Jurika and related families




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juramentado stopped below and, from this rail, Blanche dropped a flower pot on his head, enough to stun him.23 It was not unusual for mother [Blanche] to have a gun on her hip; she had a German Luger. She could shoot a gun pretty well, and Steve insisted that she never go out without one – she loved to go riding around the countryside of Jolo.


What Blanche’s sister, Aunty Tom, remembered about the Jolo home was the smell of camphor chests and urine. “Such a housekeeper [Blanche]; Mother [Florence] was a particular housekeeper. But Blanche’s head was always in the clouds. She couldn’t sew, but she could draw - she had the imagination: she could also use words and write; she wanted to build things up.”


Daughter Sue was born in the Jurika home in Jolo in October 1909, and named for Steve’s mother. Blanche wrote that the Sultan of Sulu thought she had been named “Sue” for his dominion (Sulu) and came to pay his respects


on horseback, his retainer walking alongside…, holding a canopy over the august head, which was swathed in the turban of his rank. American twenty-dollar gold pieces hung in a sparkling fringe from the short jacket of his American-style suit. The suit was of a superb, handwoven fabric, and the pants were as skin-tight as if he’d been blown up inside them; there wasn’t a fold or fullness anywhere. On the Sultan’s hallowed fingers were pearls worth a fortune, and on his feet were bright yellow shoes originally intended for an American doughboy, worn over socks held up by loud pink Paris garters…24


Blanche had no milk to breast-feed, so a Moro wetnurse was hired. Alas, Sue continued to cry and lose weight – at last, the Jurikas discovered the nurse was putting belladonna into the milk, because she wanted to leave her post and get married! Blanche took Sue up to St. Paul’s Hospital in Manila to recover. On her return, she was delighted to learn that Steve had made arrangements for them to move [June 1910] to Zamboanga where the medical facilities were better. They never returned to Jolo. Aunty Tom reminisced: “This I do know, when they moved to Zamboanga that was an improvement. Steve started having little stores around. He wanted me to have things sent to the Philippines from LA, from places like Cooper, Coat & Casey, in the east side wholesale district. The man there looked at us curiously, and said do you speak English: he had a refinery!”


Steve’s business does appear to have thrived. A book on old Zamboanga mentions Torrejon-Jurika as one of the “big business establishments” around 1910 – and notes that a “chanteuse and vaudeville star, Juanita Antido, owned the Black Cat Club in the Torrejon-Jurika Building.” Admission was 50 centavos for men and 30 for ladies.25


In Sept-Oct 1910, Steve and Blanche went back to the US to have Steve, Jr., born in Los Angeles, 14 months after Sue [Dec 1910]. Blanche laughed that he should be born in the States so he could be president. She stayed at her parents’ house, where her maiden aunt, Fannie Walker, was visiting, and she became Episcopalian through Aunt Fan’s influence.26


Blanche’s sister Alleene remembered her as “a darling person. She was so sweet and kind to me. Every night…my friends would come over to hear, she told them big stories – a born teacher. She gave me French lessons – Ferme La Blanche – she was a whole lot nicer to me than I was to her. She must have known Spanish and she started to know Steve’s language. His English and his Spanish remained Czech. I don’t think he realized that he didn’t speak English.” Annie Lee Cooley remembered Steve as “so kind, so immaculate and polite, and so, so kind.” Kate Rice’s daughter, Bunny, however, didn’t like him as a young girl: “he would kiss your hand and had strange manners.”


From California, Steve appears to have gone to Pittsburgh and then Malatina in 1910-11.27 When the Kronprinz Wilhelm from Cherbourg docked in Los Angeles, 5 April 1911, Steve listed himself as a merchant who was a US citizen; his naturalization papers are dated some days later (17 Apr), and give his address as the home of his wife’s aunt, Lucia Smith Sheldon, in LA.28


At this time, Steve brought at least three nephews – John, Joe, and Phillip, sons of his sister, Katrushka Kucbel, who were already in Benwood, WV - to work at a ranch that he and Mora had in the Imperial Valley (El Centro, CA). The young men worked at clearing and digging irrigation ditches and cared for horses and mules. Why this enterprise failed isn’t clear, but “they fell out”…and Steve and Blanche’s family went back to Zamboanga at the end of 1911. Daughter Katrushka (Katsy) was born there in 1912 and son Tom in 1914. Steve made another overeas trip during these years, returning to LA from Southampton, England, again on the Kronprinz Wilhelm, in Oct. 1912.


Around 1912-14, there were only 60 or so civilians in Zamboanga, most of them German and Swiss. They would gather for Sunday smorgasborg and children’s outings. However, the society was also small and petty in some ways, and some in Zamboanga ostracized Blanche and wouldn’t include the Jurika children in the Christmas play – perhaps because Blanche was relatively educated and not part of the American military or Swiss/German business group.29


However, the Cooleys, especially Annie Lee, were great friends of Blanche’s. Aunt Ginny Jurika, Uncle Tom’s wife, recalled: Annie Lee had a little handicraft shop in the Bayat Hotel – round-the-world ships used to stop there, because it was so colorful and full of charm. By the time I was 18 [1936], there were still some visitors, but not as many. Of course, the market was so interesting, too. And the Indonesians would bring in all this stuff – beautiful textiles and such, because they didn’t have to pay duty…”


Of Annie Lee, Blanche wrote:


All my family has always loved her, and she is almost as much concerned over my children as I am. For years, in her little corner bodega in the shadow of the Pam Hotel, she has sold black coral bracelets, coral articles of all kinds, Moro suits and hand-beaten silver. Her shop is jammed with Moro hats, show pots, barongs, old brass, Moro weaving – and in one corner, her Filipino silversmiths sit at their wooden bench and turn out exquisite work with what looks to be a few discarded nail-files and old fashioned button hooks.30


Annie Lee’s shop was also something of a social center, where Blanche visited often.


Ginny Jurika’s memories of growing up in Zamboanga included Annie Lee’s shop and getting all dressed up to walk out on the pier in the evening:


it was so beautiful. I remember the Bayat’s hotel – it was really the Plaza, but the Bayats ran it and everyone called it the Bayat’s hotel - on the square, where we always stayed, once for Christmas. The porch overlooked the plaza, and our room opened out onto it. Now the hotel’s on the water – the vintas come and the Moros sell you shells. We went across the strait to a little island where the Moros have their burial ground… At night you would hear the drums, and rain pit-patting on the tin rooves. Natives would blow their shells so the mail and passenger boats would know when to come in; small boats came to meet us and carried us to the beach in chairs.


The Jurika household was also entertaining. Steve played the violin and Blanche played the piano every night before dinner. The children would join in: the songs were "No te vayas" and "The Spanish Cavalier." Steve would sing only one Slovak song about a little girl who watered her garden with her tears. Years later, son Tom Jurika said: “Let’s put a polite question…I never remember Toto [Steve]31 ever holding a violin in his life, or playing the violin. And it was only Toots and the children who sang those songs.” Katsy asked relatives in Czechoslovakia about the meaning of that song and the family said all their songs are like that, “meaning sad.”


Suzita Cecil told, too, of the four children getting into mischief and playing pranks. Once, young Steve and Tom got a pet alligator – which they decided would like to live in the tank that caught rainwater and that the family used as an outdoor shower. They got the little creature up the ladder and into the water, but after some time forgot about it. Then one day Blanche went to take a shower – and a crocodile’s tail dropped toward her when she opened the plug! Another time the children put glue on the toilet seat, to the dismay of father Steve a short time later.


When the Jurikas moved to Zamboanga, they first lived in “Judge” P.J. Moore's house near Pettit Barracks (see photo; c. early 1914). It was "left of the Pettit Barracks entrance by the stone pillars." This was where Tom was born. Toots asked General Pershing if she could plant an acacia tree in the Parade Grounds at Pettit Barracks and name it for him. He was pleased and agreed.32


Meanwhile, Blanche decided to teach her own children, and some of their friends, so a schoolroom was set up in the house. She described a polyglot of nationalities and a “hodge podge” languages among the children and their amahs – French, Spanish, Japanese, and local dialects. And the relief of learning that Sue passed the entrance exam for the Zamboanga Normal School at age 10.


Toots had smallpox in 1919 when she had her last child, Jimmy, who died two days later. The Sunday before, they'd gone on a Victoria carriage ride--8 miles out and 8 miles back--and saw a woman selling eggs. Steve stopped to buy some; Blanche called out, "Don't go near her--," but being bullheaded he touched the eggs, and a week later Toots came down [with smallpox], the day the child was born.33 After this, all four Jurika children were enrolled in the Filipino High School, which caused a good deal of gossip in town, even though the headmistress was an American woman.34


When Moore came home, we moved to another house two and a half blocks away (see photo; c. 1923).35 Aunt Ginny remembered: “I was six or seven [1923/4] – and went to the Jurikas’ house. Blanche and Steve were there. Tom was sitting in a bay window. Blanche was tall and wearing light colors…”. She enjoyed playing bridge but she wasn't a socialite or a social worker, though she did for some time teach English to convent girls and nurses in Zamboanga. She wanted them to learn English English, and not the Filipino English so often heard in public. She was an interesting, educated woman, very bright, and adored children, and I was influenced by my mother’s liking for her. Later Blanche had a hard life on the plantation. If you looked at her hands at a bridge game, you could tell: hers were wrinkled and worn.”


