Tag Archives: Santa Paula California

Issue 316 – St. Francis Dam in Story & Song

The Paregien Digest  –  Issue 316  –  December 5, 2015

 Stan Paregien, Editor

The 1928  St. Francis Dam Disaster:

The Story & A Song

by Stan Paregien Sr.

Copyrighted 2015

 

The St. Francis Dam was built between 1924 and 1926 in the San Francisquito Canyon up in the Sierra Pelona Mountains about 10 miles north of what today is Santa Clarita, California (the site is about 40 north of downtown Los Angeles). It was built both as an additional source of water for Los Angeles and as a way to control occasional flooding downstream in the Santa Clara Valley. The dam itself was a gravity dam made of concrete in was a curved fashion.

1928--43   St Francis Dam - William Mulholland

William Mulholland was both the General Manager of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and the “Chief Engineer” (though he had no engineering degree; he taught himself by reading engineering and geology books). He was directly responsible for the construction and maintenance of the dam.

1928--31   Modern map St_Francis_Dam_area_terrain_relief_1_svg

The modern map, above, shows the historic location of the St. Francis Dam in the center of the map.  [“St Francis Dam area terrain relief 1” by Kbh3rd – Own work. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Commons ]

It was Mulholland himself who chose the site for the dam, and that was the moment the disaster began. That area was known to be unstable. The original plan for the dam was for it to be 175 feet high with a capacity of 30,000 acres of water. In 1925, after the first concrete had been poured, Mr. Mulholland approved a change to a height of 185 feet and a reservoir capacity of 38,000. All this with very little structural change.

1928--32   St Francis Dam nearing capacity - failed on Mar 12, 1928

The dam was completed on May 4, 1926 and steadily filled the reservoir behind it. Some cracks and leaks were noted into 1927, but they were considered normal and in some cases attempts were made to seal them. But in the spring of 1928, heavy rains pushed the dam toward its capacity . . . and, significantly, it began to really leak. Lots of leaks.

Staff and concerned citizens finally demanded that Mulholland come up and inspect the dam himself. He did so on March 11, 1928. He declared it was safe and such leaks were normal and that crews would fix them in the coming days. All was well. 

It just over 24 hours later, at exactly 11:57 p.m. on March 12th,  when the mountainside on the left end of the dam collapsed and brought down the dam. A wall of water—estimated at 12.4 billion gallons and at least 120 feet high–roared down the canyon at 18 mph, carrying, most of the structure of dam far down into the canyon below. When the flood entered the Santa Clara Valley, it careened to the right and followed the Santa Clara River bed west toward the Pacific ocean at a height of about 55 feet and a  speed of 12 mph. It was 54 miles from the dam to the mouth of the Pacific Ocean.

1928--34   St Francis Dam - map to Ventura

Many small communities and larger towns lay in the path of the raging wall of water. There were no warning systems in place. It wiped out the village of Castaic Junction, where Highway 126 and present-day Interstate 5 intersect.

Some five miles downstream the deluge hit the spot where my father worked and where we lived in the mid-1950s. My father, Harold Paregien, was a farm laborer in the walnut orchards for the farming division of the Newhall Land and Farming Company. We lived in an old farm house which someone told us had survived the flood, but I have no verification of that.

The house stood at the eastern end of “the flats” which ran a mile or so to the west. The house was about a hundred yards or so east of the Los Angeles County and Ventura County line, and on the south side of the railroad track (between the track and a 25 foot bluff overlooking the normally placid Santa Clara River).

About a half-mile west of our house, the mountains on each side crowded the riverbed. In the attached photo, below, please note a “notch” in the low mountain ridge about 1/2 of the way from the left side. Highway 126 ran through there and many called that notch  “The Blue Cut.” That ridge of the mountain formed a natural bottleneck for the flood and backed up the murky flood waters to a considerable depth. Simultaneously, it created a gigantic whirlpool before shooting out the pass like a high pressure fire hose. It was there in the west flats in Ventura County that a terrible loss of life took place. It normally would have been deserted, with our farm house to the east and another farm house perched high on the hill (notch) just to the northwest on Highway 126. The farmer who lived there worked for the orange orchard division of Newhall Land and Farming Company.

