News of our quest for personal stories for “Life in Pacific Grove” reached Ed Ricketts’ daughter, Nancy, in the Pioneer Home in Sitka, Alaska. In anticipation of a scheduled telephone conversation with Nancy, I posted this on Facebook: “If you were going to talk with Nancy Ricketts, what question would you ask?” FB Friends Rebecca Riddell, Beth Browning, Marabee Boone, Jane Flury, Clarissa Conn, Ron Ochsner, Joyce Meuse, and Joanie Hyler sent questions and Nancy politely answered each one. Here is an excerpt:
Inquiring Minds Want to Know!
–Did you ever help collect frogs? “Not frogs; I knew about them. But that was in Carmel Valley; I did my collecting later on in Puget Sound. Tide pools we visited a lot but we kids were more of a nuisance than a help. When we got older Dad showed us very carefully what to do—‘if you turn a rock over be sure to turn it back.’”
–Tell your brother that Virginia Wright sends best wishes from P.G. “I will tell Ed and give him info if he wants to reply.”
–Who was your best friend? “Helen Wermuth was one—we had fun!”
–At what time/moment in your life did you realize you were proud of your father? “Forever! I knew it right then. Locally Ed Ricketts was known only as Steinbeck’s good friend but he was a lot more than a marine biologist. He was a good father, a philosopher, a kind human being and a friend.”
–What were the things your dad liked most? “Dad had eclectic interests – he loved music. He could see all sides to questions; poetry, he learned some German to read Faust; people, yes, greatly, not crowds, never a speaker, didn’t belong to any organizations. Had lots of friends. He had bad habits – I never focused on those. He was so involved in his work that we didn’t see him very much. But our home life was just wonderful. He liked dogs – we never had a dog – he liked seashore animals. He liked to eat most things, drink coffee; he liked wine and later on beer and liquors but I didn’t know about it when I was young.”
The entire conversation and other stories from Nancy will be in our community book, Life in Pacific Grove. This excerpt from her story about her life in PG during the 1920s and 30s shows us a gentle and caring side of her famous father.
Our Rickett’s Family in PG
I was born at the new Lying-in hospital in Pacific Grove on November 28, 1924. We lived in three PG houses before moving, in about 1928, to my favorite PG house at 221 4th St. We stayed there about three to five years. A note among my papers says that the Depression ousted us, as we paid $85 a month rent and about $40 for electricity.
It was a lovely house, beautifully laid out, at the top of a steep hill looking out to Monterey Bay. It was here that I had many fond memories, like rolling down 4th St. tucked inside of automobile tires (and luckily not struck by cars at the intersection of upper Lighthouse Avenue) but rolling to a stop on the flat before the next big drop to lower Lighthouse Avenue.
There was a black Baptist church at the upper corner of 4th St. that I just loved to visit, especially during choir practice, until it was gently suggested by one of the adults (not my friend Gertrude – or Geraldine) that I not continue to visit. I had heard, and learned “My Lord, What a Morning,” “There’s No Hiding Place Down There,” and “Weepin’ Mary.”
At one time Dad and Mother took us to the train station at Del Monte and put us on the train, then raced the train to Pacific Grove where they took us off.
Cornelia Frances was born in 1927. Dad gave her the name of Bitabee when she was pretty young. It happened when she was stung by a bee and ran to Dad for solace, saying that a bee had bit her. He playfully told her, apparently when older brother Ed and I were there, that she should bite him back—hence Bitabee.
Dad gave all three of us many nicknames at different times. I was Tata; Ed and I were Sheik and Sheba; Ed was Boy, then Junior, then Edward, and later would answer to nothing but Ed. There was Wormy and Peaches and Mugwumps and Nancy Jane, Butterfly Name.
History of Our Community
What an incredible treat to speak with this vibrant woman so openly, hear her stories about Pacific Grove—and giving us a gentler, kinder look at her father. Please go to LifeinPacificGrove.com to contribute your own story before June 25, and to learn more about the October book release events PLUS a special “Potluck Picnic” in Jewell Park for all contributors—Well, the entire Pacific Grove community IS invited! After all, this is a Community Book AND writers do need readers! Patricia Hamilton, publisher, Park Place Publications, firstname.lastname@example.org, 831-649-6640.