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Category Archives: Special Tributes
In the movie, The Hunt for Red October, a complex and highly dangerous surfacing maneuver is performed. In real life, Walter J. Meyer actually lived this awesome adventure, and he remembers with deep affection, his days in the U.S. Navy.
Not every submarine and crew gets to go on this “ride”. It’s only done for special events. The officers and crew must be highly trained and ready for anything to happen. The challenge is not to get the boat to go up! That can be done with speed, angle of the planes, and some air in the forward ballast tanks.
Before the start of the upward trek, the boat will actually vibrate as it strains to start the ascent. Once started, it can’t be stopped and does not last long. But when you think of how many tons of steel, machinery, and people that are involved flying through the water towards the surface, it is exciting and impressive.
The real tricky part is for the crews to “catch” the boat after it lands back in the water. As you can see it does make for some impressive photos.
It all began in July of 1969 when Walter J. Meyer was a USS Recruit at NTC San Diego boot camp, San Diego — America’s finest city. After various schools, Walter was assigned to his first ship the USS Prairie AD-15. Upon completion of his first WESTPAC, which included typhoons, he knew that surface ships were NOT for him.
So off to Hawaii and his first submarine, USS Swordfish SSN-579. Afterwards, Meyer was off to Guam and his second submarine, USS Pintado SSN-672. Upon completion of this tour, Walter went back to San Diego for shore duty at FLEASWTRACENPAC.
After a brief attempt at returning to civilian life and a Naval Reserve unit in St. Joseph, Missouri, Walter J. Meyer returned to San Diego for instructor duty at FLEASWTRACENPAC. In his words, “I must have been having too much fun in the sun as my next set of orders was to Precomunit USS Honolulu SSN-718 at the shipyard in Newport News, Virginia.” To maintain skills he went TAD to the USS Buffalo SSN-715 for her trip from Norfolk, Virginia to Honolulu, Hawaii via the Panama Canal.
After commissioning the USS Honolulu, Meyer was ordered to the USS Baton Rouge SSN-689, and off on his first “MED” run followed by instructor duty at SUBTRAFAC Norfolk, Virginia. His last tour was the USS Emory S. Land AS-39 as a ship’s superintendent for submarine repairs.
Walter J. Meyer retired from the Navy in February 1997 with the rate of STSCS/ss, meaning Sonar Technician Submarines Senior Chief. This distinguished military career man now resides in Thompson, North Dakota with his wife, Cher, and their four beloved Dachshunds.
“THE BEST EATS IN TOWN”
The Coronado Boathouse 1887 is my family’s favorite dining experience. At one point, when it was operated as the Coronado Chart House it was a favorite hangout for all of us “locals” who grew up here to socialize at and enjoy one another’s company. Many a memory and many a relationship found its birth upstairs in its always crowded “standing room” only cocktail lounge. The Boathouse is once again becoming a favorite hangout with the addition of live music on Thursday evenings featuring local artists. We attended one of those evenings not too long ago, and it was packed to the brim with many of the old faces we hadn’t seen for so long. It was a who’s who of the old Coronado guard.
Built in 1887 as a boat house, The Coronado Boathouse actually predates the Hotel Del Coronado and was designed by the same architects, the Reid brothers. The Boathouse resembled a mini-Del and still does. It was recognized as a Coronado historical landmark in 1973, and still maintains the nautical heritage of a time gone by with antique décor splashed with a tribute to the popular local sport of surfing as well as boating.
It is now a magnificent waterfront eatery with spectacular views of the Coronado Bay, Hotel Del Coronado, the Coronado Yacht Club, and the golf course. It is the best place on our island to enjoy a sunset accompanied by superb service and culinary fare.
Marty Jensen, owner and general manager, is also one of our homegrown locals. He takes great pride in his restaurant and is always on hand to personally greet all the clientele with special hugs for the “guard”. His selection of staff is of the utmost professionalism. Many of whom have worked for The Boathouse since its time as a Chart House. There is a friendliness and attentiveness to not only detail and great service, but to making certain that every point in the dining experience is thoroughly enjoyed. The atmosphere of the establishment could best be described as an intimate, casual, fine dining experience while at the same time being family friendly.
Besides a full menu of gourmet steaks and seafood, The Boathouse offers Happy Hour in the upstairs lounge with its panoramic views from 5:00-6:30 p.m., Sunday through Friday. Beginning May 28, The Boathouse will also be serving lunch on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays from 11:30-2:30 p.m. and Sunday Brunch as well.
“I get asked constantly why we don’t serve lunch,” said Marty Jensen, owner of the Coronado Boathouse. “We’re in a beautiful historic building, right on the water, and we appreciate that people just seem to want more opportunity to come down and enjoy The Boathouse experience.”
For more information on The Coronado Boathouse 1887 or to make dining reservations, call (619) 435-0155 or visit www.coronadoboathouse.com
The Cherokee Lodge is a cozy bed and breakfast inn featuring vintage comfort for vacation and business travelers. Located one block from downtown Coronado, it provides guests with many options for dining and shopping. Plus it is only four blocks from the sandy shores of Coronado Beach and the historic Hotel Del Coronado. The rates are very reasonable and this celebrated comfortable inn provides all the modern conveniences.
In 1896, three houses of unknown vintage were barged across San Diego Bay to Coronado Island and joined together with additional structures for the purpose of operating a public lodging house. This establishment began operation as the Cherokee Lodge and has 12 bedrooms plus common areas. The lodge derives its name from Cherokee Roses bordering the property at the beginning of the 20th century. Today the gardens are filled to abundance with a variety of gorgeous greenery with the Cherokee Rose bushes dominating and showing off their luscious fragrances and superb beauty.
The Cherokee Lodge with its welcoming garden setting in a quiet residential neighborhood would be a great weekend getaway or a wonderful place to entertain family and friends visiting and looking for some Island charm. The Lodge is located at 964 “D” Avenue; so swing by and take a tour or just go to smell the roses!
Visit the Cherokee Lodge website: www.cherokeelodge.com
BY ALEENE SEXTON QUEEN
Coronado became home to the Walter and Katie Sexton family almost one hundred years ago. My grandfather was a circuit rider Methodist minister, living in Dalles, Oregon, but traveled south with his brother to find relief from a lung condition. He found it when they came to Coronado, not San Diego, but Coronado. He knew he had found a place to raise his family and returned to Dalles to bring my grandmother and their four children here to Coronado. They boarded the steamship Roanoke and arrived in San Diego in January 1913. Grandpa held a few jobs, but he loved attending to St. Paul’s Methodist Church. He ministered there and has been honored with a room in his name “The Sexton Room”. They rented one of the old tent houses on the block of 5th and G until Grandma decided to put a down payment on the house at 717 E Avenue. There she would bring expectant mothers in and care for both for ten days after the baby was delivered. It was a house filled with children and love and military for Sunday dinner, many visiting on their return from the war to thank Grandma and Grandpa for their prayers and hospitality. They lived there the rest of their lives, into their 90s. The house still stands today and holds many memories for me and the years we lived there.
My Daddy, Laural, known as Skippy, Skip, and the Skipper, was two years old when they arrived. The town folks gave Laural the “Skippy” name from a cartoon of a “street-smart kid” in the funny papers at the time and it stayed with him the rest of his life. Laural didn’t like wearing shoes and left them in the crook of the tree in front of their house as he left for school. Grandpa Sexton did odd jobs at the school so he’d find out Daddy was barefoot and give him a reprimand, but the next day would find his shoes in the crook of the tree again. Skippy was one of the early surfers during his young years in Coronado, surfing on his paipo board. Our home now boasts a large poster made by his grandsons, Kevin and Jef, dedicated to their beloved Bapa. He worked many jobs at an early age to contribute to family finances. It was the 1920s, and another child had come into the family – my aunt, Lucille Sexton Bandel, age 94, a life-long supporter of St. Paul’s Methodist Church at Seventh and D. Skippy had a paper route, then worked as a soda jerk at Bill Smith’s Malt Shop on the island. He operated the first malt machine to come to Coronado and received it as a gift from Bill Smith when the malt shop closed. I still have that malt machine.
Skip’s graduation gift from Coronado High School in 1929 from the family was a trip to Washington D.C. He and his older brother, Charlie, who had graduated from college, were driving East when the car broke down in Salt Lake City, Utah. They went to get a sandwich at a place near the car repair garage and, in the wink of an eye, my Daddy fell in love with the waitress! Yes, I do believe in love at first sight because that chance meeting ended in 45 years of the happiest marriage ever! Daddy went on to D.C. and worked in a cigar store in or near the Senate building. I have many signatures he received from Washington dignitaries — he was well-liked for his happy personality and easy smile. After one year, Skipper returned to Coronado and wrote to ask my mother, Billie, to come and meet his family. She did come, accompanied by her mother, and Skip and Billie were married two years later. I made my appearance in April, 1934. They suffered the loss of several children so I was the only child and got lots of love! I never heard angry words spoken in our home — I do remember Daddy going for a walk every now and then! Hmmm, ever the peaceful man!
Daddy, Momma and I were a trio — we’d put on our roller skates and skate to the movie house, leaving our skates in the lobby, and they’d be there when we came out! We’d go for a “toot” around the island after dinner to watch the sun go down, with me riding on Daddy’s bicycle handlebars. He’d show us a house he was working on and tell us about the families living there. Many families were Navy and would have to leave things behind so I was the recipient of many nice toys — a beautiful doll house with lights, Story Book dolls and once, a little black Cocker Spaniel puppy we named Cinders. Skip was an Air Raid Warden for our block at 4th and E Avenue during WW2. He would walk our block just after dark to make sure no lights were shining from the windows of the houses. Gas masks were issued to island families and I remember Daddy gently instructing us how to put them on, though I’m grateful we never had to use them!
Daddy loved to go fishing and made me my own fishing pole out of wood doweling and an empty spool of thread that he’d fill with fishing line. I did catch a few fish at Lake Cuyamaca with those home-made poles. We all remember his chuckle as he told a funny story (he had many) and his deep laughter when he heard one. We all miss his deep baritone as he sang, “We Wish You A Merry Christmas” all during the holidays.
I always treasured the trust my Dad gave me. He gifted me with a silver charm of Jiminy Cricket when I was 14 and said, “Always let your conscience be your guide.” I wore that charm for many years and have been guided by his words many times in my life. Thanks Daddy and Jiminy!
Skip loved his Coronado home and only left for a few years during WW2 to work in a defense plant in Los Angeles. Our family returned home to Coronado after the war and he returned to painting houses. Daddy figured he painted most of the houses on the island in his lifetime and had much pride in his work. The people he worked for weren’t just customers, they were friends. If someone didn’t have the money to pay for his work then he’d barter for health care, groceries, car repair, etc. But Daddy wouldn’t go into debt to buy a car or a home — he always paid cash. So he never owned a home but treated every rental like it was his own. I started school when we lived at 412 E Avenue (the house was offered to Daddy for twelve hundred dollars in 1942 – imagine that!) and it brings many memories when I pass by now. We also lived at 536 ½ C Avenue during my high school years (CHS 1952) until Daddy’s death in July 1976. That home gave way to a modern building a few years ago.
A heart condition retired the Skipper and not being one to sit and watch TV, he had received a “start” for Shepherd’s bread from a real sheepherder, a relative of my Mother’s in Utah, and had kept it “alive” for years. He made loaves of bread from that start in coffee cans (a popular thing in the 70s), and while the bread was still warm, would deliver loaves to friends. Kimmie Dill says she remembers that bread — and my Daddy!
Skip’s grandsons, Kevin and Jef, were born here in Coronado, in 1955 and 1957, and loved spending time with their “Bapa”. He taught them to fish, both on the ocean and the bay, took them on helicopter rides over the ocean, and taught them his magic tricks. The best “magic trick” of all was his disappearing act on the walk home with the boys after playing in Spreckles Park — later he would just tell them he “fell in a hole!” Now the boys know the “hole” was right behind the VFW Hall and they laugh! The Skipper is still remembered by family and friends for his laughter, love of life, and his gentle spirit.
PUBLISHER’S NOTE: Because of the creation of the article, “The 1022 Crew”, I became reacquainted with Aleene Sexton Queen, “Queenie”. Through the same method of communication that the 1022 Crew found each other on Facebook, it was communicated to me that Aleene was Skip Sexton’s daughter. At once, memories flooded from my childhood of the handsome and cheerful “Skipper” not only doing repairs and paint jobs at our family home, 1132 Glorietta Boulevard, but also of how great that warm, freshly baked, delicious Shepherd’s bread was. When Skipper made a delivery of his flavorful variety loaves (wheat, sourdough, white, etc.), the whole Dill family’s mouths would start watering. Boy, was it yummy! His daughter, Queenie has it right, Skipper was more than an employee of sorts, he was also one of this family’s best friends and his memory lives on in all of us. Thanks Skipper!
By Suzi Lewis Pignataro
In 1975, my mother Nancy took time away from the Coronado Republican Navy Guard to visit me, her hippie daughter, at my communal household in Sonoma County. She left my anxious and whining father with the assurance that she would return with her conservative values intact and unmolested. He in turn promised not to kill my little brother while she was gone.
My eight housemates and I prepared for her arrival by removing all illegal paraphernalia from plain sight and doing what we could to appear respectable. Long hair – men and women’s – was washed and carefully braided; body hair was trimmed or shaved; clothes were washed and ironed; and prophylactics were secreted away into dresser drawers. Partners de-coupled their bedrooms, switching heterosexual roommates for ones of the same sex. The possibility of any of my housemates being gay would never have crossed my mother’s mind.
Of course, none of this was necessary. It became apparent to us all that Nancy had escaped the confines and dictates of her world in search of a bohemian adventure. By the second day, hair was freed from skull-ripping bondage; bongs and Birkenstocks came out of closets – as did sexual partners – and birth control found its way back onto nightstands.
Nancy loved it.
“If I were just twenty years younger…” she sighed, admiring one of my bare-chested housemates flexing his yoga-fit muscles as she tapped her foot to The Grateful Dead.
She cooked us lavish vegetarian meals, fattened us with her killer cakes, and laughed at our stories until tears streamed down her tanned cheeks. Her blue eyes twinkled with mischief, and I wondered when they had last done that. She flirted and debated and watched foreign films out at the Russian River with us – and defiantly “forgot” to check in with her husband.
I didn’t even know she knew that word.
“If your father hadn’t come along and made an honest woman out of me, I think I would have landed in Paris in the company of artists and writers,” she confided while sitting on my balcony sipping a Sonoma Valley Chardonnay. “What do you think about oral sex?”
The day before Nancy was to return home, she confessed that the week had been one of the best in her life. “You kids have the right idea,” she remarked. She sighed then smiled. “I want to do something for you. I want to leave your home sparkling,” she said with a mixture of resignation and pride. Ever the Patron Saint of Diplomatic Janitors, Nancy scrubbed, polished and vacuumed our home into respectability without a single judgmental shake of her head or cluck of her tongue. Mats of hair resembling dead rats were pulled from bathroom drains; goat turds were fastidiously swept, dropping by dropping, into a dustpan and dispatched to the vegetable garden. Every inch of the house was treated to Ajax, Pledge, Lysol or Spic’n’Span. She ground down to nubbins Brillo pads and sponges, and worked her way through three mops.
Banished from the house for the day, we took Oso the dog, Rufus the cat and Lick the goat out into a field for a family picnic and baseball game. Lick repeatedly tried to eat the baseball. Rufus hunted field mice. Oso ran off into the nearby woods with his girlfriend Bo, the neighbors’ Beagle. Joints were smoked; beers were drunk. Someone dropped a tab of acid. At 7:00 that evening, Nancy called us in.
“Wow!” exclaimed one of the guys, staring into his glass bong. “I can see my reflection!”
“Well, I’m glad you’re pleased,” replied Nancy with a modest smile, “but a vase pretty and unique as that one should have flowers in it.”
“Boy, Mrs. Lewis, you even cleaned my diaphragm case!” enthused the tab-dropper, dissolving into giggles.
“Just make sure it isn’t the only thing that’s clean when you use it, honey,” Nancy replied sotto voce.
I walked away from the group of appreciative folk surrounding my mother and felt my feet glide over floors so clean I knew we could eat off them. I ran my fingers over mirrored surfaces of mahogany that had been in my family for generations. I moved from room to room, breathing in the familiar scent of Olde English furniture polish. Nostalgia stung my eyes.
Entering the dining room, I let out a shriek.
Oso and Bo lay exhausted beneath the dinner table. Between them they had placed the day’s quarry from the woods.
“Well, there they are,” said Nancy coming up behind me. “Looks like they had fun today.”
I turned to my mother. She caught the look of horror on my face and returned it with one of curiosity. “What is it?”
I pointed to what lay between the snoring dogs. “I’m so sorry, Mom! They’ve ruined your beautiful floor!”
Nancy walked over to the table and crouched down. She reached for the object. “Why do you say that? It’s just a – ”
“No!” I lunged at her. “Don’t touch – !”
“ – stick, for heaven’s sake, Suzi.” She stood up holding it out for me to see. I backed away.
“Mom, it’s not a stick.”
She looked at the object more closely, a slight frown creasing her face. “Yes, it is.”
“Mom!” I yelled. “Sticks don’t have hooves!”
Nancy studied what was now obviously a deer leg in her hand. Slowly, she crouched down and returned it to its place between Oso and Bo. With uncharacteristic affection, she smoothed her hand down Oso’s wooly Cockapoo coat.
“We all have our own particular passions,” she whispered. “Let sleeping dogs have theirs.”
She got up and walked passed me.
“F–k the floor.”
By Alan Graham
“In the dime stores and bus stations
people talk over situations
read books and repeat quotations
draw conclusions on the wall…”
Love Minus Zero No Limit–Bob Dylan
Coronado’s own Five & Dime store, Coromart, has been closed for many years. Not just the business itself, but the entire concept of the Five & Dime store has fallen by the wayside in most American towns. There are a myriad of knock-offs or 99-cent outlets and the big chain stores like Walmart offer many of the same affordable goods. The 7-Eleven stores bridge that gap in a small way and every liquor store now carries the same.
But a dime back then went a lot farther than 99 cents does today. There are very few items that you can by for one dollar, but back then you could get four pieces of candy for one penny and there were many other items for that price. My brother in-law, Andy, would be so happy that he could buy a six pack of BUCKHORN beer for a whole 99 cents.
There was not a single centimeter of wall space inside Coromart with its twenty-foot ceiling. It was packed to the rafters with gift items and sundries for any and every occasion.
The concept of the variety store originated with the five and ten, nickel and dime, five and dime, or dime store, a store where everything cost either five or ten cents. The originator of the concept may be Woolworth’s, which began in 1878 in Watertown, New York. Other five and tens that existed in the USA included W.T. Grant, J.J. Newberry’s, McCrory’s, Kresge, McLellan’s, and Ben Franklin stores. These stores originally featured merchandise priced at only five cents or ten cents, although later in the twentieth century the price range of merchandise expanded. Inflation eventually dictated that the stores were no longer able to sell any items for five or ten cents, and were then referred to as “variety stores” or more commonly dollar stores. Remember Coro-Days!
Once upon a time in 1974, there was a property for sale on Orange Avenue (main street Coronado). In the old days, Orange Avenue was lined with orange trees (hence the name) in the median strip all the way from the Bay to the Beach. They didn’t fare too well though, so they were replaced with pine trees. Great choice. Still really cool all lit up at Christmas time! The property for sale was on “bay side” between 1st & 2nd Streets. This particular block is noted mostly for its rowdy bar scene, but the available parcel happened to have an ancient beauty salon on it. The chances of getting hold of a piece of Orange Avenue in the 70s was very slim.
Enter local philanthropist and quirky do-gooder Fran Harpst! Fran was and is very well known in Coronado for her involvement with various local charities, boards, and committees. She was one of those “larger than life” types. Fran’s intensity frightened some people, but actually the rules were simple: Do not cross her. Period. Yet Fran also had a softer side. She loved to garden. Not just trimming rose bushes, but really digging deep into the soil, planting, and growing the most marvelous organic veggies long before it was cool to do so. Fran kept her fingernails cropped short so she wouldn’t have dirt under them at her various meetings. She hated gardening gloves. She said they were for sissies. They also hampered the feel of the earth on her hands. To her, getting dirty was half the fun!
Fran and daughter Lynne lived in a modest ranch style home by the Golf Course. Gardening space was very limited there though because their yard was pretty small. Perfect for growing her lovely award-winning flowers and a few veggies, but not much else. Upon hearing of the Orange Avenue property for sale, Fran jumped at the chance to purchase. Fran had a plan! This is how the “Orange Avenue Garden Club” came to be.
The very afternoon escrow closed, Fran gathered a merry band of helpers onto the property. Included were: 16-year-old daughter Lynne, her pal Jeannie Ackerman, Alan Graham, Anne Graham (Jim Morrison’s sister), and Don Edge. Tentative plans for the new garden were discussed at length. Nobody had ever put a large working garden right smack on Orange Avenue before until Fran came along. Some folks thought she was crazy, but that only added fuel to her magically eccentric fire.
The old beauty shop had to go. First at bat were Lynne and Jeannie. They were outfitted with coveralls, safety helmets, goggles, and large mallets. Their job was to bust out all the old windows. They did the job with much gusto and enthusiasm! Next up were the Big Boys (Alan, Don, and some other local guys) They finished off the beauty salon, leveled the land, turned the soil, installed irrigation, and got everything ready for planting.
The “Orange Avenue Garden Club” lot was very long and narrow. Preparations took some time, and the Guys worked tirelessly taking pride in their job(s). Finally, it was time to plant! Fran had it all mapped out. No surprise that she really did her homework. She also brought in her dear old friend, Gurson Kantor, a professional horticulturist. Everyone helped with planting. It was very much a fun, party-like atmosphere. Fran would spring for sandwiches and beverages. “People work better when they’re fed properly,” she would say.
Alan Graham, (extraordinarily talented wood craftsman) constructed a lovely sign that said “The Garden”. He presented the sign to Fran and she displayed it proudly there at “The Garden” for all to see. From that day on it was just simply “The Garden”. People would walk by and stare in amazement at “The Garden” amongst the bars. It was all so lusciously Bohemian!
