This is the Schneider-Farris Family's Blog. Keep up with what we are doing by logging into this site regularly! (The reason this site is called "Tragedy and Triumph" is that when I first founded this site, my husband, Dan, had been in a horrible accident, and he recovered. His recovery was a miracle! Go back to the 2005 archives to read our story.)

Friday, March 25, 2011

A Friendship From the late 1940s to 2011 (and beyond!)

My parents met on a "sort of blind date in the late 1940s at UCLA. My dad's best friend was Jerry Smith. Jerry and my dad were lifelong friends and met at UCLA.

The "sort of blind date" went like this:

There were 2 girls and 3 guys. My mom had to choose between my dad and Jerry. The reason my mom told me she chose my dad was:

1) My dad was wearing shoes
2) My dad was short but taller than her.
3) My dad was Jewish.

My parents were married a few years later, in 1950.

Anyway, Jerry ended up marrying Phyllis. Jerry and Phyllis had 2 daughters: Evony and Karen. Evony had Kelsey.

The story would end here, but it doesn't.

When we were kids, our two families got together many times. I played with both Evony and Karen.

Then, many years passed. In the 1980s, Jerry worked for my dad and Karen visited my parents in Illinois.

Evony and her husband Jim, moved to Colorado Springs in the mid 1990s. My parents sent a copy of a letter Karen wrote to them to Jo Ann telling about Evony and Jim being in the Springs and of "baby Kelsey." Jo Ann decided to contact Evony by mail.

Evony called me and we set up a time to meet. I was in the middle of hiring coaches for the ice rink at the Chapel Hills mall shortly after that. Evony mentioned her husband Jim played hockey. Jo Ann hired Jim to coach hockey at the rink.

Eventually, Jim started teaching learn to play hockey classes at the mall rink and Kelsey learned to skate. In fact, Jo Ann, was Kelsey's first private lesson skating teacher.

My children and Kelsey became good friends and played and skated together when they were little. We've been in touch ever since.

Who would have thought that a friendship and blind date in the 1940s would result in a continuing relationsihip in 2011!?

These photos are of me and my kids and of Kelsey and Phyllis and Evony and Karen. They were taken when Phyllis and Karen were in Colorado visiting Kelsey, Evony, and Jim during Spring Break 2011.

Sadly, Jerry and my mom are no longer with us, but the memories of the good times and how we are connected remain. I wish my dad could have been with us in Colorado to be together with Jerry's family, but he is in Chicago right now. (Daddy...we all were thinking of you today!)

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Skiing! 3-21-2011

We went skiing on Monday 3-21-11 at Ski Cooper! It was WONDERFUL!

We went to our favorite place: Ski Cooper. We have taken the kids there since they were tots and we all just love that mountain!

Annabelle and I went up and down the mountain about 7 or 8 times. Joel thinks he skied every run in the place (about 25 runs!) and Rebekah snowboarded. Dan went on a two mile snowshoe hike!

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Rebekah and Annabelle Pass More Figure Skating Tests 3-6-11

Today, Rebekah passed her junior moves in the field test! What a major accomplishment! And...Annabelle did a tremendous job on her Hickory Hoedown which is a Bronze dance. Thank you Ryan Jahnke, for skating with Annabelle for the test and for coaching Rebekah through such a great junior moves test.

Many fellow Broadmoor Skating Club members passed tests. Ana Vinson, passed her Senior Moves in the Field test and Logan Bye passed his Gold Dance Test! Ana is only 12 and Logan just turned 13. Wow passing those tests at such a young age is really impressive.

Go kids!

Friday, March 04, 2011

John Coughlin Teaches Pair Lifts to Annabelle and Joel - 3-3-11

Annabelle and Joel get to take off-ice pair lift lessons from U.S. National Pair Skating Champion John Coughlin!

After their lesson on 3-3-11, the 2011 National Pair Skating Champs (Caitlin Yankowskas and John Coughlin) took the time to smile with my kids!

Someday we'll say, "We knew them WHEN!"

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Remembering The Atherton House

Dan and I were married on April 7, 1979. Three weeks later, I found out that my full-time job we were counting on to help pay the bills was going to end.

We realized we would not be able to afford the two bedroom apartment we were living in. We decided that the best alternative was to move to a less expensive place. We thought that the idea of sharing a house might help us make ends meet.

So...three weeks after we were married, we moved into a house in Long Beach, California owned by a young man named Richard. The house happened to be on a street called Atherton Street.

Richard wanted to get a few young people together to help pay his mortgage.

We didn't know was that three years of "adventures" were in store for us.

This is our story.

The Atherton House was a bit like a commune. Communal living was common in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

When I finished college, I had just left the world of competitive figure skating. I wanted to live in a commune! Don't ask me why...but that is what I wanted to do. (Maybe all those years of skating made me want to do something crazy!)

