Thursday, September 21, 2017

Their Legacy Remains, September 21, 2017

You can love them, forgive them,
want good things for them,
but still move on without them.
~Mandy Hale

It was in late September, 1921 that my grandparents Leroy Gower and Nola Shannon were married in Stone County, Arkansas. She was barely 18 years old and he was just 22 at the time. Leroy was the oldest child still living at home in the Gower family of Sylamore, Arkansas, a small farming community a few miles west of Mountain View, in Stone County. Nola was one of the last two children at home in the family of Sam and Fanny Shannon when she and Leroy decided to marry. The Shannons lived in Liberty, Arkansas just south a few miles from where the Gowers lived. 

Their first home together was not far from where their families lived in Stone County, Arkansas. The first year after they married their son Hendrix was born. Two years later their first daughter Maida was born. The very next year Leroy and Nola decided to take their two small children and move westward. They left Arkansas and never looked back. Their first stop was Oklahoma where they settled in the small town of Okemah for the next 17 years. In Oklahoma they had one more child, a daughter Vicki, completing their family of 3 children.

It was 75 years ago this summer that these Gowers moved to San Diego. They didn't all move at the same time. 42 year old Leroy came first to find work, make some money, and send for his wife and daughters. Their teenage son Hendrix (Hank), accompanied Leroy to Southern California in the summer of 1942, bringing along his pregnant, 19 year old wife Starlene. 

The first picture I am including with this post shows Leroy and Nola Gower with their daughters Maida and Melva (Vicki). I don't know for sure when or where this picture was taken, but it was probably taken in the early 1940s, perhaps in  San Diego about 1942 or 1943 soon after they first moved there. Their family also included their son Hendrix (Hank) and his wife Starlene who are not pictured here.

This picture may have been taken in December, 1942 soon after the family was reunited after their move to San Diego. In this picture Maida (left) looks like a High School girl which she was in 1942, and appears happy about her life at the time. Leroy looks glad to be reunited with his family, as does Vicki (front) who turned 9 in October, 1942. Grandma Gower (back) looks like she just finished a long bus ride or for some other reason is not happy about the transition to life in another state. 

Their first year in San Diego was very eventful for the Gowers. 
  • Leroy and Hank found work at Railway Express in downtown San Diego
  • They found a place to rent behind a house on Arizona Street in San Diego
  • Starlene struggled through her first pregnancy
  • Leroy and Nola's 21st anniversary, Sept. 29, found them separated by nearly 1,500 miles
  • Daughter Maida's 18th birthday in Nov was a time of anxious longing for her new home
  • Nola, Maida and Vicki, endured a miserable bus trip from Okemah to San Diego in Dec.
  • The Gower's first grandchild, Hershell, was born to Hank and Starlene in Feb, 1943
  • Maida graduated from San Diego High School in June, 1943

It was a whirlwind of a first year for these Gowers who were new residents of California. But they seemed to survive the transition from small town Oklahoma to city life in San Diego fairly well. Nola and Leroy lived the rest of their lives in San Diego, except for Nola's sunset years with family in Washington.

Southern California was good for them for the many years they lived here. They saw their family grow to include a large clan of grandchildren and great grandchildren and more. Many of their kinfolk have relocated over the years, but a dozen or so of us who are descendants of theirs still live in the San Diego area. This second picture shows 3 of Leroy and Nola's youngest descendants: my grandchildren Preslea, Logan and William. The original Gowers who settled in San Diego are now gone, but after 75 years in San Diego their legacy remains.
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Steve Shepard

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