High in a tree that once was a hedge

May 31st, 2016

Here is a picture of Chris cutting the hedge that had turned into a tree.Hedge:FB

five Generations

April 10th, 2015

5 generationsI wanted to show the pictures of the women when they were all about the same age.

Pencil Drawings by Donald Grube

November 5th, 2012

Donald Grube’s drawings add to the enjoyment of Layer by Layer.

page 103Donald says:
“These drawings weren’t created for Layer by Layer. They were drawn sometime before and then selected by Patricia, Alice and myself. The pictures are from three different time periods, however, for each period, I tried to recreate similar guidelines and processes. I used the paper as a game board to record and study each stroke’s identity, heritage and future. In fact, I was intrigued with the stroke-to-stroke aspect of my work. Sometimes I would artificially speed up or slow down my thoughts and/or the application of the medium to attenuate or catch up with myself. The pieces appear highly structured to me, maybe because my personal life was less so.”

Patricia says:
My poems are very accessible; his drawings add an element of mystery.


Bakersfield (1943)

March 26th, 2011

us for blogA plane flies over and I think of Bakersfield where I began a new life. We were married there in Saint Joseph’s Church. Lester was stationed at Minter field and one Sunday sought out the priest who had come to say Mass.

“Will you marry me?” was Lester’s question.

“Well, young man that’s impossible. Priests don’t marry.”

“I mean my girl friend and me.”

“Are you a Catholic?’

“No, but my girl is.”

They set a date, Friday night, September 17, 1943. He married us inside the railing which was reserved for Catholic couples. He seemed to know Lester was special and granted him the privilege. We celebrated in the small meeting room of the Hotel Padre; cake and drinks brought from the bar. My mother and my sister, Mary were there. His sister, Rosemary and his brother and sister-in-law, Richard and Bonnie, drove from San Jose with his mother, Nina. Dorothy, my friend and Bob, his friend completed the guest list.

We married on a weekly 24 hour pass and parted the next afternoon for a week of loneliness. For three months we enjoyed each weekend and yearned to be together each week. I found a job in a china shop to fill the hours. Employers contributed to the war effort by hiring for short terms the wives who came and went.

With two other women, I followed the cadets to Arizona where the training to be pilots continued. Four months later, as a new Lieutenant, he was sent back to Bakersfield to train other pilots. There, my new life really began.

My first job was to find an apartment. I stood with a crowd of other women to get the newspaper as soon as it came off the press; and then we competed with each other to be first to claim any place for rent.  This mad dash was on a streetcar. In an older section of town I found a furnished apartment over a garage. It had the advantage of windows opening in all four directions; in the heat of Bakersfield, this meant we could catch any breeze.

After settling in I had very little to do.  I slept late and then did house-wifey chores and read magazines. After a short walk each day to the Green Frog Market for groceries, I prepared a candlelit dinner with my mother’s recipes. Each morning my new husband left my bed very early and drove to the air base where he taught young men, really just boys, how to fly the planes that would deliver destruction to the cities of Germany or later to the islands of the Pacific.

This is a true story of memories, the edges blurred by time or enhanced by desire and  yearning.

If I were to decribe this time with music it would be with jazz, with dance bands, and in the background a squadron of  Air Force Cadets marching toward the airfield, singing, “We are poor little lambs…”  Other things they sang as they marched but these young men eager for wings were in fact lambs.  In the apartment, the sound was that of a beginning piano player counting and singing, “Jeanie with the light brown hair.” That is because Lester rented a piano and decided to take lessons.

If I tried to catch the mood with a fashion show, the skirts would be above the knees, there was a pink linen suit with a froth of white organza and lace at the neck, soft cotton print dresses clinging in the hot climate, and pastel swirling skirts of formals with scant bosoms.  Décolletage. That’s when I learned that word.  The men?  Uniforms, summer or winter, either dress or fatigue.  Once the oath was taken, civilian clothes were out for the duration.  Of course there were civilians in the stores and on the streets, but we Air Force wives only had eyes for — well you get the idea.