The Atherton House made that wish come true in a way. Enjoy my story.


Cast of Characters:

When we moved into the house on Atherton Street it was just an ordinary three bedroom home. It had a "cast of characters" which can explain better what the house was really like and where it went.

The Original Group

Richard was 22 years old, and a senior at Long Beach State. He was a very goal-oriented and accomplished individual.

Richard’s father gave him $20,000 for the down payment. He and his father were going to co-own the house. Richard would make the house payments with the rent money collected by "housemates."

Then there was Jeff, an ex-con. He had served time for pushing drugs. He was the oldest of our group: about 26 or 27. Jeff was an easy going guy who was looking for roommates and splitting a house with others sounded nice to him. He worked for Grabber, a company that sold screws. He had a dog, a waterbed, a guitar, and was a pretty regular guy.

Next, there was Don. Don was a very nice, nice guy with curly hair. He played the guitar and banjo. Don built furniture and smiled all the time.

Then came Dan and Jo Ann. Newlyweds. 2 young people not really ready for marriage, very much in love, and needing to save money after Jo Ann lost her job at a private school.

We were all just roommates then. No "ministry type" house. No commune; just five individuals wanting to make ends meet. We decided, at the beginning, to not have a television in the house. No one missed TV.

The day we began bringing our belongings to the house, Richard told us he preferred we not have the master bedroom. He thought two single guys (Don and Jeff) would have more stuff than a married couple. We didn’t object. We were grateful and happy to have a home.

The house was a typical large California rancher that sat right next to the 405 freeway. It had three bedrooms, two bathrooms, an L-shaped living, dining, and family room area, a large kitchen with a kitchen nook, and an attached garage.

Dan and I took the front “kids” bedroom and spread many of our wedding gifts in other areas of the house, including the kitchen. Richard took the smaller bedroom. We were to share the front bathroom with Richard. Don and Jeff moved into the back master bedroom with its huge master bath.

Richard worked a graveyard shift, and requested that everyone take showers in the afternoon or early evening before he went to bed at 7:00 PM. He slept in the morning and didn’t want any noise.

The house was fairly "normal" in the beginning.

I was not without a job for long. I didn’t quite know what to do and wanted a job in a bank or in a store that involved little thinking. I remember going on interviews to banks, but I had no experience with money, and never was called back after any interviews.

Then, while driving home sometime in June, I dropped some film by a Fotomat. A HELP-WANTED sign was in the window. I applied, and was called in for an interview about the time we settled into the house.

It was an easy job: I worked 10—2:30 Monday through Friday, and every other Saturday from 10—4. It paid next to nothing, but life at the new house had little pressures.

Our newlywed existence included going to work (me at Fotomat) and Dan as a “materials handling supervisor” (dock worker) at The Broadway Department Store. Dan worked a 7—4 shift and my 10—2:30 PM shift fit in perfectly. I would shower when I came home from work, and then get on my 3-wheeled adult tricycle and ride to the Broadway. We would ride our bikes somewhere in Long Beach for dinner and then we'd ride our bikes all over Long Beach. We were very much in love and did nothing else and really had no worries.

Russ Joins Us

The house didn’t stay “normal” for long. The change came when Richard asked us all what we thought about allowing a sophomore at Long Beach State, Russ, to move in too. Everyone thought a little cut in rent might be nice.

Russ was quite excited to join us, and just didn’t get it that we all just wanted to live in the house in peace. He began bringing home individuals that he met on the street. He would show them a couch and leave them in the house. I didn’t like Russ doing that at first, but got used to it.

The characters Russ brought home were all very "interesting." One became a paying housemate....

His name was Ron.

Ron was a disabled man who wanted to get out of a nursing home. We was a polio victim. Looking at Ron was hard and uncomfortable. He had only one arm that worked. The other just hung like a rubber band. His back was arched and bent. He had a tube in his neck. At night he plugged a respirator into the tube. He was so, so small too.

Ron’s moving into the house changed it. We no longer were normal young people sharing a house; we were a "ministry."

Ron needed us. He slept in the living room for a couple of weeks, but the noise of the respirator kept everyone awake. He smelled because of his medicine. When he was in the bathroom he took forever.

Richard thought of a solution. His family had a trailer and he moved the trailer to the driveway. The trailer became Ron’s room. He still had to use the bathroom, but the respirator noise while he slept left the house.

Ron was on disability, so he was always home it seemed.

There were others Russ brought off the streets. I remember once waking up to go to work and the bathroom was occupied. I knocked on the door and asked “Could you please use the guys’ bathroom?” (meaning: “I need to get to work, and the other bathroom is down the hall, and I need to use this one.”)

A long haired young man, who we never saw again, exited the bathroom thinking he had used the women’s restroom by mistake. Russ had been working at a pizza parlor and had brought home a "stray."

