Of our three grandparents born in Europe, two from Central Europe are represented in this chapter of our story. Our German Grandfather, Carl Heinrich Christoph Ludwig Brockman, was born in Hehlen an der Weser River on the 31st of August 1832 and baptized on the 9th of September. This is northern Germany, hence Lutheran country. Thus, he was confirmed on the 28th of March 1847, when he was fifteen years old.
All records in Europe in previous centuries were church records. Whether Catholic or Protestant, everyone was born into his church community, and registered by priest or pastor. Emigrants needing a visa or passport went to the church of their birth, and undoubtedly paid a fee to have their records officially copied to put in their hands. Such a record satisfied Ellis Island immigration officers.
We know little more of Grandfather Brockmann’s life or family in Germany. In a study that Auntie made for Grandma Brockman in 1931, requested by Johns Hopkins Institute for Biological Research on Longevity, she answered questions about Grandfather’s parents with this information. His mother died in 1848, and his father before 1857. I think Grandfather left Germany soon after his father’s death.
Grandma’s family is better documented. She was born April 22, 1836 in the town of Budweis on the outskirts of Prague, the heart of the old Kingdom of Bohemia, but since the 17th century, a captive area of the Empire of Austria Hungary. Grandma was Bohemian, or Czech, as we now call them. She was’ born a Catholic, baptized in the Cathedral of St. Nicolaum in the parish of Budweis. She was named Maria, daughter of Mathias Kloyda and of Maria Coadek. Her grandfather, Josef Coadek, was married to Anna Dvorak. Josef lived to be ninety-seven his granddaughter was almost ninety-nine at her death in 1934.
Both Josef Coadek and Mathias Kloyda were described in the elaborate christening papers as “laborers”. Grandma’s father Mathias, worked on the canal, driving horses which pulled barges of freight. Mathias must have been some twenty years older than his wife. He died at age sixty-four, cause uncertain, leaving a family of four young children for his widow to provide for.
I remember Auntie’s stories from Grandma of the struggles of her widowed mother to feed her four children. No pensions, no social security, in mid-nineteenth century Europe. Her mother went to do housework, keeping a meager home together for the children. Our Grandma was the eldest. Frank came next, probable born in the late 18s. Martin was born in 1841. The youngest of the four was Therese, born in 1843 or 44. She was a baby in very difficult times.
In Prague, poor families were allowed to gather fallen branches in the outlying forests, so the children used to scour the nearby woods for twigs and branches to tie in bundles and sell door to door. There were certain days, probably Saturday at the end of the week, when the sausage factories would allow the poor folk to collect pails of left-over drippings to make what they called blood pudding. This helped keep starvation from the door, but it was poor food, and the youngest son, Martin, had a weak stomach that couldn’t handle blood pudding. So, his mother would give him her share of bread crusts and eat his portion of the pudding. Our Grandma always carried the fear of hunger in her psyche even though life in the United States brought plentitude. As she grew older, the childhood memories came to the surface. Auntie would find her hiding crusts of bread in her apron pockets, Auntie would try to make her understand that there was all the good food she could eat, but those hidden bread crusts underlined a deep and early fear.
I remember another story, through Auntie, of how during a revolutionary turmoil, Grandma’s mother would lock the children in their garret home when she went out to work, for fear
As to the language problem, Grandma always said she learned German by learning the German songs and hymns. When she left Chicago, she left her Czech neighborhood and family. German was all she heard in both Wisconsin and Nebraska. She learned to read it as well, and her Bible and Botschatter, a weekly religious paper, were all her reading in later life. She never read English but learned a broken version as her sons grew up in California and refused to speak German at home. Her broken English was one of the factors that made Little Grandma (never quite five feet) in our childhood almost a museum piece. Her immediate family in 20th century California (Auntie, Marie, and Helena) spoke German with her, but her other California grandchildren were not bilingual. Grandma’s young sister Therese married a stern looking man named Grewe. They came to Nebraska and settled near West Point. There are five children in the family picture taken some time before 1885 when the Brockmanns left Nebraska for California.
In 1931 Therese, called Tracy, was still living at age eighty-seven in a Home for the Aged in West Point. Sometime in the sixties, Martin went off to the Civil War, returning from it to die at age twenty-four. Grandmas’ s brother Frank went northwest to the state of Washington. I remember him visiting Little Grandma when they lived on 48th street in Los Angeles, and later visit in Glendale. He was a handsome man and popular in the family. He had one daughter who moved in her widowhood to San Diego. Alice and, I visited her several times when Judy and Denny were going to college in San Diego. She was a delightful character in her late eighties with a good sense of fun.
She lived near a Catholic Church and was an active member. Jack Kennedy’s picture held a prominent spot in her parlor as she was a died-in-the-wool Democrat.
If you look at the map of Wisconsin, you’ll find Michicott near the eastern edge of the state, above the 44th parallel, north of a sizable city of Two Rivers. Somewhere near here, the young Brackman couple settled forest land, Grandma helping Grandfather to clear the trees to plant crops. They built a log home from their trees and produced wheat and corn and children. Grandma used to tell of floods that swept to their door. Once, when Grandfather had taken the corn to the mill to grind, a two-day round trip, the rains rampaged through their home. Water in the log cabin on1y two pieces of furniture were high and dry. One was the big bed, in which Grandma put the older girls, while she sat on a high stool holding the baby, probably Therese. She prayed throughout the night, anxious for her husband’s return. Broad fields finally beckoned in the Midwest at the close of the Civil War. Four girls — Mary, Caroline, Louise, Theresa, plus one son, Edward, were born in Wisconsin. One son died in infancy. Family tradition has it that Edward was born on the trip west to Nebraska, in a covered wagon, amid a blizzard. His birthplace in the family Bible is given as Wisconsin. Of course, the covered wagon had to traverse the state from their home in the eastern section. Perhaps Edward appeared before they crossed the state border. Anyway, Uncle Ed lived to be a hale and happy eighty-seven before he died in Watsonville, California in 1952. The Homestead Act of 1862 offered free land to settlers in the new territories west of the Mississippi. In the two decades between 1860 and 1880 Nebraska’s 28,000 population increased to nearly half a million. The Brockmann family in 1865 became a part of this growing population. A territory when they arrived, Nebraska became a state two years later in 1867.They found land in the eastern part of the state, somewhere near the young town of West Point. That is where the family photographs were taken, so we assume it was their nearest town. West Point is on the Elk Horn Creek, below the 42nd parallel, and some sixty-five miles directly north of the state capital, Lincoln. They settled on unbroken prairie, built a sod house as an early shelter while the adults ploughed the land and planted crops. Later there would be house and barns. Grandma helped Grandfather in transforming the plains II (Auntie’s)document) and long hours of farm work. Late to bed and early to rise was the farm program. I remember Grandma telling that she used to sleep with her knitting needles in the current sock under her pillow. If she woke during the night, she would knit a few rounds in the dark. She. knit while riding on the wagon, Grandfather driving, to whatever part of the farm they were going to work — never a wasted minute. She needed to knit for the fast-growing family. Henry was born in 1866, August in 1868. In ’70 and ’71 they lost two sons. Conrad was born in ’72, Louis (our father) in ’74, Henrietta (Auntie) in ’77, and Emma died in infancy in ’78. Probably the older sisters were nursemaids, babysitters, housekeepers for the Nebraska babies. Of the fourteen children ten lived to adulthood.
