|VICTOR WORTHINGTON LIGDA||Born: 1907-09-17||Died: 1955-08-18|
|Father: PAUL VICTOROVITCH LIGDA||Mother: EDITH F. LIGDA|
|Children: VICTORIA ROSE LIGDA, SUSAN MILA LIGDA, PAUL CHARLES LIGDA|
|Siblings: THEODORE PAUL LIGDA, MYRON GEORGE HERBERT LIGDA, MARY BARBARA LIGDA|
Victor was the first of four children born to Paul and Edith Ligda. We know a little about his youth from his Mother’s letters. When he was 11, she observed: “He does well in school, not brilliant, but works hard and learns thoroughly.” When he was 13, a relative with whom he spent the summer on a ranch told his mother: “[Victor] is much more generous by nature than either of the others [his Sister Barbara and Brother Ted].” Victor enjoyed his experience and announced his intention to save so he could buy a ranch when he grew up. His mother commented: “He may acquire the savings habit which he lacks.” She also noted: “. . . He is very particular about his appearance.”
In June, 1922, he joined the Boy Scouts. Scouting became a great love of his youth. By November, despite the distraction of his first job distributing programs at the Piedmont Theatre in Oakland, he was advanced to second class Scout. In 1924, while at summer camp with his Brother Ted, he became an Eagle Scout. He wrote his mother that, at one time, he was required to sing in front of the group which he found very embarrassing. In June, 1925, he was ranked 6th among all scouts in Oakland. At that time, he had a job at the Athens Athletic Club for $3/day, yet he led a troop out of St. Peters Church. He started a stamp collection which remained a lifelong hobby. There was literally no part of the Boy Scout Program which didn’t interest him. He earned fifty-one merit badges, each of which he sewed to a sash to be worn with his uniform. His many skills served him well in life. There was rarely a project or task Victor couldn’t handle himself.
Victor entered the University of California, Berkeley in 1924. He started in the School of Music, transferred to Commerce, and earned his degree in 1928. He did not distinguish himself as a scholar, but was active in school activities. He tried out for the basketball team. He was in the Chess Club and the Mens’ PE Major Club. He taught some P. E. classes and was a member of the Life Saving Corp. He was on the gymnastic team for three years and vice president of the Gymnastic Club for two years. He played in the Marching Band, serving as Drum Major in his Junior and Senior years.
After his graduation, Victor, encouraged by his father’s example, applied for positions as a teacher. Unfortunately, after the Stock Market crash, openings were limited. There were no offers. His mother wrote:
“I am sorry you did not get a teaching position, but you must not be discouraged. These things usually come unexpectedly. In the meantime, I’d suggest you try most anything to earn so me money for expenses. I hope you go back to college eventually.”
Victor took his mother’s advice. He returned to school to earn a teachers certificate. His first teaching position was in Vacaville, California for the 1929-30 school year. The principal conditioned his return for the 1930-31 school year on his attendance at summer school. His mother observed:
“Vic is very tired of college and I think some other kind of vacation would be better for him. But, of course, he does need more training to be a first class teacher . . .”
Victor was back at his parents’ home on Chabot Road at the time of the automobile accident in which his mother was injured and his father died. According to some, his father asked Victor to complete the technical writings on which he was working. He did not do so. He either lacked the experience or had no interest.
Victor took a teaching position in Dorris, California for the 1932-33 school year. In addition to his classes, he coached track and basketball. During the summer of 1933, he took an automobile trip East. He stopped in Chicago to visit the Brashavitz, his Brother Ted’s in-laws. During that visit, he met Caroline Wagner. After a whirlwind courtship, they married on August 22. Victor and Caroline came to California, stayed briefly at his mother’s home at 6165 Chabot Rd., and then returned to Dorris for the 1933-34 school year. Caroline enrolled as a student in the school where Victor was teaching.
