Don’t call me Etta!!

Etta Louise Ledger 1916 – 2004

There are so many words I can use to describe my mom, beautiful/vain/loving/selfish/preoccupied/drunk/flirt/man hater/man lover/inappropriate. Oh, there are so many more but I will stop there.

A little background on Etta – by the way, never call her that! She went by Louise, she did not like her first name and didn’t even use it as a middle name. If you wanted to piss her off just say “Hey Etta” needless to say I did that once or twice! She was born March 10, 1916 to my gay grandma Elma Etta Fairman and a tubercular young man named Leonard Ledger that grandma married in 1913. Now, I don’t know if grandma knew she was gay when she married Leonard, but after he died of that horrible disease in 1918 and she began a relationship with her friend Amy Hoag it became pretty obvious. Of course in the 1920’s nobody spoke of being gay, or homosexual.

Leonard Ledger and Elma Etta Fairman Marriage April 8, 1913

My grandmother was a bookbinder and Leonard worked in the printing business so I think that is how they met. Of course my mom didn’t remember her father, as he died when she was 2, but she did tell me a couple of things her mother shared with her. 1. He was mean. He pushed her down stairs once and caused her to lose a baby. 2. He was a racist. He was born in Louisiana and came to the Los Angeles area with his family somewhere around 1910 – he had told my grandma that he didn’t like black people and if they were walking on the same side of the street as he was he would cross the street. 3. He got angry that my grandmother had gained weight while pregnant with my mom and didn’t lose it right away. Already I don’t like the guy. It is interesting that when he died in 1918, no one in his family attended his funeral, only my grandma’s family. And no one put a headstone on his grave. He is buried in Hollywood Forever cemetery and I went there once and found where he was buried, no headstone. More about my grandfather in this post here.

My grandma Elma Fairman Ledger and her partner Amy Hoag

So, my mom was now 2 years old in 1918 and my grandmother was widowed and she had to work. From what I can tell from about 1918 to 1921 my grandmother Elma moved in with her mother Elllen Fairman and that is who watched my mom. My great grandmother Ellen was separated and not living with great grandpa Charles (history of his mental illness will be another post) but then great grandma died in Sept. 29, 1921.

My great grandmother Ellen Fairman and my mother Etta Louise Ledger about 1919

So according to my mom, and backed up by pictures and some existing records,on Sept. 4th, 1921 my mother was put in the Boys and Girls Children’s Aid Society in Pasadena.

Etta Louise Ledger 1922 at Boys and Girls Children’s aid Society Orphanage.

Grandma paid for my mom’s board there (20% of her $72.00 a month salary) and I am sure my mom went home as much as grandma could arrange – I have many pictures of Elma, my mom Louise, and Amy Hoag on outings during the 1920’s. Mom only told me one orphanage story, I think it was a traumatic time for her as she never spoke of it. One time she and other children got lice in their hair and the staff poured gasoline on the kids heads to get rid of it. I can only imagine how horrible that must have been for a little girl.

Louise Ledger (not using Etta any longer) in about 1927

By about 1928 when mom was 12 she got to move back in with her mother as grandma Elma felt that mom could take care of herself while grandma worked. This is where my mom would get a bit odd when talking of those days, you see, she lived with her mother Elma and her mother’s girlfriend Amy. I definitely feel that mom was uncomfortable but had no choice. Or maybe just didn’t want me to know. I speak of one incident that occurred during this time in a previous post here. Mom also told me that she would spend some time in the summers with some of her father’s family. She did not speak of them much, and did not stay in contact with them, but did tell me that one of her uncles offered her a quarter if she would let him “touch” her. She told me that story more than once, I know it affected her greatly.

My grandma Elma and my mom in 1932, Last picture I have of them together.

Mom meets my dad in 1932 or 33 while they are still in high school – well, he is my birth certificate father, not biological, but I didn’t know that until 2015. Elma died in late 1933 while my mom was living as a nanny with a family.

Dexter and Louise Halldin about 1938

Mom got pregnant the same month her mother died. She and dad, Dexter, get married in March 1934 and my brother Dexter was born on July 4th, 1934. Mom was 18 and dad was 19. For years and years my parents pretended that they got married in 1933 just so my brother would not know the circumstances of his birth – when he found out I am told he was PISSED. He was my brother and I loved him but I find it ironic that he was even surprised. They move in with my dad’s parents, Swedish immigrants, in their boarding house on Magnolia Street in Los Angeles. They called it the Big House. It was very big, 3 floors, lots of rooms.

