Friday, July 29, 2011

British Columbia to California: 1958-1960


     Annie and I were born in 1954-5.
     By 1958, the family was living in Vancouver, B.C. But, from the beginning, Manny and Edith sought to live, not in Canada, but in the U.S.
     Based on a conversation taped on Thursday, July 28, 2011:

U.S.A. TRIP #1 (1958)

First leg of the 1958 trip
When did we first visit the U.S.A.?

   Manny: The first time was in 1958. The plan was to take the northern route across the country, all the way to St. Catharines (a city near Niagara Falls, Canada), where Omi and Opa had their farm. They hadn’t seen you kids yet and they wanted to see their grandchildren.
   So off we went. We had everything with us, including a double –bladed axe, which I still have! At the border, the guy asked me, “What the hell you gonna do with that?” I explained: “where we come from, you sometimes find that a tree has fallen across the road, and if you don’t want to wait a week, you just get out your axe and deal with it yourself.”

   So we went across the border into Washington State and headed toward the Grand Coulee Dam, which was pretty barren then. We stayed overnight there[?].
   Manny: we’d drive along these roads to the east, and, at least by the time we were in Idaho and Montana, we’d come across these grain elevators, where the road would suddenly turn right, then left, then left, and then right—to get around the elevator. The first time we came upon one of those “detours,” we nearly didn’t stop in time. There were no signs, no warnings!
   So you didn’t want to be driving along thinking the road would keep going straight forever. Because it wouldn’t.

Santa Monica, c. 1960
   Manny: I recall one day—I think it was in Montana—I wanted to buy a beer, so I stopped at some roadside place and bought one. I gave the guy a twenty and he gave me 19 dollars and 50 cents in silver. They didn’t believe in paper money there. So you’d walk around with a pound of coins in your pocket.

   The route we were on tended to follow the railroad. We just drove and drove—through Montana, North Dakota, Minnesota. –Mostly following these grain elevators.

   One time, a cop pulled me over. I asked, “officer, is something wrong?” He said, “I just wanted to see what a British Columbia license looks like. Be on your way.”

   Our plan was to take the U.S. northern route, visit in St. Catharines, then to catch Route 66 all the way to Santa Monica, CA.

   On our way east, we went through Chicago then Cleveland. Along Lake Erie, the traffic congestion was terrible.

Anything memorable about Chicago?

   We somehow ended up in black neighborhoods, and those areas were strange, with fruit crates and apple crates used for furniture. Broken windows. People walking in and out as though they were all related. But then they’d have a fancy car in front of the house! We didn’t understand that at all.
   Anyway, I got lost. I was looking for the Calumet Skyway. A black guy rolled up beside me and said, “You're lost?” I said that I was. I told him I was looking for the skyway. He said, “I’ll take you to it.” And he did. He drove us there. I said, “Thank you sir,” and that was that.
   We spent a day cruising around Chicago. We drove along Lakeshore Drive, which had these strange “absolute” speed limits. If you were in the fast lane, you were to go 50 mph. If you were in the next lane over, you were to go 40, and so on. But it was funny, ‘cause, when we were there, nobody was going any speed. We just sat there in this horrible traffic, goin' nowhere.

   I remember that Lake Erie seemed to go on forever.

   I remember Cleveland, Ohio, where I got lost again and wound up at the city dump.
   Edith: Eventually, we stayed in a bed and breakfast—one room in one of those private homes along the lake. We had breakfast with the owners. I think it was in Cleveland. It was on the lakeshore. The North end of Cleveland. The lake seemed to go on forever. And the road was miserably slow. It was a weekend, and we could see lots of people fishing.

