Oh, sure, new friends are wonderful, too. That’s one reason we moved from Edmond, Oklahoma here to Bradenton, Florida exactly five years ago. Back there we lived in a larger, comfortable house in a very nice neighborhood. We were involved in church activities, and I often performed my original cowboy poetry and stories at Western venues and events from Arkansas to California and from Texas to Montana. We also hosted many music jams and church groups in our home with as many people as we could crowd into our spacious living room. But, still, we could only name a few of our neighbors on our street. And not one ever reciprocated our hospitality by inviting us into their home even for just a cup of coffee. Maybe we should have changed our deodorant more often. I don’t know.
After we both retired, we were thinking of moving to a “nice beaches and warm water” area. We liked the idea of living in a gated 55+ community with a clubhouse, a pool and lots of scheduled activities from which to choose. Our hopes were high that kind of environment would make it easier to make new friends. And I am delighted to say that is exactly what happened. Now as we take our regular two-mile walk around the inside perimeter of our community of some 270 homes, I am amazed at how I can look at so many houses and recite the owners names. We found the situation here encourages mixing with the current residents and getting to know the new ones. Peggy and I are very pleased with our lives down here. We are thankful for the way our little Florida experiment has worked out over the past five years.
Having said that, I’ll return to my main point: there is really nothing quite like maintaining old friendships. That is no small or easy thing to do, though, is it? Over our 56 years of marriage, and because of our different memberships and activities, some of our closest friends are those we only get to be with for two or three days each year . . . or two . . . or five years or more. Still, it is a joy each time we get together.
Friends in Council Bluffs, Iowa
For example, Peggy and I moved with our two small kids from Stroud, Oklahoma to Council Bluffs, Iowa in 1975. That was so I could serve as the preaching minister for the Southside Christian Church at 1919 S. 10th Street. During our relatively brief two-year stay, we made many friends. Lots of ’em. We were in and out of each other’s home, playing cards and games and going to the lake and on picnics and shopping trips to nearby Omaha, Nebraska. They were a great group of folks to be around.
Then in 1977, we moved back to Oklahoma where I became the preacher for our “home congregation,” the Stroud Christian Church in Stroud, Oklahoma. During the next three or four years, at least four families from Council Bluffs went off the beaten path to visit us. Slowly, though, we lost track of most of them. Life moved on. Oh, yes, there were a few we corresponded with for several years by letters and an occasional phone call. But it was more difficult to stay in touch, back then. You see, Virginia, there were no such things as “texts,” “emails,” or Skype back in the Dark Ages.
Time and distance took its toll on those friendships. Fast forward to 2018. We were invited to attend the 75th anniversary of the Kearney Church of Christ in Kearney, Nebraska. That’s where Peggy’s father preached from 1945 to 1954, before accepting a pastorate in Ventura, California. To attend this celebration, we would need to fly into Omaha and rent a car. Hmmmm. That got us to thinking. Council Bluffs is just across the Missouri River from Omaha. We wondered whether we should try to see whomever might be left of our old friends — from 41 years ago. We reasoned that many if not most of the people we had know fairly well in Council Bluffs had died. No doubt others had moved away or for whatever reason might have no interest in seeing us. Hmmmm. But . . . just maybe . . . .
I was able to contact one of our dear friends from that era, Robert J. (“Bob”) Anderson. He and his son, Ron Anderson (who was a close friend with our son, Gene), and another Southsider named Larry Buckles (a current elder in the congregation; and a guy from Fletcher, Oklahoma) took the idea and ran with it. They decided to invite some of the old-timers to a reception for us at the church building on Wednesday, May 23rd at 1:00 pm. We wondered whether anyone would show up. After all, it had been . . . 41 years . . . yep, 41 years since we last set foot in Council Bluffs.
Larry and Bob picked us up at our nearby hotel about 9 am on Wednesday morning. We went by the Southside church building and looked at the improvements they had made. Then we went to the upstairs offices and I got to stand inside my old office for the first time in 41 years. It was occupied by the current preacher, Scott Weber, and we visited with him for quite some time. He is a new friend but with an interesting connection. He laughed as he told me he heard me speak a long time ago. In about 1976, I was invited to speak at a Bible lectureship at Nebraska Christian College in Norfolk, Neb. (Johnny Carson’s hometown, by the way). “I was a student in that audience,” Scott said with a smile. Any, another nice memory to add to my collection. I really liked Scott and I pray he will have a long and productive ministry with that congregation.
Among those at the 1 pm reception were Bob Anderson, Larry Buckles, Gary and Barb Williams, Leo and Roberta Martin, George and Pam Roush, Jack and Carol Swanger and another couple, Craig and Annette Kruse. It was a wonderful time of hugging each other and sharing a lot of “Remember when . . . ?” moments.
Peggy and I first met George and Pam Rouse in 1975 or so when they were truth seeks, hungering for a closer walk with God. So Peggy and I and possibly some others met with them for prayer and Bible study over a long period of time. One evening Pam said she wanted to accept Christ, so we rejoiced at that and I baptized her. At this reception in 2018, she told me: “You gave me an inscribed copy of your brand new book, The Day Jesus Died. And in your inscription you suggested four things to remember and practice in my walk with the Lord. I have made those ideas part of my spiritual life ever since.” Another new memory for me, a very sweet and precious one.
George, on the other hand, was not ready to follow Pam’s lead. Not at that time. So we kept studying with and praying for him and loving on both of them. At this reception, George reminded us that one night we were all leaving the church building. Peggy was already in our car, but as George walked by she rolled down the window and said, “George, you know you really need to go ahead and accept Jesus as your Lord.” George smiled at her and said, “Peg, you’re kinda pushing me, aren’t you?” To which Peggy replied, “No, it’s not me. It’s the Holy Spirit pushing you, George.” He didn’t know quite what to say to that. But it wasn’t long before he, too, accepted Christ and I baptized him just as the apostles did Believers in the Book of Acts. Pam and George are still serving the Lord, and that is a tremendous encouragement to us.
The next day, on Thursday, May 24th, we spent all of the daylight hours being guided around to beautiful and historic sites in Council Bluffs and Omaha by Bob Anderson and Larry Buckles. The four of us nearly laughed ourselves silly, as we had often done “back in the good ol’ days.” Mid-morning we were joined for coffee by long-time Southsider Jerry Cook and also by Gary and Barb Williams (Gary retired from the CB Police Department some years ago with the rank of Assistant Police Chief).
Larry Buckles drove us over to where his son, Travis Buckles, lives with his wife and children. Travis was just a pup when we knew him, a skinny blond-headed pre-teen who played on the church baseball team with our son. Travis has seven children and hasn’t strayed far from Council Bluffs all these years.
That evening, Bob Anderson invited us to his home for light refreshments. To our delight, we were joined by his son and daughter-in-law, Ron and Kelli Anderson, and by our mutual friend Aaron Jones. Aaron’s late parents, Harvey and Lilly Jones, were always kind and gracious toward us. And Aaron got the same gene. He actually worked with me as the Associate Minister at Southside for a time. He is a diligent student of the Word and a strong Believer. Aaron now lives at The Center in downtown Council Bluffs, a very nice senior citizen apartment complex built and operated by the city.
Ronnie Anderson spent a lot of time at our house there in Council Bluffs. He only lived a couple of blocks south of us, and he and our son were about the same age and on the church baseball team together, etc. Likewise, our son spent many hours at Bob and Chris Anderson’s house (she passed away, but he still lives in the same house) playing with Ronnie. Ron and Kelli have been active in youth ministry for several years, while working at other full-time jobs. Their son Noah Anderson is now a youth minister in Omaha.
As we hugged Ron and Kelli, I mentioned to her I had heard a lot of good things about her and I was so pleased to meet her. She smiled and then sort of shocked me when she said, “Oh, you have met me before. Both my sister and I were baptized into Christ by you.” Yikes. No covering up my senior moment that time. She reminded me she is a granddaughter of the late Wayne and Esther Rutledge (he was an elder back then and she played the organ in church).
When we left Council Bluffs on Friday morning, it was with both joy and sadness in our hearts. Extreme joy from such an uplifting and inspiring reunion with friends from 41 long years ago. And some sadness from knowing we’ll probably not see most of them again in this life. We praise the Lord, though, that there will be an eternity of reunion time when all of the Redeemed reach heaven.
John Ford and I are right about the same age (I think he turns 77 this summer and I do so in October). His first eight years were spent with his parents in Bakersfield, Calif. Then his parents moved to Fillmore (Ventura County), California. That’s where he started 2nd grade. His father was a certified welder, working mainly in the oilfields. His folks (or maybe his grandparents) had migrated to California from Balko, Oklahoma — a tiny community in sparsely populated Beaver County in the panhandle.
I, on the other hand, was born in tiny Wapanucka, Oklahoma (south central Oklahoma, south of Ada and north of Durant). My parents (Harold and Evelyn Paregien), paternal grandparents (Frank and Mattie Paregien), and several uncles and an aunt and maybe an outlaw or two headed for Ventura County in 1942 to take advantage of all the war-time jobs available in the area. Several went to work for the U.S. Navy at Port Hueneme. My dad did that until the war ended, then he went back to farming. This time it was on the Todd Estate about three miles west of Santa Paula, working in the orange orchards.
We lived for about three years near the Los Angeles County/Ventura County line on Highway 126, about six miles east of Piru, Calif. My dad worked in the orchards of English walnut trees owned by the large and historic Newhall Land & Farming Company (aka “Newhall Ranch”). The company provided an old, wood-framed house (no insulation) for us, located on the south side of the Highway, about 150 yards inside the Los Angeles County line. That was just enough that my sister Roberta and I could not go to the nearby schools in Ventura County (Piru and Fillmore). Instead, we rode the school bus a long way over to Castaic Elementary and me on to William S. Hart High School in Newhall (now Santa Clarita) for junior high.
We left the Newhall Ranch in the summer of 1955 and moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma. Not since 1942 had my mom been able to live close to her parents, John and Vada Cauthen, who lived maybe four miles west of us. However, the wages were much lower there, so we loaded up another U-Haul trailer and moved back to Ventura County. My dad went to work farming orange trees on the Edwards Ranch, about a mile west of Piru. My mom soon became the Cafeteria Manager at Piru Elementary School. Later, she would be promoted to Cafeteria Manager at San Cayetano Elementary in Fillmore, then to Supervisor of all the school cafeterias in Fillmore and Piru. After a while that position was eliminated and she gracefully returned to her starting place: Piru Elementary, with Glenda Gregory DeJarnette helping her. Glenda also graduated with the Fillmore Class of 1959 and, when my mom retired, she became the manager.
So in September of 1956, I enrolled in the 10th grade at Fillmore. That is when my path crossed that of John Ford. In the spring of 1957, we were both on the Boxing Team under coach Simmons. We were both in the Lettermen Club (the he-man, me Tarzan organization on campus), though John lettered three years in track and I played two years of football, lettering my senior year. We were also in the social . . . and may I dare say, Christian . . . organization called Hi-Y. John played a mean clarinet in the band, while I horsed around in the Choir where the girls far outnumbered the boys and I liked the odds. And, of course, we attended various classes and special events together.
However, . . . John and I never did double-date at the drive-in movie theater in Santa Paula or take our respective dates up in the balcony (passion pit) at the Fillmore Theater; we were not beer drinkin’ buddies; we never backed each other in street rumbles; we never did sleepovers at each other’s houses; we never burned any midnight oil together at any late-night study sessions; we never did go fishing together up Sespe Creek; we never got together and went cat hunting at night, driving by the orange orchards and shining lights down the rows; we never did drag racing together; etc., etc., and so forth. There were just a whole lot of thing we never did together. We were certainly acquainted, but we ran in different circles I guess.
Then came graduation night in June of 1959. And afterward, like those tiny fluffy cottonwood seeds, we scattered with the wind to here, there and everywhere. I would never see most of those classmates again. Ever. That fall I drove my 1955 Ford to Amarillo, Texas to study ministry at a small private school. John Ford, meanwhile, put his track shoes on and tried to outrun the military draft. Yes, Virginia, the government did such a thing back then. Ever hear of Viet Nam? It was coming, and eventually John would go there. But before that he enrolled at nearby Ventura College. He told me he lasted about 13 weeks before seeing he was not college material right then. So he decided he would join the U.S. Marines, but . . . their recruiting office was way up in Santa Barbara or such. “Not to fear,” he thought, and turned around and joined the U.S. Navy because their office was in Ventura.
While in the U.S. Navy, he was trained in electronics. Very sophisticated electronics. He worked in that field the rest of his working career. Somewhere in that process, John married a Fillmore girl from the Class of 1962. They moved to the Washington, D.C. area, where he eventually earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees. He went to work for the Department of Education in their Information Technology department. He and his first wife had a family, then as things sometimes happen, he and his first wife divorced. Later, he married a native of China named Ying, who had a son by a previous relationship. They are all active in hikings, biking, etc. Ying Ford even competes in the “Iron Woman” world events, the next being in Chattanooga, Tenn., in late September.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch in Piru, . . . I married a foreigner myself, a cutie named Peggy Allen (daughter of W.W. “Woody” & Pauline Allen) from way over yonder in Ventura, Calif. That was on May 31, 1962. We moved to Nashville, Tenn., that August and I entered Lipscomb University. I graduated with my B.A. in Speech Communication in 1965. Next we moved to Albuquerque, N.M. Peggy went to work as a new accounts rep at the Bank of New Mexico and I started work on my master’s at the University of New Mexico. Little did we know, there was something suspect about the water supply there . . . because in a few months she was very much pregnant.
We received a bouncing baby boy in Las Cruces, New Mexico in September of 1966. And I received my M.A. in Speech Communication from UNM. Upward and onward, as I worked toward my goal of one day teaching speech in some college. In the summer of 1968, we moved to Oklahoma City. I enrolled at the University of Oklahoma. Sixty class hours and one language later, I received . . . nothing. I had run out of both energy and money without completing two more things: (1) one more language requirement; and (2) writing my dissertation.
