The Ring of a Salvation Army Santa’s Bell

Real Estate Agent with GreatWest Realty DRE# 00827565

When recently prompted by Kathy Streib’s Challenge to share our favorite holiday memory, I had several memories emerge. Yet among the many warm memories, one untold, bitter-sweet, holiday memory continued to occupy my mind. I have tried to write this story several times, but painful memories are so entangled with sweet ones, that words do not easily come.  I will try once again! This particular story begins a couple months before Christmas of 1962.


On a late October evening in 1962, there was a slight lull in the storms which had plagued Sacramento, making it the wettest October on record for our city, before or since. The United States was in the midst of the Cuban Missile Crisis, but I was so pre-occupied with a personal crisis, that I felt oblivious to this country’s concerns with thermo-nuclear war. 

In my own world of concerns, I climbed the steps and entered the front door of 2814 "I" Street that evening, and I immediately became known as "Pat." I wasn't unlike the other girls, who were already living in what became a shared world of our own.  We came to this place from a number of little towns and cities, around central and northern California.


Camellia House, as the place was known, was a good-sized bungalow styled home built in 1905.  It was owned and run by the Salvation Army as a home for unwed mothers.


We came from a variety of backgrounds.  Among them, we had "Susan," a daughter of a minister, and "Marian," a Japanese girl, who had shamed her family, not only because she had become pregnant while unmarried, but also because a white boy fathered her unborn child. Our eclectic group became fairly close and shared what resources we had. There were others, as well.  I name them in "quotes" because these aren't their real names, which for the most part I do not know.  While living at Camellia House, other names were used to protect identity. I was 19 years old, and while I was among the oldest in the home, I was as naive as the youngest of 15 years.


The following year, 1963, was to become one characterized by the loss of that naiveté, for me and for our nation as well. "The pill” ushered in the sexual revolution, and America suffered the pain of innocence lost, and a president lost, with the assassination of John Kennedy.

Social and revolutionary change knocking at the door just the year before, was yet unseen. The stigma of the old term "unwed mother" is remembered, carved on that antiquated closed door.

Miss Taylor who ran Camellia House on behalf of the Salvation Army, was a woman likely in her early sixties.  And behind her door, she was all business, but not unkind.  Mrs. Barnes who performed household and cooking duties for the several of us living there, was warm hearted, grandmotherly, and delightful to be around.


The most humbling experiences in my life were had in that home at Christmas that year. I remember feeling chilled much of the time that winter.  I suspect it was partly from the dampness of the air, but my nerves weren’t helping either. Neither my family nor I had ever been the recipient of charity.  We had always been the givers.  But on this Eve of Christmas, we the unwed madonnas, gathered around the wonderful tree which filled the Camellia House living room and it warmed my nerves. We listened to carols and told stories.  There were kind words from a minister and his wife, who often came to visit.


Presents were given to each of us. These gifts were from strangers, not from Kings of the East, but worth as much.  Each girl was provided a pair of warm flannel pajamas, which were nicely Christmas-wrapped, along with a pleasant supply of toiletries.


Later that evening, we enjoyed an amazing Christmas dinner, wonderfully prepared by Mrs. Barnes, who was a southern cook.  It was my first encounter with cornbread dressing.  To this day, I continue using her recipe, although I add in pine nuts and golden raisins.


Yes, there was great anxiety in my Christmas of 1962, but as the Dalai Lama has said, suffering is OK. In it we learn compassion.  I also learned when things seem darkest there are folks who are exceptionally giving. They are the angels among us who show up when needed most!


Each year, when I hear the bell of a Salvation Army Santa, I am reminded of that 1962 Christmas, and the blessings those bells provided to me during my most difficult time. The Salvation Army remains my favorite charity!