Twenty years of hard work and hard living went into the Nebraska era. I think the cold winters were beginning to tell on Grandfather, and he began to, think of an, easier climate for the lung problems that he suffered ‘in the winter months. His well-developed farm would bring a good price for another investment. In ’85 he made a trip, by train, to California, arriving in San Francisco. He looked about in the Bay area but found a damp climate and no broad acres. So, he traveled to Los Angeles where he discovered a neighborhood of German farmers at the southern end of the thriving city. In a district called Harmony, he purchased acreage on the south side of what is now Slauson Avenue, crossed by Figueroa Street. Then he returned to Nebraska to pack up the family. They traveled by freight train that carried several cars for passengers— you brought your food and bedding with you. It was a ten-day trip from Omaha to Los Angeles by this method. They arrived in Los Angeles in 1886, renting a house on Grand Avenue in what is now the heart of the city for the months it took to build the Brockmann Residence on the new property.
The three older daughters were married before this move and stayed in Nebraska in their German community. But Theresa, now twenty-two, the five boys from ages twenty-one to twelve (our dad), and Auntie. the youngest. at nine. came with their father and mother to a new life in Southern California. And it was a new life in many ways. Climate was the most obvious difference. No more snowy winters. ‘no more blizzards, no more prairie winds. Sunshine and clear air, much purer then than now, these were a blessing. Socially, the Brockmanns left a strict German area where only German was spoken, for a far more fluid and changing community. There were German neighbors in the Harmony district, but there were many English-speaking people also. This was particularly hard for Grandfather. who clung to his language and customs. It was very welcome to the young boys who found a new freedom in this new, and fast-growing society. August and Conrad married sisters from an Irish family, out here from the state of Kansas.
Louis married a New England girl from the state of Massachusetts, and they didn’t ask Father’s permission either. By this time, at the turn of the century, Grandfather had begun to mellow. He knew he had lost control of his young sons to a new independence. Failing health — the bronchitis attacks came more frequently, weakened his German will as well as his strength. And he became proud of the growing success of these young men. They were his sons. They were Brockmanns.
Los Angeles went through a period of explosive growth in the’80s. Its population grew from 11,000 in 1880 to 50,000 by 1890. In 1885 Santa Fe completed its rail service to 10s Angeles. Before this the only railway was from San Francisco, the Southern Pacific, completed in 1883. The Santa Fe opened Southern California to all the Midwest~ Chicago, and thence to the east coast. The two railroads vied with each other for passengers, cutting rates to absurd prices. At one time tickets from the Midwest were advertised for $1 to bring passengers out to settle here — agents were doing a roaring business in ’86-’87 before the bubble burst. But Grandfather had bought his acres in ’85 at moderate prices and came through the turmoil unscathed. In fact, the Brockmanns were so busy building that Residence in Harmony and cultivating their acres, that they probably. didn’t know what had hit their~ new hometown. They prospered. A traveling artist was paid good money to paint the. big picture of the Brockmann Residence, from which photos were also made. At the time of Grandfather’s death in 1904, the home farm was divided into at least eight or nine. shares Grandma, Henrietta, the two granddaughters now in the home, and the five sons. This provided the substance of Brockmann financial assets. The California Brockmanns all had good starts from the property. They were hard workers, most of the boys on farms of their own. Theresa was twenty-two when the family came to California, the eldest daughter out west, and an immense help to Grandma. In a few years she married Ernest Schwarze who farmed a few miles away. Their children were two boys — August born in ’91, Conrad in ’93, followed by the two’ girls, Marie in ⋅ 95, .and Helena in ’97. But in two more years Theresa would die of Bright’s Disease, a kidney complaint, leaving four young children. The father kept. the two boys with him, later making another marriage. He was willing that Grandfather and Grandma should take the two little girls into their family to bring up. I don’t think it was a formal adoption, for Marie and Helena kept the Schwarze name, but there was no question of who was in authority. By this time Grandfather’s health was failing; one winter season Grandma took him to a hotel in Sierra Madre, known for its health care and fine climate. The little girls were a’ delight to both grandparents, but Auntie, twenty-two and unmarried became their real foster parent. She was presented with two girls to cherish and bring up, and the direction and purpose of her life never changed.
Marie and Helena were Auntie’s girls, their children were her grandchildren. She became the virtual head of the household in the last years of her father’s life, and after his death. Little Grandma, Auntie, Marie, and Helena were a strong family unit. Grandma always kept busy with a big garden and chickens in the backyard. Auntie was ~he business head, ran the household, sewed for all four, and put her two girls through college. Marie and Helena were the first of the family to go to college; both became teachers. Auntie became the rallying center for all the Brockman clan, the peace’ maker in a big and varied family. She filled this role, all of her splendid eighty-five years, beloved by all the family.
As a part of the Anglicizing of the younger Brockmanns in California, most of the sons dropped the second “n” from the name after Grandfather’s death. In keeping the register in the. family Bible, Auntie entered all names with one “n” only. But Grandfather’s birth certificate from Hehlen an der Weser, and the wedding certificate in Wisconsin use the double “n”. Also, the picture of the Brockmanns Residence in south Los Angeles uses the double “n”! Grandfather is in this picture. August, third of the sons, was the. only one to maintain the old spelling. I think only Earl, the second of his six sons used the old spelling.
Our father, Louis, was the youngest of the five sons, closest to Henrietta (Auntie) both by age and personality. He was the one Auntie turned to for advice and leadership, and a very close bond existed between the two families. In fact, we three girls were the only ones among the various nieces and nephews to use the favored name, “Auntie”, along with her two nieces, Helena and Marie. To all others, she was known as Aunt Ettie. To me, as a child this signified a vast I had an Auntie (there was only one); they just Aunt. It really illustrated the abiding close two families of Henrietta and Louis. Many of our years we lived in the same town or neighborhood, whether south Los Angeles, Glendale, or Hemet. Louis married the Massachusetts girl, Alida Ross, who quickly became Auntie’s favorite sister. That wedding was on Christmas Day, 1902. Dad had built a little cottage on his share of the farm. Here I was born, June 14, 1904, just a few days after Grandfather Brockmann died. So, we never knew our German Grandfather. Soon after his death the Brockman ranch was sold. Both Louis and Henrietta Bought residential property close to the town (L.A.) on 48th and 49th streets. Our backyards joined — Auntie with Little Grandma, Marie and Helena, in a two-story house on 48th St; the Louis Brockmanns in a two-story house, with barn for a driving horse, on 49th St. Here Anna was born, and I have a few childhood memories of this home, ‘chiefly escapades with Helena. We teased Little Grandma by pulling up her carrots from her precious garden to eat. The Fred Walkers moved into the house next to ours on 59th when they moved to California from Massachusetts. Stanley was just my age and we were inseparable playmate s as soon as we could toddle. Bill walker was born on 59th St. three months after Anna arrived in our family. The Fred Walker family (cousins of our Mother) made a compact third to this family group.
Grandma Brockman was always known, as “Little Grandma” in our family. Grandma Ross was “Big Grandma”. The grandfather Ross we knew we always called Dada, another special childhood title for an ideal grandfather. During most of our family life, our Thanksgiving and Christmas gatherings were of the three families, anchored in Louis and Alida. Big Grandma and Dada, often their childhood friend, whom we called Auntie Blanchard was with them (she is the source of our hand painted china); Auntie, Little Grandma, Marie, Helena, Dad/Mother, Dorothy, Anna, and Alice. Just two men in the group” but wonderful ones. All our childhood and youth were enriched by this strong loving family structure.
Geography changed– Dada and Grandma Ross led the way from south Los Angeles to Glendale as early as 1906. They built the home on California Street, planting orange trees for the half block from their house to Verdugo Avenue. Louis had bought acreage in the San Fernando Valley when he sold his share of the old Brockmann ranch. Dad planted orange trees, hired a young man to live on it and work it while he drove “Kitty”, later “Bonnie”, from south Los Angeles the many miles out to supervise and work. When the Rosses moved to Glendale, Dad bought a deep lot in the same block — it would cut his traveling time to the San Fernando orchard by half. So, when I was three, and Anna a baby, we sold the house on 49th St. and moved into a newly built one on California St. in Glendale.
Dad always said. with a smile. that he ‘followed his mother-in-law wherever she wel1t. There were only three lots between our homes in Glendale; our folks had a built-in babysitter in the adoring grandparents; we- children knew exactly how to raid Grandma’s cookie jars; most Sunday dinners were together at one house or the other. and I always felt as if I really had two homes.
The San Fernando ranch prospered and ‘was sold in a few years. and the Louis Brockmans ventured to Imperial Valley to pioneer 640 acres of pure desert land. We left our Glendale home’ to be occupied by a cousin while we were off on what Dad envisioned as a one-year project to improve the land and put in on the market. It turned into a second year. and part of a third. Only the advent of Alice in 1913 brought us back to our Glendale home for good. “No place to have a baby” said the folks. It was twelve miles by horse and buggy to the frontier town of Calexico. But these two and a half years was an exciting experience in our lives.
Of course, we came back to Glendale for the summers. We still had about two months of quite intense heat before school was out and the crops harvested. and another two months at the beginning of each school year. We took the Southern Pacific a day (or night) trip from Los Angeles to Calexico at that time. Then twelve miles of dusty road to the shack on our 640 acres. Most of the new homes in 1910 were shacks, temporary quarters while ranchers started their work. Our acres were mostly under cultivation after the first year, all in barley to be irrigated, harvested in May by threshing machine or combine. Our “house” consisted of one long room with big screen porches on three sides for dining and sleeping. Mother left all her dishes, furniture, etc. in Glendale. She brought a dozen white linen napkins and silver teaspoons to remind her that she was still a lady. Otherwise, like all the other pioneer families in the neighborhood, we used an enameled tin set of mugs, plates, and other dishes. The first year we brought water in buckets from the irrigation ditch into the house, pouring it through two sets of filters to change it, from the muddy brown of the Colorado River to a usable liquid. Before we returned for the second year, a huge tank was installed to filter water for cows, horses, and chickens and pump a line into one faucet in the kitchen sink., Great improvement!
We had three or four young men living in the bunkhouse working for us and eating at our table. How did Mother do it? She usually had someone helping, living with us. Little Grandma went down the first year and stayed until we all came out at Christmas holiday. I remember her lugging water from the ditch (she said she had less far to bend for it),’and fussing at the pet lamb that would follow at her shoes whenever she stepped out of the house. After the holidays, the C W Brockman family joined us for the rest of that school year. Our family occupied one of the long sleeping porches; the C W’s with their three boys occupied the other sleeping porch. The third porch held the~ long dining table that fed the host of us. During these spring months, the CWs built a permanent home on their land which adjoined ours, with the road between heir, big new house of red tile and modern plumbing was a mile and a half by road from us. The second year both Brockman families brought down two sisters who were old family friends, and glad of a year sabbatical from their office jobs. Alice Wellmeyer lived with us; her sister Della was in the new house with Uncle Conrad, Aunt Elma, Stewart, Harold, and Warren.
I went to a one room school at Mt. Signal, driven two miles each way by either Dad or Mother in the morning and afternoon. I loved it, adored the school and my teacher, and got to ride a horse to school the third autumn, when 1 was eight since everyone else in the school rode either a horse,” a burro, or drove his own buggy to school. I felt that I had arrived at last. There were seventeen pupils when I entered school in October 1910. There were forty plus when I left at Christmas time on vacation to return to Glendale to live. The area, called Mt. Signal, was filling up fast with ranchers, all planting barley until the year of 1912 when the first cotton crops were tried. Our three young hired men were responsible chaps who enjoyed working with a youngish boss. Dad had few labor troubles.
