Conkling’s and Kerrigan’s bought the team shirts, but the girls furnished their own mitts.
“That’s the nearest I came to gloves,” Evelyn says.
A woman I’ll call May was born in Hurley, New Mexico, the same year that Evelyn was born in San Diego: 1917. Hurley was a copper-mining town, and May’s father worked in the mill. May’s mother was a good seamstress, and she sewed May’s clothes because there weren’t many stores in Hurley.
“The houses were all owned by the company when I lived there,” she says, “and it was segregated in that the Hispanic workers lived across the tracks from the white people, and they could actually own their own houses — build a little shack or something there on that side — but we had to live in the company-owned houses.”
The upper class of Hurley, including the doctor and the superintendent of the mine, lived on a paved street, “but the rest of us just had dirt streets, and if you were not respectful and so forth to the important people in town,” May says, “your father could lose his job.” May says that when she got married, she told her husband that if he ever wanted to go back to Hurley to live, she would get a divorce.
May and her husband didn’t come to San Diego until after the war, in the decade of the calotte, beret, cartwheel, postilion, and bonnet. When May and her husband arrived, they moved into temporary government housing in Linda Vista. “Some of the houses were permanent,” she says. “They were stucco houses, but the ones I lived in were wooden duplexes, and they were meant to be taken out after the war.”
May and her husband had two children by then, and they went to the Baptist church in Linda Vista. “I can remember going to church,” she says, “but I didn’t wear a hat or gloves.” When the children were older, she started working, but she didn’t have to wear a hat or gloves then either. “I never was one who went out much to parties and things,” she says.
Those who did go to parties — if they were the right parties — had a chance of posing in their hats and gloves for the photographers of San Diego Magazine. In November of 1948, Mrs. George Carter Jessop, “noted for her outstanding blonde good looks,” posed in a cocoa gabardine suit and a pillbox hat trimmed with coq feathers. Mrs. Harold Starkey, “one of San Diego’s most attractive and vivacious matrons,” stared heavenward in a $4000 mink cape. Mrs. Peter Crabtree, the young surgeon’s wife, wore a bronze-feathered hat and a baby-leopard collar. “Leopard, of course, is high fashion this season.”
The hats of Mrs. Peter Crabtree (secretary of the Junior League, vice president of the Camp Fire Girls council) and Mrs. George Carter Jessop (seen frequently at the San Diego Yacht Club) came from El Patio Apparel and Lion’s department store, but May shopped at Marston’s and at Walker’s on Fifth Avenue.
“Walker Scott was a very popular store,” she says, “and I would ride the streetcar downtown. That was when we first came, and the children were small. I’ve ridden the streetcar, which is something that a lot of people who are here now never did.
“I guess it was Marston’s that I particularly remember. It was a little bit — well, I want to say ‘higher class,’ but it carried a little bit better grade of dresses than Walker’s did, and I think that was the one that used to bring in, in the springtime, beautiful bouquets of flowers. They would decorate the store with lilacs from up in the North County…. It always was real beautiful.”
Alene Austin Cole’s family came to San Diego from Oklahoma in 1929 because of the Depression. “We were one of those Okies or whatever you want to call it. We got flooded out, and Mother said that was the end of that.”
Alene went to Sherman Elementary, then Roosevelt Junior High, and then San Diego High, known then as “the gray castle.” “My son was born in ’37,” she says. “I would have graduated in ’38.”
At the gray castle, the girls wore white middies and black skirts with a black tie. “My mother, now, she always had gloves, and she always thought you should wear a hat when you go shopping or to church or something like that.”
Alene, however, didn’t have to wear a hat. “They called us the dancing family. Mother and Dad met on an ice rink, so when we came out here, he said, ‘Well, we know how to dance on ice. Let’s learn how to dance otherwise.’ ” Alene and her parents and her brothers would dance to swing music at Mission Beach. “Mission Beach had a beautiful ballroom then.... They had dance contests and we all wore evening clothes. Like on a Wednesday night they’d have waltz night.”
After Alene became pregnant, she worked for the high school in what was called the youth administration, doing typing and filing. “And then after I had my boy, I went into the restaurant business. That was the most lucrative one you could find.” She wore a white uniform in the beginning, and she continued working as a waitress for 35 years.
Alene didn’t buy mannish sharkskin suits at Marston’s for $67.50. Her mother made the gowns Alene wore to the Mission Beach Ballroom and the black-and-white checkered suit in which Alene graduated from high school and a jacket for her brother (“he was the clotheshorse of the family”) into which her mother sewed a Lion’s department store label. Her mother had access to labels because she worked upstairs in the alterations department of Lion’s. “That’s how she ruined her eyes,” Alene says. “She was blind toward the last.”
Like Alene, Nancy Ketcham moved to San Diego the year the stock market crashed. “My family moved here from Imperial Valley in 1929. It was so hot over there that my mother got sick, so we moved over here. I was four.”