Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Lyle Lawrence Carringer (1891-1976) -- A Wondrous Life

I often ponder what life was like in olden times - when New England was settled, the glorious cause of the Revolution, the horrors of the Civil War, settling the midwest and the west, growing up in San Diego, surviving the Depression, etc.

It struck me that my grandfather, Lyle Carringer, saw so much in his lifetime of 85 years, and enjoyed almost every minute of it, often expressing awe and wonder at nature, engineering feats and science. I believe that he had a wondrous life.

Lyle was born in 1891 in San Diego, and was over-protected as a boy because his parents had lost a baby boy in 1889. His parents built a house on 30th Street in San Diego and owned most of the block. He learned from the school books of his parents - the McGuffey's readers and almanacs - and attended school, graduating from San Diego High in about 1912. Lyle was curious and inquisitive, and as a boy and teen he explored San Diego and environs on foot or on his bicycle, and on the trolley that ran down 30th Street to downtown. He started working at age 15 as an errand boy at Marston's a downtown department store, and learned how business worked.

As a young man, he stood 5 foot 7 inches and weighed 123 pounds dripping wet. So, he enlisted in the Marines in 1917, but never got out of San Diego, serving at the PX in Balboa Park. He had met, and then married in 1918, Emily Kemp Auble and they soon had a baby - my mother, Betty, who was an only child. Soon, they built a house on the same block as his parents and settled in, with Emily's mother, a widow. The book case in the home was full of popular novels, travel stories, popular magazines and the encyclopedia. Lyle progressed at Marston's and eventually became the accountant and the paymaster for the store.

Like most people of the time, he had his own account book to tally his income and his expenses. Four of these books still exist - from about 1920 to about 1945. In them, he counted the eggs collected from the henhouse and sold, the daily expenses at the grocery store, his income and bank deposits, the trials, tribulations and expenses of driving and maintaining the car (tires were very fragile, the roads were terrible), and details of where they drove and with whom they visited. The details are fascinating - to me, at least.

On the home block, there was always plenty to do. More houses were built for rental, and his parents house was moved from the corner to the center of the block. Repairs to the homes and rentals were endless, furniture was bought, sold or scrapped, gardens were put in and tended. I have rental agreements, rent receipts, home repairs and appliance purchases for the years 1940 to 1975.

Excursions to Balboa Park, La Jolla, the beach, Tijuana, or the mountains were weekly occurrences. There were cousins in Whittier and Long Beach and they often visited them, stopping at Knotts Berry Farm in Garden Grove for dinner. The family took several long road trip vacations - going all the way to Victoria BC one year - and the journal tells all about it (where they stopped, who they visited, how much things cost, etc.) - fascinating!

My mother married in 1942, and I was born in 1943, my first brother in 1946, and my second brother in 1955. My father went into the Navy in 1944 and my mother and I moved back in with her parents. My grandparents doted on me, told me stories, took me places, and let me explore my little world. My grandfather had a movie camera, and I have many 8 mm films of my early childhood. I believe I got my love of history, geography and family from my grandparents - nurtured in my early life by time spent with them.

After his parents died in 1945, Lyle inherited the whole set of properties. They moved into his parents home and sold the second home and the vacant lots on the south end of the block (which was my ball field playground). With these proceeds, they bought a small parcel of land on Point Loma with a postcard view of San Diego Bay. They built a home on the lot and moved into it in 1951. This home became our Christmas haven - since it had a fireplace, and we spent many happy Christmas Eves snug in our makeshift beds waiting for Santa to visit us. Gramp took us fishing down on the Bay, or out to the end of the Point to explore the tidepools, or we climbed the hills and explored the canyons near their house.

He had always collected stamps and had many overseas correspondents. He went monthly to the Post Office to buy sheets of new stamps, and often gave plate blocks and single stamps to my brothers and I for our collections.

Lyle finally retired in 1961 after 55 years at Marstons, and settled into his retirement. He still came over to the 30th Street property to collect rents, inspect the properties, worked on the buildings and the gardens. Also to see his daughter's family and to talk to his grandsons - to hear about their education and exploits and dreams. He was so proud that his daughter and grandson had attended and graduated from college.

He succumbed in 1976 to colon cancer, and his dear Emily joined him soon after in 1977. Their deaths pained me, but became the catalyst that made me examine my own life and beliefs, and firmed up my life's goals.

My grandfather was the most moral, upright, responsible and intelligent man I've ever known. He spoke quietly, listened well, even to his loudmouth grandsons, and enjoyed good humor. He never lost his sense of awe and wonder.

During his life, he witnessed and experienced - either in person or via newspapers and TV - the development of the automobile, the movie camera, running water and toilets in the home, the washing machine, dishwasher, and refrigerator, dirt streets to interstate highways, telegraph to radio and television, barren scrub land to Balboa Park, the San Diego Zoo and Palomar Observatory, gliders to airplanes to blimps and rocket ships, Sputnik to the moon landing, war (Spanish-American, WW I, WW II, Korean, Vietnam), peace, boom times, recession and depression times, 16 Presidents, a 58 year marriage, the birth and growth of a daughter and three grandsons.

It was a wondrous life. And the best thing he ever did, perhaps intentionally or perhaps subconsciously, was to spend endless time with his family - wife, daughter, grandsons and friends - telling them stories, listening to their stories, hopes and dreams, playing board or card games, and encouraging everyone he met to be a good person - to be the best they could be.

I miss him greatly. I wish that I could have him back for just a month or so - to ask him questions, to hear more about his family, his life and experiences, to thank him for loving me and molding me and providing a wonderful stash of family history material.

Who do you miss most? Who had a wondrous life in your family? Who loved you and molded you? Tell me about them - please?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I created a post in response to this. It's at http://onlycrook.wordpress.com/2006/10/12/who-do-you-miss-most/