Last year, Terence Sharkey, who had been a teenage British actor in the 1950s, sent me an entertaining story of his adventure at Wheelus Air Force Base in 1955. He meant it as a Comment, but it was too long and too interesting not to include it as a blog, and I’m publishing the story again. I made a few minor changes (like American spelling) for clarity.

Terry told me:   I was a guest at Wheelus almost sixty years ago and I still recall the warmth of the welcome which matched the 90 degree heat everywhere. In 1955 food-rationing from WWII in England had only just ceased, and for an English youth, my eyes had popped out at steak sizes I’d never seen, breakfast portions undreamed of, and chocolate bars in abundance. (I’d never heard of Hershey bars –but I soon learned). Suddenly England seemed even more austere when I saw the goods on offer in the commissary.

I was sixteen and had gone to Libya as a young actor for desert location scenes for a movie (The Black Tent) we were making at Pinewood Studios back in England. A couple of days after my arrival at Idris airport, the once daily flight from London’s Heathrow ended in tragedy when a BOAC DC4 Argonaut crashed in flames on landing, killing fifteen and badly injuring many of the forty-seven on board. Idris facilities were about what you’d expect of one of the world’s poorest nations with an international terminal that looked like it was the film set from Bogart’s “Casablanca,” and the boys and girls at Wheelus had mobilised immediately, with helicopters ferrying the injured to the military hospital.

Terence Sharkey & Donald Sinden, actors in "The Black Tent"

Terence Sharkey & Donald Sinden, actors in “The Black Tent”

A few days later, at a break in the filming schedule, I visited the base with Rosemarie, a young woman survivor of the crash. American helicopter pilots honored her with a bouquet. Their tears turned to laughter when Rosemarie discovered the bouquet was swarming with ants, which had joined the consignment somewhere locally. (Where had they had come up with fresh roses in such a desert?).

The base was enormous. I had been fearful that the sight of aircraft so soon after the tragedy at Idris airport on the other side of the city would be upsetting, but my companion was enjoying the tour as much as I was. At one stage our jeep rattled its way over the tarmac beside twenty or more very business-like looking fighter jets with US Air Force emblazoned on each silver fuselage together with the big white star. “F-86 Saber jets” our driver told us proudly. “See them swept-back wings? They’ll take on anything those Commie bastards can throw at us – they’ll out-maneuver any of Joe Stalin’s boys.”
Stalin had died two years before and his successor, Nikita Kruschev, had appeared to adopt a more conciliatory attitude towards the West in an attempt to end the Cold War. Our driver, if he knew of the demise of the despot, cared little for the changes and continued to extol the superior virtues of the Saber jets over the Russian MiG-15s, which he told us he had seen in dogfights in the Korean War a couple of years before.

An international incident was narrowly avoided when this naïve British visitor took a photograph of his beautiful companion. I had not noticed that the background included some tents and several large aircraft. I still have the Zeiss camera, which I had bought cheaply a couple of days before, just a museum piece now in our age of digital photography, but I will always remember that day when I had to hand over the film to the fierce military policeman declaring us off limits.

Actually, he turned out to be quite an affable sort who, having executed his official task, seemed more than happy to assist my companion, who had discovered that the ants were now invading her blouse. Uncle Sam’s Military Police are clearly up to anything the day throws at them and the fellow produced some magic mosquito cream, which he applied liberally to her neck. His enthusiasm for the task knew no bounds and soon it was the turn of the female visitor to gently point out what was off limits.

Apart from the loss of my pictures it was a memorable day with hospitable hosts, an air-conditioned day that offered a welcome contrast to the sweltering Sahara filming days that lay ahead.
Happy days! More are captured at Terence Sharkey memoir-Love, Life & Moving Pictures


An all British effort cartoon by British Servicemen

An all British effort cartoon by British Servicemen

When my family lived in Tripoli, Libya, in the 1950s, I was barely a teenager and in those long ago days, many of us had little inkling of sex or sexual practices. Movies we saw were innocent and only hinted at sex: a kiss, a little groping, a closed bedroom door. Television in those days wasn’t even a consideration—my family hadn’t even brought a TV set over with us and we didn’t miss it. Listening to Armed Forces Network radio at night was entertainment enough. A good actor could read a powerful tale and your mind supplied the details. I still remember the haunting story of an 18th century sailor who jumped ship and ended up swimming out to sea instead of toward land.

