Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Crying on New Year's Eve – Minnie Louise La Brie

B. 3 Sep 1893 in Minneapolis, Minnesota
M. 17 Jun 1918 in St. Paul, Minnesota
Husband: James John Bolheres
D. 20 Jul 1950 in Los Angeles, California

Minnie Louise La Brie was born on September 3, 1893 to Louis La Brie and Julia McGuire in Minneapolis, the second of their nine children. Until the age of 7, she lived in Minneapolis, then the family moved to St. Paul. Minnie had a rough childhood. The family suffered from poverty, and one Christmas, Minnie found a lump of coal in her stocking. She was said to have been beaten by her father. He was a mean man who was often out-of-work and was likely a heavy drinker.

Minnie in about 1895

As the second oldest, Minnie had to drop out of school early to help support the family. When she was 16, she worked as a packer in a seed store. The following year, she took a job at a factory canning Log Cabin syrup. She spoke of being so poor, that she ate "ketchup sandwiches" for lunch. One day a drill press she was operating cut off the index finger on her left hand down to the first knuckle. When she showed it to her boss, he yelled at her to go back to work and not waste his time.

In March 1911, tragedy struck the family when Minnie's father was arrested for beating her mother, and then hung himself in his jail cell. The incident was reported on the front page of the St. Paul Pioneer Press and the article mentioned Minnie by name.

Minnie continued working in factories until 1916, when she found work as a maid. Then in 1918, she became a waitress at a little Greek-owned restaurant in St. Paul. It was there she met a cook, James Bolheres, the nephew of the owner. After knowing each other a short time, they got married on June 17th. Within a week, James enlisted in the army. It was World War I, but he spent his entire service stationed in Illinois and Iowa.

Minnie and James with Minnie's sister Elsie, 1918

At the end of 1918, James was discharged, and the two settled in Minneapolis. He opened a restaurant, while Minnie stayed at home. Sometimes, she worked as a cashier at the restaurant. In 1920, she had a daughter, Helen, and in 1922 another daughter, Margaret. In 1925, the family moved to Jacksonville, Florida. It was a hard experience, sleeping in a tent while they traveled, and made harder by the fact Minnie was pregnant. After a hot summer in Florida, she gave birth to her third daughter, Lillian.

The following year, they moved back to Minneapolis. Being back near her family was important to Minnie. She often went to rummage sales and thrift stores with her sisters; Minnie loved a good bargain. James continued to own restaurants and was at work most of the time. Often Minnie relied on her sisters to get around because she didn't drive a car.

Minnie with her three girls, 1929

In 1930, Minnie's 10 year-old daughter Helen was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease. At the time, there was no cure. Minnie offered Helen for research on the disease at the University of Minnesota. In spite of everything she did, Helen died in June 1932. After that, on each New Year's Eve, Minnie would cry uncontrollably, because it meant another year that her daughter didn’t live to see.

In the years that followed Helen's death, Minnie had marital problems with James. She discovered he had an affair with one of the waitresses. James was physically abusive to Minnie; one time he pushed her down the stairs to the cellar at his restaurant. After some turmoil, they patched things up and stayed together. He died in July 1941 while recovering from surgery.

A great change in Minnie's life took place in 1943, when 20 year-old daughter Margaret moved to Los Angeles. A few months later, Minnie and daughter Lillian moved, too. Her sisters Julia and Elsie also lived in L.A. with their families, and sisters Lil and Florence would join them in a couple of years.

Except for a trip back to Minnesota in 1946, Minnie would live the rest of her life in L.A. In February 1946, she bought a small house in L.A. She was supported by her daughters, who worked at a factory making radios and televisions. Margaret and Lillian gave Minnie a TV in 1948, a time when few people had them. Her favorite thing to watch was wrestling with Gorgeous George. Margaret married in 1949 and Lillian in 1950. When Lillian moved out the house, Margaret moved back in with her husband so Minnie wouldn’t have to be alone.

Minnie in December 1949

Minnie repeatedly told her daughters the one place she wanted to visit was Catalina Island, a day trip from Los Angeles. After many such requests, they finally took her on a Saturday in July 1950. The following Friday evening, Minnie had a sudden stroke at the dinner table with Margaret and her husband watching. She died at the hospital the next morning on July 20th. Minnie was 56 years old. She was buried at Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City.

1. Helen Hazel Bolheres – B. 7 Jul 1920, Minneapolis, Minnesota; D. 24 Jun 1932, Minneapolis, Minnesota

2. Margaret Elizabeth Bolheres – B. 12 Apr 1922, Minneapolis, Minnesota; D. 4 Aug 2016, West Hills, California; M. Thomas Milton Mitchell (1922-2007), 2 Jul 1949, Pasadena, California

3. Lillian Bolheres – B. 13 Oct 1925, Jacksonville, Florida; D. 14 Feb 2006, Inglewood, California; M. Hubert Rudolph Hueler (1916-2009), 20 May 1950

Birth certificate of Minnie Louise La Brie
1900, 1910, 1920 and 1930 U.S. Census in Minnesota
City directories of Minneapolis, St. Paul and Jacksonville, 1893-1942
"Ends Life in Cell at Rondo Station," St. Paul Pioneer Press, 5 Mar 1911
Marriage certificate of James Bolheres and Minnie La Brie
Discharge from the U.S. Army of James John Bolheres, Camp Dodge, Iowa, 31 Dec 1918
Interviews of Margaret Mitchell and Lillian Hueler, Los Angeles, California, 1996-1999
Death certificate of Helen Hazel Bolheres
Social Security Death Index
California, County Marriages, 1850-1952

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