A sojourn in California

Adrian Todd
Adrian Sidney Todd (1918-1959)

When I contemplated the subject of my first post, I decided that I should write about the person who sparked my genealogical interest in the first place: my paternal grandfather, Adrian Sidney Todd. Adrian died young, and I never had the chance to meet him, so I thought I would use genealogy to see what I could find out for myself. He was born 6 February 1918 in Georgia to Adrian Sidney and Susie (Stanley) Todd, and served in the U.S. Marine Corps in both World War II and Korea. On 6 September 1957, in Los Angeles, he married Nancy Elaine Sustersic, a spunky redhead from Indiana.[1] I was fascinated by how these two wound up connecting on the West Coast, so I dug a little deeper. In the 1959 Long Beach, California City Directory I located Adrian and Nancy residing at 229 Truman Boyd Manor.[2]

Long Beach directory

In 1959 my dad and his twin brother would have been just over a year old, and their younger sister, my aunt, was born later that year. So it seemed like I had found what may have been their first home. This was also the year in which Adrian died from complications following an accident, so this would have been the last place where they were a complete family unit. I wanted to know more about this residence that held such significance for my family, so armed with a house number, I began my research.

The Truman Boyd Manor was a building project incorporated by the United States Government for the use of defense workers and their families. It was named in honor of Truman Boyd, son of American Gold Star Mothers’ president, Eleanor D. Boyd, who had been killed in service.[3] The organization acquired the property in 1953 for the parents of World War II victims and renamed it the American Gold Star Home.[4]

The majority of the pictures I have found so far were taken after this acquisition. They depict modest but cozy units furnished with modern amenities and surrounded by lush Californian greenery.[5] While the Mothers surely made some renovations, when I look at these pictures I still feel I am getting a sense of the daily rhythms of life for Adrian, Nancy, and their children. Learning more about the history of the Truman Boyd Manor and the American Gold Star Mothers has also given me a chance to situate them more securely both within their own time and American history more broadly.

After my grandfather died, my grandmother took her children home to her mother Hildur Priester in Illinois; later the family lived in Wisconsin. The California sojourn was a brief one, lasting only two years or so, but any account of it must include Adrian and Nancy’s time at Truman Boyd Manor.

City directories, public records, and census rolls are common sources that we stumble across in genealogical research, but the addresses they contain are more than just a combination of letters and numbers. The next time you notice an address in your ancestor’s record, it might be worth the effort to learn a little about the history of that space. You might come across your own connection to Truman Boyd Manor!

Notes

[1] Ancestry.com. California, Marriage Index, 1949-1959 [database on-line]. Provo, Utah: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2013.

[2] Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1821-1989 [database on-line]. Provo: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011.

[3] “Brown v. Memorial Nat. Home Foundation,” Justia US Law, http://law.justia.com/cases/california/court-of-appeal/2d/162/513.html.

[4] “Gold Star Home”, American Gold Star Mothers, Inc., http://www.goldstarmoms.com/Resources/GoldStarManor.htm.

[5] Holly S. Fenelon, That Knock at the Door: The History of Gold Star Mothers in America (Bloomington, Ind.: iUniverse, 2012).

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About Anna Todd

Anna holds a Master’s degree in history from the University of Connecticut where she specialized in gender and law in colonial New England. She completed her Bachelor’s degree in history with a minor in English at the University of Southern Mississippi. Prior to joining the research services staff at NEHGS she worked as a page at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center at the University of Connecticut and volunteered with the McCain Library and Archives at the University of Southern Mississippi, the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, the Eudora Welty House, and the National History Day Organization. Her interests include colonial America, New England, Pennsylvania, and the South, and she enjoys infusing family histories with interesting information found in court records, wills, city directories, and other supplementary sources.

35 thoughts on “A sojourn in California

  1. Did Adrian return to Georgia after his service in WWII and the Korean War? California got a huge boost in population after WWII, as many soldiers who has passed through the state en route to the Pacific Theater decided upon the end of the war to live in the Golden State rather than returning home. Also, many shipyard, aircraft and machinery workers recruited from around the country to work in the wartime industries here located also stayed.