There was a popular music show on Saturday morning radio that accepted requests, in case you wanted to dedicate a song to a potential crush in high school. I remember requesting, “A White Sport Coat and a Pink Carnation,” or maybe it was “A Rose and a Baby Ruth,” if memory serves. I don’t recall to whom the song was dedicated.

Wheelus High School, on the Air Force base, sponsored dances and there was a teenage club where a talented student, Jon Jorgensen, led a band called Stardust. Close slow dancing provided its own stimulation.

In the city of Tripoli, American teenage girls were advised not to wear jeans because Libyan women were dressed in barracans (a idea similar to burkas except one eye could be shown.) and stayed in their homes for the most part. Libyan men, as the majority of men throughout the world, were interested in females and especially the female body. Females that weren’t completely hidden from view were especially intriguing, and jeans are form-fitting attire.

The Egyptian Ambassador lived across the street from me, and he was served by a few Libyan policemen who patrolled the walled perimeter of his compound. If my girlfriends and I walked the unpaved path outside the compound for some reason, and if a policeman were nearby, he’d try to walk beside us and brush against us with his body. We learned to avoid them.

One day, a girlfriend and I had an unpleasant encounter while walking to her house, a few blocks away from mine. We were in jeans, of course, and sauntering along in the middle of the street since there was very little traffic. We weren’t paying attention to a young male bicyclist trailing us. Most male Libyans had bicycles; they were relatively cheap and reliable. We were prime bait and he saw his opportunity as he swooped in front of us and made a grab for my crotch. He succeeded and then rode on a little ways. I started to tell my friend when he came back and managed to do the same to her. He was quite the adept cyclist but we were incensed. He rode on as if nothing had happened and we followed him, thinking we’d get revenge by attacking him. We couldn’t catch him and had to swallow our anger. Being street-smart from then on, we learned to be more aware.

My neighbor and good friend Gail, who lived around the corner, and I loved to play tennis on her street, which was seldom used by cars. We weren’t very skilled at the game and the ball often landed in the walled compound on one side of the street that was said to belong to a former Queen of Libya. The Queen’s lush gardens swallowed our balls. Sometimes our ball went into the smaller gated compound next door to me, which belonged to a British general. He had a few cute British enlisted men on duty. They didn’t seem to have much to do and always enjoyed our athletic efforts.

They kept one of the tennis balls and the next time we played, they tossed it over the fencing to us. They’d slit it and spent some time making an artistic rendering of us on a small piece of lined paper to insert into the slit. Gail was supposed to be Gail Storm, who had a TV show and I was supposed to be Marilyn Monroe. Between us was a “hound dog” named Elvis! We were flattered since both actresses were good looking in person. I saved the little cartoon, never knowing I would eventually put it on a blog! There was always a wall or fencing between us but it was fun to flirt and we did it when they were around. Probably a good reason to play tennis in the street!

A crude little poem, misspellings and all, was printed on the back of the cartoon to impress us:

Hi! Jirks

You squeeke and groan

And make queer noises

But o’er yon wall

We know ‘tis you

So if this ball you do trow back

Don’t be shy, come round the back

And have a chat.


One day, in a break from our game, we were flirting with these congenial attractive servicemen, as usual. We were standing on the sidewalk and they were behind a gate whose bars were far apart. Suddenly, I noticed a Libyan man in paint-splattered overalls sitting on a bike nearby, leering at us. Then I noticed another detail. He had removed his penis from his pants and was waving it at us enthusiastically. To me at that time, no expert on penis size or shape, I thought his penis was menacingly huge and seemed to be dotted with paint. Or was that my vivid imagination?

Disgusted and a little frightened, I tapped Gail’s shoulder gently to get her attention. She looked around without being obvious and saw him right away. We both struggled to maintain composure as we stepped closer to the gate and hung on. We didn’t know what to say to the young British soldiers, who probably couldn’t see the pervert, so we said nothing and hoped the crazed cyclist would eventually pedal away, which he did.

We felt confident that we had kept our cool! Weren’t we the savvy ones! Sex can be exciting and disgusting at the same time!


Online dating is alive and well these days, even the Los Angeles Times has a special page in their Saturday section for stories about dating relationships . I suppose some couples still meet each other at parties, weddings, grocery stores and social events, but searching the Internet is probably the easiest method and gives searchers the most information. Like advertising, however, the “truth” can be a scam…or as the old saying goes, “Let the buyer beware.” I’ve had some fascinating adventures in the dating world over the years, which brings to mind another saying, “Truth is stranger than fiction.” The previews of the two stories below are completely true–I wrote them when the experiences were fresh in my mind. The first one was submitted to Playgirl magazine but rejected. I always thought they may have felt it was too bizarre since the incident happened before the Internet revealed the dating world can be awfully peculiar and eccentric. I met the subjects of these stories through ads in the Singles Register, a now defunct Southern California newspaper.

