Marysville resident has made some history of her own
Ruth Derson Freeman of Marysville felt she had to live a lie during her first year of marriage to Frank Freeman in the 1930s. If she didn't hide their marriage from the community at large she could lose her job as an elementary school teacher.
Even before the secret wedding, people in the area already knew the two were courting, including, she said, "Mr. Winship," principal at the Yuba City elementary school.
"He said, 'We don't have married teachers at our school,'" she recalled.
"I needed five years of teaching for my life (teaching) credential," she explained. By her wedding day, Dec. 24, 1934, she had already worked two years in Denair near Turlock, one year at Linda Elementary School and one year at the East Nicolaus elementary school.
"I was afraid to let them know I was married," Freeman, 92, said. She had earned a teaching credential in three years at Chico State College.
Born in Oakland and growing up in Butte County, the longtime Marysville resident's stories weave history into the countless stories she shares, which prompted her friend and tenant Tereasa Kelley to nominate her for the Appeal-Democrat Spirit of Freedom Award as a Witness to History.
The two women met three years ago when Kelley worked next door to Freeman's home. "When I saw the Witness for History (category), and hearing her stories, who else?," Kelley said.
Ruth and Frank Freeman met at Linda School in 1932 when she became the school's third teacher and he was a part-time music teacher in the area. He had just graduated from the University of the Pacific in Stockton.
It was during the Depression, Freeman said. "(Frank) just made himself jobs," teaching music half-days at five schools in the area, she said, adding, "He got plenty of jobs."
And because his job was a "cash deal" and teachers were paid in state warrants that were sometimes difficult to cash, Freeman said, Frank ended up lending money quite often.
"Frank and I didn't have a Depression," she said. The Depression "didn't affect me in any way."
The couple had married on Christmas Eve in Salt Lake City, Utah, where no one would know them, then returned to Marysville where they continued to live separately for almost a year.
Her family and his landlady knew they were married, she said, and many people in the community suspected.
"On weekends we'd go up to San Francisco," she said. "It seems that every time we'd be in a hotel, we'd run into somebody who knew us."
After completing her second year at East Nicolaus, and five years of teaching, she announced her marriage at the school. "Everyone (already) knew," she said, laughing. "Even my principal knew we were married."
She taught for about 40 years, taking a break to try to have a family and finally retiring in 1971. "Eighth-grade was my favorite," she said. "I love teaching. I loved it until the very last day.
"I never knew a really bad kid," she commented. "The saddest thing to me is the way the teenagers are today ... they don't have a sense of respect for older people or themselves."
Pausing, she added, "I don't see how anybody could teach in those circumstances."
Though she and her husband never had children, she has a large family, she said, with many great-nieces and great-nephews. Former students who are now grandparents also visit often.
Freeman's house on D Street in Marysville, her home since about 1950, was part of the property purchased by
the Freeman family in 1907. "If I live five more years, a Freeman will have lived in this house for 100 years," she noted.
The land down the street, now the site of the Elks building, was marshland when the property was purchased by the family, Freeman said. "When they went into town they had to go down 12th Street to G Street to get downtown because of marsh clear across to G Street. By the time we were married, it was still marsh to E Street."
The couple renovated the large house, which was possibly built during the Civil War, using a lot of the bricks to line the fireplace and the garden.
Recently, she added a photo of her late husband's 1932 graduating class at UOP, which was found at the university by her great-grandnephew who also attended the school and studied music. Frank died six years ago, soon after the couple's 63rd wedding anniversary.
"I like Marysville, I like the people," Freeman said. The city seems to be getting better, she added, with the area looking more like a historic town, "like it should be."
Witness to History: Ruth Freeman
Category: Witness to History
Nominee: Ruth Freeman
Nominator: Tereasa Kelley
Mrs. Ruth Freeman is the person I would like to nominate for the Spirit of Freedom Awards 2002. The category I would say best fits Mrs. Freeman would have to be Witness to History.
One reason I feel this is the perfect category for her is that she recently celebrated her 92nd birthday. In 92 years of life, she has not only been a witness to a great deal of the history of the Yuba Sutter area, but she has made some of her own.
She became a teacher many years ago and after moving to this area to take a teaching position, she taught in many of the area schools. She still has a passion for education that is very easily seen in the sparkle of her eyes when she recalls a story of one of her pupils.
I have to think that she was one of those teachers who was just a bit tough on her students, but at the same time she loved them all. I think it is wonderful that many of her former students stop by and visit with her from time to time. It thrills her to think that they remember her fondly enough to look in on her after so many years have passed.
She met her husband, the late Frank Freeman, also a teacher, and they married some 60-plus years ago. It was at that time they settled into their home on D Street in Marysville. Later they acquired the home that today has been in the Freeman family for 95 years. During those 95 years, there has always been a Freeman living in this home.
She has many wonderful stories about the Yuba-Sutter area and the changes that have taken place over the past years. She has told me about the history of Ellis Lake and how it was a project that came about to provide jobs for people during a time when taking care of your family's needs was a difficult task as jobs were few and difficult to find.
She witnessed Ellis Lake in its making and through the years she has been witness to all of the events, both good and bad, that have taken place there. She is a big animal lover and has at times, when the lake was being cleaned of an algae that was killing the ducks and fish, felt sorry for the ducks and set up a wash tub and made a little pond for a momma duck and her babies to live in while they were displaced from the lake.
This is just a sample of the things that this remarkable lady has witnessed in her years as a Yuba-Sutter resident. That is why it is so difficult to do justice to Mrs. Freeman in only a one-page description.