The Big house! on Magnolia Ave in Los Angeles

Grandma was not happy with my mother, called her names according to mom and did not want my dad to marry her – but they did – I mean, it was 1934! In 1936 my sister came along and by 1940 my grandmother had enough and told my folks they needed their own house and I am sure she helped them but they also saved. Mom even worked as an elevator operator in the May Company department store downtown. She told me that she had to lie and say she wasn’t married in order to get the job, in those days married women couldn’t work certain jobs – I guess elevator operator was one of them.

The home that Dexter and Louise built in 1941

In 1941 they built their own home on Westside Drive in East Los Angeles. 3 bedrooms with a garage, right across the street from gigantic electrical towers, and just down the road from railroad tracks. I am sure that my dad chose the lot because it was cheaper because of those drawbacks. My dad was so tight with a buck! I grew up playing in the fields of those power lines, right under them, I could hear them crackle, I could sometimes feel an electrical pulse from them….Hey, it was the 50’s, what did we know???

Here is where we come to a very important part of Louise’s story. I wasn’t born yet, but my sister tells me (and my brother did too) of both my parents drinking, partying, flirting, hangovers, arguments, you get the drift. The whole Halldin family drank, my dad was an alcoholic and so were his 2 brothers, that was no secret, but my mom drank to silence her demons. I didn’t know how bad it was until much later – but all of the drinking makes sense when I look back on it. Also my mother’s need for male approval. She was the lady who flirted with all the men and was very inappropriate around them. Was that because she had no male figure in her life growing up, or at least not a father figure? I don’t know, I am no psychologist. But I know she was an episodic drunk, not drinking every day, but when she did she was in it to win it. She would not stop until she passed out!

January 27, 1945 – at the Cricket Club in L.A. My mom and dad in the middle.

I was born in 1953, my sister got married the following month, my brother was in the Marine Corps. According to my sister, my mother had some abortions between her and me, we are 17 years apart. Why did she keep me? I always wondered until I did my DNA test in 2015 and discovered that I was another man’s child – but that is covered in my beginning posts on this blog so if you are interested, you can click here. And I am pretty sure that alcohol payed a big factor in her life decisions.

Mom in bottom row, bio dad top row 2nd from right (Bob , dad that raised me (Dexter) top row 2nd from left

Mom drank sometimes during the day, sometimes at night, almost always on the weekends. She and dad had friends that would come over or we would go to their houses and they drank, sometimes they played cards and I would be left to my own. Sometimes there were other kids so at least I had someone to play with but sometimes not.

Party bus to Las Vegas early 1960’s

When I was in junior high my mother and father began fighting almost every night. My father was a daily drinker, he would go to work (owned a plating business with partners and they kept it going when he would go on a bender some days). He would go to a bar, he had many he liked, and he would drink after work and mom would call the bars and look for him and tell him to come home. I never understood that logic. He was in the bar because he didn’t want to come home, duh! My mom was drinking quite a bit, I found vodka bottles stashed around the house and would pour them out if I found them, which really pissed her off. I was so unhappy and started acting out at school. The vice principal called me in and asked me why I was behaving so disrespectfully to the teachers, especially my English teacher. I started to tell her that things at home were bad, parents fighting and instead of listening she told me to stop, it wasn’t her business and to go back to class. No sympathetic school counselors in those days! She called my mom into the school, she told her they had to stop fighting in front of me or when I could hear them and that was it. I heard mom telling dad they had to stop fighting because of the school calling her in. He pretty much didn’t care, it was her that started the fights anyway. But she continued to drink for many years – until sometime in the 1970’s she joined AA. She told me she scared herself as she almost fell in the pool or something while drunk. If she said that, then the truth was much worse I am sure!

This is my mother in 1968, in our room in Waikiki Beach, Hawaii – sitting on the lap of a man she barely knew. Cigarette in one hand, drink in the other.

A bad thing about AA is that mom no longer had alcohol to deaden the demons, to keep them at bay. So after a couple of years of not drinking, she tried to commit suicide. She would be committed, come home and awhile later, tried again. During the late 70’s and late 80’s I can’t tell you how many times she broke down and we would have an emergency with her. Once she started seeing bugs and ran out into a busy street. The cops picked her up and I had to go identify her at the police station, then they hospitalized her…it was rough. After that she pretty much stayed hospitalized. I believe the demons were winning. She did counseling, she did whatever prescription they gave her, but it didn’t seem to help. She lived to be 87, almost 88 and she was in a nursing home for her last 15 years of her life. Her health suffered, she had a colostomy and she refused to walk after that. She developed leukemia and after treating it for so long with blood transfusions it was just time to let her go.

