The Spring of 1949 arrived, but it took forever for the four feet of snow to melt off so we could get out into the woods. It was just as well, for it was time to take Alva and the kids to Dad and Mom’s in prep for the baby. With Dr. Tarr’s usual expertise, Stephen Michael Peters arrived in May of 1949, and we were a family of five!
Back in Twain Harte, the snow finally melted so we could start hauling lumber. We had only hauled a couple of loads when disaster struck!
The brokers who bought the lumber we were hauling cancelled their standing order. The lumber yards had finally satisfied all their customers, had built up their inventories to normal peace time levels, and there was more lumber on the wholesale level than there was demand. No order, no mill operation, no lumber to haul, no money! Both families made out as best we could, wondering what we were going to do.
Alva and I sure didn’t want to leave Twain Harte, and neither did Susan and David, but there was virtually no work in the county. Should we try to tough it out? Or should I go back to engineering? Would there even be an engineering job?
George got a job as a sales engineer at a big machinery company in Stockton. One family resettled, one to go. But the partnership was over. George and I had gone into the lumber business to make our fortunes, but had ended up losing our shirts. It didn’t seem to matter, for we had both gotten truly saved!
We prayed a lot and checked out every lead. We needed a good job to provide for our family and pay off the debts of our failed business.
We finally decided I should go to LA alone, see if North American Aviation would take me back and see if I could rent a house for immediate occupancy for just the first month’s rent, we were that short of cash. If I was successful, that would be a sign from God for us to move. If any of that failed, we would stay in Twain Harte and trust that God would take care of us.
I drove down, stayed overnight with Dad and Mom, and got to North American early in the morning. The interviewer told me they were not hiring, unless I had worked for them before. I eagerly told him I had worked for them for a year when I first got out of the army. He asked me who I had worked for, and called him up on the company phone. My former supervisor apparently gave him a good report, so he smiled and said, “Have you gotten over your wander lust yet?” I told him yes, I didn’t have any choice, with five hungry mouths to feed.
Without giving me any waiver for the finding of a house, he started right out, “You are hired. Now let’s see what your pay will be. You were making so much when you left. We can’t give you any merit raises as you haven’t been here to earn them, but we will add on the automatic raises that everybody got while you were gone. When can you come to work?”
Gulp, what if I can’t get a house? But it was so good a deal and so swift, I figured God would surely work out the rest, so I told him I could begin in a week. I thanked him profusely, and left.
I had a job, and it was only mid-morning! I bought an Inglewood paper to look for a rental. This time it would be in foggy bottom, right next to the airport and my job. I found an ad that sounded right and phoned to check it out. The man who answered said he was just leaving for the rental and to come meet him there. The house was just right, was vacant, the rent was reasonable, and in view of my good job and sizable family he waived the last month and cleaning deposit.
I gave him the first months rent, signed the rental agreement and walked away with the keys. The house was clean and ready for us to move in!
I drove to Dad and Mom’s house, which was on the way home, stopped to tell them and phone Alva. She was amazed and delighted, and after telling her to start planning and packing, I took off for Twain Harte. God had really answered our fleece!
I put a temporary floor of planks on my lumber truck and was able to load all our possessions on it. I would lead in the truck. Alva would follow in the car, loaded with the kids and our immediate needs.
It worked like a charm, and we were moved, unloaded settled in and I was able to start work on schedule. Thank you Lord! My brother, Owen, was kind enough to drive the truck back north where George would be selling both trucks and our other business assets. Owen came back on the bus, and though he was a B-17 Flying Fortress bomber pilot, complained that driving the truck had been a nightmare!
Inglewood turned out to be OK! It was foggy some of the time, but not so we couldn’t get around. It was smoggy some of the time, but only when the wind came from the east, and it mostly came from the west. The beach was just a few minutes away, ready for summer fun. Best of all, I could walk to work or ride a bicycle if in a hurry, and only drove when it was rainy. What a difference from before.
I settled into a five eight-hour-day work week, which seemed like a vacation compared to our lumber business. North American put me to work in the fuselage group and I was soon feeling like I had never left.
Alva quickly got the household routine established, took the kids to the beach, got acquainted with the neighbors, and became her usual contented wife, mother and gift to the world.
My parents had moved to Pasadena after Daddy retired from the Railroad. Mother’s sisters and mother were already there. Dad and Mom were still in Wheatland. So we would visit one batch of relatives one month, and the other the next month, so our kids became acquainted with all the immediate relatives. This was a great benefit!