So I dropped out of graduate school and took a sales job. Later, I would return to preaching full-time, and then back to sales of one kind or another, mainly. We spent twenty years (1993-2013) living in Edmond, Okla. Peggy spent most of that time working at the Southwest Airlines reservation center in Oklahoma City. After we both retired, we moved here to Florida. We had two children: Stanley Jr. (aka Gene through high school and Stan, afterwards) and Stacy.
We have been married for 56 years and are now grandparents and great-grandparents, thank you very much. When Peggy slipped up and accepted my marriage proposal, some folks said it would be a “slip knot” and it wouldn’t last. Most of those folks are dead, now, and we are still in love. Those doubters just didn’t know what a loving and forgiving person Peggy was and is. That is the plain secret of our longevity.
Well, neighbors, let’s return to our mini-reunion with John Ford. Somehow, a point lost in my foggy memory, John and I began touching base once in awhile via emails and/or Facebook. Recently he told me he and Ying would be vacationing at Treasure Island Resort on Gulf Avenue in Treasure Island, Florida. That is a small beach community due west of St. Petersburg and about 40 miles north of us. So we exchanged more emails and a couple of phone calls and made a meeting happen. Together, again, after only 59 years. It was really nice meeting Ying and John, as well as John’s son Jeff and his family.
Well, John Ford and I are card-carrying members of that big group of “Fillmore Flashes” (our school’s dorky mascot), only our cards have “Emeritus” on them. And the “Flash” in our “Fillmore Flashes” has dimmed considerably with the passing years. Still, our’s was a very enjoyable reunion and I found out more about John than I ever knew before. John, old buddy, we’ll have to get together just a wee bit more often than every 59 years.
In June of 2018, John and I and the remaining folks of our original 125 classmates in 1959, will celebrate the 60th anniversary of our graduation. John has already told me he cannot make it out to Fillmore for that Alumni Association meeting. I’m still debating the pros and cons of such an event.
Anyway, here is a copy of the lyrics and guitar chords for Roger Miller’s song, “Old Friends.” I like it a lot, and so I share it with both old friends and new . . . like you.
True friendship brings sunshine to the shade, and shade to the sunshine. — Thomas Burke
If a man does not make new acquaintances as he advances through life, he will soon find himself left alone. A man . . . should keep his friendship in constant repair. — Samuel Johnson, quoted in Boswell’s Life of Samuel Johnson (1775)
A friend is always a friend, and relatives are born to share our troubles. — Proverbs 17:17, Contemporary English Version
A friend is a person with whom I may be sincere. Before him I may think aloud. I am arrived at least in the presence of a man so real and equal that I may drop even those undermost garments of dissimulation, courtesy, and second thought, which men never put off, and may deal with him with the simplicity and wholeness with which one chemical atom meets another. — Ralph Waldo Emerson (American philosopher) in Friendship
The sweet smell of incense can make you feel good, but true friendship is better still. — Proverbs 27:9, Contemporary English Version
My grandfather Wood advised his large family of seven daughters and one son, “When you move to a new place and want to make friends, go to the church, for there you will find the best people.” I agree with him. They may not be perfect people (indeed, who is?), but most of them know that. That’s why they go to church—for help to become better people and to grow in the knowledge and love of God. – Dale Evans Rogers (1912 to 2001; singer, actress, movie star and author; wife to cowboy movie star Roy Rogers), Time Out, Ladies! (1966), p. 81.
Don’t desert an old friend of your family or visit your relatives when you are in trouble. A friend nearby is better than relatives far away. — Proverbs 27:10, CEV
You are better off to have a friend than to be all alone, because then you will get more enjoyment out of what you earn. If you fall, your friend can help you up. But if you fall without having a friend nearby, you are really in trouble. — Ecclesiastes 4:9-10, CEV
In the course of a year, a person who travels even a little bit will meet a lot of interesting folks. Some are witting and charming, others are self-centered and obnoxious, while most are somewhere in between.
The fact is, though, that the really important people in our lives are a fairly small number of family members and friends. And it is to those precious few that I dedicate this page.
NOTE: Please know that those who fit into one or both of those categories of “family” and “friends” are not necessarily in the photos below. I did not have recent photos of many of you, nor did I have space enough to include all. Kind of a nice problem to have, really.
This is a group of Christian men who meet in Bradenton each Thursday morning for a “show and tell” brunch. The man at left is a visitor, then (clockwise) are Jim Waid, Clay Landes, Mike Cook (sunglasses), Stan Paregien, Don Betts, Mike Sirus and Rom “Hollywood” Colella.
Abe was a native of Hawaii. As a 9-year-old boy, he watched from his family’s farm as the Japanese bomb Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. Abe graduated to heaven this year.
Geri Mack watches as husband Al Mack cuts the cake on his 90th birthday. Bradenton, FL – 2015 – Photo by Stan Paregien
Victor and Evelyn Knowles – Joplin, MO – 2015
Our dear neighbor, Virginia Corbin with her dog Buddy, and Peggy Paregien with her dog Allie. 2015 – Bradenton, FL – by Stan Paregien
Issue 307 – Oct. 10, 2015 – The Paregien Journal – Stan Paregien Sr., Editor
One of the ascending stars in the Republican Party is Marco Rubio. He is currently the junior U.S. Senator from my adopted home state of Florida. And he is one of several people campaigning to win the Republican nomination to become their candidate for the 2016 presidential race.
What follows is a profile of Senator Rubio which I gleaned from his book titled An American Son: A Memoir (New York City: Sentinel, 2012).
Part I of this profile examines Senator Rubio’s rather modest family roots. While not born in a log cabin like Abe Lincoln, he does come from a line of folks who as Cubans had personal goals, dreams and ambitions only to wind up losing those and even losing their beloved country to Castro’s communism. It also shows how new generations of immigrants often become successful because of the examples of their parents and grandparents who taught them by example not to give up when faced with adversity, poverty and overwhelming odds. It is a story well worth a few minutes of your time.
* * * * *
Rubio’s ancestors were hard working men and women in Cuba. His great-grandparents – Carlos Pérez and Ramona García — had emigrated from Spain to Cuba, where they bought land and began farming near the village of Jicotea. Carlos did quite well as a farmer but, unlike many of his neighbors, he refused to sell his land at fire-sale prices to wealthy businessmen who operated with the blessing of the American military.
Ramona was the matriarch of the family, and it was a large one. She had three children by a previous relationship and an additional fourteen children by this last relationship, but only married Mr. Pérez when he was on his death bed.
His maternal grandfather, Mr. Pedro Victor García was born on January 31, 1899 in the dirt-poor province of Villa Clara. That was the year that the Spanish occupation forces left the country for good, only to be replaced by American military leaders.
In 1900, the political leaders in the United States decided to annex Cuba. However, the Cubans were allowed to vote on the issue. And, against the prospect of American-generated prosperity for the island, Cubans voted against annexation and in favor of independence.
Marco Rubio’s father, Pedro Victor García, came down with polio as a child. The disease left him with a crippled leg which ruled out most farm work. It was a blessing, though, in that his parents kept him in school. He would be the only one of the 17 children to get a decent education and to have any real hope of getting a fairly good job.
Mr. Garcia loved to read and to learn everything he could about his world. He became a great believer in the future of the republic of Cuba. And he was a firm advocate of intellectual freedom and self-reliance. So much so that when his father died, he declined to change his last name (his mother’s name) to that of his father even though it meant he would not receive any of the man’s estate. Late in his life he would pass those high virtues on to his grandson, Marco Rubio.
Pedro Victor García was plucky enough to apply for a job with the railroad and lucky enough to get a job as a telegraph operator. Then he began working his way up the career ladder.
Along the way, he traveled on business to the town of Cabaiguán. There he met, fell in love with and married Dominga Rodríguez. She had grown up in an environment of grinding poverty and she had only finished the 6th grade. Still, they were married in 1920 when he was 21 and she was almost 17. They had children and made a nice living that afforded a large house staffed with servants and nannies.
However, late in 1924, their world was turned upside down. Pedro Victor García suffered not only humiliation about a significant financial loss when he was demoted at work (in favor of a man with better political connections) and, ultimately, was fired. Their situation put them into a crisis mode as he, with his severe physical disability, simply could not find a good job. So he walked all over the city to accept part-time, occasional work doing menial jobs. That in itself was a challenge, since he could not walk without a cane and often became unbalanced and fell and hurt himself.
By 1930, Pedro Victor García and his family had been forced out of their fine home. They settled into a one-room house in a poor section of town. Still, their family dignity kept them from acting like victims and from looking like their often dirty and dejected neighbors. And somehow, Mr. García scraped together enough money to keep his large family fed and clothed.
Then one day he was hired to work in a tobacco mill. No, it was not a manufacturing job. He simply read interesting and inspiring articles and stories to the scores of workers who worked at tables hand-rolling cigars and cigarettes. The company’s idea was that such exposure would lessen the drudgery of such tedious work, thus resulting in a lower turnover of employees. The work was easy for Pedro and he enjoyed learning the material and making it as entertaining as possible, but it did not pay much at all.
Slowly, though, his own dreams for his career and for the members of his family began to fade in the face of stark reality. His children had to find jobs of their own at very young ages. That included Marco Rubio’s own mother. The entire family, hoping for better job opportunities, left Cabaiguán in 1940 and moved to the capital city of Havana.
There in Havana, Pedro Victor García and his family moved into a small apartment in a low-income government housing project. Each building had several apartments, but they were so austere they had to share a bathroom in the common areas.
Mario Rubio’s mother, Oriales García, went to work as a cashier at a small retail store. She gave every cent she made to her own mother who handled the family’s money and paid their bills.
Meanwhile, Marco Rubio’s paternal grandparents were having their own struggles. Antonio Rubio’s parents both died when he was only 14. He lived with relatives for a time, then ran away to Havana where he would tackle life on its unforgiving terms. Eventually, he met and married Eloisa Reina there in Havana. They, then, were the paternal grandparents of Marco Rubio.
Antonio and Eloisa (Reina) Rubio had their first child in 1920 when he was about 35 and she was about 28 years of age. That child died at birth, but they had seven other children including Marco’s father, Mario Rubio (born Oct. 29, 1926). Antonio and Eloisa ran a small catering business, even though she suffered from bouts of tuberculosis many periods of her life. She would cook breakfast and lunch meals for workers at a big cigar factory and Antonio would deliver the meals to them.
Their successful enterprise enabled them to live in a large, comfortable house. But their own world turned upside down then that cigar factory closed. Antonio Rubio and his family had no choice but to give up their business and home and to move in with relatives. From that day forward, Antonio’s ambitions and dreams were tempered with the cold reality that he would have to become a lowly-paid street vendor. He didn’t like it but he had to feed his family, so that is what he did.
Marco’s father, only eight years old at the time, had to quit school and go to work. He had not yet learned to read and write, but he was bright and learned those skills entirely on his own.
Then in 1935, Antonio Rubio’s beloved wife died of pneumonia (years before the invention of life-saving penicillin). She was only 42, and son Mario was only nine. That left Marco’s paternal grandfather with the sole responsibility for seven children between the ages of 16 and 4. He began to put more time into his work selling on the streets and largely leaving his children to care for themselves. It was not unusual at all for the entire family to go to bed with hunger gnawing at their stomachs. Eventually, Antonio Rubio moved in with another woman and, though they never married, they had one child together.
Young Mario went to work as a security guard in a nearby cafeteria and would continue to support himself for the next 70 years. At age 14 he began living out on his own. And at age 19, his father Antonio died from pneumonia, so he learned to be a survivor. He was allowed to sleep on wooden crates in a storage area at the cafeteria, as did a few other young men.
One day Mario Rubio struck up a conversion with a co-worker, cashier Oriales García. They began dating and she told friends he was really handsome, that he looked like the American actor Tyrone Power. They married on April 28, 1949 and lived in a small apartment. Mario was 22 and Oriales was 18. Their first child, Mario Victor Rubio, was born in 1950.
Mario dreamed of starting his own radio and TV repair shop or of even becoming a singer and entertainer. Oriales had a dream of becoming an actress. Those dreams—like the dreams held for a time by their respective parents and grandparents—faded rapidly as the economic realities of raising a family began to dominate their lives. Plus, Mario injured a leg by stepping into a hole during a baseball game. The damage was so bad that he would forever walk with a distinct limp.
1957: FROM CUBA TO MIAMI
One of Oriales (García) Rubio’s sisters emigrated to the United States. That woman saw opportunity everywhere and began urging them to move there, too. So on May 27, 1956, Mario and Oriales (García) Rubio and son Mario Victor Rubio—along with Oriales’ parents — Pedro V. and Dominga (Rodríguez) — García arrived in New York City. The harsh winter there proved too much, and the next year they all moved to Miami, Florida.
In Miami, the elder Mario and his wife Oriales both went to work in a factory where aluminum lawn chairs were assembled. Soon he was also training on the side to work as a bar boy (a bartender’s assistant). Then he was hired by the Roney Plaza Hotel in beautiful Miami Beach. But he was still dreaming of opening his own small business. In fact, he opened several such ventures on the side and they all failed.
By 1959, Mario Rubio had become a bar tender and was making a decent wage. But he regularly worked from early evening until about 2 a.m. or so. And that year he and Oriales had their second child, a daughter they named Barbara Rubio. And the patriarch of the relocated clan, Pedro V. García, returned to the old country by himself. In March of 1961, with Fidel Castro ruling Cuba and moving steadily toward Communism, Oriales Rubio returned to Cuba and convinced her ailing father to return to Miami with her. And he did so. But he would never again see his native country nor would he ever again see his brothers and sisters.
In April of 1961, some Cubans-in-exile — urged on and supported by the Central Intelligence Committee of the United States — attacked Castro’s forces at the Bay of Pigs. They were soundly defeated and it was an embarrassment for the John F. Kennedy administration.
