Wednesday, July 1, 2009
Diana Lucina Spicer Block.......Her story
I was born on April 23, 1868...the third of four daughters born to Mortimer Nelson Spicer and Polly Julina Wakely, in or between Humboldt Wells and Desert Springs, Nevada.
My father died when I was four years old. My mother took me and my sisters to live with her mother, Grandma Wakely. The Wakely family were early Mormon Pioneers and had settled in Brigham City, Utah. I loved my grandmother very dearly. I remember a happy and carefree childhood on her farm.
When I was six years old, mother married William Collins and we moved to Hillyeard, Wyoming - where my stepfather was working in a logging camp making ties for the railroad.
From this marriage I had four half-brothers and one half-sister. My stepfather was very good to me. We were a happy family. One of the joys of my childhood was the two winters my sister Lucy and I went back to Grandma Wakely's to go to school. I also went to school in Evanston. I received as much schooling as most children of that time.
I was about nine years old when we moved to Evanston, Wyoming and I lived there until I was eighteen years old.
I met Albert Block when I was twelve; he was eighteen. He came home with my father. Soon after we met, he married and in due time two little girls, Elizabeth and Alvira were born to him and his wife. I was often hired as a baby sitter for the children. After two years of marriage he divorced his wife. I was then fourteen. When I was seventeen he "came a-courtin'." In 1887 when I was eighteen years old, we were married, He worked on the railroad and made a good living. (Through the rest of the story she refers to her husband as "papa".)
Our first child, Bill was born in Evanston on March 23, 1888. A year later we moved to Ogden, Utah. My father and papa took a contract to clear sagebrush and rocks from the land for farming. It was there that May was born in 1890.
Papa was a good hard-working man, but he liked to travel. A year later, we loaded all our belongings into the wagon and moved to Idaho Falls. We lived there with my aunt Naomi Campbell (My father's only sister) until we took out a homestead of one hundred and sixty acres. Besides working and improving his ranch, papa worked in the grist Mill running the engine for grinding the flour.
That winter, there was an Indian uprising. About one hundred and fifty young bucks from the Blackfoot reservation went on the warpath. They rampaged though Snake River Valley. Lucky for us we were on the other side of the river. We could see barns, houses and farms being burned. They killed many people. Papa had joined the home guards in Wyoming and had joined again in Idaho. So he was called along with most of the men to help quiet them down. Before he left he took the children and me to the fort where most of the women and children were. There was about six inches of snow on the ground and it was very cold. We put our two babies in the baby buggy and piled in as many of their warm clothes and blankets as we could. Papa took two ropes and tied them to the front of the buggy, making a harness. He pulled and I pushed. It was all we could do to get it through the snow. As we neared the fort, the people thought we were Indians using this as a trick to get inside. They had their guns on us until someone recognized papa.
I stayed in the fort three weeks. When papa came back, he had a bullet wound across the back of his neck where a bullet had grazed the flesh. It was a nasty sore for a long time. He carried a scar for the rest of his life. He always enjoyed showing the scar and telling the children how he was wounded in the Indian war.
We hadn't been home very long when my sister Lucy came to visit me. We were sitting out in the shade of the cabin one afternoon when suddenly a big buck Indian stepped out in front of us. We were terrified. But he soon made us realize he was hungry and wanted something to eat. The day before I had cooked a big pot of beans and during the night they had soured. That morning I had set them out on a bench by the side of the house so papa could feed them to the pigs. As soon as he spotted the pot of beans he sat down and started to eat. I tried to tell him that they would make him sick, but he paid no attention. When he had eaten about half of them, he jumped up and started whoopin' and hollerin' and jumping up and down - doing a regular Indian war dance. I thought he had a stomach ache and was sick. Again I was terrified - I had visions of him dying there in my yard and the whole Indian tribe bearing down on us for revenge. But after a few minutes he sat down and started to eat again. When they were nearly gone he jumped up, gave a loud yell and took off across the prairie as fast as he could run!. That was the last we ever saw of him!
