The Shelter of My Big Bay Tree: A Soprano’s Aria Chapter 23

Fri Feb 1 1918– Usual routine

Sat Feb 2 – Usual housework, sewing, etc. baking

Sun Feb 3 – Eilenes birthday anniversary and they all except Milo came over to Jessies. Frank brought them their water pipe, window sash, sack potatoes and box of Newton Pippin apples. Dewey brought my hamper. Jessie put up my lunch and I took to the woods up the canon. I had a fine day. Resting and reading and climbing hills. After the Father and Dewey left with the truck the rest tried to find me but couldn’t.

Flowers of the California Bay Laurel Tree from Wiki
Just looking at the photo I can smell the fragrant leaves

When the sun had gone down I left the shelter of my big bay tree and came home. Lolita was almost overcome at our greeting. Baby didn’t know me at all and Eilene was frankly glad. I enjoyed their short stay and a light dinner before they departed homeward to San Francisco.

Mon Feb. 4 – Planted 118 kale plants that I dug up on our Mr. Davy’s place for Sylvester and Jessie, and hoped for rain

Tues. 5Planted red carnation seed and wished fervently for rain which is needed very much. Sewed on Mrs. Millers combinations.

Wed. 6Last evening a delightful shower came up which developed into a hard rain which lasted all night and until the middle of this forenoon. Never was such a welcome rain. It means fruits, bread and butter, eggs and vegetables and water in the wells. It means that we shall have pleanty instead of privation. At 10 o’clock the sun came out and sent the clouds scurrying over the hills of the coast range between which the little Castro valley reposes. The kale plants are very grateful and so are we. Jessie just came back from posting a letter and no mail for me today. Sorry. Will put in the afternoon service.

Feb 7 Thursday – Bought a ticket to a high school play (Hayward) of Ruth Westland.

Fri the 8th – Jessie M. and I rode to the Hayward with Mrs. Westland to see the play. It was rendered conscientiously the actors had rehearsed their parts well. The costumes were beautiful and appropriate. The play was a Southern familie’s part in the Civil War.

Feb 9 Sat. – This day will start out in my memories as a diamond on black velvet. We went to the Oakland auditorium to see and hear the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra. It was a total dream, flawless perfect. We had a hard days shopping before went but all the tired aches vanished—soothed by the perfect rhythm of those magic instruments played by those masters of music. We got into Hayward at 12 o’clock and Syl got a taxi to take us home tired and happy. Such is the power of music. Mother Miller had arrived before us from S.F. and was in bed.

Minneapolis Symphony Oakland Tribune 17 Feb 1918

Sun Feb 10 – Mother Miller tells us of her venture in the free market in S. F. She has rented a stall and will try out her luck. Jessie helps Syl clean to chicken house, etc.

Mon 11 – Mrs. Miller leaves for the city and Jessie and I take up the ranch work, interspersed with sewing knitting etc. This week passes in this quiet monotone till

Feb 15 – I get a letter from my sister Goldie full of news. I am telling her I have left my husband and hope it is for good.

Feb 16 Sat – I mailed my letter and in the same mail is a letter to me from Frank. He implored me to return to him. I do not feel as if I could and certainly don’t want to.

Feb 17 – It is rainy. I went after the milk. Jessie and Sylvester went over to the city to church and to see the folks. J left minute instructions for feeding and watering the poultry and pigeons to say nothing of the pair of squabs they were feeding by hand. I kept the ranch alone by myself for 24 hours. This ink is worthless (on account of the war)

Mon Feb 18 – I follow instructions carefully and come out with flying colors, no casualties. Quite an experienced rancher, I. Late in the evening I went after the milk to Mrs. Hollands, and returning with Brownie the dog at my heels saw two autos tearing down the hill full speed. Brownie wasn’t quick enough in getting out of the road and was knocked into the ditch. At first I thought she was killed but after some coaxing on my part I got her home. Soon after, Syl came alone Jessie having stayed in town to help the girls with their costumes for the play they were giving in Ingleside.

Tue 19 – Jessie came home bringing the dresses for me to help make.

Wed 20 – We worked steadily on the dresses, pretty yellow voile one flowered and one Lolita’s a lovely golden yellow silk voile.

Thu 21 – Jessie went back into the city with the dresses nearly completed and finished them up so the girls wore them that night at the play.

Fri 22 – Jessie came home again. It being Washingtons birthday, Sylvester was home. He saw J coming and went to meet her and got the milk. They came up the hill arm in arm chatting happily loverlike. She said everything was all right at home. Uncle getting better and all of them hoping I’d stay away. Frank professes to be unconsolable, pity he woke up to my worth so late. Mr. Davis came with his wife and baby and bought part of the chickens. I finish knitting my bath towel.