1928--30   St Francis Dam break --  Flood - Santa Clara Valley - west of LA-Ventura County Line on Hwy 126

The Southern California Edison electric company had rented a spot of Newhall Land & Farming Company’s land or a temporary tent city set up on the far west flats. Some 150 men were building a new electric line project through the valley. They were sleeping when, with only a few shouts of warning, the awful wall of water—estimated at 20 feet high–engulfed them. Most survived, but 84 died horrible deaths. The rumor was that the company’s cash box containing hundreds, maybe thousands of dollars, was buried somewhere downstream.

1928--41   St Francis Dam - site of Edison Construction Crew at 'Blue Cut'

1928--42   St Francis Dam - Farmer Joe Gotardi searching for wife and 5 kids

When it reached the orange orchards a mile or so down on the south side of the river bed, Newhall Land & Farming Company executives believed the wave of water was at least 60 feet high to reach up as far as it did. The flood continued west on past tiny Piru and doing major damage to the community of Bardsdale and the town of Fillmore (the latter being where I graduated from high school in 1959).

At about 1:30 a.m. on what by then was March 13, 1928, the lonely telephone operator on duty at the Santa Paula switchboard received an urgent call. It was from an area manager telling her that the St. Francis Dam had collapsed and a deadly wall of water was rushing her way down the Santa Clara Valley. That local operator, Louise Gipe, notified the police and then called the on-duty telephone operator in Saticoy, just to the west of Santa Paula, alerting them to the immediate danger. Both operators called and awoke as many residents as they could, especially in the lower areas nearer the river.

There in Santa Paula, two motorcycle officers for the California Highway Patrol, got the warning. They roared down to the areas near the river, knocked on doors and yelled the message to evacuate toward higher ground right then. Those brave men, officers Thornton Edwards and Stanley Baker, were able to alert scores and scores of sleeping residents to the danger and those folks passed the message on to many of their neighbors. Thus, the officers effectually saved hundreds of people from certain death. In recognition of their bravery, a statue was erected 2003 in Santa Paula in honor of them and to their memory.

1928--39   St Francis Dam - Santa Paula memorial to motorcycle offiers

Photo by Stan Paregien Sr.

The flood waters ravaged Santa Paula and parts of Ventura before dumping many bodies and tons of mangled houses and trees into the ocean. The inland tsunami reached the Pacific Ocean at about 5:30 a.m. on the morning of March 13, 1928. It had taken 5 1/2 hours for the leading edge of the massive, raging wall of water to travel from the dam site to the Pacific Ocean 54 miles away. The wall spewed into the ocean near the tiny community of Montalvo an awful cocktail that was two miles wide and full of human and animal remains, mangled metal, splintered wood, sewage, asbestos products, insecticides, solvents, oil and gasoline, and much, much more.

1928--38   St Francis Dam - map by Ventura, Calif Star -- I think

Early estimates of the deaths from the flood were widely inaccurate. Over time the best guesses were that somewhere between 400 and 600 people died. That truth was hard to come by since there were a number of undocumented farm workers who died in the flood. There were people who went missing and whose bodies were never recovered. There were scores of relief agencies, such as the Red Cross and the Salvation Army, and military groups recovering bodies along the 54 mile path of destruction. There were scores of funeral homes assisting in trying to identify and document a large number of badly damaged bodies. And bodies from the flood were found as far south as the coast of northern Mexico. Making the number of deaths even more fluid is the fact that periodically additional victims were  found in the ruble, not just for years but for decades. The last flood victim discovered was in 1994, buried in the sand and mud along the Santa Clara River.

However, a graduate student named Ann Stansell in 2014 concluded her investigation and documentation of the known flood victims. The student at California State University (Northridge) wrote her master’s thesis on the subject and spent nearly three years searching death certificates, newspapers, funeral home records, family documents, etc., to catalog those who died.

