Life History of Viola Lauper Johnson

Chapter 10

At Home

Tell some addresses and telephone numbers of places where you've lived.

I was born in Box Elder County, Utah; moved to Sugarville, Millard County at about 4 years of age, and from there to Los Angeles, California just before age 16. I worked as a domestic in a home in the city of Hollywood, along with spending some time with my sister Alice within Los Angeles. Depression situations played havoc with employment of all kinds. We removed ourselves into Ventura County where we joined our parents and younger brothers who were struggling to make a go in the strawberry produce business on a small acreage, living just off Arneil Road in Camarillo, California. We moved into Ventura and lived on Hemlock Street there, then to 43C South Catalina Street. Eventually, Dennis and I were alone in Ventura, and we rented a small cottage at 2009 Main Street. When Dennis left, I remained alone there until moving north to Oakland where I lived with the remaining family at 2845 Webster Street, Oakland, California; then to 62 Fairmont Street; and I think our telephone number was Higate 7139. At our marriage, Joe and I went to Cannon Street, above Dimond, in Oakland, and later rejoined with the family in renting a large home in Piedmont, California, on Grand Street. Joe, Linda and I left there to live in Chicago at 7232 Balmoral Street until World Was II was over, and upon returning to California, we found our first home in San Francisco at 43rd Avenue and Rivera Street (corner). I think it was 2195, living there until we bought our home in 1947 at 3030 Noriega Street with telephone # of Lombard 6-6448 until the prefix was changed to just 566-6448 which it remains to this date, it being 1998.

Tell about interesting or important visitors to your home.

First and foremost, the only important and interesting visitors I can mention are my family members. I love having them come. I have enjoyed my 3 children, spouses, and sometimes some of the grandchildren who have come to visit on my birthday every one of the last 9 years, with only one exception. These are important and wonderful occasions.

Do you remember a special birthday party given you or one you've attended?

I've always loved my birthdays. April is a fine time to be born. During these later years, although I've never had a party in my honor, nor do I care for one, I've enjoyed visits from my children. As I mentioned before, starting with my 80th birthday, all 3 children with their spouses, and at times some of the grandchildren, have come for my birthday. We drive to interesting places, picnic, have special dinners, which JR and Susan often take charge of, visit galore with lots of laughs and stories. My kind of celebration. I hate to see them leave.

Describe a typical day in your life now.

At this age of 86 years, I am alone for the most part. Grandson Dave Peterson occupies a bedroom/bath facility downstairs when he is here. As is frequently the case, he's been out of the city during this last week. But I am happily safe here in the home I have lived in for over 50 years, and would wish that I could finish out my days here where I am used to the nooks and curves and my own bed.

I arise early each day, any time after 4 AM, but not with any set time. I have a hot drink with my medication, and supplement that with some dry toast. I love bread and would starve without it. The early morning is my time to read: the scriptures, my lessons, the magazines, the news, et al. I can never catch up. I must get the reading in at that time for my eyes are gone by evening; and many times, I fall asleep if I try reading later in the day. Those moments suffice for napping, which occurs at my kitchen table or bedroom chair. I have many interests and projects which I will never be able to thoroughly complete, but I stumble along with this and that.

I still do an abundant amount of correspondence. There have always been missionaries to write to; and I write to my family members whether or not they write in return. I feel less lonely if I correspond with them, although I get frustrated by my inefficiency these days. Likewise, my cooking is a minimum, and I depend on left-overs, thereby allowing for skipping days with no cooking. There are days when I feel like "taking on" the backyard, which needs much more than it ever gets. I do like to see things grow and love to help along where I am able. At times, I work hard, too hard, out there, but it is a therapy.

I do miss the walking I used to enjoy. That is a serious sadness to me, but I do not feel as confident as I'd like, and am unsure of eyesight and balance. I retire early, always--sometimes after a bit of mending, simple sewing. I often listen to the radio a bit, and the day is ended.

How do you feel about yard work? Is there a favorite or unpleasant part for you?

First of all, I grew up on a farm. It was our survival as a family; but for us, farming is identified ONLY with full bore poverty, so I've had my fill. The stoop labor--weeding, thinning, etc. are painfully difficult. Strawberry picking falls into the same category, being compounded by the fact that extra care must be given to the fruit. Raspberry picking is very tedious. It is almost impossible to avoid serious damage to one's fingers and arms while fumbling through the prickly vines, all the time endeavoring to keep the vines in tact while reaching for the hiding fruit. Domestic yards are quite a different subject. I have participated in full scale gardening with much satisfaction. To plant and nurture seeds and watch for their fruition is like magic and also has a spiritual aspect for me. I did get into an overdose of home gardening in the early 1970's. At that time, our Prophet, President Spencer W. Kimball made a call for all members to cultivate and grow gardens, providing home grown food for home use. I considered it a Commandment and set about digging up (plowing) half of my small back yard patch of lawn. This was pure work, and too much like farming. I fully spent myself and overworked my body in preparing this soil as best I could, then proceeded to plant and tend. There were very minor degrees of success as a result. There was an insect or varmint for every item that grew or developed. After much, much toil and little to show for it, I had to give up the venture.

