Childhood memory of end of world war I |

Childhood memory of end of world war I

by Maggie O'Neill, Appeal staff writer

It was nearing the end of World War I when 7-year-old Esther Engle and two siblings, a friend and several visiting cousins marched through the streets of Berkeley carrying a flag the size of a tablecloth to promote war bonds.

One of Esther’s older brothers, Ray, was a typical 12-year-old patriot and led the group of nine children up the tracks of the Red Line of the Southern Pacific on Woolsey Street.

The boys wore the style of the times — knickers and caps –, but the girls had dug through their own clothing, even Esther’s baby brother’s cottons, for white apparel for nursing uniforms.

“We might have run out of diapers for the nurse’s headgear,” laughed Esther Engle Brown Beverly at her home in Reno as she recalled the scene more than 80 years later. “We had to borrow my baby brother’s diapers.”

Fired up, the children borrowed a flag from neighbors who were the only people on the street who had a flagpole, recalled Esther.

“Everybody was patriotic,” Esther said. “They were German and they loaned the flag to us.”

Esther remembers helping with the war effort in school. In second grade, at LeCont Elementary, students brought in six-inch knitted squares to school.

“There were piles and piles of squares, all to be sewn together to make blankets for the soldiers,” Esther said.

Also, the Spanish flu was epidemic. Children left their homes with gauze masks on their faces. Schools closed, and soldiers were coming home, even throwing themselves overboard rather than deal with the flu, Esther recalls.

But Esther says her brother’s enthusiasm was what led them to march through Berkeley that day.

“I thought we were doing something to help the country,” Esther said. “It was fun having the people coming out and taking our pictures. We felt we were doing something for the country.”

Esther was born in Dunsmuir, Calif., near Mount Shasta, Nov. 6, 1911. After high school, she attended Merritt College in Oakland during the depression.

“There were a lot of women there who at the age of 18 didn’t know what to do after they got out of high school.” Esther said, who studied salesmanship. “Our homework was to go out and look for a job.”

Esther did her homework successfully, placing with a chain store called the National Dollar Store.

“I found a job and gave up school.”

From the Dollar Store, she joined Owl Drug Store, working there until the age of 23.

“Owl prices are low prices,” she quipped.

Esther raised her first family in Berkeley, leaving at the age of 31. She moved to San Diego to be with her mother and brother. After meeting her second husband, the family moved to Downey, Calif., purchasing a shell house on a quarter acre, with nothing inside, not even wallboard.

Esther is the mother of seven children, and grandmother, great-grandmother, and great-great grandmother to many. Of her children, Phyllis Beverly lives in Reno, Louise Crawford in Silver City, and Fred Brown in the Carson City foothills.

For the Fourth of July, Louise Crawford is having an ice cream social. Esther is planning to go for the ice cream, but does not know if she’ll see any fireworks.

“People are patriotic,” Esther said. “The reason I thought about these pictures is one of the television stations were squeezing in patriotic pictures. I told my daughter to find the pictures in the family boxes. “