Getting Through Customs

February 26th, 2020


We were headed for San Francisco but first we had to clear customs at LAX. The line was long and the children were impatient and tired, yet excited to be back in the United States.  Two years can be a long time. In 1972 the system was quite simple: just rollers on long tables to move our boxes, luggage and individual small private cases containing each child’s treasures. It was our turn and the official with a stern face and a big badge looked at our assortment.


It would be a challenge to go through everything and we wondered where he would begin. We could see that the bags of the passengers in front of us in line were being closely examined even exposing their personal items. We tried to be patient as we waited for him to begin.  Chris was fidgeting and reached for my hand. Alice was serious as she watched. David, the teenager with arms folded, observed the whole process with a critical eye.  Donald put his hand on his small case as if to protect it. After a minute, which seemed like an hour, the customs official began by asking where we had been and how long we had been gone. I said, “We’ve been in Zambia for almost two years. My husband is stationed in Ndola and has six more months of duty.  It was necessary for us to return early.”


“Now, to examine your bags,” he said as he eyed everything. I wondered how I would be able to repack the boxes, which were bulging and held together with strong twine tied in tight knots. The man reached for Donald’s case and Donald reluctantly removed his hand. The catch released easily and as the lid was raised, feathers floated into the air.


An astonished look flashed on the man’s face as he quickly closed the case, engaging the catch. He smiled at Donald; then in a stern authoritative voice, “You can pass on.” He signed a paper and handed it to me.  A few feathers floated above our luggage as it rolled down the long table.


Devil’s Slide

May 29th, 2019

From our house in Pedro Point, we could look across the bay, along the beach and across a fertile valley where Portuguese farmers grew artichokes. Just beyond was a hill where sheep grazed on wild grasses. Our house faced north and looked down on the two-lanehighway that connected the little coast towns to San Francisco twenty miles away. To the south, the road cut through the mountain behind us to reach Montara and Half Moon Bay. The narrow road was close to the edge of Devil’s Slide, a rocky cliff that dropped straight down to the open ocean.

One Sunday afternoon after a few drinks, my Dad decided it was time to teach me to drive. He told my little brothers Joe and Pete and my sister Mary to climb in the car. He opened the door on the driver’s side and told me to sit behind the wheel. In those days, there was no need for a learner’s permit. I climbed in and sat down.

I remembered a few things Dad had shown me the week before; so, I did some practice exercises, going through the five gears from neutral and low to high. With a few directions I was, able to back up and shift into low for the short distance to the corner where I stopped. We were high on the hill with a steep road down to the cross-road below. Dad said, “Go ahead. Keep it in low. You’ll be all right.”

I gripped the wheel and headed slowly down. I wanted to close my eyes but knew I had to keep them open as the road was narrow with ditches on either side.  When we reached the bottom, I stepped hard on the brake and let out a loud sigh. The kids began to laugh; they didn’t realize how close they were to disaster; Dad never should have put them in the car with me.

When we reached the main road, Dad said, “Turn right,” and I wanted to argue because that was the way to Devil’s Slide. He said it again, so I turned the car onto the highway. Suddenly cars were honking as they passed me. The kids were yelling and Dad had fallen asleep. I kept my eyes glued to the white line on the road; I didn’t want to see the steep drop-off close to the pavement on the right side.  I knew there was no place to stop and say, “I don’t want to drive.”

Finally, I reached a safe place to park. Dad was still asleep. I needed to find the courage to get back on the road and go home. The lane going north was next to the mountain and the car wouldn’t be near the deep cliff by the ocean. If I stayed in low gear and tried not to listen to the honking cars and screaming kids; if I tried to put Devil’s Slide out of my mind; I might be all right.  After all these years, I don’t remember what happened next or how we got home. Probably when Dad realized the situation and sobered up enough, he drove us home. I don’t know, but somehow, we did get home.

Patricia Hernan Grube
March 6, 2017; May 21, 2019










Family Story

April 17th, 2019


THE FOUR OF US: Patty, Mary, Joe and Pete (1929)

When this picture was taken we lived in Phoenix. A few months after I entered the first grade at the Capital School, I had the measles and the other three caught them from me. The illness caused Pete to contract double pneumonia again. The house on Willow I remember very well; I can even draw the floor plan after all these years. (It’s not the house in the picture, that one is across the street.)


Shall I talk of the present or the past and which is which. The History Detectives on PBS can take a picture, document or gun and find its story. In January, 2006, I set out to find my past and  it seems I brought those who were long dead back to life.

GazildaGazilda's house
Gazilda Gamble Hernan                                          720 North Ninth Avenue

I took a picture of Grandma Gazilda’s house at 720 North Ninth Avenue. Today it’s pink but if I print the picture in black and white it will almost look like gray stucco of 1926 where I stayed with Grandma when Mama was in the sanatorium with Tuberculosis. Aunt Martha and Aunt Florence entertained me. I think my Dad lived there too and when he came in he would scoop me up and lift me high to reach the ceiling. My baby brother John stayed with Grace, another aunt.

Later when Mama was well, she came home and we lived as a family at 826 North Ninth Avenue.  We were all together, Mama, Daddy, Me and Joe. Soon another little baby Peter. Mama and I were strangers. Looking back I think that Mama tried really hard to make contact with me, but being confused by her abandonment, I kept myself apart. Every day I waited for my Daddy to come home from work.