In 1962, the United States levied an all-out economic embargo against Cuba. It was in October of 1962 that the leaders of Russia and the United States were engaged in a “stare down” called “the Cuban missile crisis.” Russia blinked and took their missiles back home.
1964 was the year that Mario Rubio took his young family out to Los Angeles, where he thought he and his wife might be able to do better, financially. This was in the middle of America’s cultural revolution and racial rioting. So they returned to Miami and in 1966 bought their very first house. Oriales’ parents, Pedro and Dominga García took up residence in a nearby apartment. That very next year, Dominga had a heart attack and died.
It was on May 28, 1971 that Mario and Oriales welcomed a completely unplanned blessing to their home: a baby boy they named Marco _____ Rubio. And, lo and behold, in 1972 they added a baby girl, Veronica Rubio. Another celebration came when, in 1975, Mario and Oriales Rubio proudly became citizens of these United States of America.
The Catholic Church was destined to become an important factor in the life of young Marco Rubio. As a child, his mother and he attended Mass each Saturday evening just down the street at St. Raymond Catholic Church.
Marco was nearing his 5th birthday when the manager of the hotel where his father worked up and offered him a job managing an apartment complex near the airport. His boss said he would get a free apartment, the same wages, and would also be able to earn extra money by working at the hotel as a bar tender on the weekends. Mario Rubio jumped at the chance, and the family moved to the apartment.
And then disaster hit, again. The owners of the apartment complex sold it and Mario was without a job and the family was without a home. Soon his father found another job as an apartment manager, this time in Hialeah. The family moved into a house nearby. Marco started school at Kensington Park Elementary.
A few months later, a large management company took over the apartments in Hialeah and, again, the elder Mario Rubio was without a job. Dispirited and desperate, again, he began working with a relative who painted houses. The hotels were not hiring. Tourism in Miami was in a downward spiral, partly because of the widespread media coverage of the area’s increase in crime – particularly murders and drug usage and sales.
1979: VIVA LAS VEGAS
So one day early in May of 1979, Mario and Oriales Rubio loaded up their two youngest children and their meager belongings and moved to the bright lights of Las Vegas. That’s when Mario, now 52 years old, ran into the twin evils of iron-clad unionism and age discrimination. The hotels were booming and hiring, but only at entry level positions and wages. The union bosses made sure outsiders were at the bottom of the lists and that the better jobs were filled by younger union members moving up. Mario had been a head bartender for over 20 years, but now he had to settle for a job at a casino hotel as a bartender’s assistant at much less than he had been making.
They lived in a working class neighborhood at 3104 East Lava Avenue on the north side of Las Vegas. Their first friends were a family who were Mormons and who invited them to their church’s social activities and worship services. Soon the traditionally Catholic Rubio family, minus the skeptical Mario, were regulars at the Mormon Church. And soon Marco, his sister Veronica and his mother Oriales were official baptized members of the Mormon Church.
Marco wrote of those days, “All in all, the Mormon Church provided the sound moral structure my mother had wanted for us, and a circle of friends from stable, God-fearing families. When we left the church a few years later, mostly at my instigation, we did so with gratitude for its considerable contribution to our happiness in those years” (p. 40).
Marco and his younger sister Veronica attended C.C. Ronnow Elementary School near their house. The racial makeup of the school was much more diverse than they had experienced back in Miami. Instead of mostly Cuban-Americans, here the students were white, a few Hispanics and many black students (bused from a neighborhood several miles from there).
During his Las Vegas days, Marco took advantage of many opportunities to interact with and to learn from his grandfather, Pedro Victor García (whom they called Papá). The old man spent many hours a day sitting on their small front porch, particular after meals, when he would light up a Cuban cigar and read a newspaper or a book. And he was free with his praise of the United States and of such men as Harry Truman and Franklin D. Roosevelt. And he graciously invited Marco to ask him questions on any topic.
In his 2012 book, An American Son: A Memoir, Marco wrote lovingly about how his maternal grandfather, Pedro Victor García, had such a great influence on his own life:
“Papá seemed to know something about almost everything, or everything that interested me anyway. He was a gifted storyteller, the talent he had learned as a cigar factory lector [back in Cuba – sp]. His accounts were exciting and forceful, rich in imagery and telling anecdotes. They held me spellbound.
“My interest in politics began around the time we moved to Vegas, and by 1980 politics was a preoccupation second only to football. Two events had captured my attention that year: Senator Edward Kennedy’s challenge to President Carter for the Democratic presidential nomination and the Iran hostage crisis. I was a Kennedy supporter. With rapt attention I watched the Democratic convention in New York, and was crushed by the outcome of what seemed an excruciatingly slow delegate count that gave the nomination to President Carter. I was inspired by Senator Kennedy’s concession speech.
“My grandfather didn’t admire either of them. Ronald Reagan was his man. He despised President Carter because of the Iran hostage crisis, a humiliation Papá seemed to feel personally. America must be a strong country, he constantly preached, or the world would succumb to darkness, and a strong country requires a strong leader. He thought the world didn’t respect or fear Carter. He was weak, he said, and other countries preyed on his weakness. That’s why the Soviets had invaded Afghanistan and the Iranians had seized our embassy. He blamed the failed attempt to rescue the hostages on cuts to defense spending Carter had made. Ronald Reagan would restore our strength, he assured me. He would confront communism. Our allies would follow him and our enemies would respect him.
“When Reagan was elected and Iran released our hostages on his inauguration, Papá made certain to point out to me that it confirmed everything he had been telling me. Reagan had barely been sworn into office, and our enemies were already capitulating to him. Reagan’s election and my grandfather’s allegiance to him were defining influences on me politically. I’ve been a Republican ever since. More than just help me develop a political identity, my grandfather instilled in me the importance of strong leadership and conviction. He urged me to study and learn but, more important, to do something useful with the knowledge I acquired.
“I wrote a paper in the fifth grade praising President Reagan for restoring the U.S. military after it had been demoralized and allowed to decay in the years before his presidency. I recently found it in a red suitcase that had belonged to my grandfather, and still contains some of his possessions.
“Papá was an unwavering supporter of President Reagan for the remainder of his life. He loved Reagan’s anti-Soviet and prodemocracy rhetoric, and he staunchly defended the more controversial Reagan policies. I particularly remember his outspoken support for Reagan’s development of the MX missile, and support for the Contras in Nicaragua and the government of El Salvador.
“My grandfather’s talks weren’t always about history or current events. Neither were they scrupulously objective. He wasn’t an admirer of our new church [The Mormon Church – sp]. He was never a religious man, although I know he believed in God, and openly acknowledged Him. But I never saw him attend any religious service except on the single occasion when he agreed to accompany us to Sunday services at the Mormon Church. After we can home and ate lunch, he went to smoke his cigar on the porch and I followed him. I asked him what he had thought of the services, and he told me he would never go back because he hadn’t seen a single African American in attendance. He wasn’t entirely accurate. There was a biracial family in the congregation at the time. But the argument didn’t impress my grandfather, and true to his word, he kept his distance from our church.
“He could be quite sharp in his criticism of people, even people close to him, of whose behavior he disapproved. He frequently found fault with some of my Miami cousins who he believed lacked direction and ambition. When the Culinary Workers Union staged a strike at my father’s place of employment, which my father, as a member of the union, was obliged to join, he told my father he hoped Reagan would fire them all as he did the striking air traffic controllers.
“For reasons he never shared with me, Papá didn’t like my friends, the Thiriots. When they called the house and asked for me, he would hang up the phone. When they came to the door, he would tell them I wasn’t at home. Some of my behavior frustrated him. He couldn’t abide my passion for football and resented my refusal to play baseball. He loved Tommy Lasorda and the LA Dodgers and was hurt when I wouldn’t agree to watch their games with him.
“He had odd quirks. He liked to call my sister by an invented nickname that scrambled the letters of her name, ‘Canirove’ [for Veronica – sp]. He constantly drummed his knuckles on a table or the arm of a chair in a specific and unvarying rhythmic pattern, a tick I now possess. He claimed to be part Chinese, which he was not. He boasted he was directly related to José Martí [a Cuban intellectual who championed independence from Spain – sp], whom he slightly resembled, but who is not, according to any known records, one of our ancestors. In his last years, he insisted he was born an American citizen around the turn of the century in Tampa, Florida, where Martí had lived in exile for a time. We kept an old Universal weight-lifting machine that I used to train for football in the rec room in our house that also served as his bedroom. He frequently complained that the contraption wasted electricity. When I explained that it didn’t use electricity, he ignored me.
“My father [ Mario Rubio – sp ] like to tease my grandfather about little things, his quirks and some of his opinions. Most of it was good-natured kidding, and it didn’t anger my grandfather. It might have annoyed him a little at times, but he never showed it. ‘Okay, Mario. Whatever you say, Mario,’ was usually the only response he would give. My mother, on the other hand, would get angry at my father. She thought his teasing was disrespectful, and would scold him for it.
“My father probably shared my grandfather’s political views, but he rarely discussed politics with my grandfather or with me when I was young, or with anyone as far as I know. He was consumed by the business of making a living and raising his children, and showed little interest in much else. He shared the family’s antipathy to communism and visceral dislike for talk about redistributing wealth. Like my grandfather, he believed such schemes led only to entrenching the power of the regime at the expense of the powerless, who lost jobs and opportunities because their employers had fled the [Cuban – sp] regime that had confiscated their property.
“My father and grandfather were different in many respects. They had different personalities, and neither was given to effusive expressions of affection. But they loved each other. My grandfather admired how committed my father was to our family, how hard he worked to give us a decent home, now carefully he protected us. To my father, the young refugee from an unhappy home, my grandfather and grandmother were his first experience with two loving parents since his mother had died.
“My grandfather was my mentor and my closest boyhood friend. I learned at his feet, relied on his counsel and craved his respect. I still do.” He constantly urged me to study hard and go to college. He wanted Veronica and me to live accomplished lives when we grew up. He wanted us to have not jobs, but distinguished careers that would give our lives purpose and the social status he had always wanted for himself. He would scold me for performing poorly in school, but he never let me believe I was incapable of being successful. He knew I could be, and he helped me prepare for it. His dreams for us were his legacy.
“He taught me many things, but none more important than the conviction that I must not waste the opportunities my parents had sacrificed to give us and our country made available to us. I’ve always believed, even when I was an inattentive and undisciplined student, that the time would arrive for me to become serious and do something important with my life, and I would be ready for it. I believe it because Papá taught me to believe it. And that, more than the wealth of knowledge he shared with me, more than the epics of history he evoked so powerfully for me, more than his opinions and his eccentricities, has made all the difference in the world to me.”
[ The long quote, above, was taken from Marco Rubio’s book An American Son: A Memoir (New York City: Sentinel, 2012), pp. 44-47. This copyrighted material is used here under the “Fair Use” clause which permits use for non-commercial purposes not likely to have an adverse financial effect on the copyright owner. ]
Me and My Red Ryder BB Gun
Ah, yes, those were the days. I sure do wish I had my trusty Daisy BB gun back, again. It was a “Red Ryder” model, named in honor of the fictional cowboy character who first appeared in comic books, then on radio (with little Bobby Blake, later known as off-beat actor Robert Blake, playing “Little Beaver”), and finally on the Silver Screen (i.e., black and white movies). And BB gun had a genuine wood stock, not one of those hollow plastic things. I can hear right now the soft, rattling sound those brass-looking, small BBs as I tipped their round carton up and poured them in the storage tube running right beneath the barrel.
The Red Ryder character was the creation of two men: Stephen Slesinger (a publisher) and Fred Harman (a talented artist and illustrator). The comic strip began late in 1938, reached a maximum syndication exposure of 750 newspapers, and then quietly died in 1964. It was also a radio program for several years.
In the some 35 Red Ryder movies, the hero was played by a variety of actors. In 1940, it was diminutive Don Barry who played in a 12-episode serial called “The Adventures of Red Ryder” (Tommy Cook played his sidekick, Little Beaver). After that series, Don Barry was nicknamed Don “Red” Barry and it stuck.
Then came the memorable films made by Bill “Wild Bill” Elliott and handsome Allen “Rocky” Lane, with Bobby Blake playing Little Beaver in all those films. The final four Red Ryder films were done in color and starred actor Jim Bannon with Don Kay Reynolds as his young friend Little Beaver. Two different TV pilots were filmed, one starring Jim Bannon and the other starring Allen Lane, but no one optioned them.
Now, . . . you do know what will happen . . . for sure . . . , if you give a kid a BB gun, don’t you? You certainly know if you have watched any of the annual showings of “A Christmas Story” (1983). He will shoot himself in the eye, that’s what will happen. That sorta wierd film has a sold cult-like core of fans who could never get enough of adult actor Darren McGaven (“the father”), Melinda Dillon (“the mother”) and child actor Peter Billingsley (“Ralphie, the son with the BB gun”).
Well, it is time for an overdue confession. And it has to do with me pulling the trigger on my trusty Red Ryder BB gun and, . . . sure ’nuff, shooting my cousin in the eye (or at least the edge of it). Sad, but true.
That dastardly deed took place in about 1950. My parents (Harold and Evelyn Paregien) and my sister, Roberta, and I lived in an old farm house right on the south side of Highway 126 (about 3 miles west of Santa Paula, Calif.). My dad was a farm hand on the Todd Estate. He irrigated the orange trees, pruned them, fertilized them and lit “smudge pots” around them in the winter to try to keep them from freezing.
So it was that we lived next to 75 or more acres of Valencia orange trees and right next to a “barranca” (or very small creek; there was a highway bridge over it less than a hundred yards from our house). And that orchard and the barranca were wonderful places for kids to play. And to get into trouble.
“The kids,” in this case would be my sister and myself and assorted (or maybe a sordid) bunch of friends and cousins. The cousin who lived closest to us, and who even today is more like a brother to me, was Jerry Russell Paregien. Neither Jerry nor I ever heard our middle names used unless we were in some kind of trouble with an adult.