Caroline did not like life in rural California. After she became pregnant, she grew terribly lonely for her family in Chicago. Victor arranged a visit at the end of the school year. He then resigned his position and returned to his mother’s home to look for work in the Bay Area. Caroline rejoined him early in the summer. Their first child, Paul Charles, was born July 13, 1934. Victor did not get a teaching position for the 1934-35 school year. He did play in the Cal Band and took part time work when he could find it.
Victor got an offer from the San Francisco School Board for the 1935-36 school year. The next year, he was assigned to Everett Junior High School where he remained six years. Victor kept the family at his mother’s home on Chabot Road the first few years and endured the 40 minute commute into the City by ferry. His second child, Susan Mila, was born in Oakland on October 7, 1936.
Living conditions at Chabot Road were uncomfortable. Edith felt Caroline did not do a fair share of the housework and imposed upon her to watch the children. In letters to Herb, she was critical of both Victor and Caroline in the way they disciplined the children. Victor was said to yell at his children. She also commented that Victor was drinking to excess. 1
By the 1940-41 school year, Victor was earning $2,184/year and felt his tenure was secured. He move his family out of his mother’s home to San Francisco where he rented an apartment at 5415 California Street. By 1942, he overcame his concern he could not make the $40 monthly payments, and bought his first home at 559 44th Avenue in the Richmond District of San Francisco. He poured considerable energy into his home, expanding it and rebuilding much of the foundation that had been damaged by termites.
Despite the War, Victor was relatively certain not to be drafted as a 34 year old father of two. However, he longed to do his part and eventually volunteered. He was inducted into the Army in 1943 and sent to Officers Candidate School in Miami Beach. He completed the work and was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant. On April 28, 1943, he wrote:
“In the Army everything is uncertain, but as I am assigned to the technical training command for which the purpose is the training of others, I should be assigned to teaching and Santa Ana is the place for which I am scheduled.”
The scheduling held. Victor was assigned to Santa Ana Army Air Base to teach mathematics to prospective pilots. The family joined him in June, 1943, first renting a home at the corner of 4th and Acacia Streets in Garden Grove and later moving to a rented home on Van Ness Avenue in Santa Ana.
Whlle in Garden Grove, the family became good friends with Dorothy Mills. Dorothy was married to Floyd Mills whose work on the Alcan Highway kept him in Alaska and Canada for extended periods. The Mills had two children: Leslie Lea, born December 13, 1934, and Jerry Robin, born July 2, 1938. As the Mills children and the Ligda children were about the same ages, the families did much together, usually in Floyd’s absence. Victor and Dorothy would become romantically involved. Dorothy later wrote: “Neither of us had enough sense to realize the danger. I was hopelessly in love with the wrong man, and he with me.”
That romance was placed on hold when Victor was first transferred to Carlsbad Army Air Base In September 1944 and, three months later, to San Antonio, Texas. He continued to be given teaching assignments despite his expressed desire to, ” . . . get in the fight.”
Victor took his family with him to New Mexico and Texas, but after a futile attempt to find adequate housing in San Antonio, he sent his family to stay with in-laws in Chicago until something turned up. It took him four months before he found an upstairs flat at 215 East Craig Place. The family was reunited there in March 1945. Two months later, Victor was to Maxwell Air Base in Alabama. With the end of the War in sight, the need to train pilots was declining. Victor guessed he would not be in Alabama long. He returned his family to San Francisco while he awaited his discharge.
Victor was honorably discharged as a Captain. He returned to San Francisco. As a veteran, he was able to buy a surplus army jeep as a second car to the 1938 Pontiac which had served the family through the war. He designed and built a canvas and wood top for the jeep which attracted considerable attention. Many suggested he start a business manufacturing similar tops for other new jeep owners. He was not interested. His first interest was teaching. He took a position as a mathematics teacher at Everett Jr. High in San Francisco teaching mathematics. He also took advantage of the G. I. Bill to earn an administrative credential and his masters degree at Stanford University.
Thruout his teaching career, Victor took part time work to supplement his income. Each summer, he would find a temporary job. He sometimes worked for the Post Office during the Christmas Holidays. For years, he worked on weekends for his brother-in-law, Wayne Wooster, who owned and operated a 9 minute auto wash on Fillmore Street in San Francisco. He also worked as a ticket taker at local sporting events.