Ms. Stansell’s investigation concluded that the authorities actually recovered 306 bodies, but only 240 of them were ever identified. There were another 125 people who went missing and were never found. Of those 125 missing people, family members made death claims on only 79 of those. So the proven dead (306) and the still missing (125) totals up to 431 people.

In addition, Ms. Stansell tabulated in a spreadsheet format the available date on 306 victims. That includes their name, age, town of residence, location at the time of the flood, nearest relative, and which funeral home handled each body. In many cases, she also provides a photo of the victim (often with other members of the family). All of this, of course, helps to make these large death numbers more real and manageable.

Some of her may be found online at the web site for the Santa Clarita (Calif.) Historical Society at:  http://www.scvhistory.com/scvhistory/ – annstansell_damvictims022214.htm .

The loss of life was horrific and heart-wrenching. But don’t forget the physical damages. Train tracks and train bridges, highway bridges and paved roads were destroyed. Powerline poles, transformer boxes and transmission lines were knocked down. Irrigation and farm equipment were completely ruined. Whole dairies and small businesses and hundreds upon hundreds of individual homes were washed away or mangled beyond recognition.  Horses, cattle, pets of all descriptions were killed or injured. Cars and school buses and commercial trucks were buried in muck. Large parts of groves of walnut trees, orange trees and lemon trees simply vanished. Church buildings, retail stores, mom and pop restaurants, warehouses, bars and barbershops either smashed to small pieces, swept off their foundations or so badly water-logged they were not only immediately unusable but ultimately unfixable. It was a 54 mile long crisis of an unbelievable magnitude of misery. The figure for property damages, even in 1928 dollars, must have been in the hundreds of millions of dollars.  

Let’s see how that played out for one company, the huge Newhall Land & Farming Company based in Newhall (now Santa Clarita), Calif. This is just a summary of the various farm lands that the flood ruined. The flood destroyed 1,000 acres of alfalfa. It destroyed 600 acres of dry land farming. It ruined 400 acres where an orange orchard once grew. It destroyed 80 acres where a pecan tree orchard was located. That totals a whopping 2,080 acres of farm land taken out of production, much of it permanently.

1928--35   St Francis Dam - Wm Mulholland and Van Norman inspect failure

Several investigations took place right after the flood, as there was great public concern about whether the construction of the Hoover Dam on the Colorado River—a project hundreds of times larger than the St. Francis—was another dangerous thing. In the end, even after modern studies, the main culprit seems to have been Mulholland’s misjudgment about the location of the dam and the stability of the earth beneath and adjacent to the dam. The official coroner’s inquiry was a judgement not only against William Mulholland but against the system itself as they concluded: “The construction of a municipal dam should never be left to the sole judgment of one man, no matter how eminent.”

Some people were so angry they posted signs in their yards which read, “Kill Mulholland.” To his credit, William Mulholland accepted the blame for the disaster. Part of his testimony was this: “Don’t blame anyone else, you just fasten it on me. If there was an error in human judgment, I was the human, and I won’t try to fasten it on anyone else. On an occasion like this, I envy the dead.”

Although Mulholland was demonized by the public in general, his career was not over. He did lose his job with the city of Los Angeles, where his right-hand man, Harvey Van Norman became the Chief Engineer. Mulholland  kept a fairly low profile, but he was able to work as a consultant on many other engineering projects—including the Hoover Dam on the Colorado River.

In 1995, an geological engineering professor at the University of Missouri (at Rolla) wrote his analysis of what went wrong with the St. Francis Dam.

First of all, Dr. J. David Rogers concluded that, yes indeed, Mulholland chose the wrong spot for a dam. Dr. Rogers said that the problem, contrary to the earliest investigations, was with the eastern abutment (mountain) where the concrete dam was anchored rather than the western abutment. The problem with that eastern anchor is that it was made up of a rock formation called “Pelona schist.” It was an unstable and somewhat porous , spongy material. So as the dam was filled, that rock actually absorbed water and weakened, much like some composite flooring commonly found in manufactured homes will upon contact with water become a mushy sawdust with little or no strength to support anything.  

Second, Dr. Rogers said that Mulholland also made a fatal mistake when he arbitrarily raised the height of the dam by 10 feet without modifying the base of the dam from the original blueprints. That put way too much pressure on the abutment and on the dam itself.

