Archive for July, 2014

Once Upon A Time – The Life Of Betty (Potter) Willson #1

July 30, 2014

96th Birthday – 2016

The following is a transcription of over a hundred handwritten pages of my mother’s remembrances journaled in a notebook over a span of years after reaching the age of  88.  The words and sentence structure for the most part remain as originally written vividly projecting her personality, the flavor of the landscape and her view of the times.


Once upon a time many long years ago in the year 1920 a baby girl was born in the Scott Valley town of Fort Jones, Siskiyou County California.  Her mother, Olive Annie (Kuder) Potter, age 37,  her father Robert (Bill) William Potter was a versatile cement contractor builder welcoming the beautiful baby addition.  She had four siblings; Samuel age 19 attending college in Long Beach;  Della who was taking teaching exams at a school in Chico, the following year to be renamed Chico State Teachers College; Charles Millard age 15 ½ attending high school and 7 year old sister Alice Minerva going the grammar school.


It was a time of the “roaring 20’s and the worst flu epidemic the world had ever known and was also the first time women could vote in an election.  It was also the start of prohibition, women dresses that showed their knees, cutting their hair and a time when everyone thought they couldn’t live without cars, electricity, inside plumbing, radio, washing machines, refrigeration, silent movies and the beginning of airmail and air travel.  At the end of the twenties came a down fall, the stock market crashed in October 1929 and the start of the big depression.

“Thus, a baby girl born July 22, 1920, Betty Irene Potter was conveyed into a world of change and promises.”                                                                                                               This is her life.




I have only a few memories of fort Jones.  One of falling out of the smoke house and breaking my nose, my Grandfather Kuder picking me up and holding me with great love.  My sister Alice and her friend Norma, with me between them the three of us running from a drunken Indian.  I remember being in a car stuck in Chee-Chee Lane when my sister Della got it stuck in the ditch.  I also remember a huge barn fire and mother moving all our treasures because she thought our house would burn and then the time playing barber with a boy and he cut off all my beautiful curls.


We moved to Yreka into the Joe Miller’s house in 1923, my brother Sam having returned home after working with Uncle Denim and going to Architectural school in Los Angeles.  Dad was building the Yreka Laundry, several houses , the Ford Garage and had to moved the Call house while they were still living in it so he could build their new house.  I use to go to the Circus in Montague with the Call’s every year.   Our cousins, the Busby’s visited on their way to Alaska and Aunt Olive also came to visit.  While visiting,  Eddie Peabody (the banjo King) stopped to see her.  They played the banjo and guitar on the front porch to the neighbors delight, Aunt Olive having accompanied him on the stage until she married Uncle Cory Dohans.


Mrs. Short give me a Toy Spitz puppy, he was my pride and joy.  One day mother started the old gas washing machine and so startled my puppy that he leaped off the back porch and hit the root cellar door and broke his neck. I was heartbroken and grandpa Kuder help me give him a grand funeral.  When I was four and a half mother took me to a tea in honor of Mrs. Patsy Reed who was with the Donner Party.  My brother Pete told me she ate people and when I was introduced to her I was so frightened I screamed “don’t eat me.”  Poor mother was so embarrassed I was sent home as punishment but Pete got a lecture.


I had a lot of friends, Josephine Member, Mary Allen, Beatrice Parrott, and Gladys Gott.  It was playing house with Gladys’s that I broke all of my sister Alice’s dishes.  I had been forbidden to play with them as they were a complete set of china dishes only in miniature.  I accidentally tipped over the board we were using as a table.  I really deserved that punishment.  We always had a large garden, when Alice and I wanted something special to buy we would pick a vegetable to sell, and Alice was often upset because I always could sell mine to her customers before her.    The worst memory when we lived in the Joe Miller house was getting a ham bone for Christmas.  I had a bad habit of biting Alice, it was my defense.  My mother kept telling me “only dogs bit people” When Christmas came I got a ham-bone, no other presents till the next morning.  Never again did I bite anyone.


A very fond memory was that it was always my father who took care of us when we were sick.  We had all the childhood sickness’s, Croup, Measles, Chicken Pox, even Scarlet Fever.  I remember when I was six my grandfather Kuder who always lived with us died of a heart attack, having that very morning put up a swing for me.  He was on the front porch when he suffered the attack.  Della ran out in the road and flagged down a car with a couple of young men in it, they carried him into the house, but he died before the doctor could get there.   Some of dad’s crew lived and boarded with us, my brother Sam’s wife Bernice’s brother Charley Werth, Bobby Gray who became head of Sontag Drug Stores, Jack Lyons who was a great big man so tall that when he held me up I could reach our ceiling of twelve feet.


It was while living at the Joe Miller’s house that I nearly lost my leg.  A ditch ran in back of Joe’s house and in front of ours.  He used it as a septic tank and we sometimes waded in it.  A cut on my ankle became infected and gangrene started.  The doctor said he would amputate my leg just below the knee.  Della was teaching school in Quartz Valley when one of her student’s grandmother who was Indian saw her crying and asked what the matter was.  Della told her about me and she gave Della some salve to put on my leg.  Mother put it on, I still remember the pain, but it got rid of all the infection and saved my leg.  My brother Sam used it on his boils and they would come to a head in hours.


Ruth Brown would spend her summers in Yreka staying across the street, she was blind.  She was about 13 years old when I first meant her and she would read to me from her blind book for hours.  My sister Della during the winter months would read to us every night, the Five Little Peppers and How They Grew, Moby Dick, Ann of Green Gables, Peter Pan, Alice In Wonderland and the Swiss Family Robinson.  She also bought My Book House Collection and read from it.  When I was seven Della had a baby,  my cousin Peg was born in the upstairs bedroom.  What a treat, I was allowed to hold her, not like my brother Sam and Bernice’s baby Jerry who was born six months earlier and I didn’t get to see her until Christmas although she was only two blocks away.


I was spoiled:  When my sister Alice was watching me, which was most of the time and I didn’t get my way I would throw myself on the ground crying and screaming.  That ended when I was about five.  One day when I did it in front of Mrs. Churchill’s house she came out, stood over me, telling me  to get up and never do that again and learn to be a proper lady. (bye the way – she was old and look to me like a witch)  Later when I was confirmed in the Episcopal Church she was my sponsor and stood up for me.

The Big House under construction winter of 28



In late 1927 we moved to the old Call house that dad had moved across the road from Russell’s gas station.  The Perkins farm was next to the Russell’s, my dad buying it, moving their bunk house and main house to the back of the Main St. lot, then building our five bedroom home of cement block, which we called ‘the big house’,  where the Perkins house once stood.  He worked on it in the winter of 1928 and into 29 while building two blocks of stores in Klamath Falls and the downtown area of Chiloquin Oregon for the Indians.   The memories of living in the Call house are great.  I walked to school with Bea Parrott, Alden James, Muggy Cloyd, Bob and Mary Allen.  Sometimes we roller skated up Third St., crossing Miner St. and up fourth St. to school. In the summer we all played outside till dark.


The first black person I ever saw was an old ex-servant of the Glovers.  He was a retired slave who fought alongside Mr. Glover in the civil war for the south.  He lived in a small shack at the corner of Butte St. and Broadway,  I passed his house on the way to school.  When I was in the first grade I was so scared of him that I generally ran past his house but mother found out and took me to meet him.  She called him Mr. Cotton, he was gentle and so interesting that I would often stop to talk to him on my way home from school.


My sister Alice had me fooled.  She use to say she had magic powers.  I believed her since one day while we were watching the smoke from a forest fire on the other side of Humbug Mountain she said that when the five o’clock laundry whistle blew the fire would come over the hill.  Sure enough just as the whistle blew we saw the first tree on top of the mountain begin to burn.  From then on I was a sucker, she would go into a trance while doing dishes and stop and I would end up doing all the work.  Never climb a chokecherry tree, they are very slender and the least bit of movement makes them bend and shake.  I know that for a fact after spending a long afternoon in one.  My sister Alice and her friend Irene Allen took Mary, Irene’s sister and I chokecherry picking.  I being the smallest climbed the tree while they held it steady and then they left me stuck in the tree while Alice and Irene went to the show and Mary went home.  It was near supper time when mother asked Alice where I was, sending her to get me,  Alice threatening my life if I told mother what had happened.


All of us kids played in a big open field behind Parrott’s and the Russell house.  There were two ditches and Greenhorn Creek that ran through it, the ditches once carried water to the mines at Hawkinsville.  On the west side was a small knoll with several large oaks.  That flat area became our battle field, war against the Indians, a baseball or stickball field, a fort with trenches, castles made of rocks and even Robin Hood was in a forest of trees on the knoll.  Saturday movie matinees were played out and the rest of the week we built forts, made rubber band guns, bows and arrows, even rocket projectors. In the winter we had snowball fights and sledding down the knoll. We put on plays, sold lemonade on hot days.  We played outside all summer long, ‘run sheep run’, dodgeball, ‘sheep in my pen’, ‘hide n’ seek’ and ‘kick the can’.  Our mother’s would keep watch and corrected every one of us but we soon learned with each mother  what we could get away with.


I use to go with my mother to visit her aunts in southern California.  We would go by train leaving from Montague and mothers cousin Clarence would pick us up in Los angles,  I must have gone at least four times.   I remember the first time staying with my Aunt Annie, she was married to a Pinney, heir to Pinney Copper and Iron (*DBA – as the Los Angeles Iron Works).  She had a beautiful home opposite Mary Pickford’s.  The last time I saw her she was 98 and lived to be over 100.  All of mother’s aunts lived to be in their nineties except her mother who died giving birth to twin (born dead) in 1905 and Aunt Clara, the oldest who died in 1932 in Medford Oregon.    Some summers I was able to spend with my Grandmother Potter and Aunt Lily Creason in Ashland.  I was allowed to do most anything, go to the park, to the teachers memorial will grandma’s boarders, as long as I was home before dark and told them wear I was going.  I even did the same when they moved to Dunsmuir in 1928.



I remember the Herbert Hoover, Al Smith 1928 election.  One day while I was staying with Aunt Lilly and grandma in Dunsmuir the Hoover train stopped.  He was running for president and had two of his body guards with him, on his way to fish on the Klamath River, deciding to visit his cousin, my grandmother.  He knocked and grandmother opened the door.  He asked if she knew who he was, she said “yes, you’re Herbert our stealing cousin and shut the door.  Poor Aunt Lilly was so upset she cried all day, all grandma would say is he took all the inheritance and put himself through Stanford.

