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Longtime Ceres resident Gerry Gardenhire died Nov. 29, 2011 but left behind a fascinating review of her life that appears on a website she maintained.

The following is an edited version of her life story:

Frances Geraldine (Gerry) Price Gardenhire (1922 - 2011)

When I sit back in my easy chair, in my comfortable apartment at Covenant Village in Turlock in the sunset years of my life (2009), I reminisce at the changes that I have seen. Has there ever been a time in history in which so many changes have been wrought? I doubt it.

I have just returned from a great grandson's wedding in Oregon. I traveled there by jet but I recall the first car my dad bought. It was a Model T Ford and had to be started by cranking it. It had isinglass side curtains that we put on it if the weather was inclement.

My maternal grandparents Callaway came from Mississippi to Texas on to Oklahoma land on the Homestead Lease Act. He and son Olay came by covered wagon ahead of grandma. This granted 160 acres of public land to a settler to be developed into a farm. The first job was to clear some land and get a crop started. In this case it was cotton and corn and he had to build a home. When Grandma with the rest of the family arrived the one room cabin had been built, all but the roof. Winter came before the roof was put on. (The crops--their livelihood got priority) They used the canvas from the covered wagon for the roof. This cabin with many additions served Grandma and Grandpa for many years. That house is where mother and I were born because Mother had gone there for my birth and at a later date, during the depression, our family lived with them for a short while.

At one point, Grandpa did another historical feat when he helped drive cattle from Texas to Kansas via the Chisholm Trail.

My folks made several moves when I was very young but when I was in the third grade they settled down on one of Dad's uncle's extensive land holdings in western of Oklahoma. Dad share cropped whole sections of wheat and cotton. An exciting part of the summer was when the big threshing rigs would come in for the harvesting. They had their own work crews and church wagon. They followed the harvesting season as far away as Kansas.

My childhood was extremely. I had only one sibling, Mildred, who was two years older. We adored each other. We spent hours playing house with our dolls. We played a lot of jacks on the dining room floor. When we began wearing out our shoes because we played it so often, with our legs spread out we wore out the backs of our shoes, Mother said we couldn't play it anymore. And often we played the game we would get into arguments and Mother had to say, "That's enough." When Mildred started school and I no longer had anyone to play with, I was "lost". So, the folks got me an adorable white Spitz dog for company. How I loved that pet! Snowball and I became inseparable! I would dress her in doll clothes and give her rides in my doll buggy. Alas one day while we were in town someone came to our farm and stole my precious playmate. The folks replaced it with a miniature bulldog but it was so feisty that he had to get rid of it.

Mildred and I both learned how to do some sewing very early. Mother started us out by doing some embroidery. We always kept our hands busy even while listening to Amos and Andy on our first battery operated radio which the folks purchased from the Sears & Roebuck catalog.

Money was scarce but we always managed to go every few months to visit Grandpa and Grandma Callaway. We always tried to go when the dewberries in Grandma's large patch were ripe. I think we did this for two reasons. Grandma raised them so she could have a little cash by selling them in town and also mother got to can many a quart. Mildred and I would get a few cents for every quart picked which we enjoyed spending. Usually Daddy was too busy to make the trip so Mother and we girls would ride in the Model A. I remember that we bought six hamburgers for 25 cents while making the trip. Sometimes Mildred and I got to stay with Grandpa and Grandma for an extra week. We had six cousins who lived on a farm nearby and we often stayed overnight with them. That was an especially delightful time. I think maybe I was Grandpa's special grandchild as he often bought me Crackerjacks, a nickel a box. On the sly, so mother wouldn't hear, I'd say "I sure would like some Cracker Jacks," then he would walk a mile to the country store - he never learned to drive - and come back with some Cracker Jacks. I was never quite sure if he went solely for my treat or his chewing tobacco.

We would try to go to see Dad's folks who lived in Arkansas once a year. Daddy had been born there and most of his family still lived there in and around Boonville. Most of his family was very well educated. His three sisters were teachers and one brother was president of the electric power company. Another brother was a professor at Furnam University in South Carolina.

We had great fun climbing some of the Ozarks. We would take picnic lunches and hunt for the wild huckleberries. We had to stay on the lookout for rattlesnakes while picking the huckleberries. Again, mother had taken jars from home so she could can some of those delicious berries. They made great pies! And how Mildred and I loved to swing on the big old yard swing that Grandpa had made.

I enjoyed school. The first three grades I attended a two-room school at Koonkasachery. Then our family moved from the uncle's farm to one Daddy rented some 20 miles away, at Lone Wolf. Population was probably around 700, a place where everybody knew and cared about everybody else. The school I attended was consolidated so we had bus service. I was active in many phases of school, was president of the junior class, vice president of the senior class, and the Pep Club. I took part in oratory competitions. Won the dramatic reading contest in high school and then went on to the district competition where I placed third. Our school day always started the pledge to the flag. Patriotism and good citizenship were stressed. With such a small student body - I graduated in 1939 with a class of 1924 - everybody was your friend. We had class parties and I acted in class plays.

Many of my activities took place after school hours so one of my parents would have to come and get me or else I stayed overnight with friends in town. We lived near the north fork of the Red River. One Sunday afternoon I had my biology class come out to catch bugs there and then we had a social time for which I had made cookies. When I graduated I was named "Best All Around Student."

But the most outstanding part of my youth was 4-H activities. It taught me so many lessons and helped me to develop many useful characteristics. I joined as soon as I was 10. Never could a child have had two more supportive parents to help with projects and give encouragement that Mildred and I had. I stayed with the organization as long as age 18 would allow. Mother was in arm of the organization called Ladies Home Demonstration Club. 4-H has many different aspects but a major one was the Home Improvement, which consisted of cooking, canning and sewing. Probably sewing was my biggest interest. Money was very scarce at that time in our family, depression days, but somehow the folks always found the funds to buy whatever materials I needed. I well remember that Mother had raised fryers (chickens) that she dressed and sold in town to regular customers so she would have the necessary funds for my projects. I sometimes won prizes for my sewing and got a little money as a result and I'd use that money to buy more material. With some prize money I once bought a Vogue pattern which had a little more pizzazz than the pattern I had been using! I won lots of prizes at the county fair and then would get to go to the state fair in Oklahoma City for the competition. I won one trip to Kansas City to the American Royal and one year I got to go to Chicago to the national competition where I got third prize for my dress and full length coat. In Chicago we were treated royally at a big lovely Edgewater Hotel. I remember that it was there when I was first introduced to French rolls.

Daddy thought I should branch out in my 4-H career by doing something more than domestic type things so he gave me a hive of bees to care for all by myself. It was my responsibility to prepare and strain honey for the fair, to take honey from the hives by smoking out the bees and capturing a swarm of bees.

4-H was so important in my life that if there wasn't a club where we lived I personally got one started. In fact, I did that even after I was married. I started on in Ceres which is still going strong.

I was always an avid reader. I think I was really encouraged along that line when I was in the third grade. The teacher gave us a star for every book we read. Such a simple thing as that really encouraged me to read. I remember one book in fourth grade about natural catastrophes. I felt so sorry for the people of Pompeii who got caught up in all that lava.

I remember when we were so poor that Mildred and I had to share one box of Crayolas in school. We had to go the other person's room to get the Crayolas if they weren't in our possession when it was time for a drawing. I really enjoyed drawing horses.

When I finished high school in 1939, I and my parents were determine for me to attend college. Fortunately, Mother had a fairly well-to-do uncle who lent me $100 so I could go to nearby Cameron College at Lawton, Okla. I worked in a private home for my room and board and the $100 took care of the tuition and books for two semesters. After one year at junior college I transferred to Oklahoma A.&M. in Stillwater north of Oklahoma City. I majored in home economics with dress design as a specialty.

While I was in college I had a interesting chemistry lab partner in Neal Gardenhire. In fact, we were such good lab partners that we thought we would like to be partners for life. When we told my parents that we were planning on getting married, they tried to talk us out of it. There were rumblings of World War II getting started so we thought that was a good excuse not to wait. Neal had quit school and was working in Oklahoma City. He had become good friends of a Methodist minister's son so we decided to get married at the parsonage on Dec. 21, 1940 during my Christmas break. Mother and Dad attended. I made a lovely short rich chocolate chiffon velvet dress with a turban to match. Neal's sister, Lillian, gave a nice reception in her home for the few invited wedding guests. We spent one night in a lovely hotel in Oklahoma City and the remainder of my vacation break visiting my folks. Then I got an apartment in Stillwater so I could finish out the school year. Neal was working in Oklahoma City for the Welfare department to deliver food to various county seats. He came to Stillwater on the weekends. Unfortunately, Neal's job was political so when administration changed, he lost his job. He decided that prospects for a job would be better in California. His first job was as an apprentice to learn the machinist trade in Oakland for a company that was gearing up to make material. I joined him later in Oakland. After being in Oakland for a short while he took a defense job in Sunnyvale. Our first child Neal (Corky) was born on Dec. 5, 1941 in Oakland. Our second child Rozann was born on Sept. 27, 1943 in San Jose.