Third, Mulholland did not include in the blueprints for the St. Francis Dam any sufficient provisions to counteract the factor called “hydraulic uplift.” This phenomenon, commonly known by professional engineers of the 1910s and later, actually results in the force of the water behind a dam “lifting” it slightly and tilting it forward (or downstream). The only place Mulholland did that was in the very center of the dam where he installed ten uplift relief walls at the base. That one section was the only part of the dam left standing, standing like a gravestone or a monument to human arrogance and/or ignorance.

So Dr. Rogers concluded that those three mistakes, together, made a failure of the structure almost inevitable.  And in 2004, a study by Donald C. Jackson (an Associate Professor of History at Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania) and by Norris Hundley Jr. (Professor of American History at the University of California at Los Angeles) pointed to Mulholland’s lack of appreciation for the devastating effect of hydraulic uplift. They concluded, “William Mulholland understood the great privilege that had been afforded him to build the St. Francis Dam where and how he chose. Because of this privilege—and the decisions that he made—William Mulholland bears responsibility for the St. Francis Dam disaster.”

1928--40   St Francis Dam - Newhall, Ruiz Cemetery -- Wm S Hart

The failure of the St. Francis Dam still stands as the 2nd most deadly disaster in the entire history of California, only outranked by the San Francisco earthquake of 1906. There is one big distinction, however. The 1928 dam break is still number one in terms of a man-made disaster. And that event eventually resulted in revising and tightening laws related to building dams, and it resulted in establishing strict educational requirements and certifications for those who want to hold themselves out to the public as engineers.

 

Resources

 

Blasotti, Tony. “St. Francis Dam disaster: a receipe for failure, tragedy and heroism.“ Article found on the online version of the Ventura County Star newspaper, dated March , 2006. Found at:

 http://www.vcstar.com/news/2008/mar/12/the-st-francis-dam-disaster-80th-anniversary-a/

 

B-Westerns.Com

Has a nice bio of police officer Thornton Edwards and a couple of photos from his work in the movies.  http://www.b-westerns.com/villan71.htm

 

Dam Disaster.Com

http://www.sespe.com/damdisaster/shop.html

 

Evans, Diane (an engineer). “Deadly Flooding in the San Francisquito”.

http://civil-engineering.suite101.com/article.cfm/deadly_flooding_in_the_san_francisquito_canyon

 

Master, Shannon. “St. Francis Dam disaster: Mulholland’s Tragic Mistake.” March 22, 2009. The Signal (newspaper), Santa Clarita, Calif.     http://www.the-signal.com/news/archive/10939/

 

Newhall, A.M and George A. Newhall, Jr. “Report on St. Francis Dam Flood For The Newhall Land & Farming Company.”  March 24, 1928.

http://www.scvhistory.com/scvhistory/nlf-stfrancis.htm

Nichols, John. Images of America: St. Francis Dam Disaster. Chicago, IL: Arcadia Publishing, 2002.  [He is a resident of Santa Paula, Ca]

 

Norris, Michele. “The St. Francis Dam Disaster, The Second-worst Disaster in California History.” NPR Radio Broadcast on March 12, 2003. She interviews the daughter of the dam’s  Chief Engineer (Wm. Mulholland) and a woman who was 13 when her parents and  brother were lost in the flood and she was swept 9 miles downstream before being rescued. About 10 minutes long.    http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=1190341

Rock, Frank. Video interview with a resident of the area who has studied the flood for many years. This is a very well done video. About 30 minutes long.

