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My First Memories - Artesia, California
Our Home in Artesia...It's Still There
Growing Up In Artesia, California
My first real memories come from when I was a first grader in Artesia, California. I have bits and pieces of memories from before this – chasing my cousin, Norman, around a table and falling and cutting my chin on the table – standing in a kindergarten class for about ten minutes while the teacher and my mom talked – but nothing more than that until we moved to Artesia.
Artesia, California was a great place for kids to grow up. It had everything a kid needed in close proximity. I remember that we could walk three buildings down to get to Dairy Queen, across a field to the candy store, two blocks to get a McDonald’s hamburger, and four blocks away to get to school. Friends came over to our house because we had the field to play all of our sports in and fly our kites in.
My parents were adventurers. They were always on the move looking for the next big thing. I don’t know that they ever found it, but it sure made for some interesting memories. We moved to Artesia because my mom’s brother, my Uncle Gene, and his family lived there. He had followed a job out there, and Mom and Dad followed him. We even moved to the same house they lived in. My uncle and his family had moved to an apartment and we moved into their home. It was a Southwestern style home with an adobe tiled roof and a huge front porch that later became a stage for my sisters and I.
When we lived in Artesia, my dad was a welder and Mom stayed home with us kids. Mom was room mother and Girl Scout leader. She was PTA president and helped with all of the shows and concerts our school put on. She was the one that brought Disney Saturday matinees to our school to watch the newest Disney movies in our gym on Saturday mornings. She was the one that not only organized, but sewed most of the clothes for our school fashion show. She was that “Leave It To Beaver” June Cleaver – only without the pearls and high heels.
Dad was the perfect dad. He worked all day and came home to play with his girls. He loved motorcycles and even had a motorcycle shop at our home for a while. I remember that he had one of the first mo-peds back then. It was really a beefed up bicycle with a motor that you had to pedal to start – and I thought it was the most amazing thing I had ever seen.
Our house was next door to the landlords, Mr. and Mrs. Englehart. They had an enormous flower garden between our homes and my sisters and I frequently chased butterflies and picked flowers from that beautiful garden.
Mrs. Englehart allowed us into her home to play songs on her organ and teach us Bible stories. She also came in handy when our dolls needed new clothes, often making us new underwear for our “bare-butted babies” as she called them. She was a great woman who took an interest in us girls.
Mr. Englehart was more standoffish. I’m not really sure that he liked kids. But he really liked my mom. I don’t mean in a sexual way – he loved her like a daughter. He had never had fried okra or any kind of greens before my mom came along. Had never had hamburger gravy. Had never had a chocolate pie or chocolate cookies the way my mom made them. Mom was always cooking something new for him to try.
For The Love Of Motorcycles
Mom and Dad’s favorite activity was to go out into the desert to camp out and ride motorcycles. We all had our own – except for my younger sister who was only two at the time. We would ride all weekend and couldn’t wait for the next weekend so that we could do it again. I remember riding on the back of the motorcycle with Dad when he went up a dune that seemed to go straight up – I couldn’t even see the top! It was just one of the times that Dad did something other parents would have thought of as dangerous for a six year old daughter. He also entered my older sister – seven at the time – into an endurance motocross race. It was for all ages and had a men’s division, women’s division and kid’s division. My dad could have come close to winning the race, but he had to stop and rescue my mom and sister when they got into trouble. That’s just the kind of dad he was.
As much as we loved riding motorcycles, we were shown just how dangerous it could be, as well. One weekend, Dad and some of his friends were racing through the desert and ran over something in his path. The motorcycle stopped instantly, throwing my dad over the handle bars. The motorcycle then came to a landing on top of my dad. We were out in the middle of nowhere, so he was tossed in the back of a station wagon and rushed to the nearest hospital many miles away. As he arrived, he was declared dead. Imagine the surprise in the morgue when he sat up and asked what was going on!
The La-La Sisters
My sisters and I loved acting like we were putting on shows on our front porch. This was during the time of Laugh-In, Sonny and Cher and Donny and Marie. We were so sure that we were going to be the next “big thing” that we even had a name for ourselves – “The La-La Sisters.” This was due to the fact that all of our names started with “La” – LaDonna, LaDena and LaRina. We would put on shows for the people that worked in the dairy and cement factory across Artesia Boulevard from us. They would come over and watch and occasionally put quarters in our jar. I can’t even imagine how bad we were, but the kind adults seemed to like to watch. We would also occasionally make our own version of lemonade – made from dropping a box of Lemonheads candy into a pitcher of water – and sell it to our friends across the street. Again – I can’t imagine why they would come back for seconds!
While living in Artesia, my dad’s boss came to our home one evening. He had an opportunity for my sisters and I that he said we couldn’t resist. Somehow or other, he had a stock of small, bathroom sized trash cans. He never did tell us why he had them or where they came from. He did, however, tell us that we could have them all – and there must have been a hundred or so. He told us that we could have them if we would go door to door and sell them. In those days, it was still considered safe so of course we did it. We were very disappointed when we sold all of the trashcans and had to turn the money over to Mom, who put it in a bank account for us.
The Good And The Bad
It was while living in Artesia that I found out that I had a horseshoe kidney – a condition in which sometime before birth the kidneys join together or fail to separate leaving one kidney in the shape of a horseshoe. This was discovered when my parents took me to the doctor because I was still wetting my pants at seven years old. I went in for tests to rule out anything serious and it was discovered. My parents were told that I most likely would not survive childhood and that if I did, I would never be able to have children. This caused my parents to treat me different while I was a child, and I was never told that it was serious until I had my first daughter.
I was in first, second and third grade while we lived in Artesia. I was only five when I started first grade, because the teachers and principal decided I was “too smart” for kindergarten. My older sister had attended Head Start and kindergarten and had come home to teach me everything she knew. I already knew the alphabet, the colors and numbers through one hundred, and it was determined that I would immediately start first grade. I often regretted this as I grew older. Since I was a shy child anyway and we moved around so much, being the youngest one in class made things just that much tougher. Years later, when presented the same opportunity for my oldest daughter, I chose to keep her in the grade she belonged in. She tells me all the time that she wished I would have pushed her up a grade, because that is the grade that had all of her friends – and her future husband. I, on the other hand, wanted to be in my original grade because that is where all of my friends – and my future husband – were.
A Great Place To Live
Overall, Artesia was just a great place to spend three years of my life in. I would love to return to see how many things have changed and how many have stayed the same!