Saturday, November 25, 2017

Glenn Murray Smith, My Grandfather

I will be writing a series of blog posts about my Smith ancestors. Before starting, I'd like to be clear that much of what I know about the Smiths is not based on my own research, but that of my grandmother, LaVerne Rutherfurd Smith, and her cousin, Barbara Doherty Andrews. I am merely trying to carry on the good work they've done, and I am very grateful for their many decades of research and hard work. If I get something wrong, or if there are additional stories that should be shared, please let me know.

I'm starting with my grandfather, who I had the good fortune to spend a lot of time with in my childhood.

Glenn Murray Smith

My grandfather, Glenn Murray Smith, was born on March 19, 1916 in Los Angeles, California. He was the son of Glenn Alvin Smith and Genevieve Frances Murray. Glenn was the second of seven children who would be born to his parents: Virginia Kathryn Smith, Glenn Murray Smith, Barbara Frances Smith, Patricia Anne Smith, Shirley Mary Smith, Joan Yvonne Smith, and Kevin Anthony Smith.

Glenn grew up in a prosperous Catholic family in Los Angeles. When he was small, the Smiths lived on on 28th Street in Los Angeles, near La Brea Blvd. My grandfather described the home as sitting on a hill overlooking Baldwin Hills and the row crops growing there. This area has changed significantly in the 100 years since the Smiths were in residence. Now known as South Los Angeles, it is highly urban, and there are no crops growing in Baldwin Hills. The family soon moved to a larger home on nearby Buckingham Road, and this is where Glenn and his siblings spent most of their childhoods.

Glenn with his mother, Genevieve Murray Smith, and five of his six siblings

At my grandmother's urging, Glenn wrote a short autobiography. In it, he shared some details about growing up in his neighborhood.

Washington Blvd. wasn’t busy in those days, even at the intersection of Crenshaw, so we all walked to school. At the corner of Buckingham Road and Washington was a vacant lot and in the springtime we would grab a handful of the long grass with a clod of dirt at the end and have fights. The soil was great for digging “caves,” but I don’t recall getting more than a trench. 
L-R: Patricia, Aunt Gertrude Murray, Barbara, Glenn and Virginia

He also wrote about the house on Buckingham Road and the sports he participated in with his father there.
At one point my Dad hung a punching bag in the side yard and tried to emulate the boxer who could get a rhythm going with the bag. He also had boxing gloves and we used to spar. But I had been taking boxing lessons at the L.A. Athletic Club and I must have learned to hit too hard because that stopped shortly. My Dad had a tennis court installed in the yard but rarely played. We had some games but often used it for skating since I had become quite adept at the roller rink in Culver City.

Glenn Smith, fishing

Glenn attended St. Agnes School, and later St. Paul's School, before entering Loyola High School. Loyola High School is still located on Venice Blvd., between Normandie and Crenshaw in South Los Angeles. In high school, Glenn was too small to make the campus football team, but his enthusiasm for the sport endeared him to the coach, who allowed him to dress for games and sit on the bench. Glenn also played recreational tennis and badminton.

Glenn is in the top row, second from left

In his junior year of high school, Glenn met my grandmother, LaVerne Rutherfurd, at a party hosted by a mutual friend. Their first date was on Glenn's 17th birthday, March 19, 1933. They went to see King Kong at the famed Grauman's Chinese Theatre on Hollywood Blvd. From then on, they spent much of their free time together, going to the beach, attending parties and horseback riding.

Glenn and LaVerne at LaVerne's high school graduation

After high school, Glenn attended first Loyola University (now Loyola Marymount University), and later transferred to Stanford University. Of his years at Loyola, Glenn wrote the following:

Along with my friends at Loyola High School I went to Loyola University which at the time was a lonely group of buildings on a windswept campus overlooking Ballona Creek. Prior to being a campus sheep used to graze the area and the blowing wind made the dust dreadful. There was still a hog farm in open countryside on the way to school and, if the wind direction was right, the fragrance was unusual. 

When Glenn was a teenager, his father's export business required that the Smith parents take lengthy trips to China. The children were left at home in the care of their aunt Gertrude Murray, but they managed to get into plenty of trouble. 

It was during this time that my parents started traveling in part because of Dad’s petroleum business in the orient. They left the keys to a Buick convertible and a charge account for gasoline at the garage Dad used in downtown Los Angeles. The car never got cold.