Sat Feb 23 – Lots of rain and cold high winds. I am busy all day mending my corset and making over my pongee [silk] skirt. It is very disagreeable feeding the pigeons the mud is so bad. Jessie is resting up. I mix bread at 11 oclock at night.

Sunday 24 – I get up early and do up the work bake bread and pack yesterdays eggs. I do the eggs almost every day now. Jessie got up at 9 and got breakfast. Afterward she and I worked at their pigeon loft and I hunted up some old Colliers [Magazines] and read most of the story of Margery Nawn. [by Robert Dunn 31 Mar 1917] After a good dinner, who should come but Lolita and Charlie. We got them their dinners.and enjoyed their short stay very much. They had walked in from Hayward and had to walk back. They started at 9 the moon was full and the wind in the north which will be at their backs all the way and make the three mi walk easier. Charlie looked quite manly in his new overcoat and Lolita was very sweet in one of Lois’ blue felt hats she had made over. “Sweet little departed Lois my heart aches for you.” Jessie gave Lo a dog, fresh eggs and they left promising to come again soon.

Mon 25 – The wind is still blowing hard and cold. Jessie went to Hayward with Mrs. Westlund to get some trimming for the black dress we are going to make for her.

Feb 26, 27, 28, 29, 20, 31 – was spent cutting fitting and making Jessie’s black dress and the regular housework.

Mar 1 – Jessie and I went to Oakland. Started to walk in and was picked up by Mr. VanHouser in his old Reo which was way ahead of walking. Shopped all over Oakland had a good lunch of beef stew with dumplings. Got the same car home that Syl and the Doran girls took. Their folks met them at A st and so we got to ride nearly home which was a treat.

Sat Mar 2 – We did a big wash, baked war bread cleaned house and several other things including ironing.

Sun Mar 3 — This being the day before Lolita 17th birthday Jessie gave her a dinner consisting of roast veal and lemon cake combination salad etc. It was very good. Mrs. Miller came home for the day. She reported her venture in the free market stall as a complete failure.

Mon Mar 4 – Lolita’s 17 birthday I received an ans to my letter to Atascadero saying they had sent me a sample copy of their new paper the Literary Review. I haven’t got it yet. Sewed on Lolitas dress

Tue Mar 5 – I worked most of the day embroidering the white middy suit Jessie & I gave Lolita for her birthday.

Wed Mar 6I received another letter from Frank imploring me to return to him he is going to church and is sorry he didn’t take the stand earlier says God has forgiven him and asks mine etc. All this threw me into a nervous outbreak in which recited in minute detail old bygone acts of cruelty indifference and neglect on his hand till Jessie begged me to forget it and when I said I was going to write she persuaded me not to. My head began to ache and think as I could I could find no way out. Every door of happiness seems locked to me. Even here in the quiet country I find no peace for his letters calling me his dear wife seek me out. It sounds to hollow and empty he was never my dear husband for any length of time and there never was a time in our married life when his wishes wants and desires didn’t come first. I took off his ring and hope I’ll never wear it again. I’m cautious in my statements because I know my weak will and I’ve been dominated by him so long that I can scarcely call myself an individual, but no matter what comes I do not want to be his wife any more and never will of my own free will and accord.

Thu Mar 7 – Worked on Lolitas dress

Fri Mar 8 – Finished Lolita’s dress and mailed it to her by parcel post. Ran down the hill and feel week

Sat 9 – Jessie went to Oakland to get Syls birthday present and some things for his dinner. I stayed at home and cleaned house did some washing and ironed for at least 4 hours. I had written to Milo to meet me in S. F. on Sun while the Millers had their family party. He came right out instead and we intended to go out on a little pleasure trip. Syl & Jessie were quite surprised to find him here when they arrived. A letter came for them and when Jessie read it I sat down in a chair with the flat iron in my hand. We had planned every thing so carefully and it was to be a surprise on Syl. Now here was Milo [not her son Milo] and his sister Esther and her husband Herbert Kauffering were writing to say they would be out in the evening to stay all night. We were busily engaged in getting dinner cleaning chickens washing eggs etc when in came 4 of the Doran family. Surely here was a case of the surprisers being surprised. We had quite a time providing sleeping quarters for them all but succeeded at last.

Mar 10 – the day of the surprise birthday party. Pouring rain had a jolly breakfast of fried eggs apples coffee and bread. Expect the rest of the family about noon. Syl got a lovely shaving set from Jessie his wife a pair of felt house slippers from me and a pair of gloves from Essie & Herbie. The rest arrived in a down pour of rain. We had a fried chicken dinner, spent the day visiting and playing cards and they all including Milo returned in the same big Lozier [automobile] to Hayward, in the same old rain.

