The Classic Story of the Levy Bros (4)

A new-old story by June Morrall

Then came the weddings. Joe married Hannah Walker , whose dad owned Walker’s Drug Store in Half Moon Bay. Fernand took his time finding his soul mate, finally returning to France where he found, Josephine, the woman of his dreams. According to legend, it was a romantic proposal with Fernand on his knees between scenes at the opera house.

But guess what? Josephine turned him down.

She expected Fernand to observe European tradition and ask her parents for her hand first. He tried to explain less formal American views on marriage but she would have none of it. Fernand returned to Half Moon Bay alone but the image of Josephine loomed large in his mind. He couldn’t forget the rejection and he returned to France and tried once again. I don’t know if this time he went to her parents, but Josephine accepted the proposal with a strict condition: that they live on the Coastside temporarily and return to France as soon as possible.

I imagine Josephine found it tough living in rustic Half Moon Bay in 1883. That same year her new husband and his brother bought a third store in from now Supervisor John Garretson in Pescadero. Thirty-year-old Joe was in charge of the Pescadero store, and he moved his family into the old, famous  Swanton House, an easy walk to the former Garretson & Mattingly Mercantile across the street.

By now Joe had had a dozen years of experience, and he was Pescadero’s leading merchant. One story credits Joe with “pioneering the inland market.” He’d ride to very remote farms on horseback, bringing a couple of pack mules with him, to hold dry goods which he’d sell back at these faraway farms. This saved the farmers a long trip into town—and appealed to the women, who lived far from town, who enjoyed the “luxury” of shopping from home.

Joe hired employees, and he had a popular one in J. C. Williamson, who wore “different hats” as the store’s druggist, telegraph operator, and he finally also became the postmaster, a prominent job that Joe originally held. J.C.’s personal popularity and ambition led him to open a competing store a couple of years later.

Just imagine what that moved stirred up in the little town of Pescadero!

Meanwhile Fernand, in Half Moon Bay, had to deal with his wife, Josephine’s loneliness in a town where she no family or friends, and felt out of place. But she was a smart woman: she convinced sister Emma to come from France and stay with her on the Coastside. Coincidentally, the Levy’s third brother, Adrien, had sailed for Half Moon Bay to join the enterprising Levy Brothers.

Was that part of the resourceful Josephine’s plan to resolve her loneliness? That sister Emma would meet brother-in-law Adrien and fall in love?

Part V coming

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About June Morrall

1947 - 2010
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