One day three men came riding down the road - two of them stopped at our gate, the third one came up to my door. He had a terrible wound on his hand. It looked as though half his thumb had been shot off, but he said he had done it with his knife. He wanted me to bandage it for him. I started to wrap it with a clean white cloth when he told me to put something on it so the bandage would not stick. I told him I didn't have anything to use. He said, "go to the barn and get some axle grease." All the way to the barn and back, Bill and May were clinging to my skirts and crying.
He took the grease and rubbed it all over his hand. When I was through bandaging it and started to tie it up, he said, "don't tie it - I want you to sew it on so it can't come off." When I came back with a needle and black thread, he said, "No - get some white thread." I told him it was the black thread or none at all, because that's all I had. I sewed it on good and tight. He thanked me and the three men rode off down the road.
That night when papa came home from the grist mill, he said, "you know, mama, I saw a terrible sight on my way home. Three men were hanging from a tree. The funny thing is - one of them had his hand all bandaged up and it was sewn on with black thread." Later we learned they had stolen the horses they were riding. They were caught and hung. Papa always found pleasure in reminding me I had been good to a horse thief.
In 1891, I lost a pair of twins and nearly my life. That day started out like all the rest. I was up early to get papa off to work. Although I was well into my ninth month and was expecting my baby at any time, I felt good. I worked fast that morning and caught up on a lot of extra little jobs I had been putting off. About mid-morning I found we were out of drinking water. Papa had dug a small ditch and channeled water past our house for our household use and our stock, but all our drinking water had to be carried from the main stream which was a good block away. I locked Bill and May in the yard and hurried across the sand with a big bucket. Just as I stooped down to scoop up the water, I heard a terrible scream from the children. For a moment I was paralyzed - all I could think of was Indians. The children were still screaming. As I lifted the heavy bucket of water from the stream a terrible pain shot through my body. Before I could scramble up the bank and run across the sand to where I could see the children, I had several hard pains. The children were alright - they were running around the yard screaming at the top of their voices, having a gay old time. I was so relieved I sank to the ground. Another awful pain ripped through my body and I knew my baby was coming. I still had about a half block to go and I still had that bucket of water. Subconsciously I guess I knew I would need it. I was so afraid I wouldn't make it back to the house. I remember going through the gate and locking it and telling Bill not to go out of the yard for anything.
Soon, my babies were born - I passed out. The next thing I knew my mother and brother were helping me into the house. My mother had become worried about me and had ridden out from Idaho Falls to see if I was alright. I am sure they saved my life. My "baby" turned out to be twins. They both smothered to death before my mother arrived. Papa and I felt badly about losing our babies but I was young and strong and it wasn't long before I was well again.
Lucy was born the following year, 1892. After her birth I was sick and run down. The doctor told us to move to Oregon. We turned our homestead back to the government and sold our improvements to the people who took it over. Again we loaded our wagon with our children and worldly possessions and started out.
We hadn't been on the road many days when I realized I did not have the right kind of heavy pots to cook in over a campfire. I told papa that if I only had a big Dutch oven I could bake biscuits, potatoes and even bake bread. That night when we made camp alongside a pile of rocks that had been used for a campstove, there lay a big cast iron Dutch oven and lid. Papa was so excited - he said, "Come look Mama, your prayers have been answered."
At American Falls we met a family by the name of Davis. They were in trouble. Mrs. Davis was about to have a baby and Mr. Davis had been blinded by poison ivy. Their horses had run away. We stayed and helped them until they were able to travel. They were headed for Santa Rosa, Calif., and we decided to go with them. It was early September and we wanted to get over the Sierra Nevada Mountains before winter set in. We followed the old Immigrant Trail. It was a long, hard trip. When we came to a settlement, we would find out how many miles it was to the next one. We planned for our food and water accordingly. When we ran out of money we sold papa's watch and a gold trophy that I prized very dearly, and all the rest of our belongings that we did not need that was of any worth.
The first part of our trip had gone pretty smoothly. But by November we had nothing more to sell. We were out of money and our food supply was nearly gone. It had been a long time since we passed through the last settlement and we had seen no one. We were worried. It was getting cold, and we were hitting some of the early winter storms. To make matters worse - Mrs. Davis was ailing, we knew her baby could come at any time. We felt sure we were getting close to some little town because we had seen cattle grazing here and there along the road. Although we were practically without food we were afraid to kill one. The penalty for stealing cattle was hanging! Each day brought new anxiety and fear.