I took a picture of the house. A neighbor said that the shabby neighborhood will be reborn when a University builds nearby. Looking past the gravel that used to be a lawn I could see a little girl waiting on the porch for her Dad to come walking up the street in the late afternoon. In the mornings she would skip down the sidewalk one and a half blocks where her grandmother was waiting on the corner.  It was hard for her to remember to look both ways before crossing.



Recently I visited the town where I was born. I took pictures of the Plaza. Standing under arches, watching shadows stretch across the walk, it’s not possible that I remember this place and yet I know –it’s where I took some of my first baby steps The arches led to the station where trains arrived with business men or politicians or guests for parties in Isabella Greenway’s big house on the hill. On some days when we watched the trains we would count the cars as they went out loaded with copper ore.

One day when the train arrived, the station was draped in black. Daddy was among the mourners standing at attention as the coffin of General Greenway was carried up the long road to be buried on a knoll overlooking the giant crater of the mine. Mama held my hand as she wept. My baby brother was asleep in his carriage.

This part is not my memory but this is how I try to put together pieces of that time. As an old woman, I stood there looking at the Plaza, trying to understand why this space seemed so important to me.

Everything in this Website ©Patricia Grube

Our First Christmas Together

December 20th, 2018

We were married September 17th in 1943, in St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Bakersfield . Les had met Fr. McGrath when he came out to  Minter Field to say Mass. The ceremony was on Friday evening and Les had to report back to the base on Sunday evening. I found a job in a china shop to fill the time each week and made friends with other service wives. Because this story is to be about Christmas, I need to skip ahead to the time when the Cadets in the Flight Training Program were moved from Minter Field to Williams Field in Chandler, Arizona.

In Bakersfield, I had hooked up with two other wives to follow the troops and by December the three of us, Irma Aspinall, Loretta Bailey and I had found temporary jobs and were sharing a room in the ­­­­El Portal Hotel in Mesa. During the week, after work the three of us would take a bus and ride for an hour over a very bumpy road to Williams Field, 25 miles away. There we could visit with our husbands in the Cadet Day Room where there was no privacy. Our marital bliss could really only be expressed on weekends when the boys would get a 24 hour pass. We girls were quite comfortable in the large room with three single beds but on weekends  one couple would keep the room and the other two would rent other rooms for the night.

A week before Christmas  we bought a scraggly little tree and made some crude ornaments. Our room looked very cheerful with our sad little tree and we kept saying to each other that we were really feeling the Christmas spirit. Inside we were feeling an empty space because never before had any of us been away from our families. We were all very “in love” and thought that should fill up any void. We three gals looked forward to having our hubbies with us for 24 hours to celebrate Christmas. We drew straws to find out who would keep the room.

On Christmas Eve Les and I went to Midnight Mass at the Field and then took the bus for the long ride on the bumpy road to Mesa. It was a magical night following the moon over the desert. We thought we were to have the room but then we discovered that on this holiday, every room in the hotel was booked. What to do? Remember the movie where a blanket made a wall between Claudette Colbert and Clark Gable? That’s what we did; we hung an intricate system of blanket walls to make three rooms. Ok, that settles the visual effects, but I have to tell you that private intimacy was not preserved.

This memory is from long ago
and it is still vivid in my memory;
Patricia Grube, ©2010


Bonnie’s Julia Child Moment

November 16th, 2018

Thanksgiving  started for me long before the date on the calendar, as Lester’s family was coming to our house for dinner. In a composition book, I recorded all the traditions that were expected: mince meat pie for Aunt Eleanor, pumpkin for Auntie Maude, brussels sprouts for Nina, candied yams for Bonnie, my new sister-in-law, and especially creamed onions for Grandma Christine. My extensive lists described the week’s tasks of cleaning and shopping and looking for recipes; and the day itself was planned minute by minute. This was my initiation into this family.

On the day, everything went very well through cocktails and hors d’oeuvres. The turkey was out of the oven, Waldorf salad was on the plates, the rolls were browned just right; I took the onions off the burner at just the right moment of doneness. Bonnie volunteered to help me put things on the table while the others talked.
Bonnie Grube

As I drained the onions, the lid slipped and they all toppled into the sink. My heart sank, my perfect meal was ruined; it would be a disaster if Grandma Christine didn’t have creamed onions. Bonnie saw  and quickly scooped up the onions. This was our bonding moment. She held out the pan of drained onions, and said, “No one but you and I know this. Where is the cream and what bowl shall I put them in?”

Whenever I watch reruns of Julia Child’s cooking demonstrations and she scoops up the chicken that fell on the floor, I think of Bonnie. From that day forward we were friends.

Getting Through Customs

October 29th, 2018

We were headed for San Francisco but first we had to clear customs at LAX. The line was long and the children were impatient and tired, yet excited to be back in the United States.  Two years can be a long time. In 1972,  the system was quite simple: just rollers on long tables to move our boxes, luggage and individual small private cases containing each child’s treasures. It was our turn and the official with a stern face and a big badge looked at our assortment.

It would be a challenge to go through everything and we wondered where he would begin. We could see that the bags of the passengers in front of us in line were being closely examined even exposing their personal items. We tried to be patient as we waited for him to begin.  Chris was fidgeting and reached for my hand. Alice was serious as she watched. David, the teenager with arms folded, observed the whole process with a critical eye.  Donald put his hand on his small case as if to protect it. After a minute, which seemed like an hour, the customs official began by asking where we had been and how long we had been gone. I said, “We’ve been in Zambia for almost two years. My husband is stationed in Ndola and has six more months of duty.  It was necessary for us to return early.”

“Now, to examine your bags,” he said as he eyed everything. I wondered how I would be able to repack the boxes, which were bulging and held together with strong twine tied in tight knots. The man reached for Donald’s case and Donald reluctantly removed his hand. The catch released easily and as the lid was raised, feathers floated into the air.

An astonished look flashed on the man’s face as he quickly closed the case, engaging the catch. He smiled at Donald; then in a stern authoritative voice, “You can pass on.” He signed a paper and handed it to me.  A few feathers floated above our luggage as it rolled down the long table.


An Old Story that was New to Me

July 3rd, 2018

In the early morning, I sit and watch light slowly reveal the world. Just outside my window is a large Bird of Paradise that has grown from a plant Dad gave me years ago. It has been separated many times and shared with nieces and nephews in his memory. It needs to be divided again.

I am thinking about a story that needs to be told. It is an old story and at the same time a new story. That is, it was new to me when I found a note on my computer about someone looking for my dad. Did you ever read a story or watch a movie where one woman is saying to another, “He told me he is going to leave his wife?” The plot is slanted to somehow make this other woman’s dreams come true. What about the wife?

I mostly think of Mama as young and beautiful. She grew up in the mountains of north-west Arizona; she fell in love with a handsome wounded soldier from Boston. I have always considered their life together a true love story. Winifred Ada Reagan and John Joseph Hernan Jr. were married in Springerville, Arizona, April 22, 1922. I was born on August 1, 1923; Joe came later on my second birthday. Mama even claimed we were both born at the same hour 7:30 in the evening.

My dad was working for Colonel John C. Greenway at the New Cornelia Copper Mines in Ajo, Arizona. The friendship between them started during the first World War when they both fought with the Yankee Division in France. The Colonel died in 1926.

About that time, Mama went into a sanatorium for TB. Daddy moved to Phoenix where his mother, Grandma Gazilda could take care of me and his sister, Grace could care for my baby brother, Joe. Daddy’s sisters, Martha and Florence spoiled me.

Daddy went to work for the Central Arizona Light and Power Company. When Mama was well we lived on Ninth Avenue in Phoenix. Pete was born on the 5th of June, 1927.

This memory is from when we lived together on Ninth Avenue in Phoenix.  Mama and Dad were arguing. It frightened me; I thought she might go away again.  I was not really sure why she had gone away before. Just when their words got very loud, they started to laugh and began hugging each other. The dog, a big German Shepherd, started to howl and pull at Dad when he saw the body contact. I started to cry. When they heard me, they assured me that everything was ok, that the dog was just being protective, that they were happy. They picked me up and put me between them to include me in their hug.

There were many happy times for our family but I also remember some sad times. We moved a lot and I need to figure out what and where were, and what was happening to those around me. Researching and putting everything on a time-line seems to be a good thing to do. However, it is probably better to start with the astounding discovery that caused my distress.

I was checking some history on the Ancestry web-site when I stumbled on a note from a young woman who was looking for information about her great grandfather; his name was John Joseph Hernan. It gave some information about him and directed me to her Family Tree where there was a picture of my Dad next to my Mother’s picture and a line showing my brothers, my sister and me.  On the other side of Dad’s picture was a picture of Helen Elizabeth Cleveland and a line showing two children who appeared to be my sister and my brother. To say the least, I was in shock; this was completely new to me.

The facts were there and there was no way to deny the information. It showed that my new-found sister, Joan Elizabeth was born in 1932 and died in 1978; my new-found brother, James Robert was born in 1934 and died in 1981. With acceptance came anger because I had been denied the opportunity to know them. I wrote to my new great niece, Gabby Sutherlin: “Now that we have connected I would like to know more about a sister and a brother that I never knew. Ours is a very big family. I am anxious to know more about yours.”

She wrote back: “Hi Patricia, I got your message on Ancestry. We know that this could be a sensitive situation, and like I posted, we really don’t have that much information because my great grandmother was a bit secretive about her life.”

She said that they did not know much about the father of Helen’s children except that his name was John Joseph Hernan and he worked for the state with Helen. On Joan’s social security application, he is listed as her father. Gabby said that was when she started searching to find out who this man might be, by looking at the censuses and directories from Phoenix in the 1930’s.

“As for my grandmother, Joan, who may be your sister, she was a grade school teacher who taught kindergarten through 4th in Phoenix. She really wanted to be an actress. She died when my father was 12. He was the youngest of her five children. She had Crohn’s disease but ultimately died of cancer. My great uncle Robert was put up for adoption right after he was born and he also died of cancer. He was fairly successful in California.”

Gabby sent me pictures of some of Joan’s descendants who look very much like members of our family. Later she wrote that the DNA was a confirmation of the relationship.

Those are the basic facts, but there is much more to the story. Before I go much further I want to mention that this story is influenced by my own opinions or suppositions and I am relying on memories recalled from my childhood.

In June, 1926, Dad became traveling secretary for Lewis Douglas who he met in France when both fought with the Yankee Division. Douglas served three terms in Congress. Dad campaigned with him before each election but in between he needed other work.

In 1928, we sold our house on Ninth Avenue and bought a 20 acre farm, 100 miles from Phoenix. Yava is a little settlement in the high desert that leads to the foothills of the mountains. Grandma Alice wanted to farm and Grandpa Reagan wanted to settle close to the government range where his cattle could roam. Dad was traveling with Douglas. Mama was expecting again. She took Joe, Pete and me to the ranch to stay with Grandma.

