The door knob turned…..

I can’t remember how old I was when my mother told me this story , I am pretty sure I was an adult,  but I will never forget it.  Every so often she would tell me little bits and pieces about her life growing up in Los Angeles.  My mom’s dad died when she was 2. (more about that in this blog post Picture from a funeral) Mom told me that her mother raised her as best she could and my mother idolized her, but when I heard these stories…sometimes I wondered.  In this particular story, mom said that in about 1928, when she was about 12,  she and her mother lived in an apartment in downtown Los Angeles . In looking at census records, I believe that apartment was at 811 S. Union Ave.  I found some pictures in my grandmother’s photo album that show it, and believe it or not,  it is still there although it doesn’t look the same.

811 S. Union, in 1929, my mother Louise in the middle, my grandmother Elma on the right. Must have been a Halloween dress up?
My mother Louise Ledger in 1930 at 811 S. Union Ave.
811 So. Union today from Google Maps

My mother told me that she had come home from school and was doing her homework at the table when she saw the door knob to the apartment front door begin to turn. Her mother Elma and her girlfriend Amy were in the bathroom at the time. My mom ran to the bathroom and banged on the door and told her mother “Help, someone is trying to get into the apartment” and my grandmother just told her to ” stop imagining things!” Mom said that it was a man out in the hallway and he kept saying “open the door.” My mother was terrified. She told me that her mother did not come out of the bathroom and and she had to sit in the chair and listen to the doorknob go back and forth, until finally, whoever it was went away.

How terrifying for a 12 year old girl!

My mom had many mental problems that I am sure stemmed from the things that happened to her as a child. And I remember this story well because as she told me, I saw her as the terrified girl sitting in the chair in that apartment.

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Picture from a funeral

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Photo taken at funeral of Leonard Ledger August 1918

Nowadays it seems sort of tacky to take pictures at a funeral – not that it isn’t done – but I have noticed that in the past it was a much more common thing to do.  I suppose it was a time when families were together and dressed up and seemed like a good time to have a family picture.  I am lucky enough to have my grandmother’s photo album. Thank goodness my mom’s uncle rescued it from our garage and returned it years later or it may have gone the way of most things in our house – tossed out.  This picture was taken at the funeral of my grandfather Leonard Ledger (Oct. 15, 1892-Aug. 3, 1918) At what was  called Hollywood Cemetery but is now Hollywood Forever. There are lots of famous people buried there, movie stars mostly. There are large crypts and fancy headstones but grandpa  is in an unmarked grave near the wall behind Paramount Studios.  I went to look for him in the 1990’s and the office had to pull out a very old map to show where he was.  Why he does not have a headstone is a real mystery.  He had family, In this picture is just one member of his family, his sister in law Grace Ledger, the rest are my grandmother’s Fairman family.  But he had 5 brothers and one sister, but no one put a headstone.

My grandmother was Elma Etta Fairman (Dec. 23, 1892 – Oct. 8, 1933) and she is sitting in the middle of the picture in the dark ankle high dress. At this point in 1918 Elma had been married to Leonard for 5 years and they had a daughter, my mother.  According to my mom, her mom Elma didn’t say too much about Leonard except that he wasn’t a very nice person. He supposedly pushed her down a flight of stairs when she was pregnant with another child.  He had grown up in Louisiana and he would cross the street if a black man was walking on his side, a sign of those times but still sad.   Leonard died of Tuberculosis. I believe his father had also died of the disease and perhaps one of his sisters.

Since he died way before I was born he has always just been a young man in some old pictures.  Here he is with my mother on Mt. Hollywood (where the Hollywood sign is now) in 1918.

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Leonard Ledger and daughter Etta Louise 

He had curly hair (my mom and I inherited that!) a broad flat nose (mom got that too) and he is almost always smiling in pictures.  I always have felt so sorry for him because he died so young.  My mother was put in an orphanage after he died, while her mother worked.  It affected her and her mental health for the rest of her life. My mother’s mother Elma carried on as best she could. I don’t know why family didn’t help my grandma with mom, I believe her mother did but she died in 1921.  My grandmother was living a different lifestyle in Los Angeles at the time.  She was gay.  She had a roommate named Amy and by looking at their pictures together they were very much in love. Things my mom told me confirmed what I had always suspected. I could care less,  you go grandma!  But mom was always embarrassed – I get it – again, the times they lived in.

So Leonard dying was sad, but it allowed Grandma to live the life she wanted until she died  in 1933 at the age of 41.  Elma also did not have a headstone until the 1980’s when my mom purchased one for it. But Leonard still rests, unnamed in that fancy cemetery. I have thought that one day I would honor him with one, just so he isn’t completely forgotten.

 

Dewey died all alone, sitting against a tree

My mom used to tell me about how her father’s brother, Dewey, died. She said he was robbed in Mexico and killed. I always felt so bad that this could happen to someone in my family, and I wondered why he was in Mexico and the circumstances surrounding his death. I was pretty sure Mom got something mixed up because she had never talked of Dewey except for his death, I knew that she wasn’t close with this uncle as other stories about him were never shared. Mom was 29 when Dewey died so she was old enough to get the facts but her memory was not always the best. I decided a while back to try to investigate what had happened to Dewey. Dewey never married and didn’t have children so I asked a cousin the late 1990’s about Dewey. She told me she thought he died in New Mexico…hmmmmm, that is close to Mexico…so mom couldn’t be too wrong could she? Continue Reading