In 1965, Frank and I left Abilene to move to Los
Angeles, where we’ve lived ever since. Just as we
were ready to leave, we heard that the Watts Riots had
broken out. “Welcome to L.A.,” I told myself. And I’ve
felt welcome ever since.
In my book God's Child in the City, I wrote:
"I knew everyone in my hometown and we spoke when
we met on the street. The first few weeks I lived in Los
Angeles, I continued this practice. But it didn't take me
long to realize that, in the city, some men take a friendly
greeting as an invitation to much more. I learned to
stare straight ahead and ignore their remarks--just like
a city woman."
Some people told us we were moving to Watts, but we
weren't. We were moving to South Central Los
Angeles—at 79th Street and Normandie, at one end of
the old campus of Pepperdine College, where I was to
complete my B.A.
People called it Watts, after the area several miles
away where the riots had started, as a code word
meaning that the people who lived there were black.
But that was the only resemblance between our
neighborhood and Watts. People in our area were
middle class, owned their own homes, sent their kids
to college or had gone themselves. We were the only
ones on our block who were renting our house.
That was the house where we raised our children. Our
daughter Kathy integrated nearby Normandie Christian
School. We attended the Vermont Avenue Church of
Christ on Vermont and 79th.
My best friends there were Betty Bridges and Elsie
Tatum. Betty and her sister Josephine own Taxpayer
Services, and they’ve done our taxes for years.
When we signed the tax papers this year, I was really
surprised at this great pen they had for us to sign with.
It looked like a ballpoint, but it wrote like an ink pen, and
it wrote so smoothly.
“What kind of pen is this?” I asked. "I want to get one to
use for my book signing at the Pepperdine Lectures."
Rather than tell me the name of the pen, Betty’s son
Kenny bought me a box to use. I was so touched that I
sent him two thank-you notes! It’s not that I’m so
grateful. Just that I’ve reached the age where I don’t
always remember what I’ve done, and I’d rather thank
Kenny twice than fail to thank him at all.
I used those pens for my signing, telling about them to
Felicia, Pepperdine's bookstore manager, who helped
me market the books, and several Pepperdine
students who worked with Kathy and Katyana to be
sure each book had a sticky note in it with the name of
the person I was supposed to be signing it for, as well as a
number of friends who bought the books.
I’m still enjoying using them.
I learned from living in Los Angeles that we all need to make
a point of seeing beyond skin color, economics, politics and
handicaps to respect the personhood of the individual before
One recent Sunday, Richard Beck of the psychology
department at Abilene Christian taught our adult Bible class
and preached for us at the Culver Palms Church on just that
point. At Culver Palms, we pride ourselves on our visuals.
We look right—a good mix of black, white, hispanic and Asian
people--all worshiping together.
But as soon as the sermon ended, I realized that I needed to
go hug a rich, white conservative. I’d been prejudiced
against them. I thought they were all mean!
I hugged one of our elders for the first time ever.
He told me that he’d volunteered for the first time last
Christmas with a local charity serving homeless people. I
realized once again that prejudice comes in many forms and
that all of us--whatever our age--can learn.
An eclectic website about Women, Christianity, History, Culture and
the Arts--and anything else that comes to mind.
'Welcome to L.A.'
The Harbor Freeway in South Central Los Angeles
(center) with scenes from the Watts Riots.
Frank and I in front of our apartment on New
Hampshire Ave. (left) in 1968 in a photo taken by
Jim Ridgeway who had been my photographer
at Abilene; the Vermont Avenue Church (right)
with the Pepperdine administration building
(above) and our friends Betty and Joe Bridges
(below) at our 50th anniversary in 2013.
Just a few nights ago, we watched a pot farmer on the
northern coast, who seemed to be enjoying his crop a little
too much, talk about L.A. watering its lawns at the expense of
his “medical marijuana” that people needed to fight pain,
while the camera lingered on shots of fish flailing in depleted
streams and reporters accused him of using more than his
share of water for his tropical crops.
There’s never enough water. Just ask Jake.
“Burn, Baby, Burn,” was one of the
slogans of the Watts Riots, and if
the place had gone up, everything
would have, because Southern
California was in one of its
constant droughts. Even though
we found it a wonderland of green
grass and trees in contrast with the
grey and brown prairie of West
Texas, water wars since the 1940s
had pitted the urban areas against
the rural as shown in the movie
Chinatown. L.A. was seen as
developing by stealing water
needed by San Fernando Valley
and Central Valley agricultural
interests, just as it is today.
|The September issue of my website is the fifth chapter of my memoirs, which I’m publishing between now and the end of
the year. The fourth chapter was the story of our marriage and college life in Abilene, Texas.
This issue tells about our move to South Los Angeles in 1965 and what we found there: the distinctive architecture, the
impact on society and the economy of L.A.'s water wars, and the racial situation which has been depicted in the books of
Your thoughts, reactions and reminiscences are always welcome. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.