Fran and her merry band of helpers grew squash, zucchini, carrots, bell peppers, tomatoes, and just about every sort of veggie that will grow in Coronado! Her pride and joy were the pumpkins though. Oh, how she loved growing pumpkins. Fran’s favorite time of year was Halloween. Her favorite color was orange. Fran loved to wear her orange “flight suit” as others might wear overalls. It was just her thing. “The Garden” served many people well over several years. All its offspring were shared generously with the community. Those were Camelot times!
Nothing lasts forever though. It had come to Fran’s attention that the City of Coronado was badly in need of a new Veterinary Hospital. Fran’s love for animals ranked even above and beyond her love for gardening, so the solution was really a no brainer. Fran not only donated “The Garden” property for the new Vet, but she also went one better and funded the entire building as well! Everyone involved with “The Garden” was sad to see it go, but they were also very happy about Fran’s decision to build the Vet there. Little did they know, Fran had already purchased a new property, “The Garden II” near her home on Bay Circle.
“The Garden II” was smaller than the original, but still quite adequate for Fran’s purposes. She enlisted a smaller band of helpers for that garden. Fran proudly tended “The Garden II” for many years. She’d be seen faithfully working and weeding on her hands and knees every Tuesday and Saturday up until several weeks before her death on April 7, 2010.
Even after her death, “The Garden II” continues to live on. It is still lovingly preserved by the “The Garden II” crew, minus one. Though she’s no longer physically tending her beloved “Garden”, Fran’s spirit is alive and well in everything that grows there. She’s keeping close watch from her new “vantage point” in the sky.
Lovingly submitted by Lynne Harpst Koen
Bottom Row: Alan Graham, Some Local Guy, Anne Morrison Graham, Fran Harpst, Gurson Kantor; Top Row: Don Edge, Jeannie Ackerman, Lynne Harpst
By Suzi Lewis Pignataro
When I was a little tyke, Art Linkletter hosted an afternoon family TV show. Everybody’s favorite segment was “Kids Say the Darndest Things,” during which Mr. Linkletter marched a gaggle of freshly scrubbed, petticoated, and bow-tied youngsters into his studio, sat them in a line of chairs and asked them questions which they answered frankly and unabashedly, much to the amusement of the television audience.
My mother and I watched “Kids Say the Darndest Things” together – she taking a break from her housewifely chores, sitting prettily behind me on the turquoise Naugahyde sofa, a dust cloth or dishtowel resting in her lap, and I sitting cross-legged on the den floor in my Popeye sailor hat, a corncob pipe clenched between sturdy baby teeth and “EYEPOP” scrawled on my right forearm in my four-year-old dyslexic hand. I didn’t watch the show for entertainment purposes, or, like my mother, for the sad but reassuring proof that other women’s little girls actually dressed and behaved like one. I studied those shiny, compliant children for clues to normalcy; and finding them in the Breck-shampooed and barretted locks of golden curls, the dimple-on-cue smiles, the polished patent-leather Mary Jane’s and the scab- and dirt-free knees, I decided it was something I’d subject myself to if it got me nationwide coverage.
One day, I stood up in the middle of the show, and with sugar-sticky fists digging into my pudgy waist and my corncob pipe bobbing up and down to the rhythm of my words, I growled at my mother: “Oi! Olive Oyl!”
My mother craned her neck in an attempt to see the screen. I listed slightly, blocking her view. She scowled.
“Really, Suzi. I want to hear what that sweet little girl has to say. She looks just like Shirley Temple, doesn’t she?” Her meaningful look wasn’t lost on me.
“I’m not Suzi, I’m Popeye!” I protested, raising my voice. “Olive Oyl! I wanna be on TV!” I jerked my thumb in the direction of the Philco. “I wanna be on ‘The Art Lick-a-letter Show’!”
My mother smoothed her full-skirted dress then carefully folded her dishtowel. She wouldn’t look me in the eye.
“Well, I don’t think that will ever happen,” she replied with quiet but brutal disappointment.
“Why the damn-hell not?” I shouted. Stomping my way to the front door, I barked over my shoulder, “I’m going to Whimpy’s. When Brutus comes home, tell him I wanna be on the damn-it-to-hell TV!”
My mother and father fought over whose fault it was that their youngest daughter behaved like a maniacal cartoon sailor with Tourette’s. I don’t know who won that argument, but the final verdict, declared every week of my childhood, was: “You’ll get yours someday, Suzi Lewis. Just you wait.”
Well, I did – and I did.
Thirty-one years later, I was ten hours into labor with my first child and tasting blood in my throat. I’d been pushing for almost four hours, nonstop, with no drugs to take the edge off the pain or to relieve those present on the maternity ward from the vile words screeching through my vocal chords. No one was spared, not even the Marcus Welby-esque Dr. Berry and his tireless and efficient assistant, Nurse Glenda, whose sunny words of encouragement only managed to produce in me the kind of violence usually reserved for puppy killers.
“I’ve never heard such filth,” she whispered to the doctor, shaking her head while glaring at me over the tops of my knees. “What does that even mean, what she just said? Can you even imagine it? A donkey doing that to a parrot?”
“No wonder the kid doesn’t want to come out,” muttered Dr. Berry from behind his mask as he stared disapprovingly at my stretched but uncooperative nether regions. “He must be terrified.”
As it turned out, the doctor was wrong. Thack wasn’t hiding in the birth canal those four hours, afraid of meeting his sewer-mouthed mother; he was comfortably tucked in between the folds of my warm and pulsating flesh, fastidiously taking notes.
Thack’s dad Mads and I had always been careful. Except for my notorious trawling in Satan’s rectum in the birthing room, we had swept the gutters of our mouths and rid them of all foul words and colorful metaphors. I had treated my child – in utero and out – to my alto warblings of Julie Andrews, Burl Ives and that rock star of the preschool crowd, Raffi. And while Bach and Mozart didn’t find their way into our CD player, I don’t think anyone could have argued against U2 and R.E.M.
They might as well have been Lil Wayne and Ozzy Osborne.
Thack was three and one-half years old when he offered his own version of his brother’s birth to an exceedingly handsome man standing in front of us at the checkout counter.
“Hi, I’m Thack,” he announced to the man, his clear blue eyes sparkling beneath a heavy fringe of white-blond hair.
“Well, hello, Thack,” replied the man, looking down with open interest at my angelic Nordic son. Thack jerked his thumb in Hansie’s direction. “That’s my baby brother.”
Hansie nearly gave himself whiplash wrenching his neck from where he sat at the front of the shopping cart. Anything Thack did was tantamount to witnessing Jesus give sight to the blind with his fingers while turning water into wine with his toes. To Hansie, Thack was Messiah and Houdini in one magnificent, big brother package.
Thack jerked his thumb toward me. “And that’s our mom.”
The man smiled at me and said, “Hi, Mom.” I considered hiding my post-baby weight behind the candy stand but the irony was just too brutal. I opened my mouth to say hi back, but Thack was already moving on, tugging at the man’s sleeve.
“So, anyways,” he continued, “my mom pooped me out of her bottom, but that one,” – again, the thumb-jerk toward Hansie – “she had to be cut open like a big ol’ pig to get him out.”
Suddenly my fat ass was nothing compared to my son’s big mouth. I frantically reached for Thack, as if hoping to find a STOP button. He swatted away my hands. As for the man, he made busy work of rearranging the bread, eggs and orange juice he’d placed on the counter, refusing to look at us. Thack pushed on.
“And she had this big cut on her tummy, like this” – he held his hands up about a foot apart – “down where it’s hairy, but it wasn’t hairy cuz it got shaved, and there were staples, and she couldn’t even fart in case her guts spilled out all over the damn floor.”
“Uh, that’s too bad, pal,” the man said with unconvincing sympathy and stepped out of the line, abandoning his groceries. I wondered how he would explain it to his wife and what she would say in reply – “What do you mean, you barely escaped with your life? And, no, I will not get my tubes tied!” – but thought it better for my mental health if I just let it go.
Later that night, after I’d put the boys to bed, I made Mads a late dinner and told him of the earlier events at the grocery store. He laughed so hard the piece of pork chop he’d been chewing shot out of his nose and landed in his wine glass with a – “Woople!” – as if pleasantly surprised by its sudden and unexpected trajectory. I felt betrayed by both pigs.
The next day, I tried to explain to Thack about “right words” and “wrong words” and failed spectacularly.
“Honey, can you please take your Spiderman underwear off your head when I’m talking to you?”
“Well, okay. So, Spiderman, what are some right words you can say to the bad guys?”
“Where the damn-hell’s my boots?”
“No; even bad guys deserve the right words. You would say, ‘Please, Mister Bad Guy, do you know where my boots are?’”
“Why? Are you missing your freakin’ boots too?”
Like Stan the plumber, who periodically rescued everyone from Barney to Batman from our kids’ toilet, I summoned my patience and good humor in helping me get through the ordeal of extracting the right words from my son’s mouth. It became something akin to a religious ritual, practiced five times daily, with Thack’s wrong words being the call to get down on my knees once more and pray to all that was holy for him to be one of those children on Art Linkletter’s show rather than the kind of child I had been: the wrong-words kind.
My heart swelled with pride when, at age four and one-half Thack announced he wanted to bake Santa Claus some cookies for his long trip over the rooftops of the world, but stopped beating in my chest when just a few weeks later he called a restaurant patron “dickhead” for complimenting him on the new Robin costume he had insisted upon wearing, despite it not being Halloween. A week after that, he blasted a boy at his preschool for accidentally hitting him during a play. “Son of a bitch!” was recorded on every video camera running in the room but mine. Call it what you will – fate, miracle or missed opportunity – it was my luck – good or bad; I’m not sure – that my camera’s battery died one second before my son shouted those words.
It was time to ask for help.
At Thack’s pre-kindergarten exam, I informed his pediatrician – a highly credentialed man with a corny sense of humor that either greatly charmed or deeply annoyed – that Thack had trouble with “potty mouth” and “mean talk.” “He probably gets it from other kids, you know,” I lied. I had yet to share with anyone my theory of Vaginal Audio Transmission – or VAT.
The doctor made a goofy face at Thack and said in a sing-song voice, “Oopsies! Is someone being a bad boy?” Thack burst into tears. “I’m gonna kill you and feed your private parts to Godzilla, you fucker,” he cried, then stormed out of the examination room.
Clutching his breast, the doctor turned on me. “Just what kind of a mother are you!” he charged.
“And what kind of an asshole are you?” I shot back before running after my child.
I changed doctors and continued my right words/wrong words tutorials with renewed fervor.
That summer, we moved into town to be closer to the public school Thack would be attending in the fall. One morning a crew of coarse-whiskered, Camels-smoking, orange-vested men with grit under their nails and asphalt in their boot heels drove trucks, backhoes and steamrollers into our cul-de-sac. They stopped right in front of our home, immediately becoming the biggest attraction since Mads had brought home a bright red Honda VFR and let the kids stagger around in his AFM-certified helmet like drunken Martians.
Thack’s hero at the time was a guy on PBS called Mike. Mike wore a hard hat – though he more resembled a Midwestern Ag teacher than a road worker – and taught kids everything they ever wanted to know about road-work vehicles but how to hot-wire one on a Saturday night. Every afternoon, wearing his Fisher-Price hard hat and surrounded by his yellow toy earth movers and dump trucks, Thack sat in front of the TV to watch Mike climb into the cabs of vehicles seemingly made for giants. Thack never said a wrong word in front of or about Mike. He slept with an autographed photo of the man hanging over his bed. If Thack was Hansie’s Messiah, Mike was his – and mine. I gave thanks to him every day.
