Autobiography of W. E. Smith.

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Autobiography of William Edward Smith

Chapter 3, part 7, Burbank

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My chief business being in Hollywood, we had it in mind to move to higher ground with Tujunga in mind. Here again is where Grandpa Smith came into our picture. He had done some graining for Mr. J.C. Crawford, who was at that time Mayor of Burbank, and told him of our misfortune. Mr. Crawford became interested and came to see me in my shoe shop. He had two acres of ground adjoining his home place which he was very anxious for us to buy and become his neighbors, and drew a glowing picture for us. We bought the two acres, and it was January 1, 1922, when we moved off the Ranch to our new home in Burbank, when I could again live with my family.

One of the outstanding neighborly acts of the friends in Westminster had been the presentation of an organ to us by Willis McCoy. Said organ had cheered the residents of Orange County on many occasions, by whispering its melodies to their sympathetic senses, in an old hotel in Westminster. Like all other things, organs grow old and wheezy, as well as people. The owner of this organ decided to part company with it and concluded to raffle it. Willis McCoy won the prize for thirty-six cents and said, "I am going over home and get the team and haul that organ over to Smiths'." Noah Webster says to wheeze is to breathe hard with a husky whistling sound. This instrument took the place of my Chickering piano, burned up in The Fire, and I spent many hours wheezing with this wheezer. It wheezed for funerals, it wheezed for weddings, and a neighbor borrowed it one time to wheeze when a wheezing new baby boy was born. It had become a beloved member of the family, and after some 20 years, it was eventually sold for $50, which we considered a charitable deed.10

10. With this paragraph Will had almost finished his autobiography as he had revised it.  From here on we have only his original handwriting.  We shifted the last of the shoe store episodes to maintain the chronology.  Because of the cryptic state of the final two pages, we left his words exactly as he had mused them.

Many fond recollections and memories remain of Old Ranch which we left behind us, rented to a Reverend Ban, a Japanese Christian minister whom we had befriended in time of need.

My first avocation in life, like most boys of my tender years, was cutting lawns, raking leaves, feeding the chickens, etc. The church needed a new roof, so I peddled potted plants, sold nosegays to the "basso in the choir" on Sunday mornings, tithed my "earnings" to buy shingles for the roof, and by-and-by we had saved shaved shingles for the saved.

I hope I may be pardoned if my vocations, avocations, vacations, occupations, positions, professions, businesses -- bookkeeper, tradesman, salesman, farmer -- and refrigerant classifications meet with some misnomer; i.e., my first occupation as a railroad clerk was not my profession. My next avocation as number-one check writer and voucher clerk afforded spare time to try my salesmanship of oils and lubricants, life insurance, ice cream parlor, which qualified me for future adventures. Also in spare time my acquaintance with cows became very intimate. As a bookkeeper I became a very good wrapper-upper of a loaf of french bread in a grocery, which several years later became my business. The tea and coffee business required management as well as salesmanship to develop it into the grocery business. My horsemanship also came in handy here. Doctoring saddle sore shoulders, extracting nails from horses' hind hoofs, prescribing for Kidney Komplications, applying lineament to strained ligaments, for which I was rewarded by nearly being kicked to death, are but a few of my professional practices. As a farmer, poultry and egg merchant, doctor, dry dock bill clerk, pimento grower, lettuce producer, life insurance salesman, shoe shine, baby sitter, hat cleaner, shoe repairer and at times being Sunday school Superintendent and teacher all come under my classification as refrigerant, that which reduces the abnormal heat of the body. Again I quote Noah Webster. From here we go to the sublime, "professional." An auditor and accountant in civic affairs was one of my professional accomplishments through those best of teachers, experience and intestinal fortitude.

The handling of millions of dollars of other people's money due other people who owed the same to others. For all the acts of benevolence while serving as City Treasurer, I was rewarded with my walking papers in an election. Politics are very fickle. The public is very critical and suspicious. So what price sacrificed for an honest man to enter politics. Public opinion changes as a lighted match bends to a draft.

It was in 1928, when we sold a corner of our Hollywood Way property, that we built the home at 412 Bethany Road. The public in general could not understand this venture and as a result politics had its reaction which resulted in my defeat in the election of 1934.

So "finis" politics for me. The City of Burbank, however, was very good to us as we bent our best efforts to the improvement of living conditions of its citizens. Also our connection with the Presbyterian Church in Burbank, in which Mother and I labored faithfully with Reverends Tom Stevenson and Theodore Henderson, especially, for some twenty years. I was ordained an Elder by Dr. Patterson in the First Presbyterian Church in Hollywood in 1910. I served as Superintendent of Sunday school in that church as its first superintendent from 1908-1911, when we moved from Hollywood.

In the spring of 1934, I had reached the age of 59. A man of 59 or 60 should be able to retire after a strenuous active life and enjoy the moss that may have accumulated on his stony pathway of the past.

The real estate business, into which I finally drifted, is proverbially the pasture for old men in their dotage. While I am not in my dotage, as yet, I can fully appreciate a green pasture and in these my maturing years I look forward to many happy days of enjoyment with my sons and daughters and their families.


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