by Sally Bee Carlisle Brown
March 18, 2007
Note: This is a true story of Sally Bee Carlisle Brown's early years in Alpine, The Willows and Viejas, California. Following the story are interesting local historical notes of the years the author spent in the area, from 1942 to 1947. Mrs. Brown is now a resident of Guatay, California.
The woman married a man of one-fourth Indian blood. She gave birth to his four children. She believed the Holy Bible, and could quote many scriptures. One which she learned and taught to her children was Romans 8:28, a message of hope. But what of hope, whenever disaster fell upon her? She took troubles all in stride and each time began again her journey of hope which the Scripture promised.
Here’s how it came about: Her unfaithful husband physically abused her during her fourth pregnancy. Their baby died. Her disappointed husband molested two of the children, and took to philandering again. In his despair over losing the baby, he divorced her and abandoned the family. He went to live with another woman and when the divorce was final, married her.
The landlord evicted the brave woman of this story. She and her children were homeless. Her toddler’s health was frail. Her other two children were taken away. She mourned their loss until she could gather them together to her again. And she was left with a large indebtedness. How more difficult could life have been for her? Nevertheless, she doted on the message of hope in the Scripture, believing things would get better.
She loved all her children dearly and held out hope that they would be reunited one day. She was granted no alimony by the court. A friend took her in, temporarily. She found a job in a wartime industry. A fellow worker who lived in a country community told her of a one-room motel cabin in this country town, set in a vineyard on a hill. She moved there with her toddler. The worker took her to work and back every day. It was a weary 60-mile round trip. The landlady took care of the toddler. When the woman earned enough money, she rented a house in the little town and was able to gain custody of her two older children. They all lived together again! Hope was rewarded.
She enrolled the two older children in the local school. Then she took advantage of the opportunity to change jobs and work in the cafeteria at the school. The job required standing on her feet all day. She was always in pain from lack of care after delivery of the dead baby but she persevered in the work. The younger child also became enrolled in the school. Gradually, she paid off all the debt. It seemed that the best as was possible had come about. She rejoiced in the Lord.
After a while, they moved to another home in the area, farther to the east. Now they had space in which to grow a garden and raise chickens. They could have a dog and a cat. They rode the school bus to the school. The house was comfortable and near a wonderful swimming hole. The children were happy. Again, she thanked the Lord.
Then trouble struck again. The person who supplied water to the house stopped the flow. The landlord refused to provide other resources. Here was disaster again. What to do? She prayed. The Lord led her to talk with the aunt of her former co-worker. The aunt knew of a place owned by her sister’s brother-in-law. It wasn’t much, but it was a place. The family moved once more. The woman found hope again.
But it was a shallow hope. The “place” was a small board-and-batten cabin in the wilderness on the edge of an Indian reservation. Wind whined through the cracks. Rats lived in the attic. Mice came to visit regularly. Coyotes howled close by. There was no electricity, no refrigerator, no lighting, no piped-in gas, no cooking range, no phone, no flush toilet, no mailbox, no sewer, not even any drains in the house. And of course no radio or TV. Just a small, old-fashioned wood stove. And a three-holer a block away.
The nearest neighbor lived a mile off, along a dark forest road and across a barbed-wire fence. In summer, the heat in the cabin was unbearable. In winter, the cold invaded. There was no furnace, no air conditioning, not even any fans. Yet she looked forward to the hope this verse offered.
The nearest doctor’s office was miles and miles off. No city bus was available; she could not afford a car. She depended on the good will of the owner’s sister-in-law, who lived down a long, rutted dirt road and across a dangerous highway. Every Saturday, they went together in the lady’s car to the small “super market” miles away for groceries and staples. The lady, her husband and son helped them as much as they could. The woman was ever grateful for all the help they gave here destitute family. They did so much!
The limited child care funds the court had ordered were sporadic and undependable. The job at school did not continue during summers. The lady helped the woman and her pre-teen daughter find laundry and ironing jobs in the small community to supplement their income. Again, they grew and tended a vegetable garden. They raised chickens for eggs and meat. Everything else they ate was either dried or canned. Can you imagine living every day on “canned milk”? They did. They had to. Later, the lady sent them milk from her new cow, but the boys became allergic to it. The woman bought two goats. Every morning and evening they had to be milked, without fail. Still, the woman loved the Lord and believed in the promise of the Scripture.
The little family adjusted well. Little by little, appliances (non-electric, of course) were acquired: Hurricane lamps gave a gentle glow. A butane gas stove and distillate heater were installed. An antique Victrola and some tinny 78 records were trucked up to the cabin. The girl’s favorite song was the waltz, “Three O’clock in the Morning.” (Goodness only knows why. Perhaps she dreamed of dancing to it with her fabled prince.) The children spent happy days ranging throughout the wilderness, exploring and playing safely. In the summers, they spent days at a picnic table and barbecue pit in the forest near the cabin. The woman used the time off work to read the Bible all the way through with her children there. At night, they slept on cots under the cool trees. The shadows of the trees hovered over them, like angel wings protecting them. It was hard, hard, hard for the woman to manage everything. Yet she loved her children so dearly that she would suffer anything for them. And she did. Always with hope in her breast.