If I tried to catch the feelings of the time, only the most extreme emotions apply.  Life was precious, and love had to be grabbed while there was time.  The future was questionable.  How could such possibilities of impending doom be faced?  It wasn’t with hopeless acceptance: apprehension was replaced with eagerness and joy.

The days were uncertain, both the length of days and the events of each day.  I waited  for Lester’s return home each day with anxious anticipation.  The radio sometimes reported events at the field, even as they were happening.  One day a member of the squadron took a plane up, planning to spin it in.  The radio commentator described how the pilot circled hour by hour. At the base they tried to talk him down with no success as, eventually, he completed his plan.

On another day, one of Lester’s buddies, went into a spin and couldn’t come out, finally he activated the ejection device which sent him into the air with just time to open his chute.  We all met at Tiny’s that night to celebrate.  Over and over he told us how he felt the chute open just before he touched the ground.  Each day was full of uncertainty.

We were offered the opportunity to move into a house, a real house on a real lot with a yard where our little dog could play and dig and there were air conditioning units in the windows.  It was there that a child was conceived and lost.  His name would have been Michael.

After a few months the owners returned and we moved to a two room apartment in a grand old house that had a bed concealed in a drawer.  Yes, it was a double bed.  It was there that a young man cried, partly because he had to leave for war to bomb other young couples in their apartments; partly because it was a dark unknown future with uncontrollable circumstances; and partly because we would be separated for a long time.

He received his orders and I moved to San Jose to live with his mother, Nina.  Another time I will write about that anxious year of daily letters.

© March 19, 2005

Bonnie’s Julia Child Moment

November 25th, 2010

 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.



April 16th, 2010

Grandma Alice

Her name was Dora Alice from her English ancestors and if you say it quickly it sounds like the Mexican pronunciation of dos reales. Grandma said that according to her name she was worth two bits (25 cents) for that was the value of dos reales in the South West. She said it laughingly and although I was only seven, I knew that her worth couldn’t be counted like that. She wasn’t just my Grandma; everybody called her “Grandma,” even old lady Sattersby who was older than anyone. One day she received a letter addressed only to “Grandma, Yava, Arizona.”

Yava was a small cluster of houses around a post office and a two-roomed school.  A creek ran through the rocky hills, the beginnings of the distant mountains that surrounded the little valley which was like an oasis after climbing out of the dessert. The post office was the center for sharing local news as well as for picking up the Phoenix paper. The postman knew everyone in the area and there were other women whose grandchildren had moved away and might be writing. The fact that a letter addressed to “Grandma” had been delivered to her by the Postal Department of the United States Government was an official confirmation of her title of “Grandma.” Although I never knew who sent the letter or what it said, I heard the story many times of how it had actually been delivered.

At times when relatives or neighbors would come to call they would sit in the cool of the late afternoon on the porch of Grandma’s little gray stone house. My brother, John, and I would linger nearby, whittling on sticks or playing with hollyhock dolls, to listen to the grown-ups talk of happenings in Washington, about which water hole on the range was drying up, and would we have an early winter. They relived and shared memories, recent or long past.

Many times I heard people ask Grandma if it were true that she had only weighed a pound and a quarter at birth. She would bring out the little red sunbonnet she had worn when she was a year old and tell of how her first bed had been a cotton padded cigar box. We would each measure the little hat with a fist and try to imagine such a such a small little toddler. She was considered an unusual person first of all, because of her survival; and as she was then well past sixty it seemed to be even more amazing. Now-a-days we are unimpressed by such for we have been insulated from the brutality of nature’s sorting out the fit.

