo partly because my father and siblings all look so adorable but also because it clearly shows how much pleasure and pride my father took in his vegetable garden. Practically the first thing Mom wrote about after they purchased their first home on Elsie Avenue in San Leandro is the fact that Dad was outside working on planting a vegetable garden. This turned out to be a life long endeavor. Years later when I was young I remember how Dad would come home from work, covered in white dust from the sheetrock he’d been hanging all day. He would make a mess of washing up at the kitchen sink. Then he would turn around, give my mother a big hug and a sloppy kiss.

Typically, he would take a nap before dinner, then after dinner, he’d be out working in his garden. We had an apple, apricot, plum, two orange trees and a walnut tree that all produced fruit and nuts. For many years there were blackberry vines and a few raspberries. Dad always planted a large area with corn, lots of tomatoes, multiple types of squash – all of which I hated, cucumbers, and beans. He also planted potatoes and onions which he stored in a dark shed after harvesting and they lasted that way for months. We also had rhubarb and artichoke plants. In later years, after I’d left home, he grew fava beans.

Prepping the soil, doing the planting and watering and tending all this was a big, on-going job. Most of the work was done by Dad but Mom and I sometimes helped with the planting and Terry and I were often charged with watering and harvesting. Throughout the summer mom did a LOT of canning and freezing to store the proceeds to last through winter – nothing better than home-grown corn from our freezer in December. Everyone was involved with pie making and fruit canning – Dad or Terry would pick the fruit, Mom would prepare it, Kathy or I would make the dough and assemble the pies which Mom would bake, and of course, we all enjoyed eating them.

Friday, September 25, 2020

Lottie's Photos: World War II, 1939 - 1945

Dad's brother Bert on the right, 1943

My father did not serve in the military during World War II but that does not mean our family was not impacted by the war. It is not something that our parents talked about – at least not during my lifetime which began five years after the war ended. Now, as I read Mom’s diaries, I am learning about the many ways that the war did impact them very directly and I can imagine that it would have been a stressful and frightening time. 

The war began in Europe in 1939 but Mom commented on the war very little prior to the bombing at Pearl Harbor. She made a couple of comments about Gramma Pattillo being concerned that Bert would be drafted but otherwise the war was not something she wrote about.

Then Japan bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. On that day she wrote, “Today is a day that none of us will ever forget. Japan declared war on the United States. Over 300 were killed in a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. Two British ships The Repulse and Prince of Wales were sunk. We had dinner with Ed’s folks and had the radio on all afternoon listening to news reports. It made me so upset that finally I got Ed to take me to the show. Ma went too, but Pop stayed home and listened to the radio. The show was empty. Everyone was home listening to war reports.” 

The next day she went shopping in San Francisco with her mother and wrote that all the Japanese-owned shops were closed. There was a blackout that day and 30 Japanese warplanes flew over San Francisco. “Everyone is frightened.” 

On December 9th she wrote that her father did not get home from work until after 8:00 PM because he got caught in a blackout and traffic was stopped for 45 minutes. Over 1500 Americans had been killed, and the government was asking citizens to stay home at night, keep their lights off, and have sandbags and buckets of water handy in case of fires. Hundreds of people had quit their jobs so they could enlist. 

Mom even signed up for civil defense work but as far as she wrote she never actually did any, whereas Grandma Pattillo did volunteer work by folding bandages at the Oakland Army Base. Mom went Christmas shopping on December 10th but all the stores closed at 4:45 because of the danger of air raids. Then on December 12th she wrote about a blackout that lasted two and a half hours, so she and dad just went to bed early. 

Food rationing was another way they were directly impacted. Mom frequently commented on the difficulty of getting meat, butter and sugar. In March of 1943 she wrote, “we are allowed sixteen pounds per week of meat, cheese, oil and fat, plus 1 pound of round steak and one pound of butter.” Not only was the quantity of meat limited but the quality was also reduced. She noted that things got worse when her favorite butcher was drafted. Coffee was rationed and they were only allotted four gallons of gasoline per week.

During the war people were encouraged to plant Victory Gardens to help compensate for food shortages. Mom and Dad always had a garden and mom was doing a lot of canning of what they produced but finding enough sugar for fruit canning was a challenge. Dad was growing corn, carrots, beets, spinach, squash, cucumbers, cauliflower, tomatoes, lettuce, cantaloupe, beans, watermelon and parsley in his garden. 

