The World of Jack London
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Becky London BECKY LONDON FLEMING
A MINI - BIOGRAPHY
By Russ Kingman
Jack London was wandering around Europe, after having written The People of the Abyss, view photo when he received a telegram telling him he was a father for the second time."

Becky was born on a Monday afternoon at 2:30. It was October 20, 1902. Her mother told her she hadn't wanted to be born, taking ten months instead of the usual nine. She weighed all of five pounds and was tiny but plump. Dr. Porter delivered Becky in the old Worcester Bungalow in Piedmont, California. The Bungalow was a lovely home high in the Piedmont hills with a commanding view of San Francisco Bay. But before Becky was old enough to enjoy it her famous father and her mother had divorced. As part of the divorce settlement Jack hired "One-Nail" MacGregor to build a house for Bess and their two daughters at 519 31st Street in Oakland.

After Becky's sister Joan nearly died from typhoid in 1912 her doctor advised the family to move since they lived across from the germ-laden East Bay Sanitarium, so Jack built them a spacious home at what is now 206 Scenic Avenue just one block from the old Bungalow where Becky was born. Now she could enjoy that fabulous view she missed as a baby. Jack wanted the girls to grow strong and healthy and had a tall swing, a pair of rings and an "acting bar" erected in their large back yard. The boys in the neigborhood would come there to play, and although Joan acted the part of a little lady, Becky was a typical "tom boy." She was the smallest in the crowd of boys, but managed to keep up with them.

Becky attended Haven's school which was the only school in Piedmont at the time and went as far as the sixth grade (the school - not Becky). Her Junior High School years were spent at the brand new Durant School and Becky was a member of its first graduating class. Becky took both dancing and piano lessons as a child, and later studied the violin. She and Joan would always "show off" and play duets when "Daddy" came to visit. Becky played the low keys and Joan the upper. She relates the story:

"We always practiced hard when we knew Daddy was coming for a visit. I had to play the bass notes which was hard because my hands were almost too small to strike the chords. My sister played the treble or right hand notes because, I felt, they were full of runs and frills and she could show off. Well, one day Daddy came and we played for him. We finished the piece with a long run by her, then she turned around on the piano stool and cried 'Didn't I do that wonderfully' and ran over and sat on Daddy's lap while mother and he praised her. No one said a word to me and I had worked so hard on those old chords. After a minute or so I got off my chair and walked out of the room. I went to the back room and got my Teddy Bear (I never cared for dolls) and sat on my little red chair and repeated over and over again 'I'll never play the piano again - never, never.' Believe it or not, I never did. I was unable to read the bass notes — it was as though they blanked out as I looked at them."

Becky had started attending Oakland High School, but by her own design switched to Tech High. These were happy years for Becky. At last she was no longer Joan London's little sister, she could be herself. Her freedom from family fame lasted only two years for her mother insisted that she keep up the family tradition, so she transferred to Oakland High School in order to graduate from the same school her father and sister had attended. She joined a Sunday School social group during High School years and the friendships she made there lasted a lifetime. The Sunday School "kids" went on long hikes, tug rides, and Christmas caroling. She never had any boy friends who had a lot of money, or even the use of the family car. They went places on foot or on the street car, wearing an evening dress. Joan was shocked when she found Becky had gone to a dance, via the street car, wearing an evening dress. But that was Becky. She never put on airs, and was happy to be just "one of the gang."

After graduation in 1919 Becky attended the University of California, graduating with a major in History in 1923. Then another year at U.C. for teacher's training which she never used. Instead she studied shorthand and typing at Munson's Business College in San Francisco and had further study in the same field at Business Opportunities in the same city.

Becky London's first job was with Drury's advertising as secretary. How fickle fate is! Joan did all the writing and Becky had far more ability but never wrote anything except two serial stories for her high school Aegis under the fictional name Peregrine Kenelen. At no time in her entire life did Becky use the famous name of her father for personal gain or recognition.

In 1927 Becky married Percy Fleming, a World War I veteran. They resided in Oakland, California. They owned and operated a stationary store in the Fruitvale District of Oakland until they had the opportunity to buy the Grand Avenue Stationary Store which they operated until retirement.

I'll bet you have wondered where the name Becky came from, (she was christened Bess). It seems that one night her mother's cousin (the famous actress Minnie Maddern Fiske) had come to visit. She was starring in "Vanity Fair", although the play was called "Becky Sharpe". Becky herself had wanted to be an actress and like most children could mimic. She was entertaining the neighborhood kids by showing how her cousin acted out the big scene. Miss Fiske witnessed her imitation, and called out "a perfect Becky Sharpe." Becky liked the name and has carried it since.

Jack London would have been proud to know what a wonderful daughter he fathered. She may have been a Jack London second edition, but this is one place where I would have rather had the second edition in my library and in my life.


Note:
Becky London died at 2:00 P.M. on Thursday March 26, 1992 at the River Park Care Center in Sacramento. At her request she was cremated and her ashes scattered at sea.
Read Becky's Obituary > >
More about Becky and other Jack London family members:
Additional information on Becky can be found in:
Childhood
Nicknames
Source: London, Becky. Jack London Echoes (April 1983)
Daddy and Mother decided on Joan and Bess for my sister and me because they didn't want us to be called by nick names. Daddy had been called "Johnny" as a child and didn't like it.
While mother whose name was Elizabeth had been called "Lizzie," a name she hated, Joan never had a nick name. I had several: Sunny Jim, (Mother said I was a happy baby), Buster, Tom Boy and finally Becky. This last was because like all children, I was a mimic. My mother's cousin, Minnie Maddern Fiske, was a famous actress around 1900 and we used to see her when she came West on tour every few years. Her best known role was Becky Sharp from Vanity Fair by William Thackery. I used to imitate her and she started calling me Becky. It stuck and I prefer it to Bess.
Oh, yes – when I was very small, Daddy called me "Baby B."
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