Everyone’s Story welcomes back Barbara Waite. It’s funny, I’m not quite sure where I’ve bumped cyber elbows with Barbara, but it seems like I’ve known her for years and it’s a lovely feeling! What I admire most about Barbara is her passion and respect for family, as evident in her touching memoirs of her grandmother, Elsie. A former missionary now taken to the keyboard, Barbara shares with you this week more glimpses into the very special life of Elsie. I hope you find her life experiences as fascinating as I have, and hope it fills you with encouragement. Please check out Barbara’s great BookGiveaway offer of the 2nd Elsie memoir, Elsie’s Mountain. We’re both looking forward to hearing from you.
Barbara is offering 1 copy of Elsie’s Mountain, to 1 randomly chosen commenter, so please do leave a comment. The winners will be announced here on Friday, July 22nd between 5-6 PM EST.
** Please note regarding BookGiveaways: email contact information within comments are no longer required. However, if I have a question regarding yours I’ll leave a comment for you to forward it in order for you to chance winning.
Barbara’s past visit on Everyone’s Story: Using One’s Past To Enrich One’s Present
When Words Live On by Barbara Ann Waite
Across the peaks of Palomar a winter wind is blowing;
The mountain air is crisp and keen: tonight it may be snowing.
Against the slopes of mauve and bronze the evergreens are looming,
Where only flowers of memory still linger in their blooming.
–Elsie Hayes Roberts**
As I walk among the apple trees on Palomar Mountain, I marvel at the beauty of the blossoms on the gnarled trees, planted over 100 years ago, many of them by my grandfather and great-grandfather. I experienced through reading Elsie’s diary and journals the mountain culture and the day-to-day life of California ranchers of the time. Elsie loved words. She lived nearly a century and during that time her love affair with words never waned. She loved words in books, spoken words, and words in her diary. Words were the essence of this vivacious woman. Elsie was a wellspring of kind, always-gentle words. Yet, as I looked deeper into my grandmother’s life, I know that she withheld some words. Perhaps the words she avoided using are the story behind this exuberant yet occasionally reticent woman. I tried to preserve these times, in my grandmother’s memoir, “Elsie’s Mountain- Memories of Palomar & Southern California 1897- 1987.”
One newspaper writer described, Elsie (at age 97), as having, “…a mind as sharp as an Ansel Adams photograph.” She viewed life as a glorious adventure, recording a rich diary account of the serenity and beauty of her beloved mountain.
Elsie first traveled to Palomar in 1904 by horse and wagon, a three-day excursion from Long Beach. In the summer of 1918 Elsie, her husband Jack Roberts and their baby Catherine moved to Palomar to work on the apple ranch purchased by her parents in 1904. They eventually operated a small resort.
During the apple-season, they hired pickers with diverse backgrounds and Elsie’s husband often employed British cooks. The combination of personalities proved to be humorous. The sheriff showed up one afternoon to explain that the man hired to chop wood was a convicted ax murderer that had escaped. Elsie served dinner for the sheriff and his prisoner.
I find value in viewing the past, the ordinary, if it causes us to pause and examine our own lives. Elsie never seemed too busy to notice the first flowers of spring, often found peeking through the snow-dusted earth. She often slowed her pace, read, and sometimes moved her bed outside to view the stars, experience the wind, the night sounds, and the earthy mountain smells. Perhaps her story will encourage you to stop and see the beauty everywhere. Perhaps it will even encourage you to extend grace to those around you.
I have tried not to interpret Elsie’s story. In the book by Markus Zusak,*** The Book Thief, Max says to Liesel when giving her a blank notebook, “Words are life Liesel. All those pages, they’re for you to fill. I’m not lost to you Liesel. You will always be able to find me in your words. That’s where I’ll live on.” Elsie’s words live on to tell her story.
**These are blossoms from this year’s crop from trees of 1904.
***Barbara wrote the author of The Book Thief and was thrilled when his agent wrote back saying she could use his quote in her book. A lovely surprise!
Barbara’s Ah-hahs To Tweet:
Author @BarbaraAWaite: how memoirs on others help you to examine your own life. (Tweet This)
@BarbaraAWaite offers #BookGiveaway of memoir Elsie’s Mountain, tribute to a special woman. (Tweet This)
@BarbaraAWaite: Could it be that slowing down to see life helped Elsie live as long as she had? (Tweet This)
Barbara Anne Waite grew up in San Diego, California, spending weekends at the family cabin on Palomar Mountain. Summers were spent on Palomar with her grandmother Elsie. When Elsie died in 1987 (at almost 100 years of age), Barbara read the diaries and letters Elsie had saved. These compelling diaries contained the adventure and love story of her Grandmother’s three years teaching in rural Arizona, and from them Barbara created her memoir, “Elsie – Arizona Teacher 1913-1916.” During her life, Elsie wrote for magazines and newspapers but none of those stories compared to the story revealed in the diaries.” The first “Elsie” book was published weeks before the State of Arizona celebrated its centennial in 2012. That book, published 4 years ago has been voted on Goodreads as the #1 memoir “Old West in First-Person.” It has sold over 3,000 print copies and 5,000 e-books.
Many readers requested the rest of the story, Elsie’s California years before and after her Arizona experiences, when her family operated an apple ranch and resort on Palomar. The first copies of “Elsie’s Mountain” went on sale in October, 2015 at the Apple Festival on Palomar Mountain.
Barbara has been sharing Elsie’s stories and selling her books at community groups, book clubs, historical groups, Rotary meetings, women’s events, libraries and genealogical societies. Historical non-fiction books seem to have potential sales opportunities that novels might not experience.
Places to connect with Barbara: