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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NPE = Non Paternity Event

It sounds so odd, Non Paternity Event, but in everyday language it means your dad is not who you thought he was. I wrote extensively about finding the truth in my earliest blog posts but I thought I would revisit the story again. I have been on a roller coaster of emotions since late 2014 when I first took my Ancestry-DNA test.

I grew up in the 1950’s and 60’s in an crazy but loving family. Both of my parents were alcoholics but we all put on a brave front for the most part.

Me in the middle, my sister to my right, my mom and dad to my left and my 3 nephews. Taken Easter 1964

I took a DNA test for fun in the fall of 2014, and my world turned upside down. It took me awhile to figure out the details but it boiled down to my biological father was not the happy go lucky daddy I grew up with. My mom had an affair in 1952 with a man on their bowling team.

Top row: Biological father, Bob, 2nd from right, next to father I grew up with, Dexter, 2nd from left
Bottom middle is my mom

If you aren’t familiar with how DNA works you might wonder how in the heck I figured this out. It wasn’t easy, especially since I didn’t know a thing when I first started. But reading, asking questions and just plain old perseverance led me to the truth. When I got my results I wasn’t Swedish, I should have been, my dad was 100%. I also had lots of DNA matches that had surnames I didn’t know – and many, many were from the Alabama area. I asked some of my dad’s family to do the DNA test and when the results came back – no relation at all. Then I started building family trees and trying to figure out how my matches were related to each other. I contacted some 3rd cousins and they were so helpful, but I needed a closer match. Finally a 2nd cousin popped up and that enabled me to tie the tree together and find who I thought my biological father was. He was deceased – I expected that. He had children! I found them on Facebook, but was afraid to contact them (I had had a bad experience with the son of a man I THOUGHT might be my biological father) but my adorable 3rd cousin contacted them for me and right away they were thrilled! The youngest one did the DNA test and while we awaited the results I went to Southern California to visit 2 of them. It was such a wonderful visit! On my way home the results came in and sealed it – we were half siblings!!!!

Brothers and sister!

Then my older brother from birth father’s first marriage came down to visit us from Oregon last year.

I also had a half sister, but she passed away in 2013. I so wish I could have met her, she loved genealogy too and I am sure we would have been good friends.

My brother’s have helped me fill in what I never knew about my bio father. I have read up on the ship, USS New Orleans, he served on during WWII and can only imagine the hell he went through. He had his issues, we all do, but I can’t help but wonder if he knew. If my mom knew?? She was married at the time, bio dad wasn’t. She was 37, he was 31. She had 2 grown children, he was divorced with one son.

That is what lingers in my mind. Who knew? did anyone? Some days are better than others for me but I struggle. It has been over 4 years now that I have known the truth. I read every article and book I find that deals with NPE stories and information. I belong to Facebook groups, public and secret, and reading others stories helps. So many people do not have as good an ending as I do. I found 3 loving brothers. I have lost the sister I grew up with, she is angry or hurt by my find, but I can’t help it. Everyone who wants to know the truth, should be able to know the truth. I didn’t start out knowing there was a huge secret, but I am glad to know the truth.

NPE – Non Paternity Event, it sounds so odd.

Blogging University

I set up my blog in 2015 while I was on my crazy DNA search for the man who was my biological father.  It seemed to be a way for me to process what was happening to me and my life.  I have just sort of dabbled with it since the beginning – sometimes going for a year without touching it.  I am never sure how much of my feelings and emotions to put out there.  If my family reads my posts will they think I am a weirdo (one of my 1950’s childhood taunts) or just being overly dramatic.   Actually, when I started this blog it was so that my children, or any descendants or relatives down the road would be able to find it and learn some things about our family that they might be interested in.  How I wish I could read a blog from one of my ancestors that would answer all those nagging questions I have.  Now I have realized that if I don’t write in the thing, how will anybody find it or be interested in what little I have written.  Therefore I decided to start doing more research into blogging and to try to make it interesting to a wider audience so I decided to join the WordPress Blogging University course.   Can’t hurt, can it?  Day one’s lesson is to set 3 goals for my blog – I am a terrible goal setter but I am going to do my best to complete this university!!!

Goal 1 – To blog at least once a week.  Trying to be realistic – it might be more like every 2 weeks but I would like to reach the every week goal eventually.

Goal 2 – To learn as much about blogging as I can.  My focus is genealogy so I am starting to read other blogs from like-minded people.  I love reading other people’s genealogical searches and mystery solving so I am hoping by making mine interesting I can get more readers and subscribers.

Goal 3 – To gain more confidence in my writing ability.  I suffer from a severe lack of confidence sometimes, other times I am stuffed full of too much confidence.  I have had a rough couple of years dealing with my DNA and genealogical discoveries and I think I need to write about them to help me get back (or forward) to where I want to be.

There, I did it!  Now off to read more blog posts and see what I like or don’t like about them.  That should help me with my Blogging university class.

A reluctant blogger

I haven’t written in a very long time, since October 2016.  I have felt very out of sorts since this whole finding out my bio father was not the man I thought he was.  It has been great getting to know my bio family – I love them all. I recently got to meet brother #3.  He is from our dad’s first marriage during WWII, he is a sweetie pie.  He and his wife drove their motor home down from Oregon and stayed a few days.  It was great getting to know him and his wife.  Here they are with me.  I have been embraced wholeheartedly by all 3 brothers and it warms my heart so much.

