SAFE


Words have incredible power over us. Safe, home, family. All words that signify love and comfort.

Do you feel safe? That question was asked of me when i left the hospital. Did I feel safe? It was repeated after Dr. A’s accident: did I feel safe? We don’t give much thought as to whether we feel safe. It is simply a state of being.

But I thought back through my rather peripatetic life, which was at best a coming and agoing, and an expectation that I would adapt, which I always did. But did I always feel safe? Probably not.
I came along after the Lindberg baby kidnapping and murder, and it was deeply impressed upon me. I was fearful that a kidnapper lurked behind each dark corner. Yet I would deliberately dive into the biggest wave at the beach, and ride my bicycle to the top of the highest hills at Auntie’s house. Facing the devil down I suppose, to show I was just as tough. But I didn’t feel safe.

We grow older with a family we try to protect from the day to day mishaps. We carefully lock our doors and set the burglar alarm, and close up “shop” at night. Does this make us safe?

Each evening I step outside with Charlie after dusk, and watch two airplanes fly over my house on their way to the San Francisco Airport, SFO. I always smile and think to myself that their trip is nearly over. The passengers are gathering their belongings and wondering if someone will meet them or if their car is ready. They are almost home, that other warm word. They made it back safely. Do they feel safe? I hope so.

It is difficult in today’s world to keep the feeling of safety with so much that isn’t safe bombarding us. In this cozy corner of my garden, surrounded with the fruits of our labor, and knowing that we, Dr. A and me, and Charlie, are together, I can answer: yes, I feel safe.

MOVING IS A MESSY BUSINESS Kate’s Journal


We are moving. First a possibility, then a probability, now a fact. We are leaving this house which has sheltered us for over forty years to be closer to the bosom of our family, and that is an exciting consideration. We will learn to know the newest crop of great-grandchildren as we knew their parents, which distance prevents now.

After all these years we are unused to the process of selling a house. When the sign goes up in front of your house, complete strangers drive by and ask the price. Then realtors from all over town come to look at it while you spend your time away from home allowing them to look at your stuff without being able to let them know how much time, money and love you have put into making this house a home. Most of all, Charlie must be removed along with you because he doesn’t understand what’s going on, and let’s everyone know it.

The people who come to see what is inside can’t imagine the children who played here or the parade of dogs during all that time who have protected us from all intruders. The essence of joyous holidays and parties still permeate the walls, and the friends who have come and gone through the years have left their mark as well. There are still people who say they remember a special occasion party or two. The kitchen and that 45 year old stove were well worked over until even it had to be replaced a year or two ago.

I wonder who will find this house irresistible. Will they love it as we do, watching each tree blossom in the garden, and wait impatiently for each of the fruit trees to yield their bounty? Will they completely replant all the beds with another style? Will they love all the small hidden areas in the large garden? I caution myself to avoid this sort of thinking, because when we moved here so long ago, we changed everything about both house and garden.

It’s hard to remember just what it looked like then as we began to make our mark. Trees were removed and others replanted, lawn disappeared and brick replaced it, each brick lovingly placed by Dr. A. Tons of tomatoes and zucchini came and went through the years. A very large pool and fountain came where grandchildren learned to swim and paddle, and I cooled off on hot summer days. When an earthquake cracked it once too often it was removed and things were redesigned once more.

Will new children play in the small garden house built by our brother-in-law to resemble a house in Carmel? I will miss the hours spent painting the whimsical creatures inside; will they miss me? I will miss taking my morning coffee there while I contemplate a new painting, or having an afternoon tea with Dr. A talking over the day.

Will my painting studio miss me when someone else perhaps uses it as another bedroom? The hours and years I have spent in this crowded and cluttered environment were beyond special. The room was first used by us as a sewing room, with built-in Dutch beds for grandchildren with large toy boxes beneath them. At that time I painted in another room and when we found that grandchildren slept where they wanted to, I moved my stuff in and it became my exclusive domain.

When we built the large “family” room, we bought roller skates for the kids and used it as a skating rink before laying the hand made tiles. Our granddaughter, who visited from London the other day was too young to remember that, but she wandered around remembering all sorts of other things about this house. She quickly checked our her hand print in the cement of the storage shed, then claimed a small needlepoint hanging on the wall of the little house. You never know what children see and love. Our 42 year old grandson referred to our belongings as “our childhood memories.”

