Nicholas R. Cataldo (2003)
Janet Miles at Graduation in 1919,
from San Bernardino High School
The devastating fires that have caused havoc for so many families over the past couple weeks makes it difficult for writing something about San Bernardino County that is uplifting. In fact, it is pretty much impossible.
But if ever there was a slice of local history that somehow can at least temporarily allow ourselves to feel good about where we live, it can be found in a heartwarming book entitled The Memoirs of Janet Miles: 1901 to 1994.
The Janet Miles was born to Theodore and Adelia Mills at home on 360 "C" Street (now Arrowhead Ave.) in San Bernardino on April 5, 1901. When she was about two months old, Janet's mother died. On her deathbed, sisters Helen and Sada were asked to raise the baby at their home on 860 "F" Street. It would turn out to be Janet's home for the next 93 years!
Janet Miles at age 7
Janet attended Ninth Street School and 4th Street Schools which took her through the 8th grade (there were no Junior Highs or middle schools back then) before going on to the "new" San Bernardino High School, which had just moved from 8th and "E" Streets to its present location on 18th and "E". She graduated in 1919.
While working at several clerical jobs over the years, Janet married twice---to Raymond Coffey and Bill Miles---and widowed twice.
When Janet, well into her 90's and living alone broke her hip, she knew that someone would have to take care of her. A move to Santa Barbara under the loving care of family members came next. And it was here in "retirement" that Janet Miles wrote about her old hometown of nearly a century. And what a historical gem it turned out to be.
Published in two volumes by the San Bernardino Historical and Pioneer Society in 1997 and 1999, The Memoirs of Janet Miles: 1901-1994---a literary stroll back in time---is full of amusing anecdotes and personal stories about neighbors and friends. Readers will find out the "scoop" on historic business deals, of people, events, and traditions of bygone days.
The author wrote about some tragic events such as the great floods of 1916 and 1938, and the terrible freeze of 1913, which took its toll on the citrus industry. But it is the simple every day pleasures that predominate this nostalgic treasure.
Janet's recollections---the detailed description of a typical early 1900's home and school, locations of numerous businesses and who worked there, and individual personalities---is simply amazing.
She recalls fun childhood times at National Orange Show, wide-eyed visits to San Bernardino's Chinatown on 3rd Street, riding the Big Red Cars to the beach, going to the old Opera House, and catching a glimpse of President Taft passing by on "E" Street.
In concluding her memoirs, Janet Miles wrote:
" I'm just an ordinary 'little peanut in the sack'. I have written this account as I have recalled it from memory. At my age, currently I am 96, there is no one left I know who I could call and ask questions to verify incidents...I want to pay tribute to San Bernardino as a great place to live. I am content to have lived in such a friendly town...full of hard-working, God-fearing people....San Bernardino is a city we all can be proud to call 'Home'."
The Memoirs of Janet Miles: 1901--1994 is available at the San Bernardino County Museum and the San Bernardino Historical and Pioneer Society.
Janet Miles at 96