The entrance to the Big House

When we first moved into our big house Alice had me so frightened at night that I would tie my big Teddy Bear to the bed with a large doll and sleep between them.  She said Grampa Kuder who had died in 1927 would come at night and put his coat in our closet.  My dad put a stop to her scaring me but one black and windy night in October she locked me out on the back porch and told me goblins and witches were coming to get me.  The wind blowing between the house and garage would make a moaning sound.  I was scared as I believed she had special powers, so scarred I passed out and my Dad found me.  I was a tattle tale that time.


Every summer we would go to Ashland for the fourth of July.  I have yet to see any fireworks that matched the ones at Lithia Park.  We always brought home from Uncle Andrews’s orchard,  apples, pears, apricots peaches and plums, enough fruit to can for the year.  During the summer of 1929 mother’s cousin Clearance and his bride came to visit, they were on their way to Europe and had a brand new Cord.  Uncle Pinney committed suicide when the stock market crashed and  Aunt Annie lost millions but moved to Pasadena, then to Baldwin Park where she bought a store and three houses, Aunt Olive living in one houses.  Uncle Cory was an alcoholic, I remember Aunt Olive being so happy he quit drinking, instead he was taking two bottle of medicinal tonic a day, 60% alcohol, he later died of TB.


I joined the  Girl Scouts and we would go to Ashland for a week every year.  As a girl scout I climbed Black Butte, also as high as Thumb rock on Mt. Shasta but when I was eleven I didn’t get to go, all the money I had saved for the trip went to buy Alice a wedding dress. That year I learned how and where babies came from.  Mother gave me her medical book that showed all the female and male parts, telling me to read it.  The pictures alone were education, what an education.  Bea Parrott, Alice Larson and Jerry Saxton were soon educated by me, my good friends were well informed.


As soon as I was old enough I had to watch my nieces and nephews, Jerry was six, Peggy six and half, Bobby five and half and Bud 8 years, younger than I.  The only time my father ever threaten to spank me was when I was watching them.  He had a big long work table, standing about three feet off the ground and I had built a playhouse on it using a latter to get up on it.  I wouldn’t let them play in my playhouse, I was afraid they might fall and they went crying to my dad.  He sent me inside promising to spank me for being selfish and I locked myself in my bedroom and when he found out why I wouldn’t let the little ones in my playhouse he came to the door to apologized, but l didn’t stop crying.  After he brought me some ice cream I accepted his apology.  It was a real hurt to think that he thought I was selfish, for to me my father was everything.


Once Upon A Time – The Life Of Betty (Potter) Willson #2

July 29, 2014


The following is a transcription of over a hundred handwritten pages of my mother’s remembrances journaled in a notebook over a span of years after reaching the age of  88.  The words and sentence structure for the most part remain as originally written vividly projecting her personality, the flavor of the landscape and her view of the times.


I was 9 years and 2 months old when the Stock Market crashed in 1929.  There were runs on banks so they called in all their notes, loans, mortgages and by 1932 the people were losing their homes, farms business and cars,  people loss millions.  Farm income dropped to nothing and because far foreclosures and eviction they had to call out the national guard in Iowa.  Since I went to the Saturday Matinees they would show us the Fox News of people in soup lines, the dust storms in the mid-west and just how bad it was in the cities. In 1932 Roosevelt became President with his New Deal.  For the first time my father voted democrat and voted against Herbert Hoover his third cousin. We had a big Majestic Radio and I stayed up very late with my Dad taking down the election returns. ..


The spring before the crash mother’s cousin Clarence Hudson came to visit with his bride and a brand new Cord convertible.  They were on a six months tour of the USA and the Mediterranean and Paris.   He was very wealthy, played the stock market, his mother my great Aunt Annie was married to a Pinny, Iron, Steel and Copper heir.  They had a huge home across Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford home in Hollywood.  When the stock market crashed they loss everything, the Pinny Company folded and Aunt Annie’s husband committed suicide.  Clarence’s wife divorced him and he moved to a small house in Pasadena and went to work for Republic Pictures. When my Aunt Annie died at the age of 99 she left over 30 saving accounts all in different banks.  She didn’t trust the banks.


Yreka being a small county seat town didn’t feel the real bad effect of the depression.  Few business closed, some people lost home and a lot of people lost their saving when the banks failed. I think the depression brought the community together, neighbors helped each other out.  They shared with those in need.  We had free dances almost every Saturday night, Lodges paying for the music.  The Townsend Plan held dances every Friday night.  Bet you never heard of it before, prior to social security, it was a plan to give every adult over 60 years of age $200 a month and it had to be spent on food, clothing, furniture or a car before the next check could be issued.  Almost everyone had a garden, a few fruit trees and canned enough to see them through the winter.  Most people just accepted less pay for their work.


From the time I was 10 to 17 our home was sort of a rescue mission, us having a five bedroom house.  One of the upstairs bedrooms was very large and had three double beds in it.  After my sister Alice married in 1932 there were just five people living the house,  my father, mother, cousin Harry and Ann Zornes going to high school.  Almost every night every extra bed was filled.  Sometime with my sister’s family but most often with strangers and even those with children.  Any homeless that ended up in Yreka with no money or place to sleep, the cops would sometime call my dad.  My father always welcomed them into our home.  My mother had one rule (which meant we had to keep the kitchen stove going no matter how hot it was for the water pipes were heated in its fire box)  everyone had to have a bath before they could sleep in one of her beds.  I never set down to dinner or breakfast that there wasn’t at least 10 to 12 people at the table.  My father always made sure our passing through guest had enough gas to get them to Oregon.  With all those strangers in our home I can truly say we never heard a swear word or ever lost or anything stolen.


My Dad being a contractor was doing okay busy building the town of Chiloquin Oregon and in the early thirties moving buildings, building  bridges for new highways in Siskiyou County.   In 1931 when they widen and changed the route of highway 99 from Redding to the Oregon line he had the contracts for all the bridges and culverts until 1934.  while building the bridges down the Shasta Canyon a chip of cement put out his right eye and it to be removed, his left eye became infected and he lost most of his sight and after that his eye sight prevented him from undertaking government contracts.  He still built house’s and several building in or around Yreka. We had money, only maybe we were what you called property poor.  He built a garage for the Dodge dealer, moved six houses to be across from the hospital and added another house to the three in back of our big house and moved the Old Catholic parsonage to a lot on Butte St.  turning it into an apartment house.  I never lacked for food, clothing or spending money but still the depression era was brought home to me every day.  My brother Sam and sister Alice’s husband Charlie began building the (CCC) Civilian Conservation Camps.  Brother Pete was still at home working for Dad.  Dad staking Barney and Sister Della to three ranches at different times but the income from the milk was small and they couldn’t make it pay.

  In 1934 my Dad’s cousin Harry Hayes came to live with us.  His wife Molly after a long stay in the hospital died of cancer.  Harry stayed and did the driving as Dad no longer drove, that year was bad for us.  Besides a chip of cement putting out and the removal of his right eye and he losing most of his sight in the left, my mother had to have a kidney removed.  I graduated from the eighth grade and started high school.  Believe it or not I was very shy my first two years of high school.  I got very good grades, then I started dating.  Our ancient history teacher Miss Gould was moving, she invited me to visit her in Pasadena.  Mother and I went to Aunt Annie’s in southern California and while I was there Miss Gould took me to the famous Brown Derby where all the movie stars went.  I had a big time, the waiter stood right beside us with a napkin over one arm, I felt special but didn’t even know what fork to use.  I saw Joan Crawford and Wallace Beery and later Cousin Clarence took me on a tour of a movie studio, but don’t remember which one.


When Anne Zorn’s came to live with us to go to high school, mother having displaced a kneecap needing help with all the house work so Dad gave Ann Twenty dollars to help out.  She ended up giving most of it and her school $12. 50 travel allowance money that the schools paid for boarding  because the bus didn’t go to the house’s down the Klamath River,  to her parents so they and her younger sibling wouldn’t go hungry.  Her brother Alvie would also sometimes stay with us.  If my dad found someone or a family who had no place to stay he would bring them home.  When my sister Della had second son Johnny she only went to the hospital for delivery then came home to us.  More responsibility,  mother was in bed with her knee injury so Ann and I had to care for a new born baby plus Della and mother.  The summer I was 14 I went to visit Emily and John Dunham, Emily was on stage with my aunts, she was a concert pianist.  Their son Everett was a year older than I.  We picked wild gooseberries, but never again. Everett was killed the year he graduated from high school, broke his neck driving in the Klamath river.


I was allowed to date at fifteen and I dated James Avery and Jack Linville and Ann went with a guy named Kenneth from Weed who later was the first causality in World War II from Siskiyou County.  We worked real hard until mother could get around and when school started we still stripped the guest beds, also doing the dishes before going to school and at noon we did them before returning to school, but at least there wasn’t so many at noon as Dad didn’t bring the Homers home for lunch.  After school we brought in and folded sheets, helped with supper and did the dishes.  After supper we cleaned the house top to bottom and on Saturday we were able to date or whatever.  I didn’t like the local boys for all they wanted to do was make out.


My brother Pete Got married in 1936 to a nurse, Virginia Ann Lamach, Dad giving him the six houses across from the hospital.  I was sixteen, Ann and I stated dating the CCC boys.  We were jail bait to them so outside of heavy necking we were safe, they being two or three years older than us.   I started going with a CCC boy named James Lebeff, he was Russian and French, his father was the Russian Orthodox Minister in San Francisco.  He had such perfect manners, mother finally had to tell him to stay seated when she came into the room.  He gave me a mahjong set made of ivory, always brought flowers or candy for mother.  Mother made me give back the mahjong set, she said it was too expensive.


Dad would let me use the old 1929 Model A Ford.  I drove it to the CCC Granges dances every Saturday night.  The tires were bald and Harry often bailed us out when we had too many flats but we never missed a Saturday night dance. Bye the way I had dancing lessons given by an ex burlesque queen. I learned to tap, hula and black bottom plus grinds and bumps.  Never less I loved to dance and from the time I was twelve I went with mother and dad to Townsend Dances where they did square dance, schottisches and polka’s.  We would go to the Hippodrome in Weed when the big bands stopped there.  Friday night we’d go roller skating or to watch the boxing matches between the different CCC camps.


