Voyage to California (36) – John Jackson Lewis – January to March, 1851

(1) John Jackson Lewis, (2) Edith May (Lewis) Rider, (3) Marian Faith (Rider) Irwin, (4) Marian Dunlap (Irwin) Guion, (5) Judith Anne Guion.

The following are transcriptions of John Jackson Lewis’s diary and journal of his voyage to California in 1851. He was travelling  from New York to visit his older brother William in San Jose.


(March 7th) In the morning, finding the boat was not likely to start before evening, if then, I took a stroll on the hills, round towards the Golden Gate.  The town proper, be it borne in mind, is not in view as we approach it from the ocean, until we arrived nearly opposite.  After leaving the Gate some four or five miles behind us, we turn around a band of hills or blocks, and the city is immediately revealed.  From the interior of the town a valley runs to the coast, cutting off these hills from their fellows; and over these hills to the valley and along it back to the city, was the extent of my walk.  I found a number of flowers and flowering plants in the hills, some of which looked quite familiar, others were entirely new to me.  Among the familiar ones I noticed buttercups, a yellow violet, columbines not yet in bloom and a flag not much different from the wild flag in the neighborhood of N.  Garden.  The unfamiliar ones I shall not attempt to describe at present, hoping to be able to give a better idea of the Flora in this country at some future time.  The hills on each side of the valley before mentioned are laid off in lots, some of which are decently fence, and contained flocks of sheep and goats, some with patches of cultivated ground.  One in particular had a very comfortable-looking residence upon it, and a garden nicely paled in and under cultivation.  Radishes were growing in open beds, apparently uninjured by frosts or cold.  There are houses enough in the valley to make a little town, and building is still going on.  In one of my conversations with Dr. Gibbons, among much interesting matter, he told me of a curious practice of the woodpeckers in this country.  This was to select a tree and peck holes in it just of a size to admit an acorn;they then take acorns and plug up these holes, driving them in very tightly.  In this way they will put thousands in a single tree.  They live upon these acorns in times of scarcity.  He also showed me a plant having a large bulbous root, which he assured me was used for washing, as a substitute for soap, and answered the purpose very well.  I’m inquiring of the boatman in the evening, I found myself obliged to wait until high tide next day, which would be about eleven or twelve o’clock.

Next Saturday, I’ll continue with John Jackson Lewis’ trip to Alviso and San Jose.

Tomorrow, I’ll continue with My Ancestors, this one all about my father, Alfed Pebody Guion, and his employment through April of 1946, the date he typed  “Life History of Alfred P. Guion.

On Monday, I’ll post a week of letters written in 1943. Lad has had a furlough in Trumbull, Dan is stationed in London, Dick is Brazil, and Ced remains in Alaska.

Judy Guion


Voyage to California (34) – John Jackson Lewis – January to March, 1851

(1) John Jackson Lewis, (2) Edith May (Lewis) Rider, (3) Marian Faith (Rider) Irwin, (4) Marian Dunlap (Irwin) Guion, (5) Judith Anne Guion.

The following are transcriptions of John Jackson Lewis’s diary and journal of his voyage to California in 1851. He was travelling  from New York to visit his older brother William in San Jose.


After breakfast, took a walk with Norry, about the city.  The variety and abundance in the markets as stuffed specimen of an animal called California lion, Chinese goods, the auction stores, and the extent to which auctions have taken the place of the regular mode of mercantile transactions, were among the objects of interest.  I was also interested in noting the peculiar appearance of some of the different classes of the population, as miners, Chinese, and Indians, and the new ways resorted to, to make money, among which boot blacks stationed along the streets, were conspicuous.


Extracts from a letter dated San Jose, March 12

I succeeded in getting to shore about 9 o’clock (3rd. Mo. 5th), and left my trunks at a store near the wharf, with one of the partners of which concern I had become acquainted on the voyage.  I found porters plenty on the wharf, but as they asked $1.00 for transporting my trunks, and I strongly suspected the store was not far off, I left them on the wharf until I found the place, then shouldered them myself and saved my dollar.  The distance I had to carry them was probably 150 yards.  I then took my letter to the P.O. On the way there I saw the sign of Peter Lester, shoe store, – returned there as soon as possible, and was kindly received.  Peter is doing a pretty good business, clearing I suppose from what he told me, from $60 to $70 per week, – enjoys good health, and seems pretty well contented, tho’ of course the absence of his family is a privation.  He directed me to Dr. Gibbons’ office, where I was again kindly received.  After talking with him a short time, I left him to allow him to finish some letters to go by the mail, and walked out to deliver some of the letters entrusted to my care.  I had excellent luck in finding the places, and pleased a number of people, very considerably.  In about an hour I returned to the Dr.’s, and he walked out with me to various parts of the city.  In the course of our walk we called on Norris Palmer.  He and two others are keeping an auction and commission store.  They were about going to dinner when we entered, and at N.’s invitation I of course joined them.  The Dr. having business elsewhere, I remained with N. for a while.  N. and one of his partners, and Watson Smith, live in the building that their store is in, and are their own housekeepers.  They buy their bread of a baker, but cook their meat themselves.  They have vegetables that were cooked and put up in canisters in the States, and these they warm over at their stove.  They make their own coffee, buy milk and butter, and fare very well.  The meal was as good and as satisfactory a one to me as I have sat down to since leaving the States.  N.  gave me an urgent invitation to eat and lodge with them while in the city, and to stay as long as I chose to do so.  I lodged with them, and generally took my meals there, occasionally at the stalls in the streets, and once I bought fish enough to serve us two meals.  I felt satisfied to do the latter because provisions are dear, and my living was costing me very little besides.  Beef cost 25 cts.  per lb.,  Fish 12 ½ cts. per lb.,  butter from 50 cents to $1, bread 12 ½ c.  a loaf the size of common twist.  Theie vegetables were bought at auction, the cost I did not learn.  Milk is $2 per gallon, on the stalls it sells for 25 cents, a tea cup full, just double the price of tea or coffee.  The cup however is quite a large one.

Tomorrow I’ll be posting another entry from My Ancestors. This one is about Alfred Peabody Guion, my Father.

Next week I’ll be continuing posts from The Beginning – Reminiscences of Alfred D. Guion.

Judy Guion

Lad’s Army Life – Surprise, Dad – Oct., 1943

Blog Timeline - 1941-1943

Lad has arrived back at Camp Santa Anita , California after  traveling home to Trumbull on furlough. He has done some serious thinking and has made a decision which he shares with Grandpa.

Dear Dad:

Since I arrived things have progressed rapidly – I have had a complete reversal of more or less personal ideas, and Marian has consented to be my wife. I never thought I was capable of such strong emotions, but they are certainly present. When I have had a chance to calm down and think more clearly, I’ll write again and give you more in detail.

Lots of love,


P.S. I personally think that she can top Jean without a great deal of trouble –

I will not make you wait. I’ll take Lad’s next letter out of order to add to this post.

Lad Guion and Marian Irwin - 1943

Lad Guion and Marian Irwin – 1943

Camp Santa Anita

Oct. 6, 1943

Dear Dad:-

Sometime having elapsed since I last wrote you, I think I can say that, although I’m still way up in the clouds, I at least can think logically.

During my time on furlough I realized that I missed Marian quite a good deal, as I think I told you, but the feeling got stronger and stronger as I came closer to LA, and not a thing could have pleased me more than having Marian, as she did, meet me. I realized then that I really loved her, and I also, as I think I told you, realized that she not only liked me very well, but very definitely loved me. We spent quite a good deal of time discussing all angles of marriage, realizing that this was a rather poor time to undertake anything so serious, and permanent, and although she wanted me to ask her, she didn’t press her point at all. We had both agreed, many months before, in an argument with another couple, that it was pretty foolish to marry during the present war, but here I am sticking my neck out, or rather jeopardizing her life (possibly) by asking her to marry me. Arrangements have been made, as far as is possible for a soldier, to be married at her home near San Francisco on November 14th . We may have to suddenly changed plans, but to date, everything looks O.K. We have gone very seriously into the financial end, and even being slightly extravagant, we will still have a sufficient income to save about 20%. As to my car, she has a lot older car and it’s reaching the point where it needs constant small repairs, so we shall sell her car, and use some of that to pay the $500 still owing the bank. At the moment we shall have no particular need for two cars, and she should have a more reliable one anyhow. She has an apartment which we shall continue to use, and although it is small, neither of us will be there during the day, and its size will facilitate cleaning during the few hours we are at home.

There are two things I regret, however, about the proceedings. (1) You have never met Marian, and don’t know her, so you’ll have to rely on my judgment to bring you a good daughter-in-law, and (2) her parents have never met me so therefore they will have to rely on her to pick out a worthwhile husband and son-in-law. I think I’m getting the better bargain, and she thinks she is, so we’re completely happy. Oh! Dad – she really is wonderful. I wish you could know her now, instead of having to wait. She has one sister and one brother, both married, and her father is a factory distributor of Westinghouse, with a very large warehouse, and serving, I think, the state of California. I wrote to him tonight telling him a little of myself, so he won’t be too much in the dark, but it was quite a hard letter to write, and I don’t think I did as good a job as I could have, had I known him, or at least met him previously. I have asked her to write to you, but here is a little about her. She is 27, and was born here on the West Coast. She has completed her education through college, and for four or five years she taught school near San Francisco and then Bakersfield. Last year she quit teaching and spent some time (a month or so) on the East Coast, as she had done previously, and then accepted the position she holds at present as an Executive Secretary in the Camp Fire Girls. She has charge of the South Pasadena-San Gabriel group. She enjoys it and when the subject of marriage was broached to the Board, they said that it was a good idea, provided she did not intend to leave them. So that fitted right in with our plans, and so far, everything is been going so smoothly I’m beginning to expect some serious reversal. Things have run like a well-built turbine. I’m getting leery.

It’s getting late, Dad, so with the report that I’m extremely happy, I wish you and the rest lots of love, and remain


Tomorrow we have another Tribute to Arla, on Sunday, the next installment of Mary E. Wilson’s Autobiography and on Monday, we’ll go back on time to 1939 when Lad is the only son away from home and working in Venezuela, while his pay is being sent to Grandpa in Trumbull to help support his siblings.

Judy Guion

Guest Post – There’ll Be a Hot Time … – gpcox

There’ll Be a Hot Time …



USO Dance, Washington

USO Dance, Washington

Entertainment for troops at home also provided sources for a social life to the civilians and gave the war drive efforts an available stage.  The USO is usually the organization that comes to mind for most of us.  They had 59 companies going abroad to entertain, but they also provided amusement for those in the U.S.  Just about every city had a USO center for dancing, conversation, food and getting the opportunity to see celebrities.  The Red Cross would usually set themselves up in these centers and supply baskets of goodies free of charge to the troops.  They strove to become a home away from home for the men.  Today, in the Midwest, a group of volunteers re-enact the USO and WW2 era in parades, ceremonies and living history displays.

Washington D.C., San Francisco and NYC had a Pepsi Cola Canteen where anyone in uniform ate for free. They had a game room and showers.  A service center in

USO Center, Miss.

USO Center, Miss.

Georgetown catered to many of the wounded men coming out of Walter Reed and Bethesda Hospitals.  The civilians in the area became very close to the veterans and many kept up their contact years after the war ended.

Being in the National Defense Strategic Railway Route, the Pennsylvania RR depot at Dennison, Ohio doubled as a canteen.  During WWII, over 3,980 volunteers served the troops while the trains were being filled with water.  The Dennison Canteen from 9 March 1942 to 8 April 1946 never closed its doors, ran out of money or food – quite an accomplishment in itself.  The building that distributed meals, treats, magazines and Christmas packages is now a National Historic Landmark.

Outside of the USO centers, I believe the most famous was the Stage Door Canteen.  This was started by the American Theatre Wing in 1942 and ended in 1946.  Situated in

Stage Door Canteen

Stage Door Canteen

the basement of the 44th Street Theater in New York City, caterers and local merchants provided food and drinks while big name performers and service staff took charge of keeping the Canteen in operation, even during black-outs and curfews, for the numerous servicemen that passed through the city.

But, it wasn’t always the women entertaining the men – here in the photo; a sailor is seen enjoying giving Conga lessons at a dance held at the Hamilton Community House in Two Rivers, Wisconsin.  The National Park Ranger Station held dances

Boston Ranger Station

Boston Ranger Station

on the second floor of their building in Boston, Mass. And the Everett Covered Bridge Dance was held each July.  Many a blossoming romance evolved from the dance halls and this was not just true in the U.S.  In Australia they opened the Trocadero, which was a popular dance venue where the American soldiers introduced the locals to the Jitterbug and Jive.  Judy informed me that her father wrote in a letter dated, 23 March 1943: “Last Saturday, the three of us – Vic, Art and Al – went to L.A. to see “The

"This Is The Army"

“This Is The Army”

Rookie.”  It is a ‘scream,’ and we thoroughly enjoyed the whole production.  It is put on by the boys from Fort MacArthur, just south of L.A. proper and they seem to enjoy doing it as well as the audience enjoys seeing it.  It has been running since the latter part of 1942 and the house is still crowded at each performance.  It really is good.”  The Greatest Generation had imagination; “if you can’t entertain us – we’ll entertain ourselves,” seemed to be their motto.

Not everyone wanted to dance or attend church functions.  Neighbors, with their men overseas, created groups to play cards, swap recipes and tell stories.  One such group called themselves the ‘Dumbos,’ in Yankton, South Dakota.  As each man came home, he was required to take the whole group out to dinner.  Thankfully, all their men came home.  They then continued to meet monthly, a tradition that would last for over 35 years.

