Moving to California
Dr. Al Rutner and his wife, Phyllis, were among our dearest friends in Fort Leavenworth. Al was another Berry Plan draftee. We overlapped for 1 year at Ft. Leavenworth before Al left for a urology residency at UCSF. Having decided to pursue my own postmilitary training at UCSF, I reached out to Al for help with the logistics of moving to San Francisco. Al found us a home to rent in Daly City. The price was right, but we didn’t realize that this was the foggiest and coldest part of the city, particularly in the summer.
There is great truth to the quote, commonly (but incorrectly) attributed to Mark Twain, that “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.” Arriving in Daly City in the early summer, Cris and Dori (Figure 9.1) were constantly bundled up in our chilly new home. Dori developed a persistent nasal discharge that we called the “green worm.” It took a fall trip to Yosemite for us to finally find the sun. Adding to the stress on Dollie, she was now pregnant with our third child, Edmond I Eger III, born in January 1961. Two years later we had our fourth and final child, Renee Ross Eger.
When my fellowship ended, I was offered a research position at UCSF, including a faculty salary. This allowed Dollie and me to buy a house in Greenbrae California, a city bathed in the sunshine of Marin County.
We lived in Greenbrae for nearly a quarter of a century in a conventional marriage. I was the breadwinner. Dollie raised our children (Figures 9.1,9.2,9.3) and conducted the household affairs. There being no education for this (still true today), we patterned our roles as adults and as parents on our observations of our own parents from our childhood. I left for work in the early morning, usually sharing a ride with colleagues. I returned for dinner, the time the entire family convened daily. The interactions at dinner differed from those I had known as a child in that our children were drawn into the conversations and pressed to describe their days’ activities.
We reflected our upbringing in ways that occasionally surprised us. I recall one memorable evening when Dollie instructed Cris “Tell your father what you did” (an ominous beginning). Head down, Cris said that she and her friends played at the top of a nearby hill. Part of the play included pushing a large boulder to the edge of the hill. At that point, gravity took control. The boulder gathered speed, tearing through a fence at the bottom of the hill. Continuing through the yard, it passed through the fence on the other side and came to rest. The lady of the house viewed the boulder’s journey through her previously fenced property from her kitchen window. This was followed by a long pause in the dinner’s conversation. I asked if anyone had been hurt. On hearing that no one had, I made the mistake of laughing (uncontrollably). My mother, who thought my climbing on a greenhouse roof funny, would have been pleased that I saw the humor in my children’s exploits. Dollie was not pleased. She expected discipline to be maintained.
After dinner, I would read to each child. I often put my children to bed, singing lullabies and folk songs to them. As they got older, these practices changed to the playing of games, usually board games. Including checkers.
Figure 9.3 Family feeding geese and ducks mid-1960s near the Palace of Fine Arts, San Francisco (from left): Dori, Ed, me, Cris, and Dollie.
Since we had four children over the course of 6 years, the relationships among those children and their cousins probably tightened. It also provided wonderful images of uninhibited kids who perhaps now regret allowing their parents to take snapshots.
Much of my daytime life focused on my research. Our evenings offered opportunities in addition to reading to our children. Dollie was an accomplished flutist who played in amateur Marin orchestras. For a time, Renee followed her mother as a flutist, simultaneously occupying first chair in two youth orchestras. I made a halfhearted attempt to join in with a wooden flute, the recorder. Fortunately, I abandoned that effort, limiting my musical pursuits to singing. Dollie and I frequently attended performances of the San Francisco Symphony. Often, I slept through the program, but occasionally I was caught up by Seiji Ozawa’s conducting a Brahms symphony. We both were attracted to plays offered by what is now the San Francisco Actor’s Conservatory Theatre. These included inspiring plays like Tiny Alice by Edward Albee.