Here are two excerpts from my Kindle Single book on Amazon:   Weird Dates and Strange Fates

Weird Dates and Strange Fates#1


A Single Gal’s Guide to Cross-Dressing

The man who answered the door was friendly and natural as he guided her into his house. Proudly telling her he had inherited the home from his uncle, he suggested they take a little tour. A typical one-story postwar 1950s home, it had nothing imaginative in its design, inside or out, but she pretended to be impressed. He led her through a step-down, rectangular living room and then outside to a concrete atrium whose only amenity was a hot tub and a few cheap and fading lounge chairs. Occasionally touching her elbow, he told her of plans to make a few changes here and there and asked her opinion. When he took her into his small square bedroom, she noted a white lacy negligee hanging over a closet door and beneath it, four-inch black spike heels.
“How do you like my new negligee?” he asked.
“It’s beautiful,” she responded evenly, wondering what revelations might come next.
“My wife liked me to wear lingerie to bed. Now I can’t sleep without it.”
She could tell he was watching and listening carefully for her reactions. So far she was accepting all of it as if it were all perfectly normal.
Back in the living room he showed her some photos of a recent costume party. “How do you like these? You see, here I am in my French maid’s costume.” He handed her the photo.
“Mmmm.” She didn’t know what to say as she looked down at the photo, which gave her time to compose herself. She was too startled after the negligee reference to take in the photo’s details.


The Dark Side

When the letter returned with no forwarding address a week later, I was tempted to drive to his apartment. Derek’s daughter lived across the street from him, but I didn’t know the address or remember the daughter’s last name. I had an odd feeling of apprehension as I pondered what could have happened and searched my memory for little details that might indicate what to do next. Had I missed some important minutiae about him in all these months? How well did I really know him? I reflected, as my mind raced with a slew of possibilities.
Derek had meant too much to me to let the matter drop. He couldn’t have just left, I reasoned. What of all his obligations, his children, his friends? He filled his life with so many people and duties; surely someone would have the answers.
I called the office again, remembering that Derek’s best friend, Tom, worked in the same building. Tom told me he couldn’t talk in the office; he would call me at home. His comment piqued my curiosity. What would he tell me that was so secret?
The following evening he telephoned, eager to share the story.
“You remember that Derek went back to Boston to spend Christmas with his aging parents. He said he probably wouldn’t be seeing them again. I just assumed he meant because they were getting older. Then Derek ended up talking to me for three hours after our office party the Friday before New Year’s. He usually scooted out of there right after work, no matter what.”
Tom continued, “Derek didn’t show up for work the Tuesday after the New Year holiday. When he didn’t come on Wednesday, I called his daughter, Susan. Susan hadn’t seen him in a couple of days, she said, but there was a letter from him on her desk. She said she’d check on things and call me back. When she called back a half hour later, she was hysterical.”

To read what happens in both stories, check out my Amazon link:  Amazon books by Victoria Giraud  or just look up Victoria Giraud’s author page on Amazon.


My daughter Heidi and I love to explore famous and unusual sites around Los Angeles, particularly museums. I felt inspired to suggest something different yesterday. There are six Forest Lawn cemeteries in Southern California; the original one is in Glendale and was founded in 1906. There’s another on the edge of Hollywood. I’ve lived in LA for fifty years and never visited the quite famous Forest Lawn Glendale before, but I have visited the Hollywood Forest Lawn when I attended actor Strother Martin’s funeral there in 1980.

Forest Lawn is an appropriate name for 300 acres of rolling green grassy hills, and huge old trees. It’s called a Memorial Park because, other than the small original section, there are no upright grave markers. Driving through it, I found it hard to imagine it’s a cemetery because the markers are nestled in the lush grass and aren’t obvious, especially if the sunlight isn’t highlighting them. We felt at peace as we noticed the statuary (over 1,500 of them), the fountains, and the three non-denominational churches—the Wee Kirk o’ the Heather was one. It must have been named by a Scotsman.

