Sunday, November 24, 2013

Year to Remember - 1942

When my maternal grandmother was just 13, the family uprooted from her hometown of Wishek, North Dakota, a very tight knit town in which about 90% of the people there were from Russia. However, these were a unique set of people from Russia. They were German in ethnicity, but had left their homeland to live in parts of Russia - especially chosen by Catherine the Great in the 1700's, who was of German descent herself. She had her German fellows come to Russia to work the land and cultivate it. These parts of Russia were especially difficult to grow much in, but they still came to a foreign country. What drove them to do so? To look for a new life? Escape hardship they were already facing in Germany? It's hard to say why someone would go hundreds or thousands of miles from their home, especially if they'd never been there or had never seen it.

But, this is a whole blog post in itself, so I will have to delve into this at another time.

Back to 1942, my grandmother, her mother and father, and a baby on the way, drove out to California, for her father to find work in the Richmond shipyards. Once there, her father worked for the Kaiser shipyards, the same Kaiser who developed what we know as today Kaiser Permanente HMO healthcare. As a side note, I recently learned that her older sister worked as a typist for Kaiser.

My grandmother would start a new life in the new town of Richmond, CA. Fortunately, her sister lived not too far away in a town called Linden (near Stockton). She was married to one of the Purviance sons, who were known for their oil drilling in the area. My grandmother would often go down to visit her sister and see her nephew and spend time with the Purviance family.

Here are a few pictures during this time in the early 1940's when they were knew to the area and new to California. However, I think they adapted well to California. The weather was far more milder than North Dakota's harsh winters; the scenery was not quite as flat and of course, there was the beach! And, dance halls - where she'd meet my grandfather (sometime in 1947) who was a native to El Cerrito and part of a very large Irish family.

Grandma with her youngest sibling, James (Jimmy), Richmond, CA, 1945

Grandma at the kitchen table, Richmond, CA

Grandma outside their Richmond, CA home, a common spot for poses, circa 1942-43

 She is holding a flower (not a cigarette - Grandma never took up smoking)

In Linden with her nephew

Not long before they headed out to California, circa 1941, Wishek, ND

Grandma with her close middle-school and HS friend, Babe, circa 1942-43

Grandma at age 15, circa 1944