Luise Bauer (Oma/Omi)
   Eventually, we got to St. Catharines, Canada, which is just north of Buffalo, NY. We stayed at Omi and Opa’s farm. My sister's house had just been completed about then. It was pretty nice.
   Annie: How’d they have the money for that? Manny: Probably Opa/Oma helped. My parents held the title to the property. It was on their land.
   Manny: Before 1963, when the Parcel Act was enforced, things were pretty informal. You could just go down to the registrar with a map and some land marked out with a ruler. That caused lots of problems, and so they made changes. Pretty unpopular at first, but it’s clear that the changes were necessary.
   Edith: At the farm, I was put to work, mostly cooking. Omi had bought a big chest freezer, and she wanted to make food for the coming months and keep it all in this freezer. So, in the morning, she’d announce, “Today, I’ll teach you how to make Maultaschen,” and then she made me cook a month’s worth of the stuff.
   And the beds! My God. The mattresses were these hideous things in which springs would poke through to your skin. And they’d squeak badly if you moved at all. So you didn’t dare move all night.
   And was it ever hot! And humid! And it wouldn’t cool down at night. And then there were the mosquitoes. We stayed about a week, and we were glad to get out of there.
   From there, we went south through Buffalo and then towards Route 66. (For a list of cities along Route 66, see Route 66 cities.)

BUGS

   On the way toward the west coast, we kept maybe 50 miles to the south of Chicago, because we didn’t want to go through there again.
   I remember that the bugs were a nightmare! We stayed in St. Louis, and the bugs were really bad during the day. We figured they’d go away during the night, but they only got worse. Much worse.
   Edith: We made dinner on our cheap Sears stove, which is like a Coleman. I had brought along elk that we had canned ourselves. (Everyone hunted in B.C.) We’d cook that to make a stew and eat it with noodles.
   When it got dark, the mosquitoes got worse. The headliner of the car (our 55 Ford station wagon) was actually dark from them.
   And there were other bugs. The street lights wouldn’t give off much light because they’d be covered with these things. It was amazing.
   We got out of there. We had already paid, but we just left. As we drove off, we opened everything in the car and tried to use the rushing air to blow all the bugs off the ceiling and everywhere. “Chase ‘em out!” we’d say, and you kids did that.

In Kansas along old Route 66
THE COWBOY BAR

   Edith: We went to one place that I’ll never forget. It was a cowboy bar in Albuquerque, New Mexico. We got there at night and walked inside. It was loud, with lots of people and loud cowboy music. They had this challenge: if you could eat their big three-pound steak (with all the fixins), it would be free, but nobody could do it.
   I think maybe that is where we bought this little “chuck wagon” lamp. It was a little wagon with a bulb inside the wagon, which was covered with some kind of varnished canvas. [Annie and I remember it well.]
   Edith: I remember that chuck wagon. We didn’t spend much money, but we bought that.
   Annie: Roy and I would argue over who would get to turn it on at night!
   Edith: I loved that bar. And when we left, we were pretty excited about the cowboys and everything. Pretty jazzed about it. We drove off and then found ourselves on top of this big hill. You could see the city of Albuquerque, with all the city lights below. It was amazing, a great experience.

   Manny: at the time, Roy was 3 and Annie was 4. Annie was no trouble at all. “You were good kids,” says Edith. [I think that Manny was about to say that I (Roy) got sick or had some kind of condition that created some inconvenience.]

   Edith: We were in this one motel—probably in Albuquerque—that was full of cockroaches. They were everywhere, including the ceiling, and, in the bathroom were the weirdest creatures I’d ever seen. I screamed when I saw them. They were huge.

Albuquerque, New Mexico
   Manny: We went through a part of the country where everybody seemed to claim to be related to Jesse James.

   And I remember the “petrified forest” (in northeastern Arizona). In those days, petrified wood was still abundant, and people would pick it up and take it home with them. We did that. But there was so much souvenir-taking that, finally, steps were taken to protect what was left.
   [Edith and Manny engage in a brief dispute about whether we took pieces of petrified wood. Yes, but how big were the pieces? –We’ve still got ‘im, I’m sure.]

I asked: do you remember Tulsa? Oklahoma City?

   Manny: I only remember that it was kind of God forsaken.

Amarillo Texas?

