Terrence Harold Halloran and Billee (Byars) Halloran

From A Journal for Katherine by John Halloran 1930-2000

Before I knew what California was, I knew what Hollywood was, because of Shirley Temple. After "Baby Take A Bow" I eagerly awaited each new Shirley Temple show at the Saturday afternoon matinees at the Paramount Theater on 3rd Street. I knew by heart the complete lyrics of "On the Good Ship Lollipop," and I asked my mother if I could go to Hollywood and play with Shirley Temple, who was about my age, one year older maybe. Of course going to California was out of the question, to say nothing of playing with Shirley Temple.

How different it was in 1992, nearly 60 years later, when my nine-year-old daughter Katie asked if we could all go to Disneyland to see the world of Disney. There happened to be an airline price war going, so my wife and I, spearheaded by Katie, flew to California to see Mickey Mouse and Snow White and possibly Mrs. Knott of Knott's Berry Farm, if she were still living. We were to learn that she was dead, and the place had been sold to a Japanese company, with Snoopy now the host at the pioneer theme park. That's the modern way, of course.

I had several ulterior motives in this 1992 trip to Los Angeles. As we landed at Orange County John Wayne Airport, I looked forward after 25 years to seeing again some friends from my Philippine Peace Corps days, Fred and Terry Knoth, who now lived in Downey in greater L.A. Fred was an L.A. native who married a Filipina from the island of Samar where we had been assigned. I also looked forward to seeing a special aunt, Billee Halloran, who had gone out of her way to come to our wedding in Bismarck in 1978. Billee was, I came to realize, the only aunt or uncle still living of my father's relatives. Only Billee, widow of the youngest Halloran brother, Terrence, continued, and I was to find her very extant, although there were some moments when I wondered if I'd successfully find anyone in that Southern California urban sprawl.

Several days later we did find Terrence's widow, Billee, in the urban sprawl, she living in a ground-level apartment complex in an area called Orange. It had been fourteen years since our wedding when I last saw her, but I recognized her voice and bright smile as that of the same Billee, not greatly changed, but somewhat changed. The last things that change are voices and smiles. She had decided to host a sort of indoor picnic, very informal, she said. In a room off her living room she had devoted a wall to a gallery of family photographs, mostly pictures of her eight children and their families. At that time Terrence had been dead 28 years, but he was very much alive in this gallery. And Grandma was there as well as a copy of her famous (sometimes infamous) group portrait of herself with her six sons, which had hung on many a wall in the homes of her daughters-in-law.

Terrence also was there that day in another form -- in the voices and laughs and mannerisms of three of his four married sons, my cousins, who came to the gathering. Dennis and Donald are twins, and Ted, the oldest, was and is a priest with a lovely wife named Connie and two post-teenage sons. As the fifth of Grandma's priests over two generations, Ted works for an aerospace company as a computer programmer. Terrence also was there in my mannerisms, in my traits. I was nearly the same age as Terrence when he died at 61 years old, and my footsteps and my dad's footsteps, and Terrence's footsteps are, in a sense, all the same footsteps.

Halloran in Gaelic means foreigner or stranger, with the connotation that the person comes from the sea, a stranger crossing the Irish Sea. Now Terrence had no sea to cross, but he, like most Californians then and now, was a person from another place. His place, rather far off, was Bismarck, North Dakota, where he grew up as the sixth and youngest of the Halloran brothers. He was born in 1903 and was not yet two years old when his father died in 1905. His oldest brother, Francis, who was 21 when Terrence as born, became a father figure in his life. All five older brothers were therre to teach him the ropes of life, some of them Catholic ropes, to say nothing of his mother's guidance.

Now we will assume Terrence grew in wisdom and grace, and also assume he took his turn shaking out the table cloth after the evening meal. And possibly he sat in the chair reserved for Francis, when Francis wasn't around. He did go to Masses, I can't begin to estimate how many. The tutelage of the Benedictine sisters at St. Mary's Grade School also was part of his upbringing, and he knew from an early age the nature of Bonnie Morris, but had never seen her lodged upside down in a rocking chair. He said in later life that a visit with the Morris girls was obligatory whenever he returned to Bismarck, and the first time his wife Billee came with him to Bismarck he took her to meet Bonnie and her sister Catherine -- the Morris girls. Ted also was taken to meet them when he first visited Bismarck in the 1950s. It was a ritual.

When it came time for high school, the Catholic suspicion of public schools still prevailed, although Terrence's older brother, James, had graduated from Bismarck High School in 1906 and not lost his soul. Terrence again broke the taboo in 1919 by enrolling at BHS where he captained the football team and became an outstanding quarterback. He was president of the senior class during his final year of high school. He also was a thespian in a class play called "Nothing But The Truth," which he told about years later as a clever play. Being absolutely and totally truthful, the play pointed out, can lead to all sorts of embarrassing situations and can make enemies, as many writers have discovered. Although his mother did not approve of the name, Terrence suggested in a contest the name "Demons" for the athletic teams of the school, the Bismarck Demons.

