Chapter 10: California

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Transcribed by Michael A. O’Neill in Mar/Apr 2014

Transcribers note: This is a transcription of Mabel’s book, not an upload of the original of the document she created. It was transcribed using Dragon Naturally Speaking voice recognition software, which will result in capitalization errors; misspellings of proper names; odd usage of prepositions or common words; and incorrect homophones. For true fidelity, you can request the book via Interlibrary Loan from the Greenville College or Azusa Pacific University libraries.

California! How exciting it was. I came in June 1915 but my family had coming year earlier. I had had nothing to do with the decision to come and had had no real desire to go to the Pacific Coast. But now college was over in my family was here, too many friends that I had known in college were hereto, it was exactly what I wanted to be. Coming to California was a big event in family life. As I look back after all these years, I feel deeply grateful to my parents for having the courage to bring us out here. They live more than twenty years and enjoyed it all. All of us have had a good and satisfying life here. In California my parents found people they had known and worked with in Western Iowa. Many of the friends who weren’t here then, came later.

The first year here father was assigned to a small church in South Los Angeles not far from the University of Southern California. He had been there for a year, but when I arrived in Los Angeles the family was in the process of moving. Everything was all packed and ready to go. Where? To Pasadena. My friend Alta Freeland and her family were members of the new church. The church and parsonage were on North Fair Oaks only three or four blocks from the center of town.

Pasadena was a lovely city then. The mountains were close and the air clear and warm. It was a climate you could hardly believe. The gardens were old then, planted with trees and shrubs that I never before seen. As he walked along the street the fragrance of orange blossoms and Jasmine made you think you are in paradise. Traffic moved at a leisurely pace, and our mode of transportation beyond the city limits was the big red line. It was wonderful, the big cars were clean and travel fast, taking you into Los Angeles in about twenty minutes. They were electric and made no air pollution. There were a few automobiles around, but most people didn’t have them. The big red cars rolled into the central station at Sixth and Maine in Los Angeles. There you could get another big red car to take you to Long Beach, Whittier, Pomona, or almost any other town in Southern California. Now we hear a great deal about how much we need mass transportation. What became of the big red cars? Well people began buying automobiles and driving instead of writing the cars. Soon there were not passengers to support the electric commuter trains.

While living in Pasadena, I heard of a small school run by woman and her son. They came to see me and offered me a position teaching English. I accepted, with the agreement that I could take some afternoon classes at the University. Later they called me and told me that they had changed their minds and couldn’t use me.

I was crushed. I went into the bedroom and threw myself on the bed and sobbed. After a while, father came into comfort me. He said, “Mabel, the Bible says that all things work together for good to those that love the Lord.” It was hard to take. Months later, I learned that the young woman who got that job never did collector salary. She only stayed for six months.

That year I stayed at home in Pasadena with the folks and commuted to USC. Alta Freeland went to USC with me and together we would meet and take the big red car to Los Angeles, then take the yellow line out to USC. I worked hard that year and did get my H. S. Credential but even then, getting a teaching job was not easy. People were coming to California in great numbers and many were teachers seeking work in this delightful climate. One place where I applied was at Monrovia High School. For one vacancy in the English Department there were 300 applications. Late in the summer, Mr. Biddulph sent me a telegram that I could have a job in the high school at Alpaugh if I could catalog their school library. I wired back that I would take it. Then I went down to the Public Library in LA, hoping to go to the library school for the summer. But the school was closed for the summer. It seemed that every door was closed. Mr. Perry, head librarian was wonderful. He had their head cataloger tutor me. She put me to work making library cards, but I COULDN’T TYPE! So I learned to hunt and peck at the same time I was learning to make library cards. Alpaugh was up in the middle of the San Joaquin Valley. It only paid $110 a month, but I was starting.

I did catalog the library and did the library at Chino high school at a later time. At Alpaugh, I taught English, algebra, geometry, and coach the school play. For a while on Saturday, I taught a class of ladies in China painting. They said they just had to have something interesting to do in that forsaken place. The next year I had a job in high school at Chino, where I could come home to Pasadena for weekends. After two years at Chino, I went to Whittier and for three years taught there.

