San Bernardino Oral History Project

Esther Babcock
April 7, 2003

Hanson: This is an interview with Esther Babcock at her home in Corona. This is April 7, 2003, and this is Joyce Hanson for the San Bernardino Oral History Project. Good afternoon Mrs. Babcock.

BABCOCK: Hello

Hanson: You were born in San Bernardino in 1908

BABCOCK: I was born in San Bernardino from a pioneer family, both sides. My mother and father were both pioneers' families, and I don't suppose you want to know too much about me, just mostly about what I know about San Bernardino.

Hanson: No, tell me about you too.

BABCOCK: Well, I was born April 18, 1908 in San Bernardino, and my father was born in San Bernardino, and his mother, Mary Elizabeth Folks Case, came to San Bernardino with an oxen team when she was seven years old. And her family decided to live outside of the fort. At that time, there was a fort. The Lugo Brothers were in charge of the fort. Many of the people were afraid of the Indians, but my folks were not afraid. I guess they rather enjoyed them, because they hired them to work for them. My grandfather Case was a soldier. I really didn't know too much about him. I think his family lived in San Bernardino, but he was James Hellmann Case. My Grandmother Case, her name was Folks, came with her parents. Her father, Mr. Folks, was a carpenter and he built the first home in San Bernardino. He also built the first church. As my grandmother grew up, I don't know where she got her education, but she taught school in their home for a while until he built a little church and then they used the church and the schoolhouse as one. She was a teacher and she had five children; three girls and two sons, and my father was the youngest. The girls all married well, two of them married brothers, Smithson's, Tom and John Smithson, and the other girl married George Heap, who was a son of the owner of Heap and Heap Transfer in San Bernardino, which was a large moving place. They had horses to begin with and then they motorized later. Up until 1938, they were still Heap and Heap Transfers, with nice rigs then. My mother's people were very well off and they came from Elmira, New York on the stagecoach. (Daughter, Patsy whispers "wagon train") No, my grandfather came on a wagon train when he was a young fellow. He came with the Russo wagon train and they came I think from Knoxville. I really don't know where he came from other than that. His father was Israel Curtis. He was a minister. They came, he had a big family; in fact, they were the biggest family of the wagon train. And Wyatt Earp was their wagon master. That was his second trip across the plains. I have a journal, I don't know if you've seen it, have you seen that Russo Diary?

Hanson: I haven't seen it.

BABCOCK: Oh well I have it for you. And she mentioned this family, and so the Curtis' were all well mentioned in this family, but he was a young fellow also, and that was my grandfather. Well the Curtis' were well fixed, and there were several boys, and they turned out to be the forefathers of San Bernardino actually. Not my grandfather particularly, he was, as I understand, a gambler. However, he was educated well and he was involved in the school system. He was a qualified teacher. He taught when he couldn't get out of it. But my grandmother Curtis was a teacher. They were real la-de-dadies from Elmira. They (Patsy says, "cousins to Mark Twain"), oh yes, they were related to Mark Twain. You know all those old people were related those days.

But the Curtis' were the judges and the attorneys in San Bernardino. Then in later years my grandfather, who was Richard Curtis, became the truant officer and everybody knew him; he was a tyrant. After he died, his daughter (my Aunt Bess) was a truant officer for years. Her name was Elizabeth Bradley. There is a school in San Bernardino named after her: the Elizabeth Bradley School. My grandmother Curtis taught and raised this family, a huge family. My mother was Jessie Curtis Case, and she was one of the children of Laura. Laura was a teacher; she taught until at the Fourth Street School for years and years and years until they closed the school. My mother must have had a fairly good education because she went to Tempe Normal with my grandmother's sister and lived with her for quite a while. There were lots of cousins and aunts and uncles. I've outlived most of them. I don't know why.

Hanson: Well I say you look wonderful for your age.

BABCOCK: I went to school in San Bernardino and lived at Ninth and "I". The Folk's took that whole section; from "I" Street over to "G" and from Baseline down. When they moved in you know they could just take as much land as they wanted. But as the wagon trains came in they were happy to have neighbors so they shared their property. They wound up with only a couple of acres to farm for a while and then they wound up with just three or four lots. But Ninth and "I" was their home, and my grandmother told me that where the railroad track is was a beautiful stream that came down through there and it was full of Willows and things that grow in the stream beds. She said the Indians would come down in the willows down the stream so they couldn't be seen, and then they would peek through and they'd have them work for them. She said they never were able to pay them. They made bread out in the old kilns out on the outside and they had chickens and pigs, and they helped them to use them for farming. She said they were good workers; they did laundry and everything. But she said they'd grab a chicken, she said as soon as they heard squawk-squawk-squawking and all the screaming and running they knew they had grabbed their food and they ran right for the stream and they never did catch them. But she said a week or so later, 10 days maybe, here they were peeking through the bushes again wanting to come and work some more. That was the old "I" Street. I don't think, I ever heard anybody say anything about a stream running through there.

Hanson: No, I haven't either.

BABCOCK: No. That's one reason why she said they took that property; because it was nice clear clean water, and she said they had all that water for irrigation and laundry and for their own use. She was very appreciative of that.

