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.