Grandma and Mama fixed up a two room shack for us to live in. The rooms were heated by a large wood stove. They made paste with flour and water and put strips of torn rags up and down every crack to keep out the cold. This was where we slept and played; in the morning and evening we went to the big house to eat.

In the Fall I went to Phoenix to live with Grandma Gazilda, Dad’s mother. I was supposed to start kindergarten but an epidemic of scarlet fever broke out and I couldn’t go to school.

Dad took Mama to Prescott when her time was near; Mary was born on September 15, 1928. When they were settled back in Yava, my aunt Florence drove me up to the ranch to see my new sister. She had never been there before and we got lost. I had been over the road so many times that I was able to show her the way.

The next year I entered the first grade at the small country school in Yava. We were all living in the little house on Grandma Alice’s farm. Dad had joined us in the summer and was helping Grandma grow vegetables. They expected to get a good price for a truckload of carrots and Dad took them to Prescott.  He was late coming back and I knew that Mama was worried but she kept our spirits up, smiling and assuring us that everything would be alright.  As it turned out everything was not alright. He had sold the produce, and then I’m not sure what happened. One of the uncles went to Prescott and found him in the Veterans hospital. He had been there from October 3rd to November 4th and had been treated for several illnesses that were caused by injuries suffered in France. He was sick and couldn’t work for a while.

We all lived there with Grandma for a few months, then Mama and Dad took Mary and Pete to Phoenix to live. They left Joe and me with Grandma until January 1930 when we joined them on Willow Avenue.  I finished the first grade at the Capital School which was only a few blocks from our house. I had the measles and the other three caught them from me. Pete contracted double pneumonia. Mama was quite overwhelmed caring for the little ones so I followed Ruth, the maid around the house. The things she said and did are vivid in my mind. I liked to watch her fix her hair and she told me stories when she was ironing.

Daddy continued to work for Douglas from time to time and in between he filled in with other work. He often helped other veterans apply for their benefits. Sometimes a letter to Congressman Douglas helped to solve a problem. In 1930 Dad worked with his brother, George, who had a degree as a pharmacist. The VA members’ directory lists the John Hernan Pharmacy on Van Buren. I remember sitting at the counter and they would surprise me with ice-cream sodas and milk shakes. The drugstore was just a block from our house.

In April,1930, my Grandmother Hernan died. Mama took me to see her one evening when a rosary was being said for her. After it was finished my aunt took me by the hand and led me up to look at her. She was lying very still and lovely in a beautiful coffin and looked as though she were just sleeping; and if I would just reach out my hand and touch her she would awaken. I can see my grandfather with some roses which he laid in the coffin with a sob. I looked away and noticed other people in the quiet room wiping away tears. I felt like crying too, but I didn’t realize the full significance of her passing. Many times I had lived with her; and in the days that followed, it was hard to understand that I would not see her again.

In June, 1930, we moved to the country, to a new house we planned to buy. It was located at 4136 N. 17th street out by Indian School Road. I lost my first tooth that year. I remember Mama tying a string around it while I sat bravely waiting; then I lost courage and she had to chase me quite a distance before she managed to extract the loose tooth.

One morning shortly after the turn of the year (1931) we woke up to find a cesspool had caved in right under our kitchen window. We didn’t even know we had a cesspool. We had to move out. It was a great disappointment, and a loss of the investment.

I found some letters where Douglas asked how things were going. Dad answered that things were alright. Douglas wrote again and said that he had made some inquiries. Perhaps he helped Dad find his new job that started in March 1931 with the Arizona State Land Department.

In July, we took Grandma Reagan on a trip through Northern Arizona. She and Mama wanted to visit her sisters, who live in Springerville, a small town where Grandma and Grandpa Reagan had settled when they first came from Texas in 1883. Grandma and Grandpa were real pioneers, and they can tell stories that make one’s hair rise up on his head. We went through Flagstaff where Mama went to Normal School. I especially remember the Petrified Forest.  We also went to a wilderness area on the Blue River. Dad liked visiting the area; he had once thought of settling there before he met Mama. One night we were sleeping soundly in a lonesome ranch house when we were awakened by a weird sad cry. It sounded like a woman screaming and wailing. Whatever it was, was just outside the door. The cowboys told us that it was a mountain lion who had been attracted by the smell of fresh beef. In another story, I have written more about this trip.

Mama, Dad, Mary and Pete returned to Phoenix; but Joe and I stayed in Yava. The teacher who was teaching at the school that year was a friend of ours. I think the name was Penney. Some times on Friday they would drive down to Phoenix, one hundred miles away and Joe and I would go with them to see the family. They had a big police dog named “Pat” and I used to sit in the rumble seat with him to keep me warm. We would roll along the highway singing, “When the cock, cock robin comes bob-bob-bobbin’ along, along, etc.” I am not sure where the folks were living. I remember watching them play bridge with friends and I remember a picture window where a big St. Bernard would suddenly appear and sit outside and watch everyone. The adults would amuse me by telling me stories about dogs carrying bottles of booze to stranded skiers.

I am wondering when Helen and Dad began their affair. Helen also worked at the Arizona State Land Department. Perhaps there was a party for Helen’s 25th birthday August 12, 1931. Perhaps it wasn’t until 1932; she became pregnant in February. I have also been wondering why Mama came to Yava in November, 1931. Perhaps it was just that she wanted to be there for Christmas.

Some years ago, I wrote a story about that Christmas. December was bleak. Every breath was icy and chilled the bones; too cold to make smoky fog that was fun to watch. Pete, Joe and I didn’t think that Santa would come our way; Mary was too little to worry about the possibilities. There was a fire in the big black stove and Mama suggested games to keep us busy while she went up to the big house; she said Grandma needed her help. I was put in charge and hoped that for once my authority would not be challenged.

