Life History of Viola Lauper Johnson

Chapter 9


Where would you like to vacation? Why?

Inasmuch as I am predominantly a stay-at-home creature, I can't say that I have vacationed sufficiently to have a true favorite. With a good companion, take me to any scenic place which includes a fine lodging and full comfort. Reflecting on an enjoyable trip that I took during the 1960's, I have fond memories of the beautiful city of Victoria and other Canadian stops - even a boat trip into Alaska which I took with some of my siblings. A fine trip!!
[Additional memories, written in 2005]
Each summer [during the 50's and early 60's] for a few years, we made a vacation of camping--principally with the Roehls at Russian River [about 60 miles north of San Francisco]. They introduced us to a choice spot for a small fee to use space owned and maintained by the Odd Fellows Association. It was great. The beach at the River's edge was easily accessible. Lots of fun and fellowship was to be had with the different friends who came to camp. Again, we women would hold the place together with our various crew of children until the dads came on weekends. That was a fine respite. Some years we would go with the Tolleys to their cabin located near Yuba City and/or Grass Valley. There we played and visited and swam in the river. Many times they would invite others to come also. In that case, the cabin overloading necessitated that the young people sleep in the open. A third option afforded our family for vacation was at Clear Lake, at the Weindorf's invitation. We were lucky and enjoyed good friendships. [See Friends across the Years]

Where is the most exciting place you've visited? What made it exciting?

Some years ago, I think about 1987-88 [spring of 1987], I made a trip to D.C. and thereabouts. Grandson Dave was working at the Pentagon [actually NSA] at that time and lived in Maryland: JoAnn arranged some time off, and we met back there, staying at Dave's apartment for several days. JoAnn borrowed Dave's car, and we drove through many sites and places of interest; also going by public transportation into the Capitol area and the scenic historical places nearby. We did many touristy things and all on our own with maps and instructions. Most exciting was on the weekend when Dave was off and drove us to Williamsburg. I loved that historical place and the abundance of interest found there and about. I can still sniff the pungent fragrances of the box wood hedges bordering the walk at the home of Thomas Jefferson.

Are there countries that you'd particularly like to visit? Why?

Circumstances have never been such that would invite a comfortable thought nor yen to travel. It is something that could have been managed during these last years, but no great desire has existed. In younger days, I often thought it would be enjoyable and advantageous to visit in the European countries of my parent's births: Switzerland and Denmark.

Tell about any camping experiences you had.

Having grown up on a farm under very primitive conditions, I was relieved to depart from that life and loved the City. Early in our married life, our oldest daughter Linda became involved in camping by accepting persistent invitations from her close friend Janie and her family. Linda loved going, and that family loved having her. And soon Jane's parents were coaxing me to join with them. This idea suited my husband fine, and he added his persuasion. I shuddered at the dirt, sleeping on the ground, cooking with the smoke and dirt; but my Joe took charge. He shouldered the responsibility and made it very fun. After the first few days, I was converted to the many enjoyable aspects.

Do you have a special "away from home on the holidays" memory?

I would have to refer to two: At Christmas-time, 1988, JR and Sue initiated a reunion-of-sorts and invited all our family to join them at the Littleton, Colorado home. David, Linda, Doug, Lanae, & Tessie (surrogate daughter) drove to Salt Lake to join with JoAnn and her family. It was regrettable that Elisa was away that year, but we were proud and blessed to have her serving in the Curitiba, Brazil Mission. Her absence was very noticeable.... In SLC, the family rented a large suburban van, which carried the aforementioned Petersons plus JoAnn & her 4 sons (John, Erik, Matt, & Steven) into the Denver area and to JR and Sue's home. I flew from San Francisco to Denver and Dave flew in from Washington, D.C., to join with the family. Susan had asked that we each bring a significant ornament for their tree, and made quite a ceremonial hanging of each with a bit of explanation. They had divided their home to accommodate everyone - with a girls' dorm and a boys' dorm. All space was utilized, upstairs and downstairs. Their surrogate son, Danny, was also part of our family and we had a GRAND TIME. Unforgettable!!

Then at Thanksgiving time, year 1996, we all were invited once again to join there for a holiday feast and reunion. We converged by air, except Johnnie and Paige, who drove from Kansas City out to Denver (where John was engaged in medical studies at a university there). Absent on this occasion were Kurt, Elisa, Rachel & Christian Kennedy who live in Lawrence, Kansas as well as Steven, Lanae, Drew & Clayton who reside in Scottsdale, Arizona. Neither of these families could make that trip. Also notable in absence were both Elders Erik and Steven who are serving in Santiago, Chile and Berlin, Germany respectively. Each of these were with us in spirit, and David made 'living videos' to be sent to each of the four. None of my 3 children, nor I, could remember when we were last together for a Thanksgiving celebration. Again, it was GRAND.

Now that I'm on the subject, I'll add one more: This last Christmas holiday, December, 1996, brought something unusual and noteworthy; and inasmuch as JoAnn asked me, at that time, to write my feelings concerning some of the incidents, I will now attempt to recall and record.

