Greetings from Long Beach, dear friends!
I was about to say "Greetings from the land of Sunshine" - but I just remembered that it rained three days and three night in a row. California does everything in a big way. No little dinky shower for her. Her bright sun draws water from the ocean by the barrel; and it comes down by the same "measuring" cup. Wednesday morning I drove a lady tenant to work - nine blocks away - and barely made it back home before the street filled with water. It ran over the tree lawn, the sidewalk, over the lawn to the house, which sits back 50 feet from the street on the south side. (This is a corner lot.) I finally had to take my shoes off and wade in to the kitchen door. Suddenly the rain stopped, and the sun came out with a wide grimace at us little creatures floundering in the flood. People on verandas, steps and upper balconies stood agape at this phenomenon. There was but little damage done in Long Beach, but in some parts of southern California there were heavy storms that caused widespread destruction. I'm sorry to report this misdemeanor on the part of my beloved California. But, like human beings, no one state is perfect. Speaking of human beings, every possible variety is to be found in Long Beach. Sometime I must enlist the aid of a good psychologist, to analyze the influx of freaks - or near freaks - to this fair city. In many cases I believe they, like Ponce de Leon, are seeking the Fountain of Youth. A day or two after Virgil and I moved into this one-room-apartment building, an old woman came to our door. There was a faded beauty there; the deep-set brown eyes would be lovely in a serene setting; the tawny, dusty gray hair still reminded one of once-gray ringlets and bewitching curls. "Are you the manager?" An affirmative reply was like letting down the bars to my corral. She plunked down in our rocker, the only piece of furniture that was not adorned with boxes, cartons, and homeless bedding. "Honey, you're just the person I want to see." Then, with a beguiling, black-market whisper, "Have you a room for me?" "Sorry, but the owner allows only couples, or a mother and daughter, father and son ..." "Oh, that's all right. (Very confidential). "I'll bring my daughter for a week or two." In spite of the cold shoulder, she launched into a eulogy of landlords and landladies. "I've had such wonderful kind landlords, but most of them are gone to glory. I had a wonderful husband, but he went to glory thirty years ago." In a few days she was at our door again. I opened it narrowly, as was my custom the first two weeks, to hide the shelterless baggage. "Are you alone, honey?" A confiding whisper. I opened the door wide, happy to reveal stout-hearted Virgil, who is as harmless as a dove, but wise as a serpent. Not to be thwarted in her mission, she ignored his presence and inquired sotto voce, "Could you lend me a dollar?" Then, answering my astonished look. "So I can go and get something to eat." By that time Virgil gave me a nudge, his signal for "no soap." It was an awful situation ... an old woman going hungry ... "But surely you have friends ..." "No, my friends are all gone to glory ... could you make it 50 cents?" By that time I had become vested with a poverty consciousness, and could barely make ends meet. "That's the last of her," said Virgil with that Britain-bound assurance of his. But no, she was back in three days - just fondly hoping that in this "nice home" there was a little nook for her. Under her arm was a book. She was on her way to Ye Olde Book Shoppe, to sell her book for a pittance. Last week she said, she sold one of Harold Dell Wright's books for 15 cents. Poor old woman!
This job of managing an apartment building is the most difficult - the most fascinating - job imaginable. I fell heir to a horrible mess in the sanitation department, due to an indifferent and defiant former manager, who antagonized all the tenants. They were merrily dumping garbage, tin cans, and waste paper together in the nearest receptacle. The city collection department refuses to collect them in that state. Well, you can imagine! I hired a young man to help me. It took a week to straighten out that angle. There have been many problems - too numerous to mention. It is the greatest opportunity imaginable to practice Christianity. If people would only believe it, the spirit of Christianity is vitally - or shall we say virilely - contagious. I hesitate to relate a certain case, because of my part in it. But, after all, we are only vessels in God's hands. Jesus reminded his disciples, "Without me ye can do nothing." Paul, the greatest apostle of them all, said, "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me." That is the confident spirit in which we all, as true Christians, must go forth to win the world for Christ.
In the annex - at the farthest corner from my room - live a young couple who have quarreled bitterly and loudly far into the night. Other young couples nearby are slow to complain - but finally one husband could bear it no longer, and wrote me a letter. There were certain by-products of this disorderly marriage, such as dirty house-keeping, lack of pride, lack of everything decent. It was a clear case of "Put them out." They had become a nuisance. But then what? They are two young souls - desperately needing help. Put them out? That wouldn't solve their problem. I went to see them. It's an embarrassing thing to intrude into a couple's private life. But, as I told them, their life was no longer private. It had become public property. I told them I was old-fashioned enough to believe that God can change human hearts. "We have no hearts," said the unhappy young husband, bitterly. "They're just pumping stations." "Oh, yes, you do have hearts - young, sensitive hearts. And you've put a heavy armor all around your hearts - to keep from being hurt. Why don't you lay your weapons down - and remove the armor?" The war-torn ex-sergeant was stubborn. "Give me until next Friday - when I'll have some money - and then I can find another place." "Of course. But no matter where you go, you can't get away from yourself - and your sense of defeat. Why not stay, and lick this thing?" No answer. The wife, still in bed at 9 o'clock in the morning, said never a word. It was an ordeal. I rose to go - but reiterated my faith that they could straighten out their tangled lives - and win back the respect of their fellow men. The young man thanked me. Wednesday the storm really drove me into their kitchen. The wife was cordial and more animated than I had believed she could be. Today the young ex-soldier told me that everything is hunky-dory. They are staying on. ...
The acute housing shortage here is a great social leveler. Just this week a charming, cultured woman - a real patrician - from the "deep south" - Geo'gia - came to my door - desperate for a place to live. She and her husband and two sons, 18 and 12, were all living in one room. The health department has ordered them out. During the war, the husband, an army officer, was stationed in Long Beach. He bought a lovely home, and brought his family here. A year later he was ordered to Puerto Rico, to take charge of a permanent project there, the nature of which did not fully register in my mind. The family sold their home, their furniture, their car, awaiting final orders. Then the government decided to abandon the project, for lack of funds. Here, stranded, are the innocent victims of monumental mis-management. The proud, beautiful little Geo'gian, who had always lived in a social sphere where all menial labor belonged to the lowly negro, is willing to scrub floors - just for a place to live.
A raven-haired gentlewoman from Central America - "just four months in theese United States" - wanted a room where she and her husband would have a "keet-chen" to do their own cookeeng. "The restaurant food ees bad for my husband's stomach. And I have already twenty-five pounds een my body too much." Dear, delightful Carmelita Delgards! I tried to save a room for her, but the one day that there was a vacancy she and her husband were in Los Angeles, and could not know that I left a notification under her door in a rooming house nearby. The hard-boiled owner here urged me on to the next applicant, Carmelita and Salvadore came at 9 that night - just home from L.A. - and one hour too late! Such is life in crowded Long Beach.
Now I must close. But next week I must tell you of our visit to Fibber and Molly Magee's broadcast. Asking your forgiveness for the long "dry spell," I hope that from here on I can share with you the colorful life in California.
Florence B. Taylor.
408 Chestnut Ave.,
Long Beach 2, Calif.
P.S. - The giant air-ship in our harbor, which I mentioned as column material, is not yet open to the public.
Next - 12/5/46 - Visit to NBC studios
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