PREJUDICE


It’s a big subject. Too big for a simple blog, but we encounter it in some way each day in our private and public lives, so it needs to be addressed.

Conducting an interview with myself, I wondered when I first became aware of the mean spirited effect of prejudice. The strong Yankee-bred women in my family were ardent Republicans who thought the last best hope for the country had been Herbert Hoover. They gladly overlooked the Depression which was consuming the country; possibly as a result of Mr. Hoovers’ miscalculations.

Without knowing or caring who Franklin D. Roosevelt was, it was apparent from their conversation that he was the devil incarnate, and his busy body wife was a disgrace. My father, away at sea most of the time, did not participate in the conversations, so I had no idea on which side he dwelt.

Somehow, listening at dinner tables and eavesdropping in nearby rooms, I felt uncomfortable with the negative conversations. Surely this man was not as bad as they thought. I often differed from authority, and this gave me one more reason to determine my own path. When my father returned from a voyage, I found that he had voted for this same Franklin D. Roosevelt, which made me feel validated.

Prejudice touches so many facets of our lives. Politics and religion always draw the most heat, making them the most interesting of subjects. Due to my Grandmother’s dynamic leadership, we attended the Christian Science church, at least my Grandmother and I did. My mother and aunt, though believers, were usually busy on Sunday mornings. My father, needless to say, had no interest in the study of Christian Science. Auntie and Uncle Phil, with whom I lived occasionally, followed no religion, and we usually spent Sunday at the movies.

I never determined why, but overheard conversation told me that the Catholics, and possibly a few other religions, were not appropriate friends. I knew no blacks, though there were a few Japanese living in Long Beach in those days. We were a strong Masonic family, with various relatives holding office in the organization. We were a proud flag waving, Anglo-Saxon Protestant family. Not that any of these things were talked about; they were simply there, and you knew.

I had exhibited a few minor talents from an early age. I had a pleasant voice, I could dance, and I could draw a straight line. Grandma was convinced that I was a winner, yet I knew many other girls who surpassed my efforts, so it seemed uncomfortable to take any credit for anything I produced.

My feelings of being at odds with the accepted beliefs sent me on solo trips around town exploring various churches and the lone synagogue in Torrance where we were currently living. It was a marvelous education in the various views people held in the acceptance or non-acceptance of Jesus as the Savior. I realized that I had no opinion either way, which was no surprise. In fact, I took offense to the words of the entrance hymn which entreated the Christian soldiers to keep marching on to war.

On my first trip to the Southwest with my Indian friend Georgia Oliver, I immediately tried to fit in with the locals by identifying which village someone came from by the way they wore their hair. I whipped off a small sculpture of a woman’s head with something which looked like a Dutch cut, Georgia just smiled and said that I missed the back style. I smugly identified a man riding by on his horse as a Navajo. With a curled lip and a sharp retort, Georgia shot back “He’s a Mexican.” Clearly here lived prejudice, even in a country comprised of people who lived rather low on the totem pole.

Yes, there is prejudice wherever we look. It lives in small children and in the very old who should know better. Give it a chance, recognize it when you see it, and speak up to make a change.

PAY ATTENTION TO THE SILENCE Kate’s Journal


Tucked away on a back street in the town of Dublin, California an old cemetery lies under the sheltering arms of ancient trees.

A cemetery holds the history of a time, a place, and a people. The artifacts and the stone architecture remain as a reminder–a record of their existence.

The valley was settled by Danish and Irish immigrants, in the middle of the 19th century, and along with the mercantile establishments which made a village, the cemetery came into being, roughly divided into Catholic and Protestant gravesites.

St Raymond's St. Raymond’s Catholic Church, Dublin, CA

I was once saddened to see that a young Irishman had fallen to his death while roofing the church, and later found that he had been an ancestor of a friend, now buried in the Catholic side.

Though the church was the earliest Catholic church in the area, it is no longer used for services, but is available for other uses in the community. The best funeral I ever went to was held there some years ago when a cousin of Dr. A’s said her goodbyes, ending with the marching of a New Orleans jazz band leading us to her final resting place in the Rasmussen plot. True to her individual style she opted for a large rough rock as her marker instead of the usual cold granite.

Each of the old plots holds a sign proclaiming the original settler’s history, thereby giving the cemetery a guide to each original family. The Rasmussen plot lies at the extreme rear of the place though there are family members scattered throughout the cemetery. A baby’s marble crib in the middle of the plot tells of the passing of a baby brother of Dr. A’s father, however family lore tells us “he” is not there but hurriedly buried somewhere in the unmarked ground since the family did not have their plot at the time of his demise. I had often attempted to plant flowers in the crib, including Bleeding Heart, but due to the heat and lack of water it never worked. There are many marble reminders of children taken too early, as in most old cemeteries.

The cemetery lies behind the church, and behind the old school where my father-in-law attended classes. For many years the property was managed by a “Cemetery Board” to which we all belonged with occasional meetings to decide grave cleaning, tree pruning etc. after which we all went out to dinner nearby. It was a social gathering of old family friends, who sometimes gathered for a picnic under the trees. Then as more people moved into the area, it was handed over to the City of Dublin to manage. and it lost its familial feel.

There have been many changes through the years since the City took control, but then, Life is change, forcing all of us tho choose, resist, or roll with it. The large home of a former settler has been moved into the neighboring property making the entire area a park where school children are often brought to learn about the early settlers who were primarily farmers in the fertile valley. While the valley was once carpeted with fruit trees and poppies, today it abounds with business parks and homes. The absent fruit trees and poppies are a reminder that we are all transient visitors.

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In another valley, this one in Grants Pass, Oregon, is the cemetery where generations of the Sweetland family, as well as those who married out of it, repose for eternity. As in Dr. A’s family cemetery it is divided into Catholic and Protestant Masonic.

It is situated on the top of a low rise overlooking the town and shielded by large oak trees planted in the 19th century after the movement to the West. These people were primarily ranchers and farmers. My grandfather was a rancher and the town butcher.

-It's_the_Climate-_sign_in_Grants_Pass,_Oregon

Early Hudson’s Bay Company hunters and trappers, following the Siskiyou Trail, passed through the site beginning in the 1820’s. In the 1840’s settlers following the Applegate Trail began traveling through the area on their way to the Willametter Valley. The city states that the name of General Ulysses S. Grant was selected to honor Grant’s victory at Vicksburg.

The town is situated idyllically beside the Rogue River which flows west to the sea. The river abounds with fish and entices fishermen and outdoorsmen as a vacation destination.

It has never been a hub of business or financial activity, but serves as a direct route north and south. A sugar beet factory was built in 1916, but due to labor shortage and low acreage planted the company was moved to Toppenish, Washington. There still remain acreage of hop fields, where I as a teenager during the War, picked hops because of the shortage of labor.

When my father, a son of Grants Pass, passed away in 1993, Dr. Advice dug his last resting place, as he had done for his mother in Dublin, CA. An honor guard saluted him with the playing of Taps to honor his military service, and as the final notes rang out over the town of his birth I was comforted by the thought that he had returned safely to the place he had longed for.

As the few people said their goodbyes and headed for their cars, a caretaker came through with his happy frolicking black lab. He looked at the stone and said “Oh–Walter’s gone is he?” I nodded and he apologized for the dog sniffing the grave, saying they passed by there every day and the dog was accustomed to walking through the plots. I told him my father, a great dog lover, would be happy to know that the dog would be coming to pay his respects.