My dad, mom and I in 1989. Taken at the nursing home she lived in through most of the 1990’s

It was so hard to have a mom that was tortured. It made our lives so chaotic. Time marches on no matter what though. She lost my dad while she was in the nursing home in 1995, my brother in 2002. She died in 2004. I moved to Colorado when she died, I just couldn’t take it around my family any more. We were all dysfunctional because of our crazy upbringing. My brother was an alcoholic and died because of it. My sister lived so many lies all through her life, still does. I used sex as my relief, I was afraid of booze and drugs. My sister married 4 times, I married 3 times. But actually I feel like we were lucky compared to some families. Our father was able to keep his business until his partners wanted to sell and he had a good retirement and investments. He never understood that Mom had to stay in the hospital/nursing home or she would hurt herself or maybe even him. He went to visit her almost every day until he died. Years of therapy didn’t help. I feel like my mom ceased to exist in the late 80’s and never really came back. The fact I was another man’s daughter may have been why she kept me, why she let me do as I pleased, why my father was not engaged with me or my life at all. Then again, I don’t even know if they knew for sure. I am the result of an affair mom had with an unmarried younger man. Were they in love? Was it just sex? Hell, who knows.

My mom and I in 1954

So after all of this analyzing and going over my mother’s life what are my conclusions? I honestly don’t have any. I do think my grandmother had a screwed up life, which affected my mother and screwed up her life which in turn screwed up my life and I have probably screwed up my kids lives. But in all of this there was one constant: love. Grandma loved my mom, my mom loved me and I love my kids. I try to remember it was different times my ancestors grew up in, and their decisions were affected by the era they lived in. Etta Louise Ledger tried, but her demons were so strong. I hope she was able to lose them wherever she may be.

Mom and I one month before she passed away
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Wordless Wednesday – 1984

Mom and dad’s 50th wedding anniversary. So many gone now. That is me with the big hair on the left.

Resemblance

I was reading a blog post today that was about family members resembling each other, on a lovely blog I just discovered  https://talesofafamily.blog/    I belong to many Facebook genealogy groups and people are always posting pictures asking us to confirm what they think are uncanny resemblances – which for the most part I have trouble seeing.  I believe we see what we want to see most of the time and those pictures prove it to me.  Not to be a Debbie downer, but it just ain’t there people!

But it reminded me of my sister, Barb.  My sister and I don’t look much alike, my sister and brother did.  But that makes sense since they both had the same mother and father.  I learned that I have the same mother, but different father and that totally explained why I didn’t resemble either one!  In our zillions of pictures inherited from our parents are many of our Grandma May.  Grandma was dad’s (who will always be my dad because he loved and raised me) mother.  A feisty woman, Swedish immigrant, matron of a boarding house for many years, who had a hard life but lived to a nice old age of 88.  When I knew her she was married to her second husband, Grandpa Charlie, who treated her as a queen for 13+ years until she passed away in 1963.  I didn’t know her well, she died when I was 10 and had suffered from debilitating strokes in the few years prior to her death.  There was one great picture of grandma in her 70’s that my sister put up on her wall many years ago. The whole family used to laugh and tell my sister that we didn’t need to wonder what she would look like when she was older, she was that picture!  My middle son once was standing near the photo and I asked him if he knew who the lady in the picture was – without much hesitation he said “Auntie Barbie!”  and he was pretty surprised when I told him it was our grandmother, not his aunt/my sister.

Tell me what you think!

May Halldin 1950's 1Barbie and Richard Sept 2011

1918 Halldin Family photo

Halldin family 1918 smallera

Left to right :May, Thorston (Toddy), Ruth, Gertrude, Raymond, Dexter (my dad) sitting on Knut (Henry) lap

This picture was up on the wall in the house I grew up in for as long as I can remember.  It is funny how you can look at a photo every day for years and not really know much about it or the people in it.  My dad was the little boy on his dad’s lap.  He was only 2 at the time and they were still living in Worcester, Massachusetts.  I love my grandmother’s hairdo and her dress, so elegant looking.  I only knew her when she was confined to a wheelchair or her bed after a stroke, looking nothing like the lovely lady in the photo. Over the years I had to ask questions, research in libraries and on line to find the stories of these people.  It would be many years later that I found out we had no blood relation, but they will always be my grandparents nonetheless.  They were a colorful bunch and their stories should never be forgotten.  I will start with Grandpa, Knut Henrik Halldin, who always went by Henry after he became a naturalized citizen in 1903.

