George Lindel Harris, Casualty of War – Part 2

Although the Great War only lasted 14 months for George Lindel Harris, his experiences in France would have a profound influence on the rest of his life. Read about his early years in Part 1.

George and Dorothy Taeuffer Harris started their married life in October 1922. After their marriage at the John and Mae Taeuffer home on Magnolia Drive in Healdsburg, California, they set up housekeeping in an apartment on Octavia Street in San Francisco. There they would be located near George’s parents in Berkeley and his siblings in Alameda and Oakland.

A typical block of homes on Octavia Street in San Francisco.

During the first six months of George and Dorothy Harris’ marriage their family and friends would make regular visits to San Francisco. The young couple also visited Magnolia Drive frequently. Nevertheless, Dorothy must have missed her friends and family keenly, because by the time the couple’s son George Robert Harris was born at the end of June 1923, they had relocated to a rental house on Brown Street in Healdsburg. It would be on Brown Street that they would celebrate their first wedding anniversary in October 1923 playing host to a large number of friends and family.

George was able to find work in town with the Willard Battery Company. This organization was part of the automotive service complex which had sprung up on West Street in Healdsburg to provide repair and maintenance for the rapidly growing number of motorcars in town. There, those fortunate enough to be able to afford an automobile could have their car battery charged using the modern one-day method that shaved two or even three days off the old method! The diverse facility also installed and adjusted headlights, as required by law, and serviced both transmissions and carburetors. In addition, they sold used cars and provided an auxiliary showroom for new cars to the A. Lampson & Sons Studebaker dealership.

George managed to fit in well with the Taeuffer family, spending happy times on hunting and fishing excursions with his brother-in-law Ernest Taeuffer, his step-grandfather-in-law Al Wilson, and family friend Glen Lampson. George’s siblings also made routine visits to the ranch to enjoy the country living. Family friend Claire Gilmore and his mother Grace were particularly frequent guests, often staying for a week or ten days before returning to the Bay Area.

In June 1925 Dorothy gave birth to daughter Mildred Norma at her parents’ home on Magnolia Drive. In September of that year the Harris family moved from Brown Street into the house that John Taeuffer had arranged to have built for them on Magnolia Drive next door to the Taeuffer home.

Letterman Army Hospital at the Presidio in San Francisco with the Palace of Fine Arts Building in the background to the left.

They lived together in the Magnolia Drive house for about 18 months until George took a construction job in Alameda in December 1926. Dorothy and the kids quickly moved to the Bay Area in January 1927 to be with him. Unfortunately, performing the physically demanding work exacerbated the lung damage that George had suffered during the war and in March of the same year he was admitted to Letterman Army Hospital located at the Presidio in San Francisco. There he would undergo a serious experimental operation during which one of his damaged lungs as well as all his ribs on one side were removed.

St. Luke’s Hospital in San Francisco’s Mission District.

Following his surgery, George was relocated to St. Luke’s Hospital in San Francisco where he would convalesce for six months until the end of September 1927. During his time in the hospital, Dorothy and the kids returned to Magnolia Drive, but made frequent visits to George, accompanied by various family members. Dorothy’s good friend, Mae Garrett, had been maid of honor at the Harris’ wedding in 1923. Mae’s younger sister, Melva, was coincidentally studying nursing at St. Luke’s Hospital. She accompanied Dorothy on numerous hospital visits and was able to provide much appreciated support and knowledgeable advice to George’s worried wife.

Once he was released from St. Luke’s Hospital, George moved in with his mother in Berkeley so he could be close to his doctors. Unfortunately, within a few months he had to be readmitted to the hospital, this time to the Veterans’ Hospital in Palo Alto where he would stay for close to a year. Then, after almost two years of living in various hospitals, in early 1929 he would finally be sent home to Magnolia Drive.

Almost seven decades later, in 1994, George’s daughter Mildred Harris Farrell would tell the story this way. She recalled that the time came when her father’s doctors told him that they “were not God” and that there was nothing more they could do for him. They estimated that he would only live a few more months. He replied that he wanted to eat home cooked food and to be with his family for what time he had remaining. Dorothy was summoned to take him home. She called her parents, John and Mae Taeuffer, who contacted the conductor of the train from San Francisco with whom they were friendly to ensure that George would be provided every comfort. Redding Peterson, husband of Dorothy’s Auntie Helen, was assigned to drive Ernest Taeuffer’s car to the Healdsburg train station to greet the returning couple. George insisted upon walking off the train, although it was extremely difficult for him. When they arrived at the couple’s home on the Taeuffer ranch, he insisted on struggling up the few steps into the house on his own. Inside a multitude of cards from well-wishers awaited him.

As it turned out, the doctors, who in 1929 had given George only a few months to live, were proven wrong. The environment on Magnolia Drive along with the loving care of his wife, who received a great deal of assistance from friend and trained nurse Melva Garrett Lindner, succeeded in coaxing him back to a state of health that would allow him to enjoy life. The family was able to get by on the Army pension that George had been awarded, so he did not need to work. And living next door to Dorothy’s parents provided a built-in babysitter for young Bobby and Mildred Harris.

The brothers and brothers-in-law from left: Howard Harris, Otto Walker (Grace’s husband), Walter Ingham (Ethel’s husband), George Harris, and Clyde Harris with unidentified small boy and dog.

The 1930s were a busy time for George and Dorothy. George’s siblings, Howard, Clyde, Grace, and Florence were frequent visitors, often staying for a week at a time. Friends drove up from the Bay Area throughout the year to enjoy the Harris’ hospitality as well as the recreation available in the Healdsburg area. George was able to participate in fishing trips with Al and Agnes Wilson to Jenner as well as hunting excursions with Norman Taeuffer and others.

Bobby Harris at bat with his uncle, Norman Taeuffer, catching.

Enjoying the game of baseball had long been a Taeuffer family tradition. Dorothy’s father, John Taeuffer and his brother George “Monk” Taeuffer had both played on the first local team, the Mendocino Nine before the turn of the twentieth century. Dorothy’s younger brother Norman Taeuffer was a skilled player on the Healdsburg Grammar School team and spent many happy hours throwing a ball with his nephew Bobby Harris, who was becoming an excellent player as well.

In the 1930s there were no Major League teams west of St. Louis, Missouri. The San Francisco Seals were a charter team of the Pacific Coast League that had been established in 1903 and was considered the Minor League. The Seals played at Recreation Park located at the corner of 14th and Valencia Streets in the Mission District, which was able to accommodate 15,000 fans. In 1930 they were doing fairly well and would end the season in 4th place. (A year later, outfielder Vince DiMaggio would convince management to give his younger brother Joe a try-out. And the rest would be baseball history. But that is a different story.)

On June 27, 1930, Mae Taeuffer traveled to San Francisco to treat her grandson Bobby to a professional baseball game for his seventh birthday. Somehow, she managed to charm their way into the announcers’ box and Bobby made his radio debut, surprising his father listening to the game at home on Magnolia Drive.

Catch of the Day.
From left: Norman Taeuffer, Al Harris, George Harris, and Bobby Harris.

Despite his physical disabilities, George enjoyed participating in all the Taeuffer family celebrations. He spent many happy days hunting and fishing with his younger brother-in-law, Norman Taeuffer, as well as others including his nephew Al Harris. In June 1937, the Harris family and Norman drove across the newly constructed Golden Gate Bridge into San Francisco to attend a swim meet. The visits from George’s siblings, as well as friends the Gilmores and the Cummings from the Bay Area continued throughout the 1930s. George was not as strong as he would have liked to be and could not travel extensively. However, he was able to travel to the Pythian Home in Guilicos in November 1939 to help celebrate “Aunt Jennie” Cook’s 94th birthday. He also attended as many of his children’s frequent swim meets as he could manage.

An annual celebration of Ernest Taeuffer’s birthday.
Back row from left: Albert Wilson, Dorothy Harris, Helen Wilson Frey, George Harris, Dot Harboe, John Taeuffer, Mrs. Cummings, Mr. Cummings, unidentified woman with baby.
Front row: Mildred Harris, Agnes Wilson, Ernest Taeuffer, Bobby Harris.

George’s daughter Mildred Harris Farrell remembered that after his surgeries, her father never worked at a formal job. However, he did do as much as he could to help out on the Taeuffer farm, despite his compromised condition resulting from the lasting effects of the Mustard Gas he had encountered in 1918. It was during the completion of one of his chores that he suffered the injury that would end his life. He was leading a cow towards the barn when it balked and threw him against a tree. For anyone else this may have resulted in a painful bruise, but for George it was more serious. Although he continued with his chores, that evening he complained of pain and was unable to sleep. He suffered for a week before his condition became grave enough on June 3rd to warrant summoning the doctor. But it was too late, for two hours after Dr. H.J. Wright arrived on the scene, George was gone. He was only 46 years old.

His June 5, 1942 funeral, conducted jointly by the Christian Science Church and the American Legion Sotoyome Post III, was attended by a multitude of friends and family. Later that day he was laid to rest in Oak Mound Cemetery in the Taeuffer plot.

George and Dorothy Harris with Mildred and Bobby Harris on Easter Sunday.

Sources:

  • Wikipedia
  • 1930 US Census
  • 1940 US Census
  • California Birth Index, 1905-1995
  • militarymuseum.org
  • opensfhistory.org
  • paloalto.va.gov
  • statscrew.com
  • sfomuseum.org
  • Conversation between Mildred Harris Farrell and Jean Taeuffer on September 23, 1994
  • Healdsburg Tribune; 18 October 1922, 13 November 1922, 24 November 1922, 14 December 1922, 30 March 1923, 2 April 1923, 7 August 19223, 19 October 1923, 7 April 194, 26 December 1926, 2 March 1927, 31 March 1927, 14 July 1927, 29 September 1927, 7 April 1928, 23 April 1928, 28 June 1930, 8 July 1930, 13 August 1931, 20 June 1936, 3 August 1936, 4 June 1942
  • Sotoyome Scimitar; 20 October 1922, 14 August 1925, 18 April 1929, 5 December 1929, 13 February 1930, 28 February 1935, 3 June 1937, 19 May 1938, 26 September 1940
  • Healdsburg Enterprise; 4 June 1925, 1 April 1926, 23 December 1926, 26 May 1927, 28 July 1927
  • Press Democrat;27 December 1922, 2 June 1923, 5 June 1924, 11 June 1924, 3 June 1925, 30 December 1926, 15 July 1927, 28 July 1927, 25 September 1927, 16 October 1927, 23 March 1929, 28 March 1929, 4 June 1942
  • Healdsburg Tribune, Enterprise and Scimitar;16 Nov 1922, 4 January 1923, 9 August 1923, 6 September 1923, 22 November 1923, 20 February 1930, 30 October 1930, 1 January 1931, 17 March 1932, 18 May 1933, 5 October 1933, 6 November 1939, 15 May 1941, 4 June 1942

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