I went to school in San Bernardino. We had quite a large neighborhood and the old Folks, old Case home, which was on Ninth and "I", was bought by a family by the name of Bristol. And they had several girls, a large family; they lived there, they were nice neighbors, nice people. Then we had friends all over, you know that settled there. Every lot didn't have a home on it, but quite a few. The girls, all those girls were a little bit older than I was, so they all were getting married. And I had a cousin, one of the Smithson girls, one of my grandmother's daughters, got married. Then Thelma, my best girlfriend got married. And then a couple of the Bristol girls got married. I decided I had to get married too, and I was 15 years old. So, I married a very nice fellow from the Mormon Church. Well, I went to the Mormon Church because they had box suppers and they danced. They had the best time dancing, and I loved to dance. So, that was the only place my father would let me go. So I met this very nice fellow from Utah; he was a deacon in his church, and he worked at the railroad. Santa Fe had a big strike and the men evidently wouldn't go to work and people came in from all over on the freight trains getting work, and he was one of them. He and some friends came in on a freight train. But I can remember at that time, well it was a year so before that time that I got married, that the strikers were resenting these people coming in on the trains, and they were pulling them off of the freight trains and beating them up and everything else. Anyway, I married this fellow. My father took me down to the courthouse and swore that I was 16. You had to be 16 then. Then his sister and her family moved out here to San Bernardino and they decided to go to visit Mr. Grays, that was his sister's name, his sister in Oakland, California. So, we decided to go with them. So we camped out on the way up there, and that doesn't have anything to do with San Bernardino, but when I came back it was about three or four months later. All the neighbors were looking at me you know like I was going to have a baby you know. And, of course, I wasn't, but I was married a year and a month later I had a little girl. And then I had three little girls; they were born in San Bernardino. But, the older girl was nine years older than the next. I foolishly had a little money left to me by one of the Curtis family and I went to Utah and spent my money and I found out there wasn't any work there and there. So, my father sent me money to come home on, me and the little girl. And we came home and that was the end of that marriage. He wouldn't come.

No, he was ashamed. He wasn't supporting us. His family owned a mine, but anyway that's neither here nor there. I did have the three little girls and they're all, oh, the older girl was killed in a car accident a long time ago, twenty years ago. And she had children. That's where this bouquet came from for her. And we have a very nice family, a big family. I have around oh, I haven't really counted them lately, but there must be 53 or 54 grandchildren, greats and great-greats. We've had some new ones just recently. They're very cute little kids. So, that's about that about me. I had lots of relatives, but I was thinking about some of the things that happened; I worked in restaurants downtown. And there was a Chinatown, you've probably heard about San Bernardino's Chinatown.

Hanson: I've heard about that.

BABCOCK: It was very mysterious. It was on Third Street, East Third from about Arrowhead to Meadow Brook Park. Oh, and Meadow Brook Park was the location where the big fort was. There was a stream of water there too. And you know these people all located where there was water. And I think this stream ran right through this fort. But that's a nice park or was, the Meadow Brook Park. But the Chinese Community went down to there. And there was the Chinese and the Chinese garb, and the Chinese very well-dressed in business suits and cars. But you went by there and it smelled like incense. It just fascinated me-the odor of the place. And I found out later that it wasn't incense at all, it was opium. They had opium dens, which weren't against the law. I never knew anybody that imbibed, but nevertheless, that's what they were. But there was an elderly Chinese man, well I guess he seemed elderly to me. He probably really wasn't. But he had a vegetable wagon and an old horse. The vegetable wagon had a cover on it, and it was quite ornate.

I worked in the restaurants downtown when I was kid. Well I worked in the root beer stand first. And then I worked mostly on Court Street and "D", just up from "D" a little bit by the old Sun Newspaper. And this old Chinaman would come with his vegetables and his little wagon and he had a little bell he rang and rang and my boss used to go out and buy vegetables from him. And I would wave at him through the window and he would smile and wave back at me. Well years later, when I had a family and I lived up on Orange Street, I heard this little bell and I went out and there was my John and Charlie was the horse; there he was. I thought he was going to fall apart when he saw me. He was so thrilled. And he gave my little girls each a Chinese bracelet and he gave me something, oh he knew I liked leche nuts, so he gave me some leche nuts. And that was really a nice thing. But, that was a nice episode in my life, just that particular incident.

Then there was another Chinese man that came from there. He came quite often in the restaurants with a little basket under his arm and on the top of the basket he had all kinds of little Chinese trinkets to sell. He lifted up the little thing; it was sort of on its hinges. And he would lift that up and underneath were his lottery tickets and he sold lottery tickets to everybody in town. I didn't have very much money, but every mark was a nickel. So I would play ten cents. It was very illegal; they were after him, but even the policemen would come over and mark their lottery tickets. But he made all the restaurants, and then if you had won he would come and pay you. And that was an interesting part of San Bernardino's history. That I remember very well.

Then there was a Dollar Store downtown in San Bernardino that I worked for. It was run by Orientals, and they trusted me because my father, by that time, was a San Bernardino Policeman. I was the only one, white person that I knew of, that ever worked in there. They would go to lunch and leave me with the store, which was unheard of. Everyday when I got through they'd give me a silver dollar. That was for my day's pay. I worked in several of the restaurants downtown also.

Oh, my father’s name was Steven Merritt Case, and then I have a brother who is Steven Merritt Case; he is with the San Bernardino Historical Society. Then, he has a son who is Steven Merritt Case, III. And they all worked for the Santa Fe Railroad. And the younger one runs the Metrolink, it used to be for the Amtrack, but they let their help out to Metrolink.

My mother died with the Black Flu when I was nine years old, and we went to live with my paternal grandmother, Mary Elizabeth Folks Case. She, by that time had arthritis, she was very heavy and she was very deaf, but she knew a lot about San Bernardino and she had taught there quite a few years. She must have taught quite a few years; she had a teacher's pension.

Hanson: I would imagine so then.

BABCOCK: But I really didn't know much about her teaching. She died in her 80's, and my Grandmother Curtis, the one from Elmira, New York, my mother's mother, was in her 90's when she died. So, let me see, her sister was Josephine Johnston who was a music teacher at Tempe, and my mother majored in music. My mother was just a great pianist and taught music as well. She liked people and she put on plays in the church. At Christmas she had put on a big thing for the church and a Christmas program, and my Grandmother Case took ill with influenza and she and my brother and the baby; the baby was two, not quite two, my sister came up to San Bernardino from Long Beach. We lived in Long Beach at the time, because my father had worked at the shipyards there all through the war.