   Edith: we arrived in this cowboy town, nothing but cattle. It was lunchtime, but we couldn’t find a restaurant that wasn’t full of cowboys. We looked so out of place as immigrants, as a family. But we got pretty hungry, and so we went into one of these places. They all stared at us. Not terrible friendly. Unfriendly people.

Our "old Ford," c. 1957-8
Flagstaff?

   We stayed in a hotel there, I think. It was relatively high in altitude. It was cool, not hot.

   We went to Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico. That was interesting.

Were you impressed by the deserts and the mountains?

   Edith: I liked the desert, but I wouldn’t want to live there. Too barren for me. Too dry. It looked just the way the movies portrayed it, I think. Still, it wasn’t for me.

CALIFORNIA

   Manny: When we crossed the California border, we were in desert still. Pretty surprising. Yes, it was like in the Grapes of Wrath. We were expecting something far more fabulous. Not desert.
   Edith: That was the first time I uttered, “I don’t want to live here. It’s so barren!” It was just outside of Palm Springs. [I guess they took a detour re Route 66.] We were approaching the city. It was just a big desert without trees. Not even palm trees.
   Manny: When we arrived in Canada, independently, we dreamed of heading to California. And so we went down there exploring. That’s what we were doing in ’58.
   Edith: I had ideas about California. It definitely wasn’t what I expected.
   Manny: After Palm Springs, we drove down through the mountains into San Bernardino, where we encountered the orange groves for the first time.

[Manny and Edith dispute over whether they crossed a pass before descending into San Bernardino.]


   We went from there to Hollywood. We stayed pretty much on Route 66, since it was a clear shot.
   We drove all over Beverly Hills. We had a map. We were not sophisticated enough to get a guide. We had this printed guide. We used it to find (actress) Debbie Reynolds’ home. She was married to (singer) Eddie Fisher at the time. We waited and waited outside her house for her to come out. She never appeared.
   Manny: We stayed in a motel on the Sunset strip. We’d wait outside places to see the movie stars. I’d fall asleep, and Edith would shake me: “Look! I think it’s Elizabeth Taylor!” I don’t think we ever saw anybody famous.
   We’d stay outside of nightclubs. All we saw were these furs going in and out of the building. We didn’t know who any of these people were.
   We stayed somewhere on the Sunset Strip. I don’t recall where we stayed next.
   Edith: we probably stayed somewhere on Sunset Boulevard.
   Manny: she made us go to the Glendale Forest Lawn Cemetery.
   Edith: We went to Disneyland. We likely did that first, since the trip was so rough on you kids. So we probably stayed somewhere close to Disneyland.
We visited the film studios, the Hollywood Bowl, visited during the day. There were musicians practicing there. They let us in for free.
   Manny: We visited the San Fernando Mission. We took the 101 north to Santa Barbara. We were amazed as we drove north: there was nothing there.
We checked out Marineland in Pales Verdes.
   Eventually, we drove straight up the coast back to Vancouver. The whole trip lasted maybe a month.

U.S.A. VISIT #2 (1959)

   Edith: then Manny decided that we’ll move to California. I said, “The only way I’m going down there is if you buy me this hat. And I want furniture: perfect furniture all over my house.” He said, “Yes, OK.”*
   Edith: the problem was that I thought that Southern California was too barren, too dry. But Manny knew that there would be more work opportunities. He preferred the climate. And he felt that immigrants were treated better there. [Also, there were far better educational opportunities.]

   When was the second trip to the U.S.?

   Edith: maybe a year later. In 1959. We drove straight down to California that time. We went with these people we knew—the Stolls. And when we got down here, we visited these German friends, Brigitte and Helmut Stolp, who were living in Fullerton.
   I recall that their littlest kid, Mike, misbehaved. He actually came up and kicked Manny in the leg. Manny sort of kicked him right back. [According to family lore, this was a good and right thing. I'd have to agree. Of course, I've met Mike.]
   On the way down from Vancouver, we’d stay here and there. We would have three meals a day at restaurants.