I praise the Lord for the sheer, dauntless bravery of our mother, for her spirit and grit, for her hope and trust in the Lord. What an amazing woman! What amazing Grace propelled her to care for us so unselfishly! For she did, indeed!
Author's Note: The communities were Alpine, The Willows and Viejas, California. The brave woman was my own mother, Dorothy Carlisle. This is a true story.
My father told me he was Cherokee; his sister, my aunt, told us we were Delaware. I suppose we are some of both. There is a family story about the Indian side, which is not relevant to Alpine’s history—we just knew we were American Indian. You may ask me about it some day.
My mother was a staunch, born-again Christian. Her knowledge of the Bible was extensive. It sustained her through all her difficulties, both before and after the Alpine residency.
She was disappointed when her baby was stillborn, but her faith did not let the birth get her down for long. I was in mourning for quite a long time; it was harder for me. I seldom had contact with father’s new wife, Stella, so I did not think of her as a step-mother. She was just “Stella.” All three of them have since died. Mother is in Heaven, cuddling baby “Kenneth.”
We had to stay in a friend’s garage after the divorce. It was not a converted apartment, but rather where the friend’s husband parked his smoggy car all night. My eighteen-month-old brother contracted what at first was diagnosed as whooping cough. But the cough didn’t subside until she finally took him to Alpine, advertised as “Best Climate in the World,” to live. There, he got well, praise the Lord. This was during World War II, in the early 1940’s.
While Mother was living at the motel, I was sent to Los Angeles to stay with my grandmother in her one-bedroom duplex for a while. My brother had to stay in a children’s home in East San Diego. Later, I had to go there too. I was nearly molested while there, but was able to run away from the boy who assaulted me each time. My brother and I were quite unhappy there. We were delighted when we came back to be with Mother and our beloved little brother again!
The one-room motel cabins were in Mrs. Foster’s vineyard on what is now Arnold Way. Her sister was Mrs. Edwina Brabazon, Keith Brabazon’s mother. Her husband had a brother, Beau, who owned a cabin at Viejas. At that time, the other people on the reservation were almost as poor as we were. No casino, no shopping mall, no Ice Princess, no fancy fountain. Hardly any water at all. They lived in normal houses (all painted yellow by the government) and dressed in typical rancher’s clothing. They herded cattle, grew alfalfa for the bees, pruned their wild-grown shrubs and trees, tended their vegetable gardens and farm animals. It was a hard life.
Our house in downtown Alpine was south of Old Highway 80, up a hill and around a corner. We could walk to the school on Tavern Road. By the time we lived there, the tavern was no longer in business, but its old Victorian edifice was still standing, looming large in the community. The second house was a three-bedroom modern adobe at The Willows. Walls were two-feet thick. The house was cool in the summer and warm in the winter. We were happy there, at the west edge of The Willows on the highway to the reservation. A freeway interchange is there at that spot now. The house must have crumbled to dust. So sad…
Keith Brabazon was the co-worker who helped the woman. He lived on a fruit orchard at Viejas Valley and lives there still. Before he was drafted, Keith and Mother worked at Convair Aircraft Company on Pacific Highway near Rosecrans Street in San Diego. His mother was our guardian angel, taking us under her wing very lovingly. We owe her so much appreciation. Most of the time that we lived at the cabin; Keith was away in the Army. When he would come home on furlough, I idolized him. I hoped he would ask me out on a date, but I suppose he thought of me as only a girl who helped his mother around the house. Years later, my husband and I went to visit him and he said he couldn’t remember me at all. Such is puppy love unrequited…
By that time, I was in Grossmont High School, riding the rickety school bus for an hour each way. We kids entertained ourselves by loudly singing songs that Mrs. Hohanshelt had taught us in eighth grade, catching up on homework, pestering the driver, necking, etc. We kept ourselves from getting bored. Mother, with my brothers in tow, rode the Alpine Union Elementary School bus as it wound around the reservation gathering precious Indian children, then on down the old highway picking up the rest of the students. It was Alpine’s only school.
Mother was the assistant cafeteria cook. I wish I could remember the name of the head cook, and of her mother, who sometimes helped. (Maybe someone can tell me.) Call it favoritism, but Mother would always dish double portions onto my plate when I came through the line. I loved her for it. Mother worked hard at home, too, growing our garden and feeding chickens. I helped a lot, but I didn’t like my job of cleaning up the pens. Chicken “droppings” are gloppy and smelly! Two of our neighbors at The Willows were Mr. Slater and his son, half a mile away. He used to drive us all to church on Sundays. My brother and I rode in the open-air rumble-seat situated where the trunk would be now. One day, as we rode up a steep grade into El Cajon, the left rear wheel came off and went rolling back down the hill. Mr. Slater and his son had to walk a mile down the road and roll it all the way back up the hill. Gosh! They reattached it to the axle and off we went. We were probably all late to church that day.