  Back when I was 14 my Dad let me have piano lessons in exchange for the teachers rent.  The small house in back of the big house was always rented, first to a friend of my brother Sam’s,  the Knapp’s.  They couldn’t pay the rent for three months and when they got a job at Chico they left the piano for back rent,  I got it.  I was 14 and my Dad let me have piano lessons in exchange for the teachers rent.  Next to move in was Lee and Kay Blizzer.  Kay was an Edwards of San Francisco and married a young mining engineer.  She had servants to do all for her.  So when she came to Yreka she couldn’t cook, build a fire, wash, iron or make a bed, so I taught her and she taught me how to walk like a lady, set a table correctly, table manners, to appreciate classical music and opera.  Her husband salted a mine and sold it.  They left in a hurry for the Philippines, where they bought a sugar plantation.  We carried on our correspondence for several years until she died in 1939.  During WWII  the rest of the family were interned in a Jap prison camp.  The daughters kept their father alive by bringing him food.  They were allowed outside.  The Youngest of their two girls lost her arm during the return of the Americans.  After the Blizzers left, Kitty and Jack Gore moved in the little house. They had two daughters.  Jack worked out of town quite a bit, Kitty was an alcoholic,  I did a lot of babysitting for them, their youngest, Barbara, was almost totally blind from birth.  Year’s later in 41 Jack was killed working on a dredger on the Klamath.  Kitty died of Alcoholism, her sister took the girls.


In the fall of 1936 I meant Rebec, (Anton Rybicki) he was so handsome every young girls dream man and I was the lucky one.  We went to the 49er’s day celebration held in Yreka.  The carnival was held on Dad’s lot next to the Apartment house and they provided all the free ride tickets we wanted, we had a ball.  A boy by the name of Tony from San Francisco and I entered the waltz contest.  We took second place and won a 5 lb box of candy which we shared it with everyone.  I remember one of the first times Rebec and I went to the movies, it snowed about five inches while were in the theatre. I had open toe shoes so Rebec carried me the 6 blocks home.  I think we kissed under every street light.  Mother was waiting when we got home.  She had received a phone call from Mrs. Harmon, Mrs. Young and Mrs. Atkinson all seeing me carried and  all wanting to know if I was hurt.  Small town,  everyone wanting to know everything.



In November, Rebec and I became engaged with the understanding that I would finish high school.  We were a couple until September of 1937 when I meant his parents and his mother informed me all Sundays would be spent with his family.  They only spoke polish at home, so Goodbye Rebec, I sent his ring back.  (When I was 80 years old he started calling me about every three months and sent me pictures of him and his wife.  He said you never forget your first love, I agree.) I started dating Shorty and Shaf, Bernard Frock and Al Linville.  I graduated from high school June 1938, 23rd out of a class of 76.  I continued to date Al in May, June and July,  we mostly just drove around but sometimes would go to Della’s and Barney where Barney played the violin and Al his guitar.  Barney was great with the violin.


I didn’t smoke but I did drink when with Shorty and Shaf, they called me ‘gin baby’, I could drink them both under the table.  On Friday nights we, along with Azealia Burns would go to the Pastime in Weed to dance.  This was a road house just north of Weed on highway 99.  You had to buy a drink to dance.  I often drove them home in shorty’s 1925 Dodge.  Once I drove to Della’s in Quartz Valley, we stayed overnight sleeping on the floor.  One time we went to McCloud to a dance and when we started back the car couldn’t pull the grade, so we put it in reverse and backed over.  The only time I got drunk was on my 18th birthday when Pete bought me a bottle of wine.  We drank it and then went to the Pastime where I drank gin.  I was sick and heaved all the way home.



I wanted to go to college but dad wouldn’t go for it.  I think he needed me at home.  He was going blind, he even stopped bringing strangers home.  I would read the Sacramento Bee to him every night.  Alvie Zornes was living with us working at the Palace, Ann was at our home for the summer rather than stay with the Cloys being engaged to Muggy. In July Bernard Frock and I went to the Oregon Caves and Gold Beach where we stayed with Dad’s cousins.  The next day we went to Roseburg and stayed with some of his friends, then to my Great Aunt Alice‘s in Medford.  Great Aunt Alice told our fortunes, telling me I would marry someone from a big city and never go back to Yreka to live excerpt for short visits.  She took aside and told me Bernard would die in just a few years, ( he died in 1941).  Bye the way, there was no hokey pokey with Bernard.  He was a perfect gentleman the whole trip.  My mother and Mildred Frock really hoped that he and I would marry.


Every time I wanted to get a real job my dad would say that I would be taking a job someone else needed to feed a family.  I started working by taking care of a little boy and house cleaning.  His mother was the county librarian, I don’t think she ever did any house work.  Her husband didn’t work just hunted and fished.  Life was becoming routine then fate intervened…….Bob




Once Upon A Time – The Life Of Betty (Potter) Willson #3

July 28, 2014



The following is a transcription of over a hundred handwritten pages of my mother’s remembrances journaled in a notebook over a span of years after reaching the age of 88. The words and sentence structure for the most part remain as originally written vividly projecting her personality, the flavor of the landscape and her view of the times.


The day I meant Bob was the day after ‘The Mercury Theatre On the Air’ Sunday night, October 30, 1938 broadcast of Orson Wells War of the Worlds on the radio.  I came to work at my child watching house cleaning job and found everything packed, they were responding to the broadcast and fleeing to the Marble Mountains.  The lady apparently realized it was a broadcast deciding to go to work telling me to unpack the boxes.  Her husband decided he wanted to play with my boobs, I quit and walked out.


I went to Roe Smith’s, she was waiting for her boyfriend, the person who brought him by in the CCC truck was named Bob, offering and then driving me home.  Several weeks later Bob came to the house and ask if I wanted to do something.  I suggested we pull back the rugs and dance, he didn’t dance so we made taffy instead.  Every couple of weeks he would come by, sometimes driving my friend Henrietta’s car with her and a group of CCC boys.  We would all go out to the Moonlight Oaks, put full beer bottles in a square and then play spin the bottle, whichever the bottle it pointed to got to drink it,  Bob always did the driving.


Just after Christmas Bob showed up with a Chevy Coupe, we went to Etna and Greenview visiting my brother Sam, Bernice and the family.  We started going steady, but because he had started driving ambulance in December he could only show up on weekends.  In May he asked me to marry and we got a license, he deciding to get out of the CCC’s and went to work with Barney cutting fencer post.  We, Della, Barney, Bud and Johnny were working and camping up on Moffett Creek in Scott Valley.  On the night of June 4th I was sleeping in the car while Bob slept in the tent with Della and Barney and the kids.  Around midnight a mountain lion came through the camp giving out a scream and the dogs started to bark.  Barney came rushing out of the tent with a gun.  He tried to track it but had no luck.  Della the next day decided to go to Yreka where little Johnny would be safe.  I went with her, Bob and Barney came Sunday and we all went back to camp.  I didn’t want to continue sleeping in the car so Bob said let’s get married.


I had made plans to be married on the 12th in front of the fireplace,  Mother having already planned a wedding shower for the 10th.   , So much for the wedding at home, I didn’t want to sleep in a car so then I best get married now.  On June 6th. we went to the Catholic Church my Dad had built in fort Jones but the Priest was in Happy Camp, so his housekeeper told us where Fred Wayne, the Justice of the peace lived.  We went to the Estella Dawson ranch and got Elna and James Dawson to be maid of honor and best man.  Then we went to the Justice of the Peace house and were married at nine o’clock at night.  We were the second couple he had ever married.  He had palsy and the bible shook so bad he could not read it unless his wife held it.  We ended up laughing when my ring wouldn’t go on.  Bob tried to give him our last $5.00 but he wouldn’t take it.  We bought Elna and James some beer and took them home.  When we got back to camp I told Della we were married and Bob and I slept on an army cot.  A Week later we moved to Della’s house, having returned home still worried about the Mountain Lion, we still slept in a room with five others.  July 2nd Barney delivered the post and gave Bob thirty dollars and we left for Oakland.  By the way I did get a lovely wedding shower on the 10th, Bob took me home for it.  With our $30 and a 1935 Chevy coupe we went to Oakland to try to find work, gas was 25 cents a gallon .  Our first night alone was in a $2 per night motel in San Pablo, we had been married 27 days.


The next day we went to see Mrs. Peduzzi, she raised Bob until he was 16, then kicked him out. We stayed with Mrs. Peduzzi for three days, our car was robbed and they took a small cedar chest that held my jewelry and our marriage license.  Then went to see Grace, Bob’s sister in San Jose.  Her husband was a dispatcher for the teamsters and was running for President of the Teamsters Union.  He would not help Bob find a job, didn’t want it said he patronized a nonunion person.  We stayed a week and then went back to Oakland where Bob found a job in a restaurant for 23 cent per hour plus meals, I couldn’t find any work having no skills. The first two months we rented a one room 10 x 10 apartment with a bed, dresser, hot plate chair and bathroom sink bath for $12.50 a month,  what a come down for me from the big house at home.  You make the bed you lay in….and I was to proud to let my parents know, writing glowing letters home, a pack of lies.


The first of September Bob got on with the WPA, (Works Project Administration)  building Oak Knoll Golf Course for $56 a month.  I let my pride rule me and never asked my parents for money or ever let them know Bob was working for the WPA.  My oldest brother Pete was water commissioner for Yreka and hated Roosevelt’s policies, another kept secret, my brother  always called the WPA welfare. With Bob making $56 a month we moved, the same building but to a 2 room apartment, still sharing the bath room with five others.  Our so- called living room had a Murphy Bed, ( a vertically hinged wall stored bed) the kitchen had a gas stove, sink, cupboard, table and 2 chairs.  We were coming up in the world.  I could even wash our clothes by hand and hang them on a line.  We would go to the 6th St. market on Saturday and buy what little we needed.  Our first Thanksgiving I cried most of the Day, it fell at the end of the month and we didn’t have much to eat.  The gentleman who lived in the basement said he would share his can of Bully Beef if I would cook dinner.  It was a deal, Bully Beef, corn meal with hot sauce, canned string beans and my last package of Jell-O.  The table was set beautifully, my wedding shower dishes, fedora crystal glasses, silver, linen table cloth and napkins even candles .


We went to Yreka for Christmas, it was Bob’s first Christmas, when he lived with the Peduzzi’s he didn’t get any presents.  It was hell to be 21 before you got your first Christmas present.  I bought our Christmas with my saved S&G stamps and made some of gifts with linen I got at my shower and painted some bottle to look like vases, oh the things you can come up with when you have no money.  My parent gave me a dress for Christmas and Bob a shirt, just before heading home my dad bought gas to get back to Oakland and gave us $30.  (We were rich).


