Lin Joyce, a personal historian based in Washington, D.C., is wife to Bill and mom to Annie and Susie and grandmother to Emily, Cameron and Jacob. She is head interviewer for Reel Tributes, a company that produces personal history documentaries that combine personal videos, pictures and music WWW.REELTRIBUTES.COM. Lin is also Mid-Atlantic regional coordinator for the Association of Personal Historians. Three years ago, she founded The Life Stories Program for Capital Caring, a hospice serving the Metropolitan Washington D.C. area, to train hospice patients to preserve family memories. She believes everyone has a story to tell, and loves playing a part in helping to tell those stories.
Dear Annie and Susie,
In 1981, at the age of 79, my grandmother, Frances Louise Meyer Macken, wrote her memoirs (little realizing she would live another 26 years and reach the age of 104. Here are excerpts about her life in the San Francisco of the 1920s:
I was becoming increasingly dissatisfied with my life in Portland and in 1923, over the objections of my family, I left for Los Angeles with my friend, Nora. We took passage on a steamship to San Francisco where we stayed for two days. I loved San Francisco from that first visit and even then regretted that I was not staying there. We continued our journey by ship to San Pedro. We stayed with my mother’s oldest sister, Polly, for a week or so until we found a one-room apartment in the Westlake District of Los Angeles. It was all so exciting to us – the palm trees, the balmy climate (no smog then), and the beautiful clean beaches.
My very first job was as secretary to Col. Selig, who owned the Selig Zoo and also the Selig Motion Picture Studio. During my lunch hours, I became friendly with the elephant trainer, the lion trainer and Blossom Seeley, an ex-vaudeville star, who operated the studio cafeteria. The elephant trainer let me ride the elephant bareback, and the lion trainer showed me his scars, and Blossom fed me. While I worked there, the picture Abraham Lincoln was being made and I watched them shoot many scenes. The actors collected their paychecks at our office and although I knew most by sight I always made them tell me their names. I refused to let them know I was impressed! I stayed there only a few months because the office manager had very handy hands. Even then there was sexual harassment.
I immediately found another position with the Union Oil Company in a brand new office building in the heart of downtown Los Angeles. All the best stores were nearby, good places to eat, and exciting events happening. Los Angeles was a beautiful city at that time and there I was right in the heart of it. I could even walk to work! My job was not at all that demanding – in fact I often wonder what I was paid for doing.
It was shortly after coming to L.A. that I met a young man with whom I had my first serious love affair. He was very nice and pleasant but did not have much ambition. His sister was a famous opera star; I cannot now remember her name. I never met her, as she did not come to L. A. while I lived there. Eventfully I became unhappy with the progress of my romance and decided to return to Portland, a decision I regretted. I learned you can’t go home again. Living at home after being on my own was unsatisfactory (I am sure my parents felt the same way although they never said so). I found the climate of Portland very depressing after sunny California and in less than a year I took off for San Francisco with my friend, Ruby Christensen.
P.S. – Please see part 3 tomorrow.