Tuesday, June 16, 2015

This Week Is for Mother--Day Two: Bernice Evangeline Grenfell (1902 - 1980)

The only detail I know about the 1912 train trip Bernice and her father took from South Dakota to San Diego was her memory of the first time she saw the Pacific Ocean. They were seated on the wrong side of the train and in her excitement she jumped out of her seat, rushed across the aisle and clambered over the laps of the couple sitting there to look out the window, only to be bitterly disappointed--because she couldn't see the other side!
[Twentieth century transportation, artist E.S. Yates, published by the Delmont Company c1910.
Source: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.]

Bernice's paternal grandparents Richard and Grace (Thomas) Grenfell had already left their farm in South Dakota by the date of the 1900 U.S. Census, probably around the time of their only surviving son's marriage. Richard had been a coal miner in England in his early years and the couple apparently decided to retire to a place with a gentler climate. The first record of them in California is in Coronado in 1905, but by 1908 they were living in La Playa on San Antonio Avenue which is where they were located in the 1910 U.S. Census.*
[Richard and Grace Grenfell, date unknown, from my personal collection.]

William apparently hadn't informed his mother that he and Bernice were coming and that he intended to leave his daughter with her. Grace expressed some reluctance to take on the task of raising her granddaughter because she was living on a very small income. Her son's response was to tell her one day that he was going to run an errand downtown and instead he caught the train back home without any good-byes.
[California Southern (Santa Fe Depot), Save Our Heritage Organization: Lost San Diego Photo: Coons Collection]

Whenever Mother talked about her grandmother, it was like she was talking about an angel. Grace was the first person in her life to love her.**
[Bernice Grenfell still looking serious, undated photo, from my personal collection]

After her arrival she attended the local elementary school*** and recalled that during the Mexican Revolution some of her classmates were from refugee families who had fled the unrest south of the border--she said some of them were embarrassed because of their comparatively dark skins and put flour on their faces to look lighter.

Bernice was listed as a member of the Sophomore Class in the 1921 San Diego High School album. While there she took part in a student production of Othello.
[From the 1921 yearbook "The Russ" San Diego High School Source Information Ancestry.com. U.S. School Yearbooks database on-line. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010.]
[Bernice, kneeling front row on the right. The tower in the background is the 1915 Indian Arts Building (aka House of Charm) that now houses the Mingei International Museum and the San Diego Art Institute]

Except for a year spent in a Seventh Day Adventist boarding school in South Dakota in 1919, Bernice spent the rest of her life in Southern California.**** This portrait of her with her brothers was taken that year.
[From my personal collection]

So after a rocky start in life, Bernice was settled in San Diego with her Grandmother. But alas, every ointment has a fly looking to land in it.

(To be continued)

*Richard died sometime before 1912 and is buried in Alpine. By 1916 Grace and Bernice had moved to 470 Rosecrans. Around this time her grandmother noted that Rosecrans was getting to be such a busy street that five minutes didn't go by without some traffic.
**Indicative of how frightened she must have been as a child was her story of coming home from school when she was about 16 and finding an old woman (actually a neighbor) using their bathtub. Certain that it was her maternal grandmother Mary Jane (Neill) Grant, the teenager ran to her room and hid under the bed, staying there until her grandmother came looking for her later. All the explanation Mother ever gave me was, "Grandma Grant was the meanest woman I ever knew."
***I think it was on Cañon Street because she was reminded of that story several times as we were driving up that street.
****From 1912 until her mother's death in 1948, Bernice received on letter from her, which does not survive.

© 2015 Copyright, Christine Manczuk, All Rights Reserved.

1 comment:

  1. Great san diego photos. She looks kind of contented, if not thoroughly happy, in the portrait with her brothers, after she had been in California for some time.