Della a wrote mother was sick so I took the bus home.  She was alright when I got there so I only only spent a few days.  Siskiyou County State Senator Randolph  Collier was going to San Francisco so he gave me a ride back, 90 mile per hour all the way.  When I got back Bob said Henrietta had visited and stayed the night.  She was working at a dime and dance place on San Pablo Ave.  She showed up the next day but didn’t stay long and never came back, I wonder why??Bob started driving dump truck, getting a raise to $97 a month, working at Oak Knoll Golf Club.  We moved to a three room furnished apartment on 26th St just off San Pablo.  Living room bedroom, kitchen and our own bath, (God Sent),  mother coming for a visit on her way south to see her aunts


Our first New Year was spent with Ann and Vernon, we went to the T&D theatre.  It had the original Trapp family singing, plus a group of harmonica players and the movie South of the Border.  Before going to the T&D we stopped off a bar, tending the bar was one of Bob’s buddy’s.  He gave Bob a water glass full of gin.  By the time we got to the T&D, Bob was drunk.  I had never seen him drunk before.  He kept shouting “I see Gene Autry, but which one is singing”.  Everyone else thought it was funny but I moved to a different seat.


You could only be on WPA for nine months, so June 1st 1940 we packed up and went to see Bob’s sister Grace and Kelly Edwards for a couple of weeks then home to Yreka.   While we were at Graces I got pregnant.  When I was home the prior January I looked up when to get pregnant and have a baby on born on Bob’s birthday.  Mothers medical book had told me when in June to conceive, it was while we were at Graces.   I wouldn’t let it be said that Bob and I lived off mother and Dad, Bob was working for Pete and Dad.  We stayed a couple of weeks at my brother Pete and Ann’s house while they were visiting Minnesota. Then I made the downstairs back bedroom at mothers into a kitchen dinning, sitting area and the north bedroom upstairs for sleeping, giving Mother $ 25 per month for it.


Pete was always belittling Bob, but my Dad really liked him, Bob was working on the Montague and Terrigar ranch with Dad.  Between Christmas and New Year’s Grace called Bob saying that Kelly would get Bob in the Teamster Union and find him a job.  It was unexpected but we packed up and left for San Jose.  Bob went to work at Camp Roberts.  I stayed with Grace about a week then joined Bob in a one room motel with a bath along the railroad tracks.  It had a hot plate for cooking.  (Hmm…going backwards).



The first of March Bob took me back to Yreka and on the 18th of March Gary Michael was born.  My water broke about 10 a.m. on the 17th, Harry took me to the hospital.  Mike was born at 12 a.m. the next day.  He had a cut on his forehead from the instruments and a paralyzed jaw, I had 14 stitches inside, 16 outside.  Doctor Charles Pius had to be sobered up to deliver Gary, the nurse refused to deliver him because I was so small and my sister Alice had lost a baby a couple of years earlier.  They wouldn’t let me push until the doctor got there, poor little Mike.  I came home and on the tenth day lost my afterbirth, Ann came and cleaned me up.  The day Mike was born Bob drove all that night to get there, then turning around having to return to Camp Roberts.


The doctor didn’t think Mike would live as he couldn’t move his jaws.  They pumped my breast while in the hospital and gave my milk to the Walker baby, Bernice’s sister who had died giving birth about two weeks earlier, the baby had difficulty digesting regular milk.  Once at home mother pumped my breast and fed Mike with an eye dropper.  My father spent his time massaging baby Mikes jaws so he could learn to nurse.  It worked and by the end of ten days he was nursing.  I stayed about three weeks at home.  Dad would give Mike a little warm whiskey and hot water when he had colic.


Ted Member gave me a ride to the San Pablo Hotel in Oakland where Bob meant us.  We went back to Santa Margarita, this time on the other side of the road, same motel but not next to the railroad tracks.  After a couple of week we found an apartment in Atascadero.  Three rooms in the crotch of an huge Oak tree.  The limbs divided the three room, it even had a bathroom.  When the wind blew the apartment would rock.  Mother came for a visit and we took her to L.A..  In L.A. we bought a different car, and when we got back to our apartment we found out Bob was fired for not showing up in time.  We went to Graces and stayed in a small house in Cupertino.  Bob’s Brother Joe came to see us.


Bob couldn’t find work so went back to Yreka to our old rooms at home. Bob worked for Dad and we paid rent.  We stayed in Yreka in the apartment for about a month and a half,  paying our way more than any sister ever did when they came home,  even though Della always worked when she was there.  Dad died of a broken intestine in August.  He was only sick one day and was holding my hand when he took his last breath.  Pete telling mother she would have  to sell the big house and we should move.  My father having the largest funeral Siskiyou County ever had.


Once Upon A Time – The Life Of Betty (Potter) Willson #4

July 27, 2014


The following is a transcription of over a hundred handwritten pages of my mother’s remembrances journaled in a notebook over a span of years after reaching the age of 88. The words and sentence structure for the most part remain as originally written vividly projecting her personality, the flavor of the landscape and her view of the times.


With Dads passing we went back to San Jose and Bob got a job in Gilroy building a new stretch of highway.  We found an apartment, Bob taking me and the baby to meet  his Aunt Ellen and Mamie Goodrich and her daughter.  Aunt Ellen was in her late eighties, the first words she said on meeting me was “are you catholic?”  I said no, then she invited us into her house on the original Willson homestead.  We took her to see her sisters, Bob’s other aunts and suddenly she would disappear from sight and when we looked for her she would be sitting in the car ready to go.  We meant the Dexter’s, Whites and Kincade’s.  They didn’t make us feel welcome, they were small town ranchers who thought they were better than anyone else.


We looked up Bob’s mother side of the family, the McLaughlin’s at the mission in San Juan Baptiste.  We meant Mrs. Ladd who had worked for Grandpa McLaughlin.  She was a friend of Bob’s mother Kate.  She told us William, Bob’s father, couldn’t marry Kate until Dorson died because Kate was Irish and Catholic.  Grampa McLaughlin had a large ranch between Hollister and San Juan Baptiste.  He grew potatoes, oats and raised Morgan Horses, the finest Morgan Horses in the state.  She said he went to church every Sunday at the mission, but never made it past the bar on the way home.  She showed us where James McLaughlin was buried in the veteran’s cemetery at San Juan, he was a World War I veteran.  The records at the mission showed Kate was born Mary Katherine in 1884.  When Bob’s mother died so many died at the same time because of the flu epidemic,  she was buried in an unmarked grave with others in San Jose.  His father lived till 1932 but Bob never saw him but once since he was taken by the Peduzzi’s to Oakland and that was when he was six years old.


William and Kate had seven living children, the Willson family would not take any of them because Kate had them all baptized Catholic and because they were also Irish.  They were a snobbish group of puritans and masons who thought they were better than anyone else.  The girls, Bob’s sisters Gertrude, Gracie Mae, Evelyn, Loretta were placed in the convent at Santa Cruz.  The three oldest were going to Catholic school in Gilroy.  Bob and Joe were placed with Mexican families,  Joe’s name was William Joseph, the Novices’ called him Joe and Bob was placed with the Peduzzi’s when he was just two. I don’t understand why William couldn’t keep his family tighter.  Grace said it was because Evelyn told Aunt Ellen he put his hand where they shouldn’t be.  Albert the oldest was put in a unknown mental institution.  He had a very high fever when he was about five and afterwards he remained a five year old.  We never knew what happened to Gertrude after she left the convent at the age of sixteen.



Bob never received any affection from the Peduzzi’s.  He was just a meal ticket especially during the depression as Mrs. Peduzzi’s received state money for his care until he was 16.  From the time he was 10 he delivered newspapers giving his money to Mrs. Peduzzi.  He won a bike and started delivering telegrams in the Berkeley Hills at the age of 12, still giving to Mrs. Peduzzi.  When he came home on his 16th birthday he found an old suitcase with his few possessions, two shirts, a change of underwear and a pair of jeans.  The state  no longer paid for his care.  There was never any care, no love, no Christmas gifts, no birthday parties’  he said the only one that had kind word was Helen the youngest Peduzzi daughter and the oldest daughters husband Mike Julian.


He quit school and started delivering telegrams full time, renting a dump of a room for a dollar a day.  He bought a old model T for $10 and Mike Julian helped him fix it up.  At that time he meant Vernon and Stanley Schultz, they would take him home with them,  their mother treated him great, making sure his clothes were clean and mended and see to it that he had plenty to eat. The car he bought was his greatest joy.  Bob, Stanley and Augie, another close friend started south to Baja California and then on to Tucson Arizona.  A Jewish boy joined them leaving Mexico and from then on they ate pretty good, Bob said they would have starved to death if it wasn’t for him.  He could always get food at a Jewish owned store.  He never ever got to Tucson, but the name became his nickname.


We were in our apartment in Gilroy about six months when the job ended.  We went back to San Jose, getting a motel room with a kitchen, you had to use a quarter for gas to cook by and electric to see by.  Grace brought Bob’s sister Evelyn over to stay with us, her husband Kelly Edwards wouldn’t find Bob a job as long as there were San Jose teamsters out of work, he was now head of the teamster’s local union.  Poor Evelyn,  she was very upset having lost her denture plate someplace.  She would cry at the least little thing, complain constantly if anything disturbed her.  No work, Bob wanting to go to Oakland and transfer his teamster union card to their union.  We did take Evelyn with us, the only place we could afford was a one room motel with kitchen next to Castlemont High School.  Evelyn did nothing to help, she was scared of the baby Mike.  Ann Schultz found her a couple of jobs but she would not take them. Pickings were slim, Bob tried his best, he transferred to the Oakland Union and with his first job and pay check I insisted Evelyn be sent back to Graces.  Grace said she arrived but lost her suitcase so Grace gave her some money to go to Mamie Goodrich’s.  That was the last time anyone seen or heard from her, I really felt sorry for her but didn’t have the patience to deal with her crying and nervousness.


