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This is Ernestby Olive Laufield Johnson,
Between Times October 2008 page 4
Thank you for your kind reception of my previous articles on “Living on the Ranch”. My memories could not tell the whole stories because the main characters are not with us any more. Perhaps there are a few of you who remember Ernest and Olive. I would like to share with you some interesting stories that were hand written by them. Forgive me for editing some of the letters by Ernest and slipping them into Olive's story of Ernest to maintain the time frame.
I would like to introduce you to the farm boy from Kansas, Ernest R. Johnson who became the multitalented Superintendent of the 6000-acre Rancho Santa Ana. His wife Olive R. Laufield from Seattle, WA, proved to also be talented. Olive hand wrote the inspiring biography of Ernest. I want to share this story with you because the narrative not only tells about Ernest but also the development of the Ranch.
I want to apologize because part way through the story I will interrupt the narrative. As you will read, they met in Piru in 1914. Then they both moved to Southern California for better work opportunities. Olive to teach in the L.A. School system and Ernest at the Rancho Santa Ana. They were reunited when she recognized his name and wrote the first letter to Ernest. Olive saved his letters and between 1918 and 1921 they corresponded as well as meeting together. We do not have Olive's letters. You will see many gaps in the dates of the letters, but you can fill in with your imagination. Olive saved many of Ernest's letters and we still have some copies 88 years later!!
“THIS IS ERNEST”
By Olive Laufield Johnson
Ernest Ralph Johnson was born near Fort Scott, Kansas, on December 11, 1890. His father had a farm near there, Ernest was one of nine children, there were Charles, Lee, Ben, Jessie, John, Ruby, Josie and Dolly.
Why write about Ernest? Because he is a unique, wonderful, thoughtful, reliable, capable, knowledgeable, honorable, serious, generous, helpful and sport and fun loving person. He is really loved by everyone. He is admired by young and old.
When on the farm in Kansas he worked, he helped with the chores, worked in the fields, in the farm crops, took care of the stock, churned butter and trapped animals for furs for money to buy what was needed. To buy a violin, a fiddle and learn to play it by himself. Then he played for country-dances.
After he finished school, he left home and went to work for Swede farmers in Northern Kansas. He really wanted to study music-but that would take money. If he had had a chance to study voice he would have been another Burle Ives. Whenever he is in a group singing, people around him really look his way and listen.
He decided to become a teacher and attended the Normal School in Dodge City, Kansas. He received a teachers certificate in July 1909. He was not anxious to teach for such a low salary of $75.00 per month. So he went to work in a German settlement harvesting and threshing wheat.
His brother, Charles, came to California to make a better living. He worked at various jobs and finally went to Piru and bought some ranch land with his savings. There, he soon acquired an orange grove in a place called Buckhorn.
I graduated from Normal School in Los Angeles in 1912. My first school was in Buckhorn near Piru. My salary was $70.00 per month plus $4 for janitor work.
There I first met Ernest. His brother Charles had parties at his ranch for people from Fillmore and he invited the schoolteachers. We danced and played cards.
I had bought a book, Parsons and Buck “The Wild Flowers of California” because I wanted to know the names of the beautiful flowers in the fields and hills around Piru.
Ernest became interested in the wild flowers too, and so we began to collect and classify the plants and shrubs in the hills. We hired a horse and buggy and traveled the country roads. To be continued…
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