There are quite a few of those childhood memories of both Dr. A and me which will need to travel with us. They are the ragged remnants of our roots and our memory.

Times have reached the point when family goes around choosing what they might like to own someday when we are through with it. Moving into another home which is a little smaller means than some belongings will not make the cut. We are told to “take it all” and decide later, and I guess that is the simple way. Taking stock of what we own after seventy years is rather awesome, and unsurprisingly includes perhaps a thousand books, a great many of which are too well-loved to discard.

I am amused by friends who ask in incredulous voices “Do you WANT to move?” No move is made without great contemplation, weighing the pluses and the minuses. In our case the plus side greatly overweighs the minus. It is the process which is bewildering. We are so lucky to have the help of our two daughters who are managing our move long-distance. Both women are in real estate and both have sold their own homes and moved after years of living in one place. Our new home will await us when this house is claimed by its new owner.

It will be fun to write about our new house as we work to make it our home.

NAUGHTY & NICE Kate’s Journal


Episode 13

Highland Park, CA., 1943

All our lives are made up of periods of nice and not so nice. We may as well get used to it. I went to stay with Auntie and Uncle Phil in April, 1943 for the last couple of months of school. Probably not nice for any of us.

Alameda, CA., 1943

We moved to Alameda in the summer, into the old home that was built by my Great-grandfather and now owned by Great Aunt Helen. Yes, another Aunt took us in! Let me tell you, it’s good to have a lot of Aunts.

Alameda Ave. 1613

Mr. Lloyd Sisler was the drama teacher in the high school, and also gave voice lessons on the side. In my first solo concert at his home, I stood beside the piano facing the audience, and my voice refused to escape my mouth. In spite of that, he gave me lead parts in several operettas during the next two years.

I didn’t see him again till our 40th class reunion, and he had not aged gracefully, wearing full stage make-up and a dark wig slightly askew. I introduced myself feeling sure that he would remember me as his star pupil, and talented actress.

I was shocked to find that he not only didn’t remember me, but said my voice must not have impressed him! I raised my eyebrows and said that “My mother is not going to be happy to hear that.” He roared with laughter and said I had a great sense of humor. Well, better a sense of humor than a great voice I guess. Since my mother had passed away two years before she never got a chance to appreciate the humor.

I joined the R.O.T.C, which came with a uniform and an entire Battalion of boys! It was the style to bleach your bangs, but I went whole hog and bleached my entire head one day when my mother was gone. It looked good too–better than mouse brown.

ROTCThere I am in front row.

Confessions are in order at various times of our lives. We can either be perfect or lucky. I have been lucky, but also too trusting of other people. After a morning horseback ride with a group of kids, a girlfriend I learned not to trust, convinced me to borrow one of the boy’s cars and take it around the corner even though neither of us drove. She took the safer passenger side and I “drove”— right into a lamp post and a tree. I worked a long time to repay my mother for the damage, and received strong discipline from the judge.

In our small attic apartment I set up my studio and began painting very bad portraits of my friends. The space was like a small dark cave with a single light bulb, but I thought it was pretty snazzy. My first “payment” was a glass bell which lost its clapper when I took it out of the box.
Shadows of Our Ancestors“Shadows of Our Ancestors” watercolor painting by kayti sweetland rasmussen ( This painting was done many years later.)

I needed money so I went door to door again, and boldly lied to the manager of the J.C. Penney store that I had worked for Penney’s in Grants Pass. He took me on to fold men’s jeans, but when the window dresser quit shortly after I took over his job, eventually doing the advertising layouts for the newspapers. At 17 I imagine I was the youngest art director in Penney’s history. However, I don’t advise lying to anybody, it’s not nice and it can get you into a whole lot of trouble.

There were few place that teenagers could congregate safely. The war was on, and though there was a local U.S.O. where girls could go and dance with young servicemen, the creamery closed early and except for private parties, that left the Alameda Theater. Several of us found an empty building and after much effort in raising money for rent and donations of recreation equipment and record players, we opened the Alameda Teen Center. It was a moderate success at least as long as I was there.