    Your comment about “lush California greenery” is also ironic in these days of another California drought. Most of California is desert or nearly so. Only after Los Angeles (and later other cities & agricultural districts) started impounding water from the Owens Valley (as depicted in the movie, “Chinatown”) and the Sierra Nevada’s snowmelt-fed streams and rivers, could they support greater population. Many newbies thought they should be able to reproduce the lush lawns that grow so easily in the amply watered Eastern and Southern states. But in normal years, it rarely rains in California from April through October, so lawns require heavy irrigation for many months. Periodically — as in the past three years — we have droughts, which means it rains very little even in the November-to-March rainy season. Now with our much greater population, we have to ration water, and “lush greenery” is pretty low on the priority list, compared with agriculture and basic drinking water.

    — Mike in San Jose, Calif.

    1. Mike,

      You’ve made an excellent point about my greenery comment! I suspect that the Gold Star Mothers may have had something to do with that. It seems as though they were really dedicated to giving the families of veterans a nice place to call home and all of the comfort that comes with that. There is a partially digitized copy of the book I consulted on GoogleBooks where you can see some of the pictures, I believe. There were trees and vines crawling up all sides of the buildings, but now that I look at them again, the grass does seem to be a bit short! I’ve personally never been to California, so it’s nice to have an insider’s point of view.

      About Adrian’s movements after the wars, I think given the time period that he met Nancy in Los Angeles (circa 1957) he must have been working in some capacity in those wartime industries that you mentioned or with the military itself, which is why they were living at the Manor before it was acquired by the Mothers who shifted the purpose of the complex slightly. As the next reader points out, the directory lists Adrian as a student, so perhaps he was also taking advantage of the GI Bill. I haven’t had the benefit of first hand accounts to fill me in on what Adrian and Nancy did during their stays in Los Angeles, so as of now I’ve mostly been taking these standard records and trying to tease something larger out of them. But, I’m hopeful I will find some other clues that can provide me with more answers and maybe an update post!

  2. Anna, what a shame you never knew Adrian! You must be very proud of his service as a Marine in two wars (Semper Fi!).

    Have you investigated the notation “studt” as Adrian’s occupation in the City Directory? Was he studying on funds from the G.I. Bill? Was he a student at a college near to Truman Boyd Manor, or one accessible by public transit? The economy was so much better in 1959, that it did not take much of an income to support a wife and a few small children, so perhaps he could manage that as a full time student on the G.I. Bill. (The massive student loan industry we know so well today was much much smaller, because a college education at all but the most elite universities was very cheap.) What brought Nancy from Indiana to then get married in Los Angeles? Did she live in L.A. as a single woman before she met and married Adrian? Was she also in the military, or a defense worker, or a student too?

    My father was the same age as Adrian, also a World War II veteran, and he too fell in love with Southern California after the war. He moved my mother and me to L.A. in the 1950s and my sister was born there at about the same time as Adrian’s children. My husband’s parents and his aunt left the East Coast and worked in the defense industries in L.A. during the war. So your posting reminds me of some research I need to do into local directories for them.

    1. Candy,

      Yes I am very much intrigued by the student description! This is part of the difficulty of using these standard, often concise records to try to piece together a more detailed idea of Adrian and Nancy’s lives during this period. I suspect that Adrian must have still been working with the military in some capacity or the leftover industries that Mike refers to above, because they were living in the Manor in the transition period between when the U.S. Military utilize the complex for its defense workers and when the Mothers shifted it to a home for the families of veterans. I do know that Nancy wound up teaching early childhood education in a college in Wisconsin, so education may have been what drew her to California in the first place. Adrian may very well have been taking advantage of the G.I. Bill as you mentioned. From what I’ve found so far in census records, it seems as though he entered the military as soon as he could and made a career out of it for a number of years. He may have been transitioning to a second career at this time.

      I’m so glad my post resonated with your own research as well! That was one of my main goals.

  3. If you find an address, type it into Google. If the dwelling is still standing, you should be able to get an exterior view from Google Street View. You may also find interior views if the house has recently been for sale.

    1. Homer,

      You’re right about how helpful Google Maps and Street View can be! I’ve used it a number of times for other projects. Unfortunately, it seems as though the complex is no longer around, which is a shame because I would have loved to get a sense of its exact location within Los Angeles!

