A Memoriam for my Mother
Lillian May Arthurs was born 29 February 1908 in Hanna, Wyoming. Hanna is at the crest
of the Union Pacific transcontinental railroad over the Rocky Mountains, a
relatively barren, windswept and cold place. Her father, Jack Arthurs, was of
Irish Protestant heritage (Orange); I do not know if he was born in Ireland or
Wyoming. Lillian's mother's maiden name was Maude Watkins; she was of English
heritage and Mom thought she was born in Iowa. Maude had a daughter, Anna
Coulter, by a previous marriage; Lillian was her second daughter and last child.
Hanna had (and still has) extensive coal deposits and Jack worked in the coal
mines; as family lore goes he was a mule-skinner and took care of the mules and
horses that were used in the mines. It was a rough life in a company town, many
were killed in coal mine disasters and alcoholism was a normal way of life.
Sometime while Mom was in grade school the family moved to Roundup, Montana, where there were also extensive coal mines and a major railroad. Jack continued to work in the coal mines and the family lived in a converted railroad boxcar near the center of town.
very active in High School, developed the nickname "Billie" and met
her lifetime best friend, Amy Ashment. She played basketball and as shown in the
yearbooks was involved in many activities.
For vacations the family liked to go camping and there are pictures I remember of old cars, campsites and pots and pans, and they also had a favorite dog with them.
Upon High School graduation, approximately 1925, Mom went to what was called Normal School in those days, in Billings, Montana, and in a year or so obtained a certificate to teach grade school. She had her first teaching job in a one room country school with eight grades which was a bit east of Roundup, near the railroad line. She also had a Model T Ford which had to be hand cranked and was not easy to start in the winter in freezing weather. During this time I believe Mom had a serious boy friend, named Dobbie, who wanted to marry her but she was not persuaded. She was an independent young lady.
Sometime around 1928 or so Mom's half-sister Anna moved to San Francisco, and after a year or so the rest of the family followed. They lived in San Jose and Mom took a job teaching typing and shorthand in a business school (her teaching certificate from Montana did not qualify her to teach in a regular school in California). Anna got married, lived in San Francisco, and a few years later got sick and died without having any children.
Mom soon moved to Sacramento and continued to teach in business school, I believe at Heald College. She formed friends and I am sure had an active social life. When I was a boy we used to visit one of her good friends from her teaching days in Sacramento, Esa and Stanley, a nice Italian couple with children my age. They all used to go to dances; I think that was the main form of partying. These were held in Winters, Tremont and other places, in nearby small towns, sometimes just out in the country like Tremont Hall. Mom also had good friends in Winters who we used to visit; they had a large farm and beautiful home just a few miles north of Winters.
As might be expected. Mom met a fellow and fell in love - his name was James Robben and he owned and operated a Shell service station in Dixon. This was the old Shell station located on the NE corner of A Street and Adams, where US 40, the Lincoln Highway, went through town. This was the largest gas station in town; besides automotive repair it had a restaurant and was the Greyhound bus stop for Dixon. Jimmy was popular, very social and a good dancer (the latter was very important for Lillian). The following story is as I remember my mother telling me.
"We set the wedding date and I invited my best friend from High School, Amy Ashment, to the wedding. She was living in Chicago with her parents. Because I wanted to have fun with Amy, Jimmy and I got married earlier, so that when Amy came we could all go out together and enjoy ourselves."
Well, I guess that happened, and as a result one of Jimmy's good friends, Linford "Bud" Anderson, became so infatuated with Amy that he followed her back to Chicago, persuaded her to marry him, and brought her back to Dixon!
At that time Jimmy was living with his father and brother in the family house at 530 West A street, a bit west of the Shell service station, and Jimmy and his new bride moved into this house. Jimmy's mother Lena Robben had passed away a couple of years earlier. A tragic event then occurred. Jimmy became sick, with what was either the flu or a severe cold, and was taken to the Woodland hospital. Within a few days he died, leaving his young wife a widow. It must have been doubly difficult, as this occurred in the depths of the great depression when people were poor and jobs extremely difficult to obtain.
Approximately a year later Lillian married Jimmy's brother Conreux. Conreux owned farms both on the west side of Dixon near Silveyville and Schroeder roads, the "Eibe Place" and the "Hycee Place", and on the east side of Dixon towards the east end of Miller road, the "Benson Place". They continued to live in Dixon on A street along with Conreux's father Frank Robben. On February 12, 1934 I was born, and on November 10, 1939 my brother, who was named Conreux Robben after his father (it was Conreux's mother's maiden name), was born.
During this time there was an interesting transaction. Besides the home in Dixon, my grandfather Frank Robben also owned a quarter section with a decent house, where his family had lived, on Pedrick Road, the second quarter on the east side from A street. Interestingly, my father did not farm his father's property; he had farmed on his own, saved his money and purchased his own land. My grandfather apparently decided to sell the old "home place", Dad did not want it and it was sold to Bud Anderson. As a result Bud and Amy, Mom's lifelong best friend, lived in and raised their children in the home where my father grew up.
Mom and Amy Anderson remained lifelong friends and the families were close. I remember they used to call each other on the telephone (hand cranked in those days) every day and chat a bit. There were bridge clubs, dinners together with card playing afterwards; and the major ceremonial dinners (Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter) were always together with the Andersons and also included other relatives of both families.
Early in the 1940's my parents decided to fix up the house on the Eibe Place, west of town, and in 1942 we all moved there along with my grandfather Frank. Our nearest neighbors were Elmer and Margaret Schroeder; Ed Eibe and his wife lived on the quarter south of us, and the Jack Thistle family lived on the quarter north of us.
During the Second World War Mom volunteered with the Red Cross Grey Ladies, who assisted in the hospital at Travis Air Force Base. I remember well her stories of the poor, crippled soldiers there. She also carried out this duty during the Korean War. In the Silveyville area where we lived there was a 1 room schoolhouse, as busing to the elementary schools in Dixon did not begin until after the war in 1946. Mom became the chairman (woman?) of the Silveyville school board during this time.
Mom and Dad lived on the farm until 1960 when my father turned 65 and retired. They purchased a house in Dixon in the new "Schmeiser Addition", at 905 West B Street. In January of 1981 my father Conreux died and Lillian was again a widow.
A new chapter in her life began in 1985, when lrvin Bulkley, an old family friend, was widowed. lrvin courted Lillian and in due course persuaded her to marry him; this event occurred in June of 1986. It was a very successful marriage for Mom loved to travel, to joke, and to have fun. So did lrvin, and lrvin's tact, sense of humor and courtly manners made him a winner with my mother. They traveled many places together, although lrvin continued to farm and this kept him from long absences from Dixon.
In 1993 lrvin purchased a new house, at 750 Collier Drive, so that it would not be as difficult for him to drive to his farm which was located east of town on Bulkley Road. Mom moved, I think somewhat reluctantly; she was never completely happy at having to leave her old house on West B Street. I guess she felt somewhat displaced in the new, larger home.
Starting around 1999 lrvin's health deteriorated a bit and he no longer wished to travel very far. Locally, however, lrvin and Lillian were frequently seen out at restaurants and various watering places. As time went on things slowly became more difficult, and in 2002 I took Mom, by herself, to live with us in Honolulu. However, she missed lrvin so much that she demanded (and my mother did know how to demand!) to be taken back to Dixon and lrvin, and so Debi Oxford, who had been helping Mom and had formed a close friendship with her, took her back to Dixon. Although Mom moved back into the house on Collier Drive, lrvin was taken away and they never saw each other after that time.
Mom missed lrvin very much but she remained quite active, and, with Debi's help, and the help of her grandson Tristan Robben and granddaughter Rue Robben, she got along quite well. We had a very nice 95th birthday party for her on 23 February this year at the Dixon Community Church. However, a week later, on March 5, she fell in the bathroom at night and broke her hip. Although the operation to pin the hip was successful, she never recovered her strength and abilities. She fought vigorously at first, but probably the stress was too much and it seems she just gave up and gradually ceased to function. She passed away peacefully at the Vacaville Convalescent Center on the afternoon of Saturday 29 March 2003.
My mother was a fun loving, active lady and was a loving, dedicated and considerate mother. In later life, especially after the death of my father when she had to depend upon herself, she was quite determined to have her way and sometimes this created difficulties. She was quite sensitive to being "put down" and if she felt this was happening she would defend herself vigorously. As Liz Robben noted, she was a lady that would not put up with being "stepped on".
It was wonderful that my mother and lrvin got along so well, that they loved and respected each other. She was willing to accommodate his interests and priorities, and lrvin on his part was wonderfully skilled at joking with and flattering Lillian, in making her feel like she was both special and perhaps a bit of a queen.
We will all miss her.
With love in the memory of my mother,
Dixon, April 4, 2003
Momís husband, Irvin Bulkley, was in a convalescent hospital in Davis recovering from a hip operation at the time of Momís death. Debi had taken Mom to see him the day before she fell and broke her hip, and I think, although they recognized each other and were very glad to see each other, that they both knew the end was near. Irvin was brought to Momís Memorial Service in a wheelchair; he was very thin and had some trouble talking. Irvin died exactly two weeks after Mom. His memorial service was in the Dixon Community Church on April 17.