An American Family History

Robert Wilson Miller and May Violet Treahy

San Diego, San Diego, California
Puyallup, Pierce County Washington
San Pedro, Los Angeles, California

2786 Newton Avenue

Robert Wilson Miller, Jr. and May Violet Treahy were married on November 23, 1914 on the eve of World War I in San Diego, California. He was 35 and she was 28. He was a ship carpenter and she was a young widow.

marriage certificate

Bob and May lived at 2786 Newton Avenue in San Diego. Their daughter, Hester Victoria Miller was born in San Diego on Sunday, March 5, 1916.

Bob's job took him to to Puyallup, Washington and Robert W. was born there on Tuesday December 10, 1918. Bob's family lived nearby in Seattle. He was born at the time of the flu epidemic and May recounted bodies left the in the street because there was no one to bury them.

The 1918 influenza pandemic was also called the Spanish flu. It was caused by an unusually deadly strain and most victims were healthy, young adults. The pandemic lasted from March 1918 to June 1920. One third of the world's population, became infected.

The family moved to San Pedro in 1919 and bought a house at 664 23rd Street. When they moved to San Pedro, it was already a major port and Dead Man’s Island was removed shortly after they arrived.

They experienced several disasters. In 1923 the General Petroleum Company’s tank caught fire and burned for more than three weeks. It was located near the Miller home. In 1929, the easternmost part of Point Fermin collapsed and friends of the family lost their homes. On March 10, 1933 at about 6:00 p.m. they experienced a large earthquake centered in the Long Beach area. The family was eating supper when it happened and Robert, Jr. remembered seeing an old touring car across the street bouncing up at least a foot off the street. 

San Diego, California was incorporated in 1850, the same year California became a state. The original Old Town was located several miles inland. In the late 1860s, Alonzo Horton promoted a move to New Town on the bay. New Town grew quickly and became the city center. In 1915, San Diego hosted the Panama-California Exposition.

The family  took several vacations to Ocean Beach  near San Diego. They went on a boat, packed large trunks, and stayed in a beach cottage near an amusement zone. Robert Jr. remembered winning lots of candy at a game where you competed to blow up balloons faster than other patrons.

Robert, Jr. and Hester attended the Baptist Church. They both attended  Point Fermin Elementary School, Dana Junior High School, and San Pedro High School. Robert, Jr. took violin lessons.

Their home was on a steep hill and the kids enjoyed building soapbox cars and riding down the hill. They roamed freely around San Pedro.

While Hester and Robert were young there was a miniature golf fad in San Pedro and they loved to play. The family also enjoyed going to the movies where they had contests, cartoons and newsreels. They all loved animals, especially cats. Their cats were treated as part of the family.

Letters written by Bob, May and Robert to Hester when she was at camp show a glimpse of family life.


May's Letter

Robert, Sr.'s Letter

Robert, Jr.'s Letter
  Robert Senior died unexpectedly in 1931. He was just leaving work and bent over to pick up his wallet which he had dropped and died of a massive stroke. The family managed to survive fairly well during The Great Depression.   

After the United States entered the Second World War, San Pedrans feared enemy attacks and blackout regulations were enforced. Robert worked at North American Aviation building planes. He told stories of hair-raising drives home from the aircraft plant at night with no car or street lights. During the war, they dealt with shortages and ration coupons. Hester was a member of the United States Citizens Defense Corps, was a USO Hostess and the VACS.

Shortly after World War II, Robert married Virginia Smith and they made their home on 23rd Street with May. Hester lived in Manhattan Beach until she moved to France in the mid 1950’s. May died on in March 7, 1953.




Ruby Mersereau

1751 University Avenue
San Diego, California
October 24, 1971

Dear Shelley,,
I received your letter yesterday morning.Yes, I’ve known Hester since she was a Baby. I was 8 yrs old when she was born, She was born in the building right back of the Casa Grande apartments where I live now, the building that she was born in faces Park Ave & it was once a hospital. And the building I’m living in faces University Ave. My Mother [and] I went to see her Mother  & she shortly after she was born. I had some baby pictures of her which I sent to her a few years ago, to Europe, Paris, France.

My Mother though a lot of Hester and her Mother & my father liked Bob Miller, your grandfather very much indeed.  Your Grandfather and Grandmother lived on Newton Avenue, Logan Heights, San Diego, Cal. when my folks were first acquainted with them. I was 8 years old and your Grandmother gve me a whole lot of pennies to go to the store to append one day. I was pleased at the time and always remember this. My Mother & your grandmother used to spend many happy mornings chatting over the Fence—where the two back yards joined together—and Hester was just a little baby in her mother’s arms.Your Grandmother’s house was cedar color and they had two large containers of geranium flowers which were very attractive.

Your Grandmother & Grandfather, Bob Miller, had not been here too long at that time, year 1916 from Seattle. Your Grandmother’s Sister was here at that time, but she was killed or at least died from Bruses (sic) she received from riding on a motorcycle with her husband.

I’ll always remember your Grandmother as a very lovely person and your Grandfather, Bob Miller, my father liked him very much & used to say he was a good fellow.

My Father, Mother and I went up to San Pedro 664 23rd Street San Pedro, Cal. And saw Mr. and Mrs. Miller & Robert & Hester and Your Grandfather was working on Ships at that time, he was a Caulker Year 1925 to 1930.

I also remember going to see some relations of Mr. Miller, your Grandfather’s or Your Grandmother’s relatives.,They were staying at the San Diego Hotel on Broadway. Folks relayed some messages from them to Mr. & Mrs. Bob Miller, Your Grandmother & Grandfather for them year 1916.
Enclosed is a Snap Shot taken about The Year 1925 –1926-30 taken in the Back Yard of your Grandmother & Grandfather’s and your Father’s back yard when he was a little boy.  The Cats are all the Miller’s Cats.
A friend (Mr. J.B. Holt), Mrs. Weldon (my mother), Ruby (me), Mr. W. J. Weldon (my father)

My Grandfather is down in the history of San Diego, J.T. Weldon.  My Grandfather was a contractor builder here in San Diego.

I suppose as far as tracing your Family Tree, This information doesn’t help much. Wish I could help you.

Any way glad you wrote me a letter. Soon it will be Christmas again and That is when Hester and I keep in touch. Best wishes to you always, Sincerely, Mrs. Grace Ruby Mersereau

P.S.  If I can get any other information to help you, I’ll let you know.  There is a Mrs. May Van Epps (quite elderly now)  2430 B. Street, San Diego, Cal, I think she knew Bob Miller, Sr. years ago, lived in the same neighborhood.

P.S. again. The last time I remember seeing your grandfather was at the Colonial Theater at a Vaudeville show in San Diego—year 1924-me & my folks were there

The Great Depression was world wide and originated in the U.S. with the stock market crash of October 29, 1929. Income, revenue, profits, prices, and trade plunged.. Unemployment in the U.S. rose to 25%. The negative effects of the Great Depression lasted until the end of World War II.
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©Roberta Tuller 2020
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