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everything's working together for good
good old dad
by candy green gustavson
pop culture

I was flipping by “Antiques Roadshow” the other day, an old one, from Las Vegas in 2007. What caught my eye was a painting someone had inherited. I know that artist, I thought, and wasn’t surprised when it was revealed to be Ada Belle Champlin. However, the value of the painting--$5-7,000—was a surprise to me and to the man who brought his painting in for appraisal. I quickly contacted my cousin, Barbara, in North Carolina who I knew had at least one of Ada Belle's paintings—it turns out, not only she, but other of the “rellies” have some.

“Good old dad,” I told Barbara. Yes, she said, “I always loved my Uncle Henry.”

Here’s the story…

Ada CHAMPLIN 1875-1950(http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/roadshow/archive/200706A17.html)

Ada Belle Champlin was born in St Louis, Missouri on December 25, 1875. She studied at the Art Institute of Chicago, Art Students League in New York City, and the Cape Cod School of Art under Hawthorne. After several years in Chicago she moved to southern California in 1910. From San Diego she settled in Pasadena in 1916. She also had a second home in Carmel where she painted and helped found the local art association in 1927. A spinster, Champlin died in Pasadena on December 16, 1950. Member: California Art Club; Laguna Beach Art Ass'n; Carmel Art Ass'n; Pasadena Art Ass'n. Exhibited: San Francisco Art Ass'n, 1916; Pasadena Art Institute, 1928. Works held: Montclair (NJ) Art Museum

In or around 1956, our family took a Sunday drive in southern California. My father, Henry, transplanted from North Carolina, and our mother, Gladys, raised in Wisconsin, would pile their three children in the car and our father would drive around looking for something; we children didn’t know what he was looking for, but the family was together.

We were quiet, no one spoke, our father was searching. It almost had a religious feel to it, as if our father’s spirit, recovering from injuries sustained in the South Pacific during World War II, was linked to the future health and prosperity of this part of the country he had defended.

I was born in 1946, in Pasadena, and Pasadena was an area we gravitated to in our travels. Living in Eagle Rock, across a large arroyo with the Rose Bowl below, we would have crossed a lovely two-lane concrete bridge---soon to be replaced by a larger one, soon to be connected to a freeway connecting Pasadena to Hollywood and the soon-to-be burgeoning valleys to the north and west. I would have been about 10 years old.

My father, from a humble beginning near the border of North and South Carolina, had an eye for beauty and artistic sensitivities. This particular Sunday our father decided to drive slowly down the tree-lined streets, if I recall correctly, of west Pasadena. It was an old area—somewhat spooky to me. The houses were large—perhaps the biggest houses I'd ever seen. They looked sad to me. My father stopped at one that was for sale and went to the door.

An old man was in the house. It was his sister’s house, the old man said. She had died. She was a painter, an artist. Would we like to see the house? Soon we were all inside. The old man seemed happy to show us around…rooms and rooms and rooms…an upstairs and downstairs. I remember him explaining how a dumb waiter worked. I remember a very big bed that, the old man told us with a twinkle in his eye, Abraham Lincoln had slept in. Outside, there was a carriage house over the garage, overgrown gardens. Back inside, there was a big room in the basement lined with mirrors and wooden bars you could put your hands on, just like the place where I took ballet lessons. My imagination took off---could we live in this house and I could become a ballerina?

Meanwhile, our father was talking to the old man who was trying to get rid of things. Would my father take some of his sister’s paintings? I was not around to hear how all this came about, but my father left that day with many, many paintings created by Ada Belle Champlin.

For the next 45 years, some of those paintings graced the walls of our parents’ homes, some were given as presents to family members. I also remember them being used in exchange for a baby grand piano belonging to the music teacher at the school where my father taught 5th grade.

By 2001, the paintings had traveled as far as Hawaii where our parents lived for ten years after retiring; they are now kept by my sister there. Some are in New Zealand where my family moved 4 years before my parents died. Often, Kiwis think my Ada Belle Champlin early California paintings are scenes in New Zealand---New Zealand where my father’s burnt body was taken to be stabilized until he could be shipped to San Diego and a new life and future in California.

Here's to California, economic recovery and a heritage worth inheriting!

Good old dad, indeed.


late bloomer, fontanelle of the baby boomers...full of hope, believing in life-long learning, mentoring, doors opening...mother of four, grandma of one: I cultivate gardens in both hemispheres of earth and brain...

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