Aleene Lorraine Moody Fertig

The Life and Times of Aunt Aleene


Bonnie Wayne McGuire


I was born in the Blue Tent district May 17, 1907. We lived there for nine months. Then we moved to Nevada City where we lived at 108 Court Street. I lived there until I married. I was married to Kenneth Lewis for 8 years until he died. He wouldn’t take care of himself, or go to the doctor. Infection built up in his body. There was a small particle that showed up in his urine, but by that time it was too late to do anything for him. Our daughter Colleen died when she was eight years old. She lost (?) of the tibia bone and couldn’t stand. She had to have her leg removed and couldn’t stand the surgery. That was a pretty hard road to take.


I was careful about getting married again, because I didn’t think any of these men were going to amount to much. Then I met up with Tuffy. I put up with quite a bit from him. I don’t know if all the Fertigs were that bad back there. I know Ted did a lot of drinking, but I don’t know about the rest of them. Things went on...I went to work after Tuffy died. I had to. Social Security didn’t pay much. The house needed a lot of work. I saved every cent I could to try to get it fixed up. I figured if anyone else wanted to marry me they were out of luck.



Aleene and George (Tuffy) Fertig 



Aleene and her mother Louise Moody.


My dad was a wonderful man...So was my mother. Charles Clifford  and Louise Moody. In those days, my father worked all day for a couple of dollars...even carpenter work. That’s how he got hurt. He was tearing down some old trusses at the Champion mine when he slipped and fell. He’d warned the other guys to be careful.


I had three brothers and one sister. Brother Darrell and his wife Doris died from a leaky gas stove in the cabin at an auto camp they stayed in during a shopping trip to the bay area...Mother had to raise their children Darrell and Bill. They’re both dead too. I’m the only one living. My mother  lived until she was 85.


I went to the Washington School on Main Street in Nevada City. I guess they tore it down to get me out. Hahaha. No, my daughter was going to school there when they changed it around. I started school when I was six years old. I tried to start the year before, but they sent me home. You had to be six years old. Large class. Miss Goyne was my teacher. That was the first year she taught there. Mom said she’d taught her brothers at Blue Tent School.


 My grandfather lived by the Arbogast ranch at Blue Tent. His name was Victor Sauvee. My grandmother’s name was Marie Louise. Great grandparents named Brindejohn. French name. They came over here when they were young from France...around the horn. Most were born in France. Lived in Grass Valley a long time.  I would have liked to have learned French, but mother didn’t want me to. Once I recited a few words in French and was promptly sent to my room...Turned out they weren’t nice words. Grandfather and grandmother came out by wagon and stagecoach. Grandmother Moody said that the Indians stopped the stage she was on, and she was frightened. All they wanted was the red ribbon in her hair.


Father had twin brother who died. Both had the same disease. Dr. Hunt said, “the little bugger will be dead by morning so don’t worry about it” and left. An old half-breed Indian woman took over, and said she could have saved the brother too but didn’t want to interfere with the doctor.  I think she was related to the Campbell's who lived around here. I think Ann Campbell was a nurse who helped deliver babies. Her mother saved my dad’s and little Henry’s life.


My grandfather made his living on the ranch at Blue Tent. Grandpa Sauvee had the ice plant down at the Brindejohn's by a pond. In the winter it froze and they cut big hundred pound chunks and stacked it somehow. He packed all his ice there and brought it into town. They also did it in Truckee. Nevada City and Grass Valley (especially the bars to keep the booze cold) bought most of the ice. Every other day they took ice into town. They packed it in sawdust in a big ice barn at Blue Tent. They had a big room in the icehouse in town where they kept it in sawdust too.



Cutting ice on the Brindejohn ranch pond at Blue Tent.



Left to right...Pat Courser, Pete Orzalli and Fred Sauvee.


I attended Nevada City schools and also went to Mount St. Mary’s business school where I took shorthand, typing etc. Didn’t do me much good because I got married to Kenneth Lewis. Our daughter Colleen was born June 20, 1923. She lived for 8 years.


When I was a girl Nevada City had mostly boardwalks. I was a tomboy who liked to climb trees. My mother used to say...”Little girls don’t do that,” but I just laughed and did it anyway. Mom gave me a nice little rag doll she had as a girl, but I didn’t care much about dolls, and it wound up being burned in the stove. It was in pretty bad shape.


Mamma had a parrot named Polly. When we got home from school we’d call “Mamma! Mamma!” Polly began saying “Mamma? Mamma?” She’d answer “Well, what do you want?” Then Polly would say “Hahahaha!” Mom used to get mad at her. She didn’t talk a lot...but she did say that. Polly was pretty good sized by the time my youngest brother could drive a car. Old Bruce would let Polly outside and she’d fly around and come back in. One time she got down in the driveway, and Bill didn’t see her and ran over her. We all cried and felt terrible. We must have had her fifteen years.


My mother and dad were pretty young when he got hurt. I think she was in her thirties. She went to the county to get help for the two youngest ones. Joe was five or six. Those were the only two she could get help for, and I think they only gave her $20. She used to think of a lot of things to fix us up with. She baked her own bread. We had bread and milk sometimes...that was better than nothing. My dad bought mom a washing machine right away. They didn’t cost that much in those days. Something like $30. He said she worked hard and deserved it. She used to boil the clothes, rinse them and put them through the bluing. My two younger brothers were son’s of guns for wetting the bed. She put padding under them. Mom used to iron everything. Well, you had to then (the material wrinkled). She ironed the pillowcases.  When we were going to have company she’d iron the bed sheets.


There were lots of Chinese people living in what used to be called “China Town” behind the New York hotel. There used to be many living up on Uren Street behind the Sanitarium, and you would see them walking in single file over to the other place. They never walked together as a group. They would go down town to a room behind the bakery. I think it may have been sealed off then.


There weren’t many kids close by when I was little...just my brothers and Francis Finnegan. When I started school there was Blanche Young, a good friend, and there was Margaret Tally, and Ernestine (Ernie) Addleman. Before she started grammar school she had studies at home. We used to chum around together. She had special studies at home. She lived in the old Schrieber home. Her father used to own where Frank Duffy’s place was, and after he died the son gambled everything away. They lost the house. It really broke Francis (Ernie’s sister) up. She was used to living in the Broad Street house and used to having tutors for the kids... Ernie liked going to public school better because she got to meet a lot of people. Francis was about the same age as my mother and couldn’t stand it. Finally she moved closer to Broad St. because it was nearer to where she was raised. I’m the only one left of the old gang. Oh well.


We used to play marbles and football. We played nigger baby too. (That takes some explaining). My mom used to get after me “Girls don’t do that!” but I mostly played with boys. Good thing I wore bloomers, because we didn’t wear long pants in those days. Our swimsuits covered you all the way up  and had pants and a skirt too.


There were speak-easys. I was barely 17 when I married Ken and he took me over to some peoples house and had some whiskey called “Jackass.” I was trying to say “no” because it made me sick. I looked young for my age too.


One time a bunch of us went to the place at Olympia Park and sat down at the bar. Everyone ordered a drink. The bartender looked at me and said, “Sorry I can’t serve you,” and gave me an orange soda. Everyone laughed and asked me if I was going to drink it. “Sure I am.” I was about 28 then. There was another girl that was 12 years younger than me that they served beer to, but she looked older. We were supposed to be 21. Ernestine was there too, but she was  about a year older than me. It was just after my first husband died and it was a good place to dance. I wasn’t working at that time.


Then I got a job at a Nevada City Grill where the Parish’s were. Later when they went out of business I worked for Duffy a couple of years. Then I went down to the Bay area and worked in the shipyards for about $1.50 a day. I worked there for about two years...probably around 1942. Somewhere around then. I did books, put stuff around the pipes, construction, mechanics all kinds of stuff. (Mel says that when he was on leave from the Coast Guard in the Bay Area in 1944, he visited Aleene and Tuffy there).


( The sequence ?) I worked down there for a bloomin’ hotel and they wanted me to do everything for $1 a day, and wouldn’t give me any time off for Christmas, because I was going to have visitors down. They gave another couple time off. They were hired after me, so I asked for my check and that was the end of it. That’s when I went back to work at the Nevada City Grill where I made $2 a day.


I guess people work where they can get the most money. All the jobs are about the same. If you have to work there isn’t much long as you get the check.


Went to Fresno up to a lumber camp for a couple of years. The cook quit. Don Metscar was the boss. The men wondered where in the world they were going to find a cook, so the boss said, “Don’t worry, I have a woman in camp who can cook.” He told me to go over to the cook shack and cook dinner. How in the world am I going cook for all those lumberjacks on such short notice? He said...Oh just cook some steaks, or whatever. It’s Friday night. There were sixteen hungry men, and they really knew how to put it down. (Quite a challenge for Aleene). I think those Indians ate enough for four people. That first meal I cooked one big roast and ran out. Should have cooked two, but when I cooked in the restaurant it was different. Some guy (in the camp) would eat a dozen eggs, with potatoes and bacon for breakfast. Then Costello and Lilly came down and over to the cook shack and ate too.


George was born Nov. 23, 1948 on Thanksgiving. I was in the hospital to have Caesarian section. I noticed something was wrong with him right away. When he ate it would come right back up. The doctor was there one time and asked if that happened before, and I said it happened every time. The nurse said “It does not!” The doctor found out I was right. George’s stomach was closed where it went down into the intestines. He would starve to death if he didn’t get them connected. Dr. Hummelt had done this operation once before. He did the surgery on Christmas Eve. I wasn’t in too good a shape yet...He told me to go home; that my sister could stay there with George. I was tired. There aren’t many doctors that would go out on Christmas Eve, or Thanksgiving, but he did. (At left is a photo of Aleene's son George and his wife Diana at their daughter Melynda's wedding November 13, 2004).


It was still hard after that, because there were things the baby couldn’t take. I figured out that if I made the milk kind of sour it would stay down...until he could eat more foods. Maybe that’s why he was allergic to some things. Years later, when I was working for Dr. Hummelt, some lady had a baby with the same thing, but she wouldn’t listen to the doctor. She was afraid the surgery would kill the baby, and he tried to tell her that it would save it. Finally he called me in to talk to her. She wanted to know where my son was. I told her he was in the Navy. I guess she finally let the doctor do it.


When I worked for Dr. Hummelt, I did just about everything at his office. When I first went up there I’d go up at night and work until about five in the morning so I could get back home and get George ready for school and all. Then he kept adding more stuff for me to do. Then he rebuilt the place, and it took much longer up there, but George was getting older and I’d call him. Then I was getting out the bills and a few other things. I caught hell from you (Bonnie) one time. There was a little notice on it. I remember...I got told. The doctor came in one day when I was making out a bill to a guy down the street who had the liquor store. He said “Oh he’s a little bit slow paying, but he has insurance for it. He’ll take care maybe you had better not put a notice on it.” I said “You mean he doesn’t have the money, but he bought himself a new car? I’m sending the bill.”  Hummelt said...”Yeah, send it” The insurance company paid the man for his medical expenses...Not to use it to buy a new car. So doc said to send it, but he gets awful mad."


Aunt Aleene told me these things about her life on November 18, 1996.