BETTERAVIA
the story as told by Pord, Elva, Don and Dell

 1929-1930 Betteravia:

The Allens moved to Betteravia because there were so many available houses. In the 30's the sugar beet factory had closed down for several years and the houses were vacant and available to families other than factory workers.

They lived in a house at the edge of the Betteravia lake which were perched on the hillside overlooking the lake, separated by stands of Eucalyptus trees. The back doors of the houses all faced the street and had been built by the sugar beet factory for their workers.

   
A one car garage was on the side of each house, and a picket fence separated the yards. The fronts of the houses faced the lake. The Allens had a croquet court in the front of theirs, and some had paths down to the lake edge with a wooden dock and boathouse.

Elva: "We occupied a good-sized comfortable cream colored house facing the lake, (at that time quite full of water) Certain spots and scenes stand out clearly for they were my favorites. I loved to play at holding court trials, hospital or school on the long side and front porch in the cool shade out of the hot summer sun. A little serving window between the dining room and the pantry made an ideal place to play store; to sell tickets to an imaginary grand opera, or even to hold Punch and Judy shows, using the sliding window as curtains."

 

   Across the street there was a non-denominational church, a small greyish white structure complete with picturesque spire, set on the corner of a huge square lined with pepper trees. The square was sometimes used by the town for village gatherings.

Elva: "At the foot of the hill upon which we lived, a long screen of eucalyptus trees rose, their tops towering like giants in the air, an effective border for the glistening lake. A creaky old boat house, its rustic boards smothered in the furling tendrils of a weeping willow tree was slightly off to one side. The back yard of each house in our row faced the town park and the church, a small white framework typical of a small town. Evenings after supper the square by the church fairly swarmed with kids yelling, jumping from shadows and racing around, all busily engaged in playing 'hide and seek', kick the can', or 'run, sheep, run."

Don:"We used to build all kinds of roads and things to run the toy cars around the little church building across from the house. The nights when everyone in town would all come out in the park and play those old favorite games, 'run, sheep, run, Tag and all the old ones, even Mom was out there running around with Mrs. Fowler...the night Mrs. Fowler began losing her undies and tripped over them."
 

 

    During the1930's there were speed boat races on the Betteravia lake

 Dell: "Sis frequently posed all of us younger kids for unusual snapshots. On one Washington's birthday she had us in our front yard at the Betteravia lake where I pretended to "chop down" the cherry tree."  

 
 Jacqueline & Grace Barbetini,
Elva, Naine, Dell (chopping that cherry tree), and Don

 Dell: "The country store was a great place. On our errands for Mom, the Fowler's dog 'Red' would follow us all over town just as though he belonged to us, and would settle down on the wide worn old front porch until we came out.

It was a special treat on our way home to stop by the Jensen hotel, in hopes that the cook would let us into the cool kitchen to dip our hands into the huge keg that held chocolate bonbons for the guests. Sometimes Nadine Jensen would let us sit on the porch swing on the vine covered veranda." 
 

 
The store woodwork and sills were worn down into grooves by many hands and feet.

     
Dell: "Poor Burton, he spoiled me and I was such a pest, but I loved him so much ..he was my "other Dad". I followed him around, hanging on him and sitting on his lap--and he was such a tease. I had a little red cape and hood which I would wear when he would take us out for a ride. He would stop near of field of cows and say, 'Now the bulls love red so they will come running over to you. You better watch out.' Being so gullible I believed everything he said, including getting my feet wet when we went over a bridge over water."

1933-34 Betteravia:

Grandma Allen died December 17, 1933

Elva: "The 'Big House' was another favorite haunt of ours. The house itself was partially vacant, windows boarded up or shades pulled low, doors locked, leaves and weeds scattered all over the yard. We would roam along the graveled paths, chattering like magpies or climbing trees and perching on the limbs like so many monkeys."

Don: "Sliding down the grassy hillsides on those pieces of metal, on the slick blue grass and the long rope that hung in the old barn from which we would swing down to the hay pile from the loft. The day that Bobbie Lou Smith shot Doug Wolf in the seat with a B B gun. We would go down by the lake on the Fourth of July and shoot off fireworks.. the tiring climb back up the hill past the big empty house where only Mrs. Tyler and her son lived..how we watched all day while they cut out the trees to make a park in front of the Big House."


Don: "I remember going down to the big barn at the Smiths and crawling through the beef pulp that was piled there in sacks, forming natural little tunnels through which we could hide and scare each other. The day that we climbed onto the hay stack and Mr. Diani came tearing after us brandishing a wickedlooking pitchfork. "

Elva: "We were soon found tumbling about in the loose hay, making slides, burying ourselves in the sweet smelling straw and shouting gleefully to one another. It was not long before some dairy man would come after us brandishing a pitchfork and muttering oaths."

 
Sis and Albert got married.
Don: "Climbing up the long staircase at the 'big house' and rumaging through the old antiquated clothing in the attic, and the whole gang of us would get together and pretend all kinds of things. The day we had the show out in the barn and charged all the kids a penny to come in and see it, the parade through town where we dressed up in crazy things and walked up and down the streets, singing and banging on everything imaginable."
 
Elva: "We were off for a days romping at the Smith house, making a mad stampede for the spreading old house. For with two or three hay-filled barns and immense attic filled with costumes and games and a tempting bannister, who wouldn't be excited? Mad, whirling games and tag would take place on the huge attic floor until a loud 'thump, thump' on the floor from below quieted us into pretending to be 'grown-ups' attending grand balls. Then brilliant hued skirts, swallow tailed coats and old clothes would be be in vogue as all waltzed gaily around the huge room. When tired of this everybody flew to the bannister shooting head or feet first to the bottom of the flight of stairs."
 
Dell: "The singing, plays, oleo acts, shadow boxing and anything we could think of, mostly from the creativeness of Elva or Don, were a lot of fun. Even the day when Gordon Smith, much to our disgust, wanted to get up on the stage and do a hula dance in a red skirt. The attic at the Smith house was like a grand ballroom to little eyes, it seemed so immense. In the days of the stage coaches the house was a stopover inn for the coaches, and had a lot of barns and surrounding outbuildings."

 

The Allens all attended Betteravia school, an old fashioned two room red school house located in a grove of eucalytus trees. Some of their teachers were Miss Ruth Simpson, Miss Ciccero, Mrs. Lawrence and Mrs. Mabel Phares.

Don: "I remember Betteravia school with Miss Simpson as our guiding light."

Mrs. Phares taught most of the Allen children at one time or another, giving them a love of music, art and reading. Every Christmas she planned a Christmas play and program where the Allens usually had the leading roles.

 

 
Mrs. Phares

Her favorite past time was sitting at the piano during recess or lunch time, playing while she and the children sang:

"Give yourself a pat on the back,
A pat on the back, a pat on the back
And say to yourself, your jolly good self, You've had a good day today
Yesterday was full of trouble and sorrow
Nobody knows what's going to happen tomorrow
So give yourself a pat on the back,
A pat on the back, a pat on the back
And say to yourself, your jolly good self, You've had a good day today."

 
Pord: "In Betteravia our teacher was Mrs. Effie Lawrence, and when the class would be out for a break someone would sneak in and set the clock back. It would totally confuse her and she would think she was losing her mind. Grace and Mrs. Barbetini worked as janitors at the school and would set the clock right. The boys would have mouthfulls of pepper berries and blow them out onto the black board like machine gun fire when Mrs. Lawrence's back was turned. She would search the first kid in the row for berries and each kid searched the next. Mrs. Lawrence was really mean...had a cat of nine tails, a whip made of leather, which she would lay across our backs."

"The next year Mrs. Phares became our teacher. One day I was sitting in the back seat, reading a book on geography which I loved and got totally absorbed in. She came up behind me and pulled me right over the back seat, carried me out into the ante room, shoved me in a corner and said 'no more of that'. Perry had thrown a spit ball and blamed it on me. Many years later Mrs. Phares apologized for punishing me, in fact did again at a later date."

Pord: "Mrs. Phares was a good teacher....she would bring in copies of famous paintings and would play records for music appreciation. She had those tough kids shaking and playing those instruments in her rythmn band."

Each of the two classrooms had four rows of seats, one row for each grade, so the Allens or any other children could easily study at a higher level at any time. Mrs. Phares was a no nonsense disciplinarian in spite of her joyful love of life and teaching.

Dell: "When anyone cried in class they had to go to the ante room and get the mop and bucket and stand in front of the class over the bucket until they stopped crying. The most frequent mop and bucket users were Ascension and Nellie Cano. After the hullabaloo was over and to our delight, Mrs. Phares would let them sing a few Spanish songs, in beautiful harmony.

Nobody else cried much, and the closest I came to crying was out of embarassment. I was allowed to do oral reading with the eight graders (Don and Naine) and when it came my time to read aloud from my portion of a rousing sea story, 'The captain stood on the poop deck' I was soon back, redfaced, reading with the fifth graders."

 
This view shows the sugar beet factory and surrounding homes from the south side.

Mrs. Phares would sometimes take all the students for a nature walk around the lake's edge. She made the children see the world with eyes of delight and interest, examining insects, bushes, flowers and birds. She delighted in taking the classroom outdoors to learn, creating Indian villages amongst the Eucalyptus groves with teepees, and campfires, and making kites to fly from the closest, highest knoll.

Elva: "Some of our summer days were spent in taking long walks. One day we decided to take an all day hike to the First Range, seven miles across the lake. We passed through trailing willow trees, then through tall supple tullies which slapped our legs and slashed out faces. Then the hill climb began, sometimes in the open, with an occasional stop for a few cooling moments under the oak trees. Dusk found us back home, dusty, weary, with muscles stiff and faces peeling,"

 
Union Sugar Company Factory, Betteravia, CA. Sept 29, 1924

 

Betteravia had been a sugar beet factory town of about 500 people since 1897. The houses were built for the workers and during the depression in the early 1930's the sugar plant closed down for several years. The houses became vacant and"outsiders" were allowed to move in, which included the Allen and the Barbetini families.

During the 1960's sugar demand slipped in the U. S. and production was down, people moved away and the houses were abandoned and demolished. By the early 1970's the town was gone.

 


AND YEARS LATER

 Panoramic view of the sugar beet factory at Betteravia August 1993
The factory was built in 1897, the town was abandoned and demolished in 1970.

 

 

 

 
Betteravia lake in 1993

 Interesting links to Betteravia: