Rex - 8 months old
Linnie Rexene Jessee was born in Santa Ana, California. In the 1920's, her father, Harry Jessee, was a heavy equipment operator and was frequently away from home on projects. He spent several years on the Hoover Dam project. In 1925, her family moved to Central Avenue, in the Hispanic district of Santa Ana, called Delhi.
Delhi was a farming community west of Santa Ana. Delhi was eventually absorbed into the city of Santa Ana. There is just a Delhi Road now as a reminder of the old district.
One of Rex's uncles had a large bean farm in the Delhi area and sold to the Birdseye Corp. A big bean field.
She remembers walking two miles to school every day. Her best friend, Rosie lived across the street. She remembers to the right of their house was her Mom's large rose garden. In the back, was a small barn and workroom for her Dad. The neighborhood was largely Mexican and the Jessee family made many friends there and learned to love Mexican cooking.
Delhi kids in the 1920's. Rex is third from left in front.
The Jessee family went through some hard times during the 1930's depression, and Rex's brothers (Warren, Harold, Keith) and sister, Paulene, were often living with other friends and family. Some went to live with Odie Wildey Jessee, Harry's mother, who was Gram Jessee in those days. Odie and Linc had a farm, the Jessees were farmers. Odie and Linc had some marriage problems and they separated in the 1930's. Linc eventually gave up his ancient Jessee family profession of farming and became a pool shark. Rex remembers him as being very tall. He passed away in 1938.
Paulene lived with Aunt Mary (McDannald) for awhile, and then married Fred Mayes and moved to Cardiff, Calif in 1931.
Rex remembers being on Welfare in the 1930's, even though her father worked. She remembers her mother making fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy all the time. That was when you could get a whole chicken for 10 cents.
Rexene Jessee on the left in Delhi.
Her Dad would go away for months at a time doing construction work. Sometimes, he would go on deer hunting trips also. But, not for sport, for food. He would take Harold and Keith with him sometimes, but, Warren didn't like it. Her Dad taught the boys to not shoot anything unless you need it to eat.
The family also went to the beach one day a week to surf fish. Without ice in those days, the fishing was just for food for the day. Rex hated it. They would stay in a tent on the beach and there was sand everywhere and in everything. They would spend Saturday night camping on the beach. Her Dad was working six days per week and this was the few relaxing things he had to do.
Rex - 10 years old - 1932
Rex never heard her Dad swear in front of her. But, he did get angry at Rex's mother because Gladys was a very jealous person. They called it "The Green eyed Monster". Her Dad was very good looking and slender. Her Mom was two years older, short and heavy. Rex remembers going out to the garage one time and hearing lots of "blue Smoke". Her mom and dad were having a very violent argument, lots of swearing, apparently over jealousy.
Rex's dad used to play guitar and her Mom played the piano. They played for dances all the time. And her Dad, Harry, sang Country. Rex's brother Keith was known as "Skeeter", and he also had a band of his own. Harold also played the guitar and sang.
This is a description of the Delhi home by Rex's brother, Warren:
"Our family moved to this house in 1925. We lived there until 1940. Our Aunt Mary and Uncle Champ owned the house previously. Prior to that it was one big room, used as a meeting place and a dance floor. The hedge around the house was 6 foot tall. Central Avenue was a dirt road and there were no sidewalks.
The Jessee Delhi house in the 1970's.
"There was an old wooden porch with wooden railings. There were 2 bedrooms and a sleeping porch. Mom and Dad and raised their five children in this house. The ceilings were about 10 feet tall. The home was heated by a portable kerosine heater that could be moved from room to room. The town name was originally Gloretta, then named Delhi when we lived there, and is now called Santa Ana".
One of Rex's earliest memories is that her Mom would always have a pot of beans going on top of that old kerosine heater.
In the summer of 1938, her parents moved to a small house in San Diego in order to be closer to her father's construction job. They sold the Delhi house in 1940. Rex went to live with her sister, Paulyne in Cardiff, and her brothers went to live on the farm with their Grandma Jessee, Odie Wildey Jessee.
In the fall of 1938, Rex enrolled as a Junior in San Diguito High School in Encinitas, next door to Cardiff. Her sister Paulyne and brother-in-law Fred Mayes would frequently invite high school kids over for snacks and talk. This is where Rex met her future husband, Chuck Beckwith.
Rex graduated from High School in 1940. After graduation, she moved back in with her parents. Chuck couldn't forget this girl, and would frequently make the drive on weekends to visit Rex. On December 28, 1940, Chuck asked Rex to marry him and she replied "Yes". For the next 62 years, they would celebrate that date as their "Yes Day".
Two months after their "Yes Day", Chuck joined the U.S. Army, with a three year commitment. In the Spring and summer of 1941, he was stationed at Fort Rosecrans in the San Diego area, which was convenient, as Rex and her parents moved down to San Diego also.
Rex and Chuck - Spring 1941
On Friday, September 26, 1941, Chuck had a weekend pass and he and Rex planned to drive up to Bakersfield to visit his mother, Eleanor for the weekend. After Chuck picked up Rex from her parent's home, they decided to go back and get her engagement ring. Her mother, Gladys, was very suspicious about this. They then made the long drive from San Diego to Bakersfield, arriving late Friday night. On Saturday, Eleanor asked them what they planned to do on Sunday, and they replied, half as a joke, "we're going to Las Vegas to get married". She replied..."then lets do it!!". And so they decided, yes, we've been engaged ninth months, lets really get married. But, first, Eleanor decided Rex needed a proper wedding dress, so they roamed around Bakersfield all evening looking for something appropriate proper. Finally the three of them took off for Las Vegas in the early morning hours.
In 1941, you had to be 21 years old to get married without parent's permission, so they needed Chuck's mother to go with them, as Rex was 18, and Chuck 19. The next morning, they went to the Las Vegas Courthouse to get a license, and then in the morning of September 28, were married at the "Wee Kirk of the Heather" wedding chapel.
Chuck was on a strict military weekend pass so they could not stay in Las Vegas, so the three of them took off again, this time for Los Angeles to drop off Eleanor. They then drove to Compton to see Rex's Aunt Mary and Uncle Champ to tell them about their marriage, and then finally drove on back to San Diego. Chuck was a little reluctant to face his new in-laws, so Rex went in by herself to see her parents. Her mother's first words were "So you went and did it, didn't you?".
It was late at night on the 28th and Chuck was overdue for his return to Fort Rosecrans, and when he got back, he was put on punishment detail for a week, restricted to base, working in the mess hall, peeling potatoes and washing dishes. Such was the beginnings of their marriage.
They were very poor, just teenagers at the end of the depression years, and couldn't afford a home of their own, so the first three months of marriage were spent with Rex living with her parents, Chuck living on the Army base, and seeing each other just on weekends. In October, 1941, Chuck was transferred from Fort Rosecrans to Camp Seeley in the desert near Arizona, so they saw each other even less. On Sunday, December 7, 1941 and Chuck was visiting Rex at her parents house in San Diego. He was outside washing his car, when Rex heard about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, running outside to tell him. The radio reports were that all military personnel had to return immediately to their bases, so Chuck had to drive all the way back from San Diego to the desert Army camp. A few days later, his unit moved from the desert back toward mountains east of San Diego to Camp Lockett.
In January, 1942, Chuck was able to rent a mountain cabin in the town of Campo, next door to Camp Lockett. This was to become their first home together.
Rex and Chuck in front of their first home - January 1942
The young couple would live in Campo, California for the next two years.
On September 24, 1943, Rex had her first child, Chris. When she was close to delivery, she moved back with her parents in San Diego, so she could easily get to Mercy Hospital. Going along with the customs of the day, she spent two weeks in the hospital after the birth, before taking the baby back home in Campo. Eventually, racial problems at Camp Lockett forced all of the dependent families to move from Campo to Descanso, about 25 miles away, on a small mountain road, an hours drive. Chuck drove a school bus to and from work, picking up other soldiers forced to move their familes away from base.
Rex was known as "Sexy Rexy with the Classy Chaissie"
In February, 1944, when their baby was five months old, Chuck was transferred to Monterey in northern California to begin training for overseas service. The uncertainties of war and finances meant Rex and the baby could not join him so she moved back with her parents. A few months after his transfer, Rex and her friend, Hazel French, would leave the baby with the grandparents and drive up north to see Chuck. They could not afford the high prices of Monterey, so they got a motel in Salinas to the east, John Steinbeck, "Grapes of Wrath" country. Rex remembers spending all of their money on gas and motel rent and having nothing left for food. Chuck would smuggle some food out of the base; Rex and Hazel would also collect bottles found on the roadside, and sell those for food.
In September, 1944, Rex planned to make another long trip north to visit Chuck. Chuck found out he would be shipping out in a few days and would be very busy so he tried calling to tell Rex to stay home. However, she was already on the way and out of touch. Chuck then called his mother to see what she could do to stop Rex from driving up because he might be already gone. His mother called the California Highway Patrol to stop her, but it was too late. Rex and Hazel finally arrived in Salinas and was able to contact Chuck. He was able to get a small time off, and they had their visit.
In this picture, taken in Salinas, California, Rex is five months pregnant. She has a one year old child, and one on the way, and her husband is days away from leaving for the vicious and bloody war in the Pacific. At the moment this picture was taken, she didn't know if she would ever see him again.