Then Russ brought home Eric, a runaway. Eric was 14 or 15 and handsome.

Everyone just either moved on a couch or moved into the master bedroom. Every Friday night, Dan and I would throw all the junk the guys left all over the house into that master bedroom. That pile grew bigger and bigger as the years passed!

The most scary character that Russ brought home was an Italian New Yorker named Alec. Alec had discovered he could get money and help from us. He was always at the house, eating our food, getting money from everyone, stealing from some, etc. Even though Alec was not trustworthy, for some reason he was also likeable. He had this really loud voice and he made me laugh.

We Are Named “The Atherton House”

The house became named Atherton House when Jeff’s friend, Judy, visited from San Francisco. She thought it was so neat that so many lived together in such unity, and after she visited, she returned home to San Francisco, and embroidered a banner for the house. It said, JESUS LOVES YOU, ATHERTON HOUSE. We put it above the fireplace in the living room.

Changes in our Cast

Jeff and Don eventually decided they could not stay in such a "crazy" place. The room in the back, the master bedroom that had originally been just their room, was full of others. The told us they were moving out and getting an apartment together.

We all knew we would miss them, and began looking for new housemates so our rent would not go up. For Dan and I, it was really important since we paid as two people.

We met the next member of the Atherton House cast at Pastor Girard's house. His name was Gary. Gary was a young man trying to free himself from drugs. He moved into the house during one of the times when he was drug free. Gary worked at an oil refinery and came home with very dirty clothes. His clothes ruined the carpet at the house.

Then the next cast member was found: Bill saw an ad for the house posted in a bookstore. When he arrived at the house, in response to the ad, he knew he found his home.

So the back room was filled again.

The "cast" grew larger quickly.

One day I came home from work tired and hot. A young stranger was cooking burritos in the kitchen. By now I was used to surprises. I asked the stranger his name. “I’m Louis .” “Louis, where do you live?” I asked. “Here,” was Louis’ reply.

Richard had got a call from Girard. Could the Atherton House take him?

Louis was a nice guy, but I don’t remember much about him. What I do remember was that Bill and Louis became friends.

Bill was also a very nice guy. Bill rode a motorcycle, liked to cook, and had a bit of a temper.

I wanted to get Louis out of our house, so I suggested they visit The Centrum of Hollywood, a half-way house in Hollywood. Bill and Louis went to The Centrum on a Saturday night, and returned with a new “to be” member of our cast: Bob. Bob had just finished high school in a small town in Oregon (Prineville) and decided to move to southern California. He pictured a nice life of sleeping on the beach and somehow ended up at The Centrum. The Centrum was a scary, scary, place, and Bill had suggested to Bob to join the Atherton House instead.

I don’t remember what happened to Louis, but Bob stayed at The Atherton House and became one of our "cast." Jeff got him a job at Grabber eventually. He and Bill were great friends, riding their motorcycles everywhere together.

Richard was dating a girl named Silvia. Richard and Silvia’s relationship became serious, and we knew he would leave us all soon.

Before Richard moved out, others joined us.

Some lived with us, and others hung out.

Theere was a young man named Kruz, who I remember little about, but he brought home an alcoholic named Dave.

Dave met a young married couple while sneaking into a motel swimming pool. The couple had just finished college, got married, and moved to Long Beach to begin their new married life. Dave told them, “You have got to meet these people…,” so Debbie and Brian showed up for dinner one night. By the end of the evening, we had talked Debbie and Brian into leaving their comfortable little motel room, and to camp out at The Atherton House until they found their own place. We made a bed for them behind a bar that Richard had turned into a little study. Brian was an engineer about to begin his first real job at Douglass Aircraft. We called the little “private” place Honeymoon Cottage and put a sign on top of a curtain with that name!

During those years, I left Fotomat, and had returned back to school. Long Beach State was right by our house; a simple bike ride or bus ride. I didn’t know what to do, first just taking some classes, but eventually decided to complete a California Multiple Subjects Teaching Credential.

I worked at the Information Desk in the University Student Union during the time I was in grad school.

Being back in school and working on campus made living at the house normal, since lots of young college students, married and single, shared rent.

House Meetings

We had HOUSE MEETINGS once a week. First, Richard wanted them Thursday nights over dinner. He wanted everyone to rotate on who would cook, and then spend the evening together.
I remember one dinner that Dan and I made. Dan didn’t really know how to cook and put together a salad seasoned with green peppers and plums!

Jeff got fancy and made a dinner with steak and baked potatoes and "the works" once. Eventually, Richard moved the meetings to Sunday mornings.

We all had chores or jobs.


