The remainder of the night after leaving the Grand Canyon was spent in the train. Next morning we found our dining car had been taken off and we had to wait until we reached Barstow for our breakfast. After leaving Barstow we travelled over more desert country which was different from what we had previously seen, because it was dry and without any vegetation except a small desert weed and a tree growing like a cactus.
It was the only time I had seen this kind of cactus and unfortunately I could not get a photo. as we were travelling very quickly
Almost suddenly, we ran into the orange country. There is no doubt about it, I now know what was meant in the song which says, “Come with me now where the oranges grow”. There were literally miles and miles of them. America is a land of big things. When they make up their minds to do something it is usually done. Here they found that oranges would grow and there was a good market for them. Consequently, everyone grows oranges. They look very beautiful in their long straight rows with the dark green foliage spotted here and there with some of the late varieties of fruit. We were in the wrong season for the best pictures as it is in the winter time that the golden fruit looks so beautiful amongst the glossy dark green leaves.
There are two main kinds of oranges grown here. Firstly, there are the navels, which ripen in the winter and secondly the valencias which ripen in the hotter months of the summer. The navel is the most popular orange and therefore it is grown in the largest quantities. Every couple of miles or so we saw one of the Sunkist packing sheds where they are prepared for export. This consists of putting them through a bath of thin wax which preserves the oranges to a certain extent and also prevents any other people from using the Sunkist brand, seeing that the process and the name are both patented. Only the first class oranges are purchased by the Sunkist people. The orange groves are inspected by officials of the company at regular intervals and if the trees and land are kept in good order the owner is permitted to place the Sunkist sign and consequently it is the desire of every orange grower to get the Sunkist sign at his entrance.
The orange groves were with us until we reached the suburbs of Los Angeles. When we reached Pasadena Rozie was very excited as it is here that Uncle Theo has his permanent home. Although she knew there was no possibility of seeing him as he was at his seaside residence at Dana Point a hundred miles away, yet she was wondering which of the many beautiful homes we passed might be his.
We arrived at Los Angeles at about 1.30 and after lunch we decided to see the city. After New York and Chicago we were just getting a little blasé about cities and we seemed to agree without much thought that Los Angeles was “nothing startling”.
There were some nice streets and also some very good shops. But they were not nearly so well kept as many others we had seen elsewhere.
The firm of “Bullocks” was a different story. This store is equal to anything I have seen and the outside of their Wiltshire branch was better than the city branch. Of course, it was a holiday and most of the shops were closed and we only saw the outside. We were advised to go and see the old part of the city where the first settlement was made by the Spaniards and in trying to find this we got into side streets which were very dirty and smelly with a preponderance of foreign people living in homes and shops which should have been burnt down years ago.
Next day I went to the office while Rozie did some shopping. Mr I.L. Hay, the Agency Manager, took my visit very casually as compared with the other men. I think this was due to the fact that our Mr. Ingram, the Victorian Agency Manager, died there just after he had been taken around the city by Mr. Hay. He told me all about this and it would appear that he had a very unpleasant experience at this time. I was passed on to another salesman to take me out to see some installations for the rest of the day.
The next morning, Wednesday the 7th September, we caught the 9 o’clock train to San Juan Capistrano (which I afterwards learnt is the Spanish for St. John the Beheaded) which is the nearest railway station to Dana Point where Uncle Theo has his summer residence. He was down at the train to meet us and had no difficulty in recognising us. Of course, it was a most exciting moment for Rozie to actually meet her uncle after all these years. He was much younger looking than we had expected and gave us both a great welcome. He reminded me very much of Dooney.
He took us out of the station to where Geraldine was waiting in the car ready to drive us to Dana Pt. Quite naturally, I expected to be somewhat of an onlooker while Rozie was meeting her relatives in this way, but I found I was received as one of the family and this kindly feeling expressed so nicely without a single word immediately made me feel at home as a nephew. Indeed I believe Uncle Theo would have preferred to hear me call him Ted also, as he told me that was the name by which he was known, but I had called him Uncle Theo for so many years at home that it was difficult for me to think of him now as Ted, notwithstanding his youthful appearance.
We started off in the car and everything went well until we covered about half a mile and then the car just stopped. Geraldine could do nothing with it and I have never had time to learn anything about a car except how to keep the accelerator down, so we were in a fix. Geraldine explained that a mechanic had just overhauled the car and something must have been replaced incorrectly. Uncle and I walked back to the township to get a mechanic and just took our time as we were not worried about the car, when there was so much to talk about. When the mechanic arrived he only spent a few minutes on the car and then said it would have to be towed into the garage. Personally I don’t think he tried to find out what was wrong as he preferred to make a garage job of it. However, we were towed back in comparative safety, although the fellow handled the job very badly and once broke the towing rope.
Instead of getting a taxi to go home as was at first suggested we went across the road while the work was being done in order to pay a visit to the old Spanish mission which was founded in 1776 A.D. by the man who came to teach the Red Indians of our Lord. We spent a very interesting hour listening to the story told by the guide and visiting the old places which were used for worship and teaching.
By this time the car was ready and we drove home without anything further happening than that we all wanted to speak at the same time. Then we met Aunt Lillian, a lovely lady with white hair, bright eyes that talked and a smile that wins. Uncle Theo was forgiven for falling in love with her. I could have done the same myself. This completed the family.
For the rest of the morning and I might almost say for the rest of the day, we talked about family affairs. Uncle Theo told us he had regarded Rozie’s father as his hero as well as his elder brother. To set out to make his fortune in another part of the world as he had done required a great deal of courage in those days, especially when he was taking a wife and a baby with him. He was regarded as a very clever man with a wonderful future. His illness and death in his early thirties came as a great shock to all the family.
We were told many stories of the family life. At first they lived in Wales. Then they went to live in London and afterwards came across to America when Uncle was 17 years of age. He went into an office by day and studied by night. He eventually reached the university, where he met Aunt Lillian who was also studying theology. After being married for some time and having no children they adopted Geraldine when she was 8 years of age. She was the daughter of Aunt Lillian’s brother.
In due course Uncle obtained the much desired degree of Doctor of Divinity and became professor of theology at the Chicago University. He held this position for over 25 years. During this time he was pastor at the Oak Park Church and carried on this work for 8 more years, making a total of 33. The severe winters in Chicago began to affect his health and after giving the matter very careful thought he decided to take up other work. He is now professor of ethics at the College of Technology and also pastor of the united Episcopalian church at Pasadena. This enables him to live in Pasadena, which is a beautiful suburb with a more congenial climate than Chicago. He has an assistant in his church work which enables him to take his three months vacation at his seaside residence while the college is in recess.
This vacation is not merely a period of rest, but it is used for building up the body and brain and also writing. He writes at least one book each year. Of course there is very much more to hear about him, but we were so excited that we wanted to talk about everything at once and even after this short time I find I cannot remember half of what we learnt concerning the Soares family. In any case, we both spent a very happy day with them and they were all particularly kind to us, especially when it is remembered that they had seen neither of us previously.
We drove a few miles to a neighbouring beach for lunch and had dinner at the home. That was a very happy meal. Uncle Theo kept us amused and interested before, during and after dinner with stories he told concerning the family. We were very sorry when the time came to say goodbye and promises were made to keep closer together in the future.
Geraldine drove us into the city as there was no train at that late hour of the night. The 65 miles were covered in 1½ hours and we enjoyed the drive because it enabled us to get to know Geraldine better.
Naturally, she had kept more or less in the background and had attended to the domestic arrangements while we were yarning with her father and mother, both of whom she shows quite clearly have her love and admiration. Naturally, she is a different type from her adopted parents. She is modern and full of life. No one else drives the car when Geraldine is available. She is artistic, uses Americanisms and has an American voice which is rather surprising when the voice of Uncle Theo and Aunt Lillian are so different. Uncle Theo has retained his English accent and whether it is natural or acquired Aunt Lillian is also very English and has a very soft and resonant voice with a careful choice of language.
It was good of Geraldine to drive us to the city and we told her so when we said goodbye outside the hotel just after 11 o’clock at night.
We went to our room and sat down and talked about the wonderful day until the early hours of the morning, the day which had been the result of Rozie’s persistence in tracing Uncle Theo from his last known address to his home at Dana Pt. and especially when I constantly told her she would never find him. Now we had more than found him, because he had given us the address of Uncle Albert and Aunt Sylvia from whom we had not heard for many years, but were now living in San Francisco where we were going in a few days.