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-7744662880949006284#

 

Rogers, J. David. “Lessons Learned from the St. Francis Dam Disaster.” Geo-Strata. March/April, 2006. [Found online at:    http://web.mst.edu/~rogersda/st_francis_dam/lessons_learned_from_the_st_francis_dam_failure(geostrata_mar-apr_2006).pdf

 

Rogers, J. David and Kevin James. “Mapping the St. Francis Dam Outburst Flood With GIS.” PowerPoint presentation with 29 slides.  [ Found online at: http://web.mst.edu/~rogersda/st_francis_dam/ ]

 

“St. Francis Dam.”  Wikipedia.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St._Francis_Dam

 

St. Francis Dam Disaster (YouTube)

 

Ventura County Star. This newspaper which serves the entire county has produced a fantastic video experience of the flood. Be sure to watch this video at :   http://web.vcstar.com/video/08/damflyover0308/damflyover0308.html

 

Wilkman, Jon. “The St. Francis Dam Disaster” 

[ Found online at: http://www.wilkman.com/SFD/SFD%204.htm  ]

 

 

The St. Francis Dam Disaster Blues

aka  Sweetie Pie Blues

     

                               by Stan Paregien Sr

 

Copyrighted Jan. 27, 2010 by Stan Paregien Sr. All rights reserved. Play similar to “Blues Stay Away From Me” ( Recorded by The Delmore Brothers. Words and music by Alton Delmore, Rabon Delmore, Henry Glover & Wayne Raney.) Watch and listen to Stan singing his song at www.youtube.com/watch?v=q65NBvP7hmg ]

 1953--048   Sweetie Pie -- Fillmore, CA

 [D]   We called him Sweetie Pie just as long as I recall.

[G]   Yes, we called him Sweetie Pie as long as I re-  [D]  call.

Never heard nobody   [A7]  say Sweetie Pie’s real name.

It was plain ol’ Sweetie Pie, that’s   [D]  all.

 

Now as a kid I was told Sweetie Pie’s sad tale.

[G]   Yes, most everybody knew ’bout his sad  [D] tale.

His parents were killed   [A7]  in that flood of 1928,

When the St. Francis Dam did   [D]   fail.

 

Mr. Mulholland built a dam across a big canyon,

[G]   Some five miles northeast of Saugus   [D]  town.

He built it to send water   [A7]  to Los Angeles,

But on March 12th that dam crashed on   [D]  down.

 

CHORUS:

         Oh, Mr. Mulholland, you done Sweetie Pie wrong.

         [G]  Yes, Mr. Mulholland, you done every body   [D] wrong.

         You killed 431 people and   [A7] that’s why we grieve

         Through the words of this little ol’   [D]  song.

 

Oh Mr. Mulholland, you were the engineering man.

[G]  Yes, Mr. Mulholland, you were the engineering  [D] man.

But you chose the   [A7]  wrong danged location;

That’s when the St. Francis Dam disaster be-  [D]  gan.

 

 

That 12-story wall of water swept everything away.

[G] Yes, that giant wall of water swept everything a- [D] way.

The raging current buried hundreds   [A7]  there in the mud,

And others were washed  into the Pacific that   [D]  day.

 

 REPEAT CHORUS

 

Well, Sweetie Pie searched for his parents so dear.

[G]  Yes, searched from Piru to Fillmore for those so    [D]  dear.

He lived in that riverbed    [A7]  and looked and looked,

Never findin’ a trace of ’em year after   [D]   year.

 

I once saw ol’ Sweetie Pie near the river so still.

[G]   Yes, along that Santa Clara River so small and  [D]  still.

I was kinda scared of the  [A7]  strange actin’ old man,

But he just ignored me and walked up the   [D]  hill.

 

REPEAT CHORUS

 

Hey, Sweetie Pie, listen up wherever you may be.

[G]  Hundreds of other families still share your  [D] pain.

And we think about those  [A7]  500 innocent victims

Of the St. Francis flood each time we hear it  [D]  rain.

 

 

Now there’s just one more thing before I say goodbye,

[G]   Yes, there’s just one more thing before I up and [D]   scram.

Don’t ever buy yourself a house    [A7]  that is downstream

From any ol’ damned government    [D]  dam.

 

[Close the song by whistling the chorus.]

 

Song written and copyrighted at Edmond, Oklahoma on Jan. 27, 2010.

All rights are reserved.

 

 

END.

This entire manuscript, from the essay to the song above, is copyrighted by Stan Paregien Sr. All rights are reserved. However, permission to perform or recite the song is hereby given for personal or non-profit use. Any commercial use of the song or the essay requires the express written permission of the author. Contact him at paregien@gmail.com 

________________________________________________

 

 

 

Issue 307 – Marco Rubio — Part 1 of His Life

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.

*   *  *  *  *

Marco Rubio, AN AMERICAN SON -- book cover, front

Marco Rubio, AN AMERICAN SON -- book cover, back

Part 1

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.

PATERNAL GRANDPARENTS

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. ]

A - Bar -- The Paregien Journal -- brite blue, white and maroon -- created by Stan Paregien 2015--06--20

Muslim Logic -- posted on the internet in 2015

2015--09--16 '60s Folk Music Show at Woody Guthrie Center in Tulsa

Aging -- generations -- Cartoon, THE FAMILY CIRCUS by Bil Keane - 2015-09-27

Aging -- music -- Denis the Menace cartoon - your frisbees play music

Aging -- perfect hearing aide for men - 2015

Aging -- women -- crazy old lady in my mirror

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Me and My Red Ryder BB Gun

1952--005--B--StanParegien-BBgun--FillmoreCA

Red Ryder BB gun by Daisy

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.  

1941 -- Red Ryder comic book with Little Beaver -- April, 1941

Red-Ryder -- artist Fred Harman

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.

Red Ryder -- Don Barry as RR and Bobby Blake as LB

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”).  

1983  --  A Christmas Story

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.

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?OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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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.

END.

Issue 302 — Roberta Paregien Fournier, 1943 to 2015

Issue 302    —    The Paregien Journal    —    June 11, 2015

 Roberta Paregien Fournier 

1943 to 2015

by Stan Paregien Sr

 

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.

1944--05-- EvelynParegien--Roberta--SantaPaulaCA

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.

1947

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.

1947--02--HaroldParegienFamily-Jungleland

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.

1947--07--cowboys-EvelynParegien-Stan-Berta

1949--25--Roberta-Stan inDresses

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.

1949--16--Roberta-dolls-ToddEstate

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.

1949--34--Roberta-Stan-Jerry saluting

1951--019--CAPTIONS--JerryParegien--Stan--Roberta

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.

1950

1950--004  Santa Paula, CA  --  Mattie Nolen Paregien and husband Frank Paregien

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.

2010--2335--B   Newhall - Piru - Fillmore --- MAP  --SP

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.

1954-032 RobertaParegien with LittleBit

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.

1954-030 RobertaParegien-swimming

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.

1952

1952--002 RobertaParegien ClassPhoto CastaicCA

 

1953

1953--012--RobertaParegien classPhoto CastaicCA

1954

1954-042 Stan-Berta-Evelyn NewhallRanch

1954-040--A-- RobertaParegien ClassPhoto Castaic

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.

1954-069--CAU--JohnCauthen--Vada---Tulsa

John and Vada Cauthen were Roberta’s maternal grandparents. They moved to far west Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1946 from Wapanucka, Oklahoma.

1955

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.

2010--2290--A--PiruCA---Established-1887---SP

1956

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.]

 1957

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.

1957-002 EvelynParegien-Stan-Roberta

1958

1958--024  Piru, CA  -- Roberta Paregien - William 'Rat' DeJarnette at Piru Lake

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. 1958-059--B-- Dance-Roberta-JimEdwards

  1959

1959-011 RobertaParegien-Stan-car

1959-025 RobertaParegien-classPhoto

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.

 1959-048 RobertaParegien-friend

 Roberta & Marla Brewer at Ventura Beach in 1959

 1960

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.

1960-007   Piru, CA -- Evelyn and Roberta Paregien, Janice Wilson

 

1961

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.

1961-002--A-- RobertaParegien-seniorPhoto

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.

1961-073--RobertaParegien--Mickey--PiruCA

1961-095--Roberta Paregien with Duane Beard at Piru Lake, Piru, CA in May

  1962

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.

************************************

1963

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.

 1967

 1967-012 Paregien-Loffswold marriage

 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.

 1967-082 Paregien-Loffswold wedding

  “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.

  

1969

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.

1969-011--A  Roberta Paregien Loffswold with son Doug

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.