But I do like (love) to see things grow, and always have. I tend my yard in its homespun style. I spend very little on it except my time, lots of energy, expensive homespun style. I win some and lose some in the variety of plants growing there; and I do regret I cannot give it more care and more everything, but I am less and less able. For more than 50 years, however, I have nurtured a heavy assortment of house plants. At times, there have been far too many--inside the home and the patio. Many plants and starts have been gifted me, while many I have purchased as struggling starters with only a few inches of growth on them. My 'kicks' come from watching this tiny straggling start develop into a mature and attractive plant. I repeat that for various reasons. I see many fatalities, but so it goes. I love them all, and while I claim not to be obsessed over this hobby, it is a part of me and something I truly enjoy.

(See also Flower and Favorites.)

Do you do any indoor gardening? Describe good or bad experiences.

You bet I do! You might say that the decor of my humble home consists of 'plants and pictures'. They are abundant here. I can't remember when I did not have at least one struggling little house plant to watch over. Fact is, I get my kicks from seeing something recover from a slumping condition and make progress. Most everything that I have was procured as a sprig or small item from a large and prolific plant. Of course, I win some and lose some. But I can claim many successes, and I love to watch things grow. At present, I have 3 orchid plants that are a real challenge. They keep me guessing as to whether they will make it or not, but I've watched a few return from the grave, and I keep trying. I can't remember when I did not have at least one blooming African violet.

How do you feet about house cleaning ? Is there a special or an unpleasant part?

There are several phases of housework that I do not mind at all, such as cleaning cupboards, drawers, or catchalls. Windows were not a real chore for many years until now, when I'm unable to manage such. The bathroom cleaning is no special haunt, but vacuuming and dusting are my least favorite. Vacuuming is a real trial on my back, and I hate it. Doing my kitchen floor is the easiest. I still am able to get down on the floor and stay down through the entire operation, and I prefer doing it that way. My kitchen is small, and even though the linoleum is now getting old and showing pits and scars, I like making it clean and shiny.

Tell about a frustrating or interesting experience you've had on wash day.

Laundry is no special chore in this day with all the conveniences and done easily when you're only laundering for one. But over 50 years ago, when we purchased this home at 3030 Noriega, the situation was entirely different. There was no automatic washer, no dryer, no disposable diapers --myriads of diapers to be washed along with heavy wool soakers that were placed over a diaper to 'help' prevent leakage, and heavy quilted pads for the crib and other places. Further, all clothing was cotton and heavier fabrics, including much flannel wear. The backyard of this new home was 'in the raw'--nothing but dirt and sand. Many months passed before we were able to get the fence, retaining wall, etc., set up and soil brought in for planting. Meantime, our 2nd child, JoAnn, was born, producing large amounts of the items I previously mentioned. I had a large box placed outside the back door, and it is still there; my Joe prepared clotheslines on pulleys that stretched across the yard to the corner post at the far end, and I would stand on this box and 'pulley' the laundry out. At least on a couple of occasions, disaster struck when something failed, the line broke, and a whole line of laundry landed in the dirt. Frustration and More Work!!!

Did you help with grocery shopping while young? What are your experiences or thoughts about this task now?

Most certainly I went to the country store as a child, exchanging an egg or up to a dozen eggs for some need item, such as sugar, lard, flour or whatever. I learned early to have a mind and talent for comparative shopping and searching labels for quantities, ingredients etc. Also, there is a skill in learning to buy items that are regularly used in the household at a time when they are listed on sale. Much can be saved if one does not buy everything on need. Shopping and market experiences are a most valuable lesson and skill for everyone to learn early. It is essential.

What is mealtime like at your home?

I have lived alone for many more years than I lived with parents, husband or children. I am currently alone, and mealtime is varied and 'whenever'. For the most part, I have an early breakfast and whatever I choose during the next several hours; usually my main meal is eaten early in the afternoon. At times, I will eat at 6 or 7pm when some family are around, but my body does not favor eating that late in the day.

What experiences have you had living in the city? The country? The suburbs?

I was born in the country, living a very rural life style until almost 16 years of age. Being a poor family, I grew up without comforts and conveniences now known. Without any indoor plumbing, we had to use an outside toilet and had to carry inside any water for kitchen use. Bathing was done in a galvanized tub with water that also had to be carried in. I learned much about animal life as I cared for them. I became proficient in riding ponies barebacked. even the spirited ones. Only my big brothers had saddles. I learned to work hard, which has been my therapy all through life, and to be a SURVIVOR. I learned to appreciate family life. Leaving the Utah farm, I became a resident in the large city of Los Angeles, and have been a city dweller ever since. I like the city and appreciate sidewalk, streetlights, and the many, many conveniences, privileges, comforts, and pleasure afforded me. I have often said: "I know abject poverty and rural life as few others of my friends know it, but I wish to be known as a City Gal". I take my early training and lessons with gratitude and definitely prefer a city life.