My grandparents were both from Sweden, both emigrated in the late 1800’s. Grandma came with her family but Grandpa came alone, in fact he was the only one of his family to emigrate.  I never met him as he died before I was born, but my dad used to say that his father was a wanderer, he loved to travel and would only come home to get grandma pregnant and then leave again.  I have found evidence that Knut Henrik Halldin (1862-1947) came to the U.S. in 1886 alone, to New York and then to Philadelphia and very soon traveled  across the country to San Francisco.  He only stayed a year and then traveled all the way back east.  That could not have been an easy journey in 1886, I can’t even imagine it.  I have a few of his writings from that time period and it seems he had names of people from Sweden to visit along the way – this was the era of mass migration to the U.S. so I am sure many people they knew from Sweden had immigrated.

Knut Henry Halldin Button 1a Henry is listed as an Engineer or draftsman on some census records but I honestly can’t find a record of him really ever working much.  I have a picture of a button he had as an employee of the Osgood Car Company (they made railroad/trolly cars). He looks to me like a prisoner. His father had a successful business in Sweden and I wonder if he didn’t help them out over the years.  Henry and family lived in a huge 3 story house that they built in Worcester, Massachusetts until 1921 when they decided to join their eldest daughter in Los Angeles.  They packed up their open touring car and drove across country. What a trip that must have been in 1921!!  No interstate highway system, no motels yet along the way.  I don’t know how or why my Aunt Gertrude ended up in Los Angeles, but she married there and had their first child (Willis “Bill” Jones) and shortly thereafter here come the folks and siblings.

Henry did go back to Sweden twice in his lifetime that I can find.  He stayed in the U.S. from 1886 to 1890ish, then went home to Sweden and stayed there until 1896 – the year he married Grandma – but they met here in the U.S. so I don’t really understand how that all fit together. They were 10 years apart in age, he being 33 when they married and she was 23.

Knut and May marriage 1896

Knut Henrik Halldin and Maria Louisa Ohman 1896

They had a grand wedding in Sweden and then returned to the U.S. to begin their life together first in Philadelphia, PA, then Worcester, Mass.  They had their daughter Gertrude in March 1897 and then Henry  went prospecting for Gold during the Alaskan Gold Rush in 1898, he went with a whole group of people from Massachusetts.  He stayed about a year and then came home, nope he didn’t find any gold!

Henry went back to Sweden in 1920, his brother had just died and his father was old and I think he went to help him either sell or close the business.  I have a letter from him to grandma where he is complaining that nobody is writing to him while he is away.  Poor guy.

I once asked my dad about his dad and what kind of man he was.  It seems he didn’t know his dad very well.  My dad was born in 1915 and grandpa was already 54. He

alaska gold rush 1898

Henry and the group he went to the Alaska gold rush with

probably wasn’t too keen on little kids by then.  My dad also told me that his mom worked her butt off in the rooming house they owned in downtown Los Angeles.  It doesn’t sound like Grandpa did much to help her. Dad said he did work with him on some apartments they built behind the boarding house, but it didn’t sound like fun. I asked him if he ever played ball with him or something and the answer was no.  Grandpa was very close to his daughter Gertrude, and when she died in 1930 I think it broke his heart completely.  I have learned from other family members that Grandpa also had a bit part in a movie in Hollywood, but don’t ask me the title, it is  a story that is passed down. They had actors stay in their boarding house all during the 1930’s and grandpa even tried writing a screenplay and tried to get someone to pitch it to a studio. Problem was it was HORRIBLE.  I have it and tried to read it and it’s all about vikings and such and terribly boring.  Sorry Grandpa

Knut had lots of heartache in his life, his daughter dying in 1930, his grandson Bill in WWII, his  younger daughter moving to Australia and his youngest son (my dad) getting a girl (my mom) pregnant and having to marry at 19 and living in the boarding house with them.  And there was lots of alcohol in the mix to make family gatherings sometimes very interesting affairs.  Once his son Tod (Thorston) threw a brick through the front window of the boarding house during an altercation at a family party.  But all in all he had a good life. He got to travel, he had loving children, a wonderful wife and many grandchildren, great grandchildren and now great great grandchildren.  He left a lasting legacy I am sure he would be proud of.

 

The Jones’s

I love this picture, don’t they all look so happy?  This was at the wedding of my cousin Dick (Albert Richard Jones) and his bride Carol Montgomery.  It was taken on June 22, 1953. My mother was very pregnant with me so maybe she decided to stay out of the photo!

dick and carol jones wedding

Dexter Halldin, Carol Jones, Her mother Carol, Dick Jones and Vivian Jones

As with any picture, the stories of the people always interested me.  On the left is my dad, not biological, but that is a whole different story you can read on this blog.  Dexter Halldin, a sweeter guy you never could meet.  Only problem was he was an alcoholic.  He was able to hold on to a business, function successfully, and drink every darn day.  He lived to be 79 and I always say it was because he was “pickled” and therefore his body could last (he passed in 1995).