Tenacity, then, set the pattern for her life which began in Illinois on January 20, 1861. The family moved to Texas, because her father thought his wife’s health would benefit from a warmer climate. Alice was seven when her mother died of tuberculosis. Grandma told me she cared for her two younger brothers and that her mother had already taught her to knit, crochet and cook. She described the little stool she stood on to reach the work table. She was always small, under five feet tall, but her vitality reached far beyond her tiny form. Her hazel-grey eyes were sharp and friendly, her hair dark and very curly, her skin soft, her face small and round with a gentle chin, but clearly sculptured with the high cheek bones of her Cherokee ancestry. She liked bright colors and wore a full-length gingham apron over her long dresses. When we went Sunday visiting, she put a crocheted lace color on her dress and wore a long double strand of jet black beads. She was deliberately a lady and she knew who she was and was proud of all she was. She had a strong will and determination to control her own life.

When they would talk of the early days it seemed to me to be full of adventure, but after living a share of life myself I sense the struggle and the storm that must have characterized some of those years. Her father had remarried when she was fourteen and she couldn’t get along with her stepmother. She went to work for a neighboring family, caring for their children and tending the garden. When she worked in the fields she wore long stocking gloves and a sun-bonnet so her skin would stay white, so she would appear delicate and fragile – the fashion for young ladies.

She and Grandpa were childhood sweethearts, both strong willed and holding two different attitudes to life: that of the herdsman and that of the cultivator. He had been working for the same family as a cowboy during vacations from school. She was sixteen when they married, and in the next few years two sons were born, Ned and Bill. The Arizona Territory was opening up and they decided to settle there. Grandpa was a cattleman and his main concern was to find range for his stock. She told of being left alone for months at a time to care for their growing family while Grandpa was off on the range.

For twenty years, the herds flourished; then after an extended drought Grandpa drove many thousand cattle and hundreds of horses to Dodge City. Grandma went with him on the drive. She and the two youngest children, Bernice and Bess (five and ten years old) rode with the wagons at the rear of the caravan. Their job was to find, pick up and care for the new calves born in the course of the trip. The youngest son, Jim, was thirteen and he rode a horse with the men. The two older boys, Ned and Bill, were cowhands. The stock was sold and they bought land near Lakon where my mother was born. For several years, Grandpa worked for meat packers, buying cattle and fattening them on his land. Heavy blizzards for two successive winters put him out of business again.

Land in Arizona had become available for homesteading, so they returned to Springerville, Arizona where they had settled before. Grandma used to tell with a tone of self-satisfaction, how she decided to go into business herself. Grandpa did not approve and went on with his plan to build a new herd of cattle. She borrowed money from a distant relative, and, being a person who loved to have people around, she established a hotel.  She wanted to live in town where there was a school; above all she wanted her children to be educated. My mother has always spoken a little wistfully of “when we had the hotel” and says it was a great success until one tragic night when it burned completely. All she saved were feather pillows, which she combined into a mattress; she slept on it all the rest of her life.

Grandma was not to be defeated and began another venture, a restaurant, which she built on the same spot. It was during those years that my mother was growing up. She was helping in the restaurant when my father arrived from Boston thinking that the Arizona climate would heal his lungs; they had been damaged by mustard gas. After my mother and father were married and settled in Phoenix, Grandma and Grandpa moved to Yava. Perhaps it was to find a milder climate or perhaps it was to be near her youngest daughter.

They were already in their late sixties when my brother Joe, and I went to stay with them for a while. The little stone house was cool in summer and warm in winter and near it was a huge old tree. Several trees had grown together and there was a hollow place in the middle. The shadow of its branches covered an area with a radius of twenty feet and a bench was built under it making a cool work center for hot summer days. There, Grandpa would repair or sharpen his tools and there, Grandma would set her tubs of soapy water on washing day.

I would climb up the center of the tree where there was a stump of a sawed off branch. It was like a throne from which I could watch everything beneath the tree or in the far fields and no one would know I was there. When my cousins visited we all played a game of “pretend” in which we were black birds, each one having a special place to perch. Our chirping and giggling would become very quiet when Grandma would come to get milk out of the cooler, which was nearby in the shade or to gather her clothes and fold them on the bench.