      1. Anna, I found a reference to the Truman Boyd Manor with an address of 377 Truman Boyd. That street apparently no longer exists as Truman Boyd, but I found a 377 Boyd Avenue that may be a shortened version of the original street name. What lends credence to it is a statement by a Japanese internment returnee* that his family lived in the Truman Boyd Manor, which he described as “a large apartment complex”. It sounded close to the Japanese area of LA; the current Boyd Avenue is at the edge of LA’s Japanese cultural area. Another reference I found was that it was near Santa Fe Street, which is in the same area. No indication of what the property is now, but it might be worth checking out with historical societies in that area.

        * http://texts.cdlib.org/view?docId=ft9t1nb58r&doc.view=entire_text
        In addition, the Manor figures in quite a few post-WW2 remembrances of people who grew up or lived in Long Beach. A quick search brought up several of them.

        1. My birth cert. Lists Truman Boyd Manor as our home in 1957, Long Beach, Ca. My dad was in the Korean war/ Air force.

  4. My family lived at 494 Truman boyd manor from 1945 to 1949 then to franklin tenn my dad worked at a supply depot in torrance for about 1 year then went to work at long beach naval shipyard in 1951 we came back to calif living at 103 Truman boyd manor and worked at long beach naval shipyard we lived there until 1955 moving to garden grove I went to john muir in the 4th and 5th grade then to Daniel Webster for the 6th grade I went to stephens jr high for 1 semester then in feb 1955 moved to garden grove I have a lot of fond memories associated with Truman boyd manor it was a great place to live I don’t remember any streets having names the basic layout was one single story building at one end flanked by a 2 story building on the right and left sides

    1. My Japanese American sisters and I spent our early childhood at 462 Truman Boyd. In our section, there were two 2-story apartment bldgs facing each other. It is vague, but at one end, I believe there were clothes lines. And the other end was the street that encircled the project as it was sometimes called–close to Santa Fe Ave. We eagerly ran down the stairs when the Helms Bakery van would toot its characteristic honk. We knew the driver would pull out long drawers of delicious donuts and breads. Or the clink of the glass milk bottles being left at the door by the Arden delivery man. Or the Good Humor ice cream man!
      Across the street was a playground with those metal merry go rounds and of course, the swings and jungle gym. It was an ethnically diverse neighborhood of Gold Star mothers and kids, I realize now. We played together and walked to the then, new Daniel Webster Elementary School through fields where you could find scaly horny toads and catch ladybugs, cabbage and swallowtail butterflies all around. And big june bugs which I have never seen since.
      Several yrs ago, our families visited the lone remaining original bldg within the Gold Star Mothers complex. It was used as a maintenance shed. One resident had converted one of the apts into his model planes hobbyshop which he showed us.
      I do wonder if that bldg is still there. So many military-connected families had their sojourns, long and short there in Truman Boyd Manor.

    2. Ron. I think you lived in the single story (flat-top). I lived at 93 TBM. Your dad had a window sticker in his pickup that said”No hitchhikers except blondes, brunettes, and redheads.” I lived in the south end of the 2 stories. I went to Muir, Webb, and Stephens.
      Jim Cheevers, I am 75 yoa.

    3. Ronnie: You, were one of my good friends. I lived at 93, at the bottom-end of the 2 story closest to Spring St. Joe, and Betty were mom, and dad. Your dad had a pickup with a sticker that said”No hitchhikers except Blondes, Brunettes, and Redheads.

  5. My family relocated from Brooklyn NY to Truman Boyd manor in 1943. My Dad, Murray Abramson, worked in the Long Beach Naval Shipyard. He was too old to be in the Service so he worked on repairing ships damaged in the Pacific war. We first lived at U908, a two story building, and then J402 a one story building. My younger brother was born on April 27, 1946 in Long Beach Memorial Hospital. Today would have been his 701st., birthday. He died this past August. I went to John Muir Public School. Anti-Semitism was rampant in Long beach. My family moved back to Brooklyn in 1948. I returned to Truman Boyd manor in 1966 to visit our old residence at J402. It was occupied by a lovely couple from Idaho who was retired.. I recall in 1946 when homes were beginning to empty out as defense workers returned to their homes throughout the U.S. Japanese who were detained during the war (a shameful event) were given residence in Truman Boyd Manor. One of my earliest good friends was a Japanese boy Katzumi (not sure of spelling). I still think of him. His families spirit was not broken by being detained in the camps.

    1. I did wonder why large #s of Japanese Americans could occupy TBM, besides returning as WW2 vets. (My father was in the 442nd Regimental Combat Troop which fought in Italy & France) and from WRA camps. Glad you noted that in 1946 the defense workers began to relocate else where. Re: anti-semitism: Did the Signal Hill oil workers who migrated from the South contribute to this prejudice? I have read that the Ku Klux Klan paraded in Long Beach in 1926…

      1. Dale — This 1963 newspaper article (https://www.newspapers.com/image/22551006/) said that on Oct. 2, 1926, some 25,000 (including an estimated 5,000 from Long Beach) marched in a circuit from/to Bixby Park a week before the California KKK chapter was granted in San Pedro. It doesn’t mention anything about signal Hill workers … but perhaps other, more detailed accounts might.

    2. I believe that in 1946 your younger brother may have been born at Seaside Hospital which later developed into Long Beach Memorial. The actual hospital building was demolished. My sisters and I happened to visit in ??? when the rear of the bldg was being flattened. It had become a comprehensive health center by that time.
      In the 1940’s at least–Seaside didn’t allow children to visit so I couldn’t visit my mother when my sister was born. Her doctor was Dr. Lapid ?? The new mothers were given bracelets with their names on spelled out on lettered beads.

  6. I lived at 242 Truman Boyd Manor when I was 8. Long Beach was a great place to grow up back then. I remember gophers being prevalent in TBM.

    1. Yes, there were lots of gopher holes. Some people would snake a water hose down the hole to drive the gophers out. But I don’t recall if that ever worked,,,
      We lived upstairs at 462 TBM. From the bathroom window, you could see pussy willow branches. We would walk through fields to get to Daniel Webster Elementary school–a completely new modern school at the time in the early 1950’s. On the way, kids would stop at a candy store to buy strips of white paper with colored candy dots stuck to them. Also tiny waxy soda bottles that you chewed off the top to drink the juice inside. Anyone recall those?
      Eventually we moved away to a new tract home in Gardena with a large backyard. But alas no gopher holes!

      1. Yes,
        I remember the store and the wax drinks. And, the gopher holes and occupants. 1958-1959 resident. 7 YO then

        1. So glad to hear some confirmation of that store. I recall it as a rather small room size store with shelves lining the walls. I’m wondering about who actually operated that store. It would have have been a gov’t contracted business??

      2. I lived at 410 Truman Boyd Mannor in 1956. It was a “flat top” one story. Mrs. Rounds, an administrator, lived nearby. We had an avacado tree in our yard. Kids who lived there could go to “toy loan” on certain days and borrow toys for a week and then return them. I went to Webster and had to cross a field where I caught lizards and sometimes got wet when the giant sprinklers turned on. Those were the good old days. A. Fields.

        1. Yes, the good old days–we didn’t realize how much freedom we had as kids to roam on our own. I can only remember a few of the TBM kids’ names. Ground floor apts: Norma Sawyer & her little brother Doug. Billy, Bobby, Arlene. In the apt facing ours, I played alot of board games with Susan Peters. We took swimming lessons together.

  7. Our family lived at 179 Truman Boyd Manor and then 134. In 1960 we moved east down Spring Street which became Cerritos Avenue in Stanton. My brothers and I attended Daniel Webster. My parents were friends with an older Japanese couple, and we attended a small church there which was predominantly black, so yes, very diverse.
    I remember fondly our walks on the nearby railroad tracks and making forts from tumbleweeds. There was a big sycamore tree just perfect for climbing.

    1. From 1943 to 1948 we lived at Truman Boyd Manor. My Dad worked in the Long Beach naval Ship Yard repairing ships returning from the Pacific theater during WWII’
      I went to John Muir elementary school. After the war many defense workers left TBM to return to their homes in other states. The empty apartments were then populated with Japanese that were released from the intern camps. I still remember the open trucks carrying the Japanese to their new homes. I made a Japanese friend, Kotsumi.