Carol was such a beauty, even in her later years she had such a poise and grace.  But she didn’t like our family.  Not sure if it was because of the drinking, or because we were loud and kinda nuts but Dick and Carol dropped out of our lives for many years until I found them when they were in their 70’s, living only about an hour from where my husband and I lived at the time.  Dick had been a pretty bad alcoholic himself until he quit in his 60’s and he was glad to be back with the family after I coaxed him into attending a family reunion.  Carol was always gracious to me when I saw her but very standoffish….oh well, I liked her.

The lady next to her is her mother, Carol.  I didn’t know her but I have inherited from Dick and Carol quite a few pictures and items from her mother’s life.  She was an accountant, a very smart woman, but according to family lore, a very controlling and manipulative one.

Cousin Dick, now he was a sweetie.  He shared with me so much during the few years we got to get to know each other.  He lived in the shadow of his older brother who was killed in WWII , see my blog page Cousin Bill  Their father, also Bill Jones, was so crestfallen when his son was killed I think he left a wound in Dick that never healed.  Dick told me once that he and his brother weren’t close, and he seemed to feel so guilty.  Dick and Carol would go on to have one son, they named him Bill.  But no grandchildren.  In fact their son Bill died in 2002, before they did. He had only one lung and something went wrong and he died in his sleep. He never married.  Dick became a successful real estate salesman.  Dick had been estranged from the entire Halldin family from after his dad died in 1967 until I found him in 1995 after my father died.  Dick was glad I looked him up and he shared so much with me, including all his letters home from WWII, along with the letters from his brother.  Dick started getting Alzheimer disease in the early 2000’s.  Carol took care of him but she died in 2007.  We had moved to Colorado in 2004 and hadn’t stayed in as good a touch as I should have so we only learned of Carol’s passing from a caregiver. Carol wanted to be sure Dick was taken care of and they picked a family friend who handled everything.  Dick was able to stay home with a live in caregiver until about 2012 and then he had to go to assisted living.  He passed in 2013.  Whenever we came to California we would visit him and Carol, and him and his caregiver after Carol died.  Even when he couldn’t remember who we were he was the sweetest guy ever.  I think he really felt bad about not staying in touch with the Halldin family over the years and I am glad we could share a few years with him. I inherited all of his pictures from our family and Carol’s family – I love looking through them.

And then Aunt Vivian.  What a lady!  She wasn’t Dick’s mother.  Dick’s mother was my dad Dexter’s sister Gertrude.  She had died when Dick was 7 years old of pneumonia – those were the days before antibiotics.  She was only 33 and my father was devastated, he was very close to his sister.. Vivian met Gertrude’s husband, my Uncle Bill, in 1945.  She was living in a little apartment behind my grandparents house and Bill lived in another apartment.  They hit it off right away and became a couple pretty quickly.  His son Bill had already died in the war and Dick was coming home soon from the Navy.  Vivian and Dick became so close that she legally adopted him so that he could be in charge of her affairs if anything happened to her.  Vivian was married to Uncle Bill until his death in 1967. She didn’t remarry until about 1983 when she married a good friend of her and Uncle Bill’s, unfortunately he passed away shortly thereafter.  She stayed in Southern California until the 1994 Northridge Earthquake and it scared her so badly she moved to Las Vegas, and she was 88 years old!  Aunt Vivian lived to be 99 years old, passing in 2005.  I visited with Vivian a few times in Las Vegas and she was always so chipper and sweet.  She loved to gamble the nickel slots and we had a lot of laughs doing that!

So the happy faces of this picture may have held so much joy on that wedding day, but there was lots of heartache in the years to follow.  A family separated that had been so close. No real reason why that I know of – but there are so many secrets in my family – maybe I just don’t know the real reason.

Maybe cousins

grandparents

Knut and Maria Lovisa Taken in Sweden in 1896 right before their marriage

So…I did my DNA testing with Ancestry.com and then I did it with 23andme – the ethnicity came out about the same on both. But the weird thing is that I don’t seem to match up as cousins to my dad’s great nieces and nephew. Ancestry has this really cool feature where they go through their DNA database and match you up with people who share some part of DNA with you….they predict the relationship, although it is not an exact science and I sure do not quite understand it all.

I had asked my cousins on dad’s side if they would test and they did and we don’t seem to have any shared DNA, which leads me back to Dad and wondering why I don’t share any DNA with his side of the family. Continue Reading