Then came help...one day a cowboy rode into camp...right away he could see what a bad fix we were in. He told us he was working for a big ranch that was about five or six days travel ahead of us. If we could just hold out until we reached there, he was sure they would help us out.
He gave us permission to kill a beef, but this turned out to be bad for us, as we all ate too much of the fresh meat. It gave us diarrhea and made us so sick we couldn't travel for a day or so. We have just started out again when Mrs. Davis went into labor. She had a long hard confinement with nothing to help her. To make matters worse we were even low on water. It was the first baby I had ever helped deliver. It was a bad experience for me - one I have never forgotten. We knew Mrs. Davis needed a day or so to rest but we were afraid to wait. All we had left was some flour and very little of that, so we kept going.
When we finally reached the ranch, two or three days later, we were in a mighty bad way. After we set up our camp, papa and Mr. Davis went to the house to ask for help. The foreman told them they did not have supplies to give us. But they would give us enough food for our supper and we could replenish our water supply and spend the night. Papa was heartsick, he knew we couldn't make it to Santa Rosa without help. He hated to come back to camp and tell me the sad news. But papa didn't know we had callers while he was gone. A bunch of the cowboys had seen our camp and stopped to see what we were doing there. Something told me to show them our tiny baby. They were amazed and crowded in to see it. It was the first newborn baby some of them had ever seen. They left before papa and Mr. Davis came back.
We were stunned by the news our men brought back to us. How could we leave without food for our children, and we knew we would have to move on if they said to because we were trespassing on their property. That evening we were sitting around our campfire trying to console each other, trying to find a way, when we saw a group of people coming to our camp. I believe it was every ranch hand on the place. The men who had been in our camp that afternoon had spread the story of our little newborn baby. When the foreman heard, he filled two big wheelbarrows with grub and was bringing it to us. They all wanted to see the baby. Once again I brought it from the wagon and they all crowded around to see. One cowboy passed his hat through the crowd and said, "Come on fellows, let's dig down and help this little baby out." When he put the money down in front of us there was quite a few dollars. I have forgotten now just how much it was. We stayed there a couple of days, then we traveled on. We still had a long way to go. The baby died three months later.
We arrived in Santa Rosa six weeks later, just before Christmas. We had been three and one-half months on the road and traveled over 1,000 miles. We camped on the Santa Rosa Creek. Our money was gone and we had very little food left.
Christmas morning papa went out to hunt some kind of wild life. While he was gone the good ladies from the near-by church brought us our Christmas dinner.
Papa soon found work in a second-hand store repairing stoves His salary was ten dollars a week. A year later in 1894, George was born. Soon after, Papa became a partner in the store and in the next two years we saved enough to buy a home.
When Eva was born in 1896, she came two months early and weighed only three pounds. She was so tiny and weak, I fashioned a self-designed incubator for her. I made a deep pad of cotton in a carton box, then placed my baby between two big rolls of cotton covered with outing flannel. I put bottles of very warm water in the cotton. This way, her bed was kept at about the same temperature and I could keep her warm.
She was so weak I had to squeeze the milk from my breasts and feed her drop-by-drop until she was strong enough to nurse. When she was three months old, papa could put her head in the palm of his hand and her feet would barely reach his elbow. When she was only about six months old, papa got itchy feet again and wanted to move. I shed tears over leaving my home, but we decided to move to Gold Hill, Oregon. We weren't there very long when we got word from my mother and stepfather. They were going to try their luck at gold mining and wanted us to go with them. Papa couldn't say no. We met them at Red Bluff and traveled together to the Rogue River where we made camp. The men set up their mine and worked long and hard for the gold they found. It was barely enough to keep us alive. We suffered from the cold and endured many hardships, and I was pregnant again with my sixth child. Finally we saved enough for a grub stake to take us over the mountains to Crescent City. Papa went to work in a sawmill and we moved into one of the company houses. There Clara was born in 1898.
My older children were old enough to go to school, but we were so poor I couldn't get clothes for them. When the teacher found out why they were not attending school, she brought me a big bag of bleached flour sacks. By hand, I made clothes for them, and they started to school. Bill was sure a funny sight in his flour sack pants.
We lived in Crescent City four years. Papa left the sawmill and bought a saloon. He made more money here than we had ever had before. Papa liked the life but I didn't. One night he came home in high spirits and filled my lap with money. I became so angry I told him that this was no life for our children and the new one we expected soon. If he didn't sell the saloon, I would burn it down and all of Crescent City with it. I guess he believed me, because he sold out and we moved to Waldo, Oregon. We took out another homestead. Here Frank was born in 1902.
When Spring came, papa was restless. He bought a photograph tent and camera and all summer he traveled from town to town taking pictures. I stayed on the ranch. I had a neighbor close enough to visit with - our homesteads bordered each other's. We found a great deal of pleasure in each other's company and our children were playmates. While papa was gone, our children had smallpox. An epidemic swept through the country. It was so bad, pest houses were built by the county in order to control it. All those with the disease was supposed to be taken there as soon as possible. We were afraid they would take our children from us, we decided to tell no one they were sick. Many times we were afraid we weren't going to pull them through. But with God's help they were nearly well by the time Papa came home.
Again he wanted to move on. Again we turned our homestead back to the government and moved back to Crescent City. We stayed with my mother and stepfather through the winter. In the spring we started down the coast to Sonoma County.
In Cloverdale papa got a contract to go into the mountains to strip tan bark off the trees. At that time they used this bark for tanning hides. Papa hired several men to help him. We were there over a year. This was hard work for me. I did all the cooking for the men besides taking care of my growing family. Early in the spring I knew I was going to have another baby. As the summer of 1904 wore on, I was anxious to get out of the mountains. I knew my time was near. Papa had engaged a doctor in Cloverdale but we waited too long - I went into labor as soon as we started to travel. Every jolt of the wagon brought on a pain. When I could go no farther we pitched our tent on the banks of the Russian River near Healdsburg. The younger children were very concerned about me. They couldn't understand why I was so sick. To make me feel better, Eva and Clara brought me two big pears they found on a near-by tree. I told them to lay the pears on my pillow, then run on to bed and in the morning they would find a little baby in their place! During the night, Papa, with the help of Bill and May delivered a little baby we named Ruby.
We stayed there two weeks then we moved on down the coast. On the way we had a narrow escape. Going down a steep grade the wheel of the wagon broke. It threw the wagon against a bank and Lucy fell out under the horses' feet. One of them kicked her in the chest. She was badly hurt. It took her a long time to get well. Many years later her chest was X-rayed. They found a perfect print of a horse's hoof on her breast bone. The shock of the accident and birth of my baby was too much for me. It was days before I could travel on.
In the spring we found five acres of property we wanted to buy in Elverano. It had a small rough cabin and a prune orchard on it. We used what money we had for a down payment. We knew we would need a water well and a bigger house, so we went back to Santa Rosa where papa and the children worked on big ranches, picking up potatoes, picking hops and grapes. I was busy canning fruit for the winter.
Finally we had enough money. We moved into the little cabin. Papa built bunk beds across one end for the children, then he dug a well and put up a windmill. Next he built a barn and we bought a cow. Then he started the house. Besides helping papa and caring for my family, I found time to plant a vegetable garden and some fruit trees, and to beautify my yard with flowers.
It was an early morning in April, 1906. We were still in bed. all of a sudden there was a loud rumble --- the cabin began to shake --- the door flew open. We could see the prune trees whipping the ground, we knew it was an earthquake. We had felt quakes before, but never one like this. We could see our windmill and water tank going in circle. We were afraid they would topple over. We told the children to lie still and not be afraid. It completely destroyed San Francisco fifty miles away.
