Wendy Brown,  4th Essay, English 1A, Instructor: Peter Berkow,


A little bit of my life.

During the 2nd world war, my dad ( Kenneth Rushton ) joined the Royal Navy which gave him the opportunity to see far-off places that he had previously only dreamt of. Dad served on the HMS Orwell destroyer, HMS Nigeria light cruiser, and the HMS Cumberland which can be seen in the 1956 movie "The Battle of the River Plate"

 Ships used in the film: HMS Sheffield as HMS Ajax, INS Delhi (formerlyHMNZS Achilles) as HMNZS Achilles, HMS Cumberland as HMS Cumberland, HeavyCruiser USS Salem as the German pocket battleship Admiral Graf Spee   
Veterans Rendezvous. A web site to help you find a old friend/veteran in the UK

More information and pictures of the HMS Orwell during WWII

During those early war years, dad and mum sporadically wrote to each other. Their mail eventually turned into love letters.  When the war ended, they got married. A year later, I was born into the era of rationing.

For four years, they lived an uneventful marriage.  Dad's navy travels had given him, what our family calls, itchy feet.  He knew there had to be a better life for his family.  England was still struggling, which resulted in thousands of Brits leaving their rainy homeland.

Rainy Oldham, England in the 50's

In 1952, mum and dad joined the mass exodus of dissatisfied
"Limies",  whom left their rain gear, and set sail across the frigid, Atlantic ocean, heading for Toronto, Canada.  Dad went first, secured a job; then Mum and I sailed across the "pond" on the Queen Elizabeth.

Mum's memories of this trip are saddened with the remembrance of receiving a telegram which coldly stated that her mother had suffered a fatal heart attack.   I don't remember this event, nor much of seeing my mother during the entire journey because she suffered extreme sea sickness.  Mum left me in the care of a gentle woman who often kept me by her side on the deck.  I have fond memories of sitting, wrapped in a gray wool blanket, curled up upon a cloth deck-chair while sticking my little hand into a tin of hard-boiled, sugar-coated sweets.

After five days of angry seas, my mother was much relieved to see the statue of Liberty, standing tall, as she slowly appeared through the shrouded mist. We didn't have to go through customs and immigration protocol on Ellis Island, where 17 million immigrants, herded like cattle, passed through this gate and that gate between the years of 1892 and 1924.  We arrived in New York in 1952.  I don't remember much of the journey, but mum and I boarded a train heading towards
Toronto, Canada.

Mum and Dad struggled to make ends meet during their early years in Toronto.  A few years later, my sister, Jennifer, was born three months prematurely. The hospital costs were horrendous as Jennifer needed months of care in an incubator.  Starvation was a real threat without the welfare safety net.  Three years later, while my parents were still worrying about money; I was ignorant of their plight and  blissfully played outside in a winter wonderland of deep snow.  My little sister, Jennifer, would watch over the fence as I and the neighborhood kids built snow forts in the churchyard.  Boys against girls noisily fought their battle with snowballs until the pastor chased us off.  Jennifer (my sister)

was easily amused as I made her snowballs which she then stored in the tiny freezer compartment of our fridge.

The winters were bitterly cold in Canada, and the summers were scorchers. To cool off, my uncle would take me to the "plunge", which was a vast swimming pool that looked more like a miniature lake. I believe it was on Bloor street. My uncle was a good diver, and he'd climb way-up a tall ladder to the top of a concrete, diving platform. The diving platform was so high that I'm sure you could see most of Toronto from it.  When I was only nine years old, he cajoled me into climbing up to the top of the diving platform with him. I followed him up the ladder; and half way up, there was a chance to change my mind and get off the ladder at the "chicken" stop.  My uncle saw me hesitate, and he shouted down to keep on climbing.  I kept climbing, and the pool was beginning to look smaller with each step.  I turned and looked down the ladder, people were already starting to climb up behind me.  There was no turning back. Finally, I reached the top and gingerly stepped of the ladder onto a concrete, four-foot-wide platform.  I walked to the edge of the platform and thought that my uncle would jump with me.  He said that wasn't allowed, and that it was only water and I would be all right.  Oh boy, if no one was there, I would have backed down that ladder.  But it seemed that everyone below was watching me.  I got as close to the edge as I could, held my nose, closed my eyes and free fell . . . faster and faster through the air.  My body started to lean sideways, and I have to admit to feelings of sheer terror. I hit the water on my side . . . ouch . . . believe me, that did take the wind out of my sails, and I'm sure the crack was heard for miles.  I guess that explains why I'm nervous about ladders now.

