HE YEAR was 1906 and the day was April 17th, the day before the big earthquake, that the little Cheney family, Ross Reed, Jessie and I (Frances) arrived in Berkeley, California. We stayed for a while at the home of my great uncle, Dr. Alvin Small, at 2808 Grove Street, Berkeley. I really remember looking out of the window and seeing chimneys collapse.
After living in Oakland for a few months, we settled in Piedmont, 680 Mountain Avenue, in what was called the "Orchard" (an experimental orchard with all varieties of fruit trees) and for awhile at the "Silk Culture House" (another experiment with Mulberry bushes all around). It was while we were living in those places that my father became acquainted with Jack London in the hills of Piedmont. My father was always "hob-nobbing" with great and important people. He would take me with him to visit Herman Whitaker, Xavier Martinez as well as Jack London. (Elsie Whitaker married Martinez and she and her daughter, Micaela Martinez DuCasse, still attend our Jack London Birthday Banquets). Elsie Martinez remembers my father very well. (My father passed away in 1969 at age ninety-seven).
The day the Snark was to sail from Oakland Estuary, April 22, 1907, my father took me down on the streetcar from Piedmont to go aboard the Snark. I was only 4 1/2 years of age at the time, but I distinctly remember that we went aboard the boat and Jack London carried me in his arms around the Snark. He introduced me to his "mate," Charmian London. (I wish I had a picture of my being carried in the arms of Jack London)! When all the guests were off the Snark and standing on the shore to watch her sail and waving "Good-bye," Charmian London called especially to me saying, "Bye-Bye, baby." From this memory it leads me to believe that I was the only child in the crowd on the shore. I cannot remember whether or not there were any other children present. Charmian's calling to me is so clear in my memory.
Nine years later when Jack London died, I wrote Charmian a letter of sympathy and asked her if she remembered the little girl to whom she waved "Bye-Bye" the day the Snark sailed. In her reply to me she wrote: "Yes, I remember, and it breaks my heart to think of that happy day, tho I should not complain after all these happy 11 years of almost hourly companionship. How good of you to write me in my dark hour. I am truly grateful, Sincerely, Charmian London." Her note was dated December 18, 1916. She enclosed a brochure about her book, The Log of the Snark.
I was 14 years of age at that time. I have given Charmian's letter and the brochure to Russ Kingman for his museum in Glen Ellen.
In the years between 1907 and 1913, the London's and my path did not cross. In 1913 after having lived elsewhere in Piedmont, we moved to what is now Scenic Avenue. (Its address then was 424 Pala Avenue as there were no houses on that side of Pala. The house is much closer to Scenic Avenue, but the front door faces Pala Avenue). Mrs. Bessie Maddern London with Joan and Bess (at that time she had not adopted the nickname of Becky) lived at what is now 206 Scenic Avenue, having moved there the year before in a new house that Jack had built for them. It was then that I really became close friends with Becky. I used to play with her both at her home and at mine. My home was just down the bend from hers on Scenic Avenue. We were both about 10 1/2 years of age at that time. I remember Becky showing me pictures of her famous father and I asked her where he was. I don't remember her reply. At age 10, I was a bit slow in putting two and two together. At first I did not realize that her father was the man on the Snark six years before.
I have a picture taken on my 12th birthday in my home October 2, 1914 with five girls, including Becky, the Anderson girls, Ramona Duck Sutfin and me. Ramona lived at the corner of Oakland and Highland Avenues in Piedmont. The streetcar ran along Highland Avenue. She recalls as a small child (she is two years younger than I) looking out her front window and seeing Jack London standing on the corner waiting for the streetcar after having been to visit Joan and Becky. Ramona has told me that even then she was impressed by his wide brim hat and flowing tie. She did not realize at the time that the man was the famous author.
Becky and I both went to the Piedmont Grammer School. It was renamed Havens School later. Becky was two years ahead of me in school, so we were never in the same grade in school. It was as neighbors on Scenic Avenue that we became friends. She left Piedmont Grammer School at the end of the sixth grade and went to the new Durant Junior High School. I stayed on and graduated from the eight grade in June, 1917. (I was the Commencement Speaker and gave a talk on Teddy Roosevelt. I had named my Staghound dog, Teddy, after Roosevelt. My first bulldog, I had named Jack, after Jack London)! I had to go to Oakland Technical High School as Piedmont had no high school then. I was only a student there for one year as we moved to Berkeley, and I attended Berkeley High School and went on to U.C. Berkeley.
From 1917 until 1970, I lost track of Becky completely. Although we were both at U.C. Berkeley at the time, our paths never crossed. I was a music major and music was and still is my life. Becky graduated in 1923, I in 1925.
On July 1, 1970, the Jack London cabin was to be dedicated at Jack London Square. I urged my daughter, Zetta-Lynne Poli, to drive me to the event. I especially wanted to meet Becky London again. I remember that it was a very hot day. I met Russ Kingman and Leonard Verbarg, the Tribune "Knave," that memorable day. I went up to the lady Russ had pointed out to me and said, "Are you Becky London Fleming?" Of course, she answered in the affirmative. I said, "I am Frances Cheney Lozier, remember me?" My daughter photographed our meeting each other. Then there were a lot of "remember whens" and we resolved to keep in touch.
The following January, 1971, my daughter read in the Tribune that there was to be a Jack London Banquet at the Sea Wolf Restaurant in Jack London Square on January 12th. As that is her birthday too, I immediately made reservations of course. And I looked forward to seeing Becky again. Every year since then there has been a Banquet and my daughter and I are always present. It is her Birthday Banquet, too!
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