They slept in the bunkhouse, ate and socialized with the family, and had a good share in our pioneer childhood. Stewart Swink was the foreman, being left in charge during our summer and Christmas absences. He “was going with” our Mt. Signal school teacher, married her soon after we left the Valley, and they developed their own ranch in the #12 (Mt. Signal) district. The harvest season needed extra crews by the first of May, when barley was ready to cut. The first year, Dad brought in a combine crew of eight extra workers. These joined our table on the big back porch and kept both Aunt Elma and Mother busy for a couple of weeks. After Uncle Conrad, known as C.W. in the Valley, developed his acreage the following year, he and Dad bought a huge threshing machine that was hauled into field position by mules, and required a crew of twenty to operate. This also involved a cook house in the field and a Chinese cook. I remember that during these weeks, on both ranches, C W bossed the field operation, and Dad ran the commissary department. This meant daily trips to Calexico for grocery supplies in a world of no refrigeration, no plumbing, no gas, no electricity. Some workers had homes in the district; others slept in the fields.
All this early development was made possible by. Colorado River water, before the days of the All-American Canal and the huge dams. Water in the irrigation ditches was a rich brown and built up sedimentation which had to be cleaned out each year by Indian labor. These were usually bands of Cocopah Indians who would come by families, live. along the ditch banks, sleep in the fields, and cook over open fires. We used to see the women slapping tortillas in the wind, as Mother drove me to school and worried about all the sand in their food. This was a winter job, before the beginning of irrigation of the spring planting.
The first cotton was planted during our last year in the Valley, 1912. The first Texans moved in, along with the cotton. I remember a boy in my fourth-grade class whose speech and ways were different~ to say the least. But we liked each other -my first introduction to a new state. Families of emigrant labor came first, living in tents, on credit from their employer for groceries until harvest. One such family lived near us on C W’ s property. Two grown daughters sat all day in sunbonnets “to keep their complexions “. Mother had no Alice Wellmeyer this year to help and was pregnant with the third daughter. So, she enquired if’ either of the two girls would be interested in working. A New Englander was hardly prepared for the horrified refusal of the Texas mother that her girls might be hired for housework. They would stay in their tent, on CWs credit and not sully their honor! Eventually Texas and ‘pioneer Imperial Valley learned to get along. Cotton became the #1 crop during WW I years and opened the way for other crops and agricultural development. But during our few years there, the Valley was a huge barley field, and every bit of fresh food was brought. in on the Southern Pacific, truly a lifeline in those days. As we moved back to Glendale, our family itself-to the Walker story. We continue accounts of other Brockmanns. History transfers this with brief.
The C W Brockman family made the Valley their permanent home. They usually came out in the hot summers, sometimes to Glendale to a home in La Canada. Here we saw much of “them for several years. They had lost their only daughter, Irene, about six, just before joining us in the Valley. Our new baby girl, Alice, delighted them but renewed their grief for the lost girl. They suddenly adopted twin baby girls, beautiful as babies, but disappointing as they grew older. The family never shirked the burden of these less ‘endowed children. Fortunately, there was money to spend on special schools, and later, even today, housekeeper care that provides a home in Inglewood for them. The brothers took over the responsibilities at Aunt Elma’s death. The three sons grew up in the Valley, Stewart leaving to become a Hill Coffee representative. Harold took over the ranch, which had added many acres and fortunes. He is one of some half dozen big and very successful ranchers in Imperial Valley today. Warren the youngest, became an aviator, first flying hunters and fishermen to Baja California for big sport events. During WW II he was a flyer in the photographic detail in the Caribbean. After the War, he took his wife Edythe and two youngsters to the Fresno area where he set up a successful crop-dusting business.
C W was always an influential leader in Valley history during its most significant years of the development of the All-American Canal. His death in 1943 was front page news in the L.A. Times. By that time Aunt Elma had moved to Inglewood with the girls, where she died in 1951. Harold is the only living son today, married to a Dorothy (there are four Dorothy Brockmans). They still live in the much expanded and improved red tile house built in 1911, have a daughter, son-in-law and grandson who follow in their father’s ranch footsteps. Harold is, without doubt, the only Brockman millionaire.
Of the Brockman tribe, Auntie’s and CW’s families were the ones best known to the L.E. Brockman branch. Since this is not a history, involving research, but only a story based upon my memory and a few record~, I can only give a skeleton outline of other branches of the Brockman family. Auntie’s girls I return to in the Schwarze chapter.
Edward, the oldest living son, but the sixth child, was born in Wisconsin or on the trip across the plains in a covered wagon on May 15, 1865, six weeks after the final battle of the Civil War, five weeks after Lincoln’s assassination. I wonder how long it took them to catch up with the stupendous news. All of Edward’s childhood and Boyhood was lived in the pioneer struggles of Nebraska, which became a state two years after his arrival. He was a young man of twenty when the family moved to California. Working the Brockmann Ranch didn’t prevent his romance with Nellie, whom he married in 1891. They later farmed east of the growing city. They had no children of their own, but adopted a son named Alfred. Ed and Nellie were the first of the fami1y to go north, settling later in Watsonville, busy growing apples and ardent. members of the Woodman’s Lodge. I don’t remember seeing them until I was teaching, and with Dad made a first vacation trip into northern California. After that trip we kept track of them, I’m sure Auntie always had. Later, Dad and Mitchie visited with them. several times. I took Auntie to see Nellie after Ed’s death in 1952 at the ripe old age of eighty-seven. Nellie soon moved to the Lodge Home in Saratoga for a few more years of active life. Auntie and I went there to see her during her final illness and found her well eared for in their hospital. This was our ~first introduction to prepaid health care, an impressive success by this Lodge. Henry I only knew of from family accounts, since he died in. 1900. He was then thirty-four and was consumptive. Grandfather Brockmann bought the Palmdale property to send Henry ~d his wife Julia to a desert climate in search of health. But Julia was a convert to Christian Science, and re fused to stay. They returned to their home in Los Angeles-, and Henry died soon thereafter. Whether the desert living would have given him more years of life is anyone’s guess, but this caused a rift in the Brockman family. I never heard of an Aunt Julia until I was school age, though she and their daughter Lucile lived in Los Angeles. It was. Auntie who was the peace maker, – and finally at a Brockman picnic at Redondo Beach Aunt Julia was invited and persuaded to return with Lucile who was about Helena’s age. We saw them occasionally thereafter. I have no record of Aunt Julia’s death, but Lucille married a Mr. High, and Auntie recorded her death in the family Bible in 1946.
