One more milestone in the life of Louise Ellis
By MARY JO WINTER / Cloverdale Correspondent
When Louise Ellis was born in Phoenix on August 29, 1912, William Howard Taft was the 27th President of the United States and her home state of Arizona had just become the 48th state several months earlier.
Her father was teaching agricultural techniques to the Navajo Indians at the time and the small family lived on the reservation in an adobe house with no electricity, running water or refrigeration. The nearest trading post was a three-mile horse and buggy ride away. He later worked with another tribe in Oregon, before going on to finish his college degree in Corvallis.
Although christened Ethel Louise, she was always just called Louise by friends and family. “I felt when I registered at school, though, I should use my full name. This sometimes ended up causing a little confusion.”
Ellis says she knows of at least one young man who was unintentionally rebuffed because her father answered the phone when he called instead of her. “When he asked for Ethel, my father told him there was no one there by that name and hung up on him,” she laughs.
The family moved around a lot while she was growing up. They were living in Long Beach in 1918 when the WWI Armistice was signed. Even though she was only a young child, she still remembers the joyful street celebrations.
At the time of the 1933 earthquake, they were living in Hollywood. Like most young girls, she had dreams of maybe one day becoming an actress. Her dreams were somewhat realized many years later when she performed with the Redwood Players in Cloverdale.
Apartment rents in the 1930’s were nothing compared to today. Ellis remembers a one bedroom apartment they rented in the Wilshire district of Los Angeles that had a twin Murphy bed in the living room and maid service once a week for only $40 a month.
She attended UC Berkeley for two years, earning her AA degree. She would have been happy to continue her studies, but it was the last part of the Depression and her parents were footing the bill. “I felt a little guilty about that, so I decided to just stop and take a business course at a continuation school instead.”
She then went to work for the City of Berkeley in the Tax Collection/Treasurer’s office. This is where the city employees, including the police officers, would come to pick up their paychecks. She remembers the Police Chief as being a very good looking man. “When he would come into our office, we girls would all kind of get the vapors because he was so handsome.”
She met her husband, Ray, in Tahoe through mutual friends. He worked in the lumber industry, which is what originally brought the Ellis’ and their daughter, Teresa, to Cloverdale in 1955.
Soon after settling in, she started attending the United Church of Cloverdale, and over the years served on their Board of Trustees, been the church treasurer, secretary of the Women’s Fellowship and co-manager of the church’s first thrift shop.
Ellis has been die-hard 49ers fan since Joe Montana first started making headlines. Whenever the game is on, she can generally be found firmly planted in front of the television. During one of their slumps a few years ago, she even asked her congregation to hold a kind thought for them.
From 1961 to 1966, she served on the Cloverdale Planning Commission, and recalls discussions about cutting down trees, building a River Park and the City’s water wells.
Of her time on the board, Ellis describes herself as one of the first tree huggers. “Anytime someone wanted to cut down a tree to widen a road or something, I was always the first one to object.”
In Cloverdale, she worked for a number of companies, including Barnes Lumber, the Cloverdale Reveille, the Cloverdale Nursery, the First National Bank of Cloverdale, and the jewelry store that used to be in the Copper Towers complex.
At one point, while working for a local law firm, she was often asked by the printing company next door to take orders for them when they were out. She also covered for the optometrist on the other side whenever she had to run an errand.
Of all the places she’s lived, Ellis considers Corvallis and Berkeley her places of the heart.
“If I ever have to leave Cloverdale, it will become one of those places, too. I’ve always appreciated the small town atmosphere here and was so worried when all that frantic building was going on before the bust. I always loved those rounded hills on the west, and then they built two-story houses and blocked them.”
Asked what it takes to live a long life, Ellis thought for a moment and then said, “I’ve lived a very moderate life with hardly any drinking, no smoking and no carousing – well, no carousing to speak of, that is.”
She took her 100th birthday in stride, noting, “It’s not really such a big deal anymore. A lot of people live to one hundred and longer these days. I just never thought I’d be one of them.”