David Statue

Replica of Michelangelo’s famous David



















This statue of David near the top of the park is a copy of the original done by Michelangelo, even the marble used is from a quarry in Carrara, Italy. David is so large and prominently displayed, who could miss it? We later spent so much time in the museum, which had a special display of paintings of famous women—Leading Ladies, they called it—that we missed the mosaic of the signing of the Declaration of Independence and the huge painting of Jesus’ crucifixion (195 feet by 45 feet) which is featured in a spacious hall devoted to hour-long presentations of it.

We drove by the Great Mausoleum fashioned after the Campo Santo in Genoa, Italy. This majestic building, which is the resting place of Michael Jackson, Elizabeth Taylor, Lauren Bacall and Sammy Davis, Jr., to name a few, is not open to the public. Other famous folks are among the 250,000 graves in the cemetery, like Walt Disney, W.C. Fields, Jimmy Stewart, James Arness, Clark Gable, George Burns and Gracie Allen, Nat King Cole, Wallace Beery and producer David O. Selznick, to name a few. Actors from the early days of Hollywood, like Mary Pickford, Tom Mix and Wallace Beery chose Forest Lawn and so did famous Western writer Louis L’Amour. Gutzon Borglum, the sculptor of Mount Rushmore, and Casey Stengel, manager of the New York Yankees baseball team, chose Forest Lawn for their final resting place. Because LA is the entertainment capital of the world, many of Forest Lawn’s “permanent residents” have had Hollywood careers.

A cemetery doesn’t seem the ideal place for a marriage ceremony, but 60,000 people would disagree—like Ronald Reagan and his first wife, actress Jane Wyman. I remember TV personality Regis Philbin mentioning that his wedding to wife Joy took place here as well.


Forest Lawn was a unique way to spend the day. We ended it by having a hamburger and fries at Bob’s Big Boy in Burbank, which has been around since the 1950s and now hosts classic car rallies on the weekends. After the classics in a cemetery, a bit of Americana situated near Warner Bros Studio.

Bob's Big Boy in Burbank

Bob’s Big Boy in Burbank


Cover of my Amazon Ebook

Cover of my Amazon Ebook

Cultures mixed in Tripoli, but there were constant reminders that this was a Middle Eastern Arab country with a Libyan population living close-by. The British general next door had a Libyan doorman, a sweet and friendly old gentleman who would take his prayer rug and bow in the direction of Mecca five times a day when the muezzin would call out the time for prayer from a local minaret. On the edges of Garden City were tea shops where groups of men would gather outside, hunker down on the sidewalk, talk and drink tea from glass cups.

A short distance from the large homes was a more primitive area. Riding bikes one day, my friend Gail and I came upon several small stucco dwellings surrounding a small well. Harnessed to a wooden yoke was an ox slowly circling the well to draw up their water. These simple folk lived a more basic lifestyle, in existence for centuries, most likely. Several of the adults smiled as we rode by; the friendly children waved and some shouted “Ciao,” the Italian greeting.

West of town there was a small area that supported indigent people who had no funds for a proper house of any kind. They made do with a shantytown of huts constructed of cast-off cardboard boxes and corrugated tin.

The street perpendicular to ours was a main thoroughfare; besides cars it was host to camels and sheep, herded by their Libyan owners on foot or riding upon a donkey. Cars were forced to stop while the herds went slowly by. There were no electric traffic signals in Libya at this time; Americans joked that camels and sheep certainly wouldn’t know to stop at a red light. Animals weren’t herded at night, even though we had streetlights. As we went to sleep every night, we were delighted with the hee-haw of braying donkeys and sometimes the growl of a perturbed camel off in the distance.

Since few Libyan men could afford cars at that time and owned only bicycles, traffic wasn’t a problem. Shops that rented bikes were readily available, and the rental was cheap – it worked out to three cents an hour in American money. Speeding vehicles, from reckless foreigners and those Libyans who could afford cars, did pose a danger. The English were rumored to be the fastest drivers. At one end of our street was a square of sorts, fed by five streets. High walls made driving visibility poor, and one day as I watched from our balcony, a car came speeding into the square and hit a bicyclist. The unfortunate man was flung into the air and landed on his head. As the car quickly disappeared, a few good Samaritans rushed to his aid, picked him up and carried him off as I wondered whether he should have been moved.

My parents gave me a puppy when I was thirteen. Butterball was a small golden-haired furry creature with a fluffy tail that looped over her back; her mother had been a dachshund belonging to some Army friends. When Butterball came into heat, a local mutt latched on. Ignorant of dog’s mating habits, I tried to pull them apart and was embarrassed when several Libyans who’d seen me had a great laugh at my expense.

