Chapter 1: My Forebears

My name is Rose Fern Fink Richards. Mickey is my nickname, but I’ll wait and tell you about that at another time. From what I understand, my life has been affected by my forebears; therefore, I thought I should tell you a little about them.

My grandfather on my mother’s side was Thomas Dawson. He was born in Coxsachie Green, New York on July 19, 1846. When he was older, he made a living by working as a carpenter for one dollar a day. He moved to the west where he preached as an itinerant preacher. Every Sunday he preached in 2 or 3 churches because there were so few preachers there. He made his living at that time by his carpentry work, making two dollars a day.

He was a devoted son. So when he heard that his mother, who had moved to England, was sick, he went there to see if he could help. However, when he got there, he happily found that she had recovered from her illness. While he was in England, he met and fell in love with Mary Ann Grosvenor. They married on December 23rd, 1878, stayed there till after they had their first child, and then moved to the U.S. They had eleven children born to them, three boys and eight girls. In the order of their birth, their children were: Lily, Rose, Ernest, Violet, Albert, who was nicknamed Bob, Daisy, Myrtle, Ivy, Pansy, Frank and Althea. Lily was born in Ernston, England; Rose, Ernest and Violet were born in San Antonio, Texas; Albert and Daisy were born in Antelope Valley, California; Myrtle, Ivy, Frank and Pansy were born in San Luis Obispo, California, and Althea was born in Los Angeles. His wife died a year after the eleventh child was born, leaving his children motherless. Now the older children took care of the younger ones in the family.

Thomas was very lonely without his wife, and he needed someone to be with him as well as to take care of the children, so eventually he remarried. However, his new wife had three children of her own, and she did not take the time to take care of his children but instead, only cared for her own. This he could not tolerate, so he divorced her. Rose was the oldest one living at home, so she became the mother figure.

My mother was born Myrtle Ellen Dawson on November 27th, 1889 in San Luis Obispo, California. In 1897, the family moved to Los Angeles where they lived in apartments at first, but finally found a house that was just right for their family.

Lili Inglehart, Daisy Dawson and Myrtle Dawson

Lili Inglehart, Daisy Dawson and Myrtle Dawson

It was on Grand Avenue near the present Exposition Park and USC, a large house with a wide porch all around the outside. My mother told me that when she and her sisters were dating, there would be several couples on that wide porch saying goodnight at the same time to their boyfriends, so it was a real blessing to them. After graduating from the sixth grade around 1900, Myrtle went to work as a cashier at the Dawson Bookstore that her brother, Ernest, Lily Inglehart, Daisy Dawson and Myrtle Dawson owned in downtown Los Angeles. Not far from her brother’s bookstore was the Church of the Open Door on 5th and Hope Streets where my mother went to church. There she met my father, John Henry Fink, who also went there with his family.

My father was born on March 10th, 1891 in Beardstown, Illinois. His father, Frederick William Fink, was born in Pleasant Grove, Iowa, and his mother, Katherine Margaret Spicker, was born in Beardstown, Illinois, though their parents both came from Germany. In 1904 the family, except for one son, Philip, moved to Los Angeles, California. They lived in the back of a store they owned. Frederick and Katherine had five children: They were Philip, who became a minister, Annie, John Henry, (my father), Bessie and Fred. They all married and were faithful to the Lord. His mother had passed away not quite a month before I was born, and I only remember seeing his father one time. He died when I was not quite four years old.

When my father was older and going to the Church of the Open Door, he sang tenor in a men’s quartet. My mother also sang in the choir and had a lovely voice. I guess that’s where we siblings got our musical talent, because almost every one of us enjoyed singing, either as a song leader, soloist, being in trios or quartets, or singing in choirs during our lives. He listened to the radio and loved The Sons of the Pioneers as well as organists Loran Whitney and George Hahn. He worked for some time as a railroad man where his father worked. Then he got a job working at the Arcade Post Office in downtown Los Angeles, the largest post office in the city. He worked there for 44 years until he retired. He was never sick, and because he took no sick leave over those years, he got more than a year’s pay in accumulated sick leave at retirement. After that, he did odd jobs, gardening and mowing lawns.

Myrtle and John married on June 17th, 1913, and had two boys and five girls, though one of the girls was stillborn. They were John Philip, Robert William, Mary Ellen, (the stillborn), Violet Jean, Rose Fern (me), Margaret Eleanor and Edith Mae.

They built a little house at 5862 Denver Avenue, Los Angeles, just two miles south of Exposition Park, one block west of Figueroa Boulevard and eight houses south of Slauson Avenue. The house was on the back of the lot, but later, when they needed more room, they built a larger house on the front of the lot.

They went to a little church called Trinity Congregational Church at 37th and Crawford in Los Angeles. The preachers that preached there were trained at the Bible Institute of Los Angeles, which was called BIOLA, on 5th and Hope, right next door to The Church of the Open Door. This was the church where they had met each other years before. At church, my mother was the superintendent of the Primary Department Sunday School on Sunday mornings and the Junior Christian Endeavor teacher on Sunday evenings. She sang in the choir and held offices in the Ladies’ Missionary Society, and my father taught a Junior High Boys’ class at Sunday school and was the church clerk.

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