The men repaving our street adored Thack and soon became my family’s heroes. Outfitted in his yellow hard hat and red rain boots, Thack greeted them each morning with a hardy, “Hey Mikes!” “Hey Thack!” they shouted back, waving with one hand while holding a thermos cup filled with black coffee in the other. Thack took up his post at our picket fence, one foot crossed behind the other, his slender arms hanging between the wooden slats. He stayed like that for hours, sometimes instructing, sometimes asking questions, but always ecstatic.
I turned from the kitchen sink where Hansie and I were putting his teddy bear through the rigors of a bath.
“What is it, Thack?”
“Don’t call me that. I’m one of the Mikes now.” He swaggered up to me.
“Sorry. What is it, Mike?”
Thack jerked his thumb in the direction of the open front door. I could hear the rhythmic hum and chunk of the equipment tearing up the pavement outside. “Me and the other Mikes are hungry. Fetch us some grub.”
My soapy fists automatically dug into my waist.
“Well, can’t you and the other Mikes wait until I’m done here?” I jerked my own thumb in the opposite direction where Hansie stood on a chair by the sink, stroking his teddy bear’s tummy with a garlic press.
Thack’s fists flew to his waist. “Well, damn-it-to-hell, Mom! Us men are starving out there!” He stomped over to the refrigerator and threw open the door. “Jesus!”
“That’s ‘Cheeze-its’, buster!” I yelled. “Remember? Right words! Rights words! Fucking hell!”
“Sucking bell!” Hansie growled at his teddy bear. He tried to decapitate it with a rubber spatula.
Thack closed the refrigerator door. “Mom,” he said anxiously, putting his hand on my arm. “Don’t say the wrong words in front of my baby brother.”
Dropping to the kitchen floor, I covered my face with my hands and moaned.
I was plunged through a memory wormhole that dumped me into 1960, with my mother clutching Johnny to her chest, her left hand pressed against his right ear. “Suzi! Don’t say those words in front of your baby brother!” And me, fists digging into my pudgy waist, yelling back, “I’m not Suzi, I’m Popeye! And I yam what I yam and that’s all what I yam!” before stomping out of the house and slamming the door behind me.
A year later, we sat with the kids’ paternal grandparents at the Oakland Fairyland lunch grounds. Mads had gone off to buy Thack and Hansie their favorite crap food. Sonja joked around with the kids while Lars smiled to himself, blissfully tuned out. He’d turned off his hearing aides the moment we walked through the park gates.
Thack had recently passed kindergarten with flying colors. “There’s something very special about your son,” his teacher had stated as we sat together watching him play with his classmates on the last day of school. “He’s so thoughtful with the underdogs, and yet also very tuned into the geniuses. He identifies with them both.” She looked me in the eye with a frankness that scared me. “I think we are going to discover some things about Thack next year when he is expected to perform real academics.”
“What do you mean?” I asked defensively.
She selected her next words carefully. “I think what we have here is a brilliant and highly imaginative child, with a naturally sweet and insightful disposition. We all adore him – he’s a hoot; an original – but he processes the world differently than other kids, and when he’s having a hard time with – ”
“I know!” I cried. “He’s always had trouble with his mouth!”
The teacher squinted at me. “His mouth?”
“You know. The wrong words. Bad words.”
The teacher shook her head. “I don’t hear anything inappropriate from Thack here. What I find is that the stimuli of the classroom cause him to lose focus and get a bit disruptive – but never, ever does he utter an unkind or bad word.” She offered a reassuring smile. “Thack is a beautiful boy, Suzi. But I believe sensory integration issues will become increasingly problematic, as will problems with focus. We’ll keep on top of it – don’t you worry – and will make the necessary evaluations. Meanwhile, watch his stress level. I think what you are trying to tell me is that Thack loses it sometimes, probably when he’s feeling anxious, threatened or frustrated. Like I said: He’s really bright, and when he gets together with the other bright kids in my class, I tell you, the sparks fly. But there’s a reason why he is so quick to defend the underdogs, and I think it’s because he feels as much kinship with them as he feels with the smart kids – more so when challenged by the world’s demands.” She shook her head. “It must be really difficult to feel incapable of delivering what others expect of you.”
“I yam what I yam and that’s all what I yam, so fuck off.”
The teacher chuckled. “I guess you could say that.”
I rubbed my hands through my hair, hard. “No, that is what I said, over and over again, to my mom and dad – well, not the ‘fuck off’ bit – but it was never enough.”
The teacher looked me in the eye again. “Is it going to be enough for you? With Thack?”
Now Mads approached our bench carrying a box loaded with corn dogs, fries and packets of Catsup. I smiled at him; he smiled back with a slight roll of his eyes. Something about the direction in which his eyes moved caused me to look behind him. I bit the inside of my cheek until I tasted blood.
A family of three followed in his wake: two pleasant looking parents in their mid-forties and their son, who looked to be around Thack’s age. The son suffered from what must have been a horribly disfiguring birth defect. He lacked nose and ear cartilage, and his eyes were set far apart and sloped at an impossible angle. The boy’s mouth was a perfect O. The father carried their own boxes of fast food while the mother walked with the boy holding his hand. Nothing in the parents’ demeanor betrayed their own suffering. They appeared for all the world to be perfectly happy folks out with their perfectly normal child. I admired them beyond belief.
Thack sat with Lars – across from Sonja, Hansie and me – with his back to his dad and the approaching family. Sonja spotted her son, then noticed the people behind him. She covered my hand with her own, for a highly charged, split-second panicking squeeze, then, raised it in greeting.
“There’s your dad!” she called out brightly. “Finally! We have hungry pioneers at this table! Bring on the grub!”
As Mads set down his box, the other family took over the table next to ours. Again, Sonja covered my hand. “Breathe,” she whispered.
Corn dogs were passed around and water bottles were produced from my backpack. I focused on doling out the fries and squirting globs of Catsup onto paper napkins. Sonja chatted away at the kids while I silently prayed that Thack would not look over at the other table.
Years before, Thack had been abusive toward a man in our neighborhood who was severely mentally retarded and disfigured. The man and his caregiver used to walk past our house to and from a local fruit stand. Thack would yell at him from the upstairs window – for the man to go away, stay home, die – out of fear of the unknown. I managed to help Thack overcome his fear by stopping the man and his caregiver one day and introducing myself. From the window, Thack watched the man hug me. He saw the caregiver and I chat and laugh like normal people. Then we waved good-bye and I returned to Thack, unharmed and smiling. After that, he left the man alone.
But how would Thack react to a child his own age with such severe disabilities? I had no idea, and I didn’t want to find out.
Thack picked up his corn dog and stared at it. “I know what this is!” he announced.
“WHAT DID HE SAY?” Lars asked.
“HE SAID, HE KNOWS WHAT IT IS!” Sonja shouted. “TURN ON YOUR HEARING AIDES!”
Lars waved away the suggestion as if it were a disagreeable odor.
Thack stood up at the end of our table, his back to the other family.
“I said, I know what this is!” he shouted, holding up the corn dog for all to see.
I glanced at the other table. The father gave me a look that said, “Yeah, we have one too. What can you do?” I was pretty sure they didn’t have one too, and I sure as hell didn’t know what I was going to do with mine.
Thack positioned the corn dog suggestively over his pants zipper. “It’s a weenie!”
Mads choked on his corn dog.
“WHAT DID HE SAY?” Lars asked Sonja.
Sonja shook her head. “NOT WORTH REPEATING!”
I reached for the corn dog. “Uh, Thack, that’s not – ” Thack turned to face the other table. “ – oh God.”
“Hey!” Thack called out to the other boy. “Wanna see my weenie?”
I gave the parents my most remorseful look: Please, oh please, forgive us our sins. They sat utterly still, their eyes flitting between my son and theirs. From their perspective, this must have now seemed a very very bad day at Fairyland.
“Thack!” Mads barked, standing up to tower over his son. Thack ignored him.
“You have one, too!” Thack enthused to the boy.
“WHAT’S GOING ON?” shouted Lars. He looked over at Thack and saw the pornographic corn dog, which Thack was now wagging back and forth. “Oh Jesus,” Lars muttered, covering his eyes.
The boy stared at Thack’s face then at Thack’s corn dog and finally at his own corn dog nestled in its bed of fries. Deliberately avoiding his parents’ clenched-jawed panic, he stood up from his bench, grabbed his corn dog and wagged it in front of his pants zipper.
We adults let out a collective gasp as we were subjected to the two boys standing in front of each other wagging their corn dogs with obscene pleasure.
Then the boy threw back his head and let out a wolf-like howl. Thack threw back his head and joined him. And everyone over the age of six dissolved into nervous hysteria.
Thack and the other boy took off. Hansie hopped down from his seat next to mine and trotted after them. With his corn dog twirling above his head, Thack shouted over his shoulder to the other boys: “Let’s run like hell and let our weenies fly!”
Lars leaned toward me. “WHAT’D HE SAY NOW!” he demanded, his fingers fumbling at his hearing aides.
I wiped the tears from my eyes and attempted to control my laughter. “THE RIGHT WORDS, LARS,” I shouted joyfully. “HE SAID THE DAMN-IT-TO-HELL RIGHT WORDS!”
By Aleene Sexton Queen “Queenie”
My aunt and uncle, Ruth and Frank Martin, owned 1022 Park Place from the mid-30s until the mid-50s. My dad, Skip Sexton, worked for Uncle Frank and his shop was in the garage behind the house. My mom, Billie, cooked and served lunch to the paint crew. So it was a second home to me as a little girl. My Auntie Ruth was a seamstress for the wealthy ladies in town and had her sewing machines in the second floor room with many windows in the front of the house. She always cut a pattern carefully to make a little velvet dress for me. I loved watching her sew and looking out those windows and I thought I could see “forever”. She had ceramics classes downstairs in the den in the late 40s about the time Uncle Frank opened Martin’s Home Furnishings. He decorated the furniture store with many beautiful ceramic pieces made by my aunt.
Their daughter, Peggy, was an entertainer with the USO during WW2 and flew in rickety planes to far off places like France and Africa. She returned to the U.S. after the war ended and married the manager of some of the Big Bands. Many of them visited 1022 when they entertained in San Diego. My favorite was Woody Herman because he invited us to visit his home in Hollywood Hills, and there, I really could see ‘forever.’ Woody would ask my dad to sing the old tunes and l loved to hear his rich baritone voice. I felt so proud.
I’ve recently heard Helen and the current owners speak of hearing a baby crying when there’s not a baby in the house! I wonder if I have the answer to that. While my aunt and uncle owned the home, a young woman from Holland named Dusty, worked for Uncle Frank at the concession stand at the old bowling alley on the Strand. It was the early 40s and Dusty stayed in a small room at 1022.
