(Narrated by Russell Peters, her husband for seventy years)
A Unique Daughter
It was on April 18, 1925, that Alva Joan Sawyer was born in a Glendale, California, hospital. Before she drew a breath, she was destined to uniqueness by her name. During her pregnancy, her mother, Edna, was searching for names, and somehow came across Thomas Alva Edison’s name. Aha! She liked the way Alva rolled off her tongue, and with no objection from here husband, Curtis, Alva it was: Unique factor number one-Alva is a masculine name, and people hearing it from a feminine voice, came up with Alma, Elva or Elma, trying to adjust the gender; Unique factor number two-the meaning of Alva is sublime; Unique factor number three-the meaning of Joan is gift from God. Alva Joan, sublime gift from God!
What child is this, with such a start? We will be finding out as her life unfolds. Several things are givens: her father was a southerner from Virginia; her mother was a semi-southerner from Maryland; her brother, Elton, was eight years her senior; her sister, Marilyn, was several years her junior. Because of the difference in their ages, Alva had little to do with her brother while growing up. Because Marilyn was timid (note, as a child only) and picked on by her peers, Alva was her knight-defender, which greatly enhanced her combat skills. But the answer to the question at the beginning of the paragraph is, Alva was her father’s child! They apparently bonded for life from her birth.
From A Unique Father
If you want to sort of understand Alva (my seventy years with her only produced a partial understanding of her) you need to know a little about Dad Sawyer. Alva called him Dad, so I did too. This immediately indicated to both of us which father was meant, for I never called my father anything but Daddy. Anyway, Dad was a remarkable man! Curtis Clifton Sawyer was addressed by many as Curtis C. just as some people address me as Russell G. In Dad’s case, it sounded like Courtesy-an apt description, for Dad was a very courteous southern gentleman! Don’t interpret this to mean that he was quiet or inconspicuous, for Dad was a people person, an extrovert, a story teller, had a great sense of humor. But we are getting ahead of ourselves.
Dad was a good athlete, of medium height and muscular build. He loved contact sports, particularly boxing. When he was a youth he rode his bicycle around with two sets of boxing gloves tied to the handle bars, looking for someone to spar with. Dad didn’t go to college, but exceeded any college education in practical knowledge because of his desire to learn and his seeking out books or people to learn from. He had a knack for business, and was making money speculating on the grain market while still in high-school.
Dad attended a Baptist church regularly, though I don’t know how serious a Christian he was at the time. What I do know is that he was somewhat of a rascal. When he began looking for a wife, he courted and became engaged to a girl who worked as a telephone operator at night. They went to church together-perhaps she was also a member of the church. Then he met Alva’s mom, and began to date her also. Since one worked days, and the other worked nights, neither of them knew about the other. Oops, he began to feel that number two was more meant for him than number one. He proposed to Edna, she accepted, all the arrangements were made and the invitations were sent out, except for one. At church the next Sunday during the song service he handed a wedding invitation to fiancé number one. Needless to say, it ruined her day!
Long before I met Dad, he had become a solid Christian and the family faithfully attended and served at the First Baptist Church of Glendale, California.
To be continued…