This oral memoir by Ruth L. Van Beber was recorded from October 12, 1992, to May 7, 1993. The memoir was recorded in twelve sessions.
In the first session, recorded on October 12, 1992, Van Beber introduces her memoir by sharing her reasons for recording her life story. She shares anecdotes about her early life in Albuquerque, New Mexico, including getting her smallpox vaccine at age 5. She then shares anecdotes about her early life in El Paso, Texas, including the transition from horses to cars at the fire department, witnessing racism, and meeting President William Howard Taft. She also talks about working in her father's candy store.
In the second session, recorded on October 24, 1992, Van Beber continues to discuss working in her father's candy store in El Paso, Texas. She describes being regularly beaten by her father; talks about the deaths, injuries, and overall health of her siblings and mother; and discusses her education and her teachers. She shares anecdotes about running away; about spending a few years at the Salvation Army Home for Wayward Girls, including stories about infant deaths and sexual abuse; and about attending business college and working as a secretary for the Interdepartmental Social Hygiene Board. She also talks about her marriage to Merton Floyd Stevenson. She shares anecdotes about the Holy Rollers, Chinese people in Texas, and witnessing Pancho Villa purchase guns in El Paso. She describes her experience with tuberculosis, and then talks about her life in Southern California, including bootlegging. She shares anecdotes about visits to San Francisco in the 1920s, a road trip in 1924, and living in Phoenix, Arizona. She describes an especially beautiful peach tree.
In the third session, recorded on November 12, 1992, Van Beber shares anecdotes about living in New York City in the late 1920s and the people she met there, including socialists and people in the gay community.
In the fourth session, recorded on November 13, 1992, Van Beber continues to talk about living in New York City in the late 1920s, including working at a candy counter and her experiences at the beginning of the Depression. She describes hitchhiking across the country in the 1930s.
In the fifth session, recorded on November 14, 1992, Van Beber continues to describe hitchhiking across the country in the 1930s. She talks about her marriage to Rosser Thomas Garrison, about dogs she owned, and about her life in Southern California. She then speaks about homesteading in Oregon.
In the sixth session, recorded on November 22, 1992, Van Beber continues to speak at length about her experiences while homesteading in Oregon. She also talks about working in a prune orchard, about her father's death and funeral, and about growing a vegetable garden.
In the seventh session, recorded on November 25, 1992, Van Beber continues to speak at length about her experiences while homesteading in Oregon. She shares anecdotes about baking bread, about her adopted children, and about building a school. She then talks about abandoning the children.
In the eighth session, recorded on December 14, 1992, Van Beber continues to talk about abandoning her adopted children. She shares anecdotes about working as an in-home nurse in San Francisco, including for a woman who had harmed her baby. She talks about briefly returning to her family in Oregon and about her life and work in Alaska during World War II. She also describes her experiences just after President Franklin D. Roosevelt's declaration of war, talks about her journey to Alaska, and speaks about running a cafe in Kodiak, Alaska. She describes the evacuation of Kodiak.
In the ninth session, recorded on December 15, 1992, Van Beber continues to describe the evacuation of Kodiak during World War II. She then talks about selling her cafe and leaving Kodiak. She shares anecdotes about life on a homestead in Homer, Alaska, including a story about accidentally starting a wildfire. She also talks about living in Seldovia, Alaska. She speaks at length about an afghan she treasured. She talks about the various health problems of Rosser T. Garrison that led them to relocate to Washington.
In the tenth session, recorded on December 22, 1992, Van Beber shares anecdotes about life in Cashmere, Washington, at the end of World War II, including caring for her mother and running another cafe. She revisits the topic of Rosser T. Garrison's problems with his health; shares her experiences after hearing about the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan; and describes the changes in Garrison's behavior as a result of his health issues. She then shares her experiences as a patient in a psychiatric hospital in Washington. She then talks about caring for Garrison after a stroke, about their divorce, and about her subsequent brief marriage with Cecil Carter. She describes remodeling her cafe and home in Cashmere. She discusses working in Bend, Oregon, meeting Chuck Van Beber, and then working in Moab, Utah. She speaks about returning to run the cafe in Cashmere and reconnecting with Chuck Van Beber.
In the eleventh session, recorded on December 27, 1992, Van Beber interrupts the tenth recording session to talk about the reception of her memoir by friends and family, to discuss her open marriages, and to share more anecdotes from her life on a homestead in Oregon. She describes her recent Christmas activities.
In the twelfth and final session, recorded on May 7, 1993, Van Beber shares her feelings upon hearing about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963. She talks about returning to Alaska in the 1960s, about an artist she met in Seldovia, Alaska, and about her experiences during the 1964 earthquake. She describes the tsunami that followed. She talks about relocating to Eugene, Oregon.
Van Beber, Ruth L. (Ruth Leota), 1902-1994