Eleanor and Hank

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My Aunt Eleanor and Uncle Hank moved to California before we moved to Colorado. It was always difficult to visit, but we managed a trip to California.  They were amazing people, both over 6′ tall and builders.  Some folks build homes and then some folks make their own adobe bricks to build a home and surround it with a 6′ wall.  This was definitely not an easy way to build a home.  My Uncle Hank built and flew helicopters in California.  He is lucky to be alive after an accident when a helicopter propeller nearly severed him after hitting his kidney.

Aunt Eleanor didn’t like to be called Aunt so as a late teen, I learned to simply address her as Eleanor. She is the one who taught me how to swim correctly and overcome my fear of water.  As a tribute to her, I managed to get my Red Cross Life Saving certificate in my college swim class.  One visit to Colorado, she brought a present for all us girls which was an inflatable wading pool.  Now on a hot Colorado day, this was a welcome relief for us to “swim” in this pool.

One of my sisters and I visited Eleanor and Uncle Hank in California and swam in their in-ground which they had dug themselves and put in the foundation and lining. The trip was for my high school graduation.  We picked fresh lemons and oranges off the trees.  Eleanor decided I needed a cocktail dress before I went to college.  I couldn’t fathom why I needed such a dress but picked out one she suggested which was a midnight blue and black and fancy neckline which was also off the shoulder.  My mother liked the dress but by the look on her face, she probably thought I was too young at 18 to have such a dress.  I felt special and wore it to several parties which were fancy affairs.


It was during our visit when I asked her of the house in Hermosa Beach which they had built. Eleanor and Hank drove out to the desert and made adobe bricks with the sand.  I asked about snakes which they had encountered.  But the huge tarantula spiders were another matter.  Before they could build the adobe bricks, they drove their Jeep over the tarantulas which hopped two feet into the air at times.  When I think of this today, it is difficult to fathom why anyone would go about building a house in this fashion.  But Hank is a Niemczura which explains a lot.  In addition to day jobs, all the men in the family built houses, furniture, maintained gardens and apple orchards and enjoyed working with their hands.  With the high cost of housing in California, Eleanor and Hank saved a great deal by building their own home with a wall around it.

Eleanor had a framed newspaper article with a photo which I inquired about.  It was of her brother whose submarine went down in WWII, and all were lost.  She missed him I could tell.  In later years when I caught up with her and wrote, she answered me that she was proud that I was an independent woman with a career.  She had been a docent at the LA zoo because of her love of animals.  They were a different generation, strong and resilient.  I miss visiting them and hearing their stories.  So, as best as I recall, I remember them with my blog today.

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8 Responses to Eleanor and Hank

  1. Arno Bode,cologne,Germany says:

    Liebe Mary Ann,
    wieder eine liebevoll geschriebene Geschichte Deiner Jugenderinnerungen und Beschreibung Deiner Familiengeschichte. Jede Veröffenlichung von Dir erweckt Neugierde nach weiteren Ereignissen.
    Dir und Deiner Familie wünschen wir ein friedvolles Osterfest.
    Alles Liebe und Gute
    Dein Arno

    Liked by 1 person

    • Lieber Arno – Ich danke Dir für die schönen Worte über meinen Blog. Für Dich und Deine Familie wünsche ich eine wundervolle Ostern mit Musik und Erinnerungen. Deine Mary Ann ^__^


  2. Tom says:

    Thank you for sharing these memories. I’m sure Eleanor and Hank would be glad to read this blog post. It is interesting what sort of memories stand out to us over our lifetime 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • It would be an interesting conversation to have with Eleanor and Hank. To have their input would be invaluable. I suspect you have your own memories which stand out for you and which you recall with acuity. Jot them down in a journal to return to in your later years. A good week ahead for you! Thank you for your kind comment. 🙂


  3. The image you have with the crew of the bomber is that of my dad, Stanley, Hank’s youngest brother, on the far left of the front row. Hank worked for Sikorsky before and during the war, and was stationed at Alamagordo for a period of time.

    • The images of Eleanor and Hank are somewhere in albums with one of us. The time period was correct. Now I have more accurate information. Thank you for taking the time to comment. Hope all is well. ^__^


      • I leave for Nepal in two weeks. The submarine in the photo was the USS Wahoo, and Eleanor’s brother Richie Henderson was the gunnery officer. Wahoo was the most famous American submarine of WW II. They never returned from their seventh patrol to Japan. The first six patrols are described in the eponymous book by Dick O’Kane who had been second in command for the first six patrols before being given his own command. It’s well worth the read.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Cheers for this comment packed full with information which I am grateful to document in our family stories. When did Eleanor and Hank move to California? Late 40s or early 50s? Your bucket list must include Nepal and helping others improve their quality of life. I am impressed with your ability to be flexible and adapt to drastically different ways of life. You have been enriched beyond measure. Bless you for your noble work. All the best, and I look forward to new blog posts of your adventures. Where will you be headquartered? Thanks again. 🙂


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