Through Any Given Door ~ Catherine Sevenau

Catherine Sevenau Catherine Sevenau is a writer, humorist, and storyteller living in Sonoma, California. The stories in this series are excerpts from her book, Through Any Given Door, a Family Memoir. The full memoir is available as a web series at A longtime Realtor and Owner/Broker at CENTURY 21 Wine Country, she can be reached at [email protected]


Collecting weird words like bubble gum cards

Posted on November 8, 2022 by Catherine Sevenau

Chapter 43: Late 1940s • Sonora ~ Lorna Harrington, Betty’s best friend since kindergarten, was unusually shy. My sister took her under her wing, and as birds-of-a-feather they flew everywhere together. Betty saw no reason why she and Lorna shouldn’t participate in all school activities. In their fifth grade production about famous people of the world, it took a lot of fuss to get Lorna to step forward and say her one line. Betty was the narrator, holding all the parts together with a great memory and a gift for speaking. Throughout their whole friendship Betty included Lorna in all her plans and did the talking for both of them. My sister wasn’t afraid to speak her mind to anyone, anytime, anywhere. Lorna was in awe of Betty, struck by her fearlessness and her audacity; she wanted to be bold like my sister.

Clemens siblings 1950, Sonora, California: Carleen, Claudia, Betty, Larry, Cathy in front

Swinging her legs over the porch rail and jumping down (rather than using the steps), Betty raced to Lorna’s and they’d be off for the day. They trudged miles upstream to catch giant leopard frogs in the creek then toted them home in gunnysacks tossed over their shoulders to sell to the Sonora Inn for fried frogs’ legs. They had tea parties in tiny secret hideaways carved inside the row of hedges lining the back yard. They skated the streets, hiked the hills, and dared each other to climb rock walls, wood fences, and tall trees. As the sidewalks all over town were fractured from tree-roots, the only good place to skate was in front of the courthouse where they were forever being chased off during business hours. Hand-in-hand, they skipped along the cracked sidewalks, Lorna hanging onto her glasses, singing radio jingles off-key at the top of their lungs: Brusha, brusha, brusha, get the new Ipana…

They whirled up one side of Washington Street and zipped down the other, poking their head in every store, peering down each byway, and peeking in all the tavern windows to see what was going on. On Saturdays they flew up the steep steps of St. Patrick’s and slipped into the silent and empty church. While Betty sifted through the religious tracts standing upright in the wood rack, Lorna stood lookout at the sanctuary entrance; her parents were atheists. Betty culled the pamphlets; all the ones not in accordance with her views she tossed in a trashcan conveniently located next to the rack. She felt there was no need for people to be squandering their time reading dogma and doctrine that was just plain wrong. One late Saturday afternoon, as this had been going on for a while, the parish priest was lying in wait for the pair of little heathens.

“Unless you two are here for Mass,” he barked, “you’re not welcome in this church.”

They didn’t care. Cackling, the duo flew down the stone steps and gusted over to Elsbree’s Cigar Store to hide in the magazine bin and read the comic books.

Spending hours under the oak in the vacant lot across from Lorna’s house, Betty and Lorna told stories, read books, and studied the dictionary from cover to cover, testing each other until they knew the meaning and origin of every word from aardvark to zoology. The two fast friends collected weird and wonderful words like other kids collected bubble gum cards. 

To be continued…

Catherine Sevenau is a writer, humorist, and storyteller living. The stories in this series are excerpts from Through Any Given Door, a Family Memoir, available at Catherine is an author of three books, several volumes of family genealogy, and a longtime Broker/Realtor at CENTURY 21 Epic Wine Country. [email protected]




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