After struggling for five years in Canada, the Golden Streets of sunny California sounded too tempting to pass up.  My parents sold all their furniture, packed all their belongings, including their two kids, into a 1951 Mercury

and began their 2,000 mile journey to Southern California.  As we pulled away from the curb, we waved to our friends and watched their sad faces fade into the distance. Jennifer and I knew that things were going to improve because Dad and mom were singing, yes they were singing, "California here we come"

We soon found out that the streets weren't made of gold, but life did seem better, if only for the constant sunshine.

For a while, we lived in Buena Park, that was when Knotts Berry Farm really was a farm. While living there, we would drive to Huntington Beach, where the first McDonald's opened up, and when the burgers where only 25 cents. We also lived in South Pasadena, where the "little-old-lady" came from.  Also, we lived in Las Vegas, which was way too hot, and everywhere seemed to be infested with cockroaches.  I can remember mum leaving the lights on all night so the cockroaches wouldn't come out to play.

Finally, mum and dad found the "American Dream" when they bought their first home in sunny Whittier; along with new furniture and our first large, white, longhaired dog, named Duke.  Duke was our loving pet for a few years.  He dug up his fare share of plants, barked dutifully at strangers, actually pissed on one of them, and then . . . we had to find Duke a new home.  Mom was worried that he might harm the new baby; yep, mom and dad were surprised to find out that they were about to have another baby.  My brother, James, screamed his way into this world when I was sixteen years old, and my sister was seven. Jimmy was also a premature baby that looked more like a skinned rabbit.

There was no fat on him what-so-ever.  He didn't even have a butt.  Jimmy continued to scream for months-on-end.  Poor mum was up most nights trying to calm him.  The first night I baby-sat, it seemed that Jim wasn't going to have anything to do with me, he yelled and screamed.  I rocked him, gave him a bottle, changed his diaper, rocked him some more, gave him another bottle, but he wouldn't shut up.  Finally, mum came home, took him out of my arms, and then he finally stopped his yelling.  I guess mum had the magic touch.

Mum and Dad seemed settled, so it came as a surprise when they told us that they were thinking of returning to England.  They realized that, after twelve years, they may not be able to settle down again in their homeland.  I was thrilled when they arranged for me to return to England, before them,  and stay with one of our many relatives.

I had just turned seventeen when I flew back to England.  It was the first time I'd been on a plane, and it was a monstrous DC10 jet with loads of leg room. Now, I know why the term "mad English men" was born; it has to be the weather, it's enough to drive anyone insane.  England is beautiful, green, and wet . . . too wet.  Great weather for ducks.  While I was in England, my parents changed their minds and decided to remain in California.

I continued to live in England for the following year.  Apart from the weather, I loved England and her people.  I had mixed feelings when I knew that I had to return to California. I traveled back on the Queen Mary.   That five-day Atlantic sail was far more memorable than the crossing on the Queen Elizabeth when I was only five years old.  The Queen Mary carried more than 2,000 passengers and a crew of 1,100; a much bigger ship than the Titanic.

I had just turned eighteen when I sailed on the Queen Mary, and just before it was retired to Long Beach, California.  My aunt and uncle put me on a train, leaving Manchester headed for Portsmouth where the Queen Mary was docked.  My aunt
gave me little lunch bag filled with typical English food, an English Meat pie, jam tarts etc.  My aunt was concerned that I might get hungry on the boat, but she didn't need to worry, there was no chance of that. I had never seen so much delicious food in one spot in all my life.  We said our tearful good-byes. I was too excited to feel any anxiety about making this journey by myself.

When I first saw the Queen Mary, I was amazed at the size of the ship, and just couldn't get over how posh (elegant) it was.