Three Years at Tenth Avenue
We looked for a church, and before long were settled in at the Tenth Avenue Baptist Church in Inglewood. Betty Johnson, their Director of Christian Education, put us to work in the Sunday School, and under her mentoring we were soon in charge of the whole Junior High Department. I taught the ninth grade class, and was put in charge of all the audio-visual equipment and much of its operation for both the Sunday School and Church services, a good fit.
We attended Sunday School, Sunday morning service, Sunday evening service and Wednesday evening prayer meeting (just Alva or me, as no nursery ). I had a master key to the church, as I had to get into various rooms to set up a slide or movie projector.
One Sunday evening after a heavy day, we wearily got into the car and drove home. When we arrived and started to unload, alas, there was no Stephen. We remembered that we had laid him down on a back pew. I raced back to the church which was all dark and locked up, let myself in, turned on the lights, and sure enough, he was still happily sleeping where we had left him. The custodian had shut the church down without noticing him. Although he had nothing to do with this mishap, it was a portent of many incidents to come.
Betty Johnson was a strong believer in summer camp. So, being in charge of the Department, we were expected to attend and head up the Junior-high camp at Thousand Pines each summer. I would take a week of vacation, Mom would take care of the kids, and off we went.
At the first camp we observed the strangest phenomenon. Our bus arrived early. As buses from other Baptist churches in southern California arrived the kids already there would gather around to watch them unload. Alva and I were watching with them. Every now and then a boy or girl would pause at the bus door, look around at the crowd, pick out someone standing around and head right for them, after which they were inseparable for the week and turned out to be trouble makers. It would be many years before we understood why that happened.
Dozens of tents provided the sleeping arrangements. Alva would sleep in the tent with our girls. This worked out fine as she was the self defined “perennial junior-higher.” I slept in the tent with our boys. This did not work out fine, as I did not have the junior-high mentality, even when I was in junior-high. Moan! Anyway, I survived it, if only barely.
While we were doing church at Tenth Avenue, the Wednesday evening Bible study in Twain Harte had morphed into the Chapel in the Pines. Land was given on which to build, members who were contractors built the original Chapel building and Pastor Callahan was called to be the first Pastor. Thus the first church east of Standard was in operation and thriving. We went up to visit every chance we had and kept close track of what was going on.
During our years at Tenth Avenue Alva and I were growing spiritually, learning much about serving God in a local church and receiving more responsibility (I was made a Deacon, the Baptist equivalent of Elder).
The Lord blessed our ministry in the Sunday School, and during our stay at Tenth Avenue the Junior High Department tripled in size. Most of this growth stemmed from Alva’s love for and attention to the boys and girls in the classes.
Our children were getting older and all of them had many interests, asking to do this or that or if we could buy this or that. Though I was much more agreeable since my serious commitment to the Lord, Alva and I found ourselves disagreeing about our responses to the children’s requests. Her basic response was yes, mine was no. Her posture was based on her desire to make everybody happy. Mine was from my upbringing-children are meant to be seen and not heard-when there were more people eating than the table would seat, the adults ate first, and the children at the “second table.”
Both of us were a little unbalanced. Alva would automatically say yes, even when it would result in a real inconvenience or overload on her time or energy, which would displease me. I would often say no when there was really no reason not to say yes, which would displease Alva. It also meant that they learned to ask Alva instead of me, kids are smart.
We both endeavored to be a little more careful in our answers and Alva and I and the kids all felt things were fair most of the time. Nevertheless, the few arguments we had were usually about the kids.
Speaking about children, Janet Kathleen Peters arrived on May 20, 1952, delivered by Dr. Tarr’s associate. There was a complication during the birth, but the lady doctor skillfully managed it, and our tomboy daughter was ready to take on the world! When we were anticipating getting married, Alva asked me how many children I thought we should have. Not having a clue what that would mean, I suggested four. I had felt a little cheated that I didn’t have any sisters, and four would allow for two brothers and two sisters, a buddy of the same gender for each child. I guess that God took me seriously, for Janet was the fourth and last.
In our last year at Tenth Avenue, we finally got all of our business debt paid off. George had sold our assets and had been able to pay off his portion of the debt also. This allowed us to consider buying a house, so we began looking. We found a good deal about the same distanced from work in Hawthorne, and with the help of the GI Bill got a low interest loan and bought it. The Del Aire Baptist Church was just two blocks from our new home. If we settled there, we could walk to church! We attended there, thought it was great, transferred our membership from Tenth Avenue and began adjusting to both a new home and a new church.