One night my aunt heard a baby crying and there were no babies in the house at the time; she went to investigate and found a confused Dusty with a newborn baby. Dusty didn’t know she was pregnant! Am sorry to say I never saw the baby nor did I see Dusty again so I don’t know if the baby lived or not. It wasn’t talked about in those days, but I remember the story well…hmmm …
Maureen and I found each other while commenting on the picture of 1022 on Facebook’s Coronado Kids. I recognized her maiden name because our moms played cards together in the 40s and 50s, and her mom came to my first baby’s shower! We started sharing memories. Then Helen also commented on the house as she’s also a former owner. In addition, our mothers were best of friends for many years after Helen’s mom, Mallie Nichols, came to Coronado in 1937. They also worked together at the Coronado Pharmacy for years. I also worked for Mallie at the old and new Coronado Pharmacy’s soda fountain in the early 50s. Maureen, Helen, and I continue to share many memories about 1022 Park Place and this wonderful little town we were so fortunate to grow up in — Coronado!
Art continues on at 1022 Park Place, as the present owners, Don and Kay Hubbard are very gifted as well as good folks. Don is a published author and a marine artist of Gyotaku. Kay is a water-color artist and has a shop in Spanish Village. They have invited the three of us to revisit 1022 Park Place and we all met for lunch at the Brigantine in December when Mo visited for Christmas in Coronado. They invited my granddaughter to visit their home to see their art when she visited us in January because Tiara was studying Don’s marine art while in college in Edinburgh, Scotland. It really is a small world; especially if you’re from Coronado!
Ten Twenty-Two Park Place — a home that holds memories for all of us.
Don Hubbard is the author of Neptune’s Table “Cooking the Seafood Exotics” and “Gitmo: The Missile Crisis” a Kindle e-book available at amazon.com.
GYOTAKU (The Japanese Art of Fish Painting)
Don Hubbard, Marine Artist, P.O. Box 180550, Coronado, CA 92118
Tel: 619/435-3555, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Kay Frances Hubbard, Gallery/Studio 2
Spanish Village Art Center
San Diego, CA 92101
By Helen Nichols Murphy Battleson
Shortly after we sold the house to the Hubbard Family in March 1975 and moved to 1704 Visalia Row, we went to an auction at Buckingham Galleries. Seated in front of my mother and I were the Hudsons who had sold us 1022 Park Place in the early 1970s. After a while, Mr. Hudson turned to us and asked if we had ever heard a baby crying in the house? My mother, Mallie Nichols almost jumped out of her seat! She said, “Yes.” Shortly after we moved in with our five kids, including our youngest son Kelley Murphy, born in May 1972, and who was about seventeen months old at the time, we went out for the evening and my mother stayed to watch the kids. When we came home, she was more than a little upset, as she had been combing the three-story house looking for the baby that she kept hearing crying. She had first thought it was our little one, but when she went into his bedroom and looked in the crib, he was sound asleep. The Hudson family had had the same experience, hearing the baby cry and searching for the baby everywhere in the house…
By MaureenRutherford Nieland “Mo”
It all started with 1022 Park Place, Coronado, California. This is where my grandparents, Alfred and Mary EllenVingoe, came from England in the 1920s to settle in Coronado. As my mom’s siblings matured, they spread themselves out through Coronado and San Francisco to make their own homes.
I was born at the Coronado Hospital in 1946. Dr. Booth delivered me there and said at the time that “I was going to be a showgirl in Vegas.” Little did he know, I spent 37 years there in the gaming business, and DID dance VERY often at all the clubs there.
All these years later through Facebook, Aleene Sexton Queen and Helen Nichols Murphy Battleson found we had more in common then being raised in Coronado. It was “1022 Park Place”, where Aleene’s aunt and uncle lived for quite a few years in the 1930s; then many years later, Helen and her family owned the house, who then sold it to Donald Hubbard, the present-day owner.
I had been by “1022 Park Place” many times to look and stare and wonder what it was like to live inside that beautiful home back in the 20s. Finally, one day while HOME for the 4th of July Class Reunion last year (2010), I was taking a picture of the house with my best girlfriend, Carolann, and Don Hubbard came out and jokingly said, “We charge for pictures you know.”
That’s when after all these years of wondering what it looked like inside, Don invited Carolann and I in for a tour of the house. (What a kind and wonderful man he is. He and his daughter are both authors of wonderful stories.)
This meeting brought Aleene, Helen, and I into full circle. They are both just a tad older then me and wouldn’t have noticed me as a kid running rampant in Coronado. Aleene and I had a closer bond then we thought. My mom and her and other great friends use to play cards together — one of the friends being the fire chief at the time, Ted Kohl and his wife Edna. Now that we are all older, the age gap has closed between us and we have MANY fond memories to share.
Don Hubbard affectionately gave us the nickname “The 1022 Crew” We are the “1022” Crew!!!
By Commander Don Hubbard, USN (Retired)
This old house was built in 1894 for Mr. Benjamin L. Muir. Muir was born in Memphis, Missouri in 1859 and came to San Diego in 1886. This was the year of the great auction sale of Coronado lots. He entered the real estate business and sold much property here in Coronado. In May of 1887, he married Lizzie Barber, which was the first wedding in Coronado. The ceremony was performed at the Hotel Del Coronado by the Reverend E. S. Chase, pastor of the First Methodist Church of San Diego. Some 150 guests attended, so it must have been some bash.
1022 was built as a beach house seven years after the Muir’s were married, only being occupied by the newlyweds during the summer. For the rest of the year, the home was rented out.
The house itself is a genuine Victorian structure (Queen Anne Style). Features like the eyebrow window, the oval window on the second floor, the changing shingle pattern, and the broad cedar floor planks attest to this. The original exterior color was a medium chocolate brown, which is now painted white. Many of the brass fittings that are still in the home are from England. It was alleged to me by Captain Hudson, who did the modernization of the house in 1973 that the original wiring was done by Thomas Edison when he was in town wiring the Hotel Del Coronado.
There was no garbage pick-up in the early days of this city, so residents buried their trash in the backyard. I have come across a number of these burial locations and found interesting pieces of broken china, a small intact perfume bottle, and an array of meat bones as well as sea shells. Digging exploratory trenches can become an interesting hobby.
There were no house numbers when this home was built. The San Diego Historical Society has lists of the homes and residents that lived in them. This house was listed as the second house north of Star Park on the west side of Park Place.
I purchased the house in 1975 and quickly learned that when you live in a house this old you must plan to perform regular geriatric work to keep it going. Fortunately, this has been an enjoyable occupation. The building was dedicated as a Coronado Historical Monument by the City of Coronado in 1981 and placed under the protection of the California Senator Mill’s Act in 2009. On a personal note, we want the house preserved as it is for the enjoyment of future generations.
For a comprehensive picture history of Coronado dating back to the period of earliest exploration to the present time, “Images of America: Coronado” by Leslie Hubbard Crawford (our daughter), Acadia Publications is available at Bay Books, 1029 Orange Avenue. Leslie also has a website devoted to Coronado: www.WelcometoCoronado.com
“THE 1022 CREW”
DR. MUSHOVIC & NAVAL LIFE
By Polly Coleman
I remember being ten and holding my baby brother while Dr. Mushovic gave him his first shots, and my Mother and I both getting a shot in the buttock and it hurt! We went to him instead of base doctors as it was so much better. We lived at 641 Coronado Avenue. My parents bought the house before Dad spent four years in ‘Nam. Went to Crown, junior high, then 9th and 10th grades in Coronado. Then we were off to D.C., as he did a tour at ComCruDesPac Pentagon duty. Yuck!! Good times, but bad times too. D.C .was not good for a Cally girl in the early 70s. Went to SuperFly premiere at Constitution Hall and got mugged. And I wasn’t a racist! The bad times…I loved D.C., but only in the earlier tours. Coronado was the best. You know my boyfriend was Jim Longino Jr., who was the son of Admiral Longino of NAS North Island at the time. They lived in the Commandant quarters and they were so beautiful, all white, out on the bay. We both went East at the same time. His parents moved to a Georgetown brownstone and he was off to a college in Colorado Springs. Then he died in a skiing accident. Don’t think I ever got over that. Such is Navy life that we didn’t ever seem to talk about. We just said our goodbyes so many times…Too many times. This is so theraputic LOL xxoo Polly
BY JUDY (JENNE) MILLER
Dr. James Mushovic was so much more to me than our family doctor; over the many years I knew him, he was my friend. He saw me through my childhood, my teenage years, and as a young wife and mother. He gave me the benefit of his wisdom and his profound understanding of people. His advice was something that got me through some trying times in my life. He helped me feel good about myself and taught me how to be strong during the tough times. He saw me through a serious illness and saved my life. If it were not for “Dimitri”, I would not be around to write this.
He brought my three beautiful children into this world: Randi in 1965, Matthew in 1968, and Heather in 1971. In the middle of labor, he would get everyone in the room to smile – even me – when he told me I was strong enough and young enough to climb off that table after delivering each of my kids and walk back to my room. It got to be a running joke with us: he would tell the nurses to watch out for me because I could walk to the hospital while in labor, have those babies so fast they had to keep a close eye on me, and then just get up and walk back to my bed. By the time Heather was born, he let us go home when she was only 12-hours old. Always helpful, he said it would save us money. He encouraged me through a divorce and helped patch up the kids as they were growing up. Mumps, chicken pox, stitches, and his sage advice – priceless!
A very special memory for all of us was when he played Santa Claus on Christmas Eve. I mean how cool is it to see your doctor walk into your home saying, “HO HO HO”, and passing out gifts to the kids! They were so awestruck at having Santa come to their house with special gifts with their names on them. A busy physician taking time to do this for the kids: how could it get any better than that on Christmas Eve?
There are so many stories and memories about Doc Mushovic. Suffice it to say, he was a terrific doctor, a kind heart, a defender of those he cared for, and a truly remarkable man. It was a sad day when we lost him, but he is remembered with great fondness. They don’t make them like that anymore!
Dr. James Mushovic, Sr., was a beloved father and grandfather, and physician to thousands of families in Coronado. He was a longtime family practitioner as well as an obstetrician, bringing hosts of “stork” deliveries into the arms of awaiting parents. “Dr. Dwim”, as my kids fondly called him, delivered my firstborn daughter, Ariel Florence Graham in 1988, and a year later assisted my father, Dr. Donald M. Dill in delivering my son, Austin Everett Malins Graham. Ariel was Dr. Dwim’s swan song baby in his long career of obstetrics. She was the last baby he would bring into the world, which made her very special to him indeed. Until his retirement, he kept a photo of him holding her, along with a tribute, as well as a photo of my son, for every patient to see and honor at the office weigh station. My husband, Al Graham, who had three kids by his first marriage to Anne Morrison, hailed this singular, wizardly doctor with the special nickname of “Merlin Mushovic” as he was the magician that brought Dylan, Tristin, and Sefton Graham into the world as well. Not only did Dr. Mushovic bring so many lovely lives onto this planet, he also ferried in many medical careers onto our island, fashioning family practices as a mirror of the tradition he began: “hands on” medicine, a dying art in this day and age. My father, Dr. Donald M. Dill, was one of those whose career began under his tutelage.
A few years before “Dmitri” (as he loved to be called) passed away, my daughter and I ran into him. Ariel, now fully grown, was asked if he could whisper in her ear. When she leaned forward for his special message, he whispered, “Please, don’t forget me.” Ariel and our family, as with so many others, never ever will.