In those days, it was cheaper to sail second, or third, class than it was to fly. The cabin I had was somewhere in the middle lower decks, right next to the engine room, and was that ever a noisy experience. The room was exceptionally small . . . more like a closet.  You "couldn't swing a cat in it".  I shared this tiny, windowless closet with an elderly woman. At that age, I was still a very shy person, so I would escape this room as quickly as I woke up and return as late as possible.

It was a fairly rough crossing, not much sun, even though it was during the month of June. It took five days to cross the Atlantic. I did a bit of wandering around on the ship. I went into the first class section (not supposed to really). I was walking down one of the corridors, and as I approached the end, I could see a beautiful ornate balcony coming into view. As I looked down over this balcony, I saw many massive, sparkling, cut-glass chandeliers, rich ruby-red carpet, warm, gleaming-brass railings with cool-marble pillars.  This magnificent room was filled with ladies and gents in evening dress.  The sweet smell of tobacco pipe and orchestra music filled the air competing with the tinkling of glass, laughter, and all the hustle and bustle of wandering people.

In the evening, I'd sit at the back of the boat.  I would often sit there for hours while the sun set, and the moon came up. Sometimes, I'd wrap myself up in a blanket and watch the wake of white, moon-lit water trailing off into the horizon. While I was writing letters to my friends, a few people would stop to have a chat with me. One evening, one of the staff members came up to me. He said he had seen me sat there often.  He told me that he and his friends were having a party in his cabin and invited me to join them. I knew that the staff were not supposed to "fraternize" with the passengers, (times have certainly changed on that point) but that was not the reason I declined his offer, it was just my sheer timidness. I've often wondered, if I had taken up his invitation, if he would have been a gentleman.

When I got off the ship, I had to find my suitcases and metal trunk . . . yes trunk.  This trunk took some finding in this enormous pick-up area that looked more like a Boeing hanger. I was beginning to feel very tiny.  It was absolute chaos. The excitement of sailing had ended, and the anxious emotions were starting to take over.   It seemed like everyone was in a filthy mood.  Not a smile could be seen.  All the employees were rude, and the passengers were flustered.  The noise vibrated in the concrete and steel hanger. I managed to locate a cart and find my luggage which I then wheeled out to where all the taxi cabs where lined up. Wow, was that an experience in rudeness. I asked the cab driver to help me lift the trunk into the back of the taxi cab.  He rudely shouted at me "no-way, I'm not going to
pull my back out".  I found a porter, of sorts, to help me. While the taxi driver was driving me to the bus station, I was wondering what I was going to do about my trunk when we got there. I had imagined that New York would have been a beautiful city, but the drive from the dock to the Greyhound bus depot was extremely depressing.  After the taxi driver dropped me off at the Greyhound bus depot, a porter wheeled my luggage to the ticket counter.  After purchasing my ticket, I had to find another porter to take my luggage to the bus boarding area.  I thought that after I reached the boarding bus area that my main problems would be over.  I was wrong . . . when the bus pulled in, I gave my ticket to the bus driver and told him where my luggage was.  He sharply told me that it wasn't his responsibility to load my luggage.  Since I was only just eighteen, and feeling lost in the middle of nowhere, I finally let a few tears trickle down my cheeks, and a kind passenger took pity.  He was a huge Texan who manhandled this trunk as if it was a lady's purse. He put a smile back on my face and then started to talk my head off.

The bus finally pulled out of the New York station, with me and my luggage.  At last, I was leaving that unfriendly city and on my way to sunny California.  It's a three-day drive from New York to California.  By the time I had spent two days and two nights on the bus, my knees were painfully aching.  At one of the bus stations I managed to talk to my parents on the phone.  They said they would drive out to meet my bus a few stations before my ticketed destination.  I was so relieved to see my mum, dad, sister and little baby brother when the bus pulled into the station.

A year later, I went back to England and remained there for fifteen years.  I entered into a tumultuous relationship, during which I contributed two girls to our exploding population. I was fortunate enough to have a holiday on a sheep farm in Scotland.
That is another long story which can be found on this link.

It was very entertaining going to the farmers sheep auction in scotland and the auction pub afterwards. At the farmer's auction,  I couldn't understand a single word they said. I don't suppose it was much different from most cattle auctions.