“I wonder where the children are?” she would say. “I always know they are all right when they’re noisy. It’s when they’re quiet that I worry about them.” We would be so quiet that we would almost burst, until finally my cousin, Gwendolyn would let out a thin airy giggle, and then we would all begin to roar. “My goodness those blackbirds are making a clatter in the tree today, they probably have their eyes on my radishes. I’ll have Dad get out the shot gun when he comes home tonight.” At that we would become fearful and confess right away that it was just us.

I think that Grandma and that tree both represented security to me; remembering one brings up a picture of the other. She was always busy but never hurried; I think of her as a center of peace which she seemed able to give to others. People often dropped by to seek her advice or help. Strangers, even, traveling through, would stop, explaining that her flower garden had been such a welcome sight after miles of dry barren desert and god-forsaken rocky hills that they just couldn’t pass by without stopping. Water, freshly pumped by the windmill, was cool; and Grandma’s friendly welcoming chatter was refreshing. I would listen from my hiding place in the tree and wonder where they were going and where they had come from. Sometimes candidates for public office would stop, as they wanted her endorsement. Then for several days the issues of the coming election would be the topic of conversation whenever neighbors stopped to visit.

In the evening, we would sit at the round table in the kitchen and read or do our homework. The lamplight was a warm yellow color and made a flickering circle we all could share. Grandma was always willing to help us because she set a high value on education. It was through her efforts that there was a school in the little settlement. As a girl, geography was her favorite subject. She would trace her fingers on the shape of a country on the map and dream that she was traveling there. Such traveling was an unfulfilled fantasy but when she talked about it I thought that some time it would really happen.

There was little time for fantasy. Her life was ordered by nature and her day began with as much regularity as if she had to punch a time clock. There were animals to be fed, crops to be planted or tended or harvested. In the early dawn, Grandpa went to milk the cows while she fed the hens and fixed a hearty breakfast. He then left for the hills on his horse. Her daily activities were decided by the seasons. Rich fertile ground was wealth to her.  She explained to me the mistake that the cities like Phoenix were making by spreading across the fertile river valleys. If they woul build in the surrounding hills, there would be room for people and for crops. She tended her garden but was concerned about the broader issues.

Grandma, Dora Alice Wilkerson Reagan, lived to be ninety-four. She was living with her youngest daughter, Winnie, my mother. Wherever she was, she made new friends and continued her interest in world affairs. New inventions were exciting to her. When television was introduced she could listen to all the political speeches and see the candidates. She thought that television would make it possible for everyone to know the issues and vote wisely. She eagerly watched the travelogues of the lands she had never visited. She loved to watch wrestling; Gorgeous George was her favorite. Each day she was busy sewing for her grandchildren and great grandchildren. She asked me to bring her my mending to keep her fingers busy. She was occupied thus, working for others, the day before she died.


Website created and maintained by Paul Hughes


Earthquakes and Nightmares

March 6th, 2010

The recent earthquakes bring back memories of some nightmares I have had through the years. They began when I was eleven years old and persisted until October 17, 1989, at 5:04 p.m. Maybe not actual nightmares but extreme anxiety caused by a vivid imagination.

In August of 1934 we arrived in Long Beach California. Daddy drove through town and straight onto the Rainbow Pier so we could see the ocean for the first time. Even though I was old enough to know better, I was disappointed that I couldn’t see China. My sister, Mary, was crying because she thought he was going to drive right out into the water, the biggest water she had ever seen.  He reluctantly drove into town. We found Mama’s brother Bill Reagan and his wife Myrtle who lived in a small cottage near the water. After greetings and something to eat we bundled up with our blankets on the living room floor.

Communication in those days was face to face or by letters. The stories Uncle Bill had to tell were too long for letters, so we listened for hours about the 6.4 earthquake that struck Long Beach at 5:55 pm, March 10, 1933.