The threat of Dad being drafted was a constant and kept changing throughout the course of the war. On January 3, 1944 he was notified by the draft board that his status was rated 1A. That was eleven days before Kathy was christened so he had a wife and two young children, which worked to his benefit. On February 18th they learned that he had passed his military physical and was told he would likely be called up in 21 to 90 days. Mom must have been worried sick. It was at this point that Dad started to teach mom to drive so she would be able to take care of things if he had to leave. 

Dad applied for a deferment but in April he learned that his application was denied. To avoid being drafted he had to find work in the defense industry, so for a short time in April of 1940 he worked with his father-in-law at Union Iron Works in Oakland. Dad liked the work and tried to join the union but the union bosses would not let him join, so Dad was forced to find work elsewhere. During this time, he worked for several different trucking companies delivering gasoline. 

Their anxiety would have been compounded as their friend's and Dad’s brother Bert were drafted or enlisted. Bert quit a job he didn’t like and to avoid being drafted he signed up for the Seabees. Mom has a few photos in her album that Bert sent home like the one above taken in 1943. Cliff Gossett and Harold Mohr, two of their closest friends, both enlisted in the Marines and coincidentally were shipped out, to San Diego for training, on the same day – May 22, 1944. The two of them fought in a battle in Okinawa. That same day in May, Dad’s draft status was changed to 2A until November 26th, so they had a six-month reprieve. Fortunately, six months later he got another deferment. Then in April of 1945 he was again notified that his status was 1A. This time he applied for a deferment based on his job at Union Iron Works. 

Marge’s brother-in-law Kenny Philbrick was sent to England for his service leaving his wife Mary and Marge to help with the milk delivery service he worked for. Ernie Moore escaped the draft when he was labeled 4F for having flat feet. 

In July Bert was transferred to Camp Hueneme which was near Los Angeles. Later he was sent to Rhode Island and Marge flew there to see him. In October he was home on leave and then he was sent to Hawaii, and then in March of 1945 he was sent to Guam. 

The Germans surrendered on May 8, 1945. That same day Dad’s latest deferment request was denied. The following month their very close friend Harold Mohr was injured during combat. A bullet hit him in the neck. Initially, he could only speak in a whisper and for the rest of his life he had a unique gravelly voice. Harold was transferred to Mare Island and for a time and he and Mickey lived together in a Quonset hut on the base. 

In August of 1945 she wrote that, “gas rationing ended, blue points were withdrawn, red points were lowered and lots of priorities and rules were changed.” In September their friend Cliff Gossett was sent to China but he was back in San Diego by December. Jessie left her newborn son Clifford with mom for a few days so she could go see Cliff. At the same time, Marge was looking for an apartment to rent in Alameda anticipating Bert being released soon. Bert and Cliff both got home on December 11, 1945, and everyone’s lives began to go back to normal.

Saturday, September 19, 2020

Lottie's Photos: Mickey and Harold Mohr, 1946


Harold and Mickey Mohr with Terry
in Garberville, CA

I love this photo of Mom and Dad’s friends Mickey and Harold Mohr that was taken on May 30, 1946, with my brother Terry who looks particularly relaxed with them. Terry looks so cute in the shirt and jumper that Mom made for him and his two-tone saddle shoes. You can see that he is on his way to his six-foot four-inch ultimate height.

This photo was taken at a cabin in Garberville, California. Harold’s parents owned an inn there and that is where they stayed. Dad and Harold went abalone fishing with three other friends and between the five of them they caught 33 abalones.

Mom wrote that Kathy enjoyed the weekend but she said Terry didn’t but she did not say what he didn’t like about it. They went swimming in the Eel River and apparently spent the evenings doing some serious drinking because mom wrote in her diary of having a hangover the next day. Despite that she said it was a wonderful trip.

Their penchant for partying actually got both couples evicted from their apartments in January 1941. They spent so much time with Mickey and Harold during the early years of their marriage that Dad’s brother Bert actually complained of being jealous of their friendship.

Mom and Mickey stayed in touch with Christmas cards and occasional phone calls for the rest of their lives though their friendship was not as close in later years. Reading a diary from 1989 Mom expressed disappointment that Mickey and Harold did not attend their 50th wedding anniversary party. Then she chose to skip their anniversary a few months later.

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Lottie's Photos: Kathy, November 11, 1943


Kathy 6 months, Terry 28 months. Taken in the backyard  of their 
Elsie Avenue home in San Leandro

My sister Kathy was born about a year and a half after my brother Terry. On April 2nd, 1943 mom wrote this in her diary, “Today I’m tired and don’t feel well. I’ve been sick to my stomach for a week new. I’m about two weeks late so I hope it doesn’t mean what it might. We stayed home tonite for a change to catchup a little on our sleep.” Seven months later she was absolutely thrilled to have a baby girl.