I never knew why our water was shut off, but Keith’s aunt, Mrs. Foster, graciously helped us again to find a place to live. Keith helped us move our stuff in his farm jalopy—pardon me, his pickup truck. I suppose it’s an antique by now, if he still has it. Mother had Father’s big old rifle with her and kept the coyotes out of our chicken pen by shooting off a round or two. That, and the wildly barking pet dogs we were taking care of for Mrs. Brabazon, scared them off.
My nearest girl neighbor was named Sammie Lemmon who lived beyond the barbed-wire fence to the west of us. We attended Alpine Union together. At school, we would race each other up the ramp onto the playground. She almost always won (I suspect that she let me win a couple of times). I don’t remember many of the names of people I knew when I lived in the Alpine area, but I’ll try to list the ones that come to mind:
Mr. and Mrs. Montague Brabazon and Keith, Mr. and Mrs. Beau Brabazon, Mrs. Foster (who also owned and operated the Log Cabin Tavern restaurant as well as the vineyard and motel), the Morgans of Mt. Laguna, The Petersons, Alice O’Donnell, Antoinette, Faith, Freya, the Gastill family, the Dixon family, Jane and Torrey, Nickey Reynolds (later of Kingston Trio fame) and his sister Janie, Frances Brown and her late sister, their cowboy brother Charlie Brown and their late brothers and illustrious father and step-mother, young Tony alto and an Alton cousin, among others (all from the reservation), Mr. and Mrs. Lemmon and Sammie, Mrs. Hohanshelt, Mr. Slater and his son (who never asked me for a date either), Florence Meza and her family down a road to the east of us, the Schweitzer’s who had previously lived in Florence’s house, Mr. Eschwegge, one of our kind landlords, Dr. Hubbard, Leota and her sister and her mother who taught me how to pray aloud during Bible studies in her home, beautiful Barbara Watkins and her family (I met her later when I lived in Hollywood; she was married to a movie star!), the cafeteria cooks and the principal at Alpine Union (Mr. Parsons?), young Mr. LaForce who drove our high school bus and whom we drove to distraction (please forgive us, wherever you are), and of course others whose names will come to me after I’ve sent this off to the historical museum for its archives. (Hey, folks, please forgive me if I don’t remember how to spell your names, it’s been some 60 years.)
Our church in Hillcrest, in San Diego, held services both morning and evening on Sundays. Between them, Mom took us to various fun, inexpensive places to picnic. We splashed at the beaches, rode the roller coaster, whirled away on the Balboa Park merry-go-round, “sailed” on the Coronado ferry, ambled out on ocean piers breathing in the refreshing sea air, played tag on park lawns, visited museums and the zoo, observed activities at the wharves, watched wild waves at La Jolla, or took walks around town. How special those times with Mother were.
Many people around Viejas probably remember seeing our funny family walking along the highway, Sundays, loaded down with Bibles, sweaters and shopping bags stuffed with picnic sandwiches. After we moved away from the Willows to Viejas, we took the seven a.m. Greyhound bus into town to church. Whenever we missed it, we hitch-hiked into El Cajon where we could catch a city bus. Being a sensitive teen, I thought that everyone on the reservation and all my friends watched us hitch-hiking! (You know how teenagers feel about being easily embarrassed.) But people were kind, and many of them crowded us all into their cars and took us to town. We had to be sure to make proper bus connections going home in the evening. Life was a hassle for Mom, living out in the wilderness. Yet those halcyon days were memorable for us. And filled with hope.
Back then, the mail delivery service at Viejas was unusual. Nobody had a mail box. Instead, we all had canvas mail sacks. Every day, we would clip one to our hangman’s tree at the edge of the highway, with our outgoing correspondence in it. Every morning the mailman would drive by, reach out his car window and grab it off. He would throw out another one for us, with mail in it, onto the side of the road. A couple of times it landed on the berm. Before we could go down and get it, the road department had come by and sprayed black slurry along the shoulder. What a gooey, tarry mess the bag was then! Even today, when driving along Old Highway 80, I see a few of those odd trees still standing. Everybody has proper boxes now.
The summer of 1947, we all came down with mumps. Mother, my brothers Robert and Donald and myself. All at once. People came from the reservation and surrounding area to nurse us, but we were much too sick to remain there. Our pastor from Hillcrest came and checked us into the hospital in San Diego to recover. After we got well, all the church ladies came and helped Mother pack us up and move to San Diego, nearer to accommodations and conveniences. (Our family’s later separations, and then reuniting, is another story of ups and downs in Mom’s continuing life. She weathered every one of them with guts and prayer and Romans 8:28.)
I have always remembered fondly our time of living happily in the countryside and yearned to return. So now I live out east on Historic Old Highway 80 not far from Viejas, in Guatay. I love this place. Thank you, Lord!