August’s family of six boys is an infrequent but strong memory. August was born in Nebraska, May 10, 1868. He married Lydia Anderson, sister of Aunt Elma. Thus, six sons of August and Lydia were double cousins to the three sons of Conrad and Elma. The Anderson family became strong in-laws of the Brockman tribe, with Frank’s and Charley’s families tied to Brockman cousins. Frank married a vivid Irish gal named Eleanor who delighted everyone. I remember Mother telling how, marching down the aisle to her wedding, Eleanor gave her a big wink and broad smile. That was Eleanor all her life. Like Helena, she raised everyone’s spirit. Frank and Eleanor came to~ Hemet to live during part of our sojourn there. I always loved to have a visit with her. She was like sparkling champagne.
When my memory picks up the August-Lydia family we were in Glendale, home from the Valley, and they were developing a walnut orchard in Covina. Of course, we brought our two pet family horses, Bert and Bonnie, home from the Valley and also bought our first automobile (to celebrate Alice!) Glendale.had outgrown horses, cows, and big barns by 1913, so Dad found a home for our two horses on the Covina ranch. They were on loan, so to speak, for when we returned to rural life in Hemet in 1917, we took Bonnie with us. I think Bert spent this old age in Covina. Visiting there was not only good exercise for the new car (a Reo), and fun with this family of cousins, but a reunion with our horses. They meant more to our family than any cats or dogs did.
Six boys — Carl, Earl, Henry, Harry Ralph, and James. Carpentry and building, some ranching, and truck driving dominated the lives of these cousins. After we moved to Hemet, we would lose contact, except through Auntie, with many of these family members. Auntie kept track of all the Brockmans. — she should have written this account! After WW II, the family elders were in retirement and had time to visit again. August and Lydia lived in. Baldwin Park area with most of their sons nearby, Dad and Mitchie and Auntie would see August in his old age. And visit with Lydia taking care of him. August died in 1952, the same year as his older brother Ed. The third son, Henry, moved to the state of Washington to ranch, but the other boys had settled in Southern California. James and Harry were driving big trucks. In 1979 and again in 1980, James and his wife Dorothy came to visit with us while they were camping at one of Morro Bay’s campgrounds. Now retired from his big wheel responsibilities, they still live in Baldwin Park. Harry, the other trucker, and Beulah his wife are now in Saratoga in that good retirement home that Ed and Nellie helped support.
Carl, Earl, and Ralph were the ones who would come to Burbank to visit with us when Auntie lived there, and we’ve kept contact since. Earl and wife Ruby lived in Orange in retirement when Earl gave up building. Ruby died in ’69 of cancer. Earl carried on in their trailer park home, having friends, children, and grandchildren nearby. He grew to look more and more like Dad.in looks, he was the Brockman, where the other sons were Andersons in facial style. Earl was clever with his hands, with yarns as well as wood. He made pillow tops, lap robes, fancy clothes hangers. He sent our sister, Anna, a woven pillow and back rest for her wheelchair when he heard she was confined to the chair for locomotion. Finally. his emphysema became too troublesome “for him to live alone,” and he spent his last years in a convalescent home in Huntington Beach, with hospital facilities at hand. Alice and 1 visited him there when he was still riding his bicycle, weaving, and quite active. He died in 1979, the first of the six sons to go.
Ralph, another carpenter-builder, and his wife Ruth adopted a son, Richard, and have enjoyed five grandchildren in their retirement years in Paramount. They were avid trailer travelers in the past, vacationing between Ralph’s retired profession of building and remodeling churches. He has enjoyed working with church groups and found these years very rewarding. This gave him more freedom than regular union work. They stopped several times at Cambria enroute on northern trips, but have never let us know ahead, so we have missed each other. Once when Jack Deaver was working on the carport-to-studio job, the fall of 1970, (1 was traveling in the East), Ralph and Ruth drove up in their camper. and stopped to enquire, saying they were our cousins. Jack grinned, and said he was too, so cousins who had not met before had a reunion. Jack hosted the party overnight, and they all had a good time. Ruth battled cancer in recent years, losing her fight in 1980.
Carl was the one of August’s sons, the oldest, whom we have enjoyed visiting so much during these last fifteen years. Carl and Myrtle retired from school employment in Baldwin Park. She ran the lunchroom, he was custodian for the kindergarten, a job he loved with. its little ones. They had bought some acreage in the San Diego mountain desert area. Their post office Ranchita, in more or less of a triangle between Borrego Springs and Warner’s Hot Springs. They worked here vacation and weekends building their house ~d spacious garage themselves. At retirement they moved in and devoted themselves to their huge garden. They raised practically everything they ate except coffee and sugar; they canned, dried, and froze, filling shelves in both house and garage and several freezers. When Judy and Denny were in college” in San Diego” we began visiting them on our way home. The Christmas cards became letters, and after we had no family connections in San Diego, we still made occasional trips to our favorite desert spot, Borrego. with a long call at Ranchita on the way. In the last years Carl’s health began to fail, though he made his 80’s intact. Myrtle took good care of him, drove the car and pick-up truck, planted, harvested, and kept very busy. A son Randolph by Carl’s first marriage lived within reach, and Myrtle’s daughter Bea was a staunch supporter. In June 1980, Carl’s struggle with heart and breath ended. Myrtle stayed for months, working harder than ever, but at last realized she needed to be nearer other family members. She sold the Ranchita acres and moved back to Baldwin Park where she and Carl had lived before their retirement to Ranchita.
THE SCHWARZE BRANCH
This is quite a tribe in itself. Remember that Teresa, the elder sister who came to California, married Ernest Schwarze and had four children: August, Conrad, Marie, and Helena. Teresa died in 1899 just before baby Helena’s second birthday. Marie and Helena became part of Auntie’s family, but the father kept the boys, August who was eight, and Conrad, six. He married again and there was little love lost between the Brockmans and Ernest Schwarze. Of course, Auntie yearned for the love and welfare of the two boys.