The epicenter was offshore, southeast of Long Beach on the Newport-Inglewood Fault. Forty million dollars property damage resulted, and 115 lives were lost. Many of these fatalities occurred as people ran out of buildings and were hit by falling debris. The major damage occurred in the thickly settled district from Long Beach to the industrial section south of Los Angeles, where unfavorable geological conditions (made land, water-soaked alluvium) combined with poor structural work to increase the damage. At Long Beach, buildings collapsed, water tanks fell through roofs, and houses displaced on foundations. School buildings were among those structures most generally and severely damaged. The earthquake eliminated all doubts regarding the need for earthquake resistant design for structures in California. So many school buildings were damaged that the Field Act was passed by the California State Legislature on April 10 1933. The Field Act mandated that school buildings must be earthquake-resistant. If the earthquake had occurred during school hours, the death toll would have been much higher. (wikipedia)

Those are the basic facts. Pictures I have found on the web look as devastating as the pictures we see today of Haiti and Chili. I will try to snag a few. Uncle Bill filled in the details along with fierce admonitions to us children about how to behave in case of an earthquake. “Don’t run out and be hit by debris.”  “Wherever you are always know where the safest place would be in case of an earthquake, usually a doorway.” “Avoid buildings built of bricks.” etc.

This was solid advice and I pass it on to you. It has flavored my whole life. Here are some examples. The way to my school was several blocks long and then across a bridge and then a few more blocks. I could shorten the trip if I walked through a narrow alley between the walls of two brick buildings. I avoided this shortcut unless I was late and then I would gather my courage together, take a deep breath and moving as fast as I could I would run through the block long alley. What a relief to arrive safely at the other end. You would think that this would strengthen me for another time, but actually it meant that I was just lucky this time and that the odds were now against me.

School buildings had been severely damaged, collapsed completely, or judged unsafe to enter. School has always been a happy place for me as I like to learn and in those days I felt safe in the tents pitched on wooden platforms. This time was also depression time and the WPA made possible the opportunity to be entertained by a symphony orchestra as well as other performers. We had no auditorium for the assemblies so they took place in an open air courtyard.

My uncle had a great many stories that were told in great detail and of course the most dramatic ones were repeated over and over. That is when my worries began. He assured us over and over that we were living in earthquake country and we should expect and be prepared for the big one. In California we have many small tremors on a regular basis but the common knowledge was that there would be a big one. Even after we moved to the north we were still in earthquake country and the big one was sure to come. When I was a grown up married woman and we were at a movie or other event, if I looked around and saw that the walls were brick, I would start to panic. If it were not possible to leave, I would spend the time expecting calamity at any minute.

So the years moved on and I worried about earthquakes. When the ground would begin to quiver I would stand in a doorway and wonder if it was going to be the big one. We all became experts at judging the intensity. Then came October 17, 1989. I grabbed a stair banister to keep from falling and when the shaking ended I judged it to be the big one I had been waiting for. As tension was relieved on the fault line that day, my stress about earthquakes disappeared. I know more will come but somehow that edge of fear is gone and more than that I seem to have lost my ability to judge the intensity of a tremor. Although I used to feel the smallest of shakes, now most of them happen without my noticing. However I need to say I avoid the tall buildings in San Francisco even though they are supposedly built to withstand very great shocks.

©Patricia Grube
February 28, 2010

Christmas Tree and Story

December 12th, 2009

tree copy 2
My little tree is a collage on plywood panels. The first layer is newspaper ads for gifts, then I spattered it with green and white paint. Ornaments and the angel are cut from cards from past years. Chains are silver.

I wish you beautiful holidays full of love and kindness and a happy new year.

Christmas (1930)

(This is a true memory about Grandma Alice and Mama who were loving, resourceful women. For me the story represents the real spirit of Christmas.)

That December was bleak. Every breath was icy and chilled the bones. The winter solstice had passed, Christmas was coming but Pete and 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 had suggested some games to keep us busy while she went up to the big house to help Grandma. 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 and I argued that 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 (Santa’s helpers) had been busy for weeks making a rag doll for Mary and all new clothes for my baby doll. The boys had fabulous muslin kites. There were new sweaters for all of us. Later on I discovered what a job the sweaters had been. Someone gave Mama some yarn, but it was a dull grayish brown. Grandma and Mama unraveled older sweaters and worked the bright colors into patterns as they knit the new sweaters that were beautiful and very warm.