      1. I had not heard about open trucks bringing in Japanese to live in Truman Boyd. After internment was over, familes often relocated to other cities, like Cincinnati, Chicago before returning to their former West Coast home communities due to fears of prejudice. Housing was scarce. If their former homes were not available, some lived in trailer parks, church bldgs, even Torrance Airport. That was the consequence of the compulsory WW2 evacuation order when they lost businesses and homes. It is conceivable that these trucked families might have been relocated to Truman Boyd when these temporary housing were.closed down ???

      2. After checking the Densho website, I checked the locations of trailor parks where Japanese found temporary lodging after internment. The open trucks might have been relocating families from trailors on Santa Fe and Burnett to TBM or Cabrillo apts.

  8. When I attended Stephens Junior High School, there were about 20 or so Japanese kids that grouped together between classes. June, and Kay(dad) Ito lived at 420 TBM, and Ronnie, and Dick Hada, students at Stephens, and Poly High. The Nakamoto sisters went to Webster Elementary. In 1943, we lived at 419, one building West of Santa Fe Ave. About 1952 we moved to 93 close to Spring St. My friends: Michael Campbell, Danny, and Dennie (twins) Vela, and Syvia Newquist. Tall, skinney, and red-headed Jack Sullivan(Who later became a professional hit-man) The last building to the RR contained Richard, and David Ridgley, Barbara Ruzek, Quentin Manes(Retired L.B. Cop now) sister Jeannie Manes. One building East had Marilyn, and Diane. Oh, and don’t forget Billy, Barney, Blaine, Bobby, Bruce, Marilyn, and Diane Kostelene at or around 87 TBM. We got dragged into rock-fights at the ball-park about once a month. At about 13 yoa, Jack Sullivan was (watching a ’50 ford for a TBM sailor). The sailor took off the steering wheel, and directed Jack to only start the car every day
    to keep the battery up. Jack put a Vise-Grip on the steering shaft, and put us through the wall of the Lucky Market at Santa Fe, and Spring. I didn’t see Jack for a Month. We moved to 2130 W. Spring about 1956.

    1. Sorry, that was Nancy, and Faye Nakamura who went to Muir, Webster, Stephens Jr., and Poly. I have a 1960 Caerulea Poly High Year Book, my graduation year.

  9. More memories of Truman Boyd Manor: Hearing the races from Lions Drag Strip from nearby Wilmington. It’s now a huge container depot.
    I remember there being an old incinerator at the end of our courtyard. They were later all banned for causing pollution in the greater L.A. area.
    We kids used the toy loan program. I recall how pungent the toys were from disinfectant.
    Dangers in the neighborhood: Watch out for the “polio water” in the gutters! And don’t play with gophers – rabies!
    Like a monkey I climbed the big sycamore in our backyard. Such a big green world up there.

      1. Between TBM and Webster School was a playground with baseball diamonds and some community buildings. We attended Sunday school there. This was where they loaned the toys out to us “poor” kids, and at Christmas gave out presents and candy.
        I remember playing marbles in that playground. Strangely enough when we moved to Orange County in 1960 the kids there were playing the same marble games.

        1. Thanks for those details, esp. the mention of Sunday School. Post WW–Was there a Sunday School teacher named Janet Smith? Eventually the Japanese American kids attended Grace Presbyterian Church on Locust. But it might have started with that TBM Sunday School. My aunt told me that Janet Smith walked the project approaching families after internment.

          1. Sadly I recall very few names from Long Beach. I was told my parents befriended a Japanese couple named (I think) Fumi and Fumio. They had a small vegetable garden in the courtyard.
            I do remember the Sunday school teacher gave us treats afterwards, but not her name.

  10. We played ball(basket, base, foot) at the ballpark, near the office of T.B.M. We could check out balls if we promised to return them, and give our apt. #. I was at 93, right at Spring St. Went to Stevens Jr. Hi., Poly Hi., then BTD, on P.C.H. I raced at Lions Drag Strip in ’64. Ronnie Hada broke my front tooth behind Stevens, and his brother Dickie threatened me for telling my mother. Duh! Barbara Ruzek went to Catalina with me when we were 12, and 13. She lived over Richard Ridgley, and Quentin, and Jeanie Manes at T.B.M. Those were the days. Jim Cheevers 2130 W. Spring St. (now 682 551-3905)

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