August was born an albino, with the characteristic very weak eyes and practically white hair. Born in 1891, he outlived his brother and two sisters. His affliction set him apart and narrowed his life, in a way protected him from the normal pressures of others. He could not stay in school long, but certainly learned’ to read with heavy glasses. He worked on his father’s farm and was grateful for citrus orchard work which gave him protection from strong light. In later years he received a partial-blind state pension. After the deaths of his father and stepmother, August was given some kind of county guardianship that placed him in an appropriate home with some orchard employment, sent him audio books and other aids. He became a great, reader: his books and religious faith brought strong satisfaction. He was a sweet-tempered man, easy to get along with, and grateful for his home care. Auntie and I visited him several times in the later years when he lived in the Pomona area. His death at age 70 made him the longest lived of the four Schwarze children.
Conrad, born in 1893, learned his farming techniques on his father’s acres. He married Lydia Schlitzkus, and they produced six bright and hardworking children. This family is a really triumphant one. Three boys. Conrad Jr. known as Buddy, born in 1919, Ralph in 1920, and Jack in 1922, must have delighted a farming father’s heart. Then three girls, Betty Lou born in 1923, Lois Jean in 1928, and Mary Ann in 1934 balanced the picture. Of course, Auntie kept track of them and received pictures. Lydia had a serious attack of peritonitis when Auntie and Little Grandma were living in Hemet, near us. This was before Mary Ann was born: Lydia brought the two little girls with her to Auntie’s care and spent some convalescent weeks in Hemet getting her strength back. This was the first close contact our family had with Lydia and her sweet girls, we were delighted with these cousins, and have always been. Conrad later moved his family north to Lodi, near the Sacramento area, where he leased or rented farmland. Here Mary Ann was born to round out this half dozen. From these assets of farming, hard work, and great determination, all six children graduated from college into professional careers. Conrad died of a heart attack in 1952. The boys were already married and launched in their careers. All of the children have helped each other up the college ladder.
Buddy went into teaching and is now a school administrator in the Mt. View school system. He has two sons and two daughters, one of each now living in Hawaii. Daughter Laurie married a native Hawaiian, and Lydia is the proud grandparent of a young native of that state. The elder daughter, Constance Rae, had made a name in Sacramento as a dance teacher. She runs a busy studio. Ralph became an engineer, runs his own business and invents for technical productions. He and wife Margaret provided three granddaughters to Lydia’s fold. Jack also became an engineer; with his wife Wanda, and Joan and James, he lives in Costa Mesa, working with Orange County Water Resources. This is the only one of the six who has returned to Southern California. Betty Lou went into recreational leadership, later got a teaching credential in physical education. At age fifty she decided to give up the playground for the school library and is thrilled with this job in spite of Proposition 1 cutbacks on “educational frills”. Lois Jean became a public health nurse and is now working in Sacramento in the State Adoption Service. Mary Ann became a teacher who married Jerry Hudson, a computer analyst for the State of California. Their daughter is at Sacramento College on her way to Davis. Their son Kevin is a most interesting 15-year-old, like all the Schwarzes, a fine student, and a good pianist to boot.
On her eightieth birthday a year ago, all the clan gathered from Hawaii, Southern California, and local areas for a huge party in the Hudson’s garden to honor Grandma Lydia Schwarze. All her three girls live and work in Sacramento. Lydia has her own small delightful apartment in a Senior Citizen Housing project. She still drives her car through Sacramento traffic, and enjoys life thoroughly~. We have missed her twice in past years on surprise calls because she was on a Senior Citizen trip to Tahoe to the casinos. Church on Sundays, but she can enjoy a slot machine on weekdays!
The distaff Schwarze families are just as interesting, and better known to us, since Auntie’s girls were very close to the Louis Alida family. Helena “Was seven, Marie nine years older than I, but I always considered them my best playmates and dearest family members, My advancing age never seemed to concern me, but I remember how tragic I felt when Helena became 19 (I was 12). She would have only one more year in her teens! and I felt as if Father Time were breathing down upon us. Helena had been my playmate as long as I could remember. When we went to Imperial Valley I was six, just beginning school. She would write me fun letters, often in verse, teasing everyone she knew. She was a great mimic and loved to impersonate the stodgy front row at church. The solemnity of church was always a temptation. All the family went to church every Sunday, but at age fifteen she was writing pages of rhymes on the Saints of South Main Street, gloating over the foibles of the church elders. She did a roaring ballad of Jonah and the ~’Whale, herself the Jonah. How to get out? “Then a sudden idea jest struck me here, And I lighted my cigarette, “The whale with a shout turned inside out, And I swam ashore in the wet. Ye ho, my lads, ye ho.”
Marie’s family nickname of Sweet Marie derives from one of Helena’s effusions. Her Ode on Alfred IV is sly praise of the son of the Methodist minister. Alfred was at USC when Helena and Marie were in high school, but they knew him in church activities. Marie thought he was swell, but Helena was sure it was a swelled head. when he showed interest in Marie, flew to the attack. Her sharp wit and great sense of fun were always a part of her at any age.
Auntie’s family lived in the 48th street home until Helena graduated from high school, but there was always much visiting back and forth from the Los Angeles home to o~ in Glendale. Marie lived with us her last year of high school, graduating from Glendale High School, making lasting friends in that class. One was Ruth Pierce, whose older brother Paul she would marry. After high school graduation, Marie went back to the Los Angeles home to attend USC, not too far away from them. I’m guessing that the year with us was to break up an incipient romance with Alfred, whose father was the minister of their church. It worked. Anyway, Marie took her teacher’s exams after two years at USC: Helena graduated from Manual Arts High School the same year. The family sold the 48th street home and moved to Glendale on Belmont street. These events all took place in 1914, the year our supposedly stable world fell apart to begin WW I. Marie got a job teaching second grade in the Colorado Street Elementary School in Glendale. One year one of her pupils was Melville (Nip) Walker, the third son of Fred and Evie Walker who had lived on 49th street when we did. This Walker family had moved to Glendale when Uncle Fred was transferred to the Glendale Post Office. Nip reminds me now that Little Grandma Brockman taught me all I needed to know about the proper lubrication and cleaning of machinery. I was never dismissed from my lawn mowing job on Belmont Street until the lawn mower was cleaned and oiled!”