I was delighted at the birth process when Butterball had several puppies in our little one-car garage. Even though she was a new mother, Butterball was used to following me everywhere and was right behind me as a group of girlfriends and I crossed my street one Sunday. A speeding car, full of Arab men, missed us by a hair but fatally hit my dog before they sped away. She was dead in minutes. I remember wanting to bury her in our small garden, but an adult friend of my parents advised having the Libyan garbage man take her away. I didn’t like that idea but my parents were gone that day and being an Army brat meant you paid attention to adult opinions. With doll bottles full of milk, Gail and I shared the puppies and managed to keep them alive until all but one was adopted. I kept what I thought was a male puppy and named him Heshe, hedging my bets on his sex until he got older.

Libyan funerals used the same thoroughfare that passed through the nearby square, and I had a bird’s eye view of the proceedings from our balcony. Arab music, singing and chanting heralded the procession, which was always composed entirely of men. The friends and relatives of the deceased followed the pallbearers who carried the casket, covered in a white barracan, to a nearby mosque. Women never went to public functions, and if they were out on the street with their husbands, a woman would be entirely covered by her barracan and would follow him discreetly, three steps behind.

A Libyan woman in her barracan

A Libyan woman in her barracan



View from our balcony

View from our balcony

Just before Christmas in 1955,  the five members of the Williams family left the Del Mahari hotel when my dad found a home in Garden City, an upscale location for Europeans, Americans and wealthier Libyans. Consisting of streets like spokes that branched off Garden City Circle, the area was a neighborhood of one and two-story, flat-roofed, square and rectangular-shaped villas surrounded by stucco walls as high as ten feet. The walls were as much for privacy as protection, and many of them had decorative, fret-worked sections. Flowering vines such as bougainvillea, lantana hedges, and palm trees were ubiquitous; Garden City was an appropriate name. It was some time before I discovered that the vibrantly-colored pink and purple bougainvillea vines that seemed to cascade from countless rooftops were in actuality growing up from the ground to the roof and not vice-versa.

Our spacious home was on the second floor of a two-family villa on a street that maintained its Italian name, Via de Gaspari; a Libyan family lived downstairs. A balcony, on both stories, ran the full length of the villa’s frontage. Small square sections, supported by columns, jutted out at either end of the balcony, giving the villa a slight “U” shape. The slatted, green-iron gate led from the street to a small side yard, large enough for the swing set my father ordered, which flaunted our American ways in this faraway land.

A heavy wooden front door, which could be opened by key or from a buzzer upstairs, welcomed us to our new home; a two-tiered marble staircase led upstairs to a three-bedroom, one-bath apartment. There was no central heating, but since doors closed off the entrance hall, separate dining room and separate living room, we could keep the back bedrooms and kitchen warm in winter with portable Aladdin propane gas heaters. To add to the coziness and keep out pesky sand from ghiblis, the desert sandstorms that would blow into town on occasion, there were green wooden shutters that could be rolled down over the outside of all the windows.

The family home, above the Bougainvillea, surrounded by 8 foot walls

The family home, above the Bougainvillea, surrounded by 8 foot walls.

Garden City was multi-cultural. Our side of a very short block boasted a British general and his wife on the corner next to us; another British family occupied the home on the other side. Across the street lived a French family and an Italian family, and a large corner compound surrounded by a decorative wall contained the home of the Egyptian ambassador to Libya.

The popular Gamel Abdul Nasser was in power in Egypt, and while we were there the ambassador held a party for Libyan dignitaries and politicians (only male, of course). I spied on the interesting event from our balcony and watched as his male visitors mingled. Robed Arab sheiks, with their distinctive square cloth headdress bound with gold rope, seemed to be the dominant guests. Seated at outside tables set up in the sizeable yard, they smoked as they watched films of Nasser on a giant movie screen.

Facing an adjacent street but bordering on the back of our villa was the home of a former Libyan queen, perhaps a relative of King Idris, then King of Libya. My girlfriend, Gail, who lived around the corner, and I were very curious about the mysterious queen but never had a glimpse, despite the fact that we would climb my back garden wall and peer through the trees into the lushly landscaped acres surrounding the queen’s home. We played tennis in the street in front of the queen’s mansion, but were such poor players that we lobbed and lost balls in her gardens. When we hit them into the General’s yard, we had an opportunity to flirt with the soldiers who attended him. These young men took to drawing cartoons of us, which they enclosed in an old tennis ball they had slit and then tossed in our direction. Walls were ideal obstacle courses for inquisitive girls. My girlfriend Karen and I scooted along the General’s back wall one night to spy on a big party he was giving.