Dr. Mushovic started the tradition of being Santa Claus on Christmas Eve as far back as 1965, for that was when he hand-delivered my very first training bra. I almost died of embarrassment and will never forget that memory. Another of my favorite memories was in Dr. Dwim’s later years after his retirement. I used to run into him in Albertson’s late in the evening. He would be pushing around a grocery cart stacked to the brim with every sweet snack available on the shelves. After a brief chat, he would always ask me if I knew where the Oreos were, or one of his favorite ice creams. My last memory of our beloved friend was his extraordinary sweet tooth.
James Mushovic, Sr., was born on July 3, 1925. He passed from our graces on August 25, 2009 at the ripe age of 84. He was born in Greenfield, Massachusetts, the youngest son of James and Christine Mushovic, both from Belorussia in Tsarist Russia. After attending Tufts University in Massachusetts, he continued on to Tufts Medical School in Boston. Before attending medical school, he served with the United States Navy during World War II. Once he finished medical school, he served the U. S. Navy again as a flight surgeon. He kick started his ob-gyn practice while delivering babies at NAS North Island. In 1953, he settled in Coronado and started his practice on Orange Avenue in 1956, in what is now the Brigantine. Throughout his extensive career delivering half of Coronado and caring for multiple generations of families, he found the time to serve on the Coronado School Board and be an active member of the Rotary Club. Dr. Mushovic played a key role in establishing the Coronado Hospital, as it now exists. In addition to being a surrogate father and grandfather to so many of our citizens, Dr. Mushovic was father to ten children and grandfather to many grandchildren.
– Kimberley Ann (Dill) Graham
BY JUDE (JENNE) MILLER
I used to draw and paint a lot when I was a teenager and young mother. Many of my pastels, watercolors, and drawings covered the walls in my kids’ rooms, along with my handmade rugs, curtains, and stuffed toys. But in the turmoil that became my life after a divorce – caring for three small children, working, and going to school – my art suffered and simply stopped. It was as if my creativity buried itself. It did not resurface until many years later during another life change: being a single person again and moving back to Palm Springs to start over. My art became my refuge, my antidepressant, and it soothed all the things that hurt me. My art means a great deal to me. I have given pieces away in the past and done some personal things for my girlfriends and family, but I have never sold anything. I honestly cannot bear to part with them because of what they represent to me at a time when I was in need. Creativity is a balm for the soul. Usually, the only time anyone sees these pieces is if they walk into my living room. It was interesting to post some of them and see the reaction. Most gratifying!!
The ones that are being displayed are done with India ink and the tiniest little pen you have ever seen. You cannot put the pen down for any length of time as it clogs, and then you have some cleaning to do to get started again. Once I get started on an idea, I generally work for hours and hours until I have the sense that it is complete. They are not planned beforehand; they are created in the moment. One exception is the “sea creatures” piece that my daughter, Randi, asked me to do for a friend’s wedding present. It was an ocean-themed wedding and she wanted something special that reflected that. It was hard to actually compose something because, for the most part, I go by the seat of my pants. Once I have an outline started, the insides sort of flesh themselves out on their own and I try to hide as many things in the body as I can to make it more interesting. Each piece tells me when it is finished!
Jude Eileen (Jenne) Miller is a graduate of Coronado High School Class of 1964. She has three adult children, all delivered by Dr. James “Dmitri” Mushovic. Randi Miller Garcia, Jude’s firstborn, and her husband, Rene, are parents to Kara Garcia (22) and Joe Garcia (21). Kara’s daughter Avery is Jude’s first great granddaughter and the baby of the family. Jude’s second born, Matthew Miller, and his wife Crystal are parents to Joshua McLeod Miller (10). Heather Miller Carter is Jude’s youngest and she has three grown children, Matthew Navarro (22), Roxanne Carter (20), and Jennifer Carter (18). Jude’s family means the world to her, and she has much to be proud of.
Jude worked in the hotel/hospitality industry for over 30 years, starting at the Hotel Del Coronado in 1980. Seeking advancement in the sales department, she asked for and got a position with Larry Lawrence’s small resort The Racquet Club of Palm Springs. She relocated to Palm Springs in 1985 and stayed until 1992, when she moved to the Midwest and got a terrific job at the Mark of the Quad Cities, a state-of-the-art 12,000 seat arena that rocked the QC with top bands and artists (lots of free rock and roll for Jude). It also played host to the Ice Capades, Ringling Brothers Circus, arena football, and ice hockey. John Deere exhibited their newest farm equipment there, which made for an interesting experience for a beach girl to come face to face with a 12-row combine.
Moving back to the desert in 1994, Jude bought a home and got back to work in the local resorts. It has been her physical home ever since. “I say that because home is Coronado. My closest friends are still my Coronado friends.The beach is where my heart is and my folks are up on Fort Rosecrans always looking down on that beach I grew up on.”
By JUDE (JENNE) MILLER
On September 23, 1946, I became the third little girl to be born to Frank L. and Dorothy F. Jenne. That same year, my father was commissioned LT.JG. My dad literally left the farm to join the Navy in 1932. He started as a Seaman and retired as a Commander in 1963, after 31 years of service to his country.
Dad was stationed in Norfolk during one of his cruises. Looking for some R & R, he and his buddies went to a USO to dance with the local girls.There he saw one that stole his heart – my mother! The story they told my sisters and I so many times was that they were both dancing with other people to the song “I’m in the Mood for Love”, when they saw one another over the shoulders of their partners and fell in love!! Dad was 22 and Mom was 16. They were married within months of meeting and remained together for the rest of their lives. A true love story! Whenever their song came on the radio or the television, no matter what was going on in our house, Dad would go get Mom and they would dance while we sat and watched. To this day, it is one of my happiest memories.
My sisters, Peggy and Rita, and I were born at the Norfolk Naval Hospital. The family remained in Norfolk, close to my grandparents, when Dad went to the Pacific for WWII. I was born about nine months after he came back from his duty in the Pacific (a true baby boomer). We lived in Virginia, Ohio, New Mexico, Hawaii, Guam, and of course, Coronado. I first saw Coronado as Mom, Dad, and I drove up the Strand. The sun was setting and I saw the Del. I was so excited I thought it was a fairy castle! I was in 2nd grade. My folks were visiting Jackie and Mac McCall, the caretakers of The Boat House. They actually lived in what we all came to know and love as the Chart House. After that night, Mom and Dad said they had found their home. We stayed in Coronado from 1953 to1958, went to Guam for two years and returned in 1960, never to leave. We were finally home!
Dad could not stray far from water and ships. After retirement, he signed on as the manager of the Coronado Yacht Club, a position he enjoyed for many happy years. Mom and Dad were not just avid golfers but fanatical golfers. Both were active in the Coronado Municipal Course and Sea and Air on North Island. Mom was president a couple of terms and took her responsibilities with joy. On a happy and sad note, she passed away the night of a tournament day in which she was the WINNER! Talk about going out in a blaze of glory. To quote her, “You drive for show and you putt for dough.” A champion to the end! They now rest together in Fort Rosecrans, peacefully watching the ships enter and leave their beloved harbor. Many a sunset I could see them from our beach.
I graduated from CHS in 1964. My children, Randi, Matthew, and Heather were delivered into this world in the Coronado Hospital by Dr. James Mushovic, a friend, revered physician, and a great guy all the way around. No matter where I go, my heart is always in Coronado. There is no place like home.
Gail Griffith Behrns is a 1974 graduate of Coronado High School. She earned her B.A. in English from Point Loma Nazarene University and her M.A. in American Literature from San Diego State University. She taught English at our very own Coronado High School for 12 years.
She is married to Wade Behrns, also of the CHS class of 1974. They are the proud parents of three sons: Riley, Seth, and Davis. Dr. Donald Dill, the Magical Medicine Man, delivered all three of the boys, and is Godfather to Gail’s firstborn, Riley. Riley is a senior in high school this year, Seth is in seventh grade, and Davis is in sixth grade.
In 2005, the Behrns family relocated to Kernersville, North Carolina. Together, Gail and Wade opened two businesses: Shakespeare and Company Bookshop/Coffeehouse and Not Just Teapots, a kitchen gadget shop featuring Wade’s one-of-a-kind cutting boards. The shops are located in historic downtown Kernersville.
Besides raising her three sons and running two businesses, Gail teaches writing part-time at Guilford Technical Community College in Greensboro, North Carolina. She spends her sparse free moments designing aprons and tea cozies for one of their shops. You can check out Wade’s handcrafted wares at: Notjustcuttingboards.com
By Gail Griffith Behrns
It’s 1973. Passing the corner of 10th and Orange is the familiar white Ex Calibur with the bright red leather interior. The driver, wearing his familiar Irish driving cap, waves as he passes me.
Today he no longer drives an Ex Calibur but Dr. Donald Dill is probably one of Coronado’s most famous and beloved citizens, the Magical Medicine Man.
Dr. Dill began his family practice in 1960 joining Dr. Jim Mushovic in a small office in what today is part of the lobby of the El Cordova Hotel. Today on the wall in his office on C Avenue is a three-dimensional portrayal of him, complete with top hat magically performing medicine as depicted by his artist wife, Christine Gordon.While he never actually performed real magic as he made you better, he just made it feel that way. In addition to hospital rounds and office visits, Dr. Dill made house calls.
In February of 1988 he made one of those house calls to my parents’ home to explain to my sisters and me why my dad’s pancreatic cancer diagnosis was terminal. Despite my outward anger and frustration that little could be done for him and that he had little time left in this world, Dr. Dill remained calm and caring, nearly apologetic as he took the time to answer all of our questions and frustration.
Three years pass. It is September, 1992. My son, Riley is two weeks old and we are in the Jungle Room waiting for Dr. Dill to give Riley his two-week check-up. A copy of Love You Forever lay on the top of a stack of children’s books. As I read the story inside the cover I fight tears. My then-husband has decided that parenthood is not on his list of things in life he wants at that time and we are alone. Dr. Dill opens the door and cheerfully picks up my son, telling me what a beautiful boy he is and how we will be all right.Two months later he agrees to stand as Riley’s Godfather.
Against amazing odds, I remarry in 1996. Some twenty months later our son, Seth is born.Two weeks before his due date I think it is time. Dr. Dill, with his wry sense of humor laughs,”You think you are having a baby today!” The nurse and I look at the monitor and it seems something is happening.Three hours later Seth is born.When our youngest, Davis is born in 1999 two weeks before his due date, Dr. Dill is ready.
2005 — We move across the country to a small town-Kernersville, North Carolina and once again Riley is in the doctor’s office. Again I find myself fighting tears but this time it is because I realize that we have left the big city for the small town but have left the small-town doctor behind in the big city. Absent is the white coat with the red heart pin and the warm smile, the talk in the office after the checkup.The new doctor’s coat, while white in color, lacks the small red heart over the pocket and colorful dapper tie that we had been accustomed to over years.
We still live in Kernersville and have found an affable pediatrician. But he doesn’t wear a dapper tie and a heart over his coat pocket. And he never makes house calls.
In his fifty years of family practice Dr. Dill has delivered thousands of children. If he didn’t deliver you, he probably delivered your neighbor or their grandchildren. Dr. Dill still practices in his office on C Avenue and still makes hospital rounds. No matter how packed his appointment schedule, you always get a talk in his office after your checkup and a hug as you leave. If one day Dr. Dill chooses to retire, it will be the end of an era.The era of The Magical Medicine Man.
