Thursday, March 8, 2018

Glenn Alvin Smith, as Remembered by His Son-In-Law

Glenn Alvin Smith, my great-grandfather

My grandmother described her father-in-law, Glenn Alvin Smith, to me many times in the course of our conversations about the Smith family. She talked about his wonderful business instincts, and how, when her husband Glenn Murray Smith told his father he intended to propose to her, that Glenn Alvin said, "Well, that's the smartest decision you've ever made." However, in my grandmother's paperwork, I discovered another amazing source of information about Glenn Alvin Smith.

William B. Ross and wife Virginia K. Smith Ross

Glenn's eldest child, Virginia Kathryn Smith, married William B. Ross. In 1995, at the age of 80, my great-uncle Bill wrote a 10-page recollection of his in-laws, which sheds a lot of light on Glenn Alvin's personality. I'll quote directly from this document in my next couple of posts.

Mother and Dad Smith were a handsome couple. He was average size, of good physique, pleasant features, with a full head of beautiful silver-gray hair which I heard he gained in his late thirties. In the Spring of 1934, when I first met him, he was 43 years old, boasted a beautiful tan obtained, no doubt, from a passionate love of gardening and time spent on the court for tennis and badminton. And how that man could dress... somewhat conservative, but sharp in his use of style and color.
Mother Smith had black hair, beautiful skin, a very nice figure for a "fortysomething." Her clothes came from Bullock's Wilshire and you soon knew her love of coats for every season and always a hat for church and shopping. But what you remembered about her were her eyes-- they simply sparkled when she was conversing happily, and shot fire when she was angry. My nickname for her (but never to her face) was "Sparkle Plenty Smith."1 
If her eyes stand out in memory, Dad Smith matched it with a curly smile that would light up his whole face. In pictures he usually put on his "businessman face" -- serious and determined -- but his smile changed him completely.
How this couple ever met I don't know, but their courtship must have been worthy of a TV sitcom. She was a fervent Catholic in the practice of her faith-- not one to talk about it or proselytize, but "defender of the faith" would be an apt title for Genevieve Murray. Glenn Smith had no religious background that I ever heard of, but apparently he had heard of all the old tales of nuns and babies, cash payments in the confessional for sins forgiven, and so on. Unfortunately for him, he expressed these beliefs to Genevieve and she blew! How do I know? She told Virginia and Virginia told me. But apparently, after a few blowups and makeups, Genevieve got Glenn straightened out and they were married. Glenn was very successful in business, they had five daughters and two sons, and the rest is history of which most of you who read this are a part.
However, you may be interested in just how Glenn became successful. He was never one to sit you down and tell you his life history, but I learned that he was a good accountant and became a partner with a jeweler in the wholesale jewelry business. The jeweler knew the trade and Glenn knew business and accounting and so they made a good partnership.
I know just a little bit of his career phase because in the 1930s it was customary to ask the father if you could marry his daughter. He agreed, rather promptly, I thought, and said he could get me into the wholesale jewelry houses to buy a ring. Considering the fact that I was still at USC and working my way through as a low paid editor of a weekly community newspaper, I thought a ring at wholesale was a brilliant idea.
The wholesale jewelry center in those days was located on Seventh Street, near Grand, I believe. What I remember about that visit was the great welcome that Glenn Smith got from people in the building. He was grinning that curly grin of his as one after another came up to ask him how he was doing in the oil business, and how big was his family. As one would say in today's vernacular, he got a lot of respect. And I got a lot of diamond engagement ring for my little cash.
Reading this account of my great-grandfather is amusing to me, because a number of these traits and proclivities sound quite familiar. His son, my grandfather, Glenn Murray Smith, was also very interested in gardening and plants. He served as President of the Southern California Camellia Society for several years. Glenn Murray's daughter, my mother, is also an incredible gardener. Her vegetable beds are a thing of wonder, and I can never understand exactly how she gets such a beautiful bounty from them. That green thumb definitely runs in the Smith family. Another trait that runs in the family is a love of tennis. Glenn Alvin and his son Glenn Murray both enjoyed tennis. I play, as do a number of my cousins, and now my children are learning the sport. Also, my husband and I bought our engagement and wedding rings from a jeweler located just two blocks from the corner of 7th & Grand in Downtown Los Angeles. Little did I know, as I walked through the Diamond District, that I was walking a path that would have been very familiar to my great-grandfather.

In the next post, I'll continue to quote William B. Ross as he recalls my great-grandfather's career in oil exporting.

1 Sparkle Plenty was a character in the Dick Tracy comics, which were popular for many decades, but especially the 1930s-1960s. Sparkle was known for her great beauty and long, flowing hair. She married Dick Tracy, Jr., son of the comic's namesake.

1 comment:

  1. Erin, I didn’t know your family played tennis so when I read that first paragraph by your great uncle I thought, “my gosh, replace ‘on the court for tennis and badminton’ with ‘sailing’ and that’s his son to a tee!” My Mom liked to say Glenn was “almost too handsome.” And much too belated thanks from all my family for your wonderful posts about Gil Cook, our uncle who we never got to meet. Such a gift. x, Anne