Noe Valley Voice July-August 2000

Florence's Family Album: Keeping Up with the Joneses

By Florence Holub

It was at least 42 years ago that I first met Lynne Jones. Like me, she was a regular at the Eureka Valley Recreation Center on Collingwood Street. The rec center held a once-a-week pre­nursery school class for tiny tots, and Lynne and I each had a little boy -- 2 or 3 years old -- who was in need of companionship.

She had David, at the time an only child (she and husband Ray Jones would soon have another). And I had Eric, Leo's and my third son. Eric was 10 years younger than his brother Jan, and 12 years younger than his brother Michael, so he needed to learn that there were other little people in the world like himself.

About 15 kids attended the program. Most parents dropped their youngsters off in the morning and picked them up at the end of the session. But Lynne and I, and another mother, Nancy Shibata, often stayed the entire time to assist Clare, the recreation director. Thinking we were put upon, Clare would shake her head and say, "It is always you three." But the truth was we didn't dare deposit our sons at the door. Our boys were so accustomed to having us at their constant beck and call, we knew Clare would be faced with three yowling kiddies, all convinced they had been abandoned forever.

It was during these mornings that we three like-minded mothers became fast friends. Two years later, when our sons graduated (in tiny caps and gowns), Nancy had to return to help her husband in their busy Noe Valley dry cleaning shop, but Lynne and I had the freedom to take advantage of the other local playgrounds, where there were teeter-totters, swings, slides, and sandboxes to keep the little boys happy as we watched over them and chatted.

I soon learned that Lynne had been a trained nurse who married Ray in 1950 and later moved to San Francisco. Here she worked at U.C. Hospital while Ray established his own business, a Smith-Corona dealership called the American Typewriter Company.

Ray Jones was a natural businessman, efficient and enthusiastic, with an engaging, relaxed sales approach. And he had a helpful wife, Lynne, who always found time to take care of the bookkeeping and other chores. It took only a few years before the typewriter business, located on Market between Noe and Sanchez, became a magnet, attracting customers from every walk of life.

To name just a few: There was supervisor, mayor, and U.S. senator-to-be Dianne Feinstein, and another lady of note, artist Ruth Asawa, our Noe Valley neighbor. Everyone's favorite newspaper columnist, Herb Caen, was also a customer, and there was one unforgettable lady who once came in to purchase six typewriters.

This seemed like a great sale, Ray later recalled, but when this woman announced that her chauffeur would bring in her personal check and pick up the goods on Sunday (a day the shop was closed), he became rather uneasy. He knew he could make an exception and open up the shop, but the credit office through which he could verify her financial reliability was shuttered on Sunday, too. He did not want to be the victim of a scam by this innocent-looking lady. However, he also did not want to lose such a large sale, so he finally agreed to open up the store.

Luckily, Lynne overheard the conversation, recognized the lady's name, and informed Ray after she'd gone that he had no cause for worry. The lady was none other than Lurline Matson Roth, the daughter of the millionaire owner of the Matson Steamship Company. (Mrs. Roth did make good on her promise, and remained a loyal customer for years.)

Although the American Typewriter Company no longer exists, many of us oldtimers fondly remember patronizing Ray's shop.

The years passed, and the Joneses' second son, Steven, was born in 1959. Seven years later, the family hired a contractor to enlarge and modernize their small abode at 28th and Diamond streets. This is when I did a watercolor painting of the original house -- something to help Lynne and Ray look back and remember how much they'd accomplished.

Sometimes the Joneses received invitations to go to dinner with business associates, and since we had two teenaged sons, Lynne asked if one of them might be interested in babysitting her boys. My second oldest, Jan, was agreeable, so for many years he became the Joneses' regular helper.

Then, when Ray's thriving business required some extra hands, he hired Jan as a part-time employee to work after school. Ray was the ideal employer -- fair, generous, and helpful, with a subtle sense of humor. Within weeks, Jan became proficient at taking apart, cleaning, and putting back together machines of every brand, age, and disability, so Ray had cards printed up identifying Jan Holub as the American Typewriter Company's "Service Manager." This was amusing, because Jan was the only person in the service department.

When they were old enough, the Jones boys -- David and Steven -- also went to work in the shop, and soon became real buddies with their former babysitter. After they were grown, however, the three young men seemed drawn in different directions.

Jan went off to college at U.C. Santa Barbara. (Still, for years thereafter, Jan often returned to work at American Typewriter. His "part-time job" stayed open until 1981, when Ray decided that it was time to close the shop and retire to his hilltop home on 28th Street.)

David had a yen for the sea, so he went to Hawaii, where he got a job conducting tours aboard a catamaran. There he had a blind date with a law student from California, for whom he developed an instant attachment. This drew him back to the Bay Area, where he found employment and married the girl, Gail, who is now a practicing lawyer. David's current job as captain of the 78-foot, square-rigged Brigantine sailing ship Rendezvous is to conduct tours around the bay for up to 49 passengers per cruise.

A few years ago, we got a delightful taste of David's seafaring skills when we were invited to come aboard the Rendezvous to celebrate his father Ray's 75th birthday! The weather couldn't have been more perfect as we departed from Pier 40 on a two-hour sail up the cityfront and out into the bay around Alcatraz for a dazzling close-up view of the Golden Gate Bridge. Then as the sun sank in the west behind the highrises, the sky was painted in billowing streaks of scarlet and orange. Nearby, a flight of pelicans swooped down to skim the water again and again -- it was an unforgettable, magical moment.

Like many modern couples, David and Gail have managed to each hold down a job, even after they produced a son, named Eric. David would take care of Eric when he wasn't on call, and when he had to report for duty, he was able to leave the little boy with his capable grandparents, who were delighted to have him around. When Eric was 2, Lynne asked me to do a pastel sketch of Eric similar to the ones I had done of David and Steven when they were the same age. Two and a half years later, I also did a sketch of Gail and David's second child, Morgan.

When David's younger brother Steven finished school, he landed an excellent position with AT&T. He soon shot up the ladder, and was transferred to Denver, Colo. Recently, Steven was again transferred, this time to Sacramento, where the housing stock is somewhat limited. So, while he and his bride Bonita are waiting for their new home to be finished, he commutes 60 miles to work. That's because they are living next door to their old buddy Jan, in Grass Valley, in the studio attached to the Holub family home.

Over the years, my man Leo and I have attended many parties given by our dear friends. And believe me, the Joneses really know how to throw a party! We now look forward to August, when we'll attend a celebration in honor of Lynne and Ray's 50th wedding anniversary. The party is being given by their children, who suggested in their invitation that instead of gifts, the guests bring something that speaks of Ray and Lynne's life together -- a memory, a photograph, or a story.

That last word moved me to sit down in front of our trusty Smith-Corona (1961 model), which our son Michael bought at the American Typewriter Company when he was a teenager.

And so this article was born, this fleeting glimpse of a devoted couple who have labored, loved, and lived the good life. For 42 years we have been friends, and it always pleases me to see among the framed works on the walls of their home a watercolor of their house as it looked in the '60s; a portrait of their late black poodle, "Snooky"; and four pastels in a row, of each of their children and grandchildren.

I would like to think that in my own way I have been keeping up with the Joneses, and it's been a real pleasure!