None of my girlfriends had their own car, however, we were permitted to drive our parents car on occasion if we replaced the gasoline we used. At eighteen cents a gallon, we pooled our money to take us to and from Oakland and San Francisco. We mostly walked our way around the island of Alameda. My mother taught me to drive on Otis Drive which was locally known as Lover’s Lane. When without a date, we spent Friday and Saturday evening patrolling to see whose windows were steamed up.

At Christmas, 1943 my mother and I drove to Torrance to be with my Grandmother. While there she became ill and we stayed for two months. At the end of the semester, having missed two months of school, I received an F on my report card in history. It was the first time I had ever failed in anything.

I went to summer school for a number of weeks with the same teacher who had flunked me: Miss Hook. Now let me tell you about Miss Hook. There is a word for people who resemble their names and Miss Hook exemplified it. Tall, skinny, drab, pointed features, buck teeth, and smug. As she handed me my report card with an “A” on it, she said ‘You see what you can do when you don’t worry about boys?” I never told her the reason I had missed so much school. There was a lot of “naughty” and “nice” in that year of high school.

THE ROGUE I REMEMBER KATE’S Journal


Episode 12
Grants Pass, 1943

Across the mountains of Southern Oregon flows a mighty errant river in a great hurry to blend its waters with those of the Pacific Ocean. Early French visitors called it Coquins (rogues) describing the local Indians. It could also have been called that for its wild changes of behavior between hairpin bends and boiling rapids before suddenly flattening out into sleepy pristine waters where native fish shelter beneath overhanging trees.

rogue river2

This was the Rogue River of my father’s youth, where he developed his love of the outdoors, nature and fishing. My grandfather raised cattle outside of town and was the only butcher in Grants Pass. They say he was a master sausage maker.

My Sweetland Grandparents, Walter and Tena, raised six children, my father coming in towards the end. He was a trickster and a tease who wasted a lot of school time trying to prove the teacher wrong. He was smart, and a smart alec. He was excellent at solving math problems but a lousy teacher. He had no patience for stupidity, so I stopped doing math in the 4th grade.

Grandparents Sweetland

Each of us in our family have our memories of the Rogue. One of my daughters shudders remembering being caught in a rapid between the rocks, so the Rogue was not a happy river for her. Much later I tried my initial foray into water-skiing on the Rogue. Having risen to the occasion on a single ski, I chose never to do it again. Probably none of us felt the magnetizing pull of the River as my father did after the War. The clarion call of home had been ringing in his heart for too many years.

Rogue river

Arriving in Grants Pass, I was a stranger to cousins I had never known, and family history better left between the pages of history. Dad’s sister Ardith had two boys I liked; the youngest, Bud, a wild kid who loved to jump off the bridge at the park in Grants Pass, grew up to be a railroad engineer, and his brother Walter who became a worm farmer.

Aunt Hazel’s brother Uncle Charlie owned the pool hall in town where we went for ice cream, committed suicide one morning before work. I don’t recall with perfect clarity whether that was before or after we found out his daughter Doris was a prostitute.

All of these things were debated with great interest with Aunt Hazel’s dog Bounce, whom she swore could talk. Sitting out in the sheep barn with him we discussed Life’s great imponderables. Bounce was well known for carrying a basket of gladiolus at the head of the annual Caveman Parade.

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In Grants Pass I temporarily changed my name to Arvie, sang in the jazz band, was on the debating team, found I was not good at team sports, fell in love again, and began to smoke cigarettes.

Once a week, sitting in a fire lookout on top of the mountain as enemy plane spotters, my girlfriend and I were enveloped in blue smoke as we puffed ill-gotten cigarettes, happily ignorant of health issues, our only fear of future consequences coming from our parents.

I was hired at the local soda fountain at fifteen, after assuring the owner I was sixteen and would bring proof soon. My new boss had at one time been a serious suitor of my Dad’s older sister, Aunt Arline. Though he asked again for my work permit, he did not pressure me and I was allowed keep scooping ice cream and making the skimpy tuna sandwiches he required. On good days I was permitted to help make the ice cream with another High School student, a boy who became another casualty of the War in another year.

The new sensation of being recognized because of my name in this town, gave rise to an unfamiliar sense of belonging. I began to understand the meaning of “home”.

CATCH A FALLING STAR Kate’s Journal


EPISODE 11
Grants Pass 1942

How do I recapture those few months after Pearl Harbor? With Japanese subs patrolling along the west coast it became apparent that we were moving again; this time my mother and I would go to Grants Pass, Oregon, my father’s home town. The only specifics I remember of that time are that I graduated from the 9th grade, turned 14, and my father’s mother, Grandma Tena Grey Sweetland passed quietly from this world to the next. She was laid to rest in the family cemetery alongside a flock of ancient Sweetlands
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We stayed temporarily with Aunt Hazel and Uncle Jean who made room for us in their rustic two room house out on the highway where they had lived for many years. Its rusticity included another outdoor privy, which recalled our time living in the Connecticut countryside.

Though they owned a large amount of acreage, plus a few buildings in downtown Grants Pass, they preferred their simple style of life, quietly watching the passing of time with their Australian shepherd dog, Bounce, and a few cats. Formerly there had been a few cows and sheep in the barns, and chickens roamed freely.

Uncle Jean had come to this country from France as a talented race car driver to race against America’s best, which at the time was Barney Oldfield. I can picture him then; a young hot shot driver, probably full of himself and sure of getting any girl he wanted. He chose Hazel, my Grandmother Tena’s sister, recently divorced from a high powered San Francisco lawyer and happy to return to Grants Pass where she was born.

Years before, when I visited them as a young child, I remember offering him a bite of my shiny red Delicious apple. He had pointed out that there were “stars” sprinkled all over the red skin. He declined my largess however, saying “Darlin’ I got no teeth.” Today I understand that limitation.

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My mother and I shared a bed in the main room of the house, where we listened each night at 10 p.m. to “The Richfield Reporter” for news of the war, calling out now and then to Aunt Hazel and Uncle Jean in their adjoining room as to which Island was under attack.

I would be starting my sophomore year in the local high school in a few weeks, but we still had no place of our own in town. I would be taking a school bus which was a new and somewhat frightening experience.

The ranch was comprised of many acres, with some areas overrun with delicious ripe blackberries which my mother turned into equally delicious pies. Aunt Hazel was knowledgeable about the things most city people know little, such as cloud formations, where the best fishing holes were, and when it might rain. She was on first name basis with the local squirrel population, and flights of migrating birds knew they could expect a hand out.

On August 12th Aunt Hazel handed us blankets and told us to go out and sleep in the field for a treat; it was the start of the Perseid meteor shower. I remember lying there with my mother enthralled with each shooting star all night long. We wished on each one, and naturally our wishes were for my father’s safe return.

perseid2Perseid Shower

The warm night was filled with the pleasant sound of crickets and an occasional small nocturnal creature disturbed the dry grass. You could still smell the heat of the day bringing the memory of ripeness in fruit and flowers. Uncle Jean thought we were crazy to sleep there in discomfort and told us that August 12 was known as the “Glorious Twelfth” in the UK and marked the traditional start of grouse shooting, which made a lot more sense.

hopsHop Field in Grants Pass, Oregon

There are fields of hops growing outside Grants Pass, which in wartime did not attract the migrant pickers it usually did, so it was suggested that schools and some businesses be conscripted to bring in the crop. My mother and I signed on, and for a week joined others in town stripping the hops into large bags hung around out necks. I was working alongside the first friends in town whom I would soon see when school began.

When I think of Grants Pass now, I think of that summer, and the closeness of my mother and me, and the kindness of family who took us in and made us welcome. Things were going to be OK.

SUDDEN LIFE CHANGES Kate’s Journal


Episode 10

Torrance, 1940-1941

It’s strange to look back and realize that such a short amount of time–a mere three months actually, can bring such change in a life. Torrance High School brought me a mild amount of recognition, a great deal of embarrassment, a group of friends which I had never enjoyed before, and a sense of belonging.

The tennis player roomer brought about changes for my aunt and mother as well. Suddenly one evening I came upon them, along with my grandmother, dressed in full length fur coats. As I rippled my hands through the late squirrel’s fur, I was made aware that they had discovered a second hand store–today more commonly known as Thrift Stores. Though it was a humiliation to them to admit they could not afford to buy the same coats at the local department store, they wore them proudly. We seemed to be moving up in the world my grandmother had left behind.

My Grandpa Jim, active in the Masonic Lodge, encouraged me to join Job’s Daughter’s, which under threat of having to ride a goat, I did. I found that the circle of girl friends I already had were also members.