Mar 11 Monday – Still raining. I was sick last night but quite feeling better now. It is 3 mo since I had a sick spell. I got another letter from Allie, he can’t come west to work in the ship yards and maybe will be a soldier soon. He is staying at 2020 Harriet Ave.

Mar 12 – Usual routine of ranch work and cleaning

Ma 13 – Embroidering on my new white waist

Wed. ditto Weather cold and raining. Not very well.

Thur. Sewing and reading The Fair Mississippian [1908 Novel by Mary Murfree]

Friday Washed. Mrs. Miller went to Frisco

Sat Got letters from Allie and Edith Press? Allie thinks he is going to settle and Edith wants me to come over in SF to sew for her. Milo came over J & S came home a little later in a car but too late for Milo, to ride and good to see my soldier boy.

Sun Mar 17 – Jessie walked into Hayward to meet Eilene and Lolita. Milo & I walked over in the canyon and got some nice flowering branches and saw my nice big bay tree. It surely is a wonderful tree. Milo who was such a Joy, was impressed by it. After breakfast …… Syl got ….. (repairing) He and Milo drove in after Jessie, Eilene & Lolita and Leo was glad to see them all. Had a good dinner. I fixed my clothes also packed up and rode to S.F. With them when they returned it. Found Rosses glad to see me. I finished Jessie’s black dress and she wore it to Dorans Saturday evening with Milo and S.

Mon Mar 18 First Day at Ross’s busy sewing.

Tuesday, Mar 19 – worked on Mrs. Ross’ corduroy and satin suit cut Edith’s blue. Lolita called in the evening and we went for a walk. I felt so much better and slept well.

Wed. 20 – Lively sunny day. Lolita called early in the morning to say Eilene had a bad sore on her face and had to go to the hospital. I ran over to the house the first time I had been there since I had left over a mo ago and told her I would take care of Leo baby while she went. Soon after I came back. Jessie came and I told her about Eilene. She went over to the house on Oak St a few blocks from Rosses on Fell St. and they brought Leo, left him with me and went to the affiliated hospital. Edith and I had a lively time with the boy but he was not bad only a little homesick. They returned at noon. Dr said the sore was infection but would be all right soon. They went back for lunch. Later Jessie came back and visited with me. She brought a letter from Albert saying he was soon going to Seattle and I would come and live with him there. I finished the corduroy and satin suit today and fitted Ediths blue serge. Dinner is over and we are resting from our labors. I think I’ll take a walk. It is rather windy tonight.

Mar 21 – Last night after I wrote in my diary for the day I decided to take a walk around the panhandle of the G. G. park. As I passed the house I saw Milo come out and I followed him to Dutch’s house and finally over took him down on Divisidero street. We walked back up Haight St to Masonic and back to Rosses. I took town car to show Mrs. Ross my fine soldier boy. Jessie and Lolita came in and we had a fine chat.

I was so wide awake after they left I could not sleep and lay awake until after 2 o’clock. This morning Jessie came in to see me. We went down town, came back went over to see Eilene and then home to Hayward. Sorry to see her go. I sewed steadily all day on Ediths blue dress. It is now evening and dinner is over. The evening hour happy bangs heavily with nothing much to do.

Mar 22 Fri — At Ross’s all day.

Mar 23 still sewing. …shopping with the Rosses in the eve. met Dewey & Dutch

Sun Mar 24 At Rosses. Copying some songs…. Mrs. Ross & Edith went to [illegible] E called at the house and told Eilene to come over which she did in the afternoon F. S. became suspicious and followed, walking past the house several times but didn’t see us. Mrs Ross finished her sweater. Just Eilene [Illegible]

Mar 25 This suit ….I put in sewing. It only??? Ross is agreeing to for my ?? $10.00 which ….to me if I ….with …..Eileen came in to bring the yarn.

Tuesday Mar 26 Just poured down today. Finished Ediths blue serge dress and started her cape. Davy came with my allotment from Wash. And J. signed it for him to cash. He was not at all well and should not be out. He is going to get himself a new suit. Mrs. Ross Edith and Charlie went out this eve. So I am alone in the down stairs flat till they return

Mar 27 – Still no news from Albert which keeps me guessing. Sewing all day long. Tired.

Mar 28 — At Rosses sewing hard and Lolita came in in the evening and got Milos sweater. Sweet girl.

Mar 29 – Good Friday Finished black silk coat. Eilene and Lotlita came over in the evening to show their new hats and admire my sewing.

Mar 30 – Jessie’s birthday. She ran in to see me a minute and then went over to the house and finally downtown to meet Sylvester. I cut out a fancy waist for Mrs. Ross and put in a tiresome day at it. Jessie brought my mail. A welcome letter from Agnes and some Atascadero pictures. Also one from my erstwhile dear husband begging me to return because he is lonely and sorry and will never do it again. How many times has he promised me the same before and never kept it. I can’t trust him. My faith is gone.

Sunday Mar 31 (1918) – This beautiful eastern sun rising I am sitting in Mrs Rosses sunny south window overlooking the park pan handle and posting up my Diary. I have no ink handy so hence the perishable pencil. I look for J. & S. in later in the day.

(Sun evening) – After writing the above I went to the exposition and went to the anniversary of the installation of the big organ Mme. Jomelli sang and Edwin Lemare the king of living organists played. After I came back and had had dinner Jessie & Sylvester came in and I arranged to go to Oakland Wensday morning to do some shopping and meet Jessie late in the evening.

Mon 27 – Mrs. Westlund could not get her dressmaker so she asked me to help her out so I went down and cut out Ruths party dress.

Tue 28 – Still sewing at Westlunds. My head ached very bad but put in a full day

Wed 29 – Mrs Westlund took me in her Lizzie to Mrs Gentrys to sew a day for her. I cut out Ruth Gentrys dress and nearly finished it in a day. I recd $3.00 for the days work. The most I ever received for a days sewing. This included lunch and dinner.

Thu May 30Decoration day. I went with Mrs. Westlund to the cemetery and listened to the exercises which were very high class and appropriate. A sad feature of the day was the open grave waiting for the first victim of the worlds war to come back to Hayward (And Milo’s over there.)

Friday May 31Last day of May two months without a drop of rain.

Monday April 1 – Nothing out of the ordinary happened today. I sewed hard and fast all day glad when bed time came at last.

Tuesday – Apr 2 – Finished Mrs Rosses waist. She paid me $23.20 for 14 days of work and I want to say I earned it and more.

Wed. Apr. 3 – Arose early and put a few snaps on Mrs. Rosses waist. Went over to see Eileen and Lolita who had not gone to work early. She got ready and came as far as her work with me. I had a nice call on Eilene and dear little baby boy Leo. I had a pleasant boat ride in the morning sunshine across the bay and met Jessie at the 14 St. Franklin station. We shopped around considereable[y] buying some silk etc. for their dresses and then got a jitney to bring us out to the poultry ranch for $1.00

Thurs Apr 4 – Arose early after rather a cool nights rest. Colder out here than in the city. Frost and ice evidently this morning but it dident discourage the poppies. Ripped up a shirt to fix for Jessie and spent the rest of the day embroidering on my waist. It is now past sundown and soon another day will be over. I wrote to Leo today and will write to Milo and Sister Goldie Mathews.

Friday Apr 5 – Jessie & I washed cloths and did other house work.

Sat 6 – Jessie & I rode to into Hayward with Mrs. Westlund. Jessie stayed in Hayward to do some shopping and I went on in to Fruitvale with Mrs. W. She left me off at Fruitvale ave and I walked up to the Fairlawn hotel where I had been informed by Mrs. Jeh (pronounced Jay) that Mrs. Fryer was staying with the children.

Fairlawn Hotel, Fruitvale

I found her in, Jessie having phoned her from Hayward that I was coming out. I had lunch and dinner with her and between them we took in a parade the (Nations Liberty Loan) and a picture show. I started home about 9 and walked home to Jessie Millers from Hayward. Arrived tired and hungry and after a 11 oclock supper I went to bed and was lulled into a peaceful slumber by the patter of rain on the roof that blowed up after I got home.

Sunday morning April 7 – Arose early and put my wardrobe in order washed my hair and watching the highway for possible visitors. I went down the hill after the Sunday paper and Brownie the dog followed. A passing auto ran over her and killed her poor Brownie.

Apr 8 (These blots on my fair books pages were made by my grandchild Leo Hoffman, bless his heart.) This is mon. morning and the beginning of a new existence for me. I have decided to apply for a divorce to break the tie that has bound me to a life of misery. I’ll be glad when its all over. I do dread it so. I pray for strength to go on with it. Syl has gone to Oakland to his Aunt Carries funeral.

Apr 9 – Miserable and downcast all day. Syl sees a lawyer and makes an appointment for me.

April 10, 1918 – I have gone to see Leslie Perry about my divorce. He says I have to live here 3 mos in the county to apply for divorce. I will be a nervous wreck before the times up I’m afraid.

[Editor’s note: I can totally identify with my great grandmother here—seeking the solace of “her” tree. And knowing my grandfather I can see him and my father appreciating her tree as well. I wonder if Milo ever took my Dad there—one of many questions I would love to ask.]

Kelly Wheaton Copyright 2021. All RIghts Reserved.

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