U.S. entrance into WW I brought changes. Marie married Paul Pierce, who left his class of 1917 at Occidental College to join the colors. She lived with his family in Glendale until he was shipped out to Europe. Marie stayed in the Pierce home, a few blocks from the Belmont house, waiting for~ the arrival of Barbara, born in March 1919, before Paul’s return. Auntie was 24 persuaded to fill a vacancy at the First National Bank. This was her only experience in a professional job, and we would tease her about when she “would get her name on the bank window.” Helena was going to Occidental, majoring in chemistry _ and fun. After graduation, 1918, she went to work in the lab at USC Medical School. Sometime later she got her teaching credential and took a job in Las Vegas, when it was an unknown railroad town in Nevada. Both the Medical Lab and Las Vegas gave her a wealth of interesting stories that enlarged my young horizons profoundly. If Helena did it, it was OK was my philosophy. The real significance of the Las Vegas experience was meeting William J. Deaver, who knew a prize when he saw one, and followed her home to California. Post war adjustments meant young soldiers’ home and few jobs available. Paul and Marie decide d to make use of the Palmdale property which Grandfather Brockmann had bought for Henry and Julia more than twenty years ago. It was still in the family, undeveloped desert, but water available. So, they built a small house, developed their water rights, and planted pears. And from that day to this we have a Palmdale connection.
After Auntie turned over the bank job to a returning soldier, and Helena was living in Las Vegas, she decided to build an adobe house on part of the Palmdale acreage, and take Little Grandma to the desert. We were settled in Hemet long before this. Marie had another girl, Mary Alice, born in 1921. Later Johnny would arrive in 1926 to complete this family. When pear raising would peter out, Paul turned. to surveying, much more to his liking and abilities. He found a job with the County Surveying Office, worked many years in the Palmdale Lancaster area which grew very fast after the second world war. Years later he lived in La Verne in retirement. in which square dancing finally gave way to some gardening and Philosophizing. Mary Alice and husband Bill Shaffer lived near to keep an appreciative eye on him. He died in November 1980.
Wm. J. Deaver, whom Helena nicknamed “Danny” from the ballad, married Helena after Auntie was settled in her new desert home. Our family went up for the wedding, the first such ceremony in our family since Dad and Mother were married on Christmas Day, 1992. Helena and Danny brought the minister to the little desert house, so that Marie’s family next door, and ours from Hemet. joined Auntie and Little Grandma in welcoming a newcomer to the family fold. Auntie served a lovely luncheon after the ceremony. and the young couple drove away mid cheers and rice.
By this time, I was going to Occidental College and living with Grandma-Dada Ross in Glendale. Geographically for a few years, the family beat a triangle. from Palmdale to Glendale to Hemet.
Young William J. Deaver Junior, known in his boyhood as Jack, and in adult life as Bill, arrived in September 1924. Thereafter the Deaver family settled in Calexico, later in El Centro, where Danny went into contracting, and in a few years, Helena went back to teaching. Summers Helena and young Jack usually came out of the Valley to escape the heat, either to Palmdale, or later to Hemet when Auntie and Grandma moved there for several years. There are lots of pictures of the four young cousins on the desert, or among the walnut trees in Hemet. Just two years between Jack and Johnnie meant they spent some wonderful summers growing up together. In El Centro Helena gave up teaching, finding plenty to keep her busy in Danny’s growing business of home building.
In the late ’20s Auntie and Grandma turned over their adobe to the Pierce family and moved to Hemet. They lived in the little “Gloom House” on the ten acres of walnuts we owned across from the thirty acres that was our home site on Buena Vista Avenue from 1926 until we sold the Hemet property in 01. Originally Grandma and Dada Ross had moved to Hemet the year, before we went there, and lived in this little house. Grandma didn’t like being shut in by the big walnut trees and named it the “Gloom House”. They returned to their Glendale home in 1918 and we took over the ten acres. The house was vacant for years until Auntie and Little Grandma moved in–no longer gloomy! Little Grandrna could feed her chickens on the Hemet place, plant her carrots and onions, and read her Bible and Botschafter paper which followed her wherever she went. She was now in her nineties, never sick, always busy, and always delighting in the grandchildren and great grandchildren who came to visit. Her family was her world, Auntie her Rock of Gibraltar, Lou and Alida across the street and added security and blessing. When our family sold all their Hemet holdings and retired from ranching to return to Los Angeles County, Auntie and Little Grandma moved back to Palmdale to the smaller house that Paul and Marie had first built. Here they spent the last few years of Little Grandma’s almost ninety-nine years.
We all went up to Palmdale to celebrate her ninety-eighty birthday on April 22, 1934. Auntie dressed her in her wedding dress for that occasion, and we took picture s and had a lovely day together. Grandma weakened during the following summer, and sometimes her mind slipped back to her childhood. There were times toward the end when she spoke Czech instead of German, of which Auntie knew not a word. Auntie got her a rosary, and she drew comfort from fingering the beads and murmuring long forgotten prayers. Three days after Christmas she slipped away from life. The funeral was held in Glendale, attended by Brockmans from all over Southern California. She joined Grandfather under the big memorial stone in ~h& Brockman family plot in old Rosedale Cemetery. At her death she left six children, twenty-five grandchildren, thirty-three great grands and eleven great, great grands. A sturdy thread of life from old Bohemia across the American continent had finally reached its end.
Only ten days after Little Grandma died, our Mother died unexpectedly, recuperating in the hospital from a seemingly successful operation. It was a terrible shock to all of us, and the fourth death in our close family in two years. Now Mother was gone, as well as all three grandparents who had played such an important role in our lives. Auntie came to stay with Dad, Alice, and Dorothy who had moved from the Glendale home to’ Burbank-as Dorothy needed to live there because of her school position. Anna had. been married for several years, nursing in the Veterans Hospital in Sawtelle, and was living with her husband Kenneth near the hospital. Auntie was our mainstay, ran the household, sustained our grief which she shared, doing what she had done all her. life in taking care of the family. as needed. I think we would have fallen apart without her for the next two years.