I remember those girls fondly, and can easily bring their faces to mind. Barbara Locke, Pat Rojo, another Barbara with long red curly hair we dubbed “Fuzzy” and Nadine Paour, who was tall, dark and beautiful. We were all at the training bra stage of our lives, which makes me laugh now to think we had to be in training to wear such a simple piece of clothing. None of us had much if anything to put into them, so I purchased a pair of rubber falsies.

After bringing them to an overnight slumber party, we all tried them on to see the effect, when our hostess’s little brother burst into the room. Trying to cover our embarrassment, we told him they were soup bowls. Now even a six year old knows you can’t keep soup in a rubber bowl. We took turns wearing our new chests to school till we tired of fishing them up from having slipped down to our waists.

It was a beautiful sunny morning in Southern California, and I was wearing the new red wool plaid suit which was supposed to be my Christmas present bought from money my Dad had sent, but even though it was only December 7, I had wanted to wear it before the holidays. I loved it so much I wore it all the way through high school.

My Dad had been gone for most of that year, the longest cruise yet, though we had no idea where he was. He could not tell us where his ship was and according to his censored V-mail letters he was “somewhere in the Pacific’, but we didn’t know where. It was apparent that there might be trouble sometime soon.

I remember the house smelling all warm and delicious from the cake my grandmother had just taken from the oven for Sunday dinner. We had two girls who boarded with us and they were hurrying to get away to the beach for the day; I had just fed our dog Wimpy and put him outside, when I heard the crackle of the big Philco radio change from music to the voice of President Roosevelt saying that “this day will go down in infamy.” I had no idea what the word infamy meant.

Everyone gathered around the radio in the bright sun room to hear the news that the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor. I stupidly asked “where the heck is Pearl Harbor?” but no one else knew either, so we got out the large atlas and saw that it was “somewhere in the Pacific”, in the Hawaiian Islands.

We did not get the news until much later, that my Dad’s ship had been in Pearl Harbor, and was moored across the channel from the disastrous bombing of the USS Arizona. The majority of America’s major fleet, including the main battlewagons, were destroyed or badly damaged during the sneak attack.

450px-BagleyDD386 USS Bagley at Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941

It killed America’s isolationism, and made the American population determined to go to war and soon after, we joined Britain in fighting in Europe.

Having been out at sea for such a long time, they had come into the harbor to take on much needed food and water, but the attack happened before that could occur, and the ship was immediately sent back out to sea.

He would be at sea for another four years. Yes, I remember Pearl Harbor, and now I know where it is.

GOLD HEARTS AND HOCKEY STICKS/Kate’s Journal


Episode 8
New London, 1940

In New London, several dogs came and went and all belonged to someone else until Rex, the king of all dogs, followed me home from school. Rex was a fine looking animal, showing a strong resemblance to German Shepherd ancestry, and referred to in those days as a Police Dog. He was the first dog I gave my heart to.

Our last months in Connecticut went fast, and I learned to sing in the outhouse, play hockey with the boys and build my own sled. I became a good correspondent to my grandpa and to Mrs. Jaquish, an old next door neighbor of ours in Long Beach.

Grandpa had been a good hockey player in Montreal, and we planned to skate together once I returned home, though that never happened. He was small in stature, probably only about 5’6″ when he was young, but apparently very fast. My memories of him are of a humorous man who could wiggle his ears and make jokes. He claimed my grandmother was still his wife, though she married three more times after they were divorced, which shows a strong sense of renunciation on his part.

Grandpa JimGrandfather Jim Black

Christmas 1940 was a nonentity as we had our orders to return to Long Beach in a week. People who live in rented furnished apartments can pack in a hurry, so putting our few belongings in the old Chevrolet which brought us here, we were ready to go. My gift from my Dad that Christmas was a gold heart locket with my initials on it, in which I put small photos of my parents. I still have it tucked away, and the hockey stick of my own I had asked for never came to be.

Long Beach, 1940

Back at Grandma’s our family had grown as my aunt Corinne had divorced and with her cute three year old daughter now had the coveted back bedroom where Harry Hance had lived for so long.

I was sent to stay with Aunt Georgia for the summer, and my Dad came there to say goodbye, looking quite handsome in his new uniform of a Master Chief. He was shipping out but didn’t know where.

Torrance, 1940-1941

When school started in September, my mother bought a new blue Plymouth sedan and we moved back to Grandma’s this time to a gracious old house in Torrance, California.