My mother faced most of the household problems alone. She managed to eliminate most of the roaches, but ample hot water was usually a challenge. Tiny wall water heaters in kitchen and bathroom couldn’t keep up with our spoiled American demands. Always enterprising, she’d put large pots of water on top of the Aladdin heaters to get extra hot water. I was in charge of dishwashing, and it was my job to monitor this water when my parents entertained. We had brought our American washing machine with us, but it soon burned out, perhaps from the difference in electrical currents. Mom took to washing in the large bathroom tub, a normal size and shape. Fortunately for her, my thrifty father relented and decided he could afford an occasional maid since it would be difficult to procure another washer.

Me, Darby, and Tupper in the side yard

Me, Darby, and Tupper in the side yard

The maid situation was comical but instructive. Dad hired a Libyan girl, Fatma, who was attractive and cheerful, and tattooed on her ankles, forehead and hands, traditional markings applied when she was an infant. She wore her street barracan when she arrived and would remove it to do her work. I can still picture her sitting at the kitchen table, her blue striped house garment wound around her body and over her shoulders, dark hair partially hidden beneath her hair covering. She spoke very few words of English and didn’t attempt to learn any more, content to sit warbling her singsong Arab tunes as she languidly dried the dishes and silverware.

A sprightly Italian girl remedied the problem. Fatma was let go and pretty, dark-haired Chezeri joined us. Not only was she fluent in English, but she was efficient and friendly, teaching us bits of Italian, which I got to practice when her boyfriend Douilio, who spoke no English at all, came to pick her up. We invented Italian nicknames for the appealing British soldiers who served the general next door. A tall blond fellow, who walked the general’s German Shepherd among his other duties, was called Biondo. She taught me a little Italian ditty about a poppy.

Even now my sister and I remember it. I drag it out upon occasion to show off my facility in languages! At a wedding a couple of years ago I met an Italian woman who knew the song. Most likely our spirited chorus annoyed many of the guests!


My relative from long ago was the original Joseph Motley of a long line of them. He must have been enterprising and good with money because records show he bought 400 acres of land in Amelia County, Virginia (in the southeastern part of the state near present-day Richmond). He died in 1767, and my records show he had a son named Joseph, and no other children, surely a first in this fertile family! I could also be mistaken since family histories can be confusing. Joseph junior, who married Martha Ellington, made up for his father’s lack of children; he became the father of eleven. Obedience, my favorite, was born in 1768, the year after her grandfather died.

Joseph, junior, though I’m sure he wasn’t called that, was patriotic to the American cause and he became Captain of the county militia in 1770. The Revolutionary War was too long and complicated to explain in a few sentences. It officially lasted from 1775 to 1783, but the Boston Tea Party, disputes over taxes, and other skirmishes occurred a few years before the “war.” And Joseph was concerned about liberty for the colonies, especially Virginia, five years before future Americans took matters into their own hands.

Revolutionary War battle

Revolutionary War battle

Before the actual war, when Joseph the second was away from home, his absence created a tragedy for daughter Obedience and the whole family. Martha, the mother, was sick and lying in bed with one of her very young children (I don’t know which one) when their home was invaded by a Tory (a British sympathizer) neighbor, who had been leading local guerilla action against American patriots. No one was at home to defend the family, so the man deliberately cut an artery on the bedridden Martha’s arm. Obedience witnessed her mother bleed to death before anyone could help.

Obedience had her revenge a few years later when the murdering neighbor was very ill and mistakenly brought to the Motley home for help. She grabbed a container of hot coals by the fireplace and poured them on his head. There was no report of what the result was, alas! Hellish, no doubt.

It was said that, despite her coal-dumping incident, Obedience (Biddy, for short) always had an open door for strangers and orphans. When Biddy’s mother died, a slave named Rachel raised the Motley children. According to my geneaology report, obviously written by someone who was sensitive to the ills of slavery, at least on the surface, Rachel had been an African princess. Obedience shared the story of her beloved nurse with others. Apparently, Rachel had been enslaved one day when she had been sent to drive away the birds from the rice fields somewhere in Africa. A bag was thrown over her head, and she was captured to be sold as a slave in America. To me, it sounds similar to the fate of Kunta Kinte from the book Roots, written by Alex Haley. My family history, however, was mailed to me years before that TV series was aired.

President George Washington, Father of our Country. My Motley relative fought with him.

