My Father, Edward Cochems
Papa was a nature boy, pure and simple. As a boy, living in San Diego County (Olivenheim) with his parents who had come from Chicago to raise grapes, with few companions except for his brother and sisters, no libraries of schools within walking distance, he came to know the birds and the animals. He could imitate birds and know their bird calls. He could whinney like the good horse he used to ride bareback to school. The books he read were the Bible and Shakespeare, which had quite an effect on his later writings. His schooling ended at the fourth grade when he went to work on a railroad section gang because of the family financial straits. All of his earnings went into the family coffers. Even wen he was twenty-one years old and had saved over a hundred dollars, it was needed for the family.
His father, Peter, grew grapes, had a vineyard, and they made wine. I remember as a child six years old the scrubbed kitchen floor of the big house on the hill and Grandpa Peter sitting at the end of the long table with his flowing beard. All was quiet when they sat down to eat.
Water for household purposes was hauled from a well quite a distance from the house. Bathroom facilities were outdoors.
The road to the big house on the hill wended its way past the chicken house and up the hill past the pepper trees. The house sat on a knoll overlooking the valley. I forgot to ask papa how much acreage there was or how Grandpa acquired the land, but apparently it belonged to him because it was sold when he died May 12, 1912, at the age of sixty-seven. I remember the funeral in the parlor. Papa and Uncle Oscar set up housekeeping for Grandma Anna here in Santa Ana on West Pine Street where she lived until 1924. She is buried at Fairhaven Cemetery.
Grandmother Anna had a sister in Chicago, Eva Bielefeld, and Papa was invited to go to Chicago to live with her, which he did. He became a salesman of wine and other spirits. He met his mother while living in Chicago. Mother was a milliner and apparently he courted her for quite some time. The courtship became quite serious but Papa wanted to be real sure he was not making a mistake so he went away on a vacation to discover how important Mother was to him. When he returned he proposed the question and they were married in Chicago and came to California to live with Grandpa and Grandma. The record of marriage, taken from the books of the Immanuel Evangelical Lutheran Church of Chicago, Illinois, shows the date of marriage as October 15, 1902, the contracting parties (Edward W. Cochems, age 27, and Emma Glaser, age 23) both of Chicago. The marriage took place at the church. Witnesses were Mother's brother Adam and her sister Carrie.
I was born July 10, 1904 (Sunday) at 2 PM at 12th and Hemlock Street in Los Angeles. Papa was earning 12$ a week. He had taught himself bookkeeping and was a bookkeeper. Later he was a clothing salesman and was so good at it that he had a nervous breakdown. That was while we were living at 982 East 42nd Street in Los Angeles.
The doctor ordered rest and quiet, and, remembering San Marcos and Twin Oaks Valley where he had live din earlier years, we moved to San Marcos where he took up the hobby of photography.
He had never taken a picture in his life, but he purchased a camera and proceeded to teach himself photography. He wrote an article "How I Won My Way Back To Health With Photography" which makes interesting reading.
In San Marcos I attended the 1910 schoolhouse which accommodated all eigt grades. Miss Astleford was the teacher.
We next lived in Hynes (now called Paramount) where papa continued his photography business and was associate editor of the Hynes-Clearwater Outlook in 1914. We lived through two floods - the last one almost took our house. Before vacating the house, we put all the furniture up on blocks. Two weeks later when the water had subsided we found 2 1/2 feet of silt on our back porch.
In 1915 we moved to Santa Ana and lived at 407 East Pine Street. Uncle Oscar and his family had previously moved to Santa Ana and lived in the big two story house at the cornet of French and Tenth Street. On Sunday afternoons Cousins Edwin, Florence, and Evangeline and I used to walk to the Lyric Theater, 218 East Fourth Street, next to Wingood's Drug Store to see pearl White and the Seven Deadly Sins motion pictures.
Papa had his first studio on West Fourth Street next to Uncle Oscar's produce store at 4th and Broadway. He had decided to do portraits and so I was his first subject. He still did commercial photography and Mother and I used to help him print postcards and process them.
Then came World War I and the flu epidemic.
While Mother was in Chicago visiting her mother, Papa and I moved to 323 East Chestnut Avenue. That was about 1919 or 1920.
Papa was active in civic and fraternal organizations, becoming a membe of the Elks. He held the highest chair of the Moose lodge and was three times Chancellor Commander of the Knights of Pythias, as well as being elected District Deputy Grand Chancellor. He was an active member of the Santa Ana Lodge I.O.O.F. (Odd Fellows). He also reactivated the Santa Ana Breakfast Club and served as its president for three terms.
When we moved to Santa Ana we discovered already living here some second and third cousins, namely Billie Cochems, the baker, who operated the Vienna Bakery on East Fourth Street, Henry Cochems the tinsmith, and Mary Kramer, mother of Andrew, Charles, and Clara, all descendents of Joseph Cochems.
Papa organized an association of photographers and was its first president. He also taught both beginning and advanced classes in photography for five years at Julia Lathrop Junior High School in the Adult Education program.
Papa maintained photographic studios in various locations in Santa Ana. The second location was on North Broadway, formerly Corbitt's, now Gibson-Naill Studio. The next location was he old Post Office site between 3rd and 4th Streets on Sycamore Street, and then near the former Post Office substation between 3rd and 4th on Broadway.
Until 2 1/2 years prior to his death (July 31, 1949) after giving up his downtown studio he maintained a laboratory and studio at his home (in the rear) at 323 East Chestnut Avenue in Sant aAna.
Papa loved Laguna Beach. He photographed many ocean scenes which found their way into advertising brochures for the Windmill Restaurant and the hotel. He photographed Tent City and the Marine Laboratory, the Isch Store, the downtown area. He knew many of the artists - Carl Yenz, Joseph Kleitsch, Frank Cuprien, William Wendt, Edgar Payne, Anna Wells, and many others. He traded his pictures for their paintings.
On our drives to Laguna Beach through the canyon Papa would call attention to the lichen on the rocks nd explain what it was. He would point to cattle grazing and have me observe the greening of the hills. Before the Laguna Bowl was what it is today, we would walk on the way to where the living pictures are shown and admire the hedge of grey santolina. He would run his hand over the hedge and suggest that I notice the fragrance.
He was well acquainted with Joseph Thurston, whose wife wrote a book about early Laguna beach. Many of Papa's pictures are in it. He also knew the lumber man Joe Jahraus and the secretary to the Chamber of Commerce, Joe Skidmore. They were good friends.
Papa was intrigued with beautiful Aliso Canyon and wrote this to accompany a picture he took in 1933:
The Beautiful Aliso Canyon
Picturesque Aliso Canyon lies just southward from Laguna Beach on the coast road to San Juan. "Aliso", a name derived form the Spanish, signifies "Sycamore." It is appropriately named, for in the remote past there grew in this canyon countles numbers of sycamore trees.
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