It was a difficult time. Our paternal grandfather was ill and Terry was a teething toddler. Food and other items were being rationed because World War II had begun and she was worried that our father would be drafted.

On November 9th she wrote that she was ready to give birth. On November 11th Dad got her to the hospital at 7:30 PM. They took her to the delivery room at 8:15 and Kathy was born at 9:00 weighing 8 pounds. I guess she really was ready. On the 12th Mom wrote, “Gee, am I happy. A girl! I can’t believe it.”

She stayed in the hospital for five days and when she got home her friend Mickey Mohr was there to help, as was Mom’s mother Emma and Mom’s lifelong friend Mickey Risoli who got a seven day leave from the WAVES to spend time helping as well. With all that help Mom was able to stay in bed and rest until November 24th, which seems like a shockingly long time these days when doctors have you up walking on the same day of having knee surgery.

It seems everyone was happy to have a girl. On December 9th Mom wrote that they had Ma and Pop Pattillo over for dinner and Gramma had Kathie in her lap the entire evening. Interesting that Mom spelled Kathie with an “ie” when she was first born. Her actual name is Kathleen but no one ever called her that.

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Lottie's Photos: The World's Fair at Treasure Island, 1939

In 1939 there were two World’ Fairs – one in New York and one in San Francisco. The San Francisco fair was also known as the Golden Gate Exposition and took place on Treasure Island. The fair began on February 18 and ended October 29 in 1939. It was held in part to celebrate the completion of the construction of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge in 1936 and the Golden Gate bridge in 1937.

Mom and Dad visited the fair multiple times. Their first visit was shortly after it opened on March 13, 1939. Mom particularly liked the lights and the “Gayway”. They saw the Mississippi Building, and the Ford, Chrysler, Foods, and Peru Buildings. She wrote, “We ate dinner at the Jolly Roger, left about midnight and got home at 2 AM. I’m so happy and I love Ed so much. We were together 16 hours and if felt like 6.”

They went back to the fair on April 23rd – that’s when this photo was taken. It shows Mom sitting on the edge of the fountain in the Court of Reflections. During this visit they saw the California Building, the Mine, Metals and Machinery Building, the Mission Trails Building, and lots of others. She commented on how beautiful the flowers were and said they saw Doug Corrigan’s plane. They ended their day going to see the Folies Bergère.

Their third visit was on July 9th when they went with Dad’s parents. That day they saw the Horseshow – “the Canadian Mounted Police were the best.” They visited the Chinese Village and most of the foreign buildings.

Their last visit to the fair was on October 15, 1939 when she wrote, “the cars were so thick it took us two hours to get over the bridge to the island.” That day they saw the Petroleum Building. She noted that they saw all of the buildings at the fair, that there were 135,000 visitors that day, and before they left they stayed to watch the fireworks.

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Lottie's Photos: Big Basin State Park, 1939

Warden's Office in Big Basin State Park, California

Mom visited Big Basin State Park at least twice. On August 4, 1936 when she was sixteen, she wrote, “Bob Smith, Ellen, Dorothy, Aggie and I hitch-hiked to Brookdale and then back with a bunch of fellows. They came back about 1:00 and took us to Santa Cruz and then Big Basin. Dorothy, Bob and I rode in the turtleback, Aggie, Ellen and two fellows in front. Had a lot of fun. Got home 2 AM. Bob necks terrible.” So, what’s a “Turtleback”? Google shows a photo of a bright yellow 1936 Plymouth Turtleback sedan. Looks like a car with a spacious backseat – ideal for necking. Dorothy and Aggie were two of Mom’s Menge cousins. In 1936 Mom spent a lot of time at her Uncle Henry and Aunt Mae’s cabin in Ben Lomand. This would have been before her father bought their cabin in neighboring Brookdale.

She also spent the 4th of July at Big Basin in 1939 and that is when she would have taken this photograph. She and Dad, Bert and Marge, Dad’s parents, Mom’s parents and Marge’s parents all spent the day together which she wrote was very cold. Mom, Dad, Bert and Marge hiked to the Green Caves “but we were very disappointed. We played horse shoes and ball. Got home at 7:30. Then Ed and I went to Alameda and watched fireworks from Treasure Island.”

The building in this photograph and all the other structures in Big Basin State Park – California’s second oldest park – were destroyed in August of 2020 during one of the dozens of lightning-caused fires. Today, as I write this story, is the eeriest day I’ve experienced in my lifetime in California because smoke from these fires is blocking the sunlight and has turned day to night. Looking out our windows all I see is an unearthly orange glow.