Practically everyone in California was from some other state and you could strike up a conversation with anyone, anywhere. Not like the cities here. When we were in Minneapolis and tried to ask directions from anyone on the street, most people would turn their backs and walk away. [35.201-5]
By working one day a week we had two nights off, which was pretty good. We lived three-and-one-half miles from work; we walked a couple of blocks and rode the rest of the way to work on the Sunset streetcar -- the old kind, on tracks. (Buses were just coming in then.) Sometimes I walked home from work, in nice weather, to see places of interest along the way better and to save the dime. Almost nobody was on the street that early in the morning, and I could look at the movie stars' names and hand prints and Tom Mix's horse's hoof and horseshoe prints in the cement sidewalk in front of Grauman's Chinese Theater, for instance. [35.201-6]
One night I walked down to the Palomar Ballroom, the biggest ballroom on the West Coast, two miles from where we lived. Judy Janis was singing and Phil Harris was playing. Admission was 35 cents and you couldn't get in without a necktie.
The "moneyed people" sat at tables and the "poor, working class" stood at the end of the floor and everyone talked to anyone who was near. The conversation was usually "Where did you come from?" etc. [35.202-1]
I looked around a while and there, right near the front of the standing crowd, was the tall, well-built (proportioned) girl the fortuneteller had told me about. I couldn't have missed if I'd tried. [35.202-2]
Twila was kind of homesick (I think) and we had just spent five days in Utah, her home state, so we had plenty to talk about. Finally I said, "Can I take you home?"
"I'll walk home with you," she said. "I only live a short way from here. But I won't get in a car with you."
And I had thought I had such an "honest farm boy look"! Disillusion #6. So we walked. I didn't have a car anyway. I had planned to take her home on a streetcar. [35.202-3]
I started a daily diary when we left Minnesota but after a time in California I threw it into the wastebasket. Every entry began "Went to see Twila, etc." and it was too repetitious to be worth reading.
She kept getting prettier and more alluring all the time, except when she smiled. Her teeth were awful. I didn't give it a thought or a discount. I figured it would be a simple matter to get them all pulled and a good-looking set of fake ones made. [35.202-4]
Twila kept house and cooked for a an Italian lady who had an exclusive beauty parlor on Wilshire Boulevard and an English husband. Twila also tended Peter, their 8-year-old "problem child." She welcomed me when I had the Plymouth to take her to the market for groceries, especially when it was raining, though some days she would say, "If you come down tomorrow I won't unlock the door and let you in because I've got too much housework to catch up on."
But the next day when I walked up the sidewalk she would be holding the door open as usual. [35.202-5]
She was usually cooking some delicious thing for supper but couldn't feed me any of it because it was calculated to be the right amount for the four of them. So I sat on the counter by the sink and watched her really fly around and work. When it was getting near suppertime and they were due home and I had delayed her some, she poked some peanut butter and crackers into me now and then, but that was all. [35.203-1]
It was her day off every Thursday that nearly killed me. She would call me as soon as her bosses left for work and my landlady would answer. She would almost refuse to wake me up because I had just gone to bed. But she would relent when Twila said, "He told me to call him."
We would spend the whole day sightseeing and shopping and then I'd go back to work at 7 p.m. I was patient sitting in dress shops, etc. waiting. I didn't mind. I was too tired to move if I could sit anywhere. I was never in a hurry for her to get ready to go, because the Smiths had good, soft chairs and I was too tired to move. (She didn't know my most-used words were "Hurry up!" until we got back to Minnesota.) [35.203-2]
Howard and I told the landlady to feel free to come in and clean and vacuum the carpet anytime; a little noise like that sure wouldn't disturb us or wake us up, and so she did. [35.203-3]
We hadn't been out there long before Marj told me to keep the car and she would come and "borrow" it when she wanted it. She lived in an apartment house full of nurses and working girls and they all had so many plans and places to go in Marj's car and with her gas that she couldn't afford to keep it there. I never drove it to work because I could ride the streetcar for 7 cents if I bought tokens. [35.203-4]
Howard and I tried to eat enough at work so we would leave full and not have to waste money on food on our days off. I didn't try to win Twila by dining her. Not with more than a 10-cent malted milk at the Dairy Bar downtown, if anything. [35.203-5]
The only other splurge for food was 50 cents for 50 chocolate doughnuts once in a while down in the cheap working-men's and employment office district. We used to go down there and wish we could find an outdoor job sometimes, because we were so tired of working in the drive-in. I was downright jealous one day when I saw a fellow shoveling gravel into a cement mixer. He was probably getting about the same pay we were and buying his own food, but anything but restaurant jobs were non-existent. [35.203-6]
The way our shifts were, I would work the one day in the daytime and then have that night and the next day off. Twila would start trying to send me home at least by midnight, but I was hard to send, because I was used to being up all night and could sleep all the next day. Sometimes I didn't have the car and by the time she got me out the door the streetcars were only running once an hour, so I would walk home. It was only two or two-and-a-half miles or so, and there was a bakery along the way. [35.204-1]
A couple of women would be working in the bakery getting the fresh, hot, raised doughnuts and things ready for the trucks. I would stop in and buy them right out of the deep fryer and eat them all the rest of the way home. That was really living! I felt just like a fox that has just eaten a whole rabbit and lay down to sleep for the day. There couldn't have been much crime there or those women wouldn't have dared let me in at that time of the night or morning. [35.204-2]
Joel McRae, a famous movie actor, had spent a summer when he was a teenager at Pelican Lake with a friend, Maynard Rugg, whose folks had one of the first cottages there. Howard had gotten to know him then, although he was older and had been more of a summer chum of the Skaar brothers and Walter Melby and those more their age. He had been a "regular feller" that summer. Howard said they'd gotten some sheepskins from Melby's and turned them and made their own cowboy chaps. We thought maybe we would have it made in Hollywood, too, if we could get some connections through him into the studios. [35.204-5]
He wasn't listed in the telephone book, but we were going to see Lawrence Hauge anyway, and he looked him up in the city directory and found his unlisted number.
Howard called the number and he was out, so he left a message with the lady who answered. (I think she turned out to be Joel McRae's mother.) He mentioned the names of Ernest Skaar and Walter Melby and gave her our number.
Joel McRae soon called and talked to Howard. He hadn't forgotten Ashby and the very first question he asked Howard was, "Do they still have that good wine down to Melby's?" (Walter's mother was famous for her good wine.) Then he made an appointment for Howard to come and see him for half an hour one of the next evenings. [35.205-1]
Marj had the only available car and I was working that night, so Howard and Marj and Louise went out to his home in Beverly Hills. Howard didn't give Marj good enough directions, so they spent most of their allotted time hunting for his place. They only talked to him for a few minutes and then he had an appointment with a tailor.
Howard talked to him two or three times on the telephone, but he couldn't help us out with any connections for jobs. There just weren't any good jobs then.
While Howard and the girls were talking with him a car went by and Joel said, "There goes Clark Gable. I can tell his car, it makes so much noise." [35.205-2]
My great aunt Ella (my grandmother's sister) was wintering in an apartment in Los Angeles, so one of the first places I took Twila on her day off was to see Aunt Ella. The first thing Aunt Ella asked was, "Where are you living?"
I said I was washing dishes and living up in Hollywood.
"Oh, I never go up there," she said, giving her head a horrified shake; "they have those movie stars and things up there you know!" [35.205-3]
Aunt Ella was quite eccentric and a very proper and religious Baptist, but she was nice to us, even if we were contaminated. [35.205-4]
I kept reserving the right to go out with anyone else I wanted to go out with, but Twila kept me too busy to make use of my reserved rights. I thought she was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. Love is blind, but maybe I wasn't. Someone on a bus came over to her once and asked her if she was Myrna Loy or Myrna's sister. [35.206-1]
I did get one letdown. At the Palomar she had stood head and shoulders higher than a good share of the runty 85- or 90-pound girls California was full of, but one day over at Smiths' I saw her in low shoes. I had always especially liked tall girls. Luckily, for her, she already had me badly hooked when I found out a lot of her tallness was spike heels! [35.206-2]
Marj went up in an airplane and had so much fun she talked Twila and me into going up in a small, open plane. There was only room for two besides the pilot, so she talked the pilot into letting her go twice for the price of one ride. Once with me and once with Twila. [35.208-7]
"Give him plenty," she told the pilot when it was my turn. So we stalled and dove and all sorts of things, somewhere out between old Los Angeles and Santa Monica. I felt like I was sitting in a bathtub with a propeller on it and that's just how safe I felt. I had all I wanted and Marj laughed her head off. I never went off the ground again for about 40 years. Marj had so much fun flying that later she took flying lessons. [35.209-1]
Twila talked me into going on the Santa Monica roller coaster. She laughed and screamed her head off and thought it was great sport. I didn't. [35.209-2]
Twila's Aunt Lizzie (Daisy's mother) invited us out there for supper one night, to see what I looked like. Daisy and Henry were there, too, and Henry told Twila afterwards that I had "passed" okay, that I was a good, honest type and didn't put on airs, etc. This was because I buttered a whole slice of bread and folded it over and ate it! [35.209-5]
Twila worked serving New Year's Eve, serving a party at Smiths'. Before it was over, one of the guests dropped his drink on the floor. Mr. Smith dropped his, too, to make the others feel at home.) [35.210-2]
When I got off work at 5 a.m. New Year's Day, a fellow I worked with went with me to pick up Marj and Twila, who was still cleaning up after the party, and we went to see the Rose Parade. The chef had told us where to go to see it, right where it started, so we could start home again ahead of some of the traffic.