Everyone in the house had a “dish day." Dan and I had two dish days since we were two people. Wow, did the dishes at The Atherton House pile up! The dishwasher had broken during the first month, and Richard had no intention of fixing it, and hand washing took a long time. Some would do their share of the dishes in the morning when very little had accumulated, and that would mean the next person would end up with two days worth of dishes. Ron wouldn’t do his dishes (how was he supposed to wash what seemed hundreds of dishes with one arm anyway?).

On your dish day, you were also supposed to buy two gallons of milk. We were in a house with young growing men, all who drank tons of milk!

It was a disaster, and also an annoyance when someone forgot to do their dishes or forgot to buy milk. The next person was left with an impossible task of dishes and usually grew angry.

The Food Bill

Then, there was THE FOOD BILL. This was a system that Richard came up with. I think he had shared a house in college, and the system had worked there. This is how it worked:

Everyone was supposed to go to the store and buy food, and whatever else (like toilet paper, and paper towels, and soap). Then, you would take your receipts and put them on the bulletin board with your name on it. At the end of the month, Richard would figure how much everyone spent, divide it by how many people lived at the house, and figure out who owed who what. A chart was put on the bulletin board saying, “Ron owes Dan and Jo Ann $55.28, Bob owes Bill $10.50, Don owes Richard $35.80, etc.”. The problem now was collecting from those who owed you money. Some people gladly ate the food, or hardly ate at the house at all, but just being present meant you owed money. It was actually important that you buy food, or you would end up owing a lot.

Finally, Richard made a calendar. It was important to check off the days you ate at the house, and how many meals. Eventually, we switched it to the days you did not eat. If you did not check, you got charged.

The Non-Food Bill

Then Richard realized that those who ate more were also paying more for toilet paper, paper towels, cleaning supplies, etc., so he came up with THE NON-FOOD BILL. There we put down exactly what we purchased, and at the end of the month divided it up equally and again had to get individuals who owed us money to pay up.

The whole thing was really a complicated system, and no one could understand it. Dan and I found that we never were paid back, and the same went for Richard, since we spent the most.

Mark Your Food!

Finally, we got fed up with the whole system, and began buying our own food and labeling it “D & J”. We took a cupboard in the house to put our dry goods, but still labeled everything. When we returned from the market, we took out a black permanent marker and began labeling plastic vegetable bags filled with carrots and other vegetables, “D & J.” It was a long time-consuming process.

We were quite close to Bill and decided to share our dry goods with him. I don’t remember if we reimbursed one another, or if we just shared. It think we just shared. We began labeling salt, pepper, spices, flour, etc. “D, J, & B.” We still have a jar of cream of tartar labled “D, J, & B”! (It’s more for memories, not for use!)

Some food, even if it was labeled, would still be consumed by hungry characters who were too lazy and also too poor to buy their own food. Dan and I began locking that food in our room.

Lock On Our Door:

We didn’t have a lock on our door at first, but in the first month or so, I noticed that some individuals would just waltz in our room and take whatever they wanted. I got tired of people taking pens, paper, towels, etc., so the lock came on quickly. Also, Louis walked in on us during an "intimate moment," and so, the door always was locked from that point on when we were inside too.

Don't Use Our Towels!

The only towels we left in the bathroom were two large beach towels with a sign over them that said, “DO NOT USE THESE TOWELS!” I’m sure they were used anyway, since there was nothing else available to dry hands.

Back to Food:

We had a little refrigerator in our bedroom. In it were food items we knew Atherton House members would consume even if they were labeled: cokes mostly. One day Ron knocked on our locked door pleading for a coke. I don’t remember if I gave in. I knew if I gave in once, we would become the local house coke machine.

The complicated food system made visitors not just eat our food and live with us for free. Sometimes we would tell a visitor that they were welcome to a couch or floor and a roof over their head, but they would have to provide their own food. One character that had no money was Paul K. We knew we could not be completely hospitable to him, but he really had no money, so we bought him a loaf of bread and some peanut butter and told him that was what he would get until he got a job. He eventually complained and I think he might have gone to The Salvation Army. We eventually also gave "free-loaders" only 2 weeks to get their act together, so Paul K. had to go. (I bet Paul K. got better food at the Salvation Army.)

Chores Meant You Were An Official Atherton House Member!

Richard gave everyone chores. I don’t remember what Dan and I were supposed to do, but I refused to do it, so Dan did it for me. I remember Gary was supposed to wash the walls. Probably someone had to vacuum, someone else had to sweep or mop the kitchen floor, etc. The chores were posted in the kitchen. Someone always knew when they were an “official” Atherton House member when they were added to the chore list.

The Phone Bill

Then, there was the phone bill. It was very, very complicated. Richard would keep a log by the phone, and we were supposed to write down any long distance calls made. At the end of the month, we were supposed to pay him. Dan and I always paid of course, but others didn’t. When he moved out, I don’t know how the huge phone bill was handled. Utility bills were much easier.