What I really enjoyed was going to the auction pub afterwards. A pub lined with rich, dark wood filled with the heavy scent of pipe smoke.  Gentlemen farmers with one hand holding a pint of beer, a pipe in the other hand with a decorative, walking stick over their arm.  The walking stick was often one of their prize possession. Some of the crook/handles were beautifully carved out of attractive, inlaid wood and sometimes with the added touch of brass. Most of the farmers wore a herringbone, tweed jacket and flat cap.

Immediately upon entering the room, it became very obvious that this was, more of a "mans" room,full of cattlemen and shepherds.  I was the only woman and felt somewhat conspicuous; however, I didn't need to worry, as I was made to feel extremely welcome.  It was very difficult to understand their accent . . . after a few beers, it did get easier  :-) I ended up leaving with a cap which was the prize possession of one of the well known bachelor farmers. I didn't keep it though, I knew that, the next day, he would have been sorry that he gave it to me; so I mailed it back to him, just before I left Scotland.

After fifteen years in England, I finally returned to California, with two

little girls and a few bruises, where my parents, sister and brother had remained.  I bought a florist and re-married.

My brother, James is now pushing forty, and has finally stopped screaming, but he still has occasion to yell . . . at his two young, energetic boys.

 Jim, also, now sports, a nice butt . . . so Jaime' my

sister-in-law will affirm.   Jim is an Officer (not bad, eh')

in the navy, and he also gets to practice 'his yelling' on the new, navy recruits.  Jim is now a Lieutenant JG, living in San Diego with his wife and boys.

On July 27th, 2001, he will be going to sea for 6 months. His birthday is on July 29th and some of the crew are planning a surprise party for him. He will be missed very much. I hope he enjoys this cruise and that the months fly by. I'm very proud of him and couldn't wish for a nicer brother.

More pictures of Jimmy

It was claustrophobic, but genuinely interesting, touring one of the submarines that he has had active duty on.  Not for me . . no siree, but Jim loves it, and that's what matters. He has been stationed on the sub that was used to make the movie Hunt for Red October.  The sub that he showed me was in dock for a refit, so at the time it was gutted. Even so, it was still one of the most amazing tours I've been on. We walked through most of the sub, including the mess hall, sonar room, "hot beds", captains quarters, just about everywhere from the bathroom to the torpedo room.

Jim said that in the shifts they worked that as one sailor got out of a bed, another guy would get in. That was why they were often referred to as "hot beds".
Unfortunately, most of the computers in the sonar room had already been removed. The sonar room is near the periscope, and where Jim had received most of his training as he was a sonar technician.  The ship had the smell of metal and oil.  It was a odd feeling to look in the dead-quiet, torpedo room where the cold, strong, steel racks were full of torpedoes.

Jim was promoted to an instructor, and now he is a chief and, he oversees other instructors.

While I was visiting them this summer, Jim took me to his base and gave me a tour of the huge, office building that he works in. This glass building houses an equivalent of the complete innards of a sub. With different sections of the sub in different training rooms. He took me to this room that was a replica of the sonar/periscope section of the sub, and when you walked into it, it did look just like the inside of that particular part of a sub. Fully-functioning periscope, and loads of computers, filled the room. There was another room, next door, that had instructors in it. Jim explained that during an exercise; there would be a team of trainees, that would be put through a potential disaster, they even had to deal with the room tilting.  As soon as the trainees solved one problem, the instructors would fire another one at them.

There was a room which housed a 20ft, round, glass circle. A replica of the innards of a sub was in the middle of this enclosed glass circle. The trainees were really in for some excitement. Into this glass enclosure they go. A few problems are sent their way, then one of the pipes springs a leak . . . and I do mean a major leak, a big-time gush. The room fills up mighty quickly, and in no time the guys are swimming in this freezing water, and having to dive down under the ice-cold water to stop the leak.  Then, as if that isn't enough, the instructors turn the lights out. The wet, cold, frightened trainees have to find a flash-light (while still in the dark); and try to stop the leak, while diving underneath the water, then find, and repair, the burst pipe or whatever was gushing. Sometimes the team doesn't succeed, but boy what a learning experience.

In two more years, Jim will be retiring from the Navy; and then he plans to grow grapes . . . well, sort of, perhaps I should say . . .make wine.