By Kimberley (Dill) Graham
On January 12, 1988, a sea change occurred in my onerous life. It came in the form of a golden orb, an angelic manifestation, an innocence incarnate, whose emergence was that of our newborn daughter, Ariel Florence Graham. After several hours of hugely stressful contractions and much screaming out on my part for more pain medication, Dr. Mushovic decided to perform a C-Section to get this little precious creature out of me. After several sonograms, Dr. Mushovic was convinced that I was having a “boy” because, after all, he could see a “tallywacker”. When a heavily sedated mother finally did give birth to a perfectly healthy baby girl, with no tallywacker, the nurses asked me what was her name. I said “Austin” as I had no idea that Ariel was to be delivered. When I woke up in my hospital room nursing my little angel, I was surrounded by gifts of baby blue. Our giftors had to run out and exchange gifts to pink. (NOTE: A year later, I gave birth to my son, Austin, who was predicted to be a girl by Dr. Mushovic, with no tallywacker. Once again, the giftors had to exchange the pink for the blue.)
Alan Graham, my husband chose the name Ariel after the mischievous little spirit in Shakespeare’s the Tempest. Ariel means “Lion of the Lord”. As Ariel grew into her age of 12 months plus, her favorite song to dance to was “Sail Away” by Enya. The year of her birth, Ariel, the Little Mermaid was released but was not of consequence in her naming.
In the hospital room, I lay with Ariel suckling at my teat, experiencing my first true “bliss” in life. If anyone were to speak to me, my only response was that I have born an angel. My life would never ever be the same again. Selfless became the only adjective of my pursuit in life now. The meanings I had heard so many times of having the power to lift a car to protect someone became intensively real. I now stood among the ranks of millions of women throughout the world and throughout time who know the true meaning of “motherhood” – and, shall I say, “sisterhood”.
We were so thrilled to have our Ariel that we would wake her, the sleeping baby, just to be with her and look at her and thrill to be in her presence. Her life defined my husband and I as a couple, with a purpose besides the pursuit of ourselves. She also united a broken family — mine, the Dills, as well as my husband’s — and his growing-up children. She was the first baby in many a decade who would unite sad souls. A baby brings the best out in all of us.
As the months went by, Ariel earned a nickname, “Nee Nee Pie”, as she was always screeching out these syllables. Nee Nee Pie loved anything paper. So she also became “Nee Nee Paper”. By nine months old, this blond little jitterbug began to walk. Always adorned with a ribbon in her hair, she became the mascot for many a folk – stranger and family alike. No one could get over how pretty she was and how dainty and petite this baby was on both feet exploring the world.
As parents, we reveled in every movement and utterance that came from our precious girl. She was so adored by family and friends that she was adorned with the most precious ensembles of adorable outfits anyone could wish to dress their babes in: always with a petticoat and matching shoes, ribbons and bows as well as her own “fur” coat. Her relatives in England sent her jewelry, special hand-crocheted sweaters and blankets, bonnets, and unique gowns. Contrary to who I thought my baby would look like, brunette with big brown eyes just like me, I had a blonde baby with bright blue eyes.
Every time I looked at her, I fell in love.
As every parent knows that “love” never dwindles and my instinct to provide and protect grew stronger with each day. Fortunately, Ariel never challenged that love and those skills of protection, even through her teen years, as we as parents didn’t give her or her brother much reason to.
We homeschooled the kids and grew them up in basically a “one-room schoolhouse”. They were left to make their own choices after a bit of prodding and coaching, and the choices they made and still make have always been simple and honest to them. We exposed Ariel, and her brother Austin, to a marvelous array of sides to life that all their friends envied. Many a buddy wanted to go to the Graham’s Home School and loved to sleep on our floor in our tiny abode just to be in our home. As a result, the Graham siblings and their buddies have grown into well-rounded, responsible, happy adults because the word “yes” was more often used than “no” and where words of praise such as “good” were used more often than “bad”. For the Graham family, life was and is not too complicated and when it is, we get straight to the solution and implement it. We are not a family of whiners. We are a family of doers.
In 2006, based on compositions the Graham kids submitted and ultimately based on Ariel’s “Why My Mom is the Best”, I was selected as one of San Diego’s “50 Best Moms”, and honored accordingly. How does a child thank you? Of course, through their thoughts, emotions, and actions — I was definitely thanked. Ariel has always shown me her gratitude and devotion. When I would arrive home after having homeschooled the kids by day and working two jobs by night, I would be greeted by a spread inspired by Katie Brown. A presentation would await my arrival of candles, vases of handpicked flowers, a beautifully displayed placemat with serviette, and a meal all prepared to make sure I had a great ending to my day. So, who cared that the meal was often a peanut butter, bologna, potato chip, pickle relish, and jelly sandwich micro-waved to perfection. Ariel would anxiously watch as I ate my scrumptious sammy and I thanked her all the while for her thoughtfulness and generosity. Every night, I fell into a lovely slumber in a family bed all squished up with Yeller, our dog, the two kids’ cats (Orange Cat and Black Cat), my hubbie, and the kids, “Boy Kid” & “Girl Kid”, not to mention various favorite stuffed animals, beanie babies, and GI Joe’s.
In the latter half of the previous decade when my mother was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer, it was seven-year-old, Ariel, who accompanied me to her home to care for her and provide Janet Reller Dill with her last months of life and comfort. Together, we cared for her and loved her and just sat with her while she had her last moments of life. She dwindled away in front of us and was very rarely awake.While she slumbered fitfully away on the couch, we slept on the floor right next to her making sure she was cared for. Sometimes she would crawl down off the couch and lay between us, her girls, for some solace and connection. My mother was not an outwardly emotional person and this meant a lot for her to reach out to us.We had a terminal “sisterhood”. Ariel and I surrounded her constantly. As a young child, Ariel had the wisdom to understand that her suffering, bone-thin, once glamorous, and elegant grandma needed her. Bravely and lovingly, she held the torch never questioning whether or not this was the right thing to do with her days. Ariel hugged and assisted my dying mother to the end while bringing a bit of joy to each moment of a dying person, not just because it was her grandmother, but because she was a human in huge agony that needed her.
Fast forward: When Ariel was 19 years old, much to my astonishment, she announced that she wanted to move out of our “one-room schoolhouse”. The statement was prefaced by tears streaming down her face and a bulging swollen heart, as she did not want to hurt me. Like her robust, stalwart grandmother and me, Ariel had arrived at that place of departure. She looked at me for approval and all she saw was my fear. My days of persevering protectiveness were finally coming to a close. After hours and days of coaching by my husband, who had sent three off from the nest already, I reluctantly let her go. We let our butterfly fly and fly she has.The best constant is that unlike the marvelous allure of a butterfly, she is a human who is still unfolding and always making us so proud.
Ariel has been soaring in the blue skies above us for years now without our constant chaperone ship. From that momentous day when she left, she has never landed back except for a hug and some comfort in the storms of life. Of course, our girl is always welcome home, yet she has managed to do the rest of her growing up with great resolution. Like her parents, our girl takes great pride in her independence.
You may ask why is Ariel my heroine. Not only is she my heroine, she is my best friend. Why? For many, many reasons. She has been there for me like no other person ever has. For anyone that knows me, this is a huge responsibility for anyone, let alone such a young soul, yet she has been there for me through everything, thick or thin. I, therefore, take this time and these pages to officially honor my girl.
In 2008, after a series of health issues, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. With a full schedule of her own – work and personal – my “Nee Nee Pie” promised to take care of me, as I had to my mother, that she was completely committed to me and my battle – as well as to my survival – through this experience. She promised that whatever it took, she would be there for me, and there she was, for every moment. Beginning with my hilarity and denial of the dire consequences I was facing, she attended every procedure from diagnostic biopsies to the two surgeries I would then face. From there, we went through a year of chemotherapy and radiation sessions. Ariel was with me through everything. The men in our family didn’t have the “stomach” — or maybe I should say the “strength” — for it. She watched her mother lose her hair, go crazy, become irrational, and extremely “bitchy” as well as just plain “nuts”. She kept looking to me to be me, and I wasn’t. She became me as I had been for her. She became my mother as I didn’t have one anymore. She was my true north, my rock. She, my “Nee Nee Pie,” got me through months of true insanity, for her and for myself. Ariel made sure I ate. Ariel made sure I slept. Ariel made sure I got to all my appointments. Ariel made sure I felt needed. Ariel made sure my home was clean. Ariel made everything happen.
I have recovered from the breast cancer and have recovered very slowly from the recurrent “chemo brain”. I am still being coached by my young daughter. She is so waiting for her “real” mother to return. Slowly, she is, thanks to my heroine and my best friend. We speak everyday, in person or on the telephone. Every conversation, no matter how brief, ends with the words, “I love you.”
February 27, 1891 – March 29, 1981
In his autobiographical dictation of April 17, 1908, Clemens described Frances Nunnally: “…school girl, of Atlanta, Georgia, whom I call Francesca for short. I have already told what pleasant times we had together every day in London, last summer, returning calls. She was 16 then, a dear sweet grave little body, and very welcome in those English homes…”
On June 8, 1907, Clemens sailed to England aboard the S. S. Minneapolis to accept an honorary degree from Oxford University. On board the Minneapolis were Frances Nunnally and her mother who were embarking on a tour of Europe. Nunnally was the daughter of James Hilliard Nunnally and his wife Cora Winship Nunnally of Atlanta, Georgia. James H. Nunnally was a prominent candy manufacturer whose initial business established in 1884 had grown to include factories and retail stores in Atlanta, Washington, D.C., and Miami, Florida. Nunnally was also a director of several Atlanta financial institutions. Frances Nunnally and her mother, along with Clemens and his party, lodged at Brown’s Hotel in London and young Frances accompanied him around London to visit various dignitaries. Clemens nicknamed her Francesca, and she soon became a faithful correspondent and loyal angel-fish.
When Clemens was photographed in his Oxford robes,
Frances Nunnally stood beside him.
It was a picture he later kept on his bedroom dressing table.
Clemens left England to return to the United States on July 13, 1907, and Frances Nunnally and her mother Cora continued on their European tour. When the two returned to the United States in September 1907, they accepted Clemens’s invitation to visit him at his home in Tuxedo Park, New York.
“…You remember Frances Nunnally? I had Xmas letters from her & her mother day before yesterday, from their home in Georgia. They visited me in Tuxedo in September. Frances (whom I call Francesca for short), was very good to me in London, & drove with me two hours every afternoon, returning calls. Her school is near Baltimore; I am going down there by & by…”–excerpt from letter to Dorothy Quick, July 1907.
Letter from Clemens to Frances Nunnally — January 15, 1908: “Where are you, dear? At school? I suppose so, but you haven’t told me. What I am anxious to know is, can’t you steal a day or two & run up & see us? Miss Lyon & I will go down & board your train at Philadelphia & escort you up. Or, we will go all the way to Baltimore, if you prefer. And gladly. Can you come, dear? And will you? If it isn’t possible to come now, will you name a date & come later? Don’t say no, dear, say yes. With love SLC”.
Frances Nunnally returned to St. Timothy’s School at Catonsville, Maryland near Baltimore that fall. Nunnally and Clemens maintained contact through their correspondence, and in February 1908, Clemens mailed her an angel-fish pin. On March 14, 1908, Clemens wrote her from Bermuda: “Francesca, dear, I am taking the liberty of appointing you to membership in my “Aquarium” (Club).”