There wasn't a parking place for miles, even that early in the morning, but we found one so short everyone else had given up on it only a block or so away from where the parade came out of the assembling park. It couldn't have been much more than a foot longer than the car, but we got on either side and guided Marj so she didn't take off any paint. She got the car into that short space an inch at a time. [35.210-3]
People were sitting and lying all along the boulevards, wrapped in blankets. Some had been there all night, and it was a cold morning. I saw one poor little black Boy Scout on a float; his teeth were chattering and he was already shaking and shivering. The bathing beauties looked frozen, too, and we heard that some of them were so stiff and cold they had to be lifted off the floats farther along. [35.210-4]
After the parade had gone by, about 11 a.m., we got the car out again and it seemed like it took hours to get back downtown, moving only about a foot at a time in the awful traffic jam.
I had to go back to work that night, without any sleep, and Marj and Twila took the Plymouth and went visiting, or something. [35.210-5]
One day I took Twila to the dentist and she had all her upper teeth pulled and a plate put right back in. She refused to smile and sure looked sick. She was too sick to go back to Smiths' and wanted to go right to her Aunt Lizzie's. [35.215-1]
Twila wasn't much for romance for a few days, but then she "bloomed," just like I knew she would the first time I saw her. She got that temporary set replaced with a permanent set three months later, all for $70 (her money, too). She didn't have any more teeth trouble or expense for years. [35.215-2]
I slept so well in the waiting room while she had her teeth pulled that I attracted the attention of the dental assistants, who commented on how "all-in" I looked. [35.215-3]
I wasn't the only one who was sleepy that winter. On day Howard was riding the streetcar home from work in the middle of the forenoon and he fell asleep. He woke up when the streetcar pulled into the subway terminal downtown, miles away from where we lived. [35.215-4]
We used to go up to Griffith Park and park at night, high above the city, where you could look right down Western Avenue, the longest straight street in the world. A 40-mile-long row of street lights ran right down through Hollywood and Los Angeles and through Long Beach to the ocean.
One night the "In" park gate was closed so I just swung over and drove in through the "Out" gate and then back to the inbound lane. I drove up to the parking lot, but it didn't last. A cop car appeared from nowhere. I got bawled out and chased back down into the city again. I always wondered whether the cop would have been so quick to chase us out if we had already been there when they shut the "In" gate. [35.216-2]
Spring comes earlier in California than it does in Minnesota and on Easter Sunday, which was in March that year, some of us went up in the canyon and left the car and mountain climbed up in the foothills. It was warm enough that some of the girls only wore bathing suits and we got far enough up that we couldn't see or hear cars, which was sure a relief. We were really sick of traffic and stop signs. [35.218-1]
One day a cloudburst took out a dam up in San Franciskito Canyon. The next morning, while Howard was still on duty, an old guy named Goodyear Pitts came along sharpening knives. While he was sharpening the drive-in's knives he told Howard he was well acquainted up in that canyon because he used to prospect for gold up there. He had so much interesting stuff to tell that Howard found out where he lived and we went to visit him one night when we were off. [36.211-1]
I suppose Goodyear Pitts was what is called an "educated bum." He showed us a "sheepskin" from the University of Minnesota and other diplomas, etc. He regaled us with gold mining and prospecting stories from all over the United States, Canada, and Mexico. [36.211-2]
Mr. Pitts said if he could get some young, strong help like us, he knew of a place in northern California that was almost a sure thing where he would take us to prospect for gold. He said there was coarse gold up there and he knew a fellow who owned a claim up there and was trying to get someone to work it on shares. It was quite inaccessible, he said, and we would have to cut a trail in through thick brush first.
We were soon hooked on the idea, and love almost took second place for a while.