Then Marie’ s health began to fail, and Auntie returned to Palmdale to sustain the Pierce family. Our family had been living in the Ross home in Glendale since illness overtook Grandma and Dada Ross. Their deaths left us in the home place in Glendale. Years before, a small rental cottage had been built on the rear of their lot where the old barn once stood. Marie and Mary Alice, now ready for college, came down from Palmdale to live in the little white cottage, thus giving Marie better opportunity for medical help. Mary Alice went to college — Glendale Junior College, then UCLA where she took her degree and got a teaching credential. But Marie’s illness deepened, and Auntie left the Pierce family in Palmdale to take care of her “sweet Marie,” who died when only forty-six. of the same kind of illness that had cost her mother Theresa her life more than forty years before.
Dad had married Mitchie two years before this, putting an end to four years of loneliness. They lived in Glendale, not far from the home on California Street and Dad was happy in being the man of the family for Auntie, who had taken over the Ross house in an exchange of Brockman investments. I had returned to a Burbank house with a huge back yard where Dad could garden for all the families, including Alice and Preston’; who made their home in Highland Park. The old Ross house’ on California Street, built in 1906, under Auntie’s generalship, became a pivot for Pierce and Brock activities. Before the end of WW II Johnnie Pierce was in the Navy, and Jack Deaver was in England helping prepare for D Day, which he experienced without mishap. I remember how excited Auntie was at his expected return — for several days she baked a fresh angel food cake each day, his favorite, to celebrate his homecoming. I don’t know what happened to the unused ones, but Auntie’s angel food cake was always a triumph.
Jack entered USC midway in an engineering course, having had the first two years at El Centro College before entering the service. He lived in Glendale at Auntie’s, to her great delight, while finishing college. After graduation, Jack returned to El Centro to enter the building business with his father. He married Donna and they set up a home nearby. Later Auntie sold the Glendale home and moved to El Centro, intending to build a small house near the Deavers. Before this happened, Helena was taken ill; flu the Doctor said, but it took a serious turn. Fortunately for all of them, Auntie was there to care for her beloved girl. through weeks of illness. Helena’s death, at fifty-nine, was a great shock to all of us, as our Mother’s had been at the same age. I remember once in happier days. Dad said to me that he was afraid Auntie would outlive both her girls. And so, it was before her eightieth birthday both her wonderfully loved girls were gone. She was left with four grandchildren, now grown up. The Palmdale girls were both married, and in homes of their own. Johnnie was living with his father in the Palmdale home, and following in Paul’s surveying footsteps.
Our father’s history became a part. of the Walker–Ross story with his marriage to Alida Ross. As a part of this chronicle, Dad lived until 1955. reaching the age of eighty-one.
Alice had returned in 1953 with Judy and Denny, after ten years of married life in Alabama. In January of 1957 the four of us were living in a big old house in Burbank. we suddenly decided to have a family get-together on Auntie’s eightieth birthday. a surprise. She was still living in El Centro. keeping house for Danny. The Deavers drove her up for a short visit with us. It was a cold. rainy Sunday when friends and family began to pour in — Schwarzes from Sacramento. Brockmans from E1 Centro and other parts of Southern California. Henri and her Aunt Jane from Orange. many more -some eighty plus. to pay tribute to our eldest Brockman, beloved Auntie. The engineer who brought it all about was. of course. Alice – our hostess with the mostest. Auntie stayed several days after the festive occasion and then I drove her back to El Centro. I was getting ready to leave on a sabbatical trip to Europe with Henri. Before we parted on this occasion, it was agreed that when I returned in the summer. Auntie would set up house with me. She was already at Alice’s home to join the family in meeting me at the airport in mid-August of 1957.
Alice’s big house was a rental. I had shunned the idea of owning property, having grown up under the shadow of mortgages and taxes. But now there. were five of us, with the future. staring at us. Auntie wanted to contribute the down payment on a home for all of us. And at that time only she had it. So, we looked for a duplex which would give independence for both households, and togetherness for all. we found the Niagara Street property, and pooled needed furniture. Both apartments had two bedrooms, with back and front yard and double garage. We were all lucky – Auntie to have two girls again to help and advise and two young ones to adore and spoil; Alice and I to have her housekeeping help to ease our demanding school jobs, and to keep up our spirits. For the next five years, her last, Burbank would be her home with Lou’s girls and grandchildren. Because she was there. other Brockmans would come to visit, and we renewed contacts with some long-lost cousins. We made several visits to the Warren Brockmans in Fresno, having rides in Warren’s airplane, as well as enjoying their boats on the lake. Jack, Donna and little Karen (the apple of Auntie’s eye) would make annual visits that are memorable. when Karen came. whether she was three or eight years old. Auntie became her playmate. She could think up such imaginative play activities. JO. wonder children always adored her.
Denny mowed our lawn, but Auntie did a lot of gardening. We had a big tree in the front yard that shed its leaves each fall; she raked every day during the “season. She was alone during our workday but kept quite busy. A favorite quiz program on radio in the morning intrigued her, and she would often go to Alice’s house to consult her set of Wonder Books for answers she hadn’t known before. I’ve often said that I bought the Britannica set to give her another source. She made more of the daily L.A. Times than I had time for. We had a favorite news program on evening radio that we listened to and argued over. I brought travel, biography, and some fiction home from our high school library that she enjoyed. She was the contact with our neighbors and enjoyed some of them. She saw both Judy and Denny graduate from high school and leave the next to begin college.
Alice and I knew that Auntie was slowing down as the 1960s began and would urge her to let up on her self-appointed tasks. That was hard for her to do; she had too much Little Grandma in her. But I remember after the autumn of 1961 Auntie said quietly to me one day that these were the last leaves she would rake. She was under a doctor’s care, and the trips to his office became more frequent in ’62. She never complained of pain, but I know she suffered: By the end of the summer she was bedridden with cancer. She had a horror of going to, a hospital. We found a day nurse who could give shots as well as patient care. Anna came on the weekends when the nurse was off. I was able to manage at night for several weeks. The last two weeks we had a night nurse al so, and Alice and I could fill in the gaps between shifts. Her doctor was an understanding soul who came to see her at home. She was such a good patient who faced death without fear. For more than eighty-five year of courageous living for those she loved was her indelible imprint on the Brockman family; before she died October 18, 1962. A decisive chapter of Brockman family history left a rich reward of memories.
Dorothy Louise Brockmann (about 1979)