"Jo" The Home Economist

“Jo” The Home Economist

My mother, Miriam Josephine (Kidd) Mason, was born on August 23, 1910, so at this writing (May 29, 2010), she is very close to the century mark. She may make it and she may not. It will be a near thing. In my extended family she is the last of the previous generation and has lived to see many changes. She was born in South Africa after the Boer War, lived on the Isle of Jersey in her youth, and at No. 1 Crooked Billet, Wimbledon Common, London. She immigrated to the Calgary area of Canada with her mother and two brothers at eleven years of age. The Canada situation turned out to be not as advertised and after a short stay the family relocated again to Oregon. She graduated from Oregon State (College) University in 1934 with a degree in home economics and worked professionally in that field for several years. In 1936 she married my father, Donald Lyman Mason (more here ), and gave birth to me in 1938. Two years later my sister Irene Joyce (Mason) Jenkins was born and in 1942 the new family moved to Palo Alto, Cailfornia where she still resides in the same house.

Mom applied her professional training to running our household and took pride in her work. She was an expert seamstress and made many clothing items for herself and for us kids. Her pies were to die for and fortunately that talent has been passed on to my sister. Like my father, she had a love of poetry and that also has been passed on. All in all she was a  good mom and I have many fond memories, especially from when I was young. Below are some stories, in roughly chronological order, that come to mind:

Jo at 2 years old

Jo at 2 years old

Mom has no memory of South Africa but she does remember Jersey and I have a few of those memories on tape. Her memory of No. 1 Crooked billet is better, and I remember her telling about looking out the window during WWI and seeing the “Iron Cross” on the bottom of the wings of the German planes and hearing the shrapnel from the antiaircraft guns falling on the roof (more here).

The only things I remember Mom saying about the trip to Calgary was that their ship, upon entering the mouth of the St Lawrence River, had to back out again because there was an iceberg lodged there. She also mentioned the trip across Canada on the Canadian Pacific Rail Road. Apparently her mother, Miriam Phoebe (Williams) Kidd, was quite nervous about keeping the family together at various intermediate stops where they detrained to walk about a bit. She didn’t want anybody left behind out there in the middle of nowhere.

We also heard a story about attending school in Canada. Mom still had an English accent and the teacher was from the Bronx of New York City. Even though they both were speaking English they couldn’t understand each other.

A later school story was about her experience while attending classes in Seaside, Oregon after they had entered the USA. First thing in the morning all the students stood to pledge allegiance to the flag. Jo was somewhat bewildered and decided that since she was a British subject she should not do this thing. When asked why she said, “It’s not my flag and I’m not going to salute it.” That seemed to make sense, but later another student’s mother stopped Jo’s mother on the street saying, “Mrs. Kidd I understand that you won’t let your child pledge allegiance to the flag.” That was the first my grandmother had heard about it. Apparently a genuine foreigner was quite a novelty to insular little Seaside.

In Oregon they lived for a short period with relatives in Portland. On one occasion, to earn a little extra money, they signed up to pick strawberries at a farm near the base of Mt. Hood. Jo and her mother picked strawberries all day but toward late afternoon Jo grew tired of the job and wandered off on a path that led into the nearby woods. After she had gone down the path some distance she came to an old abandoned cabin. Jo was curious and went inside to look around. The cabin was empty and it looked as if no one had been there in a long time. In one corner was a cupboard which Jo opened. There was nothing in the cupboard except on one shelf. There, way in the back, was an old egg cup. Jo decided that the egg cup needed a better home so she took it and put it in her pocket. On her way back to the strawberry field she came face to face with a black bear. Jo stood very still and looked at the bear. The bear stood very still and looked at Jo. They looked at each other for a long time. Finally, the bear turned slowly and walked away. When the bear was out of sight Jo ran as fast as she could back to her mother in the strawberry field. Somewhere in the excitement she lost her punch card that told how many baskets of berries she had picked, but the good farmer paid her anyway. The egg cup is now in the possession of my daughter, Deanna Lynne Mason

Jo is married at age 26

Jo is married at age 26

After graduating from college, Jo was hired by San Joaquin Power and Light with headquarters in Fresno, California. This was in the days of the Rural Electrification Administration, and isolated rural communities and farms were being electrified at a rapid rate. Jo’s job was to go to these outlying areas and demonstrate electrical appliances to those who were unfamiliar with them. It was considered one the best jobs a woman could get in those days. Salesmen from the various electrical appliance manufacturers would chase after her at the end of each day to find out where she had been. Naturally, they would followup in short order. Sometimes they would chase her around personally too and she had some stories to tell about that.

I didn’t realize until just recently that she put off becoming a U.S. Citizen until she was 30 years of age. When she did finally get around to it there were some unanticipated complications. She had a hard time proving she was in the country legally. It seems that when she came down from Canada at about age twelve the border officials listed only her mother’s name and then added the phrase “and child.” Proving that she was that “child” turned out to be something of a task.

Jo Natyralized at Age 30

Jo Naturalized at Age 30

Having traveled extensively during her early life, upon reaching Palo Alto during WWII,  Jo put down roots. With her children in the local schools and her husband gainfully employed at Stanford University, Jo settled in for the long haul. Just a few years ago I heard her refer to herself as “a stick in the mud.”          (click image for larger view)

Jo at 98

Jo at 98

Jo at 56

Jo at 56

Jo at 78

Jo at 78

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