Read the Newspaper and Pay....

Then there was the newspaper. Richard thoroughly read the LA Times daily. He decided we should split the cost of the newspaper delivery. Once in awhile I glanced at the LA Times, but preferred to read The Long Beach Press Telegram that I picked up at newspaper stands. Those who didn’t read the paper didn’t want to chip in and pay for Richard’s newspaper, and so I refused to pay for the LA Times too.

The Food Co-Op

Russ brought a FOOD CO-OP into our garage. Many families participated. A huge refrigerator and freezer were set up in our garage. Food was dropped off in our garage and divided among families once a week. Of course, the Atherton House was one of the Co-op’s members. So the bill from the food co-op was added to THE FOOD BILL.

Weight Lifting Gym!

The garage was also used for Bob’s weight lifting. Eventually, very expensive training equipment filled our garage, and strangers would use our garage at all hours to work out. I don’t remember all those individuals, but one was nick-named Squeal .One day I came home from work, and caught Squeal running from the master bedroom. I was not alarmed at all. I was used to Bob’s friends using the garage and coming in the house. I thought he probably needed to use the restroom. I asked him if he wanted a drink and did some small talk type visiting, and bid him good-bye.

Later that day when Bill came home, he discovered his very expensive stereo was missing. To this day, we know Squeal took it.I think shortly after that, we might have put a lock on the door between the house and the garage.


Eventually, Richard did marry Silvia, and moved out. Bob moved into Richard’s room, and was so excited to have his own place. Russ got married too. Jeff and Don had already moved out, and eventually got married. Dan and I went to Richard’s, Russ’s and Don’s weddings. It was neat to see our “brothers” get married.

New "Cast Members"

When Richard and Russ moved out, we needed replacement housemates. I don’t really remember the order they arrived.

Curt was sort of a scruffy character. He drove a junk car covered with bible phrases. He moved into the back room. There was a short stay by a guy named Paul (not Paul K. who went to the Salvation Army).

Eventually, even Bob moved out. He got married. Dan’s friend, Mark, a young guy who lived right in the Los Altos neighborhood of Long Beach (the same area the house was in) moved in Bob’s room. Mark was a pretty normal guy.

Somewhere near the end of our three Atherton House years, Charlie came into the picture. He seemed to be unemployed most of the time, and turned to the Atherton House when it looked like he had no place to live. We set up a curtain and cot in the dining room, and Charlie moved in. He stayed until the end without paying rent.

Can I borrow your hose?

One day someone knocked on our door and asked to borrow our hose. “Why?” we asked. “I am going to leave my car in front of your house so it can be repossessed and I don’t want to leave a dirty car,” was the young man’s answer. We let him borrow the hose. When he was done cleaning his car, he gave us a bed pillow that he had inside. I believe I still have that pillow!

The Punch Machine

The Punch Machine was a great thing Bill bought at a garage sale and placed in the kitchen. It was a commercial restaurant type machine. We always had delicious lemonade or punch or water spinning in it. A real treat for everyone!

When Debbie and Brian suddenly left their comfortable motel room to stay with us all at The Atherton House, Debbie left a message for her mother in Wisconsin on where to call them. The mother called the next day or evening, and Kruz, who had not yet met Debbie and Brian, answered the phone. He was asleep when the phone rang, and sounded like he was on drugs to Debbie’s concerned mother. She first asked to talk to Debbie and Brian, and Kruz said, “Who?” Then, she asked what kind of place this was. Kruz’s answer was, “I don’t know. All I know is that I eat with Christians, sleep with Christians, and we all love JEEZUS!”

Debbie’s mother "freaked out," and kept calling until she reached Debbie and Brian and immediately ordered them to leave the house. I guess they calmed the mother down, and stayed for about a month.

Later on, Debbie’s mother came to visit, and we offered her some lemonade from the Punch Machine. I heard shortly after that that certain cults give innocent guests lemonade sometimes laced with a soothing drug....:)

Richard’s family had invested in much real estate and had a few apartment rentals around Long Beach. Debbie and Brian moved into a nice upstairs apartment in a 4-plex that Richard’s family owned somewhere on 11th Street in Long Beach.

The "Girls House" - The Harvard House

My friend, Marion, came to visit me and stayed at The Atherton House.

Everyone liked Marion from the minute she walked in. Gary fell in love with her during the week she visited. He wanted her to stay, and so did I. I don’t remember all the details, but Marion returned to northern California, packed her bags, and returned to us.

Since she was a girl, she could not stay at The Atherton House permanently.

Silvia (who eventually married Richard) started a house for single women about that time. It was in a nicer and fancier neighborhood than the Atherton House, but was still nearby.

Most of the women in Silvia’s house were college friends or still in college at Long Beach State. It was on a street called Harvard, so eventually, everyone called it THE HARVARD HOUSE.

