MY IRISH-GERMAN GRANDMOTHER
Catherine Marie Nolan Horlacher
My grandmother, Catherine Marie Nolan Horlacher, was born on June 2, 1894. Her father was William Nolan, and her mother was Mary Mertz Nolan, both born in Ireland. Grandma’s husband, George Washington Horlacher, always called her “Kate Nolan, the Irish Mick!”
Grandma had two brothers and one sister, William Francis Nolan (possibly, Jr.), born in 1887, Stella (who later became Mrs. George Worth), born in 1890, and a younger brother, Edward Nolan, born in 1899. When I was growing up, Grandma used to tell me stories about her Father wrestling with her brothers. She also told me a story about William and Buffalo Bill Cody. She told me that they used to pal around together during the time of Cody’s Wild West shows! Dates, however, show that this isn’t true. William and Cody could not have been “pals.” William was born in 1887, and Cody’s shows were in Europe, mostly in England, most of the last half of the 1880s. Cody was in Philadelphia before William was born, and again, in 1916, when William was 29 years old and Cody was 76! Cody died the following year. It’s possible that William was a fan of Buffalo Bill, and Grandma, being seven years younger than William, somehow translated that into some kind of special friendship between the two.
Grandma and Grandpa were married in Washington, Delaware, on May 23, 1912. They had two children, my father, George William Horlacher, in 1913, and my aunt Catherine Marie Horlacher Bonham, born in 1915. In 1917, the whole family moved to California, ending up in Redondo Beach. Grandma’s brother, William, also moved to California, to Pasadena, where he owned a produce business. He and his wife had five children, George, Johnny, Alice, Edward L. and William. William Sr. was killed
in the 1920s in a truck accident. His son, Johnny, had a used car lot on Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena as late as 1984. Back in the 1920s, George and Johnny used to ride their bicycles from Pasadena to Redondo Beach, to visit their cousins (my father and Aunt Catherine) and when it was time for them to go back home,
Grandma would load their bikes in her car and drive them back to Pasadena!
In their early days in Redondo Beach, Grandma had a very bad auto accident. She had some bad cuts from the old plate glass windshield. She survived, obviously and she continued to drive for most of the rest of her life. She and my Grandfather, along with their children, lived in a house they bought at 105 So. Juanita Ave, in Redondo Beach, California. (The house was built about 1916). After their children were married, they moved to Riverside, California.
Another incident that happened in their early Redondo days was the time when Grandma had to have her tonsils removed! She had this done in the doctor’s office, sitting in a straight-back chair! When the doctor asked her if she had someone to drive her home, she said, “I’ll drive myself!” The doctor didn’t even consider such a thing. He had his nurse drive her home! Can you see this happening today?
Grandma was a very strong woman, in many ways. I’ve seen her do a man’s work every day, from 1936 to the early 1950s, on the egg/chicken ranch they bought in Riverside.
My cousin, Jim Bonham, remembers her using an iron- wheeled push mower to mow the lawn. (Later, she bought a gas powered mower). Jim also remembers Grandma teaching him to swim in the local swimming pool. He remembers the rides from Redondo Beach with his parents, my Aunt Catherine and Uncle Homer to our Grandparents home in Riverside and seeing some of the last steam trains while traveling though the Santa Ana Canyon. His father never failed to say that the train they were watching could be one of the last steam engines they would ever see because diesels were already replacing them. If their timing was right on these trips, they would also see a Red Car going though the Santa Ana Canyon. On seeing the Red Cars, his father would say,” they should never get rid of those!”
These events happened in the 1940s to the early 1950s.
Note: For history on the Red Cars of Los Angeles go to, www.usc.edu/libraries/archives/la/historic/redcars/ ,www.laststreetcar.org/l-a-streetcar-project/streetcar-history/ and for a picture of the first street car of Riverside, California, go to http://content.cdlib.org/ark:/13030/kt5q2nfzjv/.
Additions to Grandma and Grandpa’s La Sierra home were made shortly after they moved into it, most likely in the 1930s. Originally, the structure was a converted garage, set up to be a home. A home without an indoor bathroom! The bathroom, or “outhouse,” was located behind a one-car garage behind the house. It was really quite nice! It had a concrete floor and a concrete bench that had just one hole, comfortably covered with a wooden seat! With a lid! Nice as it was (!!) Grandma and Grandpa gave it up for an indoor bathroom, which they added onto the house, along with a bedroom.
Their water came from a well just outside their house. It furnished the house with water via a tank that they built, on the second floor of a small building, also just outside the house. The water was pumped from the well to the tank by a Stover fly-wheel engine, which was later replaced by a Fairbanks- Morris fly-wheel engine that was easier for Grandma to start! The first floor of the tank house was a shower room. The water wasn’t heated, but its temperature was tolerable because it came down directly from the sun warmed tank! Grandma and grandpa’s little house grew and besides welcoming the family, it welcomed the many friends Grandma and Grandpa had. They worked very hard, but life for them wasn’t all work and no play! They enjoyed evenings and weekends playing cards or board games. It wasn’t unusual to see a Chinese Checker board, or a Sorry game, on their table. And if they didn’t have company to share their games, they played each other!
In a section of the history of my Grandfather, George Washington Horlacher, I tell the story of how they came to be called Grandpa and Grandma Bear. That’s how we’ve known them since the 1960s, and they remain Grandpa and Grandma Bear to this day!