This series of posts will provide a chronological overview of the life of my father, Keith Black (1942–2016), who passed away on March 8, 2016. My aim in this first installment is to give an overview of his first seven years, from his birth and early childhood in Washington state to his entering elementary school after his family moved to Santa Barbara, California.
If you have any stories to share about my father, whether privately or stories I could share publicly, I would be grateful. Please do so by leaving a comment below (comments stay private until I publish them).
Keith’s birth and early childhood days in Washington state
Keith was born on October 19, 1942, in Old Saint Pete’s Hospital in Olympia, Washington.
The photo below is the oldest photo I have of Keith. He must be only a few days old here, so it would have been taken in late October, 1942.
Keith Vernon Black was the first child of Vernon Cornelius Black and Dorothy Ruth McMurry Black. On August 28, 1943, when Keith was only 10 months old, Vernon enlisted in the Army. Vernon was shipped off to Camp Abbot in Oregon for pre-deployment training, so for the next two and a half years, Dorothy raised Keith on her own.
These next photos were taken when Keith was sixteen months old, according to the caption on the colorized version, so they would have been taken in mid-February, 1944.
While Vernon was away in Europe during World War II, Keith and his mother Dorothy stayed at her parents’ house in Olympia. Here are two shots of Keith with his maternal grandparents (Frank Ross McMurry and Lucinda Tracy Bailey McMurry) in April, 1944, when he was about 18 months old.
The following photo of Keith and his mother Dorothy is undated, but I’d guess it was from Summer, 1944:
I believe this photo of Dorothy and Keith in the water was probably taken in Summer, 1945 probably along the shores of Mud Bay (Eld Inlet), where Dorothy spent her childhood in and around the waters of Puget Sound.
Vernon served for two and a half years in the European theatre, and was discharged from active duty on February 13, 1946, at Camp Lewis, Washington, when Keith was just shy of 3½ years old.
Dorothy got pregnant again shortly after Vernon’s return, and in 1946 or 1947, Dorothy miscarried and they lost what would have been Keith’s little sister.
Dorothy was a big believer in family, and she stayed close contact with the families of her siblings and cousins, so Keith was lucky enough to grow up surrounded by first and second cousins. Below is a photo of some of those cousins taken in March, 1946, when Keith was 3½ years old:
Keith moves to Southern California
In 1947 or 1948, Vernon and Dorothy decided to move their little family to Southern California, where Vernon planned to open a grocery store. I believe they first moved to Lompoc, California, and then shortly thereafter they stayed for a short time in a convent (?) in Santa Barbara. Shortly after that, they moved to Hoff Heights in Santa Barbara.
Hoff Heights had been an airport prior to WWII, and was converted to a 1300-bed military medical facility called Hoff General Hospital. After WWII, the hospital was deactivated and some buildings were moved and others were left in place and repurposed. Vernon, Dorothy, and Keith lived in one of the converted barracks. Apparently they rented for $31 to $36 per month.
I think Dorothy’s older brother Frank Bailey McMurry’s family (Frank, wife Sara, son Frank Ross McMurry and son Glenn Amos McMurry) and Dorothy’s cousin Lucy Irene Jeglum Renaudo’s family (Lucy, husband Joseph Rinaudo Jr., son Mel, daughter Linda, and son James) may have also moved to the area around this same time, possibly also to Hoff Heights.
Judging from the following two photos, Keith’s fascination with cars was already in full swing by the time they left Washington State. Here he is, in the driver’s seat of a Jeep in Yuma, Arizona, in February 1946. His cousins Frank McMurry and Glenn McMurry are in the back of the Jeep, but I don’t know who the man in the passenger seat is.
Here are two shots of Keith and his cousin Glenn McMurry, in Yuma, Arizona, in February 1946:
Keith’s grandmother Lucinda McMurry came to visit. In this shot we can see the barracks that they lived in:
Keith and his cousins Frank and Glenn McMurry watching the ducklings play in some mud in Yuma, Arizona, in February 1946:
Keith pretending to be a horse-riding cowboy in front of his father, Vernon.
Keith playing on the sand dunes near Yuma, Arizona, in February 1946. With a hand-cranked egg beater, of course. Because why not?
Keith and an unidentified girl (
perhaps cousin Linda Rinaudo?) cooking up a storm on the stoop of the barracks at Hoff Heights:
Keith enters school and gets a younger brother
In the fall of 1947, Keith started Kindergarten at the Peabody School, located just a half-mile to the northeast of his home in Hoff Heights. His kindergarten class photo was taken in March, 1948. I believe he is fourth from the left in the first row.
In early 1948, Dorothy was pregnant once again, and on August 27, 1948, Keith got a little brother: Gary William Black.
Keith entered the first grade in the fall of 1948, just around the time his little brother was born. Below is his first grade class photo:
On March 11, 1949, Keith’s grandfather Frank Ross McMurry passed away.
Around this time, the newly enlarged family appears to have travelled back north, perhaps to see the family and introduce them to Gary, or for Frank McMurry’s funeral. While there, this charming photo of Keith and his first cousin Jude Laspa (Dorothy’s nephew via her younger sister Kathryn McMurry Laspa and her husband Pat Laspa) was taken:
Keith and his younger brother Gary outside their home in Hoff Heights:
More to come soon.
Thank you for tbis beautiful story. My mom and Dad Michael and Virginia Hernandez lived with my two older siblings around 1950- 51. My mom is now 91 and your story and photos helped spark some fond memories of their time in Santa Barbara.
My dad also did a painting of the family in front in bungalows. It hangs in our dining room today.
Wow, I have not seen these photos of my Father, Glenn McMurry. So amazing!
Tisha (McMurry) Carney
I also lived at Hoff Heights in Santa Barbara during my childhood in the mid 1950s. I currently live in Central California and remember my humble roots from Hoff Heights fondly.