Growing up in Pasadena – The Book

I have an Aunt?

Gladys Noble and her father, my grandfather, George Noble in 1899

Gladys Noble and her father, my grandfather, George Wilfred Noble in 1899

During the summer months my family spent a lot of time in Redondo Beach and, when it became too crowded and “the place to be,” Huntington Beach. My grandfather liked to spend the winters there, so he would find a small place, usually one that shared a bathroom with others, and rent it year around.

He loved to fish off the piers and shared his knowledge and excitement with me during summers when I was very young. When we went fishing together, I would use a snag line to catch small fish for him to use as bait, and when his bait bucket was full, he and I would sit and talk about this and that while waiting for the big one to bite on that “special bait” I caught for him.

On a couple of occasions, my grandfather mentioned that he was going to take the bus to Berkeley to visit his daughter. It never seemed strange to me, since we had a large number of cousins and such, and another person was just another person.

When my grandfather died I was barely 17 and the whole family, along with some neighbors, gathered at my grandmother’s house following the funeral. During a lull in the conversation, I simple said, “Did anyone tell his daughter in Berkeley.”

Silence. Total silence. Stares from everyone.

After a few moments, my father said, “How did you know about her?” I answered, “Grandpa and I used to go fishing and he would tell me he was going to visit his daughter in Berkeley. I just thought it might be a good idea to tell her he had died.”

The conversation immediately changed and there was never another mention of her from that day forward.

In the late 1990s I started doing some research on my family tree and asked everyone for any information they might have. Fortunately, when my grandmother passed away, a year after my grandfather, my father’s brother and his wife, my aunt and uncle, gathered up all of the family photographs, letters and papers, and kept them. My cousin then passed them on to me.

I knew my father and uncle had a sister, Helen Noble, who was born in 1904 and passed away in 1915, but that was all. However, as I began to put the pieces together I found pictures and notes regarding a young lady born to my grandfather and someone before he married my grandmother in 1899.

Her name was Gladys Noble and she was born around 1894. She appeared in photographs from just after her birth up until maybe her tenth birthday. That is all I knew.

I checked for a birth certificate in San Diego County, where my grandfather lived at the time of her birth, but there was none. However, I did find and obtained a copy of her application for a Social Security Number.

According to that document, her name was Gladys Noble, although apparently she had added Virginia as a middle name. She was born near La Mesa, California on March 22, 1894. Her mother was Virginia Mabel Cole and right there in black and white her father was my grandfather, George Wilfred Noble.

She never married, was a school teacher in the Berkeley area and died there in 1971.

I have very little additional information on her, other than her obituary. I wish I had started searching earlier and had the opportunity to meet her. We would have had so much to talk about.

Gladys at six months.

Gladys at six months.

Gladys at nine.

Gladys at nine.


Blackie the Neighborhood Dog

Blackie was a female dog owned by the Johnsons, our next door neighbors in Pasadena, Well, at least that is what they believed.

She was a cross between a breed with long black hair and one with short legs, and, like many female dogs in the 1940s, she had not been spayed.

I mentioned that the Johnsons believed that Blackie was theirs because they adopted her, but she really belonged to the neighborhood, running unleashed between their house, our house and the neighbor’s house on the other side of us. She seemed to sleep and eat where she wanted, but our house was one of her favorite places to have puppies and even catch mice, at both of which she was very good.

I remember coming home from school one day and not being greeted by Blackie. She usually raced, as fast as she could on those short legs, to meet me after I crossed the railroad tracks, which were only one lot south of our house, but not on this day.

I was worried that something had happened to her and as I ran up the steps into the back porch of the house, I asked my grandmother if something was wrong. She smiled and pointed to the living room, where Blackie was lying on the floor with her nose under the bookcase in the far corner of the room, a bookcase that held hundreds of old Reader’s Digest magazines, a treasure from which I wrote numerous book reports without having to ever read the book.

I walked over to see if something was wrong with her and except for a wag of the tail, she just ignored me. Something under the bookcase had her complete attention.

I got down on my hands and knees and looked under the bookcase, which stood only a couple of inches off the floor on curved legs, but couldn’t see anything that would attract her so intensely. But, just as I was starting to get up to ask my grandmother what was happening, from behind me she said, “She has been there for at least an hour. I think she has cornered a mouse.”

I banged on the bookcase, but nothing happened. Neither Blackie or whatever had her complete attention moved. Finally my grandfather, who had been sitting in his favorite chair ignoring the whole thing, walked over with his cane – he didn’t need one but had several – and poked it under the bookcase.

There was an immediate explosion. The mouse ran from under the bookcase, down the wall, made a 90 degree turn at the corner and headed for the archway which led to the dining room. At the same time, Blackie, short legs a-flying, nearly knocked me down while racing not after the mouse, but directly towards the archway where she arrived at the same time as the mouse, scooped it up into her mouth and in one bite killed it.

It was all over before I even imagined it had started. My grandfather casually returned to his chair while my grandmother laughed and Blackie proudly sat on the floor between the rooms with a mouse tail sticking out the side of her mouth.

My grandmother reached down and petted her on the head and took the mouse by the tail, which Blackie gave up to her. She took the mouse into the kitchen, tossed it into the trash and returned with a ball of raw hamburger as a treat.

The story of the “great mouse hunter” made it through the neighborhood, getting better with each telling. Blackie was now looked on as a heroine of sorts.

The mouse, like all animals of any kind, be they pets or found birds, frogs or even interesting insects, later received a ceremonial burial in the back yard, attended by most of the neighborhood kids. Some time later, as we often did, we would dig it up to see what it looked like.