Bob at last got a steady job working for Clough Construction driving dump truck.  Mike learned to walk at 7 1/2 months, we were still at the motel by Castlemont when the Japs bombed Pearl Harbor.  Bob working 16 hours a day hauling gravel to the Naval air Station. We lived in the motel over a year seeing the B-25 bombers being loaded on the USS Hornet at the Alameda Naval Air Station to bomb Tokyo, Bob then going to work at the shipyards in Richmond, so he wouldn’t be drafted.  We no longer had a car it being repossessed until Mother came to visit paying $25 for a 1926 Dodge, driving her to Redding where Alice and Charley lived, the old Dodge getting good gas mileage.  We couldn’t get tires for the car and Bob needed an easier commute to Richmond so we moved to a 2 room apartment on 36th Ave. when we had a large earthquake.  I was on the lawn with Mike when it came, all the products on the shelves of the store across the street fell.  A couple from North Dakota having just moved in came running downstairs terrified.  The next day they moved back to North Dakota


My sister Alice and Charley came to live with us,  she never offered to help with the rent or the work and later we were told to move because there were too many people living in the apartment.  Charley finding work in the shipyards in San Francisco so they moved to San Francisco into a house that some Japanese who were put in a internment camp once owned.  We rented a two bedroom, 5 room house with an attached garage in a new subdivision next to San Leandro Creek in San Leandro.  Bob rode to work with several real nice neighbors, and when Katy was born in July 1943 our neighbor Mrs. Dutton took me to the hospital and called Bob.  Katy came fast and easy at the Oakland & East Oakland Hospital.  I again breast fed, Katy and another baby whose mother’s milk hadn’t come in.  I got milk fever and when I went home was running a 105 temperature.  Bob sent for mother and I think that was the only time that mother was angry with Bob.  Mother stayed till I managed on my own.  Bob being raised by Spanish/Italians and was taught that housework was a women’s job, men didn’t do housework or watch children.


I gave Bob his first every birthday party in March 1944.  All the fellows he went to work with and their wives came plus the neighbors, one drunk fun mess, Nancy being the results.  In June Bob received his draft notice to appear July 1st in Yreka.  We tried to sell our furniture but gave away most of it.  On the 28th of June we caught a train to Dunsmuir where Barney meant us.  My Brother Pete had empty an apartment next to Mothers in the Apartment House dad had made from the old parsonage.  It was furnished,  charging me $35 a month plus electric and oil for the stove.  It consisted of a bedroom,  front room kitchen, bath, and had 12 ft. ceilings.  He said he would knock off $10 from the normal rent of $35 if I kept the yard and halls clean.  We took it but I was floored to find out my mother had to work at the laundry in order to pay her her son rent and utilities.


From the first of the war everything was rationed, gas, food, meat, even shoes.  Mother was working, Harry had bought a house by the rail depot,  he died shortly after dad.  He left the house to mother and she sold it for enough that she could visit us and her aunts as Pete would have never given her enough money to travel.. When Dad died Pete sold the big house to pay all Dads bills. He also sold the house Dad had built along the side of the Old Perkins place.  He gave me and Alice $500 each and sold the old Perkins place to Della for $1500.  Generous of him,  as he kept the other six houses and the apartment house and sold the lot next door for a post office.  He went to Crescent City to work just after the war but only for a couple of months coming back and getting elected  city councilman and water commissioner.   My brother Sam had his try at the Richmond shipyard, he bought a house in Albany and was there for about nine months then went back to Etna.  It’s hard to be a little fish in a big pond after years of being a big fish in a little pond.


One thing that would really make mad was to see the farm boys not in the service when they drafted Bob from a defense job.  Bob went into the service in August and I was expecting Nancy in November.  The pay Uncle Sam payed me was $82 a month to live on.  Bob took basic at Fort Ord and then was sent to Fort Riley Kansas to a Tank Unit.


Nancy was born on November 2, 1944 and again I had so much milk, I nursed a little boy whose mother had died.  Guess what,  I got milk fever again, then they had to put the little boy on goats milk.  I was very sick and could not walk from the 20th of November till two days before Christmas.  Della took Nancy,  Bernice took Mike and Mother who had just married Marvin Wisner in October took Katy and I.   I laid on mothers couch and made stuffed animals for punch boards at the Walker Store and Bar, so I could buy the children Christmas.  We had Christmas with Della’s family.


New Year’s Eve Bob was in a terrible train wreck just outside of the Salt Lake in Utah.  He had gotten off at Salt Lake to buy a beer and when he go back on his seat was taken.  The Porter found him a seat in a car in back of the one he had been sitting in.  It was a steel car, the other was a wooden one.  A train ran into the back of the one he was riding in with such force that it pushed his car through the one in front of his.  When he go out to see the wreck he saw all his buddies that had been traveling with from Fort Riley having been pushed up against the windows, all dead.  They gave him a day delay in travel time and was able to visit us and see Nancy for the first time.  After what he had gone through I always knew he would come safe.  He shipped out of Seattle to Hawaii for jungle training, then on to Saipan where he first saw action.  From Saipan he was part of the initial landing on Okinawa.


That winter it was very cold most of the time, just above 0 degrees, even the sewer froze.  The diapers would freeze as I hung them on the line.  Mother and Marvin went to Dixon to work on a farm, my niece  Peggy came to live with me, until she came the picking were pretty slim.  She worked at Foster Freeze and the ranchers would give her meat, cheese and butter.  I traded my meat stamps for shoe stamps as Katy and Mike were out growing theirs real fast.  I wrote Bob every day, mostly V-mail which was free.  Elna Dawson was working in the mill at Weed and she would come up once a month and we would go to a show and celebrate a little,  Peg watched the kids.



That year we watched as a Jap balloon with bombs flew over Yreka, it finally came down on Humbug Mountain starting a fire.  The Japanese had sent them over the USA and Canada on the trade winds, one killing a little girl in Oregon.  That same year I had the children baptized Catholic for Bob.  Judge Allen and Kate Mathews were God Parents.  Kate had moved into mother apartment, she was mother’s nurse when I was born.    Della though I was the meanest mother ever because of two offenses.  1. I made Katy, when she was only one year’s old crawl into the bathroom when she had to potty.  I was too big and pregnant with Nancy to carry her and she was potty trained by 15 months.  2.  I burned Mike’s fingers for playing with matches.  He would go out where we kept the oil barrels and light matches.  I tried everything to stop him, talking, spanking, yelling, nothing worked until I burnt his fingers.   Thank heaven for Pearl and her brothers.  The Westbrook’s lived in the upstairs apartment, their Dad was a prison guard and Pearl would watch and play with Katy and Mike.  In the other apartment live the manager of our local grocery store.  He lived with his sister and kept me in grocery that were about to go off the shelf.


The day Germany surrendered and the European war was over, Alvie was home on leave from a malaria attack, he brought frog legs for us to eat, and they tasted like chicken. When Bob went overseas I got $29 more which I saved each month.  One of few smart things I did, that and not touching the $500 Pete gave me when Dad died.  On Okinawa the Japs had all the Tanks zeroed in so we couldn’t use them.  They used our our Red Cross signs on our ambulance for target practice, needless to say they were short of drivers.  They took a look through the records and found out that Bob had driven ambulance and had medical training, he was transferred to the Medical Corp.  He brought General Buckner’s off the battlefield when he was killed by artillery fire.  We got very few letters, but mentioned he got dysentery, jungle-rot, even got stuck trying to get in a to small cave during a artillery barrage.  He was prepared for the invasion of Japan, but Japan surrendered and he was sent to Korea with the army of occupation.  With the war over Bob came home Christmas Eve,  the girls were afraid of him, but Mike was one happy boy.




Once Upon A Time – The Life Of Betty (Potter) Willson #5

July 23, 2014


The following is a transcription of over a hundred handwritten pages of my mother’s remembrances journaled in a notebook over a span of years after reaching the age of 88. The words and sentence structure for the most part remain as originally written vividly projecting her personality, the flavor of the landscape and her view of the times.

It was February when Bob managed to get a cheap car and we went to Alice’s in San Francisco.    They had a nice house, we only stayed a week, Alice made me miserable.  She complained about the children and what it cost to feed so many and Charley was drunk most of the time.  I drink and I didn’t mind if others do, but I can’t stand it when one cannot hold their liquor, so we left with no place to go.


 We camped out sleeping in our car with our three little ones in front of Richmond Housing Authority office,  (a publichousing project built before and during World War II as a housing for defense workers from the shipyards), I refused to move till they found us housing, one with furniture.  They found us an apartment, we were there for the better part of a year.  At that time I was ill most of the time, passing out now and then and very weak.  I put Mike and Kay in day care, Bob was working long haul and not home many nights.  When the guy he hauled for failed to pay him one time he found another job at Lincoln Lumber.


We moved to the Hall Street Projects just off High Street.  While living there we made friends with Betty and Ike Nelson, they had children about the same age as ours.  Bob began drinking on weekends and I began to be bitchy, we fought a lot.  Mike started school at Melrose.  I would walk him taking both girls to school because he had to cross two railroad tracks and San Leandro Blvd, it was dangerous.  We also would go and him after school.  The housing projects was a terrible place to live as people would let older children bully the young ones.  One day Mike fell off the top of a slide that was in the playground.  One of the Nelson children came and said he wouldn’t wake up.  I picked him up and brought him home.  He had a large cut on his head, but had gained some consciousness.  Bob came home and we took him to Highland Hospital.  Dr. Parson said he had a 9 inch fracture on the side of his head from the forehead to below his ear.  Thank God the fluid drained on the outside instead of on his brain.  He was kept in bed for three weeks.  The first day he went outside some big kid hit him on the head with a ball.  Bob said we were moving, we went the next Saturday to see houses.  One in San Leandro and in the hills of San Leandro.  Bob said the payments would be to high so we applied for a VA load plus I still had my $500.


The next Saturday Bob went house hunting, he came home and said he bought a house and asked me to sign the papers.  I did and asked if I could go see our house, but he said the people wouldn’t be out till next week.  We put the $500 down and the next week moved to the house.  What a letdown, very small, two bedrooms on a corner.  When I told him it was not my dream house, he replied it’s only $45 a month and has an apartment basement we can rent to single person.  The house with an unattached rickety leaning garage at 7964 Greenly Drive was on a steep hillside 5200 sq. ft. lot on the corner of Shone Ave.   The 100 foot long lot was approximately 40 ft. wide on Greenly Dr. and 60 ft. across the back.   The upstairs having something less than 700 square feet, the front room 9 x 16, dining room 9 x 8, kitchen 9 x 10.  The two bedrooms pretty much corresponding in size having a bathroom with tub between them.  The back bedroom having the larger closet 2 x 6, the front bedroom having a small 2 x 3 closet.  The basement stairs were more like a ladder from the dining room downstairs to an unfinished laundry area with a cast iron double sink leading to a downstairs bathroom with just a toilet and shower that opened to a 9 x 5 kitchen with a sink, a gas stove, folding wall table and a water heater.  The downstairs kitchen opened to a 9 x 14 bedroom/living room with an outside entrance door.   We had to buy furniture, a bed for up and downstairs, 3 chest of drawers, army bunk beds for the kids, we already had a crib for Nancy.  Bought a table, six chairs, a sofa and 2 chairs. We had to make do with what we acquired.