December 7th, 2009

chicks-Steve-Anne-PatrickPatrick, Stephen and Anne with new baby chicks (1956)

Wolf Road in Cupertino was and is a major thoroughfare in Santa Clara County. In those days it was a gravel road that ran through the countryside where mailboxes marked small plots of family farms. Lester Floyd Grube was born at home there on April 14, 1923, the third child of Nina May Secor  and Arthur Meigs Grube. Richard was the eldest and Rosemary the beloved daughter. This is where the story starts.

Arthur was a carpenter, like his father, and like his father he was a hard worker. Nina, a schoolteacher, stayed at home to care for the family. They had a vegetable garden and a small flock of chickens. A few extra eggs were sold to friends at church and then to markets in the town nearby. They added a few more chickens and then Arthur built a chicken house. Slowly there was more work to sort and deliver the eggs. More work than Nina and the children could handle so Arthur cut back on his other jobs committing to fewer and fewer until the egg business became a full time endeavor. One evening when some friends were over he said he needed a name and after some beers and some laughs he chose the name Kackleberries. Markets near by were asking for more eggs and the neighbors wanted him to sell their eggs as well. On their small plot there was no building large enough to handle the necessary work. Every available nook in the house was used as they all took part in the sorting of baskets and buckets of eggs into bags and boxes.

Nina and Arthur decided to take a chance. They bought a house in San Jose that had a cellar and a large single wall garage in back. They gave up raising chickens and sold their country place. They concentrated on distributing eggs. That is how a flock of chickens grew into a flourishing business. Of course there is more to the story but that is the main point of it.

Lester’s passions in high school were playing drums in the school band and the orchestra and dreaming of horses.  Arthur wanted him to have a business education so he sent him to the University in Berkeley. Being war time he enrolled in the Reserves in order to continue his education, but in his Sophomore year the Reserves were called up and he was sent to San Diego, then Santa Maria and Bakersfield to train for the Army Air Corp. That was when I dropped out of school and we were married before he went to fly a B-24 over China. Sometime I will write a story about that.

When the war was over he enrolled in Cal Poly to learn the chicken business from the chick to the egg to the frying pan. Although he, Richard and Rosemary had inherited a very successful distribution business, he wanted to go back to the farm. He graduated the end of January and we bought a farm, 106 acres, with an all year spring halfway up the mostly unusable hillside. It was on Willow Springs Road just north of Morgan Hill. His chicken dream came true with many hundreds of chickens employing the most up to date methods witch included candling the eggs at the farm then rushing to the retail markets. The business included a large warehouse and office on Lenzen Avenue in San Jose.

As the business continued to grow, our family grew as well and this will be a future story. I’m trying to keep focused on the chickens. We bought a larger ranch on Narvais Road near San Jose. It was fewer acres but more usable space, enough space to move the distribution business from Lenzen Avenue to that location. Eggs came from farmers in the Central Valley and the coast north of Carmel. Days were busy with trucks coming and going; employees checking in and out. We also had a vegetable garden to tend, other animals to feed. We raised them for meat. We also had a goat to milk; we borrowed her because one baby was allergic to cows milk.  We enjoyed being close to the land and welcoming the new baby chicks.

Then one day we dreamed a new dream: to go to Africa and help to set up small chicken farms.  After selling the business and the farm, Lester signed a contract with Zambia as Provincial Poultry Officer in the Copper Belt. It was a great adventure for the whole family and that is, of course again, another story. This seems to be just an outline for at least a half a dozen stories that will come later.

This story about chickens is to tell you why my Christmas money this year is to buy chickens to send to a far away land in memory of Arthur and of Lester. This story and the chickens are my Christmas present to everyone.