An Autobiography by F. Nadine Hathaway
When I came as a bride in 1935 to Santa Fe Springs, I was already aware of what life would be like on the ranch, and I knew that this was the life I wanted to live. I had been born and raised in the city, but my father had constructed a greenhouse for me in the few feet between our garage and the neighbor's fence, and here I planted seeds in flats and came home from high school eagerly each day to water the seedlings. My mother allotted me a triangular piece of ground in the front yard, outlined with cobblestones, and here I transplanted my young plants: stocks, snapdragons, candytuft, cineraria....
Nadine Hathaway on the Hathaway Ranch and shown sitting in a
horse drawn wagon filled to the brim with corn, circa late 1930s.
My prospective father-in-law [Jesse Hathaway] warned me when he could see that his middle son was interested in making me his wife, "Don't try to change Dick. His life is right here."
"I don't want to change him," I replied. "I want to become a part of the life here."
And part of it I became. Thwarted from climbing trees in the city, I climbed plum trees with abandon in the orchard on the low ground after I was married. I helped pick plums that would be sent to the central market in Los Angeles in crates on the dump truck. "Two thirds red," my father-in-law reminded me, "otherwise they will spoil before they get to the market."
Sometimes I drove the team of horses, Dolly and Babe, through the orange groves. Corn had been planted between the rows, and sometimes pumpkins interspersed with the corn. Workers would follow the team, husk the corn and throw it in the wagon. The corn would be unloaded in the corn crib to finish drying. Later it would be shelled and ground for feed for the 400 or more head of steers that were in corrals back of the shop and barns.
Once in a while I cut wires on the bales of alfalfa that were sent on a movable belt towards the hay chopper. I thought it was fun to collect eggs. And I watched with fascination as my mother-in-law [Lola Hathaway] skimmed cream from the milk jars that had been chilled in the ice chest. The Hathaways thought that ice was better for the milk than electric refrigeration.
Always, of Course, there was my garden, giving me many hours of pleasure and rewarding me with beautiful blooms.
Richard (Dick) and Nadine Hathaway and family, circa 1948.
The years rolled on. I was grateful that my six children had a place like this in which to grow up. The boys could work on machinery and drive a truck on the home place before they were old enough to have a license. Boys and girls alike milked the cows that were kept for family use. They could yell without complaints from the neighbors. We swam in the reservoir and barbecued under the sprawling avocado tree in the backyard.
All of my children may not have appreciated the environment in which they grew up, but at least they had the experience of a kind of life which they will not see again. Nor will anyone else in Santa Fe Springs, not ever.
After my husband's [Richard (Dick) Hathaway] death in 1986, I was faced with a choice. I could let the bulldozers raze the old homes, the shop, the former office, the barns and all the outbuildings, or I could try to preserve them. Already one-half of my husband's property, which he had inherited from his father, had been developed for industrial use. My husband had stoutly refused to allow any more to be developed. He said he wanted to see the mountains.
My husband also didn't want the remainder of his property cleaned up. Old paint cans, buggy lumber, piles of rusting metal did not offend his eye, as they did the eye of officials of the city of Santa Fe Springs. He resisted the efforts of members of the family to clean up the place and he was indignant that anyone at all should tell him what to do with his property.
Like little clouds overhead, there had wafted the possibilities of change. One of my sons had mentioned to me the possibility of creating a foundation. I don't think he mentioned this to his father, realizing the futility of the proposal. My husband didn't care much about talking about change. He wanted things to go on and on, the way they were, they way they were....
And members of Western Antique Power Association had tried to get their foot in the door, realizing the potential this place had for restoring machinery and old equipment. My husband liked to talk to them and would swap an unrestored engine for a restored one or an intricately designed model, but he was not about to move over and make room for them. He simply did not want things touched.
Then Dick died, swiftly and suddenly, while trying to lift a heavy object onto the back of a pick-up truck. There were decisions to be made. I found that I was in the driver's seat.
It became apparent to me that there was no longer any reason to delay the development of ten acres or so to the east of our house. It also became apparent that the pie-shaped piece between the two developments, the 5.7 acres that remained, contained all of the buildings and yard space that I would want to preserve. My work was cut out for me. There was no time to grieve. I threw myself into the details of establishing a foundation, and in four months we were incorporated as the Hathaway Ranch Museum, a non-profit organization.
Meanwhile, almost from the start, members of the Western Antique Power Association (WAPA) started coming here on Sundays to clean up the place. Hour after hour they worked, tackling hard, dirty jobs cheerfully and willingly. We were amazed at the expertise members of this group represented. Some knew more about electricity, some knew about the telephones, some about machinery repair. All were mechanically adept. They sorted and moved and carried and swept. Roll-off [trash bin] after roll-off left here loaded with junk. They cleaned an old hay barn that was loaded almost to the rafters with Perlite, which no one wanted. They made it possible to walk through the shop without climbing over various pieces of equipment or old cans or lengths of metal or pipe. They cleaned out and straightened up the old wagon shed so that it was actually possible to walk between the wagons and tractors which were now in rows, facing in one direction. With an old fork lift they worked miracles.
And the WAPA members worked as volunteers. They received no pay and for the first year they received no remuneration for mileage. They came from different locations; from Van Nuys, from Upland, from Diamond Bar, from West Los Angeles, from South San Gabriel. They worked on faith -- the faith that someday there would be something here that would be a source of pride to those of us who had put what we could into it, and a source of interest to the public.
I want to see their dreams fulfilled, and mine. I don't want this to be a ghost town type of museum. I relish the activity. I want to see things moving. It was a red letter day for me when I first heard the old Caterpillar 60 engine humming again. The years rolled back and I could visualize old Julian [a tall Mexican fellow who had worked for many years on the Hathaway Ranch] standing there with burlap bags, collecting the ground grain. When I hear the [John Deere] poppin' Johnny [tractor], I am home again.