Grandma had met a nice widower with whom she was “keeping company” who lived in Torrance. Our new house had lots of bedrooms to rent which soon filled up with two or three young women till we were nicely crammed again.

One of our roomers was a tennis player with a large and shapely bosom who gave me an old racket, and instructed me in the basics while I practiced banging the ball against the garage door in the back alley by the fig tree. She seemed to live in her white tennis outfit, which probably helped her game. Since I did not have one, I put it on my Christmas list.

One evening I walked in on my mother and aunt being given instruction in the proper method of putting on their bra. According to her, she gained her extra dimensions by bending at the waist and letting gravity do the rest. I’m not sure she deserved being considered a good teacher either of tennis or the fitting of lingerie, since I saw no difference in the measurements of either of my relative’s busts, and I never became a great tennis player.

WARM BREAD AND HAZARDS Kate’s Journal


Episode 7
New London, 1939

The reassuring warmth and smell of freshly baked bread greeted me upon my arrival home after the hurricane in 1938. Since that time, I equate that pleasant smell with home.

We toured the eastern seaboard from Maine south to the Carolinas numerous times during our tour of duty. The first weekend we visited my mother’s birthplace of Woodsville, New Hampshire also introduced us to the Lake Morey country club/resort in Fairlee, Vermont where my aunt Corinne was born. The two towns seemed to be separated by just a cow-path, but that may be my faulty memory.

The resort was first built by my great-grandfather George Kendall and cleverly named The Kaulin. From the beginning it had golf course, tennis courts and country club amenities showing great foresight in a country gentleman.

“Gone With The Wind” was being shown in Hartford, and we treated ourselves to new clothes. Mine was a pink wool coat and the ubiquitous hat with streamers, this time a pink one. Yet again it shows my absolute shallowness to remember what I wore instead of Scarlet O’Hara’s plight.

Mom & ad 1938
Mom and Dad 1939

My Dad was studying hard these days, bringing home piles of books, and we often studied together. Since he was often annoyed by my complete brain vacancy in math, I began reading some of his papers hoping to impress him with my memorizing skills. As we sat down I brightly asked “What is the definition of a limberhole?” Without giving him time to answer I replied “A hole in the bulkhead of the doublebottom which facilitates the flow of water and lightens the weight of the metal.” I had the answer in case he ever needed it.

The diving gear in those days consisted of Men from Mars suits, with a large round helmet bolted to it. In his training, my father was dressed in this heavy confining outfit and lowered into the tall narrow tower on the Thames River, working at whatever skill he was perfecting.
helmet

“On the morning of May 23, 1939, the submarine USS Squalus slipped beneath the storm-tossed surface of the Atlantic on a sea trial. Minutes into the maneuver, she began flooding uncontrollably. The boat sank to the ocean floor nine miles off the New Hampshire coast, trapping 59 men on board.”

For some of the crew this date would be carved on their headstones. For others it would mark a 39 hour ordeal they would live with the rest of their lives. And for a hastily-assembled Navy rescue team rushed to New Hampshire, it would be remembered as the date they launched an unprecedented rescue mission that stretched their abilities.

No submarine rescue had ever taken place below twenty feet of water–the Squalus was 240 feet down resting on the bottom. The rescue methods had only existed in theory before this time.

In the end, there would be four Medals of Honor, 46 Navy Crosses and one Distinguished Service medal awarded to officers and men of the submarine rescue and salvage team. There would be a glorious new chapter written in the history of underwater rescue.

My father was part of this rescue mission, with a change of rank and uniform, and a new appreciation of the unforgiving power of the sea for those who choose to challenge her depths.

PERSONAL GRAVEYARDS


First let me say that I think everyone needs a “personal graveyard”; because we all have grievances which need to be buried.

What do you do with the small niggling thoughts flying around in your memory that need to be forgotten? It speaks poorly of me to admit that I remember all of them. They may come unbidden at odd times, but especially when lying quietly in bed trying hard to think of nothing. These are the troubles which need to go right back into Pandora’s box because that was yesterday’s story.

Years ago I took a boy having prepubescent troubles to visit a gallery show I had just hung to get his take on the paintings. The boy was a budding artist with potential in computers as well as in painting. The featured artist had recently recovered from a serious illness and I wanted to show how her choice of color had influenced her painting.

