Lloyd Stirling Summerhays
All of us remember the worries and hardships that invariably come with periods of business recession, including the one we're just recovering from.
The "Great Depression" era of the 1930's was dramatically hard on all Americans, including Mom and Dad. They had to somehow keep the family fed and clothed at a time when as alarming percentage of our people were jobless and almost without hope.
But Mom and Dad did succeed, somehow, in providing the support we needed during that terrible period. Their boys were able to see, first hand, such qualities as faith, hard, hard work, persistence, optimism, courage, and love, and it certainly influenced us.
While Dad was away at work each day, having to meet his own problems and goals much on his own, three of his boys still living at home had ample opportunity, at least, to see a wonderful mother in action.
For me, the 1930's were a period of intense growth and development, since they took me from age 11 to 21. I am grateful that I was able to be so closely involved with my parents at this time, as I developed from a young child to an adult. This simply had to witness almost year-to-year growth, and the great opportunity to watch my parents as they faced such great trials and challenges. A great source of consolation and faith, to me, was the realization that almost everybody else in our country was in "the same boat" as we were, and I'm convinced we all became stronger people from our challenges.
My brother Dick went on his mission in 1928, and never again lived under our roof. But we sure loved him and kept in close touch with him during his two-year mission, of course, and then as he married, started his family, and worked first in Salt Lake and then in Butte, finally moving to Los Angeles around 1937.
During this time, Mom let us see how a real mother-in-law should act. There could never be the slightest doubt that Miriam was her "daughter" in every sense of the word. I cannot recall a single negative statement Mom ever made about this daughter of hers, and in time we saw that it applied to all four of her daughters-in-law, equally.
It didn't matter whether I as in the first grade or taking night school courses in collage, years later, Mom was always proud of my efforts to learn, and she encouraged me constantly. For someone with such high personal moral qualities, who considered it her duty to try and install them in her children, she had a marvelous form of "loveable leadership." Loyalty was her middle name.
I could reminisce with pages and pages of delightful memories of this period, to speak nothing of the years after I, too, left home and started a family of my own.
For example, during the years when I was around ages 10 to 13, the back yard of our rented house on West 39th Street in Los Angeles became "Sherwood Forest." It had no lawn, but this was good because it permitted Robin Hood and his "men" to dig fire its for roasting potatoes over open bonfires, with plenty of spooky stories. It also allowed for "underground" passages (trenches covered with boards and dirt), archery contest, campouts, etc., etc., etc.
The back yard boasted two good-sized apricot trees in the front part, both of which had tree houses where a boy could sleep overnight. Artificial "lakes" (very muddy) were "built" under one tree.
Despite the dire financial straits of ourselves and most of our neighbors, all the mothers in the neighborhood somehow managed to sew Robin Hood suits together for their boys, and obtain inexpensive bows and harmless arrows. It was a very obvious "labor of love," and Mom always seemed to spearhead these efforts. Don't ask me how she ever scraped together the "funds" for these magnificent endeavors that Keith and I so dearly recall.
This is just a typical example of countless ways that Mom managed to enrich our childhood years.
After Dick and Miriam were married in 1932, they lived in Salt Lake for awhile, then were transferred to Butte, Montana, where they remained until being transferred to Los Angeles. Joyce was born in August of 1933, in Butte, and Don, Lloyd and Keith Summerhays were very thrilled to be uncles for the first time.
But you should have seen the excitement each year, when Dick and Miriam would spend their vacation time driving to Los Angeles to visit us. We all have such fantastic memories of those vacations! And they would treat us to such gigantic "events" as our first Chinese dinner, at Tommy Wong's restaurant in Old Chinatown, Trips to places like the San Diego Zoo, and on and on. They spoiled us "rotten," as Mom would say. And the day they departed for home was "blues time," believe me.
My memories of the Depression years are so gratefully intertwined with the many kindnesses and favors bestowed on Keith and me by my brother Don. Though only seven years older than I, he seemed like an adult to me, and that he was, in every way. For years he did an outstanding job of managing Dad's printing shop that grew out of his other business activities, and it led toward Don's ultimate profession as a printing owner and manager.
I simply can't overestimate Don's value to our family during those very difficult times, but his contribution to us didn't stop with Dad's printing business. Somehow he managed to scrape together enough funds to finance the most treasured possessions Keith and I ever had, namely our beloved bikes, which we used for years to travel Southern California widely! The "list" goes on and on. So today I'm still the "lucky little brother" of Don and Hilda.
All these recollections are very factual. Nothing is the result of over-sentimentality, I firmly assure you. And they don't begin to tell the story about why I'm so proud and grateful to be a member of my family. Keith will back me up in all this, because we've reminisced about it a lot.
16 October 1994
Last modified: November 14, 2000