Woodward Middle School
By Kimberly Mathews
The author Antoine de Saint-Exupery once wrote that the meaning of things lays not in the things themselves, but rather our attitudes towards them. These words of wisdom flawlessly portray my grandmother, Audry Williams. Throughout her life, Audry kept her head up and never lost her unique, individual spirit that everyone she touched came to know and respect.
Audry’s culture, just like everyone else’s, was made of many elements. The most significant, perhaps, occurred before Audry was even born. Because America was a place for "vast opportunity", immigrants from all over the world had set their minds on establishing a home on its soil. A prospect presented itself, and thus Audry’s soon-to-be parents met, and as fate would have it, the pair started a family of their own. He came from Scotland, through Canada. She emigrated from Germany. Soon the pair was starting their own family in the deserts of California. With time, Audry, as well as her four other siblings, three brothers and a sister, were embarking on a life of excitement.
As Audry was growing up, ‘family’ was not something that was taken for granted. Home sweet home was located in Glen Dale, a Los Angeles suburb. It contained three bedrooms: one for the parents, one for the boys, and one for the girls. With several family members per room, there was little opportunity for argument or solitude. Dogs, cats, and birds also added to the occupancy, but their presence was always appreciated.
Approximately every hour before dinner, friends and family would gather to discuss the day’s events. Audry’s love of laughter always brightened the room and made everyone else in it more comfortable and relaxed. It was extremely rare to catch her in a derogatory frame of mind. People came to view Audry as their inspiration; she gave them the extra boost that allowed them to conquer the day. However, that would all soon change.
The fall of 1912 marked the beginning of the Great Depression: words which, even to this day, unearth feelings of lost-hope and uncertainty in the minds of many. The historical downfall shattered beliefs that everyone had come to expect: that working hard, saving money, and treating everyone courteously would guarantee a successful life. It seemed that there was no reason for the havoc and chaos that wrecked the streets of a once seemingly secure nation. Prices of industrial stock fell up to eighty percent. The low prices of produce, along with the inappropriate distribution of money to employees added to the nation’s distress. From January 1930 to March 1933, over nine thousand banks across America failed.
Although the Great Depression left Audry (four years old at the time), with heartfelt memories and lessons, it was said that young adults were affected the most. After all, entering into the world alone at a time of economic instability was not an easy task. Entrapped in a material state of mind, the Great Depression forced everyone to constantly think about food, clothing, shelter, and a variety of other valuables that had previously been taken for granted. However, for the fortunate few who managed to maintain jobs, those items were not an issue.
Audry’s family did not suffer, however, because her father built movie sets for a living. Three of his movies, Mark Twain, Treasures Young Audréas, and The Greatest Story Ever Told had been nominated for Academy Awards. Movies were a main source of money. It was the only form of entertainment that could compete with radio during the depression. In any given week, over one hundred million tickets were sold. Of course, to attract more viewers, the industry ran back-to-back features, and the tickets cost a dollar or less.
The aftermath of the Great Depression led to many events. Republican and Democratic administrations broadened the powers of the federal government, leading to more opportunities for medical and hospital insurances for the elderly. The Great Depression had also left many citizens with a deeper understanding of material worth. It taught many Americans to save and cherish what they have, because in a blink of an eye, they very well may disappear forever.
The Depression, although passed, left room for another event to occur: World War II. The Japanese attacks on Pearl Harbor marked America’s entrance to the fatal War, and back at the home front, our nation was showing exemplary support. For instance, America bought over forty-nine billion dollars in War bonds alone. Any farmer that grew seventy-five percent of their food intakes received a State Certificate of Recognition. Women took up jobs never before given to them, and invaded factories across the nation. Audry worked at home, occupied by housekeeping, while her sister worked as a craftsman. In addition, civil aviation began post-World War II. Nevertheless, seeing a plane always drew a crowd, as compared to our twenty-first century world, complete with space travel.
During the war, Audry kept as normal a life possible. In school, she participated in the same subjects we study today: math, science, social studies, and language arts. Physical education, however, set limits on the activities they were able to participate in. In basketball, for example, girls were only permitted to pass the ball; no running or dribbling was allowed. Boys’ favorites included football, basketball, baseball, and track; however, their competitions were limited. Due to war rationing, only one car was allowed per family, thus transportation was curbed.
Some of Audry’s ‘most memorable family moments’ included events during the war: air raid drills and blackouts were considered common events. Audry, along side her brothers and sisters, would often go outside out of mere curiosity concerning these actions, despite her parents disapproval. Soldiers would regularly dine with neighborhood families and then return to their camps, littered in the vacant lots. Often times, the soldiers would place a mark on the curb in front of a house if it was a reasonable pick. During the war, the mammoth drive-in theater was camouflaged with green and brown paint to match the army uniforms that left such an impact on the life of Audry Williams.
The morals of society in which Audry grew up in differed than the rest of the country at the time. The world she knew did not know racial discrimination or civil liberty issues. Still, etiquette did not lack as such. In the winter, girls sported skirts and sweaters, and in the spring, cotton dresses and saddle shoes were popular. On dates, men would walk on the outside of the sidewalk, and if he was fortunate enough as to own a motorized vehicle, he was expected to open the door for the lady inside. Dresses, hairstyles, and following the latest trends made a girl beautiful. (I guess some things will just never change.)
After her high school graduation, Audry acquired a walk in her parent’s footsteps and did not attend college. As expected, she took up a job in its stead. After her marriage to Bob Williams in 1951, at the age of 19, Audry’s dream came true: she finally had a family to call her own. After giving birth to three daughters and two sons, she remained in the California deserts to raise her family. All her life, her dreams lied not within herself, rather, for her children. To see them do well, and to make sure that each was busy and happy, was her prevalent goal. She had her fair share of challenges and hardships, but she pulled through and never gave up.
My grandmother was diagnosed with lung cancer, caused by smoking, on June 14, 2000. The cancer was so severe when she was diagnosed that it had already spread throughout her body. One week later, on June 21, 2000, she passed away.
Though she may be gone physically from this world, Audry is not gone in spirit. The memory of my grandmother will live on in the hearts of many for years to come. I did not actually get to know my grandmother because we always lived so far apart. I come from a military family, so, despite the well-known proverb, home is where the Navy sends my dad. My mother’s uncle, Greg MacLean, told me about her positive, never-say-die attitude towards life. Now, I can proudly say that I am honored to be her granddaughter.