Do you remember any towns?

   Edith: Grants Pass, Oregon. We didn’t stop at San Francisco, we drove by it. We may have stopped in Santa Barbara. [Something about a big tree.]

   Was the point of the second trip to figure out just where you would move to?

   Edith: yes. We had to live close to the [electrical] union hall [IBEW]. There was one in, not Long Beach, but close by there. The plan was to mover down here for good, maybe rent a house for a year. During that time, we’d sell our Vancouver home and then buy one here.
   But it didn’t work out that way. [Not sure what Edith is alluding to. I know that they did not sell the Vancouver home until many years later.]

THE MOVE: DECEMBER 196059 [mid-Feb, 1960?]
On Academy St., Anaheim. Check out the incinerator!**

   Edith: The third trip was the one in which we stayed for good. That was in December of 196059--or, more likely, February of 1960. [UPDATE, 3/20/13: Manny remembers the date as about Feb. 14, 1960, which comports with these alleged factoids: that we lived on Academy St. in Anaheim for exactly a year—which sounds right to me; that we moved into the Orange (Topaz) house on April 1, 1961. Manny also remembers that we crossed into Blaine, Washington, with a "settlers" visa, with no contingencies. Acquiring that visa was unusual, evidently. Manny suggests looking at the date of the stamp on his passport.]
   We rented that place in Anaheim on Academy Street for exactly one year. [It was very near Knott’s Berry Farm. Annie and I attended "Albert Schweitzer Elementary School."***][UPDATE, March 20, 2013: I looked up the date of the opening of the stretch of the "Newport Freeway" (the 55) running past our neighborhood in Orange. It opened on January 18th, 1962. (See LA Times article.) I recall--and I'm sure Manny and Edith recall--living at the Topaz address significantly before the freeway construction. This means we would have moved into the Topaz house at least some time in 1961, not after. And since we lived in Anaheim, on Academy St., for a year, we must have been living there by early 1960 or earlier. Hence, it could not be that we embarked for California in December of 1960. It must have been December of 1959. Manny now tells me that it was mid-February, 1960.]

Date on stamp: Feb. 27, 1960
   We bought the house in Orange in April, Easter time[, 1961]. The 55 freeway had not been built yet. [Again, that portion, which terminated at Chapman Ave., was opened in January of 1962.] There were orange groves all around us (very near Santiago Blvd.). [The backyard was unusually large. We paid about $450 for that. The home's price was somewhere between $18 and $21 K!]
   The first morning we woke up there, you kids were busy with your Easter baskets, and we heard this plane. We went outside and saw this crop duster doing its thing on the orange groves around us. We were amazed.
   [I (Roy) seem to remember seeing that plane myself. I even recall seeing it dive down into our housing development, touching or nearly touching ground on the street behind our house. A very distinct memory.]
   We didn’t have fences yet. And the neighbors would come around and welcome us. This one family came over and our dog Prince went crazy. Bit right through the screen door. Luckily, the little girl pulled back, and that saved her face. [The Supran family. I later went to school with their kids. Susan and Collette?]
   We’d go for walks, the whole family, w/ Prince, our German Shepherd. He always wanted to go into the orange grove to eat oranges, but that was forbidden. But he managed to get these oranges anyway.
   I remember the time we drove into the mountains and stopped at Modjeska Grade (we have film of this; it is very close to where they live now). This might have been during one of the earlier exploratory trips to California.

1957 N. Topaz St., Orange, CA
   Edith: I was pregnant and I didn’t feel well. Then Ruth [Kallisch, Manny’s little sister] and her family moved in with us. Oma and Opa [Luise and Otto] were living with us too (I believe they had moved permanently to So. Cal by then).
   Oma was driving me crazy. Absolutely crazy. [Oma would have been 52 years old. Edith would have been 28.]

I asked: was there open hostility between you two?