I have been to Southern California to see my younger half brothers about 4 times since I discovered them in 2016.  Our visits are always great!  But I struggle with my relationship with my sister that I grew up with, it has been very strained – So it has been a difficult couple of years.  I know she isn’t happy about my search for the truth, but it is what it is.  I am trying to come to a peaceful place in my mind, to be comfortable with my discovery and to just move on.  On that note, I have been working on my family genealogy quite a bit.  I use Ancestry.com – I just love the DNA matching, the ease of finding records and it’s all around ease of use.  I have found quite a few extended family members through them, and good old Facebook!  I got to spend a couple of days with my 2nd cousin and his wife, on my mother’s Fairman side, this past fall during their 50th anniversary weekend.  Meeting family always makes me feel so good.  I made them up a family tree on poster board with pictures, so that their family could see how we were all related.  They loved it.  Those small things that I can do to connect with people make me happy and I hope to keep the family history bug going through my interactions with the generations.

I am going to start blogging about the pictures and families in my vast bunch of very old pictures that I inherited from various family members.  I recently read a fantastic blog by Charles Moore Telling their story   and it reminded me of the pictures I have and how I really want to save them on-line to share the stories of the people who came before us.  Not everyone is identified in every picture I have but I do know the majority of them and I want to share their stories. Stay tuned.

 

DNA doesn’t lie!

I am sure you have heard the phrase “a watched pot never boils”.  Well, waiting for DNA test results to come back is pretty much like that.  I knew it could take up to 6 weeks but…still…I had come so far and now just wanted proof that I wasn’t mucking it all up again.  In the mean time I had a chance to go to the L.A. area for a few days and even though the results were not in, I asked my potential 1/2 brothers Scott and Bruce if they would like to meet up.  They were so sweet and were excited to meet me, even prior to the proof of the DNA test.  We pretty much all thought that the picture of my mom with their dad on the same bowling team sealed the deal.

I drove down to Southern CA and we planned a meet at Scott’s house. While I was driving to our meeting I have never been so nervous in all my life.  I was so afraid that I was getting all excited for nothing – what if Scott and Bruce weren’t my 1/2 brothers?   I had to remind myself to breathe…to relax…to just be me and let things play out and to stop worrying.  As I drove up to the house the first person I saw was Scott, standing in the doorway of his house…and all I could do was smile as I know that this is probably my brother and I couldn’t help but feel the love. Then I see Bruce, the elder of the two and the acceptance was written all over his face too….I felt like I had come home to family.  We had the nicest visit….Bruce had brought some old photos from the Perry family and we went through them and laughed and talked. It was such a good visit but also a little bitter sweet as I learned their sister Linda had passed away a couple of years ago and she was very interested in family history and had done lots of research and they were sure we would have hit it off.  Linda and I were the closest in age, she being just 2 years younger than me.

Scott’s roommate Donna had a sandwich spread fixed up for us and we ate, and laughed and talked a lot more.  I really felt good about this visit and so wished the DNA results would come in while I was in Southern Ca. that weekend, but I knew I would probably have to wait for awhile still.  It was funny that Scott kept asking me and texting me..”when will the results be in?”…he wanted to know for sure just like I did – we were like a couple of little kids!  I learned so much about the family during our visit and I promised Bruce and Scott that as soon as I knew the results I would be letting them know.

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Here we are at our first meeting, June 9, 2016.  Scott to the left of the picture and Bruce to the right. Continue Reading

Are you my brother?

So now I was ready to get moving on finding my biological father.  I have talked to Scott, my possible 1/2 brother.  I have done my due diligence in tracing the DNA trail and the family tree hints.  I was thrilled that Scott agreed to take a DNA test and that he would be happy to have a new sister!  As soon as Scott and I got off the phone I ordered the DNA test kit from Ancestry.com from my phone….I was not going to wait until we got home from our camping trip!!  I was floating on cloud 9 the rest of the weekend – I had such a good feeling about this phase in my search! Scott and I messaged back and forth.  Sonya and I did also, she was an angel in my eyes for helping me to connect with my possible family.

My only question now was,  how did my mom know Scott and Bruce’s dad?  They didn’t live in the same city, although not too far away from each other.  Their dad worked as a plumber and my dad owned his own chrome plating business…no connection there I could see.  But as I was thinking about how the connection could have happened I got an idea.  My folks had been very active at the Elks Lodge near them during the 1950’s and 60’s.  Also, they both loved to bowl – my dad was a pretty good bowler and used to compete in leagues with the Elks and at different bowling lanes for many years.  So I decided to contact the Elks Lodge and see if they had a roster for 1952 and if my possible father was on it, and guess what?  He was!!!

Continue Reading

Gun shy

I titled this post “gun shy” because that is what I was feeling at maybe, just maybe, discovering who my father really was.  I had such a sad/bad experience with my first suspected 1/2 brother that I didn’t want to make that mistake again, no way, no how.

My family and I went off to a camping trip in the Sacramento delta area – thank goodness we had cell phone signal, or my anxiety level might have gone through the roof!  I knew Sonya was going to contact my maybe 1/2 brothers and try and make a connection in a very general way – she wanted to protect me from being hurt again and she was very involved in my “mystery” – she is a great cousin!

I didn’t expect to hear anything from her that weekend. What I didn’t know is that she was able to contact the youngest brother first, Scott. Continue Reading