Autobiography of Frances M. Gray

Gray, Frances 2015 Gray, Wally and Frances

By Frances M. Gray
I was born September 26, 1929, at 1:30 p.m. weighing only five and one-half pounds. Mother tells me that Dad took equal care of me, putting me on the card table at night to get me ready for bed. As winter came on the nights were cold, and he wrapped me like a mummy so I couldn’t get out of the covers in the cold. We had a small trundle bed which was rolled out during the day for my fresh air naps where I became so rosy pink that Dad called me Pinky.

The Depression hit my parents very hard right after I was born. My father worked for Curtis Coal Company and my mother fed the furnace at the apartments where we lived with coal to help pay the rent. We later moved to Boise, Idaho, for work which was scarce.
We came to California before Gordon was born, and as Gordon and I grew up we were always holding school or imaginary games. When Dad was taken from us it was especially hard on both of us, 10 and 8 years old, because he always made fun and games and magic and we had lots of beach trips. He made life exciting, and suddenly he was gone through an automobile accident on November 1, 1939. We were so grateful that we had made the big trip back to Iowa in 1935 to meet and enjoy Dad’s folks and friends in Britt, Iowa, and in Minnesota. We also took in every interesting place going and coming. Aunt Anna made us a quilt which they put together while we were there. We loved it and called it our “Magic Blanket.”

Through grieving and difficult times when we were without our dad, our main goal was to find a home and income property to be bought with his insurance. We found that dream house at 2418 Third St. in Ocean Park that we had been praying for day and night from about November to March. It was a large two-story house with four apartments to rent out.

This is about the time that Dad’s sister, Reva McNabb <M2a.htm>, a new Methodist deaconess, came to California being assigned a teaching job at Frances De Pauw school in Hollywood. She came over every week and was a loving aunt and our substitute dad. Every week we looked forward to a whole day with her and she always had popcorn and good things for treats. She taught us to sew on our old treadle machine. In my eleventh year Reva took me back to Britt, Iowa, for her sister Verla’s wedding. I was a junior bridesmaid. I still have the letters I wrote home while on that visit. I grew four inches that year.

My mother believed that a piano was a necessity in the home. She was able to get a good upright piano for $50. I took lessons from Anna Clark for about four years and mostly paid for my own lessons. I earned money by gardening for Mrs. Von Hake, baby sitting, house cleaning and working at the 5 and 10 cent store. When Mother began working outside the home I had many chores around the house and apartments. We usually had one or two roomers.

I loved to read and when I finally got the room upstairs I often kept the lights burning into the night or morning. What freedom! My grades were consistently good. I skipped one half grade in elementary school. In high school I was valedictorian at the February graduation. When 16 years old I was made president of the Gleaners in Mutual Improvement Association in the Santa Monca Ward of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.. I planned and put on ten going-away parties for missionaries, a weekend snow party and many other activities with Norman Hammer, M Men president.

Then I met Wally Gray, just back from the Navy. We were married in the Salt Lake Temple a year later. Mother, who accompanied us, hurried back home to get her house ready for the reception. The Salt Lake Temple was the only one open that August. We were married on August 29, 1947, about a month before I was 18. We now have been married 52 years (1999).

I had been working at the Telephone Company in the office prior to my marriage. We took one of Mother’s upstairs apartments. Wally worked at the Santa Monica Evening Outlook and went to UCLA. I wanted to continue my education but transportation was a problem with so many GIs going to college and Wally needing the car most of the time. I did Mother’s washing, ironing and cleaning for the rent as well as ironing and baby sitting for others.

Larry was born about two years later. As soon as Wally graduated, he found a teaching position in Escondido. My teen years had been hard, little money to do with, no car, hand-me-down clothes; but it was all good experience for me in my marriage and rearing four children. I had learned how to make a little go a long way.

Wally continued to grow and lead in the community and accept bigger responsibilities in the Church. I, too, accepted callings in the Church: teacher, Relief Society president, seminary teacher and institute teacher along with preparing for and receiving mission and general authorities visiting quarterly while Wally was district president and then stake president. Wally was 20 years in this absorbing work, plus constantly going to school to gain his masters degree and teaching or supervising seminary.

During this time a friend, Phyllis Bahen, and I bought a florist shop and worked a year to build a business. We decided it wasn’t for us and our families, but it was a great experience.Years later I worked six hours a day for a dentist, and later I operated a sub-contracting business assembling computer parts. While ill, I recorded tapes of text books for the blind.

While in Escondido we had three more children, Susan, Steven and Christina (Tina). The last two had poor resistance to infection with many illnesses and hospitalizations and sleepless nights for several years. Trying to meet so many expectations of family and Church led to a break down in my health. During my 30s when Wally was stake president I had eight major operations one after the other to repair what hadn’t worked before. I became a gastric cripple, weighing about 95 pounds in my five-foot, seven and one-half-inch frame. I was not expected to live more than three or four years due to extreme malnutrition. I didn’t die, just existed, so I asked the Lord to show me how to get well in my wreck of a body. Over the next 15 years He revealed step by step the miracle of returning strength.

Our children grew and went their own successful ways, giving us wonderful grandchildren and great grandchildren. As we reach our 70s we find they are our best friends.
Our five years in Australia on two missions for the Church (from 1984 to 1989) were miracles of personal growth and growing ties with 300 missionaries and Aussie friends. We were ever grateful the Lord increased my strength to finish our time there.

When we came home to California we decided we wanted to live in Sedona, Arizona. There we met new friends, served in new ways and came to love the Red Rocks. Mother came to live with us after my step father, Jim Saye, died. Mother passed away at age 98 in 2003.
I was called as Stake Relief Society President, a surprise to me as I thought I was too old. It was a joy in many ways. It took three hours to drive the Mogollon Rim from Sedona to Tonto Basin, the length of the Camp Verde Stake. I came to know many great compassionate women in this calling. I was released from this calling after serving in it for three years and after the stake was divided. We now have the much smaller Cottonwood Arizona Stake which is continuing to grow. I am now a Relief Society teacher in the Sedona Ward.

Wally has been a great support to me. Every period of my life has been hard, but the wisdom and patience I have learned has been worth it.

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About annlaemmlenlewis

I am member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and I am currently serving as a Missionary in the Washington Yakima Mission. Welcome to my personal blog, Ann's Words, and my Mission blog, Our Yakima Mission. If you are interested in family history stories and histories, you can find those posted in Ann's Stories. Thanks for looking in!
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