January 17, 2015

We were introduced to California in Redondo Beach.  Claude’s first job in California was with the Downey Branch of North American Aviation.  Beach life was  difficult for me. I had to become accustomed to the lack of seasons—summertime in winter, flowers and new growth in January!  However, the kids adapted quickly and loved it. From Redondo we moved to Garden Grove/ Anaheim where we were surrounded by freeways and incessant traffic and neighborhoods that focused on landscaping and upscale homes.  We were within spitting distance of Knotts Berry Farm, and Disneyland was born during those years.   So was Jane Ann.   October of 1955.
Claude never let the grass grow beneath his feet.  He was always looking for new opportunities.  
We  moved from the city to country to give our kids a little more breathing room.
Mike was into old cars, Patsy was very much involved in horses: John was tearing around in a go -cart so we decided on a place that was more for the acreage than the floor-plan.   There were pastures and barns and sheds and our kids thrived on the space.
North American Aviation was involved in the Saturn Project and we suddenly were faced with the prospect of moving to Mississippi.  By this time Mike was out of high school, taking college classes and working.  We had helped him buy a little house of his own so he did not go with us to Mississippi.  Driving our Mercury sedan and towing a Volkswagon bug we set off on the road trip of a lifetime..  It was summer, but we had a really good air conditioner in the Merc. 
 We tried to prepare our kids for a culture shock—this was the era of the Martin Luther King marches and riots, and life in Mississippi was a far cry from our California life style.  Quite a large contingent of Californians descended upon the Mississippi Gulf Coast region, and the economy there improved considerably as houses were built and purchased and new neighborhoods erupted in the piney woods of Mississippi.
The huge test facility roared and boomed and the ground shook as the Saturn rocket was tested and retested.  These were exuberant, grand times!
We had a big two- story house built in one of Picayune’s new neighborhoods, and life continued in a California style on the surface, but we saw ominous signs of an under-culture and were aware of a racial undercurrent and a nameless rumble of fear beneath the façade.  Our experience with hiring help was eye-opening for all of us, and we came away with a radically different perspective.  
In all I look back on those two years as some of the best.  We were a part of a crucial time in history.   It was a ‘learning time’ in our family, too.
We were seeing the many facets of the racial issues first hand. 
 I hired a negro lady to help with my ironing and chores, and thought I was being open minded and fair by inviting her to ride in the front passenger seat of my car,   I will never forget the look of fear in her eyes as she  tried to tell me that she and her family could be in great danger if she was seen
‘not keeping in her place’.  I was seeing aspects of racism in the south that I had not known existed. It was a wake-up call for all of us!

Our new house was under construction and we were living in a mobile home at the time Betsy hit.  We did not like the idea of being in a mobile in a hurricane so we scouted the town of Picayune for a solid looking motel in which to wait out the hurricane.  Picayune is about 50 miles inland from New Orleans and the Gulf.
We found a motel that was nestled amongst a grove of tall pines.  It looked substantial and solid, and we packed some supplies and water jugs and settled in for the night.  Our son John kept watch all night and he said he saw the pine trees bend down almost to the ground in the wild wind.
The next morning Picayune was still there, and we learned that almost all of the damage in Picayune was incurred by falling pine trees!  Incredibly, not a one surrounding our motel had fallen. 
At our new house site, however, a pine tree had been blown over onto the roof, but did not do a lot of damage.
Low- lying areas along the Gulf Coast were badly flooded, and the coastal highway was a disaster.  We saw flotsam and jetsam up on the grounds of the beautiful anti-bellum homes along the coast—and debris from the bayous, including snakes and alligators was rampant along the highway. The beaches were gone, totally washed away.
There were many of the California contingent who had bought homes in the high-dollar housing along the gulf coast and incurred much flood and wind damage.   We were glad we had chosen to live in the humble village of inland Picayune where the elevation was a whopping 50 feet!
It made a big difference!  
From Betty's Journals

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