Enough for dreaming. How do we make this a reality? It hasn't been easy. When my husband died we were not hooked into city water. For gas we were dependent upon wet gas piped in from the oilfield. We received electrical service from the Southern California Edison Co., of course, but from their outlet to other points on the property the connections were innovative, to say the least, and dangerous.
The Hathaways were the kind of people who fixed everything themselves. I had never seen a professional plumber here until after my husband died, but I had seen my husband on an electrical pole many a time.
We have a water well and own water rights, but it costs as much to pump water out of the ground -- $71.00 an acre foot -- as it does to buy water from the City of Santa Fe Springs. I didn't want to worry about the pumps breaking down. To the tune of over $10,000.00, last year [circa 1987] we hooked into city water and Southern California Gas Company gas. Fearful that we might have trouble with contaminated soil, we had the underground gasoline tanks removed and the soil tested at a cost of $4,750. Little by little--when the electrician feels like tackling it--we are replacing the old wiring with new. The bill has already come to nearly $18,000.00 and the cost is still mounting.
There are dollars paid to licensed contractors. Not counted are the volunteer hours put in by WAPA members who helped on these projects and the efforts of my own sons who grew up here and know where the bodies are buried.
I have not yet mentioned that the museum address is the headquarters of the Rancho Santa Gertrudes Historical Society. Over five years ago, 60 people met here to show their interest in preserving what little Santa Fe Springs had left to preserve. The meeting was sparked by the demolition of the Little Lake School and its unique 700 seat auditorium.
The society was incorporated on August 9, 1983. It now has about 220 members [circa 1988]. Since most of these are family memberships the membership actually represents about 400 people. We keep the annual dues low so that money is not a factor in keeping people away. An individual membership is $3.00 and a family membership is $5.00. Business memberships cost $10.00.
The Board of Directors of the society meets here regularly. Until this year we had one big party a year to which society members and their families and their families were invited. Beginning in 1988 we have been open to the public the first Sunday of each month, holidays excluded, from 2-4 P.M. We have special events and are open throughout the month for specially arranged tours.
The Hathaway Ranch Museum has one paid part-time archivist [Mary Ann Rummel] and has had a succession of boys hired to hoe weeds that grow up around the machinery. My personal gardener [Humberto (Gilbert) Alvarez] does work on the museum grounds and I send my cleaning woman to work in the office and the museum once in awhile. I have warned other members of the Hathaway Ranch Museum's Board of Directors that these are expenses that must be incurred by the museum when I am no longer here to pay them.
Utilities are another story. They amount to several hundred dollars a month on the 5.7 acres. I pay for them. Instead of putting up money for capital improvements, I have been putting money into certificates of deposit and into a money management company to build our endowment. We may not keep going with all the things we would like to have but, God willing, we will keep going.
Whether or not we can keep going, of course, depends upon our volunteers. We could not begin to afford to pay for all the help that we need, no matter how much money I put into this place.
Three of the 5.7 acres has already been turned over to the foundation, including the former residence [of Richard (Dick) and Nadine Hathaway] which we call the museum, the office outbuildings and an area on which old machinery and equipment are stored. The remaining nearly three acres, including the residence with tower which is the landmark of this property, the frontage on Florence Avenue and the shop area will go to the foundation upon my death.
We have tried to plan carefully. I trust that we have.
Nadine had had a head start with her family museum in the early eighties by taking the four bedrooms in the house of her first thirty years of marriage and turning them into era rooms with family mementos and clothing of yesteryear.
Richard (Dick) and Nadine Hathaway's home, circa late 1930s.
This building became the "museum" about the time the Santa
Gertrudes Historical Society was founded in 1983.
What Freda Nadine Hathaway may not have mentioned was her age when she started the Hathaway Ranch Museum. When most people have a good foothold on retirement she at age 70 hit the ground running. She asked various family members to be on the board because of their different skills, interests, and backgrounds. These talents were put to good use in the late nineteen-eighties by not only replacing the overhead electrical system that in some cases was hanging inches above roofs (some metal) but by putting the electrical service underground and simultaneously laying in new plumbing to replace the seventy plus year steel pipes. To create workable covered space, Richard Hathaway, Jr., assisted by family members and others poured concrete floors in the north tank and a barn. The north and south tanks got roll up doors so you could do more than enter through a walk-in door. The above ground reservoir was roofed and had a drivable hole cut in the end so you could go swimming in the museum’s collection of vintage oilfield gas engines.
Letters had always been a passion of Nadine’s and she honed this skill by publishing a series of booklets “Settlers of Southern California” to make sure that these stories had a viable future. She did this with the help of Joe DaRold, museum Director at this time. Joe also put together a discovery packet for teachers to prepare their students for a trip to the museum.
With the nineties adequate public restrooms were built, and trees were
planted with a gift from the O. K. Flood estate. Nadine chose trees in
part for their changing color.
The Hathaway Ranch Museum’s relationship with WAPA (Western Antique Power Association) slowed down when they located a permanent home over yonder, but others stepped in to continue restoration of the Hathaway Ranch Museum’s antique equipment.
By the mid-nineties, Nadine was slowing down due to a variety of health issues. Efforts to add quality amenities to her everyday life became priorities, ramps, downstairs shower, additional cabinets and storage shelves. What Nadine did receive was the assistance of three generations of Hathaways. And two generations still are active in keeping the legacy alive.
Nadine Hathaway (deceased) and William A. Hathaway.
Hathaway Ranch Museum Archive.