Through Any Given Door

1.33 Missive to Marceline

When our cousin Marceline turned seventeen (the same age Mom was when she married Dad), she became engaged to a young man named Roy. She wrote my mother of her wedding plans; Mom penned back a four-page letter in her cursive handwriting: May 2, 1947 Dear Marceline: Received your letter when I … [Read more...]

1.32 Larry’s Diary, Apr-May 1947

1947 • Larry’s diary (age 13) Apr 1  Received pay of five dollars and paid father on radio Apr 2  Bought hatchet and knife. Chopped down a small bush for my paper route. Bought some stamps and took book from library about stamps Apr 3  There was no Boy Scouts meeting tonight. Got … [Read more...]

1.31 Heathens and Hellions

1947 • Sonora, California ~ They ran through the house like heathens and hellions, my parents' children before me. Dad left their guidance to the church, Mom left it to the winds. The kids not only had the run of the house, they also had the run of the town. Most summer days the three … [Read more...]

The Summer of Love

1965 thru 1968 • The Haight, San Francisco ~ I worked for Dad in his store on Haight Street during the summers, saving my money for French fries, milk shakes, school clothes, and college. In the early '60s the Haight was a middle-class white neighborhood with a smaller community of black families. … [Read more...]

1.30 Larry’s Diary, Feb-Mar 1947

1947 • Larry’s Diary (age 13) Feb 1  Today I took both routes again for Mr. Mouron. I also went and looked at some bikes as I am hoping to buy one. Bought some more stamps for collection. Feb 2  Today I went for a short walk. I also took a bath the day before yesterday and one today. Pat … [Read more...]

1.29 Larry’s New Diary, Jan 1947

My mother, brother, and sisters loved to read. They regularly checked out books from the local library, and in every room at home someone would be sprawled somewhere with their buried in one. Larry’s favorites were historical adventures, dog stories, and biographies. He'd buy books when he wanted a … [Read more...]

1.28 Nothing but the Best

1946 • Sonora ~ Mom decided life would be easier if Claudia, the youngest at the time and the only one still at home, went to school. Dressed in her netted hat to set off her pinned-up hair, a pastel polka-dotted shoulder-padded two-piece outfit, pearls, silk stockings and white open-toed wedge … [Read more...]

1.27 Wolf at the Door

1946 • Sonora ~ Squatting on the front stoop in the low afternoon sun, Betty, all of six, and Claudia just four, sat wondering what kind of trouble they could get into when their plans were cut short. An eerie howling, like a trapped animal with its foot caught in a snare, floated through the … [Read more...]

1.39 Brusha, brusha, brusha …

Late 1940s • Sonora ~ Lorna Harrington, Betty’s best friend since kindergarten, was unusually shy. My sister took her under her wing from the beginning, and as birds-of-a-feather they flew everywhere together. Betty saw no reason why she and Lorna shouldn’t participate in all camp … [Read more...]

1.26 Might as Well Be Hung for a Sheep

1940s • Sonora ~ No Sunday or Holy Day passed without Dad taking the children to Mass. Some Sundays they attended St. Anne's in Columbia, other Sundays they went to Mass in Jamestown, sometimes they drove to Tuolumne, during summer camping trips they heard Mass sitting on the hard benches … [Read more...]

1.25 Brandis and Bingo

1946 • Sonora ~ Sundays were family days that were spent reading the newspaper comics, going to church, and calling on relatives. The adults played canasta and bridge; the kids, Monopoly and Chinese checkers. They went for drives and had picnics in the country with Aunt Verda’s family. Our … [Read more...]

1.24 Itty-Bitty Balls of Tuft

1946 • Sonora ~ One Saturday Mom brought home six dozen chicks from the feed store and enclosed them in the safety of the chicken coop. The next day, Carleen, Betty and Claudia gently carried them from the pen to the front yard, cradling the soft chicks inside their tops, smelling … [Read more...]

1.23 The War Years

September 1940 • Watsonville and Vallejo ~ Our family moved back and forth between the Vallejo and Watsonville. In 1940, Dad was working for Union Ice, and he occasionally took Larry with him on deliveries. My brother was impressed with the tons of ice in the huge vending machines, especially … [Read more...]

1.22 Letter from My Mother

From my mother (age 26) to my father's sister, Amelia Conway (age 39), living in Byron, Minnesota: Watsonville, Cal. Nov. 22, 1941. Dear Amelia & all:       The last letter I had from you was dated July 11, whether I have written since then I don’t know but I probably … [Read more...]

1.21 Where Babies Come From

1939 • Watsonville ~ Our house was right on her way home from the grammar school and Marceline (Uncle George and Aunt Verda’s daughter) loved to stop off and visit mom. Marceline held Babe in high esteem, elevating her to a kindred spirit and favorite aunt. She thought our mother a much better … [Read more...]

1.20 Sketches of Clemens Family

Their parents were not openly affectionate to the children, but they took it for granted that their parents loved them. It’s not that Grandpa and Grandma didn’t care; they had work to do: cows to milk, corn to husk, bread to bake, mouths to feed. As soon as the kids were old enough to feed a chicken … [Read more...]

1.19 The Clemens Farm (part 3)

The Clemens and Nigon families did well, all successful farmers of German heritage. Not one family lost their farm in the Great Depression, like so many farmers who had strapped their land with bank loans. They worked, paid cash for what they needed, then drank beer and danced... but not … [Read more...]

1.18 The Clemens Farm (part 2)

The Clemens children went to the county school just down the hill, and then to St. John’s Grade School in the former St. Mary’s Hall, a big, two-story brick building a mile away. The three oldest girls were so close in age that Grandma held Mary back a year so she and Elizabeth could start school … [Read more...]

1.17 The Clemens Farm (part 1)

My grandparents were known for attending funerals. Relatives, close friends, acquaintances, people they barely knew: it didn’t matter. Barbara and Mathew went to all of them. It was their social center. If anyone wanted to visit them and a nearby funeral was happening, they knew Grandpa and Grandma … [Read more...]

1.16 Minnesota Catholics and Cows

1920 • Minnesota ~ When the wheels needed to be changed or the axles greased, my father—not yet a man—lifted the more than 200-pound hay wagon with his back, raised it higher with his arms, and held it steady while his older brother Aloysius, or Louie as the family called him, slipped the new wheel … [Read more...]

1.15 Everything is a Gamble

Feb 4, 1933 • Colusa Sun-Herald, Colusa, California ~ At an early hour this morning Miss Noreen Chatfield became the bride of Carl Clemens of Rochester, Minn., at a ceremony performed in Our Lady of Lourdes Church immediately following 8 o’clock mass services. The members of the immediate families … [Read more...]

1.14 Golden Eagle Cafe

1932 • Colusa, California ~ Two years into the Great Depression, when there were no jobs and little money and Herbert Hoover was unable to keep his campaign promises of prosperity, 59-year-old Nellie moved to the bustling rice town of Colusa, the county capital built on a lazy river bend in the … [Read more...]

1.13 Sign of the Cross

More backstory • Chico, California ~ As she got older and her burning feet made it too far to walk, Roy drove his mother the mile and a half to 7:30 morning Mass. Cruising up in his black four-door Hudson Terraplane sedan, hopping from the car, offering her his arm and walking her up the … [Read more...]

1.12 Sketches of Chatfield Clan

My grandmother ruled the roost and her word was law. There was no question about it. As a result of her righteous positions, she was on the outs with most of her children throughout her life—and the higher she stood on her moral ground—the lower her family descended. Here are brief … [Read more...]

1.11 Boucher Street, Chico

In 1915 the Chatfields left Los Molinos and moved to the up-and-coming agricultural town of Chico, buying a fairly new two-story corner residence in the Chapmantown district, a working class neighborhood near the Diamond Match Factory. In those days most people rented; few owned their own homes. … [Read more...]