Shared Stories: Moving to Downey

Charlene Farnsworth’s parents liked what they saw when they brought Charlene to visit a school friend whose family had moved from Los Angeles to south Downey in 1950. They purchased the lot across the street with seven fruit trees, and Charlene joined her friend at Alameda Elementary. Shared Stories is a weekly column featuring articles by participants in a writing class at the Norwalk Senior Center. Bonnie Mansell is the instructor for this free class offered through the Cerritos College Adult Education Program. Curated by Carol Kearns


By Charlene Farnsworth

When I was nine years old, our family often visited my best friend, Dee Anne, in Downey, Calif. She and her guardians had moved from our cramped neighborhood in Los Angeles to a more spacious rural area. All that could be heard was the occasional mooing of a cow and the cackling of hens from a nearby chicken ranch. 

There were numerous orange trees and many undeveloped lots on her street, Dolan Avenue. The smell of orange blossoms and clear, fresh air were enchanting. I so wished that my parents would have a new house built for us on the empty lot right across the street from Dee Anne and her guardians' home. 

To hear only the sounds of nature in a country-like setting instead of the noisy hustle and bustle of Los Angeles appealed to me. Of course, the noise we best friends would create with our giggles and laughter was a different matter.

I hadn't even thought about hearing the nerve-wracking sounds of power construction tools and land movement equipment filling the air for days on end. Also, the aroma that wafted from beyond the chain-link fence that separated the back of the lot from the chicken yard was often quite unpleasant.

At this time, Dad worked as a shop superintendent for a family-owned business, Dura Steel Products. The owner graciously offered to loan my parents the funds to purchase the lot on Dolan Avenue and begin construction. Dad was a talented draftsman, but both Mom and Dad designed the layout of our new house.

Dad, brother Jim, and I all pulled slippery weeds week after week. It was a very dirty, endless job. Several adult family members worked late into the night on various indoor projects. One uncle was a skilled finishing carpenter and another uncle was an expert in linoleum installation. With such talent readily available, many custom features could be integrated into the design. Construction of our new house was well under way!

The abundant fruit we picked from seven orange trees on the property was delicious. We also enjoyed the tasty apricots and peaches. We would plant a sizeable garden full of fresh carrots, beets, tomatoes, squash and cantaloupe after we moved in.

I, of course, was looking forward to being able to see Dee Anne every day, but was not looking forward to saying goodbye to my special fifth-grade teacher, Mrs. Metzger. I can still see her kind, sweet face today.

In June 1951, we moved into our lovely new home in Downey. Transitioning to a new school was easy, and I was soon equally fond of my gentle sixth-grade teacher, Mrs. Tennant, at Alameda Elementary School.

Working the cooperative sandy soil, Mom planted a fragrant rose garden, and I helped plant and maintain our beautiful annual and perennial flower beds. Woofs could soon be heard from a furry addition, our sleek-coated, red-brown little dog Fritzie. In time, the meows from various short- and long-haired cats added to the chorus. 

I am living in this same house today where many happy memories were created and many happy celebrations took place over the years.