 

 

1970

 1970-004 Family-SantaPaula--01

1970-044-Stan-Peg-Jerry-Doug-Berta--01

 1972

“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.

1972-011--A--Brad Loffswold - born July 20 in Lubbock, TX

1973

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.]

1976

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.

1977

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.

1978

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.

 1978--022--FillmoreCA----HaroldParegien---lastPhoto--Mar28

1978--030--CA--Fillmore--Roberta Paregien Loffswold on her 35th birthday

 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.

1980--018--Fourniers--fishing--Ventura

1980--045--LasVegasNV--NormFournier--Roberta---wedding

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.

1982

1982--010--B   Filmore, CA -- Norm Fournier - Roberta -- Doug Loffswold, Brad Loffswold

“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.

2010--2610---Fournier--Norm--Died-June10---04  1986--003 -- singer Jimmy Rogers of 'Honeycomb' fame with Roberta Fournier

“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.1983--064 -- Santa Paula, CA  --  Eupel P Higgenbotham and her neice Roberta P Fournier in front of Berta's store

1984

1984  --  My Home Town -- Fillmore, Calif  -- a poem by Roberta Paregien Loffswold Fournier in 1984, died June 5, 20102015--06--05   A01  -- Fillmore, CA  Sharon Horn Villasenor's pic of San Cayetano Mt, which Berta liked

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.

1985--071--CA--Fillmore--Roberta Paregien Fournier and husband Norm--307 Los Serenos

1985--004--FillmoreCA-- Xmas

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]

1987

On March 29, 1987 the Ventura County Star-Free Press newspaper carried a large feature article about Roberta and Norm and their record shop.

1988

1988--029--FillmoreCA--RobertaFournier--EvelynSpradling

1989

1989-004--RobertaFourner-Norm--xmas

1989-023--Roberta-Doug--Opal--Saticoy 1991

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.

 1999

1999-135-A--NormFournier-Berta--Wapanucka

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.

2001

2001-017--CA-Camarillo--Stan Paregien - Roberta Paregien Fournier

2002

2002-013  Edmond, OK -- 80th birthday for Evelyn Cauthen Paregien Spradling 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.

 2003-264--A--CA-PineGrove--Evelyn-Berta-Norm--Loffswolds

 

2004

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.”

2005

2005-250-- Pioneer, CA -

2006

 2006-1455 Robert and Norm Fournier

 Roberta and Norm at Pioneer, Calif.

 

2009

2009-0368--Norm-Roland-Evelyn-Roberta-Stan--May14This 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.

 2009-0705--JacksonCA--Daniel-Dylan-Roberta-Christal-Maddie-Stan--July30

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.”

2010

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.

2010--1934--IoneCA--RobertaFournier--RolandLoffswold---SP

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.

2010--1937--IoneCA--RobertaFournier---SP

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.

 2010--2619---Fournier--Norm--Died-June10---13  Born 1941--03--17

 2010--2607---Fournier--Norm--Died-June10---01

2010--2618---Fournier--Norm--Died-June10---12

 2010  -- Through Norm's Eyes  -- a poem by Roberta Paregien Fournier after the death of Norm

 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.

2011

 2011--0224--EvelynSpradling--Tribute--Page1

2011--0225--EvelynSpradling--Tribute--Page2

2011--0226--EvelynSpradling--Tribute--Page3 2011--0227--EvelynSpradling--Tribute--Page4

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:

2011--0228--EvelynSpradling--Poem--RobertaFournier

2011--0585--B--CA--Ione---RobertaFournier---May1

2014

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.

  

2014 --0867--B  Ione, CA  -- May 12 -- Stan Paregien beside his sister Roberta Fournier

Stan & Berta in 2015

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Berta certainly loved sweets

 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.

2015

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.

1957-053--B Piru, CA   Elaine Campbell  - Stan Paregien

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.

  2006-1457 Roberta Fournier

2006-1458 Roberta Fournier  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.

INFO  --  Stan Paregien FLICKR accounts and BLOG accounts and contact info

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Issue 265 – A Tribute to Harold Paregien

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: