Uncle Bill had said ” You can put your feet under the table in Hawthorn” but he was not there and his wife Rachel was less than hospitable giving us a can of beans and figs from her garden! Little did we know how Aunt Rachel would accept us.
Uncle Bill, who had been in partnership with Sage, had retired from his builder’s business in Swissvale, Pittsburgh, and gone to live in Los Angeles. However, he had returned to Swissvale to work again in the building trade for the following reason. Before he married her, Aunt Rachel had owned a house with some land in Swissvale. On this land, Uncle Bill had built three stores – a grocer’s, a butcher’s and a drug store. The money Aunt Rachel had raised from the sale of this property she had lost in an oil well venture which never materialised. Hence, his return to Pittsburgh to earn more money.
In less than a week we had moved into a bungalow and bought some bits and pieces. The rent was $12 a month. The bungalow had a living room, kitchen, two bedrooms, bathroom and garage. There was also a porch with tubs. We lived there for the remainder of our stay in America.
The Dodge car had stood up well. We only had to buy two tyres between St George and Las Vegas. It was a journey never to be repeated but never to be forgotten. Cecil continued to use the car daily to and from work in Los Angeles for a further two years finally selling it for $175.
Jim started school when he was six in November 1928. The school was six blocks (streets) away. He left home at 8.30 am and got back at 3.30pm. The children took sandwich boxes for lunch. It took a while to meet and make friends. True there was Nell, our cousin, and Rose her step sister. There was also Aunty Rachel, who lived just a block away, but we seldom saw her. Somehow the neighbours were not quite like the ones we had left behind in Pittsburgh.
There was a German lady by the name of Fox who lived in the second bungalow from us. One day Mrs Fox introduced herself to me, said I looked lonely and, seeing I was pregnant, stayed for a chat. Her husband worked for a butcher across the street. She had two children from a previous marriage and interestingly her son John was a Mormon living in Salt Lake City and had two wives! I did not realise that this was still perfectly legal. The daughter, Amanda, was married to Jewel Baker who had a bakery store in Hawthorn. In the course of the conversation it transpired that Jewel liked beer but didn’t risk making it in the bakery.
Anyway this led to the start of Cecil’s illegal beer making venture. Leonard, who at that time was living with us, had a friend George who had a friend who was a chief jailer in Los Angeles. One day George arrived with a crock and bottles. Guess where they had come from? confiscated in a police raid on someone’s home! Jewel brought in the rest of the equipment and ingredients and Cecil set to brewing the beer. Cecil hid a crate of the newly bottled beer in a hole he had dug in the corner of our garage, which conveniently had a sandy floor. There it was allowed to ferment.
In due course Jewel came and took away his beer. But would you believe, the very next day we had a tornado. we could see it approaching down the High Street. Everyone rushed indoors. The tornado passed straight between ours and the bungalow next door forcing Len’s car into Cecil’s, which were both parked in the drive, and demolishing the garage which was blown away. Lucky for us there was just a hole showing in the garage floor! Jewel enjoyed the beer.
Shortly afterwards Mr & Mrs Fox moved a short distance away across some fields. On the morning of March 6th 1929 I felt the baby was imminent. Cecil had gone to work and I was unable to contact him so I walked down the street to the house of a friend, Rose, who had promised to take me to hospital. Unfortunately there was no one at home. I then walked on to Mrs Fox. She was home, she invited me in, sat me down and called Jewel. In no time at all he arrived and drove me to the Martha Lee Hospital. Within the hour Richard Roy was born – the very day the Dr. said he would. Mrs Fox met Jim from school and cared for him until I came home from hospital.
After Richard’s birth we became friendly with a German couple, Louise and Frank, who lived opposite, they had a son a little older than Richard. Other friends were Dorothy and Al. They were Jews and had two girls, the younger being Jim’s age. Then there was a Russian lady, Adel. It was all so strange after our mostly English neighbourhood we had experienced in Pittsburgh.
The weather made living in California much more pleasant but there was little industry. Leonard wasn’t working steady, just a week here and there. Work in LA was very different from Pittsburgh. Leonard and Cecil queued at the film studios for a place in crowd scenes; the line always finishing before it got to either of them, although Cecil did get work on the first ever sound proof stage built for the talking films at Culver City.
He had a variety of jobs as milkman, driving a horse van, making coloured floor tiles and for four days as an electrician’s mate. Also he spent a few months working on an oil derrick for Jim Ackerman who had spent $75,000 on the venture and still got no oil. At one place Cecil was told they did not employ old men- he was then 34. The last job both he and Len had at Los Angeles was in a soap factory. He would leave home at 6.00 am and not get back until any time between 6 and 7.00 p.m..
By now Leonard had met Anita. She was working in a store in Los Angeles. Soon after we met her she returned to her home in Tucson, Arizona. Leonard, who now was not working, shortly after set off, as we thought, to find work in the building trade in the Imperial Valley. Imagine our surprise when we learned he had followed and married Anita in September 1929.
A few months later he returned with his bride and set up home in the bungalow right next door to us. Being pregnant it was arranged for Anita to book in early July at a maternity home at Inglewood, two miles away. However, Anita suddenly made up her mind to go back to Tuscon for the birth of their first child, Diane. Leonard stayed at Hawthorn and got work with Cecil at the soap factory in Los Angeles. In due course he was rejoined by Anita and the baby and they were still there when we left in 1930.
Anita’s people were descended from the old Spanish Grandees ( I have pictures of the Aguirre coat of arms). Later the family lands were sold. Len buying the remaining 560 acres for $1400. A few years later he sold out. 160 acres @ $50 = $8,000, 400 acres @ $300 = $120,000, Total $128,000. Some profit! Leonard came back to England alone for a holiday in 1954, and again with Anita, when Pa died, in 1961. Len died in Tuscon in September 1976, aged 71. We were fond of Anita having got along fine during the short time we were together.