As the summer passed, I was anxious to get settled in our new home and get my bedroom ready for the baby I was expecting in the late fall. This was the home I had dreamed of. Two big bedrooms, a kitchen and a big parlor with a veranda across the front and one side. Later we added two more bedrooms, a bathroom, enlarged the kitchen and built a pantry. It was one of the nicest homes in the valley. Erving was born here in November, 1906.
When my baby was a year old, papa heard the railroad was building a spur to a big coal mine through Stone Canyon, just out of Soledad. Again we needed money for our growing family. Papa applied for a job and was hired as a construction foreman. We closed up our home and this time we moved by train to Soledad. We rented a house for me and the children, and papa went on the road with his men.
After Carl was born in 1908, I moved to Chancellor, where I was employed by the railroad to run a boarding house for about one hundred of their men. This was a hard, full time job of cooking and cleaning for me and every child that was old enough to help. But it was extra money and we were with papa.
After the job was finished we moved back to our home in Elverano and papa went to work in a lumber yard. A year or so later, I received word that my stepfather had died. My mother was alone. I knew she needed me so I left for Crescent City as soon as I could , leaving my older children to take care of my younger ones. I took the train from Elverano to Grants Pass, then a stage coach over the mountains to Crescent City. I was the only passenger, so I rode a good deal of the way up with the driver. He was a young man early in his twenties. I told him about my family when I mentioned Bill, he said, "Mrs. Block, I thought I knew you." "I have been in your home many times. I went to school with Bill in Crescent City." This made me feel good, I knew I was safe with this young man.
Early in the evening we could see storm clouds gathering. At midnight we reached the half-way station, changed horses and started out again. It wasn't long before it started to storm - it got so dark we couldn't see the road. The driver said the safest way was to drop the lines and let the horses find their own way. It was a long and fearful night, but the driver used good judgement...the horses stayed on the road. We arrived in Crescent City the next day.
I found my mother too sick to be left alone, so I started to make preparations to take her home with me. I learned that the first automobile stage was making it first trip from Crescent City to Grants Pass in about three weeks. I decided to wait for it ... thinking it would be an easier trip for my mother. But it turned out to be just the opposite. The drivers were not used to handling the motor driven stage, especially over the steep, narrow mountain roads. Every time we would come to an extra steep grade or sharp turn, all the passengers would get out and walk. It seemed to me we walked over half the way. Many times my mother was so sick the men would carry her. We finally reached Grants Pass and from there we took a train to Elverano.
My mother settled easily into the routine of my family. For the next few years it was a constant struggle to keep up with the work and the great demands of my family. But we enjoyed many good times, together. Each summer we would put our tent and children into the wagon and go to the hops and grape fields. This was like a family outing and we all looked forward to it. Papa and the children made enough money to buy our winter clothes and supplies. There was always plenty of fruit to be had, just for the picking. I made sure I canned plenty to last us through the winter.
During this time May and George were married. Along with his job in the lumber yard, papa took over the movie house. It was called the "Elverano Villa". He showed movies three times a week. In the way of advertising the children rode through the streets in a cart calling out "Movies tonight in the Elverano Villa". This was great fun for them and I am sure they were the envy of most of the kids in town.
My life began to get easier. My older children were good to help me, taking over much of the care of my younger ones. Bill had a good job and gave me most of his wages to help us out. Papa was making a fair living for us and was more settled. But every so often he would take off on one of his gold mining trips, using what little money we had managed to save. He was always on the verge of striking something big and was sure the next time would be it. He usually took some of the children with him and a couple of times he even talked me into going. Although they very often suffered from the cold, looked like little ragged orphans, ate wild game, fish, and any wild food they could find when their supplies ran out, they were always anxious to go with him. They all have wonderful memories and can tell some pretty fantastic stories about papa and his gold mining trips.
I had a nice home and enjoyed working in my yard. I had a nice vegetable garden and prune orchard. I can still see and hear my children as they gathered around papa on the steps of the veranda on warm summer evenings and around the big kitchen stove on cold winter nights -singing songs and listening to his many stories. I was content to sit in my rocker, busy with my ever-growing basket of mending.
Then tragedy stuck. It was about 4:00 a.m. one morning. We were awakened by screams and a terrible commotion. Papa and I jumped out of bed and ran through the kitchen toward the bedrooms. Coming down the hall was a mass of flames. Clara was screaming, I thought she was on fire. I fainted dead away. My mother had tipped the kerosene lantern over, saturating the top of her nightclothes in oil, making a human torch of herself. In her panic she started to run . Papa stopped her, ripping her nightgown from her. Eva had grabbed a blanket from her bed, with this they smothered the flames. She was terribly burned. The flesh fell from her breasts and the cords in her neck tightened until they almost choked her. I sat by her bedside day and night, but there was little I could do to relieve her suffering. For months every morning the doctor would come. I would go to the chicken coop and get the fresh laid eggs and while they were still warm he would peel off the fine inner skin and with a tweezer, drop tiny little pieces on the open burns. If it took, the skin would start to grow. After many months her body finally healed but she never recovered from the shock of it. She was a constant care for me until she died in 1929.
I was now forty-six years old. Clara had gotten married and I was six times a grandmother, when to my utter disbelief I realized I was pregnant again. I was heartsick - this just couldn't be! Carl would be seven years old before it was born. Papa felt bad for me but thought another baby would be wonderful. He said, "This will be the one that will be a comfort to us in our old age." There was nothing else for me to do but make the best of it and agree with him.
Maxwell, our eleventh and last child was born on April 24, 1916. Just one day after my 47th birthday. The first time I held him in my arms I offered a prayer and asked God to let me live long enough to raise him to manhood. My prayers were answered and I have been blessed to live to enjoy his grandchildren. Soon after his birth, we nicknamed him "Chubby". He has always been a great joy and blessing to me which all of my children have been.
Just before Chub was born the man who owned the lumber yard papa was working for passed away. Papa thought it would be a real good investment to take it over. We mortgaged our home to buy more stock and improve the business. After just a few months we knew Papa just couldn't make a go of it. When Chub was six months old, we lost our home. This was a great disappointment for me. I hated the thought of uprooting my family, leaving our good friends and above all, my home that I had worked so hard for. But I was never one to fuss over something that was done so again, I made the best of it.
Once again Papa turned to the railroad for work. Because of his ability to speak Mexican and Chinese they sent him to Los Angeles to run the section gang. With the exception of Bill who had a good job and wanted to stay in Elverano, the railroad shipped our family and most of our belongings to Los Angeles on a boat called "Rose City". This was a new experience for my children. We were three days on the water and believe me, my boys gave both me and the Captain some anxious moments.
It was hard to find a house to rent with my big family. The first three houses we rented were just on the outskirts of the city. Each time we were asked to move because my boys were so wild and destructive. They had never been cooped up on a small city lot with nothing to do but get into mischief. I knew I had to find a home for them where they would have chores to do, where they could swim, hunt, fish and play. But where would I ever get the money to find such a place? Our living expenses were so much higher here. I had always had a nice vegetable garden and a few chickens, but here, everything we ate had to be bought out of papa's paycheck, plus our rent. We could hardly make ends meet. I felt it was all so hopeless.
Then a way was opened up. My stepfather had been a veteran of the Civil War. My mother had applied for a widow's pension from the government. Her claim had been accepted and she received $500.00 back pay. She gave it to me to buy a home with.
I went to East Los Angeles because it was the new part of the city being developed. It was all open country with large dairy and produce farms. Stevenson Avenue was the only road from Los Angeles to the city of Whittier. It was later changed to Whittier Boulevard. Indiana was the end of the street car line. There was also a small shopping center, mainly a grocery store and bakery shop. For more than that, we had to go to the city of Los Angeles to shop. The last row of houses was Downey Road. The street was paved to there. Then it narrowed down to a two-way dirt road. There was a large dairy ranch where Belvedere Gardens is today. Here and there a county lane crossed Stevenson Avenue leading out into the open country.
Montebello was a small oil town with a few houses, stores and business offices along the main street. Then it was country again until you came to the little town of Whittier.