Where would you like to live most of all and why?

The short answer is at 3030 Noriega Street, San Francisco, California. My husband and I purchased this home, just following its construction, during the latter months of 1947. I have now lived here longer than any other residence during my life, many of the years alone. My husband's passing in 1963 left me here with JoAnn and JR who have long since made homes elsewhere. My eldest grandson, Dave Peterson, moved from the East in 1991 and has lived in a downstairs room since that time--- a most congenial housemate. I am comfortable here. I like the city (sinful, seamy, yet remarkably beautiful as it is), my section of it, "my ocean" nearby, and am ever so fond of my Ward. The weather is unpredictable, but when it is nice, NO ONE Can Remember When It Wasn't!

Tell about some of the most notable people in your hometown.

During my more current days in San Francisco Stake of our Church, I became aware of a young married couple who came from the Pacific Islands and almost immediately were called into service in their wards and stake. They were Jeremiah and Clara Alip. Brother Alip served a continuous stretch of at least 23-25 years in stake leadership, and recently was released as our Stake President. These friendly, personable people are so easy to love. They truly love the Gospel, this area of God's Kingdom, and particularly this San Francisco Stake with its people. President Alip always met each and any of my family with such respect and warmth. He always knew our names, and it appears that he maintained a friendly relationship with many of the Stake membership. He has been a favorite leader and most unforgettable personality. He has been and is such a credit to his family, to his culture, to his Church, and to himself.

(See also Notables in childhood hometown.)

Describe walking down the main street of your hometown.

I would call San Francisco 'my home town' since I've lived here longer than elsewhere. For a good quarter of a century, I was in the workplace, going downtown to the financial district each day by public transportation. During my lunch break, I did much of my business chores and errands in the heart of town. I would walk Market Street from my office to various other offices, banks, stores, etc. At the noon hour, there were about a million people in the city, so the street was crowded, bustling and very busy. I would view many stores and sites on my errands - some seamy but mostly interesting. It was a good, healthful brisk walk.

During my retirement, living at 3030 Noriega, there were many years when I walked down the street of Noriega to "My Ocean", looking at various homes, yards, and people along the way. Another good walk.

Additional discussion of San Francisco (written in 2005)
This beautiful City has been my home since 1945; and the address of 3030 Noriega Street, in San Francisco, has been the Joseph R. Johnson home since 1947 when we were finally able to meet the down payment by borrowing from our life insurance policies. The house was newly built by the Claude Lindsey Contractors who had transferred the expanse of sand dunes into much needed dwellings. During the WWII period the entire Bay Area became very crowded and the difficulty to find a place to live became severe.

3030 was not much, nor considered a match for houses in the older and better districts, but it proved a suitable haven and home for many and any of us for many years. I have lived alone there for many of the several years I've been a widow, but other family members have been welcomed on many occasions.

San Francisco! A wonderful, largely populated place in which to get lost, if that is what you wish, or you can become affiliated with earnest congregations of Saints, struggling to build and strengthen the Lord's Church.

The city offers, furthermore, everything one could possibly look for. Beauty galore in the year-round green vegetation, including a well-kept and well organized Golden Gate Park; interesting architecture everywhere; grand museums and cultural arts establishments of many kinds; theaters for stage and films; opera, symphony, ballet, and professional sports arenas, all of its own.

I will ever have a tender, delightful memory of the Ocean Front/Beach on the Pacific Ocean. This is well known as "My Ocean" and truly I did enjoy walking down to it every day, and walking on the sandy beach. It was a special therapy and enjoyment for as long as my balance allowed for outdoor walking alone. I miss the ocean and always will. With all the spread of negative publicity regarding San Francisco's wet and foggy atmosphere, I can truly say that when the weather is nice, one cannot remember when it was not. The sunny warm days are delightful and even when there is a cool breeze, it is refreshing as well. I recall, on my walks, the cool breeze against the temples of my head relieved headaches almost with the same effect of ingesting an Excedrin tablet. Likewise, the air is always fresh and invigorating. I often commented that the breeze and fresh air brought a result like "the wiping away of cobwebs from the brain". Be prepared with a wardrobe of a few sweaters or some type of wraps to make oneself comfortable, but, of course, there is no freezing weather. And the damp atmosphere is very kind to the skin, even with disadvantages of aging. The hills, the crooked, winding and often one-way streets are manageable. With a map of the relatively small city one can find wherever they want to go.

Without further description and attempting to qualify for application to the City of San Francisco for some revenue, I will end this writing in joining a myriad of those who have claimed "To Have Left My Heart In San Francisco". My true-love husband is buried in the East Bay , across the Bay Bridge from San Francisco at Oakmont Memorial Park.

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