Dear Jasper and Kestrel,
Over the weekend, Liza and I had another adventure. We visited thousands of people… but we were all alone. It was windy and chilly when Uncle David dropped us of at the corner of Abbott and Romie Lane, where the Garden of Memories Cemetery has been since the city began, more than 150 years ago. Liza had wanted to see where her historical friends, John Steinbeck and the Harvey family, were buried.
I like cemeteries. I like the Lone Fir, which is near our house in Portland, and I like the Garden of Memories. The two are about the same age, with burials from the 1840s, which means they both have some tombstones you can’t read because of the letters wearing off.
First we walked until we found a big, new sign showing us the way to John Steinbeck’s grave. He is so famous, people come from all over the world to visit him here. John is buried in the Hamilton family plot, along with his father and mother, his sister Mary, and his wife Elaine. We had forgotten to bring flowers, but Liza found some that had blown onto the road, and she placed them on the Hamilton headstone. We talked about Mr. Steinbeck and the books he wrote, his library and “newseum”, as she calls it.
Then we walked toward the old apple tree which, for me, marks the Harvey family area. Isaac J. Harvey and his wife Sarah, two of their children and many grandchildren, are here. We talked about the family, with young Mabel being Liza’s favorite. We found Mabel’s big sister, Saphronia, who was the first school teacher in Salinas, and the grave of Saphronia’s little baby Rupert, who died when he was only five months old. The idea that babies could die was new to Liza, and she did some thinking about it while stomping on piles of dirt that some gophers had pushed up.
The wind was very chilly and we needed to find a sheltered place to have our snack. The Columbarium, a building where the ashes of people who were cremated are put in small niches, was a perfect place. Not dark or scary at all, it has big painted windows and is bright and beautiful, with comfortable chairs. We enjoyed our yogurt, crackers and apples while reading memorials to the people.
The sun came out while we were resting, and we ventured out to a small courtyard with more niches and a small fountain. Behind that we found the memorial to Company C, 194th Tank Battalion, a group of soldiers mostly from Salinas who were in the Army during World War II. They served in the Philippines, and 105 of them died there, on what is called The Bataan Death March. The tank and plaque with all their names on it is their marker.
We visited the Jewish section of the cemetery to see some old friends of mine, like Max Gadsky and Sue Dove, as well as people I know only by reputation, like Rabbi Abraham Haselkorn, who was the leader of the Jewish community here in Salinas for many years.
We had more places to see, so we said goodbye to all the nice dead people and headed west on Romie Lane. I’ll tell you where we went next tomorrow!