The owner of the claim had something wrong with him so he couldn't go up there and work himself. He lived about 30 miles from where we lived, and Mr. Pitts called him and made an appointment for the three of us to go out there the next week, when we were off again. [36.211-3]
After we had talked with the claim owner awhile, he went into the other room and came back with a small canvas bag and dumped it onto the table. Several large gold nuggets, some almost half as big as our thumbs, rolled out. We were awestruck as we listed to Mr. Pitts and the claim owner talk mining. Not only about gold, but also other minerals that were all Greek to us. I know uranium was one of them. [36.211-4]
A week later we had another appointment, to see a fellow who advertised an invention of his, a faster gold panning method for prospecting. There were three gold pans mounted one above the other on a pipe like an auger post hole digger. He, too, had a sack of gold, which he dumped into a bucket of sand and stirred up. His gold was just fine gold, little more than gold dust. He put that in his outfit and whirled it back and forth for a while. Sure enough, when he took off the small pan at the bottom, there was his gold. So we planned to buy one of those outfits before we went up north in the spring. [36.211-5]
All we talked and thought was gold prospecting for a while. We were getting tired of indoor life. We weren't used to it. [36.212-1]
Mr. Pitts had a Spanish-Indian friend, Alfred, who was an ex-gold miner, too. He was working on W.P.A. right then. He said they would both go with us if we wanted to go up in the San Franciskito Canyon someday, and they would show us how gold panning worked. [36.212-2]
The next week, on Howard's night off, after I got off at 5 a.m. I picked up Howard and Mr. Pitts and Alfred ) and we drove up into the canyon. There was white frost on the grass up that way, and it really looked good to us. We were missing the Minnesota snow by then and that was the first "white stuff" we had seen, though the folks back home had been writing about the terrible amount of snow they had already had. [36.212-3]
(It wasn't only the snow we were missing; we had left just before the opening of the best pheasant hunting season Minnesota has ever had, before or since. Ma had written that the Skaar brothers -- Raymond and Ernest -- had come down to "help" Pa hunt pheasants and had shot 30 of them in a couple of hours.) [36.212-4]
We did see some gold panners up there. One we talked to was a retired ex-jeweler from Ohio. He panned while sitting on a rock in hip boots out in the river and he showed us a little bottle of water with some gold flecks in it. It was just a hobby to pass the time with him, of course. [36.212-5]
We watched the ex-jeweler wash most of the sand out of his pan and then put his jeweler's magnifying glass on one eye and pick the "colors" out of the pan with a tweezer.
Mr. Pitts knew one old guy who eked out a living up there and rapped on the door of his tar paper shack, about 4'x6'x5' high. Mr. Pitts called him by name, but he said he was sick and wouldn't open the door. We would have liked to see him. [36.212-7]
We had stopped at a market back in the city so Mr. Pitts could get us some provisions for the next day: a loaf of bread, some lunch meat, and some tomatoes, which we ate at noon. We did some panning to see how it worked, but we didn't get any "colors" in our pan. Mr. Pitts kept saying, "Wait until we get up north." [36.212-6]
We had come to California to seek our fortunes, or for adventure, and we had found it. We started telling everyone our plans. [36.212-8]
I wrote home all about it and got a long, negative letter from Ma. Someone had been to their place and had told about meeting an old guy out in the Black Hills who had been prospecting there for gold for 50 years. Someone had asked whether he had found any gold and he said, "No, but I've got good prospects." Naturally, she played that up. [36.213-1]
I guess our enthusiasm reached its peak about then and pretty soon various things came up that made it start to recede a little.
Mr. Pitts was far above average in intelligence and education, but it started to look like he had some loose screws, though he had prestige. Alcohol had probably done him in in his younger days, though he didn't drink when we knew him, that we could tell. [36.213-2]
One day he came to the house when I was gone and left a black pup with Howard for us to take along as camp guard. Then one day he said there was a Chinese lady cook in a restaurant somewhere who was thinking about going along to be our camp cook. Another day he came up and talked to Howard while he was still in bed. (I was gone.) The landlord went up and sat in the bathroom and listened through the register. He told us he was sure Mr. Pitts wasn't anyone to take any "stock" in. The Chandlers also started to take a dim view of Howard's keeping a dog in the garage and told him to tell Mr. Pitts to come and get it again. [36.213-3]
Then Howard decided to go out and talk to the people Alfred, the "Spanish-Indian" lived with, and maybe make a date with their cute daughter at the same time. The answer to the date question was no, the daughter was only 14. They told him that when Alfred got his W.P.A. check he didn't show up until it was gone again. (I never did figure out how come he was living with that good-looking, prosperous family.) [36.213-4]
I guess the final straw was when Mr. Pitts said, "Eventually we will get a big Mack truck to haul out the ore, but we can use your car and trailer until we make enough to buy a truck. (The next-to-the-last straw was when Mr. Pitts said eventually we could do some prospecting in Minnesota. Who knows, maybe we would have made a strike and "got rich" mining gold in Minnesota!) [36.213-5]
Mr. Pitts said someone had told him the natives were tough up where we were going, but he had replied that we weren't afraid of anything and that we were going to be "armed." And then he said the owner of the claim expected half of the take but we would be able to get around part of that. We began to wonder, then, if he had figured out how to get around us, too. [36.213-6]
So our enthusiasm started to wane and our thoughts wandered back to other things, like love. We told Mr. Pitts we had decided to go back to Minnesota in the spring. The last time we saw him he had bought an old Dodge coupe and said he was going up north prospecting, alone, in the spring. [36.214-1]