The first room of the gallery showed the artist’s illness in very dark paintings with lots of black and red. In the other two rooms we hung her “I’m all over it, take me out to the ballgame” paintings. The young boy “got it”.

I recognize that we all don’t paint, but choose your own way to bring these feelings out into the open just to give them some air.

During my lifetime I have collected memories both good and bad. I long ago chose to paint them all, making it my personal graveyard. I slashed the canvas and splashed it with paint and small icons for parts of my life for which I had anger; codes only I knew, I gritted my teeth and got myself into a real snit, and then I put it up in the attic.

We are at the stage of life when we need to get rid of things we no longer need; it was a good time to visit the attic.

Dragging out old ancestral pictures and bad paintings of my own, I came upon my personal graveyard painting and found I no longer remember why I painted it.

When we leave this house someday, as we all must do, I will tell my children to “toss it in the bin with the rest of them.”

DANCING THE BLUES AWAY Kate’s Journal


Episode 5
Long Beach 1934-1938

Indomitable people always seem to find a way to lift their spirits and in the Great Depression, spirits needed a lot of lifting. Grandma loved to dance, and often went out in the evening dressed in great style, sometimes taking the boat to Catalina Island to dance at the famous Avalon Ballroom. I liked to rummage through her closet looking at her lovely evening gowns which she probably either made or picked up at a second hand store. Both she and my mother were excellent seamstresses.

The phenomenon of the marathon dance came about during the Depression. Dancing couples would remain dancing as long as possible on their feet, only taking time for a bite to eat and bathroom breaks. Otherwise, they even slept one at a time while dancing. If one or both fell they were disqualified. There was a monetary prize, so it was a good incentive to stay on your feet. People paid to watch, sitting on hard bleachers, and followed favorites, calling encouragement now and then.

Grandma was also a sucker for a sob story, and everyone seemed to have a story to tell her. I remember so many faces which showed up for a meal or two and then left. Harry Hance was the only male roomer we had and he lived with us for many years. I never knew if he started out as a “stray”, but he became part of our resident “family”.

Grandma’s theory was that everybody deserved a second chance. “You don’t throw a whole life away just because it’s banged up a little.” You can always find few rubies in the rubble.

Harry had the biggest bedroom in the house, one which my mother and I had occupied for a short time before he came to us, which probably led to any feelings of resentment I had toward him. He came and went through the laundry room which always smelled a bit like dry cleaning solvent because Nellie cleaned her own clothes. It’s a wonder she didn’t blow us all up, but that was the extent of thriftiness then.

I was named for my Great-Grandmother Kate Hadley Kendall and for my mother who went by the name of Kathy. The name now belongs to my Granddaughter Kate.

As a child I was dubbed “Katie Lou”, and I disliked it so much I began changing it with each new school I went to. It gave me a sense of mystery because no one really knew who I was. It was harmless entertainment and got me through the initial period of being the new kid on the block.

In 1937 we were stationed in San Diego again, the town of my earlier bullying at the age of four. I lied once more and used the name of “Elsie” when asked by the teacher. I greatly admired a neighbor of Auntie’s named Elsie Brown who was a few years older than I and may have played the piano.

My fourth grade class was putting on a talent show for which we signed up to perform our particular talent. For some unknown reason I chose to play the piano, which was a terrible choice since I did not know how to play the piano.

In the class of nine year old strangers I heard my “name” called to come to the front of the room. “Elsie Sweetland will now play a Russian piece on the piano for us.”

At Auntie’s I was allowed to bang away on the piano as often as I liked, though I somehow knew the mandolin resting against the wall beside it was off limits. Staying there often I was steeped in the classical music playing off their record player. I don’t remember listening to music at Grandma’s, though I often heard that Grandpa Jim was a lover of classical music, and his sister Corinne was an opera singer in Montreal.

I confidently stood and not looking at anyone I walked to the piano and sat on the small bench. After announcing my intention, I pounded away until the teacher mercifully brought my performance to a close. I believe I was as surprised as anyone that I could NOT play the piano.

Shortly after my disastrous debut the census was being taken, and a man came to our door and after assuring himself that my mother was indeed Kathryn Sweetland married to Walter Sweetland, came to question number three: “And you have Kathryn and Elsie in school?” I was busted.