Norma’s Grandfather J.H. Nelson arrived in California in 1858. He purchased 80 acres at Tollhouse in 1884. Her parents Lee Nelson and Mabel Hauert Nelson were married in 1912. They would live and work in the mountains east of Clovis for several years.
Norma is a talented writer and we share some information from her 2009 short story titled “The Nelson Family Cabin, as I remember.” The two sons (Frank and Ed) of Shaver Lake pioneer lumberman Joe Bretz married her mother’s sisters, Wilma and Mary Hauert.
She shared that pioneer Thomas J. Ockenden (born in England) continued to wear his English gentleman’s knickers after his arrival at Shaver. He purchased a large section of land south of Shaver and built a general store, hotel and dance hall located near Bretz Road and HWY 168.
The hotel was destroyed by fire in the early 1920’s and the dance hall was torn down: “Under the flooring was found a dance card belonging to my dad, Lee Nelson. Yes, it was filled in. Dad never missed a dance. The name beside ‘Number 8 Schottische’ was this dance card of 1911, is Mabel, who later becomes his wife.”
Lee Nelson worked at Shake Mills. He and a partner had their own shake mill at Mt. Baldy above Shaver Lake. Tom Ockenden recognized that Lee was known as an excellent craftsman with a reputation for fairness and honesty. Lee remodeled and built projects that included Ockenden’s Ranch at Academy. Ockenden gave Lee permission to build a cabin for himself and retain it until his death.
Norma was born on April 19, 1921. Her siblings were: Harold, died age 17 months, Glenn, died age 13, and a stillborn infant 1919. Her sister Helen married Gene McGaughy, and brothers Bill and Kenneth were raised on the family ranch at Herndon and Fowler.
“The responsibilities at home in Clovis of several hundred laying hens, a few cows that had to be milked morning and night, and alfalfa fields that had to be irrigated regularly precluded the family’s trips to their cabin.
Dad would make arrangements to stay near his work. Sometimes Dad would room and board with a family; other times he would tent camp in a park and cook his meals over a camp stove. This practice was not at all uncommon during these years.”
Norma remembers riding the family touring car up the treacherous Tollhouse Road. There were no areas to pull off the road. Her dad maintained maximum speed to avoid stalling on the steep incline. Beyond the top of the grade was “Mountain Rest,” the home of Mrs. Mary Cavin Waite, her paternal great grandmother.
Timothy and Mary Waite arrived in the Tollhouse area in 1875. He was critically injured in a lumber accident and died in 1876. Mary struggled to support their eight children. She opened “Widow Waite’s” hotel and restaurant in 1882. The name was changed to “Mountain Rest” when a bathhouse was added in 1908.
Norma graduated from Clovis High in 1938. There were 83 graduates that year. The front of their commencement program quoted Henry Van Dyke: “But the glory of the Present is to make the Future Free — We love our land for what she is and what she is to be. America For Me.”
The speakers addressed “The American Scene: We Hope For, We Worry About, We Laugh About and We Wonder About.” Paul E. Andrew was Principal, George Croyle, Vice Principal and Luther E. Weldon, President of the Board of Trustees.
Norma married Robert Lee Meek in 1940. She described him as “about the cutest sailor I ever saw.” He was born on March 10, 1918, in Anderson, Calif. His family moved frequently throughout the Central and Northern Valley, and settled in Fresno in 1926. He graduated from Fresno Tech School in 1935 and joined the Navy that year. Six of the seven Meek siblings served in the war.
The Meeks were stationed away from Clovis until they returned here in 1966. Bob retired in 1959 with the rank of U.S. Navy Lieutenant Commander.
Upon her return to Clovis, Norma became an active member of the Clovis United Methodist Church. She is their oldest member. She became a docent for the Clovis Museum and served in that capacity until 2018.
The City of Clovis, in their winter publication of 2008, published: “Follow Her Lead, Long-time Clovis Resident Challenges Residents to Shop Clovis First.” Norma said price wouldn’t even persuade her to shop outside of Clovis: “I can find everything I need right here in Clovis.”
Norma “walks the talk,” remains true to her beliefs, loyal to her family tradition and continues to be our “Clovis Booster.” She is an important part of our rich heritage.