My snowball-collecting sister grew up to become a Registered Nurse but has now retired from nursing;  however, she still  keeps busy satisfying her nursing instincts on her husband and two grown-up children.

Jennifer, and her family, live in a beautiful home near Hermosa beach. Jenny, and her husband, own a rapid-package delivery service.

I love to travel and see new places, and I feel that traveling, and getting to appreciate other cultures, is the fastest way to broaden a persons mind.  That makes me think of a saying " the trick is to have an open mind without letting your brains fall out".

It seems that my dad's itchy feet have rubbed off on me. I've been fortunate enough to have traveled through most of Europe,

England, Scotland, Wales, France, Italy, Germany, Austria, Spain; also been to the Seychelles (off the coast of Africa) where I found the clear, blue-green, warm sea one of the most beautiful sights I'd ever seen, and where I also had a shark scare, but that's another story.

I've been up-n-down the Pacific, west coast of America, and been on a fantastic cruise, viewing the ice glaciers, in Alaska.

While traveling, I enjoy museums, art galleries, walking along sandy beaches, watching the wild life, anything to do with the great outdoors; water of any kind, sea, lakes, streams, boats. My idea of heaven is a warm, star-bright evening, sitting next to a roaring, open camp-fire on the beach, with a good friend for company; and as an added bonus a cut-glass with a touch of 'Hennessy Brandy' . . . somehow a plastic cup just doesn't seem the same.   Life just doesn't get much better than that.

Now I live in Redding, Shasta County (Northern California), where the weather is beautiful nine months of the year, from fall to spring. In the summer, it's horrid, gets up into the 100's. So like so many other residents, I try to leave during those hot months, and I spend a lot of that time over at the coast, near Orick, which is about 30 miles north of Eureka. We put the RV (travel-trailer) right on the beach,

and it's heaven on wheels. I'll watch the fishermen; that are catching fish with these nets, that are held together in a 'V' shape.  The nets funnel the fish down into a narrow point. After the fishermen get a good-sized scoop of these fish, that come in on each wave, when they are running . . . running fish, that is .  The fishermen then dump these scooped-up fish into the back of their trucks. On a good day, the men might fill up the whole bed of their pick-up truck.

I've heard different names for these fish, down southern California, they were called Grunion, not sure of the spelling. If it's warm enough, and the wind is down, in the evening I'll make a camp-fire outside the RV.

It's a pleasure to take my little cocker spaniel, Lydia,

for a walk up and down the beach a few times. I read lots of books, fiction like D. Koonts, but most books are about things that I'm interested in, like herbal books. The last time, I took my Science book,  and really enjoyed reading a few books written by, Richard P. Feynman, the physicist that discovered it was a simple O-ring that was responsible for a gas leak that blew up the space shuttle.  Feynman also won a Nobel Prize. Feynman has written a few books, and the one I enjoyed the most was "Six Easy Pieces".  Feynman was a brilliant instructor who had the knack of making things interesting by drawing an analogy to real life. For instance, he wrote "if an apple is magnified to the size of the earth, then the atoms in the apple are approximately the size of the original apple." The book was funny too, as he was known to be a prankster. Another one of Feynman's humorous books is "Surely You're Joking Mr. Feynman".

Last summer, I went back to England for eight weeks, and I sure could write a book about that . . . some day.

My girls are all grown up, and searching for their niche in life.

This year, my daughter, Stacey, enjoyed a three-month trip around Thailand, and came home with many interesting stories.  Next she went to Alaska and worked in a Kodiak Salmon Packing Plant.  Stacey really has got the itchy feet now, and she plans to do this for a few years.  It's only financially possible because Stacey, and her friends, stay on  WWOOF (Weekend Workers on Organic Farms).  The idea is that you work for your keep, usually 2-4 hrs a day.  I should get around to writing more about her travels.  Stacey highly recommends it to anyone in the position of being able to "pick up their bed a walk" 

I've been fortunate to have excellent staff members & been able to leave the florist and explore other interests in life; ie: computers & web-page design. I, along with the rest of the nation, continue to search for the meaning to life, which I have come to realize is an elusive, life-long search.

OOP's, is my title a "little" about my self . . . I may ramble, but ya can't accuse me of exaggerating !!

Wendy Brown