Now, . . . we kids had this little game we would play. Well, one of many games we played. This one involved throwing oranges at one another. The only rule was that you were supposed to be at least 15 feet away and you couldn’t hit the other person above the waist. This game obviously ignored the orchard owner’s number one rule: don’t pick my oranges. Let’s just say we thinned the crop so the remaining ones would get more nourishment. And, given the fact that all parties involved were running and jumping and squatting down to keep from getting hurt, sometimes there were . . . uh . . . accidents. Nothing too serious and the bruises usually where the sun does not usually shine.
Game #2 was, well . . . a bit more dangerous. So my sister and others of our young friends and cousins were not allowed to play “big guy stuff.” That usually meant that Jerry and I would square off in cold and calculated duels in the sun. Sometimes in the frequent coastal morning fog. It was just Jerry and his rusty, . . . er, I mean trusty BB gun and me and my superior weaponry, my cherished Red Ryder BB gun.
The rule was similar to that of Game #1, except that here we understood we needed a greater distance between us. Still no shooting above the waist. It was a great bloodless sport, chasing and dodging one another in and among the orange trees. Sometimes we even yelled words which we had heard our fathers use on occasion. In those days we wore denim jeans (mine were of the Levi denomination). So, when by luck or by accidental skill, one of us actually shot the other guy there was only a sharp sting that lasted a couple of minutes. I don’t remember anything more permanent, like a bruise or such.
Usually did not apply to the day I pert near kilt my cousin Jerry. That’s how future generations would tell the awful story. This is my own acount of the incident (easy for me to say) and I’m sticking with it.
I guess Jerry had spent the night with us there on the Todd Estate. My mother probably served us a bowl of The Breakfast of Champions, then out the door we ran with our legally purchased firearms. We usually carried at least two extra rolls of BBs. One cannot afford to be caught with one’s Roy Rogers underwear around one’s ankles in the middle of a firefight.
Usually (that word, again), we would run deeply into the orange orchard for our diehard duels of destiny. Not this time. Instead, we went a couple of hundred yards south of our house, along the barranca. That was prime hunting territory for sparrows, bluejays and red-winged blackbirds. Sometimes for big game, like ground squirrels or one of Bugs Bunny’s little cousins. But today, . . . today we were after much bigger and much more dangerous game: each other.
Jerry lost the coin toss and made his way across the barranca to the other bank, near the edge of another orange orchard owned by some other farmer. There we stood, glaring at each other like tribal gladiators. I yelled out something like, “Let the games b-e-g-i-n !” And that got the battle into high gear. Seems like that’s kinda how John Wayne did it, too.
My merciless, mercinary cousin lifted his cannon, . . . er, I mean, . . . BB gun and fired a round in my direction. It zipped past me into a bush at my side. I responded with a quick cock of my gun’s lever and shot at him from the hip — just like Palladin or Steve McQueen would have done. Only they always hit something, even with the first shot. Neither Jerry nor I had that kind of professional skill, but we were working on it.
You see, dear reader, a sophisticated BB gun shooter will expect to fire a few rounds without hitting the target. One has to adjust for windage and for the fact that the arch of the BB would rapidly descend after 35 yards or so. Then there was the fact that, in this particular case, the target in question absolutely refused to stand still and play fair. Of course, that applied to both of us.
Right there in the middle of this blazing battle, I put my left index finger up in the air to test for windage. And, there being no windage, I lifted my BB gun a smidge higher than usual (yikes, that word, again). And I stood tall and brave as I carefully sighted in my adversary. Then, with my steady right index finger, I squeezed off a shot. I could see it easily traverse the barranca and head like a meteor toward cousin Jerry. As usual, I figured to hit him on or about his front pants pocket or on his skinny thigh. This, however, was not one of those “usual” days.
Instead, that sorry sucker of a BB followed an elongated trajectory that caused it to smack right into the corner of Jerry’s left eye. He dropped his own weapon and yelled like he had been shot. Well, duh. He had. And he didn’t stop there. He hadn’t lost his mind entirely, because he did pick up his own BB gun. And then he lit out for our house like a dog scalded with turpentine. And he was yelling and crying, then crying and yelling. Maybe even using some of those few choice adult words we knew.
Meanwhile, I had little time to savor my extraordinary victory. Fact is, I took off running like crazy, too. I was hoping I could catch him at the bridge, tackle him and shut him up. Maybe threaten him or, as a last resort, bribe him. Anything that would keep my tail from an agitated momma whoopin’. Alas, neighbors, that was not to be. That little varmit, . . . er, I mean . . . my dear cousin had put his hiney in overdrive. He crossed that bridge like he was competing at a track meet and easily beat me to the house.
By the time I emerged from our orange orchard and approached the house, I could hear Jerry’s wailing account of this little incident as something akin to attempt manslaughter. I knew that could not be true. Heck, he wasn’t even a man yet. Or me, either.
When I had to stand before the Judge (my mother), I wept and wailed and pleaded my case. She was not impressed. So I threw myself on the mercy of the court. The Judge was fresh out of mercy on that day. First, she made me apologize to my own goofy, hairy-legged cousin for what was clearly an accident or–what else do lawyers say?–an act of God. Second, she gave me a lickin’ to remember and I did not just go on tickin’.
That was the very last time we ever played that doggone game.
To tell you the awful truth, though, I recently thought about challenging ol’ Jerry to a rematch. We would each have to go out and buy one of those gol-darned plastic BB guns. But I betcha I could raise blisters on his bony behind, this time.
Oh, hey, hold the cellphone. I forgot a couple of things.
Jerry Russell Paregien spent twenty-five years as an officer with the California Highway Patrol. That means each and every one of those 25 years he had to re-qualify on both his pistol and his rifle. And, how the heck could I forget this: he actually taught marksmanship at the headquarters of the CHP in Sacramento. In recent years, he even wrote two eBooks–available on Amazon.com– on certain pistols. And right now my eyesight–thanks to cataracts–is just not like it never was.
Okay, that’s it. Negatory on that BB gun rematch idea.
I wonder though. Does anyone know whether Jerry is any good at checkers?
* * * * * * * * * * *
Stan’s writings on this web/blog site are all copyrighted. They may shared with your friends, but any commercial use is specifically excluded without Stan’s written permission.
My dear sister, Roberta Louise Paregien Loffswold Fournier, died back on June 5, 2015 and is the subject of by blog on June 11, 2015 . She was quite a creative person, even after her COPD kept her hooked up to an oxygen tank the last six or seven years of her life. And her advanced rheumatoid arthritis in her hands often kept her away from her computer, when that computer was her lifeline to both her regular friends and her Facebook friends. Still, Berta often created fancy decorations on birthday cakes. She also designed her own greeting cards for birthdays and anniversaries and such. And, as you’ll see below, she was pretty doggone good at designing photo books of various subjects.
Over the next few months, I’ll share her photo book in memory of our mother, Evelyn Cauthen Paregien Spradling who died in February of 2011. Then at some point I’ll share the book done, as I recall, in honor my wife Peggy and myself when we celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary back on May 31, 2012.
However, right now I want to share another book she made for me in about 2012. She called it, SOME HAPPY TRAILS WITH STAN. And she did a wonderful job of culling through thousands of photos to select the few that she arranged for this book. It was done online through Shutterfly, and they printed it as an “on demand” book. So please sit back and enjoy her work.
I hope you enjoyed that stroll down memory lane, thanks to my late sister, Roberta.
* * * * *
Because of some health issues, I simply must eliminate some stress factors. And I must plan more relaxation into my schedule, which is what we intended to do when we moved to Forida two years ago . . . but I didn’t quite get the hang of it. So my doctor is now motivating me in that direction.
Therefore, I will publish just one more issue of my blog, STAN’S PARADISE REPORT, and that will be July 6th. I will also stop publishing another of my blogs, THE COWBOY WAY: THEN AND NOW. That will cease with the next issue in a couple of weeks.
However, at this point I still plan to publish my blog, THE PAREGIEN JOURNAL (www.paregien.wordpress.com). From time to time I will post some Florida items and some cowboy items, as space permits.
I will also continue publishing my brand new web site called STORYTELLING DIGEST (www.storytellingdigest.com).
Each of those will be posted on an occasional basis, with no stress-producing deadlines (boooo on ’em). I’ll publish on a deliberately relaxed pace, as often or as seldom as I have material to share.
Thank you for your understanding.
Oh, hey, I also plan to do more of what I did on February 1, 2011 at Sanibel Island near Fort Myers, Florida. That means lots of this . . . . .
Roberta Louise Paregien was born to Harold and Evelyn (Cauthen) Paregien at the home of Evelyn’s parents, John and Veda Cauthen, just outside Wapanucka (Johnston County), Okla., on Sept. 1, 1943. Her parents were actually living in Santa Paula, Calif., but Evelyn wanted to be near her mother when the baby was born. Dr. S.S. Haberly delivered her, as he had also delivered her brother, Stan, and other extended family members.
Evelyn holding Roberta [Photo 1944-01]
Roberta Paregien was a healthy child, but was forever getting hurt. When she was about a year old, she climbed up on the kitchen table and fell off and hit her head on the baseboard. It knocked her out and she turned blue almost immediately. Evelyn ran out the back door to get the landlady, Mrs. Burdicks, to telephone the doctor. Roberta came to about that time, but they still took her to the doctor.
When Roberta was about 15 months old, she climbed up on a dresser. She picked up one of Evelyn’s crocheting needles and stuck it in her mouth. She really stuck it in her throat and it hung there. Evelyn heard her making a funny sound, so she investigated and found her with that needle stuck in her throat. Evelyn rotated the needle and it came out. Then she rushed her to Dr. Silas Williams’ office, two blocks away. It turned out that Evelyn had turned the needle just right, so there was no permanent damage.
On Aug. 2, 1947, Harold and Evelyn stopped their car to buy some chickens down on Howard Street in Santa Paula. Evelyn went inside, while Harold remained in the car with Stanley and Roberta. Evelyn’s crocheting needles and some material she had been working on were on the front seat of the car. She had positioned them toward the car seat, but with the kids shuffling around, the needles got positioned in a vertical angle.
Roberta was in the back seat and decided she wanted up front. So she slid over the seat with her knees bent. One of those needles went into her knee, right in the joint. And when she automatically reacted with pain and straightened out her leg, it bent that steel needle. Harold tried to ease it out, but could not. And at that moment Roberta reached down and jerked it out, tearing the membrane loose.
They rushed her to Dr. Williams, and he said she should be okay. They took her back to him every other day for two weeks. Then Dr. Williams went out of town on a trip, and Roberta began getting worse. They took her to Dr. Sterling Clark in Ventura. He put her right into Ventura General Hospital and operated on her knee on Aug. 20, 1947. Then he had to operate on it a second time. And the operations left a scar about three inches long by 3/8″ wide.
The hospital staff had to draw the water off her knee every few hours for several days. They gave her penicillin shots every three hours for 17 days, to fight the infection, but she still had a temperature when she left the hospital. Roberta celebrated her 4th birthday in the hospital. Evelyn recalled, “She cried every minute we were with her while she was in the hospital, and I did my share of crying, too.” Roberta’s Grandpa and Grandma Cauthen came out from Oklahoma and visited her in the hospital.
Roberta recalled one time her father, Harold, was having a problem with dogs turning over their trash cans. So he rigged up a live electric wire and wet the dirt around the trash cans to make sure the dogs made a solid contact with the electricity. Roberta says, “I don’t know if the dogs learned to stay away, but after my third time of getting shocked, I learned to stay away.” Harold rigged up the same apparatus a time or two, much later, at the Edwards Ranch.
In July, 1948, while living on the Todd Estate (or “Joy Ranch”) west of Santa Paula, a very traumatic event took place. Roberta was home with her mother. She heard Evelyn screaming, then saw her running from the back porch to the bedroom. She was on fire. She had been washing some work clothes in gasoline and the fumes drifted next to the water heater, resulting in a flash fire. Evelyn had the good sense to get into bed and roll up in the covers to put the fire out.
Meanwhile, Roberta–being all of not quite five years old at the time–tried to use the telephone to call for help. It was the old-style “crank” phone. She started cranking it and yelling, “Help, my mom’s on fire.” She finally got the fire department on the line. Then she ran outside and yelled for her father, hoping he might be working near enough to hear her. He was nowhere around.
Evelyn ran back outside, in great pain, and began screaming. A couple passing back in their car saw the fire truck pulling up and knew something was wrong. They stopped and took her to the hospital. Roberta still remembers the fire truck arriving. Evelyn suffered 3rd degree burns to both legs.
By about 1948 Roberta had become quite an accomplished roller skater. She and Stan spent many hours at the roller rink on the east edge of Santa Paula, Calif. Evelyn sewed several skating costumes for her. She worked very hard to learn how to do special tricks, such a “figure 8”, both forward and backward, plus doing jumps of all kinds. She also liked to enter the speed races at the skating rink. But one afternoon, while doing some figure skating, she remembers doing a backward jump and her skate hitting a patch of sand or gravel on the rink floor. She fell and hit the back of her head, resulting in a concussion. She remained unconscious for a while, and was taken to Dr. Williams.
Roberta didn’t get to go to kindergarten because of her knee. She began 1st grade in Sept., 1949, at Briggs Elementary School about three miles west of Santa Paula, Calif. Mrs. Tomblin was her teacher. She had not been going to school very long when some boy pushed her down on one of those steel grids designed for scraping mud off shoes. It skinned up that same knee, but in time it healed again. However, she walked with that knee turned in. So the doctor put high top shoes on her to try to force her to walk straight and without a limp. She had to wear that clunky, “army boot” kind of shoe until she was in the 7th grade, and she hated them.
Roberta remembers, and Stan tries to forget, the time they were playing cops and robbers or something similar. And Stan decided to use a trick that he had recently seen in a movie. While he was hiding from Roberta, he loaded up with a handful of table salt. And when Roberta found him, he threw it in her eyes. It worked for the hero in the movies, and the recipient certainly didn’t cry. But life did not imitate art, in this case. The salt burned her eyes and she cried long and loud, resulting in Evelyn coming to the rescue and giving the “hero” a whipping.
Mattie (Nolen) Paregien and Frank Paregien were Roberta’s paternal grandparents. They moved from Wapanucka, Oklahoma to Santa Paula, California in 1942 and both found war-time jobs at the Navy base in Port Hueneme (Oxnard, CA).
Things didn’t get much better for Roberta in 2nd grade. She was standing in line to ride the bus home when a boy in front of her slung his lunch pail over his shoulder. It hit Robert’s front tooth and broke it in half. They took her to Dr. I.P. Brown in Santa Paula. He put a plastic cap on it, which turned yellow in about a month. Finally, in about the 9th grade, he fixed it the way it should have been fixed in the first place.
In 1951, Harold Paregien went to work for Newhall Land & Farming Company. The company provided a clapboard frame house for them, located 6 miles east of Piru, Calif. It was on the south side of Highway 126, about a hundred yards east of the Ventura-Los Angeles County line marker. It sat on a high bluff overlooking the Santa Clara riverbed, with an active railroad track about 40 yards to their north and the highway just north of that. They lived there until Aug., 1955.
During this time, both Stan and Roberta had a series of horses. Roberta had a large, beautiful pinto named “Tony” that had a really soft gait (single-footed); but it was too much for a little girl. Then she got another large horse, this one a plodding, hard-to-motivate red-colored horse named “Red Wing.” This normally very gentle horse bucked her off one day when she was riding along Highway 126, and she landed on her head and neck.
Her best horse was a smaller pinto, perhaps a Welch breed, named “Little Bit”. She could ride that horse like the wind.
Their horse-riding buddy was Ann Walker, who lived about three miles east of them. One winter day they–Ann, Stan and Roberta–went for a ride due south of their house, up the mountain. They had never been in that area before, and discovered an old line camp up there. It was such a long ride that they did not get back until long after supper time, and Evelyn was very worried about them.
During the summers, Evelyn, Stan and Roberta all used to go swimming almost every day over at the ranch headquarters at the McBean home. They also earned a few dollars in the fall by picking up the English walnuts in the nearby orchards.
In 1954, there on the Newhall Ranch, Harold would let Roberta drive the family car into the garage by herself. Of course, her feet did not quite reach the gas or the brake peddles. As she pulled in, Harold would stand in front of the car and motion for her to pull it up more. One day he was doing that and told her to stop, but she hit the gas instead of the break. Fortunately for Harold, he quickly jumped up on the hood of the car as it continued forward until it hit his workbench.
John and Vada Cauthen were Roberta’s maternal grandparents. They moved to far west Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1946 from Wapanucka, Oklahoma.
The family moved to the west side of Tulsa, Okla., in Aug., 1955. They were just three or four miles to the east away from her Grandma and Grandpa Cauthen’s house. In 1956, while living in Tulsa, Okla., she and her cousin, Jona Ruth Cauthen, were riding on a motorcycle with a friend and had a wreck.
Roberta and Stan both had bit parts in the wedding ceremony of Johnny Cauthen and Ethel. The wedding was at the Church of Christ (non-Sunday School) in Sand Springs, Okla. Robert and Jona Ruth Cauthen were candle girls and had dresses just alike. Roberta remembers that nearly everyone in the wedding party had sunburns from being at the lake, and that her dress really scratched her sunburn.
The family moved back to California in August, 1956, and lived on the Samuel Edwards Ranch, one mile west of Piru [in Ventura County; see map, above]. Stan started the 10th grade at Fillmore High School, while Roberta went to nearby Fillmore Junior High.
Roberta’s paternal grandfather, Frank Paregien, of Santa Paula, Calif., had a heart attack and died on Sept. 6, 1956 at the Foster Memorial Hospital in Ventura, Calif. He was just one day shy of his 71st birthday. He was buried in the cemetery at Santa Paula. [See his photo in the 1950 section.]
In July, 1957, Roberta and her mother went to the brand-spanking new Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif. Roberta was allowed to drive part of the way down there, even though she was only 13 at the time. Harold used to let her drive on the Turner Turnpike in Oklahoma long before she got a license.
In December, 1958, Roberta and Stan double-dated to the Christmas formal dance. She dated Jim “Tank” Edwards and Stan dated Judy Goodenough. It was one of the few times they double-dated.
Roberta was in the 10th grade the fall of 1959. That’s when Roberta and her friend Marla Brewer were helping her mother make some of her delicious donuts, using very hot grease. They were turning the donuts as they turned brown. The two teenagers got to acting silly and fighting over who got to turn the donuts. That’s when another accident happened. The pan of grease got knocked off the burner and hit the floor splashing hot grease everywhere. Evelyn tried to get to the two of them, but with grease all over the floor she was slipping and sliding. And the girls were repeatedly slipping and falling down.
Finally, they all got out of the grease. Marla’s legs were turning red, and Roberta was frantic because she could not see. Evelyn put the girls into the car and rushed into town to the doctor’s office. Roberta remembers that she was scared to death she was permanently blinded, but about halfway there she began to see a little blur of light. The doctor said Marla had 2nd degree burns to her legs. Roberta had 1st degree burns to her eyes, but she could see again once he cleaned the grease out of her eyes.
Roberta & Marla Brewer at Ventura Beach in 1959
In 1960, Roberta and her friends Janice Wilson and Larry Batey had a car wreck near “foothill” in Fillmore, Calif. The car turned over three times as it rolled down the hill.
Roberta graduated from Fillmore High School in June, 1961. She started to beauty college right away. In late 1961, Roberta was returning from Los Angeles with some friends. The driver went to sleep and ran into a telephone pole east of Fillmore.
Later in 1961, she was on her way to the Ventura Beauty School in her parent’s 1960 Comet on the rain-slick road and had a tire blow out. The car went spinning around, finally overturning in an orange orchard about 1/2 mile east of “Cave-in-Road” east of Fillmore. Ironically, she drove her parents’ car that day because she was afraid of driving her own 1956 Ford convertible on rainy days; but that may have saved her life.
In 1962, she was working in Oxnard, Calif., for a mortgage company. Her employer sent her to Los Angeles to the main office. There was a heavy fog at the time. And when someone stopped in front of her, she smashed into them.
As a result of all of the mishaps mentioned above, she has kept many doctors living in luxury. She still suffers from pains in her knee and neck, and has migraine headaches.
From 1964-68, she worked as a secretary-receptionist for Jenning Hansen Engineering in Ventura, Calif.
NOTE: Unless otherwise noted, the following statements in quotation marks are from material submitted by Roberta Paregien Fournier in December, 2005.
Roberta’s maternal grandfather, John Whitehead Cauthen, died on Sept. 12, 1963 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. In his last years he had suffered from a dementia similar to what today we would call Alzheimer’s Disease (back then they called it “hardening of the arteries”). He was buried in the Enterprise Cemetery just southwest of Wapanucka, Oklahoma.
She married David M. Loffswold on Sept. 17, 1967. Their marriage was performed at the East Ventura Church of Christ by minister W.W. (“Woody”) Allen, the father of Stan Paregien’s wife, Peggy.
“Dave” was the Personnel Director of the Montgomery Ward store in Ventura. They lived in Ventura until Sept., 1968, when he went to work for Litton Industries and they moved to Panorama City, Calif. Roberta took a craft class at night school, and this opened up a whole new world for her. She discovered she was talented at making things.
And speaking of making things, David and Roberta Loffswold had their first son, Douglas Loffswold, early in 1969 at Van Nuys, Calif. They lived in Panorama City until Jan., 1970, then bought their first house. It was in Simi, Calif.
Dave, who was a graduate of San Jose State University, Litton Industries transferred Dave to Lubbock, Texas in Sept., 1971. He and Roberta bought a house there.
“Doug at age 3 [in 1972] started reading the newspaper, and his knowledge of words was just incredible. Texas Tech University even came out and gave him a lot of tests. He was also extremely good with music, and taught himself how to play the song THE STING on the organ.”
While living here in Lubbock, Roberta made three Christmas “wise men” figures. She entered them in the county fair and won FIRST PRIZE.”
Their second son, Bradley (“Brad”) Morris Loffswold, was born in Lubbock on a hot summer day in 1972. Stan and Peggy took Grandma Vada Cauthen with them from Oklahoma to see the new baby.
In Feb., 1973, David Loffswold was transferred by Litton Industries back to California. He and Roberta bought a house at 3109 Arlington Ave., Simi, Calif. 93063.
“Brad became very ill at this time. And for several years he periodically ran extremely high fevers. It was very common for his temperature to get up to 105 degrees. And he ended up once in the hospital for tests, and they gave him pneumonia.
“This was happening when Doug was already going to school each day. So I was looking for something for Brad to do. I found a really helpful Tiny Tot group, where the kids would met at a park recreation building 3 mornings a week. Each mother had to work 1 of the 3 days. That was a lot of fun, and I made some great friends with this group.”
Roberta’s paternal grandmother, Mrs. Frank (“Mattie”) Paregien, died in the Memorial Hospital in Santa Paula, Calif., on Feb. 27, 1973, at the age of 82. [See the photo of Frank and Mattie in the 1950 section.]
Roberta’s maternal grandmother, Vada Walters Cauthen Wheeler Skinner, died in Tulsa, Okla. on Aug. 30, 1976. She, like her first husband, John Cauthen, was buried next to him in the Enterprise Cemetery just southwest of Wapanucka, Okla. [See a nice photo of John and Vada in the 1954 section.]
Evelyn and Roberta were in Tulsa for the funeral. The family had to decided on a date for the funeral – either on September 1 (Roberta’s birth date) or on September 2 (her cousin Rhonda Cauthen’s birth date). Evelyn asked Roberta’s permission to go ahead and have it on September 1st.
“I said okay. That was a real heartbreak for me. Grandma Cauthen had ALWAYS sent me birthday cards every single year. And now we were having her funeral on my birthday.” The funeral service was conducted on September 1, 1976 at Sand Springs and the burial was at the Enterprise Cemetery near Wapanucka (Johnston County), Oklahoma. And the photo you see, above, was the birthday cake that Evelyn got for Roberta later that same day at Grandma Cauthen’s house where they were staying.
Roberta continues: “And here is a strange little story for you. About a month after the funeral, I was ironing some mending tape onto a quilt. My ironing board cover had seen better days and then I remembered that my mother, several years earlier, had given me a new cover. I found the new cover and proceeded to put it on my ironing board.
“Then I started ironing, again. All of a sudden something hit the floor. I looked down and saw it was a letter. And the minute I saw it I knew it was a letter from Grandma Vada Cauthen. She had some light blue stationery with pansy flowers on it. Her letter was SEALED. It had NEVER BEEN OPENED. And it was dated seven years prior.
“I immediately began to cry. Then I opened it up and this is what Grandma had written seven years before: ‘Sorry I can’t be with you on your birthday.’
“I got to thinking back to when we moved from Simi, California to Lubbock, Texas. Mother had given me several items, including that ironing board cover, that I just stuck in a box. I must have stuck that letter in there, too. And somehow it got stuck down inside the ironing board cover. I am still amazed that her letter would stay lost until she passed away and then show up shortly after her death to wish me a happy birthday.”
Dave Loffswold then accepted a job with Harrah’s Casino in Reno, Nevada and the family moved there. He was the personnel director and the company had over 7,000 employees.
Roberta and Dave separated in August of 1977 and divorced in December of 1977. Even worse, after just a few years, David had no further participation in or even any interest in the lives of his sons.
Roberta and her two sons moved back to Fillmore, Calif., and lived with her parents for a while. Then she moved to a rent house in Simi, Calif. She started selling and building swimming pools as a dealer for Foxx Pools. And that is how she met Norman Patric Fournier at a Foxx Pools dealership convention. Norm was also a dealer for Foxx Pools, only up in Fresno, Calif.
A terrible flood hit the Los Serenos sub-division in Fillmore, California in the early spring of 1978. The house her mother and father lived in had over four feet of water inside it. The repairs took many weeks to perform, all during the time that Harold was dying from lung cancer.
One day, Roberta was driving from Simi to Fillmore with her mother, Evelyn. They had been crying about the awful flood situation. They decided they had
better eat something before they got to the house to start cleaning, so Evelyn took a bite of an apple. They were stopped at the intersection of Highway 126 and Highway 23, headed north. Evelyn choked on that apple, and got out of the car. Roberta ran around and grabbed her and did the Heimlich procedure on her, expelling the apple and cracking a rib in the process. A passing truck driver stopped, thinking Roberta was attacking Evelyn, but saw what was really happening and radioed for a fire department rescue unit. Roberta took her on to the doctor.
On May 9, 1978, Evelyn and Roberta somehow managed to take Harold to Dr. Swartout’s office for an appointment about 3:00 p.m. They asked about putting him in the hospital, and he said if they really wanted to do the kindest thing for him to just take him home. They got back home about 4:30 p.m. Harold died at about 8:15 p.m.
After the flood and the death of her father, Roberta wanted to be closer to her widowed mother. So she bought a home at 1149 Los Serenos, in Fillmore. It was just around the corner from her mother’s home and it, too, had seen water damage. The water had been over five feet deep in her house. She bought it cheaply, but had to do major repairs to it.
Roberta married Norm Fournier in Nov., 1980, at Las Vegas, Nev. They lived in her house in Fillmore, Calif. He began selling solar panels for a company in Santa Paula.
“When Mother married Chester Spradling on March 14, 1982, they decided to buy a new double-wide mobile home and live in a park east of Fillmore. So Norm and I bought her house because of the pool I had built at her house a year or two before the flood. So we moved down the street.
“We had opened a collector record store in Ventura. And it was doing very well. But I was working 6 days a week, which was very tiring.
“During this time we got to met so many singers. Norm and I went to a club in Hollywood every Tuesday night. That was their oldies night. Most of the singers we met there we also became good friends with — such as Hank Ballard, The Tokens, The Safarri’s, and Marvin & Johnny.
“Then at our record store there was always someone famous stopping by. Like Jimmie Rodgers (‘Honeycomb’), Sheb Wooley (‘Purple People Eater’), Jerry Wallace (‘Primrose Lane’), and Sonny Curtis of the Crickets (the group that backed Buddy Holly). We even did some special mail orders for singer Frankie Laine. Plus record producers use to stop in our store.
“But the best was Ritchie Valens’ mother [Connie Valenzuela]and her son Bobby. We became extremely close with them.” Valens died in the plane crash with Buddy Holly.
In April, 1981, she moved her record store from Ventura to 515 E. Main Street in Santa Paula. Then in 1983 they moved it to Los Angeles Avenue in Saticoy, Calif. They named it “The Record Fan,” as they sold both records and ceiling fans.
This view, looking northwest from Fillmore to San Cayetano Mountain was one of Roberta’s favorites. Thanks to Berta’s friend, Sharon Horn Villasenor, for emailing the photo to me. It does bring back some good memories for sure.
Christmas of 1985 at Chester and Evelyn (Cauthen Paregien) Spradling’s house off of Highway 126 in the east part of Fillmore, California. Clockwise: Chester Spradling, Stan Paregien Jr., Stacy Paregien, Doug Loffswold, Brad Loffswold, Roberta Paregien Loffswold Fournier, Eupel Paregien Higgenbotham (sister of Harold Paregien), Peggy Paregien and Evelyn. [Photo by Stan Paregien Sr]
On March 29, 1987 the Ventura County Star-Free Press newspaper carried a large feature article about Roberta and Norm and their record shop.
In 1991 Roberta and Norm moved the store way up north to Jackson, Calif., in the foothills of the Sierra Mountains. Brad and Doug continued to live in the family home in Fillmore until it sold, and then they moved in with their grandmother Evelyn.
The store in Jackson was located at 139 Main St. They finally closed the store in January, 1995.
“We were living in Pine Grove and tried moving our store to a building on that property where the store was next door to where we lived in Pine Grove. But that location flooded, and ruined about $25,000 worth of records. Then it took us a year to fix the store back up. And a month later it flooded a 2nd time. I was just sick of the whole mess, and we permanently closed our store.”
Berta was an avid fan of Elvis Presley from the first time she heard him sing. She collected so much of his memorabilia that newspapers and TV stations have interviewed her about it. She started an Elvis Presley Fan Club in 1995 and was the president of it.
This is Norm & Berta Fournier on a visit to Wapanucka, the town in Oklahoma where she was born at the home of her maternal grandparents, John and Vada (Walters) Cauthen.
Front row: Christal Magness, Madelynn Loffswold, Daniel Paregien, Dylan Magness. 2nd row: Roberta P. Fournier and his mom Evelyn P. Spradling, her brother Stan Paregien, her maternal uncle Johnnie Cauthen. 3rd row: Peggy Paregien, Berta’s son Brad Loffswold, Stacy (Paregien & John Magness), her niece Jodi Paregien, and Jodi’s parents, Becky & Stan Paregien Jr.
In about 2003, they bought and moved into a small house on about two acres of land just northwest of Pioneer, California (about a half-mile north of Highway 88). Their address was 23574 Bonanza Road, Pioneer, CA 95666. It had 15 or 20 large oak trees on the property, as well as a garden area on the east side. Deer and wild turkey were frequent visitors. It was in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains in beautiful country.
However, they had bought the house when the real estate business was red hot. House prices were soaring and unscrupulous mortgage companies were reducing or flatly ignoring lending qualifications. So lots of folks across the country who could not really afford to buy a house were able to do so. Roberta and Norm were among them. Then the bubble popped. A depression hit the real estate market nationwide. And suddenly people with little disposable income found themselves living in homes where the value had dropped from 30 to 60%. They were stuck with homes they couldn’t afford and they couldn’t sell them, either.
In the summer of 2004, Norm and Roberta welcomed the arrival of her mother to live with them. Roberta’s son, Bradley Loffswold, and his wife (Michelle) and child (Madelynn) also lived on their property in a garage apartment.
Evelyn Cauthen Paregien Spradling had lived with her son and daughter-in-law, Stan and Peggy Paregien, in Edmond, Oklahoma for 11 years. But, at age 82, she was getting more frail. So they agreed that it would be best for her to move to Pioneer, Calif., since Stan and Peggy were still working full-time. Norm flew to Oklahoma, rented a U-Haul truck, and brought her furniture and belongings back to California.
“Evelyn, Roberta and Madelynn love to bake, and so they were always fixing something special to eat, especially cookies and cakes. Then Roberta and Madelynn both love to make things. They made some puppets for her class play. Plus lots of things for Easter, July 4th, and Christmas. They always had some craft project to work on.”
Roberta and Norm at Pioneer, Calif.
This 2009 photo taken in Pioneer, Calif., shows Evelyn Cauthen Paregien Spradling in May on the occasion of her 87th birthday. FRONT: Roland Loffswold and Evelyn. BACK: Norm and Roberta Fournier and Stan Paregien Sr.
By 2009, Roberta’s world was falling apart. Her health was rapidly deteriorating, largely to her reduced lung capacity. She had been a heavy smoker since her teens and watched as her own father basically sufficated to death from his emphesema/lung cancer. But that did not motivate her enough to give up her own addition. Now she had to be attached to a bottle of oxygen nearly 24-hours a day and was only able to sleep sitting up in her recliner.
Berta Fournier got to where she could only walk a few steps and then had to be pushed in a wheel chair. She is shown here in 2009 going out to eat at the big buffet at the Rancheria Casino east of Jackson, Calif. Others, L to R: Daniel Paregien (son of M/M Stan Paregien Jr.), Dylan and Christal Magness (children of M/M John Magness), Madelynn Loffswold (daughter of M/M Brad Loffswold), and Stan Paregien Sr. Photo by Peggy Paregien.
Her husband was very concerned and one day said to her, “Berta, if you don’t stop smoking, those cigarrettes will kill you.” She countered that with what she thought was a safe, fool-proof argument: “Well, Norm, I can’t stop smoking if you’re still smoking.”
To her great surprise, Norm reached into his shirt pocket, pulled out a pack of cigarettes and tossed them on the table. “Alright, then,” Norm said firmly, looking Berta right in the eyes, “I quit. Now you quit.” But she did not. We were all pleasingly surprized, though, that Norm could just quit “cold turkey.” He never smoked another cigarrette.
Berta claimed she had quit, but would sneak over and open a window. Then she would light up a cigarrette and blow the smoke outside through the screen. Norm never said anything, but he caught on to her little act early on. Eventually, she had to be on larger and larger intakes of oxygen, 24-hours per day and that is when she quit smoking. It was way too late.
They had stopped making monthly payments on their exhorbitant mortgage a year or two earlier. But they were allowed to continue living there as no bank or mortgage company at that moment wanted another house sitting empty. That didn’t keep them from badgering Roberta and Norm for money. One day Norm told another rude mortage company collector on the phone, “I’ll tell you what I’ll do. We’ll move out tomorrow and I’ll leave the key hanging out by the door.” The man backed off, saying “Oh, please, don’t do that. Maybe we can work something out.”
The mortgage company never worked anything out. And in the spring of 2010, they told Roberta and Norm that they were foreclosing and for them to be out of the house by May 31st.
Meanwhile, Norm was dying from liver cancer. Roberta certainly could not care for him when she couldn’t even care for herself, much less care for Mom (who was seriously debilitated by her dementia of the Alzheimer’s type. So one of Norm’s daughters by his first marriage, moved him to Reno, Nevada and to a small apartment where she could help him (she is a licensed nurse).
Right in the middle of this, Brad Loffswold and his family were also having to move out of their garage apartment on Roberta’s property to somewhere else elsewhere. So he began to look for a place where Roberta could also live with them.
Roland Loffswold sure did love his Grandma Berta
In mid-March of 2010, Peggy and I decided that Mom should live with us, again. So we drove to Pioneer, California and rented a big U-Haul Truck. Brad and Peggy helped me load Mom’s belongings. It was a sad, sad day for everyone as I drove that truck down off the hill with Peggy driving our car and Mom at her side. And then it got worse for Roberta.
Roberta in her bedroom/study on Sept. 22, 2010
Brad eventually found a duplex at 418 Preston Ave., Apartment B, in Ione, California 95640 that his family and his mom could squeeze into . . . and afford. It was tight, very tight.
Berta did have a small bedroom by herself, one with the recliner in which she continued to sleep, plus her computer and a secretarial type chair. Everything else, including most of her photo albums and scrapbooks and her music collection had to be stored in the one-car garage. She would spend the next six years of her life there, very seldom feeling well enough to venture outside. So her computer became her major link with her friends and family.
Then her husband Norman Patric Fournier–from whom she was separated because of his medical needs and her own limitations–died in Reno, Nevada on June 10, 2010. His body was cremated and there was no funeral service.
Meanwhile, back in Edmond, Oklahoma, Evelyn P. Spradling’s dementia was becoming acute. I came up with the idea of making a “Last Time Around” swing through southern California, visiting sites where she had once lived and visited with people she had known. I was hoping it might jog her memory and help her connect the dots, again. We saw lots of sights and folks along the way, and Peggy and I shed many tears as we experienced some terrible moments of dealing with Evelyn’s mental condition.
It was a heart-breaking ordeal for Roberta when, because of her frail health, she could not be present when her husband died nor when her mother died. Out of the depth of her sorrow, she wrote the following poem about her mother:
Peggy and I flew out to Ione, California to visit with Roberta and her son Brad and his family. As it turned out, this was the last time we saw her. She actually felt well enough to leave their home to go out and eat a couple of times, plus stopping at a thrift store or two. She and her mother had been Queens of the Garage Sale Circuit a few years back, when they were both able to get around on their own.
Stan & Berta in 2015
Oh, did I tell you she and our mother loved their deserts? When we went to a buffet, each of them would immediate head for the desert bar before getting anything else.
Robert’s health issues — emphysema, COPD, rheumatoid arthritis, etc. — became worse and worse. Her hands were often in such pain that she had to quite using her beloved computer for several days at a time. And her breathing was just a constant challenge, forcing many trips to the emergency room and stays in the hospital.
Then about 7 am on Sunday, May 31st, she had another serious inability to inhale enough oxygen. So Brad took her to the Amador Sutter Hospital in Jackson, Calif., and she was admitted late that afternoon when a bed finally was available.
The doctors placed a mask over her nose and mouth — a “B-pap,” I think is the term– to try to get her lungs to accept more oxygen. They told him if the mask did not work, there was only one thing left they could try and that would be to put her on a ventilator which would do all of the breathing for her. That would require a tube down her throat, preventing her from breathing; and they would have to feed her through a tube in her stomach; and she would have to be transferred to and live in a special facility for such treatment for the rest of her life, how ever long that might be.
Some time during the next couple of days, she received a special telephone call. Elaine Campbell Harris was first my girlfriend back in the dark ages (1956-57) and, after we stopped dating, continued as a friend of Roberta’s both by emails, Facebook and phone calls. Elaine herself has been bedridden for the last year or two. But she read on Facebook about Berta being in the hospital and tried to call her.
Later, after Berta’s death, Elaine phoned me and related that conversation. A staff member answered the phone in her room. Elaine explained she was a close friend of Roberta’s and would like to speak with her. That nurse told her that Berta could not talk at the moment because of wearing that “B-pap” mask and no family member was present right then. So Elaine said, “Just tell her that Elaine Campbell called and left this message, ‘I love you.'” The nurse conveyed that message to my sister and then told Elaine that Berta had smiled and pointed to her own heart, then to the phone, to have the nurse tell Elaine that she loved her, too.
Brad later reported he had watched as the nurses took the mask off of Roberta to try to get her to eat something. They had the mask removed for only about five minutes when she began to turn blue from lack of oxygen, so they quickly replaced the mask.
By Wednesday, June 3rd, the doctors had decided that the mask was not increasing the oxygen level in her blood. And Roberta had let them know in no uncertain terms that she refused to be placed on a ventilator. So the doctors told Brad to go ahead and arrange for a hospital bed for Berta to use at their home, and to arrange for hospice and home health assistance.
Late on the afternoon of Thursday, June 4th, a medical supplier delivered a hospital bed and set it up in her room. The doctors then released Roberta, minus the B-pap mask, and she was sent home with only the oxygen bottle she always used–and which could no longer keep her alive for long. They gave her doses of both morphine and an anti-anxiety drug to make her more comfortable. Her elder son, Doug Loffswold flew in from Portland, Oregon and made it to her beside about 9:30 that evening. She seemed to acknowledge his presence, but could say little. She lasted through the night.
Meanwhile, Stan and Peggy Paregien left their home in Bradenton, Florida about 3:30 am (EDT) on Friday, June 5th, and drove to Tampa International Airport for a 7:20 am flight to Sacramento, Calif. Actually, it was a 4-part series of short flights strung together, so they did not arrive at the airport in Sacramento until about 3:30 pm, local time.
They made a call to Brad to let him know they had arrived. And that is when they learned Berta had given up on her long, hard fight and breathed her last breath about 11:00 am that morning. They continued on to Brad’s house, arriving about 5:30 pm. There they learned Berta’s remains would be cremated. And because few, if any, of her friends could attend a funeral service the decision had been made not to have one.
Please take a minute to scroll back to pages 35 and 36. The two poems there, “Come With Me” and “I’m Free,” are just as appropriate for Roberta as they were for our mother, Evelyn. Please re-read them with Roberta in mind.
The following two photos of Roberta were taken by Peggy Paregien during our 2014 visit with Roberta there at her home with Brad in Ione, California. As you can see, she still had those beautiful blue eyes (as did our father). And the second photo is a good example of her laughing and making the best she could of her life. She will be missed, so terribly, by each of us who knew and loved her. Berta, dear Berta, . . . we will not forget you and we will always love you.
Roberta Louise Paregien Loffswold Fournier (“Berta”) in 2014
See the information below about her two sons and her two grandchildren. At the very end you’ll find out how to view many more photos of Roberta and her family, and how to contact Stan Paregien.