As for the rest of this story, I gave birth to a baby girl in March 1963. In those days a good future for her wasn't possible if she stayed with me, so I made the very painful decision that she be given for adoption. Each year on her birthday, and many days during each year, I wondered if she was alright, and I especially missed the baby I could not hold! However, on February 2, 1990, we were reunited, and, have been in contact since.  Her name is Valerie.  In this picture of all my children, she is pictured on the right.


Re-Blogged 2 times:

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  2. Robert Vegas Bob Swetz 12/10/2017 12:23 PM
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Georgie Hunter R(S) 58089
Hawai'i Life Real Estate Brokers - Haiku, HI
Maui Real Estate sales and lifestyle info

What a touching story!  I remember those times and thankfully we have come a long way since then.  I'm glad there's a happy ending and what a beautiful picture with all your children together. Wishing you a very merry Christmas this year and every year.

Dec 10, 2017 05:42 PM #25
Lauren Williams, CPO
Casual Uncluttering LLC - Woodinville, WA
Professional Organizer: Puget Sound homes

Myrl Jeffcoat Thank you for sharing. Your story is beautiful. I'm glad you found your daughter again.

Dec 10, 2017 07:25 PM #26
Ron and Alexandra Seigel
Napa Consultants - Carpinteria, CA
Luxury Real Estate Branding, Marketing & Strategy


I was telling Ron your story this morning, and he said, next time I hear them ringing the bell, I will  remember this story.  Carol Williams this is a wonderful post for Second Chance Saturday.  A

Dec 11, 2017 11:46 AM #27
Lou Ludwig
Ludwig & Associates - Boca Raton, FL
Designations Earned CRB, CRS, CIPS, GRI, SRES, TRC


Thanks for sharing the story of your journey  . . . . with a happy ending.

Good luck and success.

Lou Ludwig

Dec 12, 2017 08:18 PM #29
Carol Williams
U.S.: I specialize in helping agents who have been in the business 2 years or less create a thriving business. - Wenatchee, WA
"Customized Mentoring & Marketing Services"

Hi Myrl,
Wow... what a mixture of emotions this post has!  It must be so heartwarming for you to see ALL of your children together smiling.  Thanks for sharing this important piece of your life.

Dec 14, 2017 08:36 AM #30
Paul S. Henderson, REALTOR®,CRS,
RE/MAX Professionals. - Tacoma, WA
Tacoma Washington Agent/Broker & Market Authority!

I rather miss the old days when Santa used to man The Kettle for the Salvation Army in our area now the people don't even wear red Myrl Jeffcoat 

Dec 14, 2017 07:22 PM #31
Endre Barath, Jr.
Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices - Beverly Hills, CA
Realtor - Los Angeles Home Sales 310.486.1002

Myrl, I am so glad I stopped in, this is one of those posts after I read it I became speechless, needless to say I can understand why it took a while to write this post. Now when I hear the Bells Ringing I will always think of you, Endre

Dec 14, 2017 07:30 PM #32
Curtis Van Carter
Better Homes & Gardens Wine Country Group - Yountville, CA
Your Napa Valley Broker Extraordinaire


I came back to read the latest comments to this post. This has been probably the most emotional out pouring I have read here. Still brings a misty response for me, cheers cvc

Dec 15, 2017 07:09 AM #33
Sharon Tara
Sharon Tara Transformations - Portsmouth, NH
New Hampshire Home Stager

I sit here with tear filled eyes trying to see the screen as I type.

What a memory. It's like I just saw a movie. So well written, Myrl. Beautiful job telling your story.

Valerie is beautiful, with a strong resemblence to your other beautiful children. I'm so sorry you had to experience this, but so happy you found each other eventually.

So glad you shared this!

Dec 15, 2017 10:00 AM #34
Grant Schneider
Performance Development Strategies - Armonk, NY
Your Coach Helping You Create Successful Outcomes

Good afternoon Myrl - thank you for sharing your story.  It does have a happy ending that you were re united.  My in laws adopted a child in 1993 and she was reunited with her mother and her birth mother and family came to her high school graduation.

Dec 16, 2017 09:40 AM #35
Jeff Dowler, CRS
Solutions Real Estate - Carlsbad, CA
The Southern California Relocation Dude - Carlsbad

Hi Myrl

It's hard to put into words how your beautiful story touched me. Thank you! I will always think of you now when I see the Salvation Army bell ringers. So glad to hear you were reunited with Valerie and remain in contact!! What a wonderful photo of your kids.


Dec 16, 2017 11:33 AM #36
Yolanda Cordova-Gilbert
Sitterle Homes - Richmond, TX
Sitterle Homes


 WOW! This is an amazing post! What a painful decision and I am so glad you were reunited. You are a loving and wonderful individual and I am glad to know you through this wonderful platform.

Dec 16, 2017 02:05 PM #37
Laura Cerrano
Feng Shui Manhattan Long Island - Locust Valley, NY
Certified Feng Shui Expert, Speaker & Researcher

Salvation Army does great work all the time and this is no exception! Happy Holidays, everybody!

Dec 16, 2017 05:00 PM #38
Laura Cerrano
Feng Shui Manhattan Long Island - Locust Valley, NY
Certified Feng Shui Expert, Speaker & Researcher

Reunited in a little Christmas miracle I suppose! Good luck with everything!

Dec 16, 2017 05:01 PM #39
Kat Palmiotti
Grand Lux Realty, 914-419-0270, - Monroe, NY
The House Kat

Thank you for sharing your story. Deciding to put your daughter up for adoption must have been one of the hardest things you ever did. I am so thrilled you were able to reunite. I wish you a wonderful Christmas.

Dec 17, 2017 05:24 AM #40
Beth Atalay
Cam Realty and Property Management - Clermont, FL
Cam Realty of Clermont FL

Hi Myrl, I read your post about fifteen minutes ago, it took me a while to comment, I'm just speechless. Thank you for having the courage to share your amazing story. I can't even imagine being in your place. Somehow, we get that much-needed strength exactly when we need it. Your children are beautiful, so glad you reunited with your daughter, many don't get that chance.

Dec 17, 2017 04:31 PM #41
Sheri Sperry - MCNE®
Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage - Sedona, AZ
(928) 274-7355 ~ YOUR Solutions REALTOR®

Hi Myrl Jeffcoat , What a beautiful story!  You may not have had a choice but it still is very courageous to do what you did. I am sure glad that our children don't have to go through those times like so many had to back then. I also whish I would have known your story while I was ringing the bell last week.  All our money we collect stays right here in Sedona - Everything we do is by volunteers and we keep 100% of the funds earned to help those in need throughout the year. I hope you don't mind me sharing my picture from last week! - By the way....I had a blast connecting with people during my 3 hours of bell ringing. Salvation Army

Dec 18, 2017 03:40 PM #42
Mary Yonkers
Alan Kells School of Real Estate/Howard Hanna Real Estate - Erie, PA
Erie/PA Real Estate Instructor

Myrl Jeffcoat Hugs and more hugs to you and your daughter for sharing your story which many years ago would not have been as well accepted or understood.  More hugs!

Dec 20, 2017 04:42 PM #43
Jan Green
Value Added Service, 602-620-2699 - Scottsdale, AZ
HomeSmart Elite Group, REALTOR®, EcoBroker, GREEN

Thank you for sharing your story.  As you mention, this was a difficult story to share.  We carry wounds and scars from the past that haunt us. Yours is a powerful story of a time in our history when WE were frowned upon.  Lucky you to have found Valerie.  Your heart must be full writing this now!  Good for you!!  Merry Christmas! 

Dec 20, 2017 09:41 PM #44
John Juarez
The Medford Real Estate Team - Fremont, CA

I loved your story. It took me back to a different time. Our society has changed so much since then. And yet, an unexpected pregnancy is still life changing. Thank you for sharing and especially for the happy ending.

Dec 30, 2017 03:51 PM #45
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Myrl Jeffcoat

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