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Loren and Erma Hosmer
The lives of Loren and Erma Hosmer were intertwined long before they exchanged admiring glances in 1944 at Modesto's Uptown Ballroom at the corner of 10th and G streets. Loren, then 19, and Erma Streeter, just 16, showed up on the same night. Erma Streeter's family knew the Hosmer family - but then again, who didn't know the Hosmers in the Ceres of 1944? Loren's father, Wayne, had a service station in Ceres since the 1910s.

"His mom and my mom were friends," explained Erma. "His dad went to the same dances that my mother did when they were kids out at Fairview School."

Hard worker

Erma liked Loren right off the bat but confessed that it didn't hurt things knowing that Loren had money to spend on dates. "He had a steady job so he was rich, unlike the high school boys," Erma chuckled.

Loren only had money because he knew the value of hard work from a young age.

"I was working all the time," he recalled. "We used to cut apricots and cut peaches and occasionally there would be a few almond trees to knock down." When he was young, the Zendardi family who lived next door on Fourth Street, gave Loren a steady job at their bakery blocks to the south.

The polite Loren and his enchanting girl were married in December 1945 and they have remained together ever since.

"I let him think he was boss," is Erma's reply when asked the secret to their long marriage.

At the time of their wedding, Loren worked for Stanislaus Lumber Company at Ninth and K streets. He later became a general contractor, remodeling homes and building new ones. In 1975 Loren started Capital Door Sales, which is still operated in South Modesto by their son, Dave Hosmer, and daughter-in-law, Liz Hosmer.

The couple reared eight children throughout their marriage: Shirley, Sylvia, Carole, David, Mary, Nancy (who died in 1984), Laverta and Bradley. Erma was 42 when she had her last child and had four grandchildren older than Bradley. She was a homemaker and during the 1970s and 1980s Erma worked with the U.S. Census Bureau as an enumerator.

Wayne Hosmer

The Hosmers' story together began when their grandparents were separately drawn to the Ceres area for its farming opportunities after the turn of the century. Loren's grandfather, Izra Frank Hosmer, a native of Mill Town, S.D., came to Ceres in 1912. He lived in a farmhouse on what later became Colony Park Mobile Home Estates at Central and Service roads. Izra farmed to the south of Service Road on what is now the Central Valley High School campus. One of his sons was Wayne Alfred Hosmer - Loren's father - born 1891. Wayne learned to work hard on the farm. The family was devastated when Wayne's brother, Harry Hosmer, was killed in a freak accident. Harry scampered up to the top of a windmill to dislodge it during a storm and when it was freed, the device fatally struck him in the head.

Wayne later married an immigrant from Denmark named Petra West. They had four children, Wanda (born in 1920), Bruce (1922), Loren (1925) and Dale (1936). Wayne was a doting father, thrilling his small children with rides in the sidecar attached to his Harley-Davidson motorcycle. He supported his family by operating a service station for cars and motorcycles, called the Ceres Motor Supply House. It was located approximately where the eastern side of the Pine Street overpass is today. Loren remembers helping his father pump oil into one quart containers that had a spout to install in cars.

"I used to go down there pert near every day after I was 10 years old and if there was anybody wanted a quart of oil I raised the hood and put it in and collected the money," said Loren. "I got 10 cents a quart when I put oil in the cars because he didn't like to fool with that pump."

The original business had to be moved because it became too close to the highway after it was widened. Mr. Hosmer made his next building of tin, said Loren, but ran out of money halfway through and had to wait for more money before its completiom.

Later Wayne began delivering oil to residents for heating and cooking. To transport the oil, Wayne had to remove the seat from the car so he could fit in two 50-gallon barrels.

Loren remembers his dad being a "great guy" who played baseball with him "all summer." His mother, on the other hand, he said, "tanned my hide about every week or so." He recalled her to be an an ambitious and industrious woman who kept the house "sparkling clean."

Loren was born July 10, 1925 in the bedroom of the simple family house at 2545 Fourth Street, just north of the Castle, the landmark residence at Fourth and Magnolia. At the time the house was located in an orchard and there was a barn in back. In 1937 or 1938 Wayne and Petra moved to Fifth Street. Wayne died in 1966 and was buried at the Ceres cemetery. Petra followed in 1984.

Life in Ceres

Few people today can say they remember Ceres in the 1920s and 1930s. At 84, Loren Hosmer does. He attended Ceres schools and remembers having Mae Hensley as a sixth-grade teacher. The kids, he said, learned "don't ever let her give you a whippin' - you'd wish you hadn't." Loren said he only got in trouble once because of her brand of corporal punishment.

Walter White was also stern. "He was the principal there for a long time. He was a pretty good guy. He used to give me a whipping every once in a while." One spanking came when Loren and his pals ignored the bell to come in from recess. Once you got a good lickin', he said, you didn't do it again.

"I was kind of an egghead and most of the teachers that had me in their class had me help other people get grades that would pass. I did a lot of good things for those teachers and they were as nice as they could be."

On hot summer days Ceres kids would trek south to the local canal to cool off. Loren and many other youngsters preferred to go to the Bradbury drop off of Central Avenue.

Loren recalls tagging along with his older sister Wanda, who was quite an attractive young lady, "wherever she went" including dates. She died in March 2009 in Flagstaff, Ariz.

Loren attended Ceres High School and recalls that Principal Aaron S. Cakebread was "not very popular." Among fellow classmates in the CHS class of 1943 were Clare Berryhill, who later became a state lawmaker and director of California Department of Food and Agriculture. Loren often was invited to hunt birds on the Berryhill ranch.

Bill Noble was another friend. Noble wrote a regular Courier column about growing up in Ceres from 2003 to 2007.

Another classmate was Jake Dillon, whose father Jack Dillon was constable in Ceres.

Erma's family roots

The family of Erma's mother, Mattie Graham, packed all their belongings into a rail boxcar in Arnold, Neb., and came to Stanislaus County in 1906. Mattie came from a family of 22 children. An old friend of her grandfather's kept sending letters "telling them how wonderful it was here and to bring his family," said Erma.

The Grahams lived near Dry Creek in Modesto for two years, then moved in 1908 onto the Pike Ranch on Keyes Road near Morgan Road. Mattie Graham and her brothers went to school in Ceres in what is now Whitmore Park. An autobiography written by Mattie reveals a harrowing experience involving Principal J.A. Wagener, who incidentally built the Castle next to her future husband's residence. Mattie's four brothers played hooky one day so one week later they were all summoned to see Wagener. He produced a hickory stick and began whipping the boys. The beating got so out of hand for brother Robbie that Merl intervened. Robbie was sickened by the experience and developed mumps that took him out of school all winter.

Erma's father's family, the Streeters, came to Turner Road in the Westport area from Tulare County. Her grandfather Sheldon Streeter helped to carve out the Ceres Main Canal with his horses dragging what was called a "Fresno scraper," a type of dirt scoop.

Erma's mother met Claude Streeter whom she married at age 16. Erma was born in Modesto and attended Modesto High School.

Erma was mostly a Modesto gal, but remembers taking dance lessons from Betty Belle Anderson Smith and performing at the White Brick School in Ceres.

According to Erma, "In later years his mother (Petra) said, 'I never knew when I was watching that little girl up there that she'd be my daughter-in-law."

In 1953 the Hosmers moved to Central Avenue in Ceres where they lived 27 years. In 1980 they moved near their door company in South Modesto.