A Visit to Old Los Angeles and Environs

30. How It All Ended.


Brent C. Dickerson

Copyright © Brent C. Dickerson

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• As young Frederick Johan and I left the mail box and approached where Aunt Sigrid, Arthur, and now the rest of the family were waiting for us, I read in the faces of all of them that news of the worst sort awaited me there as well; and it was a sad and somber group of "folk" who left Los Angeles on the night train that same evening. To make a long story short: You will perhaps recall the circus parade that happened to be taking place just as the "folk" began our trip, and that one of the elephants took it into his mind to go off into a side-street...? As my Estelle and her father were returning home in their dray, the elephant burst out in front of them, spooking the horse. In the resulting panic, the dray overturned. Her father's injuries were slight; and at first it appeared hers were slight too. Consequently, no one thought the incident merited any efforts to get a message to me; "after all," as my cousin Gustafsson blurted out, "it was not as if you were really engaged yet, you know." As the days wore on and she seemed to be recovering, her neighbor Esther Lofgren would visit her and share with her my packets of pictures as they were received, reading the letters aloud to her in bed. Abruptly, a fever took hold, and she expired on—well, we figured it would have been the day we visited San Pedro. Cousin Gustafsson evidently had finally sent a telegram to Aunt Sigrid about the matter when the fever first came on; and she discussed it with Papa; but they decided to wait to see which direction things were going before mentioning anything to me. "I regret that decision, Ulf, I do very much," Papa said to me on the train home, as nothing further was heard until it was all over, and we were out of reach on Catalina anyway.

• There's no need to expand on this, as anyone who has lost a loved one already knows what it feels like, because they feel it anew every day; and those who haven't can't be made to understand.

• Some may be interested in the subsequent history of those mentioned in the course of this visit. Charley, who had a distaste for farming, joined the Army, and at length saw action in France in the Great War. Sustaining a wound in his arm, he ended up marrying the nurse attending him—her name, it seems, was Gretchen—and indeed subsequently lived in Europe for several years after the war until one day when young Frederick Johan answered a knock at our farmhouse door, and found there Charley and his little son Emil, with no story other than "She divorced me!" Leaving Emil for the rest of us to look after, he re-joined the Army, and died of the flu, rather young, just before the outbreak of the second World War. Minnie never married. She took up a career in Education; and became known for espousing rather progressive views in the field. As she approached retirement, her cause became "Sex Education for the Deprived" ("—deprived of funding, that is!", she would hurry to say); and she passed away suddenly in her seventies during a lecture she was giving on the subject to a roomful of Marines. Anna and Morrie married after a five-year engagement, establishing their household in the Redondo Beach area, where he showed that "living on a shoe-string" could be quite successful. He continued to be known in his community as "the Glass Harmonica Man," but passing his talents with the usual harmonica on to each of their five children, the lot of them giving interesting neighborhood concerts on festive occasions. Anna found contentment in the quiet glories of domesticity, and in later life took up sketching wild flowers "and birds on the wing," as she put it. Young Frederick Johan increasingly applied his powers of analysis to successfully running the family farm, marrying in 1926 a young lady chemist whom he had met at a big fertilizer exhibition in Boise. He and Emil joined their talents and efforts such that the farm was, through the mid-century, known as the most productive in the county. The baby eventually went to college, amassed a good deal of money by a fortunate investment in an oil well, and became a man of leisure and world traveler. After a long and dynamic life, Papa died a few years after our trip. One evening after supper, he went out on the porch to smoke a cigar—as was his regular habit—and passed away gazing out over his fields of wheat. "What is to be noted," Mother would point out, "was that he very thoughtfully snuffed out his cigar in the ashtray before dying." A few years later, Mother invited her spinster sister Myrtha to come live with the family; and the two of them spent the rest of their lives studying scripture and being active in church affairs. Aunt Sigrid married Arthur—a late-in-life marriage for both of them, happy to see and happy in outcome. As downtown Los Angeles expanded, she was able to sell her home for quite a large sum indeed for development of an office block; and the couple, and canary, went to live very comfortably in a cozy house on a shady lane in Pasadena, where evenings in the neighborhood were considerably enlivened by the sound of her performances at the piano. As for me, about a year after our return home, I went out one morning to get supplies in town, and was never seen again—unless you except the time in 1943 when Chester—you remember Chester, Arthur's nephew, who took young FJ looking for dead bodies one day—happened to be picnicking with his wife and children at Pt. Fermin Park in San Pedro, and thought he recognized me gazing out to sea at one of the lookout points on the cliff's brink. "But," as he told Aunt Sigrid that night when he called her, "as I approached, he seemed to disintegrate into being just a shadow. Funny the tricks one's mind plays."


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