Hanson: That's World War I, right?

BABCOCK: Yes, World War I. And I stayed home with my father. I was nine, and my mother and my brother took ill with that flu. My grandmother didn't turn out to be very ill, but my mother and brother took the flu and my brother recovered, but he was just a little boy. He was four years younger than I was; he was five. And my mother died of the flu. She never got back home again. So, my father was devastated, he went back there; we had our Christmas tree and all of our Christmas, everything was still there. And then he decided that he would move back up with his mother. His mother needed him, so we moved back up and this is how come I know so much about this, because of living with my grandmother; I mean so much about the little trivia.

Across from us, across "I" Street, across the railroad tracks now, the lovely stream wasn't there anymore, and we were living right alongside of those [railroad tracks], but I loved those freight trains and all. I used to know every engineer. Across from that was where the circus used to come into town. There was a sign there, right in front of our house. And the circus came there, the Barnum and Bailey, oh I guess several circuses and then the midgets came in and had a big tent show. But they always got water at our place and my brother and I would just haul buckets after buckets of water over for those animals. They came and got barrels full also, but with a horse and a drag you know, like a dray, you know no wheels, just drags, for the animals. And then my brother and I could go in the circus anytime we wanted to. But they got to know us and we got to know them and we fed many tramps off of the railroad. They had our house marked. We didn't have a lot, but we always shared. And my father, when he would go to work he'd say, "now don't let those tramps in. Feed 'em, but don't let 'em in." So they would sit out on an old box we had out there in the back and I'd feed them beans mostly.

Is there anything else you'd like to know about San Bernardino? Turn it off a little while and I'll look here what I have written down.

Hanson: We're ready.

BABCOCK: My Grandmother Curtis wanted everyone to know everything, because she was a schoolteacher; that was at the San Bernardino School for many, many years. Her daughter had a school named after her: the Elizabeth Bradley School. But they were very prominent in San Bernardino these people. And, she wanted everyone to know everything. She became interested in the deaf people and she took up Braille and then she had a class in San Bernardino Library, where she taught the deaf people to use Braille. My grandmother Curtis; you know that's pretty ambitious isn't it?

[Patsy says, "Deaf people using Braille, or blind people?"]

Blind, blind, blind people oh sure! I'm sorry.

Hanson: That's okay.

BABCOCK: I don't know deaf from blind now. I remember as a child my father was a blacksmith in San Bernardino for a long time, and when they redid the Cajon Pass, that was just a trail for a long time and part of it was owned privately, and the people had to pay to pass, as I understand it, it was washed out so bad that it was a one-way thing and they had to stop and let them through one-way; it was just a one-way passage. If they wanted to go up they had to wait until the others came down.

Yes, but my father worked on this new Cajon Pass Road and they did this all with horses. They had no mechanized equipment, and they had huge big dray horses and big graders and everything. Well he did a lot of the blacksmith work. In fact, well he and another man, and they did all the shoeing of the horses and the repair of all the graders; they kept breaking them on big rocks and that was the second road through Cajon Pass that they did. And every summer they would make a camp for us and we would go up and camp through the summer to be near dad. And, we enjoyed that, running through the sagebrush and everything. We weren't used to very much I'm sure, because I don't remember having very much.

But then, later in life, oh my goodness. When I went to school I lived with my grandmother and my father, and at that time they wore uniforms; the pleated navy skirts and navy shirts, you know with the collar and the tie and black stockings and black shoes, and big black bloomers. Those things were just horrible. You couldn't hardly walk in them, let alone run. And I was a tomboy. Anyway, as time went on I got so tired of those bloomers; and the girls started getting their half socks, the cute little pink half socks and the little maryjane slippers and pink panties and things. And I asked my grandmother, "No, no, that was indecent." So I went down to Macinerney's store and charged some panties and some half socks and things to my father. That was all right. He didn't mind. If he got the bill he didn't question me. And so, I climbed up in this big old bushy umbrella tree two blocks away from home and I hung those damn black bloomers up there every morning...

[End of side one of tape]

Hanson: Okay, so your grandmother wouldn't allow you to have them.

BABCOCK: My grandmother wouldn't allow me to have them, and all these kids were getting such nice pretty things you know. Oh, I envied them so much. And my father would say "ask your grandmother," you know. He would never, when I wanted to talk to him about things he'd say "oh go ask your grandmother." My grandma said '"No, no, that was indecent, it was vulgar, wasn't nice." So I just went down and charged all those things. I got me some nice pink panties and I got me some maryjane slippers and I got me some pretty little half socks and I kept them in this tree. Some of the kids would say, "Where's Esther?" They'd say "Well she's up in the tree changing her clothes." One time my father came to school after me for some reason or another and here I was with these shoes and socks and panties and everything, pink panties on. He didn't notice. He didn't say a word, but I had to go home, I couldn't go to my tree. I thought grandma was going to raise a fit, but she finally got used to it more or less.

We had, between our living room and the dining kitchen area we had what they used to call portieres, and they were like, oh they usually string eucalyptus beads and things together and put them on a rod, between the two places and just a sort of decorative thing to separate the two rooms. Well, my grandmother was an invalid. She couldn't do hardly anything for herself, I had to help her every night in bed and all that. And she would-, why she would lean up against those portieres and down that rod would come and all those things. And my brother and I would try to get her up; we'd bounce her around. She weighed 240 pounds, and she was helpless and we'd go out and we'd get her comfortable and put a blanket on her and we'd stand and wait for the railroad men to come home from work. They came by with their lunch buckets, and they'd say to us, "Is grandma down again?" And they would help us, they would go pick grandma up. But I can't tell you how many times she came down with those beads all around her. It was really a kick, but at the time we were afraid grandma was going to get hurt.