Victor took a passive interest in his children, neither pushing them or criticizing them. He helped his son get a part time job selling programs at football games at Kezar Stadium in San Francisco when he worked as a ticket taker. After the game started, he’d let his son in free and then join him to watch the game. At that time, St. Marys, Santa Clara, and U. S. F. played their home games at Kezar Stadium in Golden Gate Park, but Vic was a Cal fan and taught his son to be one too.
In 1949, Victor filed for divorce from Caroline. He moved out of the family home to live with his mother in Berkeley. His divorce was final in 1951. Victor and Dorothy 2 married on June 16, 1951. Victor moved into Dorothy’s home at 401 Taurus Avenue in the Montclair District of Oakland that was shared with Dorothy’s daughter, Leslie. 3 Victor did not exercise visitation with his children after the separation, 4 although he did attend his son’s Junior High School graduation in 1949. His daughter, Susan, expressed no interest in seeing him.
In 1951, for the first time in years, Victor did not take a summer job, opting in favor of devoting his time to enjoy and develop his many other interests: his extensive precancelled stamp collection, fishing in the delta, gardening, masonry, 5 He and Dorothy took camping trips exploring the coast in Oregon and California. He continued teaching, eventually getting a position at Balboa High School in San Francisco where he taught music (violin) and mathematics.
During the 1953-54 school year, Victor and Dorothy both qualified as Fulbright Exchange Teachers. They exchanged jobs and homes with a teaching family from Winnipeg, Canada. They made a vacation of the trip to Winnipeg, driving his mother to her childhood home in Worthington, Ohio for a family visit, then going on to visit some of Dorothy’s family in Washington D.C, and Herb and Evelyn in Massachusetts. At the end of the school year, his daughter, Susan, joined them for the trip home. They explored part of Manitoba, then camped across Canada, visiting Banff, Lake Louise, and Glacier National Park.
Victor returned to Balboa High for the 1954-55 school year. In the summer of 1955, he and his wife took his son, Paul, then a senior at San Jose State College, to San Miguel Allende, Mexico for a five week teachers institute. It was the last time he was to have with his children.
Dorothy and Victor returned from Mexico in August. On August 18, after spending the morning in the basement preparing boxes for mushrooms, he complained of being too tired for lunch and laid down to rest. His condition seemed to worsen, so Dorothy called an ambulance. Victor died of cardiac failure en route to the hospital. Despite being a heavy smoker his entire adult life, he had an excellent health record, never having missed a day of school for illness in 23 years. His death was totally unexpected. 6 After a farewell service at the Little Chapel of the Flowers in Berkeley, he was buried at Golden Gate National Cemetery in San Bruno, California.
On February 7, 1956, Dorothy gave birth to Victor’s third child, Victoria Rose.
- Both Herb and Evelyn, in their correspondence during this period, mention Victor’s drinking. In a letter as late as 1943, Evelyn wrote that she hoped Caroline wouldn’t find a bottle under Victor’s bed when she joined him in Garden Grove. The fact my father’s drinking ever reached a level of concern to the family came as a surprise to me. I never knew him to drink excessively.
- Dorothy was born Oct. 21, 1914 in Glenarm, Illinois. She was a graduate of San Francisco State University and worked as a teacher and school librarian. ↩
- Leslie shared the home until she left for college in 1953. ↩
- His wife, Dorothy, says he felt quite strongly that children should “not have to divide their loyalties.” She, on the other hand, felt children were adaptable and needed to be assured they were loved. She says this was their only real disagreement and that in his later years, he came to believe he had been wrong. He then made overtures to both his children. ↩
- He built a beautiful barbecue with two long benches into the side of the hill of their home on Taurus Avenue.[\ref] and silversmithing. 7My father made me an adjustable silver ring with a Tigers Eye stone. I passed the ring on to my son, John. ↩
- The life expectancy of a person born in 1907 was 47 years. ↩