Chapter 16: Back to School in California

We moved back to San Jose, California because we knew that area very well. Chuck began his college work all over again. He went to school either at San Jose Junior College or San Jose State College, depending on where he could get the best slate of classes. Since these schools were both accredited by higher education associations, whatever courses he took there would be accepted by any other school he would want to enter later to do graduate work.

At the same time, Chuck got a job working as a grocery clerk full time at Dick’s Market. We had three children by then and I was expecting our fourth child. Merilee Joyce was born on December 1, 1955, soon after we arrived in San Jose, so we now had four children born in less than five years. We bought a house for nothing down and a minimum amount to pay each month, and stayed there for two years while Chuck went to school. We lived at 1136 Mackey in Willow Glen, a district in the southwest part of San Jose. Dick’s Market was just a few blocks from our home.

While in San Jose, we went to church with a group of old friends we knew from San Jose Bible College who were meeting in a rented building in downtown San Jose. They asked Chuck to preach on Sundays while different ones of them would teach at the midweek Bible study. Eventually, the church moved to east San Jose in an area called Green Valley. At first we met in a Quonset hut, but later, we built a sanctuary and named ourselves the Green Valley Church of Christ.

Chuck continued preaching at Green Valley Church of Christ part time while the elders taught the Wednesday night Bible studies. While we were there, Nancy began going to kindergarten at Willow Glen Elementary School. I took a sewing class in night school, so I could make dresses for myself and clothing for the children. On Halloween, I made costumes for the children so they could go out trick-or-treating. That year, both boys had little green elf outfits with green pointed caps and shoes. Nancy was a clown with an orange and black costume, and we all went around together. Merilee was born by then, but she was in the baby buggy, so she got pushed around while the others went to the doors and knocked and yelled out their calls of “Trick-or-Treat!” Wherever we went, they held out their little bags, and people filled them with goodies, and for several days and weeks afterwards, they would dump out their goodies and choose which ones they wanted to munch on.

Another time, I took a tailoring class and I made little coats for the boys. They turned out to be quite nice, and I was proud of them wearing their new coats at church. I also made beautiful little yellow and lavender organdy dresses with bouffant slips under them for Easter the next year. These were glittery with sequins that made them sparkle, and Merilee especially almost pranced, she was so excited and happy with her new dress. They had little handbags and hats to match. I often wonder how I ever had the time and energy to do all of that work on those things.

We continued going to the Green Valley Church of Christ, and really enjoyed the fellowship there. Chuck was the preacher, and someone else was the choir director this time. We were involved with Bible School on Sunday mornings, morning church service and the evening church service. On one Sunday, Nancy came down with the measles.

Two weeks later, Kenny came down with it, and finally, two weeks later, we looked Ronnie over very carefully before going to church to make sure that he did not have it. When it looked like he was clear of it, we let him go to Bible School. However, when he got home that day, he was one sick little boy, and the next Sunday, he was still at home with the measles. The week after that, when he was finally well, he went back to Bible School, but everyone else who had been in his class two weeks before that was now out with the measles! He had been there just long enough to infect the whole group. While each of the children had been out only two weeks, I had been out at least six weeks staying out to be with each one of the children.

Right about that time, my father died of a heart attack on May 2, 1956, while we were living in San Jose. He and my mother had driven back to Texas to visit Bob and Ruth, my brother and his wife, and on the way, they came upon a tall viewpoint or vista which they decided to climb. However, my father’s heart was very weak, and he wasn’t able to climb very far when he had problems. Within the week, he passed away, and when the coroner did a post mortem on his body, he found that his heart had turned from muscle to fiber. It refused to function as muscle anymore.

My mother wanted to have the burial in Los Angeles, so she rode with the casket on the train while Bob drove his car to the coast. The funeral was held in Los Angeles, but the burial was at Glendale Forest Lawn Cemetery. I was able to go to LA for the occasion, though Chuck was working in a cannery at the time, and he could not attend. Merilee was just a baby, and I was nursing her, so I took her with me.

I remember at that time, I was staying at home with my mother, and had to go out somewhere so I left Merilee with her for the afternoon. While I was gone, Merilee began to cry, and there wasn’t anything my mother could do to assuage her. She felt such compassion for the baby that she herself began to cry, and this was a real blessing for her because she had not been able to cry before that following my father’s death. Since my mother now lived alone in Los Angeles, I wanted to move there to be near her, and be supportive to her. Moving would also be good for Chuck’s schooling, so he was happy to go along with my wishes in this matter. He could go to George Pepperdine College in LA near where she lived. When we looked into the possibilities of that, we found that Pepperdine would accept all of his work at San Jose Junior and State Colleges besides 30 units from San Jose Bible College. (They ended up accepting 41 units from SJBC.) This worked out very nicely, so we moved to the Los Angeles area where he attended Pepperdine. He was able to graduate summa cum laude at Pepperdine in 1959 with a Bachelor of Arts.

At first, when we moved to Southern California, we lived in an apartment in Compton. We went to church at Crenshaw Christian Church and served there in order to repay them for the years they had helped me to go to Northwest Christian College years before. (Figueroa Christian Church had sold its building on 57th and Figueroa to a Church of Christ, a non-instrumental church, and purchased property in Inglewood on Crenshaw Boulevard where they built a beautiful new building, which they called Crenshaw Christian Church.) Chuck was invited to teach the Young Married Couple’s class there while I was invited to teach in the Junior High department. Both of us loved teaching these classes. Besides that, I also started the Missionary Workshop in which ladies at Crenshaw would get together weekly and do sewing. We made clothing items for missionaries that the Crenshaw Church sent out to the mission field. We were supporting missionaries to Thailand at the time, so we made clothing for Harry and Lily Schaefer and their family. I remember making pajamas and nightgowns for them.

Chuck was working at a grocery store in South Gate named Pete’s Penny Market. He did this full time during the school year of 1956-1957 in order to provide for our family financially. It was good he had that job because he became a member of the Retail Clerks Union, which provided medical and dental insurance. I got a lot of dental work done, which was excellent work and served me for many years to come. It was good to be able to have a doctor available for the children whenever they needed it, which seemed to be often at that time.

It was while we were working at this church that the minister, Dr, Joseph Merle Applegate, suggested to the elders of the University Christian Church that he had a young preacher that would do a good job when they needed someone to fill in there. Chuck was the young man. Therefore, Eldred Illingworth, an elder from University, came to talk to Chuck about filling in for them for two weeks while their minister, Lawrence Sunkler, was away on vacation. Brother Sunkler went to Oregon, and while there, he applied to become the preacher of a church there and was accepted. When he came back from his vacation, he turned in his resignation to the elders of University, so they asked Chuck if he would fill in on a temporary basis. They made an arrangement: Chuck would preach for them on Sundays, and we would live in the church parsonage at 91st and Denker, near Manchester in Los Angeles, and no money would change hands.

That continued for about three months when the elders told Chuck they felt the church needed a full time preacher and asked him if he would quit his job at Pete’s Penny Market and become their preacher. Of course, they would pay him a regular salary. He became the full time preacher on December 1, 1958, except, of course, he was allowed to continue his studies part time at Pepperdine. This happened when the church was located on the corner of Santa Barbara and Budlong. It had been called University Christian Church because it was relatively near to the University of Southern California. It turns out that Chuck preached there for the next five years while they relocated to their present site at 5831 W. Centinela in Los Angeles.

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