Baking Up a Storm is a new historical fiction tale I’m working on, set in southern California in 1935. Clara Ayers, and the family members mentioned in the tale were real people. In 1935 her baked goods won four places at the Los Angeles County Fair. She placed second with her Light Rolls, Ginger Bread, and Chocolate Drop Cookies. Her Molasses Drop Cookies took first place. She and her recipes are listed in the Prize Winning Recipes cookbook from the fair that year.
Any historical tidbits mentioned in the story are true facts. But the conversations that take place and Clara’s thoughts and actions are all fictional creations from this author’s brain as she tries to honor Clara’s life and bring her to life. Dear Clara, please excuse me if I’ve erred in any way in this historical re-creation.
In honor of Clara Ayers and her four prize winning recipes of 1935, join us as we step back in time, to a time when the citrus groves in the valley south of the San Bernardino Mountains reigned (and the foothills were clear of smog.)
This week we write to the prompt ‘truck.’
Clara threw her hands up in mock surrender. “Whoa! Boys, calm down. One at a time.”
Lee ambled over to his grandmother and threw his arms around her in a giant hug. “Your baking sure smells mighty tasty, Grandma. Glen and I are famished after our long day at school.” He leaned his head back and gave her sly grin.
“And you’re hoping I’ll share some of my morsels with you mischievous, young lads?”
Both boys nodded their heads fervently. Clara bent over laughing, holder her sides. “You two look like little ‘Swing and Sway’ dolls.”
“What?” both boys asked in unison.
“You know…Swing and sway…the little paper mache dolls in their yellow dresses…”
Four confused eyes stared back at her.
“Let’s swing and sway with Sammy Kaye…the orchestra…” Clara wiped a tear from the corner of her eyes. “Never mind. You young un’s aren’t old enough for all that nonsense yet. To answer your question, Lee – yes, I will share. Go wash your hands. Now, Glen, what’s all this about war and a map?”
Glen pulled a paper from his back pocket and proceeded to unfold the creased page. “In geography we’re studying places around the world. We need to label the countries that fought in the Great War. Do you remember any of that?”
“Course I remember that. But you should ask your father. He fought in it. Spent a lot of time overseas. He’d be a bigger help to you.”
The youngster cast his eyes to the floor as his smile turned upside down into a frowny pout. “That’s what Mom says. But my homework is due tomorrow. Dad’s on fourteen hour shifts on the Red Line, then he stops at the filling station to talk politics with his buddies. I’ll be in bed asleep before he gets home.”
“Oh, dear. That is a problem.” Clara sliced a gingerbread loaf and sat three slices on a plate. “Let’s sit down and see what we can do to get this assignment done.”
Clara and Glen mulled over the map as the three almost inhaled the warm, fragrant dessert bread. Clara pointed. “There’s France. Most of our boys went there to fight.”
Glen grabbed the pencil that was tucked behind an ear and started writing.
“There’s Germany. Your dad fought in both those countries.”
Lee nodded his head in agreement. “Yep. We hear those stories a lot. When he’s home and in a talkative mood.”
Clara grinned. She’d heard a few of those too. She looked out the kitchen window as if peering for something unseen to the others. Lost in thought, she jumped when Lee spoke again. “Are you okay, Grandma?”
She shook her shoulders, bringing herself back to the present. “Just lost in time for a moment. My goodness, your mama was a mess when your daddy up and dropped out of school to join the Army. She missed him something fierce. I swear she didn’t draw a breath in between receiving letters from him.”
“They let husbands go off to fight?” Glen seemed almost angry at the thought.
“Oh, they weren’t married yet. They didn’t get married until a few years after the war.”
Lee punched his younger brother in the shoulder. “Doofus. Didn’t you hear the part about dropping out of school? You can’t be married if you’re still in school.”
Glen pursed his lips in puzzlement. “How’d they let him in the Army then?” Both boys turned to their grandmother for an answer.
“Seems to me there was a little discrepancy about what he said his age was.” Not wanting to dwell on their father’s falsifying his age, Clara rambled on to distract them. “He tell you what happened to get him discharged?”
“Probably. I don’t remember. I’m sure we’ve heard though.” Lee stood and stretched, a bored look settling in on his face as if he care to hear any more of the old tales for yet another time.
Clara rose and brushed the crumbs from the table onto the plate. “Broke his arm. After all the fighting he’d seen, it wasn’t a bullet that put him out of commission, it was a bone breaking.”
A shine appeared in Glen’s eyes and his face lit up in anticipation of the upcoming story. “He break an arm fighting those Germans?”
Clara patted the top of her grandson’s head. “He was fighting. In a sense. But he broke it while cranking a truck.”
The excitement faded from the little boy’s face. “Awww, shucks. That’s not a war hero story.”
Pity filled Clara’s heart and she bent down and wrapped her arms around him. “Now, son, don’t be thinking like that. Maybe breaking your arm in that matter isn’t a moment of shining glory, but he went and fought. Along with hundreds of thousands of others. And every single young man that went over there is a hero. The ones that came home and the ones that didn’t.”
“Did Grandpa Ayers fight in the war too?” Hope filled Glen’s face at the chance of finding another war hero in the family.
“No, son, he didn’t. He died before the war started. Now, tell you what. Why don’t you two run on over to Aunt Hazel’s house. I know for a fact she’s got a scrapbook started. And I do believe there’s a letter or two in there that your dad wrote to her from Europe. You might find it interesting to read what he was going through when he wasn’t too many years older than you two are now.”
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