Fall in Summerland
Beatrice Olney Watson…
…first wife of George W Downs, born in Rock, Trelawny, Jamaica in 1888, the youngest of five children, to a British mariner, Captain John Watson and his wife. At age four, she appears on a ship’s manifest in transit between Scotland and Jamaica with her parents and two older sisters.
The year 1915 finds her with sister Mabel Margaret on the ship Zacapa, sailing from Kingston, Jamaica, through the port of New York,
to their final destination, Halifax, Nova Scotia.
In 1922 she immigrated to the US, coming to California in 1923. Pasadena became home, she worked as a nurse, met my uncle, they married in 1940…she was 52, he was 29.
– attending my parent’s wedding in 1946 –
Aunt Bea was tall, stern, formidable…from my perspective as a child. The adage ‘children are to be seen and not heard’ was the law of her land. I spent many hours sitting near the hearth in her home, cutting out paper dolls – listening to adult conversation. She played the piano and painted in oils – giving this piece to my father as a remembrance of our days in Monterey.
Even now I find it hard to reconcile her persona, her age, with that of the man to whom she was married for 23 years, until her death in 1963. Described by his colleagues as a ‘charming personality whose famous parties and bon vivant tastes drew to him a varied circle of fascinating friends’…always wearing a bow tie, always with a twinkle in his eye………
Some years ago an article appeared in our local newspaper featuring a man who had worked at Caltech at the time of the Manhattan Project. I wrote to him, asking if he had known my uncle…an excerpt from his response: “if it hadn’t been for George, Enrico (Fermi), and other’s sense of humor, we would have suffered greatly. We knew that the atomic bomb would be used indiscriminately on the civil population. George had the right suggestion…if I well remember, that the bomb be used as a torpedo and delivered by plane on the wharfs and other military targets…but it was not to be. I will never forget the chubby charmer and his fabulous stories. I’m sure that he is still telling his stories and making the angels laugh.”