Fun Feedback from “The Man in the Purple Cow House”

One of the best parts about writing a book is getting feedback from readers. Since my books are about my family, I often receive family-related feedback, such as an email from an aunt I never knew I had. She lives in Australia. More later.

Edid and my dad, Tom Ames, on Dad’s balcony at 109 Chautauqua Blvd, Santa Monica, in the 1970s.

But, this week, I got an email from an unexpected source. Enid, now in her seventies, was a tenant in the apartment complex my father owned. Those of you who have read The Man in the Purple Cow House know that my father’s last ‘home’ was a 28-unit apartment building on the corner of Chautauqua Blvd. and Pacific Coast Highway in Santa Monica. As my father’s mental health deteriorated, his ability to manage his apartment house turned weird. He alienated a lot of people. Yet, there were those who recognized my old Dad deep inside somewhere who liked to amuse. In the photo above, he wears his ‘hippie’ wig.

Here’s Enid’s letter.

Dear Mary

I was a tenant at 109 Chautauqua Bl. for most of the 1970’s. I moved back to R.I. in 1981 and from time to time, I thought about your dad and the unbelievable experiences I had living in his building. I wondered what happened to him. Unlike some of the Chautauqua tenants you mentioned in The Man in the Purple Cow House (I just finished Chapter 14), I liked your quirky dad and we got along very well.

I never knew that your dad lost the building to foreclosure. He told me that the police would be knocking on his door because of his garbage delivery to the Reagans, so he stuffed $800 in his sock for bail money.

I would have continued living there but after receiving his letter during his jail event I knew that it was time to leave. His stubbornness to abide by the new fire regulations after a massive fire in the Ponet Square Hotel in downtown LA was the last straw. Instead of putting in the fire doors, etc, he gave me a rope ladder that I could throw out the window if I had to evacuate. I had lived in a couple of apartments in the building and at that time I was on the top floor facing PCH, and he told me to move downstairs to the second floor and to stop paying rent. At that time there were only a very few remaining tenants and he told all of us to stop paying rent. The third floor would then be vacant and those remaining would be living there as his guests. In his mind those fire regulations would not apply to that building because it would have become a two-story building without rental units. It would become a private two-story residence. At that point I moved out.

He told me he had lived in a big house in Pasadena. I believed him when I saw a gigantic mirror that came from the house.

Every now and then I would think about those times in the 70’s and would check online for any information about your dad but never found anything. Because of the pandemic and spending so much time at home, I must have searched a little more diligently and found your story and ordered your book.

I am so sorry for the sad times you experienced with your dad, but happy that you had some loving memories, too.

I cried myself to sleep last night after finishing your book. . . 
I am so sorry for your dad, you and your brothers.  I know it’s a little late but please accept my condolences.  It doesn’t seem real that he could have fallen into such a state that he couldn’t or wouldn’t ask for help.

Thank you for reaching out with your letter, Enid, for being a friend of my ‘quirky’ dad, and for the above photo.

The Man in the Purple Cow House and Other Tales of Eccentricity is available on Amazon as an eBook and print book along with my other stories.

Santa Barbara, Rincon, Santa Paula, the Sisters on the Fly

God, I love my state. I count my blessings every time I drive south along Highway 101 to Santa Barbara. One thing I was struck by this time, that I hadn’t noticed before, is how many Camino Real bells there are between King City and San Luis Obispo — one every five minutes or so. Does that mean there were once that many here at the northern end of the Royal Road between San Francisco and Sonoma?


Let’s hope the ignorant general public continues to ignore them.

After leaving super early on a Wednesday, so I could clear the South Bay before rush hour, I made it to Santa Barbara by 2:00ish. I visited two places. The first was a retirement village named Samarkand after the hotel of that name that my great-grandmother Mary Hopkins established in the building that her son, my maternal grandfather, Prynce Hopkins, had built in Persian style for the Montesorri-like school he founded in 1913 called Boyland. (Long sentence, sorry. Sometimes it is difficult trying to be factually and historically correct.)


The blue urns, now planters, are remnants from the hotel. My great-grandmother probably imported them from the Middle-East where they were created to store olive oil. See the koi pond at the left? Grandpa built that for the school. Here is a photo from the history exhibit the complex displays. My aunt Jennifer Hopkins provided the old photo for the exhibit.


The round pool beyond the koi pond was a swimming pool for the school children. It was shaped like a globe to help teach the children geography.

The second place I visited was the Santa Barbara History Museum.


Even though I have been visiting Santa Barbara since I was in my Mommy’s belly (to visit  her father [d. 1970] and grandmother Mary [d. 1955]), I had never been to the museum — at least that I remember. Here are some of the highlights for me.

First, I noticed upon entering the museum that the stone with the brass plaque to the left of the door is exactly like the gravestone for my great-grandfather Charles Harris Hopkins’ in the nearby Santa Barbara Cemetery (the photo below).


Next, it was fun to see photos of Santa Barbara back when my great-grandparents moved there. They built their home on the corner of Pedregosa and Garden Streets back in 1897. Their son, Grandpa, who would have been twelve in 1897, later wrote about the horse-drawn trollies running down State Street. He mentioned that sometimes the trolly drivers waited outside a store for a rider to do her shopping, then continued on after she reboarded.


I also liked seeing this old embroidered silk shawl. I have one just like it that used to belong to my great-grandmother Mary. Maybe she used to wear it for the annual Santa Barbara Fiesta?


I spent the night at the Rincon Parkway Campground, a strip of parking spaces along the highway between the ocean and the cliffs.

Next morning I headed to Santa Paula for a Sisters on the Fly weekend event. The Sisters on the Fly is a group of about 14,000 women around the US and Europe who like to camp and have fun. They have four rules for joining their events. 1) No men. 2) No children. 3) Be nice. 4) Have fun. The fun activitiy planned for this weekend was paddling kayaks along the coast of Anacapa Island.

That was Friday. On Saturday, we hung about the KOA campground, did some crafts, got to know each other over coffee, and then, following Sisters on the Fly tradition, toured the women’s camper trailers, or, as in my case, campervans. I only filmed the fun vintage trailers.

On Sunday, before heading to Pasadena to visit my grandchildren, I took advantage of Family Day in Santa Paula. All the museums were open for free. There is an Agricultural Museum,


an oil industry museum,



and two art museums. The drive from Santa Paula to Pasadena through orange and avocado groves was very pretty, but the weather was cloudy. So I’m not going to include my photos.

That’s it for now.

Women’s Rights and Child Labor Laws


Julia Frances ‘Fanny’ Baker Ames (1840-1931)

This is why studying my ancestors can be so interesting. Often I find connections between events in the distant past that enrich my understanding of events today. This time the women’s rights and child labor law connections are between my great-great-grandmother Fanny Baker Ames and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren.

Yesterday I wrote up a bio of Fanny because she is being featured in an exhibit for the Massachusetts State Police Museum. Fanny lived in Boston in the 1880s, when she was in her 40s. While her husband Charles Gordon Ames busied himself as the minister of the Church of Disciples Unitarian Church, Fanny served as the president of the Boston Equal Suffrage Association, held offices in the Massachusetts and New England Woman Suffrage Association for Good Government, served two terms on the Boston School Committee, and was one of the first women on the original Board of Trustees for Simmons College.

Most relevant to this blog post, on May 9, 1891, Fanny was one of the first two women hired as officers for the Massachusetts State Police. The other woman, Mary Ellen Healy, lived in Lawrence, Massachusetts. Fanny and Mary Ellen worked as factory inspectors to help enforce the new child labor laws. Men officers were each paid $1,500 per year. The women were each paid $1,000 per year, though the men and the women did the same job. Fanny worked for the police until 1897. But Mary Ellen stayed on for 37 years.

Then this morning (February 20, 2018), on BBCNews Online, I read about Elizabeth Warren officially launching in Lawrence, Massachusetts her campaign for the 2020 Democratic race. “Ahh, Lawrence,” I thought, curiosity piqued because, of course, I remembered learning yesterday about Mary Ellen of Lawrence. I related to this news article with a completely different perspective than if I had not written Fanny’s bio yesterday.

“The Massachusetts senator told the crowd of several thousand in Saturday’s blustery cold about Everett Mill. …. Back in 1912 [when Mary Ellen was still an inspector there], the textile factory was the scene of a labor strike for better pay and working conditions that expanded to include 20,000 workers, mostly women, in the then-bustling industrial town.

The west side of Everett Mills as viewed from Essex Street.

Everett Mills in Lawrence, Massachusetts. (Photo placed on Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository, by EMC)

“The movement that started in Lawrence, [Warren] explained, led to government-mandated minimum wage, union rights, weekends off, overtime pay and new safety laws across the US. The story of Lawrence is a story about how real change happens in America,” Ms. Warren said. “It’s a story about power  –  our power  –  when we fight together.”

I suspect Elizabeth Warren caused as many eyes to roll as I do when I talk about my ancestors, but wouldn’t Fanny have been happy to know that six of the ten Democratic candidates running so far for President in 2020 (400 years after Fanny’s ancestors Francis Cooke and Richard Warren stepped off the Mayflower) are women? Richard Warren may well be Elizabeth Warren’s ancestor, too. Six degrees!

Massachusetts militia entering Everett Mills in Lawrence, Massachusetts in 1912. Photo copyrighted by the Lawrence History Center.

Photo from the Lawrence History Center Exhibit: “Bread and Roses Strike of 1912: Two Months in Lawrence, Massachusetts, that Changed Labor History”

The Henry Knox Trail 3-Part Video Series

Haven Younger and Mary Mitchell singing the chorus of Henry's Big Kaboom

Haven Younger and Mary Mitchell singing the chorus of Henry’s Big Kaboom

Hi. I find many of you prefer to watch videos than to read through blogs, so I’ve put together a three-part series about my trip to New England I hope you will enjoy.

Part I is my visit to Fort Ticonderoga in New York and a snippet of my performance of Henry’s Big Kaboom for the children.

Part II starts with finding New York Marker No. 1 of the Henry Knox Trail in Ticonderoga and following the rest of the markers through Albany, over the border into Massachusetts, and on to Westfield. That took three days. I then had to dash to Thomaston, Maine for the ‘Boom’ event. I will finish the trail from Westfield to Cambridge in September when I return to New England for my niece Megan’s wedding.

Part III shows my visit to the Henry Knox Museum aka Montpelier. Imagine what it’s like to view a place that, even though a replica of the original, is where your ancestors lived for three generations. As evidenced by the streets named after my 5x-great-grandparents (Knox St, Thatcher St, & Flucker St), they also established the town. I performed my Henry ballad a second time and met third cousins Amy MacDonald and Charles Fletcher (fellow Knox descendants) I’d never met before. Thrilling. After working hard to update our family tree and connect with my family, it was also very emotional.

Part I

Part II