On Christmas eve, Mama said we should go to bed early. I argued because I didn’t think Santa would find us and that if he did there was no fireplace. She said that we kids should at least do our part by going to sleep just in case he did arrive; if we were still awake he probably wouldn’t stop.

As it turned out, the next morning there was a little tree that hadn’t been there the night before and under the tree were presents. Grandma and Mama (I mean Santa) had been busy. They had made a rag doll for Mary and new clothes for my baby doll. The boys had fabulous muslin kites. There were new sweaters for all of us. Later I discovered what a job the sweaters had been. Someone had given them some yarn, dull grayish brown. Grandma and Mama had unraveled older sweaters and worked the bright colors into patterns on the gray sweaters. They were beautiful and very warm. I don’t know why Dad wasn’t there but he and some friends arrived in the afternoon.

Plans were made for us to move back to Phoenix to a house on 17th Street in a field, beside a canal, near the bridge on Osborn Road. It seems by looking at a current map, that the number was probably in the 3800’s. Here I need to consider some notes about addresses. Gabby gave me our former address on 17th Street; we moved from there before Dad met Helen. The address she gave for Helen was on 16th just a few blocks from the bridge on Osborn Road.

I have happy memories of that time and yet I have always felt that something beyond my understanding was happening. It was still during prohibition and there was lots of partying. Mama was a fabulous cook. Dad would call and say he was bringing guests and she would prepare a meal even though the ice box seemed empty. I remember one day when there was a crowd, and a lot of liquor; no one was watching five-year old Peter; he had been drinking from some not quite empty beer bottles. Someone noticed he was missing and a search began. They found him stumbling beside the canal.

In January, I entered Madison school. This was one of my favorite schools. I was the new kid and it was difficult to make friends which often happened when I entered a new school in the middle of the year. The teachers liked me because I was serious and eager to learn. To catch the bus, I was allowed to go by myself down the road and across the bridge. This gave me a great feeling of freedom. While waiting, another child, a boy, and I would chase bugs in the dust beside the road.

There were wide open fields around the house so Pete and Joe had lots of space to fly the muslin kites that Mama made for Christmas. It was difficult to get them into the air because they were heavy but when they sailed, they were so strong that they would almost lift the little guys off the ground.

In the late afternoon, I would walk to the end of the road and look for my Dad to come home from work. I recognized his walk as soon as I saw him on the bridge. Then he would hold my hand the rest of the way home. This was a happy period of my life; little did I know that Dad was having an affair with Helen who lived a few blocks away.

One night, Daddy came home and said he had been persuaded to run for Arizona State Treasurer. When he won the Democratic Primary in Spring of 1932, he quit his job at the Arizona State Land Department. Mama always went along with Daddy. Once I asked her why she wouldn’t stand up for herself when things didn’t seem right. She said, “This is what your father wants to do.” Looking back, I think she really wanted to chase the rainbow with him.

He was busy traveling during the campaign, so it seemed best for the family to go back to the farm in Yava. I remember that summer as a happy time because my brothers and sister were there and Mama told us stories and taught us some card games. Uncle Jim’s family lived a mile’s walk along the creek that boarded Grandma’s ranch and Uncle Ned was just a few miles away so there were cousins to play with.

Mama taught Joe and me to say our prayers. Every night she would have us kneel together on the bed. She taught us the sign of the cross, very difficult to remember which hand to use and which way to move it. As a Protestant, her childhood prayer was “Now I lay me down to sleep”. After she and Daddy were married she became a Catholic. She taught us to say the Lord’s Prayer and Hail Mary. If we weren’t ready to go to sleep we could keep the “God bless’s” going for a long time. This habit of prayer has lasted a lifetime, even through the times of darkness and doubt. When Daddy ran for a public office as Treasurer of the state of Arizona, we included a prayer that God would help him win. When he lost, Mama had to explain something about God’s will to our very young satisfaction. I was eleven and Joe was nine. I don’t remember what she said to help us understand, but it seemed ok at the time.

Of course, we children didn’t know much about the working of the Government but we did realize it was a desirable position. Daddy lost the election but Mama said “A miss is as good as a mile”. Many men prominent in Arizona politics tried to persuade him to run again, but he wouldn’t. He always said that it turned out for the best; he never went into politics again either for himself or campaigning for someone else.

I don’t know if Grandma Alice Reagan voted for Dad. She had fought to get the vote for women and closely followed every election. She had never forgiven my Dad for stealing her youngest daughter away but she helped them when it was necessary. No matter what my grandma thought, Mama was always in love with Dad. When Mama took us to the ranch in 1932, Grandma must of known something about Helen. I don’t know when Mama knew about Helen’s daughter. Joan Elizabeth was born on October 29, 1932: Helen had gone to San Diego to have her baby.

In February, 1933, we all returned to Phoenix and lived in the house on Oakland Avenue. I was happy to go to the Capitol School again. It was an easy walk. They had a class in cooking and I learned to make “White Sauce” which is necessary in many dishes. There was also a sewing class. Mama made most of my clothes and I was learning to help.

I had lived there, off and on through the years and I knew some of the kids in the neighborhood. Our favorite recreation was to skate on the broad cement walks at the Capitol which was in the middle of a lovely park, covering about 10 blocks. We usually went there after sunset when the heat was not so intense. The trees made it a cool place to play.  Sometimes during the day, the girls of our neighborhood would go over and sit in the shade making doll clothes. We always had fun, for there was always something to do.