Neal was drafted at the end of the war but never saw active duty. While he was in the service I went home with my two little ones to be with my folks. When he got out of the service, California beckoned again. We lived briefly in Salida, Modesto and Escalon before we finally settled in Ceres. We eventually bought our home at 2537 Fourth Street. That was our home for the next 50 years. John was born on Nov. 15, 1948 and Susan on June 11, 1950.

The Great Depression started in 1929 when the stock market crashed. Banks failed. Farmers lost their farms. There were no welfare programs or "bail-out" as today. I was only seven when the Depression started so in my growing up years my family would probably be considered poor by today's standard. But everyone I knew was in the same financial boat so I didn't know we were poor. But by the honest hard work, my parents provided the necessary good life and it probably helped me to appreciate what I had and later obtained.

While still in the Depression another catastrophe hit our part of the county, the Dust Bowl. The gigantic dust storms which started in 1934 which stirred up draught areas. Many farmers lost their homes and migrated out of the area primarily to California. How my folks were able to hold on financially through the double whammy of the depression and the Dust Bowl, I don't know.

When we bought our home in Ceres we bought it because the area was zoned for business. I had in mind that I would like to help with the family income by using my talent and education in some form of serving. So, we turned our car garage into an area where I would make slip covers for furniture. I soon discovered that I would not be able to do that as I had back problems. So, we decided to go into more extensive drapery business which would be easier on my back. Neal did a great job building three large padded tables and other refinements that were required for the business.

My business grew greater than I had ever imagined. Eventually, I had to hire six girls and a bookkeeper. I got custom jobs from several big stores in Modesto like Sears and Penny's plus several interior decorators. Often times, Neal was "drafted" into helping on big jobs such as custom lambrequins. He was particularly good at making lambrequins. All in all, my business was very time consuming but one I enjoyed immensely.

But I did find time to do other things besides taking care of business. My family always came first so I always tried to attend any school activities or anything they were involved in. I was president of the PTA at one time. I took an active part in community affairs. I joined the Soroptimist club and the women's auxiliary of the volunteer department. My training as a youth in 4-H came in handy in many ways. Not only in my business but I often was the president of whatever activity I was involved in.

Neal developed polio, when that dreaded disease was so rampant in the 50's. He was in the iron lung for a while. He had a triple bypass when that procedure was still in its infancy. He had several other medical problems which kept him from full time employment. At those times he helped me in the shop as he could. Eventually, as his health improved, he became an agent for Metropolitan Life selling insurance. Later he became a consultant and sold annuities to teachers.

We took auto trips with the family when the children were at home. We usually drove back to Oklahoma, Arkansas or Texas to visit our families. I had responsible workers so I could leave the business in their hands for a couple of weeks at a time. We close the business in 1986 and did quite a bit of traveling.

In later years, after we closed the business, we traveled a lot in a motor home. I say "we" but mostly it was Neal. I got altitude sickness; I often would fly to meet Neal after he had driven to an area.

As I review my life I realize how much the Lord has led, even though I may not have realized it at the time. My folks were very moral people, but did not regularly attend church. However, they would go to special meetings. When I was 12 a revival meeting was held at the school. When the invitation was given to receive Christ as one's personal Savior, I responded. It was a very meaningful experience for me, but I did not get any spirtual encouragement so I did not grow. It wasn't until we were living in Ceres when I regularly attended Modesto's Christian Women's group. At one particular meeting the speaker really spoke to my heart and I recommitted my life. Then I knew that I wanted to be in a church and have my children go with me and have them be committed Christians too. So, we all began attending the Ceres first Baptist and I'm so grateful for the spiritual nourishment I got there. Actually, I taught the Lydia Sunday School class and often entertained missionaries in our home.

I had always been interested in historical houses so when the city of Ceres purchased the Daniel Whitmore House (first house built in Ceres) I was pleased to help with the restoration and decoration. It became a time consuming project, searching for period furnishings and researching the information needed to fashion the draperies, swags and floor and window coverings. The house is now a museum.

In 2001, we decided to relocate where any special needs could be cared for so we moved to Turlock Covenant Village. It is a Christian atmosphere, and we have been well cared for. Unfortunately, Neal passed away Feb. 25, 2009, after 68 years of marriage. But the Lord has sustained me beautifully and I know that it can't be too many years until I will join him and the Lord who has blessed me so abundantly.