The Harvard House was much cleaner than the Atherton House, and the girls worked out a different food system. Once a week, someone would shop. I believe there were six original girls in the house, so that meant you only did a big shopping every six weeks and bought for everyone when it was your turn.

Don’s wife to be, Laurie, lived there before she married Don. I remember a girl named Johanna too, and have a vague memory of someone named Yuko. Carol, who eventually became Mark’s girlfriend, was Marion’s roommate. Bridget also lived at The Harvard House; she eventually became a missionary with YWAM.

Also, Dan’s niece, Timaree lived at The Harvard House for awhile. Timaree was still in high school at the time.

Bill had "sort of a girlfriend" named Jeri, who also lived at The Harvard House.

Anyway, we were more than just houses where people lived now; we had formed a "mini community." Richard and Silvia were at the very center.

Instant Parties!

The Atherton House was a fun place that provided instant "fellowship," that is, it was a great place to get together with friends. There were many "instant parties" at the Atherton House!

Sometimes Dan and I led songs on our autoharps and had great fun. Once in awhile, someone would just pick up a guitar and we'd sing songs together. A meal sometimes turned into an instant party!

My life with Dan in those days consisted of our life at the house and going to restaurants, sometimes with friends.

I liked hanging out with friends. Some of the friends we met began going to Straw Hat Pizza Parlor on Sundays. We never knew who would show up at the pizza parlour, but sometimes we stayed therefor several hours. We got to be so regular that sometimes the pizza was prepared before we walked in!

Some Sundays, the pizza parlor was full of our friends as we pulled up table after table! I believe Mark met Carol on one of those Sundays at Straw Hat. I treated the entire house once to pizza at Straw Hat when I was the grand prize winner for a drawing. Those get-togethers with the entire house were fun.

One year, when I worked for Fotomat, the employees’ Christmas Party included an auction. All the Fotomat employees were given play money to bid with based on the sales they had made. Dan and I wanted to win a dinner for two at a fancy restaurant. I lost that auction when I ran out of play money, and was so sad, but won the bid for a $25 gift certificate for a turkey dinner at Ralphs market. Dan and I decided to use the money towards making a holiday dinner for the house, and thus began a series of holiday dinners that Dan and I hosted. We discovered that many of the young singles at our house, and others we met, did not have places to go on the holidays, and going to the Atherton House gave them a nice Christmas or Thanksgiving.

Allison helped us decorate a tree one Christmas complete with red bows. It was a silly looking tree, but we all enjoyed decorating it.

Allison was this interesting girl who didn’t live at the house, but was there so much of the time that it seemed like she did. She was from an average family that lived in Belmont Shore or Belmont Heights, a very fancy and expensive part of Long Beach. She really looked like a hippie.She absolutely never wore shoes; not wearing shoes was her trademark. She wore blue jeans and a t-shirt when the weather was warm, and switched to blue jeans and a sweatshirt when it was cold. She had her hair pulled back in a ponytail. She only wore a dress one time….to Russ’s wedding. She wore a beautiful long skirt, but still NO SHOES! She didn’t wear socks on sandals either, but once in awhile, wore moccasins.

Allison liked to cook and was friends with Bill. They were always cooking together and experimenting. They loved to cook from scratch. Orange Pie (copying lemon meringue pie) didn’t work.

Allison helped Bill with many of the animals he raised in the backyard. One night, Alison and Bill surprised everyone with stew. It was rabbit stew, and they had cooked some of the cute bunnies in the backyard.

About that time, Kruz, also got into cooking, and was always reading recipe books. I remember him once looking up from a book and asking, “Have you ever ate brains?”

We hosted a co-ed baby shower for Debbie and Brian at the house. Many people attended. I remember we all nicknamed the unborn child in Debbie’s tummy “I-hith-a-field.” Dan and I put on a puppet show for Brian and Debbie at their baby shower. Dan and I loved to play with puppets in those days.

Another "cast" member, who I don’t think became permanent, was John. John was a skinny guy, very nice, who drank tea and seemed to have a terrible fear of work. He wanted to trade working for all of us for a home, but Richard wouldn’t have it. I remember John making me tea all the time.
I vaguely remember John moving to another house near the Harvard House, that some men started.

I think eventually there might have been two girls’ houses, or the girls moved into a bigger place. There was girl named Kat that lived in the larger girls’ house. One morning (after a pillow fight), she woke up, and had no memory of the girls she lived with. I remember the girls bringing her over to the Atherton House to remember us. She had great musical talent and had played my piano week after week. This time though, her eyes looked mean and confused. I don’t remember if Kat’s memory ever returned.

Richard was a wonderful teacher. On Friday nights, young people from all over Long Beach came to the Atherton House to his bible studies. Prayer meetings also took place at the house. Holiday celebrations and potluck dinners also took place.

Communion With Fritos and Koolaid On New Years Eve!

There was a huge party at the Atherton House one New Year's Eve. I don't remember much about the party, but I remember Richard deciding at midnight that we should have a communion ceremony. It was all very spur of the fact, instead of bread or crackers and grape juice, we used Fritos and Koolaid!

Ants, Bees, Birds, Berries, Candy, Stranded Motorists, Campers, and Farm Animals

Ants were a problem at the house. Since dirty dishes got left out for hours, ants found our house a place "fit for a king." I remember going outside once and watching an entire army of ants in action as they marched to and from the house.

Then there were the bees. Richard’s brother, Carl, raised bees in a corner of the backyard. Some of the bees made their way inside.

Ron had a dove too. He let it fly freely inside the house and once in awhile, we found bird poop—yuk!

Richard also grew berries in the backyard.

Bill and Allison raised farm animals in the backyard. There were chicken, ducks, turkeys, and rabbits in the yard. There was also a goose! I remember using a goose egg while making waffles! Bill named the turkeys "Christmas" and "Thanksgiving!"

The house was right next to the 405 freeway, and once in awhile, a stranded motorist would knock on our door asking to use the phone. Once a candy truck slid off the freeway. Huge boxes of candy were dumped behind the house. Children in the neighborhood were walking on our property and running away with armloads of candy!

One morning we woke up to find someone had put up a tent right next to our property! Don made the traveler breakfast! Wow, were we a hospitable group!

A Wedding Takes Place at the House!

My friend Marilyn, got married at the house. For one night, the house was transformed into a very holy and beautiful place. For months afterward, we'd find pieces of wedding cake inside the bookshelves!

Piano and Other Instruments

Russ was a musician. He brought his piano to the house. I was determined to play it so I bought a teach yourself to play piano for adults. I taught myself to play. Then I took lessons. I played the piano every day, but couldn't play the piano at night once Richard went to bed, so I took up the guitar and recorder. Dan and I also played autoharps together once or twice a week. When Russ got married, Dan and I bought that old piano from him for $400 cash. It was an old relic which only had some of the original ivory keys, but I loved playing that 100 year old piano!

Alec Steals a Car

One brief resident of the house was a man named Paul who owned a bright red Ford Pinto. Alec “borrowed” the pinto, then drove to St. Augustine, Florida for reasons unknown. Alec then called Pastor Girard who persuaded him to turn himself in. As a result, Alec went to jail for a few months. As a side light, when Alec was paroled he had a large disability check waiting for him. Before his conservator could stop him, Alec went and bought a used VW Bug. I don’t know what happened afterward.

Paul's Adventure

Paul had one other adventure, where he got stuck in the Tehachepe mountains (near Gorman, California) on his dirt motorbike. He rode into a ravine he couldn’t ride out of, so he had to walk out. Later, he had to arrange to get the bike out. Not sure how he did that.


One summer afternoon, someone was ringing our doorbell. Surprised by a young person at the door, the person announced there was a fire behind our house. Sure enough a blaze was fairly roaring, flames leaping maybe 20 feet high. A bunch of strangers driving by helped begin to douse the blaze, before the fire department arrived and completed the job. It was frightening.

Eric - The Run-Away

Our token run-away, Eric, used to stay out at night, hanging out at the nearby El Dorado Park. The park was a haven for kids seeking and using drugs. Eric was using drugs by night and sleeping by day. We were fortunate nothing serious happened to him or us. Eventually the police discovered we were housing a run-away, and sent Eric home.


One night Dan and I heard the dogs next door barking loudly. Our bedroom window was open. All of a sudden the WORST smell came into our room and into the entire house. The dogs next door had annoyed a skunk and the skunk "did its stuff!" The entire hosue and even our car and clothes smelled like SKUNK for about a week or two!

Jeff's Dog

During Jeff’s brief tenure at the house, he had a large German Shepherd at the house for awhile. However, that dog bit a meter reader, a postman and killed a neighbor’s pet poodle. Somehow Jeff saved the dog from being killed and had the dog taken somewhere else.

Another "Stray"

A friend asked us to take in a young man who had been in Chicago. His name was Paul K. (not the same Paul mentioned above), or something like that. He arrived in downtown Long Beach late at night, unannounced to us. As fate would have it, that particular night we had taken our phone off the hook due to annoying late night calls. Anyway, Paul arrived and the bus station closed. He went to the police station because he couldn’t reach us by phone. At 2 am a policeman knocked on our door. Dan got up and picked Paul up.

The "Last Days" of the Atherton House

Dan and I had considered many times finding our own place, but rents were high, so we stayed put.