Although I was happy that we were all living together, there seemed to be some problems, I wasn’t sure what they were. It was easy to see that Mama wasn’t well; I was told she suffered from the heat. Her health has always been given as the reason our family left Arizona. Sometimes there were parties and a lot of drinking. Mama must have suspected that Dad was seeing Helen.

May 26, 1933 is the date of a letter addressed to Oakland Avenue from Douglas about a job but Dad had already started working on May 11 with the Arizona Highway Department. Part of his work was on a new highway from Prescott to Phoenix. Much of the time his work kept him away all week.

During the summer, I was old enough to take care of my little brothers and my sister, Mary. In the fall, we were all in school except for Mary. As Christmas drew near we were seeing less and less of my dad. I knew that Mama usually had plans but this time I knew that nothing was happening. When the kids went to bed, I couldn’t sleep. It was quite late when I heard banging at the door. I was afraid the noise would wake the kids.

It’s funny about Santa Claus: people really do believe in him and know that they need to do his bidding. Evidently some friends were out drinking with Dad when they realized that Santa was not coming to our house. They took Dad with them and went to some stores that were open late, and then they burst into the house and put it all together. When the kids woke up it was a real Christmas morning. There was a tree; a wagon full of oranges, nuts and candy; presents for everyone including Mama. They brought the things needed for dinner. The couple that used to drive me back and forth from Yava to Phoenix were there to help Mama cook dinner.

Perhaps this was traumatic enough to be a turning point. I know that Mama always loved Dad, no matter what. Some years ago, I wrote a poem about a memory; a very clear memory but I didn’t know what it meant.


One Night When I Was Ten Years Old

Daddy parked the car on the edge of a cliff. He set the brake and put a rock in front of the wheel. Mama got out and went with him to say goodbye as he settled in for another week of work on the new high way south of Prescott. Mary, Pete and Joe were asleep on the back seat. I sat in front and watched the brake that might slip if I shut my eyes. It was a great effort to stay awake, to hold the car back from tumbling into the canyon.

Sometimes a huge truck would rumble by shaking the road, shaking the car, shaking the brake. Once I climbed out of the car to make sure the rock was still okay. I kept saying to myself, please come soon, please come soon.  I knew Daddy wanted Mama to meet some of his friends who were in the bar. Then I hoped they wouldn’t spend too much time in the cabin saying goodbye.

After forever, they came out. Daddy got in the car and I held my breath as he released the brake and backed the car away from the cliff. He kissed Mama, we waved to him and drove away. After a few miles, she stopped the car and wept. Then she wiped her eyes. We headed home and I fell asleep.


Dad quit the job with the Highway Department on May 26, 1934. When school was over Joe and I went back to Yava and stayed until August. Mom and Dad did whatever was necessary and then they came with presents for Joe’s and my birthday. We left that day for California. Mama’s brother Bill Reagan and his wife Myrtle greeted us two days later in Long Beach and helped us begin a new life.

As for me it was the beginning of always being with my family. Writing this story has been a trip for me trying to piece together the lives of those I love. As I try to recall events I am beginning to find peace.

I wrote a note to Gabby to tell her about writing this story and I have received a letter from her:

“My family and I think this story is a great idea and are perfectly okay with names being used. The stories my family grew up with about the identity of their grandfather was that he was named John J. Hernan and that he was from Spain and had shortened his name from Hernandez to better fit in, which we now know was not true. We were also told that Helen worked for him in a law office and that he was going to be running for office in Phoenix. When Helen was pregnant with my grandmother, Joan, her family convinced her to have the baby in San Diego. I believe my grandmother’s birth certificate does list her last name as Hernan. Helen changed it to Matthews, which is just a random name she picked, and she told people that her father was a sailor that she met in San Diego. After that my uncle Bob was born and his birth certificate does list him as James Robert Hernan. Not long after his birth it looks like your family moved to California and Bob was put up for adoption and his name became James Robert Grill. After all this Helen moved to San Diego with Joan and we think that she may have been hoping to still be able to see your dad. Helen never married after all this and my dad says that she kept a photo of your dad on her wall in her living room. We don’t know what happened to the photo though. If you have any questions I’m more than happy to answer!”

“Happy to have a new aunt, Gabby”

Copyright 2018


May 3rd, 2018

It was in the early summer before I was six and looking forward to going to school, that Uncle Jim’s family moved into a ranch along the creek. It could be reached by traveling several miles down Bagdad Road, but Grandma and I could walk for less than a mile on a path along the creek. Grandma used a stick to beat the bushes in front of us. She said it was to scare away any rattle-snake that might be blocking our way. Sometimes we would hear something scurrying away, but I trusted Grandma and wasn’t concerned.

I always looked forward to seeing my favorite cousin, Gwendolyn, who was always full of ideas; many times, she got us into trouble. The yard of the ranch house was surrounded by fruit trees.  There was also a tall scaffold holding a water tank and this was her great idea: if we climbed up the ladder to the top we would be able to see for miles around. Because I was littlest she decided that I should go first. The other cousins sided with her. I think now it was because they didn’t want to do it themselves. She enticed me and begged me and finally dared me to go. I am not sure why it was important but I wanted to be big in her eyes so I took the dare and climbed to the top. They asked me what I saw, but I was too scared to look. They started shouting for me to come down but I couldn’t; I was too scared to go back down the ladder.

