Fernando Escalante – Part I

It must be difficult to the be the baby sometimes. Either they are doted over and spoiled rotten, or they are forgotten. I have not forgotten about the baby of the Escalante children. I’ve been so wrapped up in telling my grandfather Albert’s story, that I postponed  Fernando. But, I can’t do that! Therefore, he has been bumped to the top of the queue. As his life was pretty full, I thought I would give him several chapters.

Fernando Escalante - May 31, 1914.

Fernando Escalante – May 31, 1914.

Fernando Escalante was the last living child born to Leonardo and Rufina. They were living in Los Angeles in 1914. I would love to know what drew them to L.A. The who? what? why? Before they got to Orange County, they had Fernando. This birth certificate is SO very informative. Leonardo didn’t have a business here as he’d had in Ventura County. Rufina is “housewife-ing.” My heart skipped a bit when I read “Number of children born to this mother, including present birth: 12” and “Number of children of this mother now living: 9.” My poor darling Rufina lost 3 babies. BUT! They did get one more chance. Fernando was born and his daddy was 48! Surprise!

The family moved to Santa Ana and started their lives. Fernando didn’t get to know his daddy for very long though. Leonardo died June, 1915, when Fernando was only one. The whole family shifted their center to Calexico. There are several family members who visited the area. This was the first picture I could find for Fernando.

Rufina and her littles: Lupe, Albert, and Vernon, 1919.

Rufina and her littles: Lupe, Albert, and Vernon, 1919.

I love the sweet border agents. They tried so hard to translate names. So Fernando was called Vernon. Once Rufina died in 1923, Fernando became a 9 year-old orphan. Fortunately, the family rallied to care for him.  I would imagine he lived for a while with several of his “already adult” siblings.

Graduation photo, Calexico High School, 1934.

Graduation photo, Calexico High School, 1934.

I found this handsome devil’s photograph at the Pioneer Park Museum in Imperial, CA. While my grandfather Albert stopped his education at 16 years old, Fernando made it to graduation in 1934. The next time I find him is in 1937 at the Hotel De Anza.

Hotel De Anza. Swanky.

Hotel De Anza. Swanky.

Imperial Valley Directory.

Imperial Valley Directory.

Fernando was working as a Bellman. This isn’t a phone book. It was an area directory and it gave all sorts of good information. I confirmed that here (by cross-reference) in 1937 Fernando is living with Tia Panchita and Tio Alejandro.

It was in 1936 and 1937 that Fernando’s life started changing. He met his first wife, Elodia Cruz. Elodia’s story is shared with us by her daughter.

Elodia was born to Luz Rembao and Jose Cruz in Mexicali, Baja CA on June 25, 1919. In 1920, they lived for a short time in Hurley, Grant County, New Mexico. Elodia’s uncle and maternal grandmother, Senona lived next door. Soon, there were three Cruz children when Alberto was born right after this census was taken.

Cruz Family, Hurley, New Mexico, 1920.

Cruz Family, Hurley, New Mexico, 1920.

Tragedy struck the family early. Their father died Elodia was 3, and their mother died two years later. The Cruz siblings went to live with their maternal grandmother, Senona, back in Mexicali. 5 years later, Senona passed. They went to live with a maternal aunt. They were raised among 16 children.

Elodia met and fell for a handsome Fernando Escalante. They married on June 15, 1937, when he was 23 and she was 18.

Elodia and Fernando’s Wedding Day. Photo courtesy of G. Miller.

This lovely photograph is their wedding portrait. Left to Right: Leonila (? as she looks just like Elodia), unknown, Tia Panchita Escalante de Garcia, Elodia, Fernando, Tio Alejandro Garcia, unknown, unknown.

They had two children, a boy and a girl. I’m kind of quirky about not naming those family members who are alive. I’m happy to report that both are.

Her manifest with her baby boy. She's beaming!

Elodia’s manifest with her and Fernando’s first baby boy. She’s beaming!

This marriage did not last long however. Fernando and Elodia divorced in 1942. She was diagnosed with tuberculosis in 1946. She recovered, moving to San Diego to live with Leonila. In 1955, she found new happiness. She met and married Wallace Gray of Macon, Georgia. Elodia’s son had been living with Fernando and his second wife (next chapter) and their daughter had been living with Tia Panchita. Both went to live with Elodia and Wallace in 1956. That same year, Elodia had another son. Their family was complete. The Gray’s were married for over 50 years.

She was a sales woman at Hartfield’s Department Store for 25 years. I wish I had been able to meet her. Her daughter wrote: “My mother was a selfless, wonderfully forgiving, and unpretentious woman. She didn’t have a selfish bone in her body. She was a very fun-loving woman. She loved to dance and go to parties. She was a devout Catholic, attending Mass faithfully and saying her rosary everyday.”

Elodia Cruz Gray died of breast cancer on July 28, 2006.

Elodia Cruz, 25 years old.

Elodia Cruz, 25 years old.

Tio Fernando’s story went on after his divorce from Elodia. There was the military, a new wife, bar keeping, hard work and more children. You’ll just have to wait for next time.

My thanks to Elodia’s daughter for sharing the stories and pictures. All my love.

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