Toots was diagnosed with cancer in 1922, and finally the doctors recommended that she go to the States for radium treatment.36 So a short time after moving to the new house in 1923, the family departed on the Tayo Maru. The vessel called at Formosa, Shanghai, then Kobe, where Sue and Steve, Jr., were enrolled at the Canadian School for Girls and Boys. The family continued on to Yokohama, Hawaii, and San Francisco, then by train to Los Angeles. Blanche went to a clinic on 6th and Vermont, while living with Katsy, and Tom stayed at the Ansonia Apartments in Westlake. (It’s not clear where Stefan was, but apparently he visited relatives in Benwood, VA in Dec 1922 and in Binghamton, NY, in 1923?) In June 1923, the family visited Kate Walker Rice in Oxnard and snapped photos with their children in the Rices’ garden.


The Jurikas remained in the US for about nine months, until the great Japanese earthquake of September 23, 1923. There was practically no communication with Japan and Blanche being frantic, “as usual,” got passage on the first trans-Pacific liner possible, the SS Pierce. Before she got to Japan, we got the news on the wireless that Sue and Steve were unharmed: they met the ship. Though the school had been demolished, the children walked out with the clothes on their backs and slept on chairs for three nights.


While we were away [in 1923], the Steinbergs moved into the Jurika house. Toots was furious when we returned. She said it was high time Steve built her the house he had promised her “25 years earlier.” This, he did begin – and his letters of the late 1920s reflect how much time, energy, and money he was spending on the construction. In late 1925, however, Steve suffered a major business loss: the Jurika home and several buildings they owned in Jolo (valued at 47,000 pesos) burned down – without insurance. Blanche wrote to her children that she had been urging her husband to insure them for years…but what to do? This only slowed construction of the new home in Zamboanga.


Impatient for a place of her own, around this same time (1926), Toots bought the 23-hectare Panabutan plantation, 60 miles up the isolated west coast, north of Zamboanga. As she wrote, one day while Steve was away on business, she went to the Post Office and received “a certified check for three thousand dollars!…A great-aunt had died and left me a small legacy.”37 So with great delight, she bid successfully for the property.


Steve had been dead set against this, but wouldn’t tell Blanche why – and he was shocked to hear her news. At last, he explained that 20 years earlier he had been approached by a Spaniard (Espinosa) to put up money to plant rubber and cocoanut trees there. For two years, Espinosa and Pichel did so, but they didn't treat the Moros very well – and one day the Moros decided they wouldn't take it anymore: they cut down every tree, killed everybody, and left the whole plantation devastated. Stefan lost his investment, and never went back: thus, he didn't want Toots to buy the plantation.


Steve softened in time and the family traveled up to see the property, but he gave Blanche no money to invest in it. She scrimped to get tenant farmers. Then Steve began feeling unwell, so Blanche had the house built pretty much on her own. It was through the open sea you had to get there. Once there was a big storm when Toots [Blanche] was going up, 30-knot winds and high seas. Panabutan was not so bad, but in Zamboanga lawlessness had become the law of the land – and whenever she could, Blanche traveled up to her beloved plantation.


Years later, son Tom mused that Blanche bought the plantation because she had to have an outlet for her energy and mind. “She liked it because it was nice up there. There were lots of friends around, and it was close to nature. There were birds and snakes…One of the scariest things that ever happened was that one night I heard a noise. I woke up and on the bed were two pillows, my head was on one, a snakeskin on the other. It had shed during the night – can you beat that?!”


Sue left the Philippines in late summer 1926 on the SS President Lincoln to attend Mills College. Brother Steve (by then known as Bob, to distinguish him from his father) went to the San Diego Army and Navy Academy. Their departures saddened both parents, who impatiently awaited letters that took weeks or months to reach Mindanao.


Meanwhile, Steve’s health declined. As son Tom remembered, “The notion of prohibition would never apply to my father - he said every man should disinfect his mouth at least once a day. He drank every kind of alcoholic beverage there was, but I never knew him to drink to excess and never saw him drunk or unsteady. Still, I’m sure he could drink everyone under the table…and sometimes better.” When Blanche made arrangements to take her husband back to the US for treatment, she asked Mrs. Crump, principal of the Normal School in Zamboanga, to take care of Katsy and Tom. Before Mrs. Crump could come over, Chick Parsons called Mrs. Cooley to invite her to a wedding reception at the club – Katsy and Chick’s!38 Steve entered the Monrovia US Navy Sanatorium in San Diego in November 1928, and there died of nephritis on February 3, 1929.39


Just 44 and widowed, Blanche returned to the Philippines in March 1929, accompanied by Sue’s fiancée, Bob Cecil, who went to help her with the business.


Oddly (to put it mildly), Steve’s ashes were left in San Diego and retrieved by granddaughter Lillian (Pat) Jurika in 1969.40 Her father, Steve Jurika, Jr., carried them back to Manila, where they were interred that year in the Church of San Augustin, the oldest in the city (c. 1599). The inscription on the brass plaque reads:


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