I love California and the family had never been happier. The church is here paid more than the ones in Iowa. Mother had friends among the preacher’s wives. Father was being recognized by the conference, elected secretary and put on several boards, but I still had some of the old problems, never enough money. I came out of college several hundred dollars in debt. In that day, it would have been equivalent to several thousand now. I didn’t have the graduate work required to teach in public high school. I thought some of getting a place in a private school. There was a vacancy in the LA Pacific Seminary, where Ernest had been going to school that first year. I applied for it, but I had a heavy job at Whittier high, and during my third year there my health seem to be deteriorating. Whittier wouldn’t give me a leave, so I just resigned. Father was pastor of the church at Ontario, California. Again I went to my parents, and rested for six months. In 1923 I began substituting in LA schools. My first assignment was for a month, teaching speech at Hollywood High School. The regular teacher took a month off because his wife had died. At the end of the month the downtown office called the school and told them to keep me as a regular teacher in the department, I was writing the big red car to Ontario, and they took somebody else. However, I soon was given another assignment. Hollywood was a lovely village in those days

By that time Ernest had grown up, and graduated from prep school at LAPC, he went to Greenville College. In the meantime, Weston was going to high school in selling shoes at a shoe store in the afternoon. He continued selling shoes to pay expenses at USC. In 1921, Weston decided to go to Greenville with earnest. Mother wanted a family picture before they left; and so we sat for that picture which is the best of that period. Both of my brothers met the girls at Greenville, whom they later married. Both were happy marriages and both celebrated their fiftieth anniversaries. Ernest and Florence (Webb had one daughter, Elizabeth (Mrs. John Alexander) (sic). Meredith (Noble) and Weston and a daughter, Virginia (Mrs. Paul Combs) and a daughter Barbara (Mrs. JP O Grady), and a son William Weston Vinson. Bell’s wife is also Barbara.

From the time I was a child, I knew I wanted to be a teacher; I never considered any other profession. I was at Alpaugh for a year, then two years at Chino, and three at Whittier. I worked hard and paid off my school debts. I taught at several high schools in the Los Angeles District from 1923 to 1944. During the early years, we live through World War I, and then World War II. My brothers were too young to go. I certainly didn’t have much social life in those days.

After father finished his pastorate at Ontario, he was appointed assistant missionary Sec. of the national board. This meant that he would be traveling, preaching, and raising money for foreign missions. Mother would go with him. They turned all their household furnishings over to Ernest and Florence would been married in the meantime.

I moved into a hotel only about ten minutes by streetcar from Belmont High School. For several years, I lived in hotels as the easiest way to live as my health was not very good in those years.

During the time I was teaching at Belmont High School, my health was deteriorating. I was underweight and tired all the time. Then I had surgery for appendicitis and twice for hernias. I began to wonder whether I would be able to continue teaching and I sincerely wished I had some income apart for my work. I studied and read everything about health I could find. I tried to eat right and exercise, etc. My health improved.

Each teacher in the English department at Belmont had one class of students who needed remedial instruction. I had long known that the lessons in grammar usually did not help much if a child always heard poor English at home. I developed a method of teaching such boys and girls by having them learn a few correct sentences. By saying them over and over, the correct forms became part of their own speech. It worked very well. The head of my department encourage me to develop a textbook base of the plan. For about a year, I spent every Saturday morning working on it. When I finished, I found the publisher in San Francisco. Hart Wagner Publishing Co. was run by an elderly man and his daughter. She was head of sales and she believed in my book. The first one succeeded, slowly at first. Then Wagner’s asked me to do another one for younger students. Later they asked for a third book for third and fourth grades. I said no, that was out of my field. Then they got to elementary teachers to do it under my direction and the publishers put all three names on it. I wrote a fourth book for Wagner’s and the book on reading techniques published by Harper’s of New York. The first two were the most successful. All are now out of print.

It took some time to develop the demand for them, but I did get some financial help when I did it. Miss Wagner told me years afterward, that my books carried them through the depression. It was money for the books that made the down payment on the apartment court, and the court finance my husband and I during the time the business was shut down because of World War II.

When Ernest and Weston were young kids, they used to talk about going into business together and discussed different kinds of business. After several years with the Automobile Club, Ernest decided to open an insurance agency of his own. He represented several different companies, mostly in auto insurance, fire and theft. His office was in Alhambra and Weston joined him. After a slow start, things seem to be going well.

Suddenly, we were all shocked to learn that Ernest had contracted tuberculosis. The doctor recommended complete rest in bed and thought he should be in a sanitarium. Fortunately, medical science had learned how to cope with the disease. The whole family came to the rescue. As usual, money was involved. Florence needed a few credits to qualify for teaching California high schools. I immediately offered to keep Florence with me in the hotel where I lived in Los Angeles. Mother took care of Betty who was about two years old. Weston attempted to carry on the insurance business, and father took Florence to interviews for teaching position when she was ready to do so. She went to summer school that summer, and did get a position teaching. She continued to teach for three years. Ernest did recover after about a year and a sanitarium. The insurance business had not been well established. For many years Ernest had a couch in his inner office where he rested every day after lunch. For many years, he was successful, and provided well for his wife. That year he spent in the sanitarium was about 1929 or 1930. Mother said she never could have kept Betty all that time if she hadn’t been such a good child. During that time, I took her for a boat trip to Catalina Island. At the time, that was a popular vacation trip on a big ocean-going steamboat. People admired her and often thought she was mine. She was a real doll of about four years old.

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