Oatmeal every breakfast leads to a century of memories
World War I, Prohibition, the first automobile and the Great Depression aren’t topics of textbook study for 94-year-old Bernice Maltby – they’re memories.
Looking out over a placid Lake Tahoe from her home in Zephyr Cove, Maltby compares the first half of the century with the last.
“We didn’t live like we do now,” Maltby said. “The roads weren’t as good and it took much longer to get places, but things weren’t so fast paced. It seems everyone had time – Sunday picnics were our enjoyment.”
Remembering the past, she reels back to her first visit to South Shore and the differences that have transpired between now and then.
“I was 17 and we went in my family’s first car, a Ford, and we drove over what is called Highway 50 now. I don’t remember much about the road but I know it was a long ride.”
It was 1923 and Maltby, her parents and three sisters camped where the Bijou Municipal Golf Course is now.
“We swam in the lake and I remember it being the most gorgeous beach,” she said. “Everything that is there now, wasn’t there.”
The only buildings she recalls seeing were those in the Baldwin family’s luxurious estate near Camp Richardson on the southwest shore of the lake.
She said the feeling of opulence sprinkled the air.
“The place to go was Richardson’s,” she said. “When the boat came in, you went out on the pier and watched everyone getting off.”
After a few days, Maltby’s father, a rancher who owned 2,600 acres of foothill grassland near Lincoln, Calif., was anxious to move on.
“For some reason, he didn’t much care for Tahoe – I don’t really know why,” she said. “But I loved it here.”
Her love affair with the lake began on her honeymoon.
In 1925, two years after her first visit, she met her husband, Henry, of Sacramento. That year they married and honeymooned at a cabin near Tahoe City. They took a sightseeing trip around the lake on the S.S. Tahoe, which now rests on the bottom of the lake not far from her home in Zephyr Cove.
“He was in the habit of coming up here because every summer he worked at the boat launch at McKinney’s (on the west shore),” she said.
For their livelihood, the Maltbys opened up a string of grocery stores in Oakland, Calif. She said that’s what got them through the Depression.
“Because we were in the grocery business, we were OK,” she said. “But if you made $18 a week, that was a lot of money.”
In the ’30s, they bought a lakefront lot at Carnelian Bay on the north shore. She laughs at what they paid for it.
“It was 50 feet of (lakeshore) for $500, I paid $4 of tax on it,” Maltby said. “But of course I got many thousands of dollars when I sold it in the ’80s.”
In the ’40s they kept a summer cabin on the north shore and then moved permanently to the lake in the ’60s when their house was built in Zephyr Cove. Shortly after the move, Henry passed away.
Almost 40 years later, Maltby lives in the same house. She has been there long enough to watch the Jeffrey pines grow tall around her.
But looking beyond her roots, Maltby, who still cares for herself, said she would like to see more of the United States.
“I’ve been to every state,” she said. “But trains fascinate me, I’d like to go across the country on one and look at the scenery from the window.”
A mother of three daughters, a grandmother of 10, a great-grandmother of 22 and a great-great-grandmother of two, Maltby recalls her descendants and her golden-age wisdom with delight and wonderment.
“I’m proud of my age, some people don’t want you to know how old they are but I’ll tell my age anytime,” Maltby said, her gaze drifting beyond the lake. “Ninety-four – I don’t know how I ever got here.”
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