And there was another idea that his mother disapproved of. In the 1923 summer following his senior year, Terrence and a buddy, Archie McPhee, decided to run away for the summer, at least for Terrence it was running away because he knew he would never get his mother's consent. The friend's parents knew about the plan and broke the news after the boys had left town for Shelby, Montana, to see the Dempsey-Gibbons boxing bout. Following the fight they took off for Glacier National Park. They had enough money for train fare one way, and the plan was to find a job and stay all summer. Once in Glacier, however, their adventure took a dark turn. There were no jobs to be had. They looked everywhere. There were absolutely no openings at the large hotel called Many-Glacier Hotel where they originally had hoped to work. Terrence's mother's fears would have proved right, if she had known about it. Now they faced the problem of getting back home. When they were sitting on a bench mulling their situation over, a man happened by who by chance engaged them in conversation. He asked them where they were from, and with the word Bismarck the man said he had some association with Bismarck, and he asked the boys if they knew Mike Halloran. Terrence replied yes, he's my father. And as luck would have it, the man turned out to be the owner-manager of the big Many-Glacier Hotel, who then hired them on the spot for a grand summer at Glacier.

In 1923 Terrence graduated from high school. In that period Mother Halloran experienced a number of transitions and adjustments. Both Francis and James were recently married. Father John was back from France and off to western North Dakota, and Leo was gone, studying for the priesthood and later assigned in California. Paul was working and would be married in the next few years. It was indeed a time of change.

At one time Terrence seemed destined for the priesthood. His brother Leo, who was studying to be a Dominican priest, encouraged his enrollment at a college in Providence, Rhode Island, where he studied for two years at a Dominican-administered school. He later finished college at St. Mary's College, Oakland. He took advanced social studies at Notre Dame under a scholarship program sponsored by the Knights of Columbus. With a college degree in social work and a familiarity with California, he was destined to find his life's work in the golden state.

Terrence first went to California in 1925 as a junior at St. Mary's. He brought himself, his Catholic faith, and his mother. She was to live with him most of the time during the next nine years, the period when he was in college and when he was working as a young bachelor at locations that included Santa Barbara. Besides Terrence, her son Father Leo was also located in California after his ordination in 1926. Terrence worked as a youth guidance counselor at the Catholic-sponsored East Side Center in Santa Barbara. He worked there until 1934, then spent seven years employed by the state of California, directing social service field representatives serving counties or groups of counties.

His mother found California attractive; especially beautiful was Santa Barbara in the 20s and 30s. For a woman from the industrialized cities of Pennsylvania and the frontier prairie culture of North Dakota with its severe winters, Santa Barbara was indeed the land of milk and honey with its verdancy and flowers, and its wonderful climate. The arrangement was most agreeable to her, and as long as Terrence was a bachelor, agreeable to him, although such an arrangement tended to prolong his bachelorhood, perhaps permanently.

He met a person named Billee, and when he went places with Billee his mother paid little attention, thinking Billee was a man, a buddy. They met at Newman Club functions in Santa Barbara to which Billee used to come with some Catholic friends. She was only 19, a woman studying to be a teacher at Santa Barbara State College, and Terrence by this time was nearly 30. The romance was serious before his mother discovered that Billee was a young woman. Not only a woman was she, but a Protestant. On top of all this, Grandma further learned that Billee's mother was a divorcee, a divorcee! His mother felt the need to warn her son about the "situation" of Billee's family, as Bonnie Morris would have said. At any rate, the situation of Terrence and his mother and Billee was somewhat of a dilemma. Billee's mother asked her Presbyterian minister what to do about her daughter who was dating a Catholic. He reminded her that all Christians share the same basic beliefs and that all would go well if Terrence was a man of deep faith.

At this same time Grandma also had a concern about her other California son, Father Leo. He was assigned to a Dominican-administered parish in San Francisco. He had become very good friends with an Osborne family there, especially one of the daughters named Claire. Claire had several sisters, and Grandma was also part of this great friendship with the family when she earlier lived in the Bay Area. She used to go to movies with Claire, who was very accommodating toward Father Leo's mother. But as time went on Grandma worried that Claire's friendship with the priest might endanger his priesthood. In 1933 after a visit with Leo, she decided to return to Bismarck for a visit. During her absence Terrence and Billee Byars got married, on August 21, 1933. Father Leo officiated at the wedding and celebrated the nuptial Mass at the Santa Barbara mission church.

Terrence started a new line of work a year later in Orange County as the county director for the State Relief Administration. This was in the height of the Depression. Except for two years in Alameda County and two years in Stockton, Santa Ana in Orange County was their home where they raised eight children who were born over a 22-year span -- Terrence (Ted), Mike, Kathleen, the twins Dennis and Donald, Letty, Mary, and Jane.

Billee, by the way, became a Catholic, more fervent than most born Catholics. She took instructions in the Catholic faith and was baptized before she and Terrence were married. And with her intelligence and academic bent, she started in 1950 a Catholic bookstore and gift shop called the Memorare Guild which occupied most of the first floor of their home, which was a large, three-story older home with space and character. The book inventory was an extensive collection of general as well as religious books. Their family with all its children and its bookstore became a well-known institution in Santa Ana.

Beginning in 1941 during the war, Terrence worked for the National Catholic Community Service as a supervisor of 20 USO clubs in the western United States. The USO became his lifetime career.

My mother came to California in 1956. I was out of the army by then, teaching school in North Dakota, and taking a graduate course during the summer session at Berkeley. My mother, Ada, came by train to join me in San Francisco for a California tour and a trip back home in my blue Plymouth.

Ada's coming to California to be with her bachelor son had parallels in the life of Terrence and his mother when they came thirty years earlier. Both mothers were about 65 years old. Both sons were bachelors in their mid-twenties. History was repeating itself, except for one basic difference -- Terrence and his mother were not on vacation, but rather paired together in a relationship that might have become permanent. He was the last son of a mother who generated strong devotion from all her sons. Then, happily, Billee entered the picture. By 1956 they were the parents of eight children from college age to infancy. Ada and I planned to visit this California Halloran family. To get there we followed El Camino Real.

In my mind, the historic jewel of California is the chain of Spanish missions of the 1700s, most of which are accessible from U.S.101, the highway near the coast. The gentle hills and low mountains with verdant valleys and arid slopes I imagined to be from the era when all this land was called New Spain. But unlike Spain where so many of their ancient yet modern cities blend into the arid landscape, the building of California and American cities is disharmonious and destructive of the land that once was. The landscape is consumed. Still wonderful today, however, are the place names -- Santa Rosa, San Rafael, Sacramento, San Luis Obispo, Paso Robles, and even Los Angeles, and especially Santa Ana, where the Hallorans lived in a gigantic house with avocado trees in the back and a book store consuming most of the first floor.

I had not met any of them before that summer, except Terrence, of course. The oldest was Ted, a seminarian who was away from home working as a summer camp counselor. Kathleen, the oldest girl, was college age and ready to begin her sophomore year at Mount St. Mary's, one of those many Catholic schools for women I always imagined built on a mountain and named after the Blessed Virgin. At the time Kathleen's destiny seemed most unlikely -- to specialize in 4-H home economics, take a job in Minnesota, and marry a Minnesota farmer of German Polish descent named Koziolek.

Three of the boys were home that summer, including the twins Dennis and Donald (one of whom was working at Disneyland). The twins were charter employees at Disneyland when it opened in 1955. Another son, Mike, was also in college and a bit older than the twins. These young men of college age were not around much. They came and went from a sort of third floor dormitory, and at that age they didn't seem to muster up much interest in relatives from North Dakota, especially a middle-aged woman and a cousin much older than themselves. One of them addressed us with "Hello, relatives," and at our final departure he said, "Goodbye, relatives," He was passing through a stage, we hoped. The three youngest children were all beautiful little girls Letty, age 4, and Mary, age 2, and Jane, the infant.

Terrence had come home from his business trip while we were in Santa Ana. Both Billee and Terrence were wonderfully hospitable during our visit. The bookstore, a good one called the "Memorare Guild," was surprisingly extensive as far as I could tell. They operated the store for 26 years, from 1950 to 1976. I bought "The Cypresses Believe in God," the Spanish epic of a family during the Spanish civil war period. I should say I tried to buy the book, for Billee would not present a sales slip to relatives. We did have a full day at Disneyland with Billee as our guide. In 1956 Disneyland was in its first full year of operation. Ada enjoyed seeing the place like he did most places she visited, and I considered it an experience to do once. I didn't know I would have a nine-year-old daughter 26 years later.

Billee is a woman who reads a lot, who loves to read. Promoting a quality bookstore was a labor of love for many years in her life. She told me once that her favorite time and place to read is in bed after the day's activities are done. It was her private time. She has a bed bolster to prop herself up. I also have a bolster which is indispensable in my reading habits, and sometimes when I prop myself up in bed I think of Billee. We are kindred spirits of the bolster.

Terrence lived to see his oldest son, Ted, ordained a priest, the fifth Halloran in two generations to receive Holy Orders. But he did not live to see the full sweep of changes in his Catholic Church resulting from the Vatican II council in the early 60s. His death came in December of 1964. His son, Father Ted, celebrated his father's funeral Mass entirely in Latin. Nationwide use of some English in the Mass, decreed by the second Vatican Council, began the following week.