   Oh no. I was raised to be very respectful of parents and elders. I was always very polite to the old bat. I practically curtseyed.
   But she came home one day—I was pregnant with Raymond—and she announced that she and Opa would be going to work, and I would stay home to take care of the house, do the cooking and washing.
   I couldn’t believe it. I went to Manny and said, “I’m leaving. That’s not going to happen!”
   It would have been different if she had been nice to live with. But she was hell to live with. There was no way I was going to go along with this arrangement.
   (So, as usual, Manny had to deal with it. He always took Edith’s side. Could see her point.)
   Edith: It all came to a head one day, when Oma was going to work, and Edith felt the need to warn Oma of some problem with her, um, dress. So she did that and then Oma went crazy. She started screaming: how dare you speak to me in that way! Opa was pretty freaked out too, but mostly about Oma’s sloppiness.
   Edith: Opa always liked me. I never had a problem with him. The problem was Oma.
   Well, anyway, they then announced that they were moving out, and so they did. They moved in with Ruth and Fred (ha ha), who had found a place of their own by then.
   They lived somewhere just down the road—behind “Pattens Market,” which was on Katella and Tustin. (So said Annie. This is about a mile and a half away.)
   After a while, the Kallishes moved to Oshkosh St. in Anaheim (I remember the name; we used to mock it.). Later, they moved to Villa Park. The Kallishes' maintained their electrical maintenance business--the absurdly named "Debonaire Electric"--but got into speculative stock trading on the "mercantile" exchange.

Chicago, 1958: Calumet Expressway, near completion
NOTES:

*Evidently, this has been a sore point ever since. To this day, occasionally, Edith will complain that she never got that furniture. (She doesn't refer to the hat.) It is clear that Manny and Edith come from (as they might say) "different worlds" and Edith occasionally refers to the de facto embrace, by the family, of Manny's "ways." One might explore the perception of Swabians in (especially German) popular culture.

**Clearing the Air in Los Angeles
SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN October 1993
     …In 1958, at the recommendation of the Beckman committee, backyard trash incinerators were banned despite opposition from the public and some waste-disposal managers. More than 300,000 families owned such incinerators, and many were unwilling to give up the convenience and cost savings. But slowly attitudes changed; today most residents of Los Angeles would consider it shameful to burn their trash and subject their neighbors to the smoke and smell.
     Waste-disposal managers objected to the ban for a different reason. These analysts realized that the economical alternative to burning trash was burying it, and therefore they correctly predicted that although replacing incinerators with landfills would reduce air pollution, the additional landfills would create other types of environmental problems. For example, as rain has seeped through the landfills and carried away soluble materials, it has contaminated the local groundwater. Southern Californians are now working to clean up the ground water, but the long-term plans are, first, to decrease the volume of trash through recycling and, second, to reduce further groundwater contamination by improving the management of landfills.
     The ban of backyard incinerators generated relatively little public resistance when compared with attempts to clean up industrial sources of pollution. Historically, the control of industrial emissions has been challenging because of the need to balance the region’s environmental interests with its economic needs…. [Inventor & entrepreneur Arnold O. Beckman settled in Newport Beach and became a player in OC politics.]
*** Roy: At Albert Schweitzer, I attended Kindergarten, though perhaps not for the full year. I remember the playing of Tchaikovsky's "Dance of the Sugarplum Fairy"—my memory of music is generally very good. (Of other things? —Not so much.) I remember being on the floor a lot. Vaguely positive memories. Annie: I remember that I did not understand the teacher who, of course, spoke English. I recall kids sitting in a circle, singing songs that were unfamiliar to me. I was given a tambourine, I remember. I liked the music. But I was pretty confused. Roy: I recall being driven by a neighbor to some sort of Sunday school, at least once. I recall, on that occasion, hearing the "Chipmunks" song on the radio. (See.) I was quiet. I said nothing. Roy: it has always seemed to me that, during my early childhood (and perhaps beyond that), I said virtually nothing. I observed. I was very timid. But I do not recall being overly fearful.

1 comment:

Hey, this is a family blog!