When Grandma and the other women heard the shouting, they came out. First, they asked why I was at the top of the tower and the cousins all stood together with Gwendolyn, saying they didn’t know why I climbed the ladder that they told me not to do such a thing. One of the older cousins, came in from the pasture to rescue me. He told me to get on his back; he had often given me “piggy-back rides” for fun. I did as he said because I trusted him and I clung tightly as he brought me back to earth. Now that I think about it, this experience may be why I have a life-long fear of heights.

On another day when we were sitting in the big tree at Grandma’s ranch, Gwendolyn told us she had an idea of how we could help Grandma who had just put a load of clothes to soak in the big wash tub on the bench under the tree. So, we all climbed down and scrubbed the clothes on the wash-board and put them through the wringer. We all wanted turns turning the handle while Gwendolyn fed them through. We worked hard carrying fresh water to rinse them and wring them again. Then she said she knew a trick about starching clothes and we should surprise Grandma by doing a really complete job. She said that skim milk was a good substitute for starch. So, we raided the cooler. We dipped everything in milk and then hung the clothes out to dry.

When Grandma arrived to finish the job, she saw the clothes on the line and went to look at them. “What is that smell? What have you done to my clothes?” She looked in the cooler and saw the milk was missing. We all stood by Gwendolyn and didn’t snitch that it was her idea but Grandma always seemed to know what was what. She kept Gwendolyn there to help her carry water and turn the wringer. They spent the next hour washing the souring milk out of the clothes; the whole time, Gwendolyn received advise about life and how to control her active imagination. The rest of us were sent to the house to sit quietly around the big dining table. We had to be silent but were allowed to read or do our homework.

            Once when we were looking for quail in the little forest along the creek, she told me that God is everywhere. I believed her.  So far as I know Gwendolyn married and had a family. As we grew up we went our separate ways. I wish we had not lost contact with each other.

April 25, 2013




My Irish Grandfather

February 21st, 2017

remember the fairies
and pots of gold, Grandpa’s
stories, as he smoked his pipe

My Irish Grandpa

When I was kid in grammar school in Phoenix, or much later in the sunny living room at Pedro Point, it seems Grandpa was always sitting in a huge chair, a huge chair with a wide armrest to hold his coffee. I wish I could remember the stories he used to tell.

For a while we lived just off Indian School Road in the outskirts of Phoenix. We had a nice house with a barn and my folks were thinking about having some chickens but they never did. There was a tree, maybe cottonwood or ash, where Grandpa would sit and smoke his pipe and dream his dreams. I was a small girl leaning against a big German Shepherd; together we listened to tales of leprechauns and tirades against the English. He praised Irish heroes fighting for freedom. He never tired of telling his stories and now and then he would tap his pipe on the flat arm of the chair. I loved the smell of his tobacco. I could see in my own mind the creatures that seemed to be his familiars.

poemHe came to Boston as a young man and when he married Gazilda he took her on a trip to Ireland. He told me how he convinced her that the little people were true. He said, “Put a bowl of milk by the door, the little people love milk”; and what do you know, it was gone the next morning. There was nary a cat or a dog around so who else could it be but the little people.

I think my grandmother enjoyed the holiday but was anxious to get back to Boston and her new married life. Before they left Manorhamilton, his mother gave Gazilda an item long valued by the family. She didn’t pack it away but carried it herself all the way home on the ship across the Atlantic. It was a large crucifix, hand carved from dark wood found in a bog. All through the years I saw it in a place of honor in her home. Later it was given to my mother and was her special treasure.

We moved many times but wherever we settled, Mama always found a mantle or a niche for the crucifix and a large chair for her father-in-law. Grandpa slept late every morning but when he was up he maneuvered, with his cane, to the living room where he ruled like a king from his throne.

We came to California in the 30’s and eventually to the North, where Daddy bought a cottage on a hill in Pedro Point. The living room was actually a long sun porch closed in with windows and skylights. Soon after we moved there, he brought home a large wooden chair with wide armrests. “Pa is coming from Phoenix. He’ll be here next week.”

My sister, Mary, and I always looked forward to the boxes of chocolates he would bring to us. But we didn’t look forward to his complaints about our short dresses or long loose hair that he insisted we tuck back behind our ears. He checked our nails for polish and warned us about becoming “painted ladies”. We couldn’t wear lipstick during his stay and he lectured us about manners and how we should insist on respect from young men. This was when I was in high school and no longer fascinated by the little people.

©Patricia Grube
January 25, 2010

Bagdad Road

October 28th, 2016

When Grandpa butchered a steer, he shared part of it with neighbors; and he kept a hindquarter or a shoulder and hung it in the big tree. This tree was the center of all activity on the ranch. Sometimes when the neighbors gathered on Grandma’s porch to tell stories they would talk about the tree. No one seemed to know what kind it was. I remember one of them saying, “Well now, Cottonwood grows in these parts, but I’ve never seen one so big.”

My son, PJ and I are traveling together on Bagdad Road. He wants to see where I lived when I was a child. Before I go any further, I need to explain that actually, we are sitting at my dining-room table studying a map on my computer. The road is well marked so we can easily observe the landscape on either side. There is an image of a wooded area that reminds me of the road runners that scooted in front of us as we climbed the rocky beginnings of the mountain. Now and then we discuss what we see when I blow up a picture with details of the area.

Leaving the main highway just past Wickenburg and wandering through small settlements in the high desert we approach Hillside, a village that grew around a railroad stop. When Grandpa Reagan shipped his stock to market this is where he loaded them on the cattle cars. His cattle grazed on government range. He would go out every day to be sure they were okay. When it was time to take them to market he hired other cowboys to help round them up and bring them down to the road, three miles to our place and then to Hillside to put them on the train.