Then after grandma, I can't think of it, there must have been a thousand incidences, but after grandma left, oh grandma went to a nursing home. We weren't able to take care of grandma anymore; she just kept falling and hurting herself. She just got too much to lift. I used to dress her all up. She had a whole trunk full of beautiful clothes. She had been a beauty queen, at one time when she was young; she was voted a beauty queen. She and a bunch of other girls from San Bernardino and Colton and that area were awarded a prize and they went by boat from San Pedro to San Francisco to compete with the other girls up there, and they wore hoop skirts. And she said they wondered how on earth they were going to sit down on that boat that took them out to the big boat with their hoop skirts. I remember her telling me that.

But anyway, after grandma left, my father and his nephew were... it seemed there wasn't any work, I think, I don't know what the times were then, but they were always tough for me. They wanted to go and manage this huge big apple ranch. It was called Hart's Apple Ranch, and as you went to Crestline and down into the valley and it was up on top of the next hill. There was also a resort there, Thousand Pines they called it. And there was acres and acres and acres of apples, and they were going to have an apple crop. And they worked one year getting the apples pruned and it had been deserted. These people had lived in Los Angeles that owned this house, but it was a big nice home there. Of course no electricity and no water in it you know back then. But we enjoyed, I enjoyed that. I lived up there; I just had a great time with that.

But, I had a burro. We had riding horses, and my father and his nephew worked on those apple trees and we kids helped spray, and we had a beautiful, beautiful crop coming. Then, on May 16th it snowed and froze and my father, we didn't have any money, my father came in with a huge big branch of those gorgeous apple blossoms. You know the apple blossom is beautiful.

Hanson: Yes.

BABCOCK: And they were all frozen, and he said isn't that the most beautiful thing you've ever seen in your life? And he just broke down and began to cry. He just wept and wept. Those two whole years of work, and they weren't paying them. So the Harts talked him into staying another year, but we didn't have any money so about half a mile from the house there was a beautiful stream and they set up a still, they grew some corn, and they made corn whiskey.

Hanson: And they made a lot of money I'll bet.

BABCOCK: And they made money, and I delivered some for my father. I never touched it, he would put it in the saddle bags on the horse and then send me down to the end of the hill, it was still all on the mountain, but it was Barton Flats. Send me down to the flats to these various people and they'd put the money in the pocket of the horse's saddle and then I'd come back home again.

On my way home one time I got the shock of my life - my horse jumped right straight up in the air and right straight down. Gosh! A rattlesnake had come right out onto the trail and the trail was a road, but it was a one car road if you just veered to the edge just a little bit you were in trouble.

It had jumped with all four (I think it was with all four anyway) right into that snake, the horse. And I was surprised, that horse killed that snake.

But we used to come down for supplies during this time that we lived up there, and we had a large wagon with four horses or mules and we'd come down to San Bernardino and we'd stay at the home there at 903 "I". It was vacant, but we stayed there. And then my father would get all the supplies; hay for the horses and food for us and all kinds of things and then we'd go back up the mountains; the old switchbacks the mountains were. We walked most of the way; we didn't leave until about noon, two o'clock because of the heat for the horses. And we traveled mostly at night after dark. Well we went through Waterman Canyon while it was still light, and then we'd get up on the switchbacks, it was dark by that time, and my father would say you kids get on the wagon now. And this was what they called rattlesnake curve and it evidently was very warm there because when we'd come around there, there would be quite a few rattlesnakes just warming up you know?

Hanson: Sunning themselves.

BABCOCK: The mules would stand up on their harness and so my father would go up there and scrape them all off the road I guess. They wore big heavy boots then you know. And I don't really know what he did, it was dark. And one night we had a cougar follow us all the way. We had meat in the supplies and my father said that's what attracted him. We didn't have a gun or anything with us at that time. We did from then on, but we were all very nervous, because we didn't know what that animal might do. But he stayed his distance, about 50 feet back. We could just see his eyes just a glowing in the dark. We were very happy to get home that night. Yes. So I thought of that. The snakes were warming on the pavement.

I was going to tell you that when we made these trips to the mountains and we came home, when we lived on Ninth and "I" Street and above Baseline, there were scattered farms. And above Highland Avenue it was just all sagebrush and elderberry trees, bushes, and old various kinds of growth. And there was just nothing there clear up to Waterman Canyon from Highland Avenue.

Hanson: Were there olive trees? Were there olive groves up there or anything like that?

BABCOCK: No olives. What they called elderberry. They were, people ate them. I didn't like them, but they did eat them.

Hanson: Oh yes, I remember those.

BABCOCK: Do you remember elderberries?

Hanson: Yes, yes, my grandmother and mother used to pick them and make pies with them.

BABCOCK: Yes, they liked that you know? I didn't care for them, they had a strange taste. But oh yes, they used them. People ate them. And the birds loved them. And the snakes were in the trees after the birds. There used to be...

Hanson: Lots of snakes.

BABCOCK: That territory was full of snakes at one time. Just all kinds of snakes. You have that on?

Hanson: Yes.

BABCOCK: My grandfather Curtis, during the summertime, when he was either teacher or gambling or whatever he was doing, that's terrible because they were a very prominent family. Well he had his brothers who I really think he rode their coattails, because they were judges and attorneys. However, he was a very well educated man. And he had a lovely home. Of course my grandmother worked everyday of the week. But how'd I get off of my story darn it!

Oh yes, well during the summertime my grandfather was the fire warden at Lytle Creek Canyon. So during the summertime we had a lovely camp up there on the stream at Lytle Creek, and they would take us kids up in turn you know; they couldn't take all of us at one time. But they'd take us up in turn and oh we had a wonderful time up there in Lytle Creek. And he was the fire warden up there. Oh yes, my heavens, that was big time stuff. We went up there with a horse and buggy or horse and wagon what they called a buckboard. They used to call those a buckboard and you could take a lot of supplies and we kids rode the tails that, the boards came out, they weren't even. We could ride on the ends of those boards.

I don’t know the name of the tree. The bay leaf, which is still used today in all kinds of cooking, Waterman Canyon used to have that all up and down the canyon. I don’t know if they still do or not. You know you can’t go up and down in that canyon hardly anymore.

Hanson: No, not anymore.

BABCOCK: It's a beautiful canyon. And it has a beautiful stream and it was just wonderful, all kinds of wild grapevines growing along the banks up there. And we'd get the grapes and make grape jelly-, delicious wild grapes. And in the springtime, all around the springs there were waters coming up from the ground; it's called a spring. And there were strawberries growing. There were many, many springs all along, and wild strawberries growing all around. Oh, we kids used to really like that, yes.

BABCOCK: It's a beautiful canyon. And it has a beautiful stream and it was just wonderful, all kinds of wild grapevines growing along the banks up there. And we'd get the grapes and make grape jelly-, delicious wild grapes. And in the springtime, all around the springs there were waters coming up from the ground; it's called a spring. And there were strawberries growing. There were many, many springs all along, and wild strawberries growing all around. Oh, we kids used to really like that, yes.

Hanson: Miracles.

BABCOCK: Yes, that was a miracle. We were so happy to have Jack back.

When my father went down the hill one time, we couldn't all go at once, he left me to feed the horses and stuff. And they had bails of loose hay, some of it was loose, they had broken the bales with pitchforks and then they had the stalls and the horses were in the stalls and the mules; they came in there by themselves to be fed. And they had the cribs or whatever you want to call them that you put the hay in, and I was pitch forking the hay in there for the animals and I had a pitchfork full of hay and I heard this rattlesnake zing! If you've never heard their rattlers rattle, you've just never heard such a blood curdling, that is blood curdling. And I didn't know where that snake was. Gee whiz, I threw that pitchfork down back in that hay and I took off. And, in the meantime, it frightened the animals so, that they ran out into the big corral and one of them, the saddle horse, jumped the fence. And my father was gone and I didn't know what to do about that horse. Well after she got over her fright she came back and I let her back in again. Thank goodness for that.

But, another experience, oh many! [Patsy says 'Tell about the goat, your grandmother's goat.] The what? [Patsy: Your grandmother's goat] Oh my, oh that's horrible, I don't want anybody to know about that. [Patsy: Oh, okay.]

Hanson: They're all gone.

BABCOCK: Yes, they are, they are. Oh, thank goodness for that. My grandmother had to have goat milk for her arthritis. Everybody brought her old pills and everything, she'd take them, but it helped her arthritis so much. We had rabbits and my brother and I went out and got some young rabbit pellets, poop. And we rolled it in sugar and we took it to grandma and said, 'Here, Mrs. Doak sent you these.' And grandma took them and she felt so much better the next morning. It helped her arthritis so much.

Hanson: Oh you scamp.

BABCOCK: But anyway, she had to have this goat milk, so my father went and bought a goat. And he made a stance for her, or whatever you want to call it to milk it on, and he milked in the morning and I had to milk in the evening and I hated that goat, I just hated her. And you know she kept jumping off that thing, putting her feet in the bucket, everything. She just irritated me; I didn't like her to begin with. I hated the smell of that milk. And so he also had a little milking stool and she jumped off and I guess she jumped off once too many for me and I hauled off and cracked her in the head with that milking stool. Gee she fell over on her back and her feet up in the air and she quivered and quivered and quivered and I thought "Oh my God I've killed grandma's goat." All of a sudden she jumped up and jumped up on that thing and didn't move another muscle. So I finished milking her. I was really shook up, I thought I'd killed her. My father came home at midnight and I could hear him, "Hi Nanny." She always met him, she was in a pen and he'd go "Hi Nanny how are you tonight?" you know. I thought oh boy she's fine, she's okay. And she baa baa'd at him and the next morning she was dead. And I killed grandma's goat, but my father never knew. To this day... he knows now.

Hanson: Oh poor grandma's goat.

BABCOCK: Grandmother had a hearing aid, one of those big long horn like things, and she'd stick that up to her ear and she'd say, Ehhh? Ehhh? Ehhh? And she thought my brother and I, every time we laughed about anything, she thought that we were talking about her, very paranoid. And when we'd go by she'd hit us with her big old heavy cane. Yes. Well we'd stay just far enough away. We knew just how far that cane went. But every Saturday I bathed everybody, including grandma. Dressed grandma all up in her clothes, and my little brother, he was just a little guy, would go down early in the morning and sell papers on the streets and make enough money to take us to the theater to the show. And I'm sure grandma put some money in it too, as I don't remember that, but. Anyhow, we'd all get the kids all dressed up and cleaned up. I did all that laundry on a washboard. Yes, I was just a kid. But we'd get grandma in her wheelchair and get her all dressed up and we'd go down to the Temple Theater. And that Temple Theater was on Third Street between "G" and "F" I think. And it was very steep, just very steep and it slanted, the theater way down you know? And grandma took her hearing thing. Well it was silent movies just old, old time things. Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks and, oh I thought they were wonderful; and Gloria Swanson. And grandma would sit there and go 'eeh' in between reels. They changed the reels and then someone would come and sing or a little entertainment on the stage and they would and she'd sit there with that thing in her ear and say 'eeh, eeh, eeh.' And we had her parked in the aisle there and it was very steep. I was so tempted to take that brake off of that wheelchair. I never will forget, I don't know how I ever resisted that temptation; but I did

[Patsy says, “Tell about working up in the mountains in the restaurant.]

[Patsy says, “About the movie people that came in.”]

Oh Yes. Oh that was years and years and years later, gee I was, I don't know how old I was. Oh, I can't remember. I worked, I got a job working, they had a false movie set down in the flats from Crestline you went down over the hill and down in the flats and they had a large movie set there that different movie companies used. And I worked in the restaurant there, when they needed extras they would let the waitresses, they'd come and get us and take us down there and let us work in the mob scenes. We could make a little extra money that way. And it was fun besides. So, as long as they got us back up there by noon in time for serving the people at noon. No, they mostly had box lunches at noon; they didn't take them off the set at noon. So we, they had a scene with Leo Carrillo, and he was supposed to blow up the bank and rob the bank and he had a big beautiful black horse there. And they had all of us dressed in old time costumes; long dresses and bonnets, and we were all supposed to run to the bank when the bank was blown up, and he was supposed to come charging out with his bag of loot. And so this happened and we all ran to the bank and when he came running out with his bag and he went to jump on his horse; oh and he had a big long black frock on, a big long thing, and he went to jump on his horse, as it was supposed to be in the picture, and he missed the horse and he fell flat on his back in the middle of the road. And he lay there and cussed and he had spurs on and he just tore that cloak that he had on all to pieces with those spurs. Everybody just roared, just roared.

Patsy in background: "He was supposed to be disguised wasn't he in a ladies outfit?"]

He was the robber.

[Patsy: "I know, but wasn't he disguised?"]

What?

[Patsy: "Wasn't he in disguise?"]

Oh sure he was in disguise. He was all done up in black and had a black mask on and, yes. And he had his black bag and that fell out in the middle of the street. And the old horse went running on down the road. Yes, yes, oh, how funny.

We were entitled to go to the lodge, they had a big lodge rented for the movie people for relaxation in the evenings, a beautiful place. Great big fireplace going and drinks and things, and we were allowed to go over there, we waitresses and kitchen help. We were allowed to go over there, that was part of our thing too, but they thought that we were pretty low class you know, well I guess we were. We weren't really as low class as they were.

Hanson: Right.

BABCOCK: But Jean Harlow was one of the people that was there at that time, and she had lovely blonde bleached hair. I was a natural blonde and she called me a dirty dishwater blonde, and it made me so mad I took after her, and I can't remember what the results were, but I just remember that incident. She had great charm over all of the fellows, the men. And she would, some people up on the hill at Crestline had some beautiful toadstools in their yard made of concrete or plaster or something and she and her girlfriend lived down the road (her mother was with them also). Her girlfriend's name was Frankie, and she had these guys, everybody drinking you know out there on the road and they went up that embankment and stole those people's statues, they were gnomes, they were very cute and toadstools and stuff. And she had several guys up there hauling that stuff up to her house. Yes, she was quite a gal that gal. I tell you I thought that was horrible to steal from those people.

Hanson: Yes, it is.

BABCOCK: Yes it was. Yes, well just right now I’m out, I can’t think of anything.

Hanson: Well it's time to take a break because we're almost at the end of the tape anyway.

BABCOCK: Oh good, that's good, well I think I've worn about everything out... [end of tape]

Okay, my grandfather, James Hillman Case, who was the soldier; he must have been in some kind of fame because after he was gone many years, his uniform and his musket and many of his things were on display at the old log cabin in the Pioneer Park in San Bernardino, which is sort of downtown San Bernardino. Then the log cabin was set afire and some of his things were lost, but I understand that they are, some of them, are still in the new, whatever it is...

Hanson: They have a Heritage House, which is the Historical Society and they have a Carriage House.

BABCOCK: But anyhow, there is some of that from him, and they used to have dances there and have a very good time at this old Pioneer Park. That's where all the parades started and ended. And San Bernardino used to really get out with the flags and the bands and the parade and all those things. But mainly, my father Steven, yes, Steven Merritt Case, hauled logs from what was Lake Arrowhead, which was called Little Bear Valley, at that time while they were clearing that and he hauled them down the hill; down the switchbacks and for brakes they had I think eight or sixteen horses and for brakes they drug logs along the back to hold them back.

Hanson: To slow it down.

BABCOCK: Yes, to slow them down. And he remembered that, so ah. When my father went on the San Bernardino Police force, there were only twelve policemen on there at the time, and George Heap was the desk sergeant and Ed Poppett was the detective, and I guess that was it.

It was during the strike with the Santa Fe, my father was a San Bernardino policeman and his beat was up on the old Santa Fe viaduct, and he was shot at several times while he was up there, and he was very fortunate he didn't lose his life, because San Bernardino was very violent at that time, very violent during that strike. And everybody had it for everybody else. People were divided.

During the time my father was a policeman I remember many, many people coming from the dustbowl in Oklahoma and of that area where they had no way or means of making a living. They were so poor and they had old cars with their washtubs and everything tied on them; they really did. And they'd come into town; they were hungry. And I remember my father feeding those people many, many times.

Before those people got located and found homes there was a big wash between Redlands and Highland and San Bernardino, it's still there, where these people all put up cardboard and tin houses and everything that they could think of to make a little shelter for themselves, and it was just quite a large city of people, many, many children. And the children had no shoes and they were really desperate people. I remember going out there with my father to take food. He would go to the bakeries and what he couldn't mooch he bought, and took food out there to the people.

There used to be a racetrack out there, an old dusty racetrack where-, what did they call those, Yes just tin can jalopies raced out there. Threw the dirt all over everywhere. My, it was entertaining. I went out there and sat on top of the car and watched that Sunday after Sunday we'd all burn up with 'em, with the sun.

Hanson: Do you remember any of the floods?

BABCOCK: Oh I do remember the flood. In a '38 or '39. Yes we lived in North Stoddard at the time and we were fairly dry. We had quite a stream going down by our house, but we didn't have anything that most people had. San Bernardino, the lower part of San Bernardino was just washed away practically. And the motels and everything, I have some pictures of that somewhere, was just washed away. You couldn't believe the devastation and the debris and everything that was piled up there.

My sister and I went to the northern part of Little Mountain in San Bernardino and saw many dogs; the families had gone and left the dogs. And we freed some of the dogs, what we could, and the chickens were floating around on old boards and things. It was pitiful. And we either lost our gas, our gas lines I think were shut off. And it was pretty cold and pretty miserable. We didn't have any way to cook. And so we didn't have any electrical appliances at that time as far as cooking was concerned. Didn't even have an electric coffee pot I don't' think. But that was a terrible, terrible thing there.

Then we had a horrible fire sweep down the mountain above 40th Street and there was a whole community there of new houses. And it came down there just like water swept over, like a flood. The fire just burned out all those places, brand new homes, burned out those people. I don't know if people lost their lives or not, but, that was terrible too.

Hanson: That was the Panorama fire.

BABCOCK: Is that what they called it, the Panorama fire?

Hanson: Yes.

BABCOCK: I worked on the old switchbacks at the Panorama Point, and we had water there and we had refreshments and sandwiches and candy and it was built out over the mountain, right off of the road. It's where the maintenance yard is now for the state workers. And the cars all had to stop there; the switchbacks were so steep for water. They were all boiling over, and my little people would tip my little brother; he worked there also. And they would tip him, he would water the-, you had to run the water over the radiators to cool the water down before they could take the radiator cap off, because it would just blow like a geyser. And he did that and watered for them, and people would give him tips and things, so that's how he earned money. And I never will forget the time that a car that didn't use water, was that a Stanley Steamer? Whatever, there was a car at one time that didn't have any water-cooling system. I'm sorry I can't think of the name of it. But people were watching him, the people that knew that this didn't have it. And he went out there and looked and looked for the radiator cap and he searched and he looked so puzzled and the people were all laughing at him.

Hanson: Poor guy.

BABCOCK: Yes, he was just a little guy. He was about 12 years old and he was, you know they didn't used to have any laws, kids could work wherever they wanted to. And he was very unhappy at home after my father remarried, it broke his nose, you know. He didn't like her and she didn't like him. Of course he was a brat. He was a brat, but he was a love, the love of my life; that's that railroad guy, the engineer.

Anyway, in this store that we had you might say, we had living quarters below, and they weren't completely finished; but you could go out and come through the store and then go out to a porch that was built onto the store and was just on stilts because the canyon was all underneath. And they had a spyglass there that people could put a nickel in; I think it was a nickel at that time, and see Catalina on a clear day. And then the owner of the store had another one that looked like an authentic spyglass and the people would put their money in and look through it, and he had a picture painted on the other end of a Catalina goat on a mountain. And the people would be so shocked at that you know. So one time we were waiting, the cars came in sort of groups and on Sunday afternoon coming down it was hardly anything to see people in wrecks going over the sides; they weren't used to that mountain driving and there was just all kinds of problems there. But one day we were there and here came a great big beautiful touring car with a chauffeur and a movie star and she got out of the car and she was so thinly dressed you could see right through her. We weren't used to things like that at that time. Were we all shocked.

Anyway, in this store that we had you might say, we had living quarters below, and they weren't completely finished; but you could go out and come through the store and then go out to a porch that was built onto the store and was just on stilts because the canyon was all underneath. And they had a spyglass there that people could put a nickel in; I think it was a nickel at that time, and see Catalina on a clear day. And then the owner of the store had another one that looked like an authentic spyglass and the people would put their money in and look through it, and he had a picture painted on the other end of a Catalina goat on a mountain. And the people would be so shocked at that you know. So one time we were waiting, the cars came in sort of groups and on Sunday afternoon coming down it was hardly anything to see people in wrecks going over the sides; they weren't used to that mountain driving and there was just all kinds of problems there. But one day we were there and here came a great big beautiful touring car with a chauffeur and a movie star and she got out of the car and she was so thinly dressed you could see right through her. We weren't used to things like that at that time. Were we all shocked.

Patsy in the background: ‘”It was transparent.”]

Yes it was transparent, it was! And it was Greta Garbo.

Hanson: Wow.

BABCOCK: And she came in with that voice of hers and that accent and she took a peek at the goat too. But we couldn't get over it. We just couldn't take our eyes off of her. What a show! She was going up somewhere to Lake Arrowhead or somewhere there to spend the weekend or something. In fact, I really don't know what she was doing. She was really, really vulgar.

Well, when I worked at Parker's Chili Parlor that was near the Santa Fe Depot. It was a very famous chili place and he had 52 stools and two girls, and we cooked and served our own orders. We took our orders and then we had to fix 'em. Of course he had big steam tables of chili and beans and rice and Spanish rice, and tamales. And then anybody wanted anything we had two great big grills and anybody wanted anything on those grills we had to cook it. It was really a workhouse. But it was a very popular place for chili.

Next door there was a hotel and the rumrunners were stationed in that hotel and they were hauling between Nevada and San Bernardino. They weren't playing; they were playing for real - some bootleg. And they were selling you know people were just, and they had men (I've forgotten his name), had a gunman that was with him all the time. And when he would come in to eat, not the gunman, but the head guy, he usually had two or three men with him, and they'd come in and sit on one side and the guys carrying the guns would sit on the other side of the counter and they watched everything they did you know. Well I used to make friends of course with the guys that had the gun.

Hanson: Good friends to have

BABCOCK: Yes. But I think I've run out of gab.

Hanson: You've done an excellent job.

BABCOCK: Well I guess for 95 I have a pretty good memory.

Hanson: You sure do. I hope I'm that good at 95. I hope I am alive at 95.

BABCOCK: Well, very few people are.

Hanson: I know.

BABCOCK: And there's a real honor I guess in being 95 and being alert.

Hanson: Yes.

BABCOCK: But, those people who have lost their memories and don't know one end from another don't have a thing to worry about. When they get sick or they get out of breath or something they, don't wonder if this is it you know?

Hanson: Yes.

BABCOCK: So there's advantages in both of them.

Hanson: You are wonderful. I can't believe you're going to be 95 years old.

BABCOCK: Well, it's going to be here next week, next week. And well, yes, I've done real well physically too. I'm a little bit shaky now and I don't walk too well, but.

Hanson: But still.

BABCOCK: But my doctor, Patsy took me up there yesterday in a wheelchair, I had an appointment, first time in a couple of months, and he said, "I don't like that wheelchair, take that away." My daughter bought it for me, my other daughter. She said she didn't want me riding in those old hospital wheelchairs that were all covered with germs. So he said, "I don't' want that wheelchair, gotta get rid of it." I told him well that was just for the car so I could get out and go to the stores and to the places and she pushes me around K-Mart and Mervyn's and things you know, and I get to see things. That's too much walking for me you know. Those stores are big. BABCOCK: But my doctor, Patsy took me up there yesterday in a wheelchair, I had an appointment, first time in a couple of months, and he said, "I don't like that wheelchair, take that away." My daughter bought it for me, my other daughter. She said she didn't want me riding in those old hospital wheelchairs that were all covered with germs. So he said, "I don't' want that wheelchair, gotta get rid of it." I told him well that was just for the car so I could get out and go to the stores and to the places and she pushes me around K-Mart and Mervyn's and things you know, and I get to see things. That's too much walking for me you know. Those stores are big.

And I just can't handle that; my legs won't take it anymore. But I worked as a waitress for many years and then I worked for a nurse for many years. And when I was in Utah the lady that took pity on us and gave us a place to live, a little shack you know, but I was grateful, was a midwife, and she would come anytime of the night and "Esther come on, we're going to have a baby." And through the snow, through the ice, whatever, that Mrs. Freestone was there delivering babies. And she copped onto me to go with her.

During that time when I was in Utah there was a lovely woman, a schoolteacher, dying of stomach cancer. And they had her in a small cabin and they couldn't get, she was a strong, strict Mormon. They couldn't get any one of all those people to stay there with that woman. So they came to me and they said, 'If you'll go stay with her we'll pay you.' And I said okay. I had a job at the hotel then, but I didn't like that hotel. The woman that owned the hotel, we worked like the devil, we did all the laundry for the hotel and everything, and then when we...

[Patsy in background interrupts: You're talking about Utah.]

Hanson: That's okay.

BABCOCK: And then when we, well this is Utah.

Hanson: Keep talking, I want to hear this.

BABCOCK: Well anyway, the woman at the hotel, there was only a couple of us girls, she had what you call drummers, they were salesmen. Came in at night and we were supposed to get up and entertain them. And sometimes they wanted more than entertainment, and I didn't like that job at all. And she'd get real huffy you know if we were cross with her drummers. So I just let her huff off and I went and took care of that woman. And then they didn't pay me. They never gave me a nickel. But that's another story, yes. I can't think of anything.

Hanson: What hospitals did you work at? You said you were a nurse; you were a psychiatric nurse for a while.

BABCOCK: Well when I came to nursing with her, I did a lot of nursing then. She'd leave me with these people, and that was just common, plain old whatchamacalit nursing, but I had a lot of experience of delivering babies and taking care of the babies after they were born and then the families were all there and we cooked for the families. You know you did everything at that time for the families. And the women thought they had to be down for ten days or two weeks you know. That's what the doctors ordered then. So I did have a lot of experience and I liked that type of work. And I guess I did because I ran around our neighborhood looking after people and taking them goat pills and rabbit pills.

Oh yes, and then I went to work at Patton. We sold our restaurant so I went to work at Patton and I worked in the new T.B. hospital there. But I didn't work in nursing; I worked in foodservice. And those were very sick people; sick physically and very mentally ill, very mentally ill. They were very bad, very hard people to do anything with. I worked at Patton for a long time and then I transferred to Metropolitan State Hospital in Norwalk. And that's where I retired from. That's where I got my nursing degree. Well, Cerritos. They sent us there to a college for half of the day, but they taught the basics. R.N.'s that taught. Then we had to go for other things to the college. So we worked a half a day on the wards, and I got quite a lot of education out of that, but I was ready for education you know?

[Patsy in the background: Well didn't you pass your tests and weren't you first in the class?]

BABCOCK: Well I was up there, right up there with them. I thought that was very good, I was in my 50's. And I had never studied in a long, long time. All I did was run when I got home from work, change my clothes and grab my rod and run out to the surf to fish.

I lived at Seal Beach at the time, right on the beach. I loved it, just loved it. Wish I could do that again.

Hanson: I wish I could do that. That would be my choice if I could pick.

BABCOCK: But that was very strenuous, it's very exerting. I worked all those hours and then I'd go down there and fish half the night and to catch fish you've really got to know how to cast and put something into it. And I think that probably, and all the hard work I did and all probably accounts for my longevity.

Hanson: I think so.

BABCOCK: Yes. So I can't feel abused for being put on can I? Or can I?

Hanson: Oh, you're wonderful. Thank you so much.

BABCOCK: You're very welcome. I'm sorry, my brain's gone dead.

Hanson: You did great.

[End of interview]

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