Glenn and his older sister Virginia were apparently often in competition over who would use the car, and their exploits during these years took on the stuff of legend. Glenn had a wide social circle and attended parties all over the city.

After two years at Loyola University, Glenn transferred to Stanford University in Northern California.

My parents decided to send me to Stanford for my junior year, something I had long wanted to do. I found a room in a musty professor’s house on campus but shortly after that, thanks to a business friend of the family, I was invited to join Phi Kappa Psi.
Glenn moved into the fraternity house, which in time-honored tradition, sounds like it was quite worse for wear, and gained a new group of friends.

Before leaving Los Angeles, Glenn and LaVerne had become informally engaged. However, they had an argument when LaVerne visited Stanford during Glenn's first months there, and temporarily separated. Glenn described this difficult period in his memoirs.

I threw myself into every activity I could find including intramural touch football which was big on campus. I threw so many wild blocks that I was selected for special mention. Also the house had a canoe and when Lake Lagunita filled, I spent a lot of time becoming an excellent canoeist.

Around this time, the Smith family export business started to decline and money was tight. Glenn took a job at a gas station to help pay tuition and rent. With all the hours spent at work and play, his grades suffered. After failing a class, Glenn had to turn his focus back to academics so as not to lose his place at Stanford.

Having survived a difficult junior year, Glenn spent the following summer in an unlikely destination. 

Between my Junior and Senior years I went to Texas [Houston] where my Dad, after losing his export business, was wildcatting for oil. I remember those humid times when, after a shower and before getting dressed, you were already beginning to sweat. No air conditioning in 1935. I was quite excited about going to the ocean at Galveston, planning on body surfing, but instead finding flat, lukewarm water with tiny waves lapping such as you would find at the edge of a lake.

I was boarding in a local farm house and recall arriving after the first day’s work covered with muck and asked where I could bathe. They pulled a galvanized pail into the kitchen and filled it with warm water. When I asked if there was any other way they suggested the nearby creek. Each evening I would take off my shoes at the side of the creek and walk in clothed, wash the clothes first, then strip and wash the body. The water in the creek was so muddy that if you submerged your hand just below the surface it disappeared.

Glenn described long, hot days of manual labor at the oil rig, eating lots of okra and black eyed peas, being harassed by tics in the long grass, and hunting squirrels for dinner. His experience in Texas was vastly different than the life he'd known in California, but it seemed to build character. However, the months in Texas did not jumpstart a new business, as Glenn's father had hoped.

No oil was found. I went back to Stanford, but was told at the end of the first quarter that my family had no more funds and I was on my own. I left school and went to live with my aunt Gertrude in Oakland. After some searching I went to a Shell service station in San Francisco and was sent to San Mateo. The job was four to midnight which left most of the day to enjoy the local swimming pool. I earned enough money to buy a set of orange wire wheels and tires from a 1932 Ford in place of the drab originals on the ’29 roadster. Sporty!

After a few months my mother suggested I get a student loan which turned out to be $200 a quarter for tuition repayable at $5 a month when you were able. I moved back into the fraternity house and got a job in a local Shell station working from 3 to 11 six days a week. My courses were from 8 to 12 which left time to walk to the house, lunch, change and get to the library by 1. Study time was 1 to just before 3. I was amazed how when time available was condensed how I could concentrate. My grades showed an immediate upturn. The social life was limited because my day off was Monday, but there was Lagunita and the canoe.

Glenn graduated from Stanford and returned to Los Angeles so he could help his mother. With his father still in Texas and unsuccessful in finding oil, Glenn took a job in sales at Stuart Oxygen to help support his family.

Glenn and LaVerne reunited in Los Angeles and resumed their relationship. They were married on November 1, 1941 at St. Paul's Catholic Church in Los Angeles. Glenn was 25 and LaVerne was 23. They moved into their first home, in San Marino, and welcomed their first child, Glenn Thomas "Tom" Smith, a year later, in September 1942. 


Glenn and LaVerne at their wedding, and a newspaper clipping about their honeymoon.

Around this time, Glenn's father gave up the oil business and got into wine and spirits production. He asked his son to join him in the endeavor. In 1942, Glenn and LaVerne sold their first home in San Marino and moved further east to Pomona to be closer to the wine business, located in Alta Loma. Glenn described the new venture in his memoir.

Due to the wartime shortage of distilled spirits my Dad determined there was a market for six month old brandy, primarily in Wisconsin. We bottled and shipped several rail cars a week.

In order to obtain wine from the local wineries we had to turn in grapes so we found 50 acres planted to grapes in Etiwanda. I also heard of a winery in Fontana that wanted to lease the property and sell the inventory. The owner’s son had gone to war and he didn’t feel up to continuing. Because of a prior wine export venture to South America, Dad had a high OPA (Office of Price Administration) ceiling. OPA was created ostensibly to avoid prices skyrocketing. We stripped the Fontana winery of inventory, continued lease payments and made a nice profit.

About 1944 Dad was able to buy the Santa Nella Winery with fifty acres of hillside vineyard. The price included the inventory again because of the OPA ceiling the inventory more than paid for the deal.

The Santa Nella Winery was located in Forestville, California, just outside Guerneville, along the Russian River in Northern California. The home that functioned as the center of operations for the winery is still standing, and is now the Santa Nella House Bed & Breakfast. The house is still surrounded by vines, now owned by Korbel.

Glenn with his father, Glenn Alvin Smith, his son, Glenn Thomas Smith, his mother, Genevieve Murray Smith, and his paternal grandfather, Walter Samuel Smith.

Glenn, LaVerne and young Tom moved to Forestville to oversee winery operations. In Forestville, they found immense natural beauty and a community of immigrants who welcomed them with lavish meals. My grandmother always described the time in Forestville as some of the happiest of her life. My grandfather's memoirs describe the terrible cold of the winter and the constant threat of a rising river, but also mention the community my grandmother loved so much.

There was no TV at that time and neighbors were scarce. Fortunately the local Italian families included us in the Saturday night dinners which turned out to be the only form of social life. All the dinners were delightful and had the same format: a drink such as champagne cocktail or bourbon and Coca Cola, antipasto, wine, salad, wine, entrée, wine, dessert and finish off with a little wine. Dinner lasted about three hours with lots of conversation, so about 9:00 o’clock we would thank our hosts, go home to bed and wake up about midnight for glasses of water to quench the garlic burn.

Glenn with his eldest child, Tom, in Forestville

While the wine business flourished, World War II raged. Glenn did not volunteer for service, perhaps because the Smith family's finances and new business were so fragile, but toward the end of the war, he was called to duty.

Glenn with the men at his officers school at Colgate. He is in the third row from bottom on the far right.

In March of 1945 I was drafted and was fortunate enough to be selected by the Navy. The boot camp experience in San Diego helped me to lose the fifteen pounds I gained eating in Guerneville. I was selected for officer training. The Navy had determined that too many flunked out of officers school and had forgotten how to study, so they established a pre-midshipmen’s school which was a scholastic refresher. I was assigned to Colgate University in the town of Hamilton, New York. It was a classic campus with lovely fieldstone buildings. I was fortunate that LaVerne and Tom had come with me and had a pleasant apartment in an old farm house in town.
The war ended about a month after Glenn arrived at officers school, and he was then discharged from the Navy. Glenn, LaVerne and Tom returned to Los Angeles. They settled again in San Marino, buying a home on Endicott Road. On October 31, 1951, they moved a mile west to Carlisle Drive. Here, they raised Tom and four more children born to them between 1949 and 1956. Glenn left the family business to establish his own career. He took a job in advertising at A. Carlisle & Co. in downtown Los Angeles. Glenn designed their product labels. He worked there for the rest of his career.

Glenn, LaVerne and their children at home in San Marino

Glenn had a number of hobbies, including playing badminton in a local league, sailing, birdwatching and growing camellias. He was the president of the Southern California Camellia Society for several years. He did not particularly enjoy traveling, but he and my grandmother rented a house on Balboa Island, in Orange County, for many summers.

Glenn's eldest daughter recalls that when she was a girl, her father took her horseback riding. He also took his children hiking in the hills, where they could rock-hop in the streams. Glenn also took some of the children fishing in Yosemite.

Once their children were grown, Glenn and LaVerne sold the house on Carlisle Drive and bought a home at the corner of Winston Ave. and Lombardy Rd. in San Marino. This was the house where I visited them as a child. 

In about 1988, they moved briefly to San Juan Capistrano, and then to Seven Seas Drive in Dana Point, closer to some of their children and grandchildren. My grandfather would live the rest of his life in this house. He died there on July 21, 1988 at the age of 82. He had suffered for years with Addison's Disease, an endocrine system disorder. He is buried in Lake Forest, California, alongside my grandmother, who survived him. They had been married for forty-seven years at the time of his death. Glenn Murray Smith left five children and eight grandchildren.

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