President George Washington, Father of our Country. My Motley relative fought with him.

I’ve always enjoyed history, and before I knew of all this family history, I chose to obtain my college degree from the College of William and Mary in Colonial Williamsburg, which was founded in 1693, just before my Motley family arrived in the colonies.

My Motley Grandparents of Danville, VA

My maternal grandfather, Edwin Pendleton Motley, who was born in North Carolina in 1877, 12 years after the Civil War, descended from old American stock. His ancestor, Joseph Motley, came to the American colonies from Scotland as early as the 1730s.

In 1903 Edwin married Bertha Jackson Seago and they settled in Danville, Virginia. In their happy 44-year marriage, Mama Jake and Daddy Ed (as they were known) had 8 children: 7 of them had fairly long, healthy lives. My mother, Bertha Garnette Motley, was second youngest. Big families were a fact of life years ago. Mama Jake came from a family of eleven and Daddy Ed had seven brothers and I don’t know how many sisters.

Edward P. Motley and Bertha Motley my grandparents about 1890 or so
From stories I’ve heard and the poems I’ve read, my grandfather was a romantic. He played guitar, wrote poetry and sang to me as a baby. I wish I had more memories of him but he died at age 70, when I was only 4. I was told that I would run to meet him every weekday evening when he came home from the family furniture store. He would bring me some kind of little gift—a piece of ribbon or some kind of trinket to play with. Since he didn’t like sales, my grandfather handled the books for Motley & Sons, the family furniture store in downtown Danville, Virginia, and took the bus home for Mama Jake’s hot lunch every day. “He never came in the house that he didn’t go straight to Mama Jake and kiss her,” my cousin Amy Lee recalled.

Daddy Ed never needed to spank any of his children or grandchildren for misbehavior. He didn’t even need words, Amy Lee told me, since, “He could look a hole right through you.”

Besides being the family poet, Daddy Ed loved to entertain by playing his guitar and mouth harp. He had a good sense of rhythm and would sing little songs for which he had created the words and music.

My mother and I lived with Mama Jake and Daddy Ed in their roomy home on the corner of Berryman Avenue for a few years during World War II and a couple of years afterward. My father Victor, an infantry major, was serving in Italy when Daddy Ed wrote this poem in 1944 to my mother, Garnette. I would imagine the poem was for her birthday on July 22. I like to imagine that he sung it to an appreciative family audience as well.

Another year has rolled around,

To find Bertha Garnette still in town.

She has reached the age of twenty-three,

And started her a family tree.

Her baby girl, Victoria Anne,

The finest young one in this land,

She twines herself around our heart,

And with her we would hate to part.

While daddy Victor, over the sea,

Fights like hell, for you and me.

So we must care for Garnette and Viki,

She’s mighty sweet, but also tricky.

How in the world could sweet Sixteen,

Make herself the Major’s queen,

Secure for herself good things in life,

Without the struggles, stress and strife.

But anyhow, we wish for you,

Long life, good health, your lover true,

Your baby grow to love you most,

And Victor come back home as host.

Daddy Ed signed the poem: Mamma and Daddy


My mother’s first marriage to Army Major Victor Hobson ended in 1947 in Reno, Nevada, and she got married right afterward to Army Capt. A. Darby Williams. My grandfather, Edwin Pendleton Motley, died at the age of 70 in 1947, shortly before my mother and I traveled to Germany to live with my new stepfather in Murnau. 1947 was a milestone year!

My grandmother, Bertha Seago Motley, died in 1954 at the age of 72.  That was considered fairly old in those days. At least I had gotten to know both of these wonderful grandparents a little, and they had created lots of aunts and one uncle for me to enjoy over the next 53 years. My Aunt Rosie was the last to leave the Earth in 2007.




Life is enhanced when there are risks involved. A little fear is good for the soul—like going up in the sky ensconced in a very small basket attached to a huge hot air balloon. I didn’t go around the world in 80 days, just into the Southern California sky early in the morning. The experience was thrilling and great fun, and I didn’t have to pay for it.

Penny, an adventurous single friend who owned a beauty salon, had had a momentous birthday the previous summer.  I attended her party, and one of her most exciting gifts was a balloon ride for two. Since she didn’t have a significant other in her life at that point, and she was promotion oriented, she decided I would be the ideal companion for this unique venture. I would write about it in the Acorn, the local paper I edited.

Champagne before takeoff

Champagne before takeoff

We planned to make it a special event by drinking a champagne toast before we took off, even though it was only 7 a.m. To further enhance the experience, we found a local businessman who sold fur coats; he agreed to lend two of them in exchange for some free publicity. Fur was the ideal covering for two babes on an adventure, after all!

Witnesses and a photographer were needed, so we enlisted the aid of our kids, dragging them out of bed on a Saturday morning, long before they were ready. Sunrize Balloons used an empty field for their launching site in Moorpark, which was an area of rolling hills and low mountains. Aware of weather patterns, the experienced balloonists scheduled flights early since mornings usually had mild winds.

We arrived at our outdoor rendezvous ready for anything, and it didn’t disappoint. We were going up with a male pilot, and two other passengers, captains in the local fire department, who were hilarious, we soon discovered. Except for the pilot, we were all novices.

There were five of us in the balloon basket as it gently lifted up. Right away, the jokes began between us. The subjects of going up, hot air, and balloons offer plenty of material, naughty and silly. Humor also helps to ease any anxiety as you realize you’re in a small basket and could fall out! No parachutes available.

Up in the Air We Go!

Up in the Air We Go!

It was overcast as we lifted up, but we soon saw the sun in a very blue sky dotted with clouds. The view below us encompassed the burgeoning cities of Thousand Oaks, Moorpark, and Westlake Village surrounded by the Santa Monica Mountains and the Simi Hills. Except for the occasional joke and the sounds of gas blowing hot air into the balloon as we rose higher, all was serene and mystical. I felt fragile and powerful at the same time.

When we descended, the pilot decided to show us a few balloon tricks. I believe he called it “bunny hopping” as he guided the basket up and down again in a brushy area surrounded by hills. The fun was short-lived; a prickly bush caught the basket. Rather than risk his passengers, even though we were only about ten feet off the ground, the cautious pilot radioed for help. His team drove a pickup truck over the small hill, anchored the basket and helped us disembark—ladies first, of course! We’d had a fantastic ride and being “rescued” at the end made it even more memorable.


The following is an excerpt from my historical adventure/romance Melaynie’s Masquerade. To purchase as an Ebook or as a softcover, go to Amazon:



Melaynie’s Masquerade on Amazon


Diego had seen Melaynie leave by herself that morning, her cheeks rosy, a distant but peaceful look in her eyes. He was pleased his young friend was taking some time to be by herself; she had worked as hard as the men in building the fort. His contented thoughts were jarred a short time later when he saw Jerome saunter out the stockade gate, a lascivious look upon his scarred face.

The merry little stream washed over Melaynie’s dappled sunlit body, caressing her erect nipples, flowing through her legs, cleansing the sounds from her ears. It was so soothing she failed to hear the snap of wood or the rough sigh.

Jerome stood on the stream bank, his good eye riveted by the sight of tiny breasts floating on the water, glistening in the flashes of sunshine. The curly blond pubic hair clearly hid no male genitalia. It was a surprise he would never have imagined. The boy had always seemed just a bit too feminine, but no matter. He’d just as soon stick his cock in one hole as another. It would provide excitement of a sort he hadn’t bargained for, and this time she didn’t have her knife on her. Perhaps he could frighten her into giving it up to him whenever he wanted, especially if he threatened to divulge her secret. His mouth hung open as if he were contemplating a meal to be devoured, as he quickly slid out of his breeches.

The sucking sounds of a foot in mud and the splash of a body entering water finally alerted Melaynie. She righted herself and let go of the branch, but it was too late. Jerome was in the water and reaching for her breasts.

“So, this is what ye’ve been hiding from me, Christopher,” Jerome sneered as he grabbed her, twisting her nipples. His breath was foul and his jagged teeth looked rotten.

She grimaced in outraged anger as she tried to hit him, but he laughed at her efforts. Although the water was not deep, the soft, slippery stream bottom kept her off balance. He pinned her arms as his wet open mouth clamped down on a nipple. She opened her mouth and lowered her head to bite at his thinning dirty hair, and when she had some in her mouth, pulled back as strongly as she could. Her feet found a solid place, and she drew her knee up and slammed it into him quickly. He stumbled backwards to protect his genitals, and the knee caught him on the chin.

“Ye want a fight, do ye?” he laughed derisively rubbing his hairy chin, his walleye askew while the other glared in lust. He had not lost his balance and lunged at her again, this time firmly catching her pubis with his long-fingered hand.

She shuddered with revulsion and twisted her body around and out of his grasp, throwing him off-balance. Neither of them heard the first ominous sounds of something heavy sliding into the water from the opposite bank.