1. Bradley Morris Loffswold
Bradley Loffswold was born in the summer of 1972 in Lubbock, Texas. ”Brad was born when we lived in Lubbock. In Feb. of 1973 we moved back to Simi Valley and bought a home on Arlington Way. Brad learned his ABC’s
and was talking up a storm. When Brad was about 1 years old he started developing extremely high temperatures, some as high as 105 degrees. He then, started not being able to say his ABC’s, and he quit talking. The fevers
were really affecting him.
”We ended up at UCLA hospital, and the only thing they could think of was Jr. Arthritis. But I did not believe this for a second. But the fevers continued for over a year, and he was on antibiotics almost the entire year. The pediatrician wanted to put him in the hospital to run tests for “fever of unknown origin”. He was fine and no fever when they put him in for these test. But a couple days later, his fever spiked. They wrapped him in ice cold blankets with no clothes on, and THEY ended up giving him pneumonia. He was so very sick, and the Dr. one evening said if he is not better tomorrow we are going to air lift him to UCLA to do a lung tap test. He was not talking, and was just almost in a coma like state, and laying there in an oxygen tent over his bed and he had not eaten in several days. I was just at my wits end, and was afraid he was going to die. I went out to grab a quick bite of dinner.
”When I returned about 30 minutes later I found him sitting up in bed, and he was eating a plate of spaghetti, and he was talking. It truly was a miracle. After spending a week in the hospital, and so close to death, I could not believe his turn around, in just a few minutes.
”Brad came home from the hospital and I thought I will never let the doctors put him through this again. At this point he was so weak that he could no longer walk, and I had to carry him everywhere. He still was having high fevers off and on. Finally Evelyn talked Roberta into taking him to a Chiropractor. Roberta knew they could help with back problems, but did not think they could help with fevers, but as a last resort, we took him. On his first treatment, he was running a temperature, but by the time the treatment was over his fever was gone. We then took him in for treatments for about 6 months, and finally his fevers had gone away.
”We moved to Reno, Nevada in 1977. Then we moved back to Simi Valley. Then in 1978 we bought a house in Fillmore, just down the street from Evelyn Paregien (Grandma). That worked out great. They stayed with Grandma about 1/2 the time, and the boys loved being near her.”
Roberta built a swimming pool at Grandma’s house. Brad and Doug become great swimmers, and practically lived in the pool. “Brad started kindergarten in Fillmore and went there through 12th grade. He took his S.A.T. test and finished early. Brad was very involved in drama during school. He became very close with his drama teacher. A couple years after high school, his drama teacher was teaching at Beverly Hills high school, and she had Brad come down and act in their school plays.
”Experience as a professionally trained actor allows Brad the capability of performing multiple ‘roles’, in both movies and live play productions. Brad was in the TV show ‘BEVERLY HILLS 90210’ several times. He also was in the TV series ‘RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK.’ He also appeared in the TV show ‘PARKER LEWIS CAN’T LOOSE.’ He has performed in a variety of skits and plays for schools, community groups and businesses; topics included parodies, original skits, improv exhibitions and office satire. Wrote original material and collaborated with other writers to develop skits and plays. He also designed and built sets and props.
”Brad worked 1 year for a swimming pool company, putting gas concentrated chlorine into swimming pools. Brad worked as manager of PET BARN, in Ventura for 5 years as manager.
”Brad and Michelle Loffswold had a daughter they named MADELYNN RAE LOFFSWOLD. She was born in the summer of 1996. One spring day in 2002 Brad married his long time sweetheart, Michelle Maddox.
”Brad worked 2 years for Kinko’s printing company. They were living in Ventura. Michelle worked for her Mother’s daycare facility in Santa Barbara.
”In 2003 Brad and his family moved to Pioneer, Calif., right next door to his Mother, Roberta. This was so wonderful having family right next door. Michelle got a job working with county agencies, in training daycare workers, and she loved her job.
”Brad got a job that he loved, doing tours through a local cave. Brad was Lead Tour Guide/Cavern Naturalist, at Black Chasm Cavern, Volcano, California, from Sept 2003 to January of 2005. He became Certified for cave rappelling. He gave guided tours through cave, and ran the gift shop as manager. Plus he trained other tour guides.
”Madelynn did fantastic in school. She was always winning awards. She excelled in Match, and reading. She even won a bicycle at her school for reading a certain number of books.
”In 2005 Brad and his family moved to Agoura Hills, CA. Michelle went to work at a daycare facility. Brad went to work for a company that tests games, for cell phones and x-boxes, and he is enjoying his work.”
Sometime later, they moved back to Pioneer, California to live in the garage apartment next to the home of his mother and stepfather. In 2010, after the place went into foreclosure and they were all evicted, they moved to Ione, California, where they live presently. In the spring of 2015 they started their own child care center, with Michelle as the director. It has become so successful they are adding on to their building and hiring more staff.
At this time (June, 2015), their daughter Madelynn Loffswold works at a fast food restaurant and has since her graduation in 2014 from high school in nearby Jackson. Roland is now in the fourth grade and enjoying several sports and acting.
2. Douglas Loffswold
The following information was submitted by Doug:
Doug Loffswold was born early in 1969, in Van Nuys California. The family moved around quite a bit, and when the dust settled, a second son, Bradley was born. The family landed in Simi Valley, California.
Doug was unusually bright, and began to read at the age of two. By the age of three he was embarrassing his parents with complicated questions about who “Deep Throat” was, as he picked up the latest story about Nixon and Watergate.
This proved to be meddlesome however, when he entered kindergarten. His reading comprehension was already that of a senior in High School, while his classmates were still learning their ABC’s. It was decided he would be moved ahead into the first grade.
All through school, Doug excelled in English classes, but because he skipped a few basic lessons in Kindergarten, certain subjects like Math and Geography were tough. Doug was more of a dreamer and spent more time looking out of the classroom windows, wondering about the life cycles of caterpillars and the shapes of leaves rather than learning about what year the Louisiana purchase was made.
In high school he joined the Drama club and Jazz band, playing drums. Later he was in the marching band. He wrote poetry and short stories, and taught himself how to play the guitar. By the time he was a senior in High School, he’d picked up a Super-8 movie camera, and with his friends as actors, started making films. Once he’d acquired a multi-track audio recorder, he started making his own soundtracks for the films, editing and adding sound effects like a one man band… but with film.
He graduated High School in 1986, and after a few fits and starts in Ventura, moved to Oakland in 1989. Throughout the next few years, he made more films, played music in several different bands, and by 1994 he found that audio editing was something he excelled at. He and a friend started a group called Screenbred, the name referring to how the people of his generation were brought up on various screens of different types- be they movie, TV or ATM screens, this Generation X (as it was now called) were surrounded by them.
The music was a cut and paste pastiche of “Found Sound” (Children’s records, cassettes found in thrift stores, audio clips from TV etc.) mixed with live instrumentation. The result was something that sounded like a humorous cross between radio drama and rock and roll, with an eye toward skewering the status quo by re-editing the junk we’re bombarded with in the media every day, and serving it up anew as a tongue in cheek criticism of media.
After spending nearly a decade in the Bay Area, Doug moved to Portland, Oregon several years ago. That is where he lives today. He works for a large corporation, and he is still active in his creative pursuits
for a large corporation. He is still active in his creative pursuits.
This is the final installment of “1959–Photos from 55 Years Ago.”
I hope you will enjoy this last ride through the memories of my youth.
That Vintage Year of 1959
a poem by Stan Paregien
I woke up on that New Years Day in 1959 At our farm house surrounded by trees. And I’m sure, in sunny Piru, California then My mom’s garden was filled with bees.
I took this photo (looking north) in 2010 of where my parents lived on the Samuel Edwards Ranch in Piru, Calif., for over 20 years. The house and garage, now green, were white until some time after my parents moved into Fillmore in the 1970s. And there were several large shade trees around it. This was, indeed, a quiet and relaxing place to live. The huge orchard of orange trees which once stood to the front of our house (south) is now complete gone.
There was an assumed and so very natural Feeling of love and safety in that place. There were no protestors or demonstrators Violating your valued personal space.
My sister, Roberta, and I were awfully lucky To have friends and relatives nearby Who were quick to hug us when we hurt And to share happiness with a high-five.
Our mother, Evelyn, was a cafeteria manager At Piru and Fillmore elementary schools. Both by personality and her own drive, She excelled using her God-given tools.
In 1959 our father, Harold, had barely begun His farm labor work on Samuel Edwards Ranch. He was kind of a moody man with simple tastes Who irrigated and trimmed many an orange branch.
On January 3rd Alaska became our 49th state And ol’ Clint debuted with “Rawhide” on Jan. 9. And he was supported by Sheb Wooley playing Cowhand Pete Nolan, a role he did just fine.
My pal Shorty Williams and I took our girlfriends To the Santa Paula Drive-In but it was so foggy We couldn’t see the movie screen; but we stayed And necked so long and hard it made us groggy.
Then came that awful snowy February 3rd day in Iowa when three singers died at the same time. Buddy Holly, Richie Valens and “The Big Bopper” Died in a plane crash, killed in their very prime.
Life, we learned, does go on and by February 9th “Charlie Brown” by The Coasters peaked at #2. And I took a girl named Judy to a Hawaiian dance, Where across the floor we kinda, sorta flew.
Gloria Casas – Elaine Campbell
In the spring our chorus performed one week night, And afterwards Gloria Casas and I had a date. We drove around and at a stop light in Santa Paula Faced my ex, Elaine, as preordained by fate.
Way down yonder in Cuba on February 16th Fidel Castro christened himself the Big Dog. Meanwhile, the new “Barbie Doll” came out And sold 800 million like rolling off a log.
My civics teacher, Charles Mozley, was funny And had one brown eye and the other one blue. He often said, “I can stand anything at all but Pain and temptation,” and that leaves little new.
Well, our little church was without a preacher man, So I filled in when a real sub could not be found. And by mid-spring I was actually looking to go off To some ministerial school when fall came ’round.
Marilyn Monroe and Jack Lemmon confirmed What we teenagers knew: “Some Like It Hot.” And boxer Floyd Patterson won his big title by Beating champion Brian London slicker’n snot.
Several of us ditched school to go down in the Piru Creek to watch Tony Curtis put on an act, For he was filming the movie “The Defiant Ones,” But we got caught playing hooky and that is a fact.
1959 was the 75th anniversary of Fillmore town, So the “old-time look” themed our yearbook, And in 1900s-type clothes many of us met for Photos at Barnsdall’s every cranny and nook.
The very first Grammy Awards came out May 4, With Perry Como and Ella Fitzgerald on top. Bob Zimmerman up in Minnesota graduated in ’59, But you know him as Bob Dylan with a hairy mop.
On May 8th, I took Judy to the Festival Coronation, Where Nancy Brooks was named the Queen. We left that ceremony in favor of Kenny’s Grove, After all, I was a typical boy and only seventeen.
Next came my initiation into the Letterman’s Club, An honor that all young men strived to achieve. However, our inductors tortured us and beat us, And dumped us into a pool for fun, don’t you see?
Our “Senior Ditch Day” took us by bus to L.A., To Knott’s Berry Farm and the new Disneyland. We guys did not venture onto many fast rides, But we chased the girls around to beat the band.
SENIOR DITCH DAY: Sue Vest, Linda Burke, Mary Shipley, Judy Greer, Diana Hunter, Janet McDowell, Patsy Campbell, Martha White, Glenda Gregory, Susie Warring, and Mary Ann Steppler. As of May 1, 2014, I am aware of the deaths of Mary Shipley Real, Judy Greer Segler, Diana Hunter and Susie Warring Pennington.
On the morning of our graduation, I borrowed my parents’ 1957 Pontiac and drove to Fillmore and picked up my buddy Orbie Ingersoll. He took his .22 rifle and I took my Remington pump .22 rifle and we went big game hunting. Well, sorta. All we shot was this hawk (I think) and a few more unlucky assorted birds. After we cooked the hawk and ate it, we both agreed that it really wasn’t bad. It tasted like, well, . . . the taste was sorta between that of a California Condor and a Bald Eagle.
Okay, okay. Lighten up. It is a joke.
On June 11th we all graduated from ol’ FUHS,
And I took Judy to the all-night party time.
That was a big turning point in our young lives And to leave all that behind seemed like a crime.
The next day Judy and I met Garland and Barbara,
Shorty and Roberta, Duane and Paula at the sea.
We never got in the water but blistered in the sun And accomplished our simple mission successfully.
That evening my family left for Tulsa, Oklahoma, Via the Grand Canyon and old cowtown Fort Worth. We also stopped at Madill to visit “Paregiens 5 & 10,” Owned by Arbun and Mable, cousins of dad by birth.
It took us many years of begging, but my father finally gave in and drove us by the beautiful Grand Canyon on our trip east.
Roberta and Stan at the Grand Canyon in the summer of 1959
Siblings Roberta & Stan Paregien in 1959, entering New Mexico
My maternal uncle, Sidney Cauthen, worked at Convair in Fort Worth, Texas as an electrician. He and several other men were working on one of these “B-58 Hustler” bombers when something caused it to instantly catch fire. Two or three men died at the scene, while two or three other men–including my uncle–were badly burned and sent to the hospital.
Fort Worth, TX: Seating are Stan Paregien and his sister Robert. Standing, l to r, are Harold and Evelyn Paregien with her parents Vada (Walters) and John Cauthen.
Fort Worth, TX: Stan Paregien and his father, Harold, with Harold’s father-in-law (Stan’s maternal grandfather) John Cauthen
Vada (Walters) and John Cauthen at the home of their injured son, Sidney Cauthen, in Fort Worth, Texas in the summer of 1959.
Roberta Paregien with our maternal grandfather, John Whitehead Cauthen, as we were leaving Texas and just crossed the Red River into Oklahoma (near Thackerville).
“Paregien’s 5 & 10 Cent Store” on the southwest side of the town square in Madill, Oklahoma. It was owned and run by Arbun and Mable Paregien, with help from his sisters Opal and Ivy Paregien. That is myself and my sister Roberta at the far left.
In Tulsa my cousin Sonny and I went out to the
Bells Amusement Park to kick around the place. Instead, I met Pasty Bell–daughter of the owner– And spent my time admiring her lovely face.
Tulsa, OK: Opal (Cauthen) Radtke with Diana Cauthen; Harold and Evelyn Paregien with Rhonda Cauthen on her lap; John and Vada (Walters) Cauthen, and Johnnie and Ethel Cauthen — parents of the children, Diana and Rhonda.
However, at my grandparent’s church on June 21, I met a cutie named Janice who was real sweet. She and I in time became sweethearts and then, Back to old friends who sometimes email or Tweet.
Along about June 22nd came those great Coasters With “Along Came Jones” peaking at Number 9. Earl K. Long, Governor of Louisiana was declared nuts, But he promptly kicked the hospital folk’s butts.
Early in the summer Shorty, Mike, Anne, Janet and I All frolicked in the surf and on the Rincon beach. It was a time of good-natured, mostly carefree fun And we savored it like a sweet Georgia peach.
On July 14, I bought my first car–a 1955 Mercury Which had a standard shift and that’s about all. Still, I polished and shined that ebony baby often ‘Cause in it I was traveling wide and having a ball.
Then there was the time sometime in good ol’ summer of 1959
When Shorty Williams, Mike Amey and I went up Sespe Creek.
We soon shed all of our clothes (except at photo time) on the bank,
With no absolutely no one around to sneak a little peek.
Stan Paregien–weighing in at a trim 155 pounds, at Sespe Creek north of Fillmore, Calif., in 1959.
Ferrill “Shorty” Williams
I remember dating a local girl, Janice, a few times That summer before I went off to preacher school. She had her hair cut short and was cute as a bug, And we went to the Drive-In movies as a rule.
On Sept. 15, there was an very odd turn of events when I took Judy and her little kid brother to the movie show. It was a long night because the kid, not Judy, sat in my lap And Judy just sat smiling at me with the kid in tow.
Hawaii became the 50th state of the good ol’ USA, But we were focused on the new “Bonanza” TV show. Meanwhile, Dr. Leakey found the oldest human skull, And it even looked like a couple of guys I know.
Late in September, off to the Amarillo Bible Work; I went in my sparkling black ’55 Mercury car. It was quite an adventure, getting there and back, ‘Cause I had never by myself ever driven that far.
I stayed in a boarding house on the near north side, Run by the H.C. Chandler family. They were awful good Christian folks who provided Food and fellowship to guys like me.
Herbert L. Gipson & Stan Paregien in 1960
G.B. Shelburne Jr. (portrait)
There at the Amarillo Bible School I studied Bible Under Herbert Gipson and G.B. Shelburne , Jr. They were dedicated, learned men of the Word So it was a pleasure to learn more and more.
After our evening Bible classes, maybe a dozen young men and women would reassemble at the Sagebrush Inn Cafe for refreshments. Often, we would start singing gospel songs because we were actually all pretty good singers. And it was not unusual for the other customers to applaud this spontaneous singing.
I used to hang out at Twigg’s Drive In on the near north side of Amarillo.
That is when I came under the siren spell of Carolyn, A Texan with a pretty face and a warm smile. We dated frequently, but not exclusively, back then But there was no talk of walking down the aisle.
I quietly celebrated my 18th birthday in Amarillo, And Janice wrote she was going steady with a guy. So I turned all of my interest toward this Carolyn, Only for her to say, “Before I’ll go steady, I’ll die.”
Life in 1959 was not all roses and California sunshine, ‘Cause deejay Alan Freed took payola and was gigged. Then brainy Charles Van Doren confessed his sins, That “21,” the TV quiz show, was dishonestly rigged.
Also, on Nov. 6th, my mother’s brother Sidney Cauthen Died in Fort Worth from his burns on May 14. He was an electrician on the B-58 Hustler Bomber When it caught fire and he had nearly died at the scene.
There was this quite awkward moment at the ABW Thanksgiving Seminar when I was double-booked. The understanding was that I would take Carolyn, But Janice from Tulsa showed up and I was hooked.
The Everly Brothers recorded on December 15th “Let It Be Me,” another song destined to be a hit. Still, just singing that romantic song to a pretty girl Never did really help us score, we have to admit.
I spent Christmas vacation at the Tulsa house of my Grandparents, John and Vada Cauthen, in Oklahoma. And, sure enough, I dated Janice all during Christmas time, So the vintage year of 1959 ended with a pleasant aroma.
1959 had been the most exciting, perplexing, challenging Period in this ol’ country boy’s sheltered young life. Little did I know, of course, that the next fifty-plus years Would be similarly filled with peace, joy and some strife.
Fact is, though, that for each of us there is a rhythm In life to which we must adjust so we can do our best. And here’s hoping for all of you–and also for aging me– We will pass with flying colors each and every test.
[COPYRIGHT NOTICE: This poem, Stan Paregien’s
368th, was completed on May 8, 2014. It is copyrighted
and all rights reserved. Permission is hereby given to copy
without altering any of the text–but not for monetary gain,
subject to inclusion of this copyright notice in its entirety.
Any commercial use requires written permission from
Stan Paregien at 1127 48th Avenue East, Bradenton, FL 34203.]
Other photos from 1959
Roy Grover and Ron Golson, original members of the Piru Mafia. That was a little joke I used about all of us guys who grew up in the Piru area. Interestingly, folks, today in Los Angeles there really is a gang known as “The Piru Mafia.” Where and how it started I have no idea, except these two gentle souls had nothing to do with it.
Peggy (Allen) Paregien’s brother, Tim Allen in Ventura, Calif.
Tim Allen and dog
Peggy Allen (Paregien) in 1959 with her little brother Tim in Ventura.
Charlotte (Allen) Gardner & son Terry; Paula Allen; child Tim Allen; W.W. (“Woody”) Allen & wife Pauline (Meador) and Peggy Allen in 1959 in Ventura, Calif.
“The Melody Men Quartet” in Ventura, Calif., in 1959. Left to right: W.W. (“Woody”) Allen, Archie Luper (founder of the “Looper’s” restaurants and motels), Richard (“Dick”) Hood (groceryman in Fillmore and Ventura; long-time elder in Ventura), and Tom Harris, who preached for the Church of Christ in Camarillo, Calif.
Ralph and Celestine Downey are shown in the home of Harold & Evelyn Paregien in Piru, California in 1959. Ralph at that time was a salesman for the Pontiac dealership in nearby Fillmore and was the preacher for the local congregation of the Church of Christ. He baptized me, my sister Roberta and (a few years later) our father, Harold. He had a booming bass voice. And in combination with soprano Irene Horn, they could make the church rafters shake.
These “cool dudes” were me and my cousin Roger Paregien in 1959 at my parents’ house in Piru. He and his brothers Danny and Bobby graduated from high school in Bakersfield, and all were involved in the high school wrestling programs. They were the sons of Bueford and Theada (Clifford) Paregien.
This is my sister Roberta Paregien and our dog “Mickey” on the steps of the house one mile west of Piru, California–surrounded by about 300 acres of orange trees.
This photo shows my mother’s sister, Opal (Cauthen), with her husband Harry Snell. They were on vacation in 1959 and visited the Paregiens at the ranch west of Piru. At the time they lived on the near-northwest side of Tulsa. A few years later they moved to a large acreage west of Jay, Oklahoma. Eventually they moved into the town of Jay, where she died and he followed a few years later.
That ol’ Rincon beach near Ventura, California was where a lot of folks spent considerable time. In this photo Roberta Paregien and classmate/friend Marla Brewer are building a . . . a, uh . . . well, maybe a castle. Or something. I have been corrected about my earlier statement that Bill DeJarnette (our former neighbor on the Samuel Edwards Ranch) had served as the Chief of Police in Fillmore. Not so, according to my sister. It was Marla Brewer’s brother, Bill Brewer. Well, heck, at my age I consider it a triumph and “close enough to correct” to have gotten the first name right.
Jim “Tank” Edwards takes Stan Paregien for a ride on his shoulders. Photo taken at Rincon beach near Ventura, Calif., sometime in 1959.
That’s the end of my diverse collection of photos from that vintage year of 1959. I hope you have enjoyed the ride.
By the way, if you have photos about the Fillmore, California “Class of 1959 and would like to share them, I’d sure like to see them.
Best wishes to one and all,
P.S. Be sure to see the previous three installments of 1959 photos.
Oh, boy, where did all the years go? In about eight weeks it will have been 55 years since I graduated with the Class of 1959 at Fillmore Union High School in Fillmore, California. So I’m going to take a few blog posts to reflect on that great year of 1959.
The above photo is of me and my sister, Roberta (Class of 1961). I’m wearing my “Senior Sweater,” but I only got a couple of years of wear out of it because in the fall of 1961 a thief broke into my car and stole it and everything else. The photo was taken at the Samuel Edwards Ranch (now part of the large Limoneria corporation) located 1 mile due west of Piru, California. The orange orchards were snuggled up against the mountain on the north side of the Santa Clara Valley.
Ah, yes, those “white bucks” made popular by singer/movie star Pat Boone and others.
This was our dear, sweet momma — Mrs. Harold (Evelyn Cauthen) Paregien. She was a couple of inches taller than my father and an inch or so shorter than I, so she was about 5′ 10″ in her prime. However, in her 70s she began to experience severe curvature of the spine. At her death in 2011 she was probably only about 4′ 7″. Though she was in constant pain, and that bent over position eventually made it hard for her to breath, she seldom complained. She was a strong, loving Christian woman and we all miss her terribly.
This is a view from up on Goodenough Road, looking west across Sespe Creek to the mountain. Mighty beautiful area.
A bunch of us in the Class of 1959, plus several other adventurous types, ditched school one day to go to Piru. The occasion was the filming of some scenes for a movie starring Tony Curtis and Sidney Portier. It is a black-and-white film titled, “The Defiant Ones.” Look for it on late, late night TV once in a while. There was no such thing as “security” on that movie set, so we walked right up and visited with Tony Curtis. Sidney Portier was not working that day. One of us asked Mr. Curtis, “Who has the female lead in your movie?” And Tony smiled and said, “Oh, we don’t have a female lead. Tony and I fall in love.” Back then, that was a joke.
Alas, FUHS’s truant officer was alive and well. Though he didn’t actually physically catch us, he knew who we were and the jig was up.
Another time that year, a high-profile murder trial was going on at the Court House in Ventura. It was gory and sensational. The prosecutors claimed an older woman hired someone to kill her daughter-in-law. So, since we were fans of “Perry Mason,” Ferrill Williams, Mike Amey and I went to the “Duncan trial.” I don’t remember if she was convicted and punished or not. But I know we three were discovered, convicted and punished with detention time.
You see, friends and neighbors, it is not easy being sexy Seniors and on the cutting edge of being “cool.”
The above photo is of my father’s sister, Mrs. Eupel (Paregien) Higgenbotham and her husband John. He managed an orange and lemon farm on the north side of Highway 126, some 7 miles or so east of Santa Paula.
I am so stylishly dressed because this was “Letterman Club” initiation day at dear ol’ Fillmore H.S. The existing members of the Lettermen Club probably would be locked up in jail if that did today what they did to us back then. I get teary-eyed just thinking about it. Well, sorta.
The above photo is of a wonderful group of thugs . . . , er, I mean . . . upstanding (see, they are, too) young men. The leaders of tomorrow. The cream of the crop. The elite. The . . . , oh heck, you get the idea. There was a lot of talent and brain-power in this group, contrary to the old “jock” stereotype.
The above photo is of my sister, Roberta, and her date Carroll Beard. He was the older brother of my best friend (and the best man in my wedding), Duane Beard. Duane and Carroll had an awfully good-looking sister named Ruth. Duane died in Oklahoma a few years back.
Gee, look at that. I could actually grow a few chin whiskers back in 1959. Today, of course, I have a full beard, and one that is far more salt than pepper in color. Times they do change.
Hey, it looks like Don Ho is back and about to sing “Tiny Bubbles.” Or not. After my weekly Saturday night bath, I was mite near clean. But clean or not I was ready to rock and roll . . . to the music of Hawaii.
The photo above was taken at the wedding of Garrold Muth and Janice Ballenger, in Fillmore. The women, left to right, are Barbara Wallace, Linda Yount, Patsy DeJarnette (one of her brothers, Bill — otherwise known as “Rat” — later became the Police Chief in Fillmore), Sue Ballenger and Janice. On the right side are Anthony Rice, Ferrill (“Shorty”) Williams, Stan Paregien and Mike Amey.
The photo above shows me with the lovely Judy Goodenough, younger sister of my fellow Class of 1959 member Don Goodenough. We dated off and on for a year or more. This photo was taken at my parent’s home on the Edwards Ranch near Piru, Calif.
Issue 265 — The Paregien Journal — December 5, 2012
A Tribute to Harold Paregien
by Stan Paregien, Sr.
My father, Harold Paregien, was born on December 5, 1912. So today, December 5th, marks the 100th anniversary of his birth. And in honor of this hard-working, family-loving and unassuming man I have written a short book in tribute to him which I have simply titled, “Harold Paregien.” The 61 pages contain the story of his life, both in text and with loads of photographs.
Though he was born in Oklahoma and lived there until his mid-twenties, he spent most of his adult life within a 25 mile radius of Fillmore, Calif. He farmed on the Todd Estate (west of Santa Paula), the Newhall Ranch (right at the Los Angeles County and Ventura County line on Highway 126), between Piru and I-5. And he worked for the several years for the Samuel Edwards Ranch 1 mile west of Piru. Our family consisted of dad, my mom Evelyn, and my sister Roberta (now Roberta Fournier).
My short book (mostly photos) on my father, Harold Paregien, is now available online at no charge. So you may either read it online or download the PDF file to your own computer to keep and/or to distribute to others. You’ll find this book and some other items I’ve written at: