Thursday, July 31, 2014

Credwell Chronicles  – Chapter 5: Salty Air and Bitter Coffee

June 22nd at 7:15 a.m. — Credwell House on Cliff Street
Morning came too soon for Beth, but not soon enough for the girls. Patty and Mary awoke at the same time, bolting out of bed and down the stairs still in their nightgowns. It was hardly seven fifteen. Waiting in the kitchen was Beth, also in her nightgown, whose head was pounding from the night before. She had drunk too much and returned home much later than her usual hour. Now, she had to return to the Casino to meet with Fred Swanton. She swooned in place, almost falling over, as her daughters ran down to the dinner table.

“Mother, do you have breakfast prepared?” Patty asked in rushed words.

“Why is it that I am always expected to have your breakfasts prepared?” Beth retorted.

“Mother?” Mary asked with a curious expression on her face. “Are you alright? You seem flushed. Do you need to lie down?”

“No, dear. I am fine. Just a bit tired from last night is all.”

Mary Credwell, May 1906 *
The girls sat at the table and Beth delivered two them two bowls of oats in yogurt. She took a seat at the opposite end  and the three ladies ate in silence. None of them turned their heads when James walked into the room, already dressed in his business formals. He milled around the pantry for a minute, and then returned empty-handed.

“James, would you like a bowl of yogurt?” Beth finally asked, not expecting James to eat with them.

“What was that?” James replied, looking at the dinner table as if he hadn’t seen it when he walked in. “Oh, no. I will eat something later. I’m sure Fred will have some snacks in his office, as well.” Ignoring his excuses, Beth poured a cup of coffee for James. He took it anyway.

“You’re going to see Mr. Swanton?” Mary questioned excitedly.

“I am, my little angel,” James answered, sipping his drink. “He invited your mother and me to breakfast this morning at eight.” Turning to Beth, he added, “Which reminds me, dear. Shouldn’t we be going? Herbert always takes longer to prepare the carriage in the morning, anyway.”

“I suppose so,” Beth muttered. She smiled to the girls and took their dishes, then she disappeared upstairs to get dressed.

“What is the plan for you two today?” James asked as he took a seat beside Patty.

“Just planning to swim at the Plunge, father,” Patty replied simply. “Speaking of which,” she said as her gaze drifted to Mary. “We should probably be leaving now. The pool opens in twenty minutes and it takes almost that much time just to get up there.” Without another word, the girls ran upstairs, leaving James all alone with his coffee at the dinner table.

The crisp air of the Santa Cruz morning bit at Patty’s face as she descended the stairs onto Cliff Street. The imposing Moorish Casino building darted in and out of a fog bank at the bottom of the hill. Behind her, Mary shivered along, trying to keep up. Both girls were now in calf-length dresses and overcoats. Knowing that they’d be in swimming suits in a matter of minutes, neither had bothered to dress especially nice. Mary, though, had brightened her cheeks up with some powdered make-up in anticipation of Ben, the usual Saturday-morning attendant at the pool.

Glamour shot of Patricia Credwell in
swimwear, taken May 28th, 1906 *
The two arrived at the pool’s large doors just as they were being opened. Benjamin Cauper, the attendant, was there as Mary had wished. He was seventeen and relatively handsome for his age, with a crew cut and a smart but simple dress coat. He looked to be more of a museum curator than a pool attendant, but Mary didn’t mind. She blushed brightly as Patty handed Ben the requisite ten cents for entry. Ben smiled back at Mary and handed each girl their usual swimming suits. The style of swimwear at that time were suggestive of naval uniforms for women. Even the rentals were white with navy blue trim, and a knee-length skirt—trendy for the period. Since the summer was just starting, the rental suits were not yet heavily worn. Although the girls had been swimming here for years, neither had purchased their own suit since Swanton allowed the families of his financiers to rent suits for free.

The changing rooms were located downstairs toward the beach, and both girls hustled down the half-flight to their usual booths. Patty was especially interested in trying some new strokes she had read about in an advertisement in The Santa Cruz Sentinel newspaper. She suspected Mary would take longer to get ready since her sister always brushed her hair and made certain that her swimsuit fit properly to impress Ben. The fact that Mary was not yet even thirteen meant nothing to the young girl.

As soon as Patty was done changing, she ran back out and dove into the pool. The heavy canvas often made if difficult to swim, but years of training had strengthened Patty's legs. Fashions had changed quite drastically over the past three years and she was happy that she didn’t have to wear a heavy wool dress when swimming that her mother still preferred. Mary appeared shyly from the changing room and tip-toed over to the diving board, where she settled in on the end without diving, pooling her skirt around her. Sitting there, she dipped her feet into the 84˚ water, looking longingly at Ben who was standing at his booth near the front door, doodling on a piece of paper.

A family posing on the beach outside the Miller-Leibbrandt Plunge, Summer 1905

A few scattered rays of sunlight broke through the fog and reflected off the kitchen’s glass, waking Jimmy from his groggy slumber. Gazing around in a daze, the twelve-year old boy tried to remember his surrounding and why he smelled like cooking oil.

“The party!” he shouted suddenly to no one in particular. Now muttering, he added, “I must have hit my head or something last night. Or maybe...” He began to look around and found the empty bottle of brandy sitting in a pool of brown slime.

Attempting to reorient himself, he grasped failingly for something to right himself. As he rose, his head swirled and Jimmy collapsed back on the ground. The room darkened suddenly, the fog returning to obscure the sun. Jimmy lost consciousness again, landing hard with a splat in a congealing pool of pig fat and lard. Nearby, an electrical cable sparked restlessly.

This story is a work of fiction. All reference to historical incidences and individuals is purely for plot purposes and may not represent true events or real-life personalities and attitudes. This story is designed for an adult audience with moments of violence, terror, and the painful deaths of minors and adults throughout. Please direct all comments to the section below. Thank you and enjoy!

* Descriptions of photographs with "*" are fictional and do not actually depict their description. Actual historical photographs and illustrations do not have an asterisk.

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