Thank you Mrs. Fryer!: A Soprano’s Aria Chapter 33

In Chapter 12 Lulu wrote. “Without the kind neighborly Mrs Fryer next door I believe at times I should go distracted. She is so strong minded and self reliant she inspires me within me something of the same splendid qualities.

Some years ago I ran across a photo of Mrs. Fryer in my grandfather Milo’s things [my grandfather and Lulu’s son] . This was long before I knew of or had read Lulu’s Diary. I knew she was not a family member and found her on Ancestry, located a relative and offered to send the photo. They gratefully accepted. I cannot locate a scan of the photo or my messaging (too long ago). But now, I at least now why her photo was kept!

So I decided to see what I could find out about Mrs. Fryer. Lulu and Frank move to 1824 Fell on Saturday, May 16th, 1914. Mry Fryer lives in the next building at 1814 Fell St. Here is a historic photo from 1914 of an unknown family From Historic SF. 1824 and 1814 Fell are just behind the trees and a current Google street View. Amazingly preserved and recognizable over the ensuing 100 years.

Slightly more than 6 months later Lulu is crediting Mrs Freyer with her sanity. I think the two women must have had an issue with the men in their lives. Here’s some background on Mrs Fryer. She was born April 1876 as Irene May SHOUP. Lulu would be ten years her senior.

Irene marries [age 17], the 5th of Mar 1893 to George Levi FRYER. They have children Samuel P, 1894; Phyllis, 1898; and Lois, 1900, all born in PA and surnamed FRYER. By 1905 the family is living in Los Angeles, California. It appears that sometime between 1905-1909 that Irene seeks a divorce which is decreed 5 January 1910. [According to the newspaper article].

A Joseph A RICHARDSON marries or cohabitates with Irene May (SHOUP) FRYER, by whom he has two daughters; Josephine M, 1909 and Betty, 1910 RICHARDSON. A delayed birth certificate for Bettie was filed in Pennsylvania in 1968 and listed her parents as Joseph A RICHARDSON and Irene M SHOUP. We know from Lulu’s diary that Josephine & Betty Richardson and her daughter Lois (FRYER) are mentioned in 1914, I assume the 3 daughters were living with their mother Irene FRYER at 1814 Fell St. at this time.

In 1915 I M FRYER is listed in the San Francisco CIty Directory as a “widow” of George FRYER. However her previous husband is not deceased–in fact they are no longer married. He is living in Los Angeles and does remarry. Perhaps Irene finds it easier to be a widow, than a divorcee. We see Lulu doing the same when first she was a divorcee.

I M Fryer 1814 Fell ST ( widow of George)

So if Irene’s life was fairly complicated with 3 children from her first marriage and two more by Mr. RICHARDSON. I would think Lulu and Irene could commiserate over husband woes.

Oakland Tribune 9 May 1915
9 May 1915

There is no more about the divorce in the papers. 18 June 1915 SF Chronicle records a Real Estate transfer for Mrs Freyer.

San Francisco Chronicle 18 Jun 1915

If you have been following the diary you will know that Lulu adored Mrs Fryer’s daughter, Lois, who sadly died 4th of December 1917. In January of 1918 Lulu attends a sale of what I suppose is Mrs Fryer’s furnishings. Later in 1918 we find Lulu visiting Mrs Fryer and the remaining children at the Fairlawn Hotel in Fruitvale [adjacent Oakland]. You will have read about Mrs Fryer’s illness and her going to live with Mrs Freyer for periods while nursing her back to health.

There is a long gap in Lulu’s diary between Aug 28 1919 and then the following:

Nov 11 It is a long time since I made entry into this chronicle of my own personal. I arranged to take up the study of vocational training textiles and applied Design. I attended several classes and liked them very much. Then Irene Fryer took worse and sent for me. I went Sept 15 and nursed her thru her last illness. She suffered as perhaps none may know and passed away Oct 9 1919 2.40 P.M. At Their residence at 1520 Morton St. Alameda. Joe gave me many of her things and I made good use of them in replenishing my wardrobe. She gave me her brown suit herself. He paid me $60.00 for the months work. But my heart is sore at the loss of my dear friend that brought cheer and new hope into a life almost hopeless when I came to California. I hope she is happy in Heaven with Lois. She was cremated at Wood Lawn Cemetery [in Colma]. Sunday Oct 12 I was dressed appropriately in black. I wore my new plumed black hat with my tailored suit and new black shoes and gloves and veil. I stayed there until I finished the girls sewing letting down hems etc. and then came home. That day I wore my white and received a compliment on my youthful appearance. I am glad if it is as they say I look 40 at 52 but I don’t know. I went to see Dr Lillien Evans. He said that I am about my age. He is treating me for a very high blood pressure which should be between 140 and 145 and is 210. I hope it will soon be better. I am also dieting and using his skin ointment. I went to see him with Mrs Johnson whom I was nursing after I came home from Mrs Fryers. I was at her place 2 weeks and received $30.00 for my work. I enjoy making sick people comfortable and assuaging pain. This is Armistice day and we are planning to go to the Oakland celebration.

Mrs Fryer’s Obituary.

San Francisco Chronicle 11 Oct 1919

Addition from Sep 25 1920 Met friend J. [Joe] who told me a remarkably amazing story of his life and his true relation to Mrs. Fryer who was not his sister at all but his wife forced by cruel circumstances to pass as his sister.  I was so dazed by the story that I can hardly grasp it yet.  So Lois and Paul are Josephine and Bettys half sister and bro.  O cruel world and crueler laws that govern its blundering humans.

I cannot help but say thank you Mrs fryer for your friendship and financial support of my great grandmother. She surely was lucky to have found you!

Kelly Wheaton Copyright 2022. All Rights Reserved.

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