Dan and I took a trip to Colorado in January 1982, and discussed whether we should stay or go. At the end of the trip, we were convinced that we should stay, but shortly after we returned from our trip, Richard wrote us all a letter stating that we had a few months to leave. He wanted to move into his house with another young married couple.

We were determined to keep the group (house) together, and looked for places as a group. Those of us who looked together were Gary, Mark, Charlie, Curt, and me and Dan.

Then suddenly, both Gary and Curt lost their jobs. Dan and I did not want to support unemployed men, so we decided to find our own place. We found this cute little apartment on top of a garage on 14th Street and set our moving day for April 15.

For some reason, I remember Richard changing his mind about asking us all to leave about then, but it was too late. Dan and I wanted to move into our own place. Mark moved back to his parents’ and Charlie, Gary, and Curt found a huge apartment on 15th Street.

Moving was not that eventful—Dan and I had all of our stuff out of The Atherton House (now Richard and Silvia’s) by the May 1 deadline.

Bob (or someone) had bought an old refrigerator that had been left in the kitchen nook. It had been given to us. We took the refrigerator to our new place. We named the refrigerator “Bob.” Gary had a little apartment size compact refrigerator that he wanted us to keep or watch over for him. It always froze everything. We named that little brown refrigerator “Gary.” Then, we had the white refrigerator that had always been Dan’s that had been in our room at The Atherton House. We named that refrigerator “Bill.”

Marion got a kick how we would say, “The carrots are in Bob.” ”The drinks are in Bill.” “See if the ice cream is in “Gary.”

What ever happened to everyone?

Well, let's start with Dan and Jo Ann....

We moved into an apartment on 14th Street in Long Beach after leaving the Atherton House in 1982. Jo Ann began teaching skating in early 1983. That took over our lives. In 1988, we left Long Beach and our 14th Street apartment for San Francisco. We stayed in San Francisco until late 1991, and then moved to Colorado Springs. We have three children: Joel, Rebekah, and Annabelle. Jo Ann is's Guide to Figure Skating (part of the New York Times!) and Dan works at the Veterans Affairs office in Colorado Springs. Our three kids are competitive figure skaters, so we spend a great deal of time inside an ice rink! You can always check out what we are doing on our family's personal blog.

Some are no longer living...

We received news of Curt’s death shortly after The Atherton House Reunion which took place in late 1990. His wife wrote us from Walla Walla, Washington, and we were told he may have been murdered.

A friend named Duane moved to Colorado in 1996. Duane told us that Ron had died. Apparently, Ron fell down a set of stairs, which made it impossible for him to breathe, and was found.


We talked to Bill near the end of his life. His sister was taking care of him in Alabama. He told us he was dying of AIDS. He bought a beautiful piano and played it daily. He died in late 1994. I miss him.


Mark did not marry Carol. He married someone named Marsha. Mark and Marsha divorced. He married Sharon after that, a very nice woman confined to a wheelchair. They lived in Mark’s parents’ house in the Los Altos area of Long Beach. (Both Mark’s parents passed away before they married.) Recently, I linked up with Sharon on Facebook and we talked on the phone. She told me that Mark died of a heart attack in early 2009.

Now, the living...


We last saw Gary when we lived in San Francisco. He married a sweet girl named Mary. They had a little girl. We attended Gary’s wedding, but Gary and Mary eventually divorced.


We used to hear from Russ every year during the holidays. He married Chris. They adopted 2 children. They live in the San Diego area. I found Russ on Facebook in 2009!


Richard married Silvia of course. Richard became a professional counselor. They have 2 children. Richard’s brother Carl, died of a heart attack in 2001. I connected with both Richard and Silvia on Facebook in 2009. (Richard's father died of a heart attack while we were living at the house on July 4, 1979.)


We lost contact with Bob. Jeff told us that he and his wife Jo divorced.


Don married Laurie. I remember getting cards from them for awhile. They had 3 children. We saw them at the 1990 Atherton House reunion. I just recently ran into Don when I was in Long Beach in February of 2011. He still has that same wonderful smile. He and Laurie are no longer married. I connected with Laurie on Facebook in 2009.


When we lived in San Francisco, we visited Jeff and his wife Sheryll many times in Antioch. They lived in a beautiful house in a suburban neighborhood. They had 3 children, and adopted a blind boy. We have now lost touch with them.

Debbie and Brian………

We used to hear from Debbie and Brian every holiday season. They lived in Illinois. They had 4 children. I reconnected with Debbie on Facebook in 2010. Her Facebook status says she is divorced.


Marion lives in Los Osos, California. She and I are best friends, lifelong friends. She married Bruce, and has 2 children, Christina and Paul. Her oldest daughter, Christina, was married in 2010.


We used to hear from Charlie every holiday season. He was in Los Angeles. We've lost touch with him.

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About Me

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Jo Ann Schneider Farris has participated in skating for most of her life as a competitor, coach, and author.