MAMA

Rae Ellen Smith Dillon was born on July 9, 1914 in Louisville, Kentucky.  When she was almost 5 years old, her parents with mama and her sister traveled by train to Fresno, Califonia.  My grandmother cautioned by mother not to tell the train conductor that it was her 5th birthday during the trip since age 5 meant you had to pay for a ticket on the train.  Naturally, my mother told the conductor it was her 5th birthday and he gave my mother a little lantern toy filled with candy.  The lantern was just like the larger lanterns they used on the trains back then.  I still have that little lantern which would make it about 97 years old today.

My mother was a kind, gentle soul.  She could be quite humorous at times.  Mama went to work at Buy-Rite in Fresno years ago.  She was an order clerk taking orders over the phone and the company sold canned foods and restaurant supplies to different establishments. She knew where everything was in that warehouse and how much it cost.  She was a wiz at her job.  Well liked and respected by other company employees.  Mama used a comptometer with great speed and skill........a comptometer was the first commercially successful key-driven mechanical calculator.  Sometimes she would bring it home to catch up on some of her paperwork.  Naturally, I had to play around with it......a real weird looking device.

Over the years Buy-Rite was bought out by S.E. Rykoff and mother stayed on working for a total of 25 years for both companies.  Periodically under Buy-Rite there would be sales contests for some neat prizes.  One time mama selected a Hi-Fi radio and record player for her prize.  Stereo systems had not come on the market yet.  Another time the prize was a nice chaise lounge chair.  I was very excited when on one occasion she selected a portable radio for me.  It was quite large and took "D" batteries (lots of them).  It seemed at the time like it took 20 pounds of batteries to run for 15 minutes.  It was heavy and had a mirror on the front.  I loved that radio, it was an Arvin.  This was before transistor radios, which were much smaller, were for sale.

Mama was not much of a cook or seamstress back then, but Grandma did those two jobs very well.  Once mama made me a pair of flannel pajamas.......the main problem was the legs were facing two different directions and there was no way I was that limber.  Another time, she baked a banana nut cake.  It was so bad (how bad was it) that when she set it outside in the yard.........even the ants wouldn't eat it.  Years later she became a very good cook.  When grandma went to Florida to be with my older sister when she had her second baby, we planned a picnic to Friant Dam for a Sunday.  We wanted to have fried chicken and I can still hear my dad say, "You girls get out here in the kitchen and help your mother".  We had that picnic but I can't recall how the fried chicken turned out.

My mother loved to play the old piano that was in our house.  During her high school years she played in a three piece group upstairs over a Chinese restaurant in a club, for some spending money.  I always enjoyed hearing her play the piano.  I started playing the piano myself when young.  Poor grandma probably got tired of me banging on it daily, but I did teach myself to play.  I never took lessons and can't read music, but I play by ear and still do.

My grandfather bought that piano in 1923 from Sherman and Clay music store in Fresno for $125.00 and that was a lot of money back then. After I married and moved away from home I told mama I would like the piano.  When my father bought her a Hammond organ, she told me to come get the piano.  The piano was an upright with real ivory keys and probably weighed in at 800 pounds.  My husband and I moved many times and always moved that piano.  The kids were too little to help us so we always had a truck with a hydraulic lift gate on the back. It was never easy and one time we nearly lost it off the tailgate......we promised ourselves that if it got away from us to let it fall rather than one of us be buried underneath it.  In April of 1983 when we moved to Sacramento to accept new employment as managers of a mobile home community, I knew we could never get it into the home they gave us to live in.  I decided to roll it into the park clubhouse where I knew others could enjoy it as well.  I played it often as did others.  Fast forward to December of 2009 when I retired and moved from Sacramento to Coronado and I decided to leave the piano for use in the park clubhouse.  About 6 months later the owners and new managers decided to remodel the clubhouse and my beautiful old piano ended up being put outside and covered with a tarp.  The final blow came when one of my young employees who I had hired and was upset because he didn't get the job to replace me as manager, took a sledge hammer to the piano and threw it into a dumpster.

Mama never got over the death of my father from liver cancer in April of 1968.  Daddy was 58 years old when he passed away.  She never thought of dating anyone again and lived out her life doing things she enjoyed with her sister, Charlotte, who was 3 years younger than Rae.  They enjoyed bus trips to Reno and Laughlin and loved playing slot machines.  I planned and executed one heck of a party in Fresno for her 80th birthday in 1994.  All three of her daughters were there with spouses and grandchildren and great grandchildren.  It was a great party and I still have the thank you note she wrote thanking me for the wonderful day.  Mama finally sold the old family home at 3747 East Tulare St and moved into a ground floor apartment.  Later she moved into a senior citizen retirement home that was now housed in the old building that was the St. Agnes Hospital years earlier.  Mama passed away in a care facility at the age of 82 on September 30, 1997.  With both my parents and grandma gone, Fresno did not hold much attraction for me anymore.

I hope you enjoy these pictures I have added.  The one with her playing the accordian was a hoot.  It was my accordian I had purchased from one of the park residents and taught myself to play.......I was no Myron Florin or Lawrence Welk.

Mama's High School Graduation Picture RHS

The Dillon Family, Rae, Jack, Joan, Cynthia,Charlotte

Mama and Daddy

Easter Sunday, Mama and the girls

Mama and Daddy dancing.

Mama and Daddy

Daddy and Mama with my baby Lisa

Mama, painting in back done by Cynthia

The apron says it all.

Fun at Cynthia's house

There was that old Arvin portable radio.

The beautiful old piano.