Do you have relatives that embarrass you? As a teenager I was easily embarrassed by some of my family, but back then I was embarrassed by just about everything, then I decided that instead of allowing myself to be embarrassed by my grandmother (my fathers mother), I would accept her as a unique character. It worked well with my grandmother, however I could not do that with my Dad, guess he was too much in my daily life. After we moved away from the ranch when I was 10, I only saw my grandmother a few times a year. To say she was a little bit country was kinder then my mothers comment that her in-laws were hillbillies.
My Paternal grandmother was Etta Jane Francis. She was born 26 June 1889 in Elderwood, California to Gilmore C. and Caroline (Batson) Francis. Her sister Grace was born two years later on 5 April 1891.
In the 1900 US census we find Ettie (10 years old) with the family in Orosi township, Tulare county, California. Her father Gil is renting a farm and both girls are in school. Etta only goes to school through the eighth grade. She grows up on a poor dusty ranch/farm in Tulare County.
She meets Ira B. Putnam better known as Ike when she is 15.
On 15 July 1907 they get married.
In 1910 US census we find Etta and Ike in Visalia living on the county road from Goshen to Tulare , later to become Highway 99. Ike is shown as owning the farm.
On 3 May 1912 Etta and Ike ‘s son is born and they name him Lloyd Fletcher Putnam, using Ira’s fathers middle name of Fletcher.
Two years later on 10 June 1914 their daughter Gertrude Eunice is born.
In the 1920 US census we find the family in the Linwood Precinct, of Visalia, Tulare county.
Both their families had pioneered the Three Rivers and Visalia area. In the 20’s, 30’s and 40’s the families still took cattle up to the meadows near Three Rivers for summer grazing. They would also all go hunting and fishing. I have lots of old snap shots of the Mineral King and Sequoia areas that they frequented. This snap is not so clear but it does show how Etta would dress during that era.
Ike and Etta continue living on the ranch and raised their two children. They were not getting rich but they were able to send their son to the Ag. School at Davis California for two years and their daughter to a beauty school in Fresno. That’s a lot more education then Etta herself was allowed.
After an extensive back and forth to the doctors in Santa Barbara, Etta lost her husband Ike to cancer, 19 April 1948.
While I have no memory of Grandpa Ike, I have lots of memories of our grandmother. When my oldest sister was a toddler she had trouble saying grandma and some how it became gay. From then on Etta Jane to her family members was ‘Gay’. When we were sick and mom was working Gay was the one who stayed with us. She just lived down the lane and we were often running in and out of her home. I remember the “buster brown” shoes she bought me at Gottschalks in Visalia in the early 50’s. I hated those shoes but I still had to wear them. She would take us to the Drive-in theater, there was a playground up front under the big screen for children to play in before the movie started. I was pretty young when I tried to find my way back to the car one evening and got lost. I was starting to panic when she came after me, I was so glad to see her. Going to the feed store with Gay was a real treat because she always stopped at the Visalia A&W for a root beer on the way home.
Etta belonged to the Visalia Garden Club. She loved her roses. While she did not have a large garden she loved those rose bushes and I can see her standing there with her hose watering those flowers. Unlike her sister-in law Lena, Gay always wore a dress, to be more specific it was a “house dress” and more often then not she had an apron on over it. She used that apron for everything. She shooed away the dog out of the yard by flapping it, carried eggs wrapped in the hem, wiped our face with the corner or found tissue in one of the pockets for our runny noses. It was Gays old car that I fell out of twice. Once in the driveway and once when she was turning onto one of the streets in Visalia. No worries I was never hurt but it cured me of leaning on the car door, even if it took me two times to learn, no car seats back then. I still can see her in our yard in Placerville yelling at the top of her lungs for me to get home.
Gay was an artesian in her own way. She crocheted. She was never idle. She could not read the pattern directions but she would look at the picture and could duplicate the pattern precisely. I hate to throw away those pillow cases that have her beautifully crocheted edges. She crocheted the outfits for all our story book dolls She had a small porcelain high heel slipper that she used as a pattern to make crochet slippers from, then she would soak them in sugar water and let them dry stiff on the form then carefully remove them from the porcelain piece and set them on her tables for decoration. I thought they were lovely. Of course she also made lots of doilies, bedspreads and tablecloths.
I was very lucky to have my grandmother in my life for so long. She died 3 March 1982 in Visalia, California and is buried in the Visalia Cemetery where so many of her family members are also buried.