Eleanor Swenson (1914-2006) was born to Louis and Ida Swenson in the Scandinavian Colony near Sierra Vista and Dakota in Fresno on April 4, 1914.
We are sharing portions of her story “Eleanor Ida Swenson, my life, my family, my relatives, and roots” that she provided the Clovis Museum:
“My mother worked for the L.P. Swifts (Mrs. Swift sister to Mrs. Charles Shaver) as cook and maid before they moved into the new house that is now part of the Lisle Funeral Home in downtown Fresno,” she wrote. “During this time, mother was courted by dad sometimes on a motorcycle.
Mrs. Swift and Mrs. Shaver were sisters and the lake had been named for the Shavers. Mother was supposed to go to Shaver Lake, open the summer home and spend the summer there.
Dad objected and said, “There are too many men up there for you to be alone so I don’t want you to go. When mother told Mrs. Swift she wasn’t going, Mrs. Swift fired her.”
Eleanor’s early memories: “We were horse and buggy kids. Dad bought a Model T Ford. The Ford’s big test was a drive to Trimmer Springs on the Kings River at 25 miles an hour).
The older kids were able to help at Grandma’s by cutting peaches for drying for 2 or 3 cents a box. It really is hard work and we (brother Richard) were too young so when we got tired we made culls by squeezing the good peaches together.
When we were children, the water level in our area was so high that during the summer if you were out in the field and wanted to wash your hands, all you had to do was dig a little depression in the sandy soil and you could get your hands clean. The northwest corner of our farm was particularly wet. Dad scooped out a depression that turned into a pond.
During the depression in the 30s, dad raised rabbits and sold the meat to survive the hard times. We could pretty much live off the farm.
Actually, we were poor, but somehow we didn’t know it. We worked together, played together, worshipped together and always had food and clothing. Life was happy, what more could you want?”
After graduating from Clovis High School in 1931, Eleanor graduated from the Fresno State Teachers College and completed an additional year at the University of California, Berkeley.
Clovis High School Principal Paul E. Andrew hired her to teach Physical Education and Study Hall. She would remain there until 1948. She accepted a counselor and administrator position with Fresno Unified School District. She retired from there in 1970.
“Except for the swimming pool, facilities and equipment were meager or non-existent,” Swenson wrote. “It would be safe to say I taught a bat and ball program. Competitive athletics for girls were still in vogue but actually on the way out. The “feminists” in those days were feminine and set about to eliminate that very good experience for the girls.
Softball had been excluded from competition but we still had volleyball and tennis. In the spring, actually as soon as the courts were dry after volleyball, we started on tennis and again I was coach. We still had the one slick concrete court and two dirt courts. With five events to prepare for, we were not well equipped. We did manage a few tennis balls and the kids had their own rackets. We wore the balls down to the point there was no “fuzz” left on them.”
Members on the above team: Marian Nichols and her twin brothers brothers Ray and Roy; Miller twins Doris and Doretta and their older sister Garnet; Bob Gross and Massie Yamamoto.
“We needed lots of practice and one court didn’t cut it so each afternoon they piled into my second handed Chevrolet and we were off to the courts at Roeding Park. When I think of the liability, I assumed it is a little overwhelming but in those days we didn’t worry about being sued.”
Eleanor Swenson is an important part of our rich heritage.