This is where there was a general store and the proprietor always gave me a small bag of peppermint sticks. From Hillside, it is a five-mile descent to Yava. The rocky hills bring back memories: I would like to see the “goose egg rock”. (Now I think they call it a “football rock”). In the past, the first kid to see it always shouted out.

The Google map leads into the valley, and I realize that after 70 years it all looks different; but the terrain is still familiar and I easily find where the school-house had been. Now there is a pasture and a barn. I turn to PJ and point out the gentle hill where we played baseball and explained, “We ran up hill to reach 1st and 2nd, but then it was an easy run down-hill to 3rd and home.”

Continuing into the valley, the map shows the bridge over the river; just beyond are the fields and the driveway of Grandma’s house. The long veranda has been closed and an addition hides most of the little stone house. It’s difficult to find the big tree; it seems to be hidden by the addition to the house.

Years ago, the tree shaded a large area of the yard. Every Monday Grandma put her wash-tub on the long bench to soak the clothes. That is where tools were repaired. When Grandpa hung beef in the tree, he covered it with several layers of canvas; first a clean one that was covered by another and another and another until it was thick enough to hold in the cold. At night, he would uncover it so it could get really cold; in the morning he would cover it up again.
My cousins and I liked to climb up in the branches; it was protection from the sun. Under the same tree, Grandma had a cooler where she kept the milk, butter and cream; anything she wanted to keep cool. It was about two or three feet square with a slanted top covered with rags; a container on top let water dip onto the rags and cool the inside.

“How old were you then?” PJ asked.

I was about 4 when Mama brought me and my two brothers to live in a little two room house near the main house. I think that Daddy must have been between jobs and it was the best place to be. Now as I look back it also seems that Mama was pregnant with Mary. After she was born they moved back to Phoenix and left me with Grandma. They tried to have me around now and then, but just for a short time. Perhaps I was just too much. Mama had the other three kids and she just couldn’t cope. I would say, “But I could help you take care of the baby.” The answer was always, “No. You’re going to stay with Grandma.” A few times they left my brother Joe with me. So, I felt pretty deserted as a child.

Sometimes I stayed in Phoenix with my Grandma Gazilda, Daddy’s mother. I loved both my grandmothers. They adored me too. Grandma Alice was a very strict. I remember once when I hurt my foot and I was hobbling around, I wanted Joe to dry the dishes for me and he wouldn’t do it. So, I asked my Grandma and she said, “Well if he won’t do it you’ll have to do it yourself.”

PJ was laughing, “That was Grandma Reagan. She loved you, but she was a task-master?”

We had chores to do. No question about that. There was a routine for everything. Every night she sat with me when I did my homework. I mean she had her ways but she taught me how to live.

I pointed to the map where I was trying to see the big tree that used to be behind the stone house; and just north of the tree, there used to be a windmill.  It had a wonderful sound when the breeze would turn it to pump up the clear cold water. The windmill was great; and the water that came out was cool and sweet and produced enough water to irrigate the whole twenty acres.

PJ exclaimed! “Oh! You had twenty acres so it was a little ranch?”

Yes, twenty acres. We called it “The Ranch.” There was a corral and there was a barn. There were about five acres, way in the back, along the creek. Grandpa kept the grasses cut and now and then they would try to grow a crop but it never was successful. I know one year they tried to grow sugarcane.

He had a work horse to pull the plow and he had several other horses. He would get up very early in the morning, milk the cow and do other chores before he came in for a hearty breakfast. After that I watched him get on his horse. He had a lease on a government range and he would ride out there, almost every day.

There was another large section of land where Grandma grew vegetables. The one thing Grandpa did for Grandma’s garden was to plow the ground each spring. In my child’s eyes, I can’t tell you how big it was; but it was probably as big as a city lot and filled with rows and rows of carrots, spinach, cabbage, string beans, potatoes, squash, lettuce and whatever else you can think of. People from all around and travelers driving by would stop to buy vegetables. She would take them into the garden and let them choose what they wanted.

A little further up a hill there was another fertile section where she tried to grow other things; one time it was strawberries and that was good for several years. One year when we all lived there they decided to do a cash crop of carrots. My Dad said he would take them to town. The truck was stacked high with carrots when he left to go up to Prescott to sell them. Then we waited to hear from him; and we didn’t hear from him; and we didn’t hear from him. Finally, one of my uncles went to Prescott to see if he could find him.  Dad was in the Veterans Hospital and was very sick. I don’t know what happened; but he must have sold the carrots and gone on a bender or something. I don’t know. I don’t really know what happened. But there was no money that came back from the carrots.

Daddy was released from the hospital and he went to Phoenix to get a job. Soon after Mary was born, Mama took my brothers and the new baby to join him. I also went to Phoenix, but I stayed with Grandma Gazilda in order to go to kindergarten. Then we learned there was an epidemic of Smallpox or Chickenpox. So, I skipped starting school until the next year when I went back to Yava to start the first grade. That year there were enough students to have two rooms in the school house. The teachers were friends of my folks and when they would go down to Phoenix they would take me with them. For the next few years I was back and forth, staying with my grandmothers and now and then for a while with my folks in Phoenix.

PJ said, “Look, the map shows the whole length of Bagdad Road. Going west from Yava it ends at the town of Bagdad and a big copper mine. Going east from Yava it goes through Skull Valley and then connects with the road to Prescott.