Sixty years ago, I resided, first with my family, and later alone, in Ventura County, in the towns of Camarillo and Ventura. We, at first, lived on S[trawberry] acres of berry-growing land in Camarillo until the revenue could not match the high mortgage; and father had to give up. I should mention that this was during years 1933-35, and the depression was in full bore. We moved into Ventura and sought employment: Alice, in a restaurant; Marcel selling, eventually salesman in Roger's Furniture; and I, having completed Woodbury University in Los Angeles, finally managed my first real career job at Hickey Brothers; Dennis and Ralph still in school. Following our father's unexpected death on Jan. 1, 1936, our family sort of fell apart. Mother, Alice and Ralph left for the Bay Area in Northern California where Serge and family then resided. Alice and Ralph gained employment there and set up housekeeping for the three. Marcel was now in the Danish Mission field while Dennis and I kept our jobs in Ventura and rented a little house at 2007 Main Street, Ventura. Dennis did not remain long, and I stayed alone for several months--not leaving for Northern California until the end of that year.

Now it is sixty years later, and I had never really returned to visit that area until this last December. When David, Linda, and Doug met our plane, Dave and I filled their van with our bodies and luggage; and we set out on the beautiful ocean side highway toward Ventura County. Incidentally, we landed at Santa Barbara Airport, so had about fifty miles of travel. A lot of this was nostalgic for I had known this area well in days gone by--except for the growth and accompanying changes. The family asked me for distinctive points that I remembered and addresses. We drove along the Main Street that I used to walk up and down to work; but so much of it was not to be recognized. We found the corner of my former work establishment, 294 Main, but it was now occupied by some sports center. We could not find anything that resembled the former Rogers Furniture where Marc and I would so often meet at lunch time. The court­house still stood predominately on its hill above the city; but most significant was the hexagonal shaped building which was formerly a ladies clubhouse, and which was the place where we met as a branch of the Church for the several years we lived there. We all served and worked hard in and with the Ventura Branch and certainly left a piece of our hearts there. The building was somewhat changed with paint and different occupancy, but it was there on the corner of Kalorama and Main Streets, and the familiar flower stand right next to it still exists. That site was awesome.

Moving along, the family did their best to take me by places that we could discern as old and important landmarks. Outstanding was to find the little house (in the rear) at 2007 Main where I last lived alone before moving to the Bay Area. Also of major importance was a trip to the Ivy Lawn Cemetery in Ventura where my parents are buried that brought me 'pause', of course.

On the way out of Ventura, toward Camarillo, more growth to the area erased much of my memory of what had been, and when we arrived near the place where our farm and living used to be, none of it was familiar at all. Camarillo is now quite a busy city with the farming areas much reduced. We very soon arrived at the home of David's brother which David and Linda have been renting while Dick and Norma are serving a Navajo mission. Their stay there has been to allow them to be near the care-home where David's mother, Winnie Peterson, now resides. All in all, it was quite a week - one that took me down memory lane.

Tell your experience with trains.

First of all, I associate trains with departure of my brothers--their leaving home for missions, military service, to find jobs and seek fortune, etc. Thinking of these incidents brings a tinge of sadness, for I would miss them. We liked being together, and it was difficult for us to grow up and part.

Another incident I recall is when Mother was crossing through Delta, having been in the Salt Lake area for a time in an effort to regain her health after a serious breakdown. Now it was decided that she would be transferred to Los Angeles to be in care of brother Ivan and sister Alice who were working there. I was about 12 years at the time and was in charge of the household with Father, Marc, Dennis and Ralph. That day, we children planned to be at the Delta train station to see our mother on the short stopover enroute. Our unreliable model T did not allow us to arrive until the train was chugging past us on our crossing, it having finished its stop at the depot. We saw our sad little mother through the train window, trying to smile as she waved a hanky. I'll never forget the sound of that train.

What is your experience with flying?

The first time to be aboard a plane was in the early 60's, a trip to Los Angeles with my husband on a business meeting assignment. Very little flying was done for many years after that. With the advent of JR's embarking on a career with United Airlines in 1974, I made a few trips now and then, but with frequent problems. As his seniority has increased, the space available is more acceptable for me, and I have made rather frequent flights--most all to Salt Lake to be with my JoAnn and my 4 charming grandsons. But travel is more difficult for me now just as everything has become a bit more difficult. Age brings many limitations.

Do you travel light, or do you need extra luggage for your stuff?

I would say the latter of the above has been most often the case. I always vow that 'next time' I'm going to swing in and out with all my possessions on one arm. This resolution always poses some difficulties for me. It appears I am forever planning some project on the other end, or taking some of my 'loot' to bequeath to whomever I am visiting. To me, one of the most difficult things about travel is the "getting ready and packed".

Tell of a frustrating experience you've had with a car.

During the short time that I lived with my family in Camarillo, Ca., I was driving on a road through the citrus grounds toward the downtown area. A bee flew in the window and bit me on the knee viciously. I lost control and went swirling off the narrow road into the orchard where the ground encircling the numerous trees was loosely ploughed dirt. The car swerved, bucked, lurched and came to a halt, without tipping. I was unhurt, really, but very unnerved.

Much later, while living here in the Sunset area of San Francisco, I was driving to Church when my transmission gave way without warning. Suddenly, I had no momentum--in fact, my vehicle wanted to slide in arrears. I was puzzled and could not figure out what was wrong. I experienced much difficulty in getting to a curb and adequate parking with safety.

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