We found two pieces of property to consider. One, a large frame boarding house close to the corner of Indiana and Whittier Blvd. But we decided on the new home on Bonnie Beach. The price was one thousand, six hundred dollars. The yard was big enough to have a few chickens, a pig and my much needed vegetable garden. But most important of all, here was the country life my boys were used to. They soon found the swimming holes, the fishing streams, the jack rabbit trails and friends that have lasted through the years.
After we were settled in our new home, it wasn't long before papa wanted to go on one of his gold mining trips. I told him I wasn't leaving this home. He could go any time he wanted and stay as long as he wanted, but when he was ready to come back I would always be here waiting for him. As the years passed his trips became fewer and shorter but he never lost his desire to go. He stayed with the railroad until the depression. In 1931 he was laid off and never went back.
Soon after we came to Los Angeles, Eva and Lucy went into a hospital for training in obstetric nursing. They met many new friends, among them was a young girl named Emma Hurd. She was invited to spend a weekend with us. It was just one of many, she fit so well it wasn't long before she seemed to be part of my family.
Early in the year of 1917, Bill decided to come to Los Angeles. He was homesick for the family and wanted to be with me for my birthday. When papa found out Bill was coming, he said to Emma, "My boy from up north is coming home and I am going to give you my good Will." Papa must have had a feeling about them, because they fell in love at first sight and were married three months later. Thus Emma became mine and she has never left me.
She has stayed by my side through sorrow and sickness and we have shared many moments of happiness together. She has loved and been loved by every child in the family. She will always have my love and gratitude for the tender loving care she gave to Lucy during the last years of her life.
You can read in the Bible in the book of Ruth, another story of love between a daughter and mother-in-law such as this. Where Ruth tells her mother-in-law, Naomi, "Where thou goest, I shall go and where thou dwellest, I shall dwell. Your people shall be my people and I shall cleave unto thee." And so it is with Emma.
Later in the year of 1917, United States entered World War I. This brought anxieties and worries to all of us. Bill was drafted and spent three months at Camp Kearney. He became a machine gunner and had his orders to be sent to Siberia when the war ended in 1918.
In 1919, Lucy lost her husband with influenza during the terrible epidemic that swept through the country after the war. It left her with asthma which she suffered from for the rest of her life. She and her baby Billy, just one year old, came home to live with me. She was a good manager and took over many of my household problems. Although her health was a constant worry to me, our life was good and the years passed quickly.
In 1923 we built a small cottage in the rear, and I had to give up my vegetable garden. The city was building up and closing in around us and we could no longer have our pigs and chickens. In their place, papa built me a big bird aviary. I devoted a lot of my time to raising canaries. I had a good strain of German Rollers and I did quite a business selling my singers. I have always loved working in my yard. I found pride and pleasure seeing it well-kept and in bloom. Papa always said they named me just right - Diana - meaning Goddess of Flowers.
By the time the depression of the early 1930's started, my family was all married except Chub who was in high school. Although this was a bad time for most people, it brought my family closer together. As one by one the boys lost their jobs, they turned to Lucy who received a monthly pension as a fireman's widow, for help. Erving and Devona moved in with Frank and Jennie in the rear house. George and Irene with Ruby and Louis, who had their little house across the street. Bill and Emma built an apartment over the garage. To make ends meet, we all ate at the same table. For many months there were twenty-one of us. After George and Irene moved it was reduced to sixteen. Any money or commodities that was brought in was turned over to Lucy. She ran my home like a United Order ... one for all, all for one, and we shared with many of our neighbors and friends. Although we had no money to spend for comforts and pleasures we were happy and well fed. It was a great joy to me to see my children live together under such trying circumstances in peace and harmony. By the latter part of 1934 our boys had found work and our lives were back to normal again.
In 1936 we lost George. He was killed by a freak bolt of lightning while vacationing in Yosemite National Park. It was a great shock to me any my family but I felt it was an act of God, and you don't doubt the Lord.
In 1937 Papa and I celebrated our Golden Wedding Anniversary. It was a wonderful party in Montebello Park. My family and friends came from far and near. Although George was missing, I had much to be thankful for and I was blessed.
1941....(Here Mother hesitated, leaned back in her chair, gave a deep sigh and said to me, " I have told you how I had my children and how I raised them. Now I want you to tell you how I lost them.
I, too, sat back in my chair. I looked through this home that she has made for her family for more than fifty years. It's so much a part of her personality. The self-designed handmade crocheted lace curtains that hang at the windows. The handhooked rugs on the floor, the handmade doilies, sofa pillows and even the bouquet of crocheted calla lillies that sit on the coffee table that Grandpa Block made so many years ago. The many family pictures that hang on the walls span more than a hundred years, each one of them are dear to her heart.
What memories there are of this home! Both happy and sad. Weddings, birthdays, reunions and family parties. Death has been experienced many times - Carl in 1941, Bill in 1942, Frank in 1943, Papa in 1944, May in 1945 and Lucy in 1953.
The sorrow of losing her children broke her heart, but did not dim her faith in God. She said, "I knew when he gave them to me they were mine only until he wanted them back and I am grateful for the years they were mine."
Because she accepted death as a way of life, her joy for the newborn has been multiplied. I remember the day she anxiously stood beside the bed in the front bedroom and waited for the doctor to put my first-born in her arms. This was only one of several that had entered the world in this room. But regardless where they were born, each grandchild, and there are twenty-three in all, brought a new joy into her life.
Time is a precious gift to her and idleness is a sin. She has no patience with a lazy person. She is always making useful and beautiful things for our homes. Gifts for weddings, birthdays and baby showers are never bought from a store - her family loves her handmade presents.
Each year she makes dozens of Christmas gifts. Young or old, married or single, every member of her family is remembered. I am sure there is no one else that has a Christmas Eve like Grandma Block's. It will long be remembered in the hearts of her family. She said, "It started way back when the children were little and it just kept on growing with the family" - until now the house can hardly hold all that gathers. Each family brings a big box of gifts, one each for all the little ones - and you are considered little until you are married! The big boxes are put under the Christmas tree that stands all decorated and glittering in the front of the window. All the children gather in the living room and anxiously wait for Santa Claus. When all is ready the lights are dimmed and you hear his whistle. Aunt Ruby peeks out to make sure he is there, then she opens the door. There is excitement, laughter and even tears. Santa talks to all the children, gives the youngest one his horn (which is now cherished as a keepsake by the parents) gives Grandma Block a kiss, waves goodbye and leaves as mysteriously as he came. Then the presents are passed out. Each child leaves with a box of toys - thoroughly convinced that Grandma Block's Santa is the best one in the whole world.
In July 1956, through the genealogy and Temple work of the Mormon Church, we were united with Alvira, Grandpa's youngest daughter from his first marriage. She was seventy years old. We learned she had been given up for adoption when she was two years old. It was only in recent years she had found out about her sister, who had passed away, and her real father's name. It was a wonderful experience for all of us. Grandma held out her arms and Alvira found the mother she had been looking for all of her life!
Later that same year, when Mother was eighty-eight years old, she was baptized by her two grandsons, Louis Block and William Howard, and became a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Although she was unaware of it, she has lived the principles of the Gospel all her life!
In the thirty-six years that I have had the good fortune of being a member of her family, I have never heard her raise her voice in anger, never heard her speak ill of a single person. In sickness and in sorrow I have never heard her complain.
I have seen her give food to the hungry, open her home and heart to the needy, nurse the sick, exercise her faith in God and be a friend to all who passed her way. She has lived and taught her children to live by the Golden Rule.
On the twenty-third of April 1967, we will celebrate her ninety-ninth birthday. It has become and annual celebration for her family and friends. The house will be decorated and mother in her brightly colored birthday dress will be the center of attraction.
After the party is over and all the friends, the grandchildren, the great-grandchildren and the great-great grandchildren have left, her children will gather around her and together they will read the beautiful birthday cards she will receive. In their hearts they will wish that moments like this could be repeated forever, but they know this is impossible.
I am sure then the hour comes and Mother passes from this life, it will be with the same deep faith and with the same prayer on her lips that she has uttered so many times before:
"Not mine, dear Lord, but Thy will be done."
This history was found at http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~nwa/block.html and there are some historic photos there as well.