Charles Mazeres and Brigitte Breilh
This text is the original English version of the article translated in French and published in PARTIR magazine N° 12 (sept. 2015). Thanks to Jan ROMAN, Emile and Rosina LASSALLE for the text and the pictures.
Prepared by: Rosina Lassalle
Charles Mazeres was the sixth child born to Jean Mazeres Salenave and Marie Anne Lacrouts. He was born on 28 September 1868 at the house of Salenave, in Ogeu-les-Bains, Pyrénées-Atlantiques. His father was a fanner that specialized in making yokes for oxen. There were eight children in the family, two younger than Charles. When Charles was sixteen years old the family received word from America that his older sister Madeleine who was living in California, was quite ill. Her marriage to Louis Lacazette was in trouble and she had a little daughter to take care of. It was decided that Charles should come to help his sister. And so, on 6 January 1885, the vessel PARIS, with Charles on board departed from the port of Bordeaux and set sail for America. The ship arrived at New Orleans, Louisiana on 28 January 1885.
Not quite three years later, just before Christmas of 1887, Charles wrote home to say that he was well, that he had been with the same employer for Il months, and that he was well liked. He assured his father that he well remembered the advice given to him upon his departure from home. He was being respectful, following directions gladly, and not expressing negative opinions. He was earning 225 francs per month and was already planning to buy his own laundry. In addition, little Marie who had measles and had been quite sick was feeling much better; and Madeleine had divorced Lacazette. By this time, three of his siblings were also living in California (1).
Being a French citizen in 1892 he enlisted in the French army and although he never served actively, be did have to report periodically to the French Consulate in San Francisco. Other organizations that be belonged to were the French Hospital (prior to March l, 1885), Foresters of America, Cour Sadi Carnot #198 and the Ligue Henry IV. Before the end of January 1896, Charles had met the lovely young woman named Brigitte Breilh who would become his bride on 16 January 1897, just one year later. She was the daughter of Jean Breilh and Mathilde Laplagne. Three children were born to their union; Anna Madeleine, born in San Francisco on 17 Oct 1897, Jean Emile, born in San Francisco on 29 June 1899 and Emilie Mathilde also born in San Francisco on 22 February 1905. Jean Emile and Emilie Mathilde died very young, Jean Emile on 24 June 1903 and Emilie Mathilde on 12 September 1907.The idea Charles had about going into the laundry business for himself materialized. By 1901 he was in business in Modesto (H St. between 12th and 13th) and shortly after that he purchased property on 10th Avenue in Oakland and began doing business as the 10th Avenue French Laundry. They also owned a set of flats located on East 17th Street next to 14th Avenue. The property had a well house and the laundry may have been located there prior to their obtaining the property on 10th Avenue.
On 23 November 1923, Charles received his Certificate of Naturalization in Oakland and it was recorded on the 28th.
He was only 58 years old when he died on Christmas Day in 1926 and his body was laid to rest with his two deceased children at St Mary Cemetery, also in Oakland.
(1) Antoine (1871-1933) grand-father of Bob MAZERES cf Partir 9 - Madeleine (1858-1923) and Véronique (1878-1901).
MEMORIES OF BRIGITTE BREILH MAZERES, MY GRANDMOTHER
by Dorothy (Lassalle, Terry) Roman
Translated and augmented by: Rosina (Vigil) Lassalle
She must have been about 4' 10" tall. I don't think she was 5 feet even if you include the height of the little Cuban heel black shoes she wore.
Some of her house dresses were made of ten-cent-a-yard fabric (a fair price in the 1920's and 30's). Her closet contained less clothing than you would expect. Picture her in her hardy black coat and her squashed hat which sat tilted on her light brown hair that was kept ina neat bun on top of her head. Though her clothes were rather simple, definitely nothing fancy, she was always dressed properly. Brigitte was the eldest of twelve children and lived her early years in Castet, a tiny village at the base of the Pyrenees.
She had a strong personality and formidable character. There was no doubt in your mind about where you stood with her. Usually she was soft spoken and spoke in a very even tone even when highly irritated; however, God forbid, if you pushed her too far, she could rant and rave.
Her native language was French, which she spoke like a Parisian, not like the country folks. In addition she spoke "Patois" (a dialect). The lack of a formal education was never a hindrance because she was intelligent and had good old common sense. She kept up with current events here and in France by reading the French newspaper, which she often shared with my dad. At times their discussions would get quite heated and sometimes Grandmere would get her hat and coat and walk home in a huff, sometimes with me lagging behind. Many times she would ask me to see if "Brigitte" was listed in the obituary column - that was her sense of humor.
Before reaching her 18th birthday she had been hired as a governess. It was in that capacity and as a member of that household that she came to the United States. She remained in that family's employ until her passage fare was repaid. Eventually she was joined here by her oldest brother, Joseph (2). Together they saved until they were able to accumulate enough money to pay for their parents and other siblings to join them herein California. She was not quite 26 years old when she married my Grandpere.
He started their laundry business with her help. After his death, the laundry became her life and provided for her financial freedom. She accepted work from just enough customers, (who were really her friends from the French community) to generate whatever income she needed to allow her to keep her independence. Her brother, Jean Baptiste, helped her by doing the shirts and she did the fancy linens and delicate items. Her home had been built to accommodate the laundry business. A very large room located in the front and that took up the entire width of the building was where the ironing was done and where customers could drop off and pick up laundry. I can see her at the long, wide table where she would iron the banquet tablecloths and the embroidered linen sheets. There were a couple of gas burners where irons of various weights, shapes and sizes were kept hot while she was busy using one. Up against the back wall of the room there were wooden shelves that held the butcher-paper-wrapped and string-tied bundles containing ironed and starched white shirts. Earnings from the laundry were augmented by income received from renting a duplex she owned on East 17th Street and 14th Avenue.
Since the older grandchildren started school at Franklin they lived at Grandmere's during the week throughout the school year. At onetime she even had her nephew, Jack Weaver, living with her for one school year. On Sunday, with one or more of the
grandkids in tow, she would jump on the Key System streetcar or train and travel the whole Bay Area. ln San Francisco, we would go to Golden Gate Park, the San Francisco Zoo, Notre Dame des Victoires Church, the DeYoung Museum, cemeteries and, of course, to visit relatives. Brigitte and her sister, Marie Louise, were particularly close so she visited the Croueres on McAllister Street quite often. In Oakland, she would take us to Lake Merritt, Mosswood Park, Diamond Park, both the Oakland and the Snow Museum, and to visit relatives both dead and alive ! When the school sponsored a trip to the Museums, I had already been there and it was old stuff to me.
Grandmere Brigitte appreciated her adopted country. She valued the opportunity to make her voice heard through the use of the ballot box. On one particular election she made it her business to cast her vote even though she was not a citizen. She thought that since Charles had become a citizen, (in 1923), that entitled her to vote too. Completely embarrassed, she enrolled in citizenship classes and eventually became a citizen in 1928.
(2) Joseph BREILH, born in 1874, arrived in USA in 1893