The day we moved in we lost Nancy in the tall grass.  It would be our home from 1947 to 1980.  Next door Diamond and Bob Pepitone lived in a brand new house, 2 bedroom with a nice front yard and a large back yard.  They had two children Kay and Nancy’s age, Milton and Esther and a new baby Faye and later they had two more Christine and Diane.  Bob continued to work for Lincoln Lumber, sometimes delivering enough lumber for a whole house.  Later when taking Kay to Kindergarten on the first day of school Diamond and I meant Wilma Triplet and the following year we meant Natalie Calhoun who had two boys Stevie and John.  John who was the same age as Wilma’s boy Chucky and refused to go into the school until Nancy took his hand and lead him in.   Everyone came to my house for coffee, it start a long friendship that lasted for the rest of our lives.


We didn’t have a Sunday school near so the Episcopal ministers wife and I started one at her house.  I taught every Sunday and helped raise money for a church.  We raised enough to buy and old building and the parish bought some ground at Keller and Mountain Blvd. There was no freeway then.  We moved the building to the lot and opened a Sunday School and church services.  Oak Knoll naval hospital was next door and San Leandro Mental hospital was up the hill above the end of Keller.  We were told to bring our children in the house when the siren sounded.  Both are gone now.  I gave whist parties and teas to raise money for a proper church with the help of other Episcopal Churches.  We finally did it,  Reverend Father Hill held high church services and we used the old building for Sunday school. Later when I received Great Aunt Annie’s inheritance I bought a organ and donated it in my grandchildren’s name.


I was very active in PTA, membership chairman for about 7 years. District Chairman for two years.  I received a life membership when the girls were in Frick Jr. High.  All those yeas I was teaching square dancing at school.  I gave up PTA when Gary went into high school and started to work at Frick in the snack bar.  I was a campfire girl leader for several years’ having two groups and received a life membership in Campfire.  I was a very busy for a stay at home housewife.  In fact what little house work I did was between 4 p.m. and when Bob got home.  Bob was very jealous, he was always accusing me of affairs that I never had, the principle of Burckhalter, the milk man, the ice man, later my employers, any man I happen to talk to.


During our first year in the house we had Charlie O’Tool enclose the porch off the kitchen adding a small room.  He used a broken measuring tape and the six foot room ended up being five feet six inches wide. I had to cut a bed to fit into for Mike to have a room. Later we finally rented our lousy downstairs apartment to a lady.  She had too many gentlemen callers and when I caught Kay and Mike sitting on the basement stairs listening to the action I told her I needed the room for Mike.  While Kay, Nancy and I were at a campfire luncheon Bob rented out the apartment.  We had agreed it would only be for one person, but when we came home I found out he had rented to a couple with 2 children.  Lieutenant LeRoy Spears and his wife Polly, a son Robert and a 8 months old daughter Judy.  One look at those beautiful children, it was love at first sight.  Lt. Spears was to go to Okinawa and then in about 2 month his wife would join him.  The Korean War started and he was not allowed to send for his family.  Polly Spears was more like a sister to me than my own.  Polly and the children lived with us from April until December.  We shared meals, washing, entertainment and friends.  She joined our coffee group  just before Christmas.  I missed them very much, later every time they were on the west coast they would spend time with us.



I should mentioned the we paid $50 for the piano when Gary was little.  He could play anything he heard and would watch Liberace and copy him.  When he graduated from high Castlemont he played his own Bolero.  We bought the first TV in the neighborhood at a Wisemans Store.  Mr. Wiseman said he would take $20 off our payments for every customer Bob sent him that bought one.  I guess you know all the fellows Bob worked with needed a TV.  The two stations never came clear with our 1o inch screen, the box was 24; inches wide and 18 inches tall.  Alice and Charlie left Santa Rosa and stayed in the apartment for a while.  They were there for about 6 months.  No rent, no help with the house work or cooking.  They along with bob drank constantly.  They finally went to Pats in LA.  Charlie died of alcoholism there.  Mike Julian hadn’t been separated from Irene, he had TB. And no place to stay.  Bob brought him home.  I took care of him for a couple months, scared the children would get it.  I went to the T.B. association, ( I had for years filled envelopes with stamps for them).  They told me they couldn’t do anything for him, to call the health department. (I never stuffed another envelope).

Mother borrowed $1500 from Pete and she and Marvin bought a five acre farm with a small house just north of Sebastopol.   We visited them often taking Alice and Charlie and the boys with us.  Alice and Charlie sold their San Francisco house and moved to Santa Rosa.  We would take the Richmond Ferry to San Rafael.  Two beers, then at Cotati 2 more, then Sebastopol where the railroad tracks ran down the middle of the street, then 2 more beers.  One foggy night we didn’t even see Sebastopol and ended up on the railroad tracks going out of town.  She and Marvin sold the place and paid Pete off.  They went to Wisconsin to see Marvin’s son then came back to Yreka to the Apartment house.  She died shortly afterward in 1952 with a heart attack.  She loved Marvin, they liked the same things.  I doubt if she loved my Dad, but she respected him.  After mother passed he did all my canning for me.  We were surprised once in a while to find a cricket in the jam.  By the way he got kicked out of the rest home for having sex with the female attendants at the age of 88.



Loretta –

I guess I should tell about Loretta Bob’s sister…When Bob and I were first married Grace told us Loretta had married an Italian, Dino Tognozzzi and that they had a bar at 3rd and Howard St. in San Francisco.  It was a wino skid row place and where we stayed when we visited them was a fire trap.  We visited them and went to the Treasure Island World’s Fair.  We didn’t go back until after the war and by then Dino owned three bars in good locations, a Victorian house on Steiner St  (is now a S.F. showcase) and the American Poultry building.  Lots of money, but Loretta spent most of her time drinking and sleeping in the back room of the bars.  In 1946 Dino took a lot of Black Market goods to Italy.  He bought two square blocks in the city of Montecatini, a resort town, he was put in jail for seven years.  While in jail his son ran the bars and didn’t pay any taxes on the income.  When Dino came home the government took two of the bars and the poultry business.  It left him with the house and a bar on Van Ness Avenue.  We would go there once in a while.  Dino would bring Loretta and all the customer in the bar to our house.  It embossed me as they were loud and the women were ladies of the night.  He would leave Loretta telling me to sober her up.  She hated me but loved her brother.  She use very foul language and when Bob wasn’t around would cuss me up one side and down the other.  Sometimes I would make Bob take her back to San Francisco.  Dino finally died, he drank himself to death.  Loretta solid the bar and let the Victorian house go for taxes.  She married George McCurdy when she got 1/3 of the money from the sale of the property in Italy.  A quarter of a million, she gave us five thousand.  Don’t ask me where it went I don’t know.  She and George drank up the rest.  She fell out of a window drunk and the fall killed her.  We and Grace buried her ashes on William’s (her father) grave in Gilroy.



Bob would cash his check on Friday at a bar on east 14th St. then go to Ryan’s a family bar and forget to come home til late.  Forgetting we needed groceries for we were always short on groceries come Friday.  It would most often lead to a fight.  What really hurt was Bob took one bar fly home, name was Mary.  She gave gonorrhea, he gave it to me.  I went to the doctor Wolfson, he treated me but told me Bob would have to be treated.  I was angry hurt and felt unclean.  Bob excuse was he wanted to see what another women was like.  We quarreled and he shoved me out the door.  I was so angry he locked me out, that I broke the glass window on the dining room door.  Cut my hand and fainted.  I truly believe it was the only time he cheated on me, (not counting Henrietta.


Cabin –

In 1954 we bought an acre of land at Buckhorn ridge.  We built a lean-to and an outhouse.  Guess what we camped out.  We helped form a water company so we could have running water.  We would go up one or two times a month.  Sometimes Grace and Julian, (her husband after Kelly died) would join us.  We built a sleeping shack.  I think it was more of a drinking shack as Bob and Pepitone or Bob and George would go up there and drink themselves stupid.  Eventually they build a cabin with the wood from where Bob worked and my inheritance from Aunt Annie.


I admit I was a constant nagger about his drinking.  Our neighbor Bob Pepitone was no help, he was a wino.  One day Bob and Pep set in the front room, running down women.  I was cleaning the stove and  I got tired of hearing them so I dump the dirty water from the cleaning on Pepitone.  Even threw more as he ran for home. No hard feelings though, he brought me my Orchid the next day.  After Lincoln folded Bob worked out of the Union Hall for a while then went to work for Eastbay Lumber.  When it went under he went to work for Inter Bay. Contractors were buying direct from the mills.  In one year he worked for several different companies, enough to drive anyone to drink. We continued building the cabin, getting lumber at cost from East Bay and Interbay Lumber yards.  It was three rooms and bath with a shower.  One big room 20 x 16 living room kitchen area and two bedrooms with a close t between.  One larger than the other and a deck along one side.  We had water and electricity.


After Gary graduated from high school I quit all my activities and went to work in the school cafeteria, Frick, Castlemont and Hamilton.  At Hamilton I had a heart angina attack and was off for three months.  When I went back to work I was at Kings Junior High 2 years.  I found a summer job at Collins Floor and Window shade store.  I learned a lot.  I had to quit as Bob was jealous.  I was working for me.  I took a test to see what I would be good at, rated higher than any man taking the test in Plumbing, electric and carpentry.  I found a job managing a maternity shop on Telegraph Ave.


My Great Great Aunt Annie and Olive passed away and I received one fifth of my mother’s inheritance.  First from Annie I bought the Plymouth and paid off the house.  Put Kay through computer school, she finished her computer school and was working in San Francisco.  March of 1961 Kay married John Ove.  She gave us our first granddaughter Cynthia.  Bob thought the sun rose and shone in that baby.  Gary brought his band home, Nancy was going to college.  My angina was getting worst and Bob wad drinking heavy so I went to my Aunt Lily’s leaving the mess in Nancy and Bob’s hands.  Poor Nan she ended up being a scapegoat.


Gary had married Kay Rice and when Scott was to be born I went back east.  First to Oklahoma City for Kay’s baby shower then Atlantic City Georgia to see Polly and Roy.  I spent a week with them on Sand Mountain, then back to Oklahoma City for Scott’s birth.  I learned to croquet while there.  Bob and Nancy came to pick me up and on the way home we saw the Painted Desert and the Grand Canyon.  I got very sic again with angina brought on by the high altitude.


In 1963 I got the rest of my money from Aunt Olive.  I gave Nancy a Wedding gift, bought her new furniture, paid for the cabin and a new T.V., gave Gary and Kay some money and bought Kay a new washer and dryer.  Nancy married Don Crowder in November the day after Kennedy was assassinated.  Kay was maid of honor, she was seven month pregnant with Mary.  I was working at the maternity shop.  Brenda was born and Kay was having trouble with John.  He was on drugs and would push her around.  Nancy put Don through school, then had Sarah and Bryan.  Don demanded a divorce and Nancy was on her own.


Bob was drinking very heavy and smoking a lot.  Life was miserable.  I left Bob and moved to a small apartment not far from where I worked.  Kay took Bob to a couple of AA meetings.  He sobered up and came to see me, promised to quit smoking and drinking.  He did and I came home.



Once Upon A Time – The Life Of Betty (Potter) Willson #6

July 20, 2014


The following is a transcription of over a hundred handwritten pages of my mother’s remembrances journaled in a notebook over a span of years after reaching the age of 88. The words and sentence structure for the most part remain as originally written vividly projecting her personality, the flavor of the landscape and her view of the times.


February 1967 I was robbed and raped at work.  It was Saturday at 5:30 p.m…  I was managing a maternity shop one block from Capwells on Telegraph Ave.  He came in his collar around his face so I couldn’t the lower half of his face.  He immediately put pistol to my temple and told me to get down on the floor behind the counter.  He had locked the door as he came in.  I did as exactly as told.  He then went to the cash register, the box on the shelves and under the cash register  I had about $300 in cash but he kept saying there should be more. I was sure I was set up.  I had a well to do customer buying her first maternity clothes.  She bought well over a thousand dollars’ worth.  In the store there was a black women and her mother trying on clothes and listening to my conversation with the customer.  They left telling me they would be back.  The customer didn’t have enough cash so she put it on her master charge card, took her packages and left, it was about 5:15.  Bob called and the Robber told me answer and hang up, I did.  He then with the gun at my back pushed me into the bathroom.  He did not realize as we went through the dressing room to the bathroom there was a mirror on the door,  I saw his face.  He blindfolded me with a towel, put a gag in my mouth and tied my hands behind my back.  Told me tie down on the floor.  He pulled off my pants and raped me.  He got angry because I wore a long bra that fasten in the back.  He could get to my breast.  After raping as I laid on the floor he kept kicking me.  I guess he even used the gun handle.  He left and when I felt the cold air from the open door I knew he was gone.  I manage to get on my feet and work my way through the store on to the sidewalk.  I could hear people walking pass me but no offered to help me.  So I worked my along the building to the Tall Shop that was next door.  The girls who worked took the gag out, untied me and called the cops and Bob.


When the cops came they asked questions.  I told them what he was wearing and what he look like.  They put me in a car and drove up and down streets looking for him.  We didn’t find him.  They took me back to the store where Bob was and he took me to the hospital.  I had called the owner before I left.  At the hospital they cleaned me up to make sure his semen and disease he carried was gone.  Bob and I then went to the Police Station where for three hours I went through books of photographs of passed rapist to see if I could find his picture, I didn’t.


My back was hurting so bad I could hardly walk or stand, we went home.  Not once did Bob hold me kiss me or hug me or tell me he loved me.  I guess he was in as much shock as I was. The next morning, Sunday, a police Lieutenant and police photographer came and took pictures of my back where he had kicked me.  I was one solid mass of back and blue. I was so nervous, Bob suggested we go for a ride.  We stopped at Wilma and Bills trailer home.  I lost it, I started shaking and crying,  I couldn’t stop.  Bob and Wilma took me to the emergency hospital in San Leandro, a doctor examined me and gave me some pain medicine and something for my nerves.  He talked to me for a long time, told me no to be ashamed of what had happened but tell everyone what happened, get it all out in the open. When we got home Grace and Julian were there.  They put me to bed and Grace stayed with me until I went to sleep from the pills the doctor had given me.  They stayed all night.


The next morning the owners called and ask me to come in and help find Saturday’s receipts.  Bob took me down.  The police hadn’t told him I was raped so I did.  When he found out and called his insurance company and they put me in St. Francis Hospital in San Francisco.  I was there for about three weeks.  The first week in traction for my back.  He had kicked a couple of vertebrae out of place.  The other weeks I was just a nervous wreck, crying one moment and hysterical the next.  Nancy and Kay came to visit.  The third week they (the police) caught the rapist.  He still had my wallet.  I came out of the hospital to pick him out of the lineup.  Then went back to St Francis Hospital.  The guy thought I wouldn’t know him but I saw his face in the mirror before he blindfolded me.


When I came home from the hospital Bob still hadn’t held me or loved me. He had bought a gun.  Every night between 7 and 8 I would get a telephone call telling me not to testify at his indictment.  They said they knew the day care center Nancy took Sarah and Bryant to, what school Kay’s children went to.  I guess they did the same to other he had raped as they refused testify.  The Lieutenant police officer assigned to my case lived just a block away.  The police tried tracing the calls but without success.  They changed my number but before I could give my new number to Kay or Nancy whoever was calling had it,  I changed back to my old one.



About a month later I testified at his indictment.  He was Black Panther.  Huey Newton and all his buddies packed the chambers.  The black women who were in the store the day of the robbery were there also.  Kay went with me as Bob was working.  She set there crying all the time.  I was testifying when I told Judge Wilson that the criminal refused to leave my nitro pills.  The judge cleared the court room only allowing Kay to stay.  It was awful his lawyer made it sound that I asked to raped.  He was indicted to stand trial in June.


Again I was harassed by the Black Panthers so I went to the cabin with my grandchildren.  It didn’t’ have a bathroom yet but we did have fun.  In June only I and one other women would testify although he robbed and raped 10 other women.  They were afraid of the Black Panthers.  The other woman who testified had gone east after the rape and came back for the trial.  She testified and he threw himself on the mercy of the court.  The judge gave him twenty years to life.  The officers told me when I was working at Capwells that he got out in seven.  So much for justice.


I refused to go back to work at the maternity Shoppe and as they wanted me back I couldn’t draw unemployment.  I did receive $1000 from their insurance company.  I was still a nervous wreck on drugs, Thorazine.  I took so much that my teeth fell out.  My memory is not too good from February to September.  I do know I spent the summer at the cabin with Cindy, Mary, Brenda and Sarah.  Nancy was going through a divorce.  I was very trying on her as Don had destroyed most of her confidence.  The louse.  Kay had left for Portland back with John Ove, another bad apple.  Why daughters married such men when they’re so intelligent I don’t understand.

I don’t think I’ll ever forgive Bob for his lack of love and support during that year.  When I confronted him about he said who wants to go where a blacks had already been.,  over a year passed before we ever had sex.

That summer was the most wonderful in my life.  Just my grand babies and me.  They used the outhouse, took baths in the swimming pool on the deck, built play house out of blankets, dug tunnels and gold mines and slept on the floor.


In September with the children back in school I went back to Oakland to look for a job. In November I went to Capwells as a part time Christmas worker, sale clerking in the china department.  After Christmas which we spent at Kay’s I did inventory at Capwells.  I heard there was an opening in the furniture department so I applied.  There had never been a furniture women in any of the Capwells stores.  Mr. Baker interviewed me so I was the first. He told me to show those old men just what a woman could do.  Mr. Grenbawn, Mr. Drano and Mr. Munson were the men.  For the first month I sold nothing, then a lady told me that the men said I was there only to show the furniture not to write up sales.  That night I told them and what the lady had said that from now on if their customers came to me it was my sales.  I let them know that I was going to steal from them for a month just like they did me.  I did and became the top sales clerk, topping all other stores and they started hiring women.  Mr. Munson couldn’t take it and he quit.  Drago and I became great friends, Grenbawn taught me a lot about furniture.  Mr. Baker saw that I went to all the manufactures seminars.


(I left Bob after he finally told me who wants go where a black had been.  I hurt to very core of my soul.  I thought I had been a good faithful wife.  True we fought a lot mostly about his drinking and smoking.  He was extremely jealous with a cause as I like to talk with men but talk was far as we every got.)   The first time I brought home  a commission check for over five grand, (boy was I proud)  Bob said he would quit working if a wife could make more in a month than he could in a year, he didn’t need to work.  It was a big blow to his pride.  He spent his time with the grandchildren,  to the race track once a week and went up to work on the cabin. When I left him it was only for 2 months.  I had a nice little apartment downtown in walking distance of Capwells.  When he asked me to come back he had quit drinking and smoking cold turkey and ask me for forgiveness for not being there when I needed him.  He told me he really loved me and needed me.  I went back and our relationship got better.  He was a proud man, a wonderful grandfather who never ever corrected or punished his children, generous and loyal to his few close friends.


In the seventies I loved my work.  I went to LA for a few days to visit Vinita who had worked at Capwells but moved to LA.  She was an artist and had her own studio in Hollywood.  Two of my best friends Janice and Marge worked in Linens.  Janice got cancer of the breast and had them removed.  She lost her hair but she made it a joke, she wore a different wig every week, black one week, blonde the next redhead the next, sometimes short sometimes long.  Later in the 80’s when she died of cancer it had spread thru out her entire body before she died, she was fighting but given a three months notice so having been a cigarette smoking for years she decided to try every brand on the market.  She left me a necklace, it is one of my most treasure possession.  While working at Capwells my hands and arms would go to sleep.  The Doctor said my bra straps were stopping circulation.  I had a breast reduction, went from double D to C.  He didn’t do a great job as my nipples almost disappeared, took about 5 lbs. out of each, 60 stitches and a lot of pain


In 78 Nancy’s second husband Donald Gokey was killed in an auto accident.  A sixteen year old kid with no license hit him head on,  Nancy didn’t press charges, at the time she was Branch Manager of World Savings in Modesto.  She bought a house with the money from the insurance.  I moved  to Modesto, transferred to Weinstocks,  I was there for about a year while Dad fixed up the house in Oakland, going home on my days off.  We sold the house for $63,000 and moved into a house on McRitchie Way  that Nancy bought, the nicest I had ever lived in,  a real nice home,  Bob watched Nancy children.


Because I brought my salary with me when I transferred it was more than their supervisor received.  They piled the work on my marking,  the floor, deliveries and not only my department but china, television and handling complains for four departments plus selling.  I ended up with a return of angina attacks.  Three time in the hospital.  Bob would go to the cabin to work on it a week at a time.  We finally got it going.  Built on a large deck, put a laundry room down underneath and bought a new heater.  In 1982 at the age of 62 I had enough.  I retired with $50,000 in stock.  I sold $25,000 of it and bought a washer, dryer, water heater and furniture.  Loaned or gave Gary some money for his wife to attend college and become a nurse. He had divorced Kay and married Jan who was something like a Mennonite.  He gave up his music.  When married to Kay he had a band, bought a bar that failed and had two children, Scott and daughter Marlo.  He gave Kay everything in order to marry Jan and with her had two children Robert and Sandra.  We then had 10 grandchildren.


The Cabin:

We lived there for about 10 great years, at least for me, Bob was another story.  Doing nothing I didn’t want to do.  I moved in and I threw all those heart pills down the toilet.  I watch the trees grow, painted, played bingo at the senior center, visit with Peter Hill and played cribbage with Turney.  Bob cut trees sold the wood,  built a wood shed.  The only time I got sick was when a black widow spider bit me and when the hammock collapsed and I hurt my back.  Polly and Roy came for a visit so did  my niece Janet and her husband  Arnold.  Della and Barney also came while were building it.


Mary and John left Tara with us when they got married.  Poor Bob   he was nearly blind and in 87  had a heart attack, the doctor gave him five years to live.  He would need a whole new heart transplant.  Mary was a god sent, she was living in Stockton with two children, Tara and Katy.  She would come up at least twice a month, take Bob to the eye specialist in Stockton.  She stayed with him when I went to Hawaii with Cindy and Manny.  She stayed with him when I spent a week with Brenda and Brian before they left for Okinawa.  Mary was always there when needed.  Sarah would also take Bob to the doctors.



When Brenda and Brian came back for Okinawa they spent a week with us, Cynthia and Mary came with their little ones.   Becky, Tara, Katie, Heather and Josh.  All those wonderful babies, Bob loved all.  We had 10 grandchildren, Cynthia, Mary, Scott, Brenda, Marlo, Sarah, Sally, Robert, Bryan and Sandra.  I have 14 great grandchildren, Mary’s two girls Tara and Katherine – Cynthia two girls  Rebecca and Roberta – Brenda’s two, Josh and Heather,   Marlo’s two  Garrett, Allison,  Sarah two , Aaron and Nathan, Bryan’s two  Emily and Paige,  Scott’s Sarah by Lana,  Bryan girl by Robin, Jessica.





Once Upon A Time – The Life Of Betty (Potter) Willson #7

July 17, 2014


The following is a transcription of over a hundred handwritten pages of my mother’s remembrances journaled in a notebook over a span of years after reaching the age of 90. The words and sentence structure for the most part remain as originally written vividly projecting her personality, the flavor of the landscape and her view of the times.


The last two years Bob could not walk more than 10 steps without sitting down.  Towards the end I did most of the yard work, perhaps I should say all.  I also painted the deck, shoveled  snow, brought in the wood.  Bob was sill driving but he couldn’t see to good.  In 1990 Nancy bought a house on Parrott Ferry Road in Columbia, it was  large enough that Bob and I could live with her and could stay most of the time with her.  The Christmas of 91 Peter Hill called us and told us a water pipe had froze and broke in the cabin.  We went to the cabin, water had come up two feet inside before he noticed it.  Everything was soaked, it took a month before we got it so we could live in it, the insurance took care of it and they hired some people to do the work.


Bob died on May 23 1992 after making the best love we had in years.  He ask me to sleep with him the night of the 22nd.  I had been sleeping in the other room because he was so weak and sick.  We had come up to the cabin several days before and the trip was hard on him.  He should have not been driving although our fairly new, ( I think I bought it new in 87) Chevrolet Blazer Sport Wagon was easy to drive even though  it didn’t have an automatic transmission.


We slept and when we woke up we made love.  (Nancy and Dad had bought some Porno TV tapes, learned things we never knew.  I got up to clean when I heard Bob give a gasp’s, he was half on and half off the bed trying to put his shorts on.  All I remember is I pushed him back on the bed and he wasn’t breathing, I tried to give mouth to mouth resuscitation but screamed for Peter Hill and he came.  I called the ambulance, they took him to the hospital, I went with them.  The doctor came and said there was nothing they could do, I called Nancy, she was there in no time at all.



He is buried in the veterans section of a cemetery at Martel.  All the family came and the Eastlicks.  Bob bought his burial plot in 87 when he learned he had only five years.  The cemetery was being started and they offered a plot for $50 dollars.  I think the most enlighten moment and sure Bob was watching was when Mary’s little Katie danced around and around his coffin during the service.


Nancy had already bought the house in Columbia and we were packing up to move in with her when he died.  After the funeral I went home with Gary for a month.  I flew home having given him the Blazer that I had bought with the rest of my stock from Capwells.  The girls helped put the Cabin up for sale, it sold in two days for $89,000.  Nancy showed me how to invest it and I moved in with her in August.  The money from the sale of the house in Oakland went mostly for Bob’s doctors’ bills as he didn’t have insurance.  The first thing I did was to buy me a new bedroom set.  The second was redesign Nancy’s kitchen, then  I put a window seat in the bedroom.  When Kay’s oldest children had left home she divorced John, to many years of abuse.  She then meant and married Don DaValle.  She found a pearl of a nice man and husband every women dreams about.  We had thanksgiving at the DaValle’s Pine Mt Lake house with Kay’s girls family, Don’s mother and father and all of Nancy’s children.



I joined the Docents at the state park here in Columbia.  Worked and chaired the museum desk for two years and have been teaching 4th graders on field trips ever since.  Was Docent of the Year in 95, also 2001 and love working with children. Still  help each year at tent town and lamplighters.

Nancy and her boss Debbie decided that Debbie’s father and I should get together.  He had been a widower for years and I for two and half years.  Tom Fleming was an answer to every widow’s prayer.  Big handsome Teddy Bear, a gentleman all the time, loves children,  yet was a man’s man.  I think we clicked right away.  We meant in November, he brought me flowers and Nancy,  Debbie and I went to the fairgrounds Christmas bazaar.  He gave me a white teddy bear and 5 lbs of chocolates for Christmas.  Nancy and I went to New Year’s party and meant his children and brother.  They were great and very nice to me.  That year we went on a cruise to Mexico.  Went to visit his brother in the Desert in February and we went to Detroit when his son received the March of Dimes highest award and medal for the work he did with the paralyzed veterans.  We took cruise to the Caribbean, went through the Panama Canal.  We saw the desert in Bloom.  Were guest of the 96 Paralympics in Atlanta where we mingles with the Vice President, people running for president, governors, queens and bigwigs?  We stayed at his son’s house.  On the way we visited Polly and Roy Spears.  We saw paralyzed athletes doing the impossible,  some even doing better than those participating in the regular 96 Olympics.


We drove home through Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona.  I loved San Antonio.  Tom always went first class.  I was always treated like I was a precious jewel to him.  Then he got diabetes and congested heart failure.  Once we spent three weeks at the Legacy in Reno when his brother had a kidney removed,  waitress’s would fight to get him at their table.  A good tipper.  He had a 48 dodge in mint condition we rode in parades.  Took a trip with his niece and her husband in a $250,000 motor home to Montana to visit another niece who lives in Plains Montana.  Fished on a huge lake in a 35 foot sail boat.  What a wonderful 7 1/2 years we had.   The last two years we didn’t do much traveling.  I would go down and spend a couple of weeks a month with him.



I’ve taken a few trips one in 2000.  Tom didn’t go, it was to Germany , Austria and part of Switzerland to a passion play put on every ten years and then to England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales.  I made two trips with Nancy, one to “Alaska from San Francisco and one on a train to Yellowstone and the Grand titans.  Both marvels. I joined a separate check travel club and did a lot fun trips with them.  Every year the snow train to Reno and the race in Albany every spring.  Tom and I took a lot of their trips.  I would go back to Polly and Roy’s every year where I always feel welcome and needed.  Polly not doing so good, I still keep in contact with the Aussies that were in charge of my tour of England Scotland, Ireland and Wales.  I would not have known what a pub was like if not for them.  I have attended a few high school reunions.  Went with Janice to the Rose Parade.   The last three months Tom was in and out of the hospital.  I didn’t get a chance to spend much time with him.  Life almost came to end when I lost him.  Since Tom’s death I’ve slowed down


On my 80th birthday I decided we need a family reunion.  So I invited well in advance all the relatives and family.   Come early, stay late invitational, they did.  We slept under the trees, in trailers and cars.  All the Eastlicks except Johnny showed.  Bill Potter and his wife, Bob’s sister Graces daughter Lorraine and Walt.  Alice’s family.  It was great.  Poor Nan she says never again, but perhaps when I kick the bucket she can throw a big wake.


I am so proud of my daughters, my son, my grandchildren and a great great grandchildren.  On the 2nd of July 2007 I got my first great great grandson and this year I will have two more I know I ‘m bossy, determine to get my own way no matter what and I am very inpatient.  Perhaps that was what caused all the fights with Bob.  I’m very proud, my damnable pride.  I live with Nancy, gamble at Black Oaks with Kay, see my sister Alice (95 years young) at least twice a year and I am a Red Hatter. When bored (very seldom) I will day dream house plans that will never be built.  Almost got one built for Kay in Groveland.  They even blue printed it but Groveland wanted a fire engine to be bought by Don and Kay so that scratched it.  They sold the Groveland in town land and built Yosemite Rose B & B on Ferretti Rd.



I try to keep busy at the park.  I have survived cancer, try and help at the Kay and Don’s B & B and love doing yard work.  I managed to get my bathroom enlarged by taking Nancy’s closet, adding  a bathroom to guest house, adding a whirl pool and walk in set in shower to Nancy’s bathroom.  My yard is my prize, I go on small trips with the seniors or anyone else.  Looking over the past years I guess I am really a lucky person.  I have good friends, loved two good men, had wonderful parents and can’t ask for a better family.