Letter from Clemens to Frances Nunnally — June 6, 1908: “You are a very dear & sweet Francesca to answer so promptly, & you so heavy-laden with work, you poor little chap! But soon you’ll be at sea, and that will be fine & restful. I wish I could go with you. I go away Monday the 8th, but shall plan to return Thursday fore-noon so as to be on deck & listening to your telephone message that afternoon. You & your parents must spare us a little of your time at our feed-trough, either at dinner that evening or at luncheon or dinner next day. I am going to count on that, dear heart. With love SLC”.
As evidenced in the above-mentioned letter, Clemens made arrangements to visit with the Nunnally family while they were in New York en route on another summer tour of Europe. After their visit, Clemens wrote the following letter to Frances on June 20, 2008: “You dear little fish, I suppose you are sitting in England today. I had a cable from Clara 4 days ago, announcing a successful recital. I hope you & your mother will see her, but I don’t know her address – except J. P. Morgan & Co., bankers. I have seen the house at last, & have been in it two days, now. You & your mother will like it when you step into it about the 20th of next September – to stay as long as you can. It is altogether satisfactory & requires no change. Half of my fishes are framed & are decorating the wall of the billiard room, on the ground floor, which is the Official Headquarters of the Aquarium, & the other half will be there presently. Your Atlanta picture & the London picture of the two of us are there. I am so sorry I took the New York house for another year. If I hadn’t done that, I would never go back to New York again. Here there is nothing in sight between the horizons but woods & hills; & the stillness & serenity bring peace to the soul. Good-bye dear. With kind regards to your mother, & love to you – SLC – (P.S.) Two fishes will arrive at mid-afternoon – to stay a week, I hope – Dorothy Harvey & Louise Paine; also Dorothy’s governess.”
Angel-fish Card Game
When they returned from Europe in September 1908, Frances Nunnally and her mother Cora visited with Clemens at his home in Redding, Connecticut. Frances Nunnally’s name appears in the Stormfield guestbook for September 27 – 29, 1908. After she had again returned to her school at Catonsville, Clemens sent Frances a copy of Lucy Maud Montgomery’s book Anne of Green Gables in October 1908.
On June 9, 1909, Clemens delivered his final public speech at Nunnally’s graduation from St. Timothy’s and posed afterward for photographs with the graduates. The two continued to correspond through 1909.
On November 14, 1912, Frances Nunnally married John Charles Wheatley in Atlanta. The 1920 census lists Frances and John Wheatley residing with her parents and a contingent of servants on Peachtree Road in Atlanta. Wheatley was employed as a bond broker. By 1925, their marriage had ended in divorce. Frances Nunnally moved to Hollywood, California, where she married John Fish Goodrich on April 11, 1925. Goodrich, a graduate of Cornell University, worked in Hollywood as a screenwriter. The couple had one daughter born in 1926, also named Frances (who would later be known as Fran Harpst of Coronado).
Goodrich died in March 1936. Frances’s father, James H. Nunnally, died two years later in May 1938. At the time of his death, James H. Nunnally’s estate was valued at over $7,600,000. Much of his wealth had been accumulated when he and Ernest Woodruff (who was married to Cora Winship, Nunnally’s first cousin) had helped finance a buyout of the Coca-Cola company in 1919. James H. Nunnally served on the board of directors for Coca-Cola for a number of years prior to his death. Frances Nunnally Goodrich and her daughter remained financially independent due to the family’s accumulated wealth.
Advertisement for Nunnally’s candy circa 1920, the company owned by Frances Nunnally’s father
On December 11, 1965, Frances Goodrich and George Winzer, an Australian immigrant, filed a marriage license in Los Angeles, California. George Winzer was seven years older than Frances. She had formerly introduced Winzer to her family doctor as her chauffeur. George Winzer died in November 1973.
Frances Nunnally Winzer died in March 1981 in La Jolla, California, survived by her daughter Frances Goodrich Harpst. During her final years, she had given away fortunes in Coca-Cola stock to Scripps Memorial Hospital in La Jolla, California. She also provided building funds for the University of California at San Diego, Coronado Hospital in Coronado, California, and provided financial support to other institutions in Southern California.
Correspondence between Nunnally and Clemens was published by John Cooley in Mark Twain’s Aquarium: The Samuel Clemens Angelfish Correspondence, 1905-1910.
Samuel Clemens enjoyed the company of women of all ages. Many of his “angel-fish” were accompanied by their mothers or governesses when they visited him–providing additional female companionship. His correspondence with them and the entertaining of them in his homes and abroad provided him a release from loneliness that often surrounded him after members of his own family had died or embarked on separate careers. Clemens was an author with a compulsion to write and many of his young correspondents provided him with an outlet for his playful expressions, thoughts, and phrasings that would have otherwise been repressed and lost — expressions that now remain insights into the creative mind of his genius.
Special Note: Frances Nunnally was mother to Fran Harpst and grandmother to Lynne Harpst Koen. Frances’ granddaughter has gone on to carry out the family heritage of benevolence to all things animal and a generous benefactor to many organizations who serve those in need.
Article based on special feature by, Barbara Schmidt on “Mark Twain Quotes” available at www.marktwainquotes.com
By Lynne Harpst Koen
My dear sweet Dad,
Walter William Harpst, Jr., was born on October 8, 1916 in Columbus, Ohio. Walter (Wally) discovered his talent for music when he was still a boy. Wally’s remarkable talent would take him all over the globe and he was a career musician for over 65 years. Wally played the guitar, ukulele, and stand-up bass (then known as big bass violin). He also sang like a bird. While playing with one of the “Big Bands” in New York City in the early 1940s, Wally got a new “calling”, and into the Army he went. Wally and his Army Band entertained different branches of the Service during WWII including the Navy, Marines, and Air Force. Wally’s Band was “Special Services” intended to boost the soldiers’ morale. Wally served mostly in the Pacific (Okinawa) and had more than his fair share of close calls over seas. Wally had many “war stories” but one of the oddest ones was when the war was allegedly over. One day, Wally and the troops heard a loud, thundering noise. Suddenly, as they all watched, over 600 Japanese soldiers came pouring out of caves surrounding the base camp. They surrendered peacefully.
After the Army, Wally returned to playing music on the West Coast, mostly in the L.A. and Palm Springs areas. He met and preformed for many big stars of that era including Bob Hope, Dinah Shore, Lorn Green, Jerry Lewis, Desi and Lucy, and many more. Wally also toured for MCA and did a stint as a master of ceremonies for a radio show for a short while as well. While performing a gig at the Hotel Del Coronado in 1955, Wally met a Hollywood model named Frances Goodrich. Frances (Fran) was summering at the Del. The two fell in love and were married. I was born on November 15, 1957.
“I thought this was a home. It was a superstition. What is a home without a child?”
In 1907, at the age of seventy-two, lonely and widowed, Samuel Clemens began “collecting” surrogate granddaughters — young girls between the ages of ten and sixteen. Some of the girls were those he met aboard ships that carried him back and forth to England or on his travels to the island of Bermuda. Clemens maintained correspondences with the girls — most were from prominent and wealthy families who traveled in the same social circles with Clemens. They and their parents often visited him in his homes in New York.
In 1906, Clemens had purchased 248 acres in Redding, Connecticut, and with proceeds obtained from publishing portions of his autobiography in the North American Review between September 1906 through December 1907, he began construction of a large two-story country home. He originally intended to call the home “Autobiography House”. The idea later occurred to him to dedicate the home to his surrogate granddaughters. In 1908, Clemens had begun calling his surrogate granddaughters “angel-fish” after the brilliant species of fish he saw on a visit to Bermuda. He nicknamed his group of girls the “Aquarium Club” and presented members with angel-fish pins. At least one such pin survives and is currently owned by the Mark Twain Library in Redding, Connecticut.
In an autobiographical dictation of 12 February 1908, Clemens explained his attachment to his collection of girls: “I suppose we are all collectors. As for me, I collect pets: young girls — girls from ten to sixteen years old; girls who are pretty and sweet and naive and innocent — dear young creatures to whom life is a perfect joy and to whom it has brought no wounds, no bitterness, and few tears.”
On 17 April 1908 he elaborated: “After my wife’s death, June 5, 1904, I experienced a long period of unrest and loneliness. Clara and Jean were busy with their studies and their labors and I was washing about on a forlorn sea of banquets and speechmaking in high and holy causes…I had reached the grandpapa stage of life; and what I lacked and what I needed was grandchildren.”
Isabel Lyon, Clemens’s secretary, often helped chaperone the young women and facilitated their visits. After accompanying Clemens to Bermuda in April 1908, she recorded in her journal: “He has his aquarium of little girls and they are all angel-fish, while he wears a flying fish scarf pin, though he says he is a shad. Off he goes with a flash when he sees a new pair of slim little legs appear and if the little girl wears butterfly bows of ribbon on the back of her head then his delirium is complete.”
In his autobiographical dictation for 17 April 1908, Clemens listed the names of his angel-fish: Dorothy Butes, Frances Nunnally, Dorothy Quick, Margaret Blackmer, Hellen Martin, Jean Spurr, Loraine Allen, Helen Allen, and Dorothy Sturgis.
“All the ten school girls in the above list are my angel-fishes, and constitute my Club, whose name is “The Aquarium”…The Bermudian angel-fish, with its splendid blue decorations, is easily the most beautiful fish that swims…The club’s badge is the angel-fish’s splendors reproduced in enamels and mounted for service as a lapel pin — at least that is where the girls wear it. I get these little pins in Bermuda; they are made in Norway.”
Regarding his plans for the new home he was building in Redding, Connecticut, Clemens dictated: “The billiard room will have the legend ‘The Aquarium’ over its door…I have good photographs of all my fishes, and these will be framed and hung around the walls. There is an angel-fish bedroom — double-bedded — and I will expect to have a fish and her mother in it as often as Providence will permit.”
By the time Clemens moved into the Redding, Connecticut home on June 18, 1908, he had decided to call the house “Innocence at Home” in honor of his young female acquaintances that he wished to host in an unending series of visits. By the summer of 1908, Clemens had drafted a sort of official constitution, rules and regulations for his “Aquarium”. And he added the names of Dorothy Harvey, Louise Paine, and Marjorie Breckenridge to the list. Also added to the list was the name Margaret Illington, a young woman in her late twenties and wife of Dan Frohman who was thirty years older than Illington. Dan Frohman was listed as “Legal Staff” for the group.
In September 1908, Clemens’s daughter Clara returned from a European singing tour. An angel-fish piece of jewelry from Clara’s estate indicates Clemens had also included his own daughter in the list of young women who received this special ornament.
Angel-fish jewelry from the Clara Clemens estate — currently in the Kevin Mac Donnell collection
Angelfish pin given to Dorothy Sturgis signifying membership in Twain’s “Aquarium” Club
However, Clara was evidently not impressed with her father’s “club” for young girls. Shortly after her return home, the name of the Redding home was changed to “Stormfield”. Biographer John Cooley has observed that soon after Clara Clemens returned, the household stopped saving letters received from the “angel-fish.” Clara Clemens objected to her father’s relationship, however innocent, with teenage girls.
The Clemens home in Redding, Connecticut was known as “Innocence at Home” in honor of the angel-fish. It was later renamed “Stormfield”.