A Few Memories of Maybelle
When asked what her advice to young people would be, Maybelle Senft, a Vacavillian for 91 years, answered: “Always be honest, truthful, true to your family, and have good ethics.” These things she learned, growing up on her father's Ranch and in Vacaville, a long four and a half miles away.
She had been left alone with her father at the ranch in Pleasants Valley road. They didn't even have a radio until the thirties. Her mother had passed away when she was 8 years old, and her brothers and sisters, Paul, Berntd, Annie, and Clara, had moved away by 1929. However, Senft still had her father and the ranch. Her father, a Swedish immigrant, grew apricots and plums, treating the fruit with sulfur, and laying it out in a tray, to dry in the sun. Senft helped her father by picking fruit and she still remembers running out to the trays and snatching them up before the September rain could ruin them. Senft washed clothes, cooked the meals and holiday dinners, and took summer jobs at the local fruit packing station, halving fruit and packing it there as well as for her father.
In her autobiography, “Memories of the Youngest,” Senft describes her years then as “lonely years, but happy ones.” Spring flowers bloomed through the valley and she would take her dog into the hills until she knew where they grew and what they were named. Roses, china lilies, lilacs and amaryllis still remind her of the ranch. But though the ranch house is still there, all the fruit trees that her father planted are gone.
There are very few people left in Vacaville who would relate to these memories. But to Maybelle, the memories are one of profound loss. Those people who remember the thoughts in these words have seen the city change from farms and ranches to concrete and houses. Maybelle says that it breaks her heart to see the trees disappear. She remembers distinctly how lover's lane on Buck there was a real lover's lane with trees and fields and she has had to watch her beloved flowers and orchards disappear to the changes and growth of Vacaville.
For her, the city of Vacaville was a place for school and for work. There were few automobiles and still horse-drawn wagons in town, though her father first had a model T and then a model A. During the summers she worked at packing plums by size into baskets and wrapping pears in paper at the Buck Town Fruit Shed. She packed fruit and cut them. The cut ones she would arrange on a tray for drying. The packed ones were wrapped in paper and placed in crates for shipping. Depot Street had sheds and the train came up behind the sheds so the people would load the fruit from the platforms to the train. She has a picture of her brother loading the trains
But things weren't all work. Saturday night was movie night and she rode in with her father so she could watch the movie at the Clark Theater. She loved that time. It was her only form of entertainment.
Maybelle remembers the grammar school and the high school. The schools were at what is now Andrews Park. In high school she made the B-team in basketball and by 1934, Senft graduated. She waited a year before leaving her father and the ranch to go to business school in Sacramento.
A year later, Senft’s father lost the ranch due to the Depression. It was a blow, but as she says in “Memories of the Youngest,” “memories, good and bad, are treasures that no one can take away.” The ranch would always live on in memories and how it shaped Senft as a person.