Special dispensation was given to the Ringling Bros. & Barnum & Bailey Circus to ride the rails during the war.  The government felt their travels to numerous cities helped to keep up the civilian morale.  The Thomas Carnival started in Lennox, South Dakota, to provide clean and safe entertainment for the people of that state and ended up providing midway fairs for 15 other states.  The rides, games and food concessions gave home front diversions from their 10-16 hour work days.



In Stanford, Texas they remember when the high school band played at the rodeo because the “Cowboy Band” members were mostly in the service.  Some of the women from here sang with Gene Autry when in 1941, NYC’s Madison Square Garden hosted Everett Colburn’s World Series Rodeo.  Soon afterward, Autry not only took over the NYC Garden, but the Boston Garden as well and continued the tradition for decades.

The war had put a damper on traveling, but the era was not all hardship.  Individual parties and family events went on, often as though there was no war at all.  Some were based on the war and would have a military theme whereby bringing a piece of scrap metal was the entry fee to a dance or a war bond was given as a holiday gift.  They did not have televisions, video games or cell phones.  People played games together, played instruments and visited friends and relatives.  They rolled bandages and wrote to their loved ones overseas.  There was always a movie theater in town to watch the newsreels and latest movies.

Children did real homework out of books and on paper.  Kids were seen everywhere playing hopscotch, Red Rover, Statues, RedLight-GreenLight, jacks, jump rope, dolls or they would read or just plain make up their own games.  I’m certain I’ve forgotten a number of the activities that went on – what do you remember?  I realize most of the states were not mentioned and I had very little data for countries outside the U.S., so let’s hear from all of you!  Allow Judy and me to learn your stories and that of your town, state or country.

Last, but definitely not least – the radio.  Big stars like Abbott and Costello continued touring the U.S., making movies and performing their skits for the wireless.  And this

Abbott and Costello

Abbott and Costello

leads us right into next month’s guest post where we’ll step back once again in time to visit Hollywood’s contributions.

Resources:  Tom Brokaw’s “Greatest Generation”;;;  Thomas; “Let the Good Times Roll” by Paul D. Casolorph; “Americans Remember the Home Front” by Roy Hoopes;;;;;

If you enjoyed this post, you might also enjoy , the story of the 11th Airborne written by gpcox. Be sure to check it out.

Judy Guion

Re-Post – In the Spirit of the Times- what the world was like back then…

My friend, Alan Stein, owner of Tanglewood Conservatories, surprised me with a post about the correlation of the spirit of my families travels during the late 1930’s and early 1940’s and the boom in Architectural design that had started a few decades earlier with the marriage of steel and glass. 

You have got to visit his blog,   and discover the unique, stylish and extremely useful conservatories he creates for his clients. These rooms bring the outside world into the home and become the hub, the favorite room in the house. The pictures alone are worth the visit, and the history is the icing on the cake !

In the Spirit of the Times- what the world was like back then…

Posted February 9th, 2013 by Alan and filed in Uncategorized

During the latter half of the nineteenth century, architects and builders conceived a new building type- one based on a combination of materials never before available- steel and glass. The great glass conservatories of that time were perhaps its purest expression. It was a time of great optimism throughout Europe and the New World, an age of discovery. Exploration and invention were everywhere.

My friend Judith (Guion) Hardy’s blog on life lessons from the “greatest generation” offers a unique and detailed glimpse into the spirit of the times. “Greatest Generation” Life Lessons which Judith tags “…the story of an ordinary family, trying to live an ordinary life during an extraordinary time frame, and the lessons they learn through experience”. This is an understatement of the relevance of this material.

She found boxes of old letters that her grandfather sent to her father and uncle while they traveled abroad in the 1920’s and 30’s. The spirit of adventure that gripped the times pulses though the letters. Though the time period is slightly after the conservatory building boom in Europe, in America, the early twentieth century saw the design and construction of large public botanical gardens in cites from New York to San Francisco.

Cedric Duryee Guion

These fascinating letters, which Judith publishes on her blog, offer intimate snapshots into the everyday-world that was the context in which the development of the marvelous conservatories of the times occurred. There is a nonchalant sense of adventure, discovery and pervasive opportunity all about. For example in a recent post, her grandfather Ced first talks about his challenges getting his car registered then a few sentences later mentions moving to Alaska and then shortly thereafter, life for his two sons living and working in Venezuela.

She helps us imagine the sense of a wide open new world that must have prevailed. It was in this spirit that the great glass palaces were conceived and built.

Judith has aptly organized the material so that it tells a great story as well. Enjoy!

Alan’s individual conservatories are the perfect balance between art and function, between the outside and the inside, between artistic expression and usable living space. Truly remarkable rooms. Enjoy.

Judy Guion