i had the honor to sit in on an oral history interview a friend recently did with one of my eldest neighbors. i had posted something june said to me, on one of her early evening walks past our house, driving her walker, and with her caregiver at her side on Facebook and it caught erica's eye. she was intrigued, and conveniently was planning a visit to L.A. from her new temporary home in NY, where she is working towards an Oral History Master of Arts degree at Columbia.
June tells the best stories. the best. i am always thrilled to visit with her and to hear about her life.
born in 1922, she moved here as a child, growing up in Hollywood, then moving to Westwood and finally to the SFV. on that quiet friday with Erica, she told stories of attending the 1932 Olympic Games as a 10 year old. (equestrian and aquatic events.) how it was the depression, so there were very few spectators, and very few athletes. how she took public transportation to get there. she told stories of growing up in Hollywood - the Hollywood of the 1930s - and spending all day exploring on her homemade pushcart with her sister leading the way. she told stories of a job at a "five and dime" in hollywood where many movie stars shopped. she told stories about being a young woman studying at UCLA for an MS degree in Physical Education (now the university's kinesiology department) when it was still separate divisions for men and women (this practice wasn't eliminated until 1952) and where she met her husband. she told us how she almost made it to the olympics (1940) but then couldn't because of the war. how back then, you only had one chance to go to the olympics. she told stories of performing as a synchronized swimmer and comedic diver with esteemed aquatic groups (such as the mercury mermaids) at glamorous hotels including the biltmore and ambassador, back when this was a popular form of entertainment. she told us about esther williams shining star. she told stories of their little house in westwood, when they were both UCLA faculty. and how they lived across the street from one of ernest hemingway's sons. but never met the great man. she shared her life philosophies and the value she puts in physical fitness. she told stories of moving to the valley, and to the house they are now in. she told of visiting over 42 countries in her lifetime. and how a teeny tiny harmonica saved their life in egypt. she told stories of our neighborhood, a place she has called home for more than half her years. (and I'll commit more of those stories to memory here soon.)
at the end she asked her daughter to get her teeny tiny harmonica, and played us a song. she said, "I was never that distinguished... I was too busy having a good time."
i hope that I am never that distinguished.
june december 19, 2014 age 92
this project also inspired me to schedule visits with more of my neighbors. many original, or near original owners. i want to know their stories too.