Senior Spotlight: Meet Londalene Young Jean

Londalene Young Jean (Christy Perry for The Cullman Tribune)

Londalene Young was a young girl from Holly Pond when her family moved to California near the end of World War II. Her father moved seeking work and shortly after Londalene boarded a train with her mother to join him. She spent her junior year of high school in a town near San Francisco and it was a whole new world for the beautiful country girl from Cullman County.

“It was different out there, but I enjoyed it,” Londalene recalled.

Her older brother moved to California when he was a young man and he never moved back.

“He met a girl from Alabama out there and they got married and raised their family in California.”

Londalene’s father joined his son and found work in the shipyards of the San Francisco Bay during the war. She remembers the train ride out west and the soldiers who teased her throughout the three-day journey. Once in California, she loved it.

She said, “I have traveled the Golden Gate Bridge and the San Francisco Bay Bridge. I never thought I would get to see these places. It was one of the highlights of my life.”

The trolley cars were prevalent at the time and she remembered a time driving through San Francisco: “All of a sudden you couldn’t see the street anymore. It was just straight down. The hills were just so steep that the road disappeared.”

Being from the country and perhaps being a bit naive, she recalled a time she was scolded by her sister-in-law.

“About two blocks from where my brother lived, it looked like a small mountain. The weather was beautiful and you could see the San Francisco Bay from where I was. I went out walking one day and it looked like a hill but it was a lot bigger than I thought it was. I went to a wooded area and walked around it a good ways. When I finally got back and told them where I’d been, she said, ‘Don’t you ever do that again. Bad things happen up in those woods.’ I just never thought about bad things that could happen. I was just a young country girl, but I learned it’s a lot different than Holly Pond.”

Londalene soon started her junior year in California and for the first time, she could select her classes.

She said, “I took algebra, of all things, and I knew then I was in over my head. I didn’t do good in algebra. At the end of the semester you could change subjects if you wanted to and I changed and got a subject I could handle. I was no match for algebra.”

She also did something while in high school in California that she had never done in Holly Pond.

She said, “There were five of us and one of the boys had a car. We decided to play hooky. We got in the car and the five of us went to his house. He opened the refrigerator door and he served us ice cream. We just goofed around and talked. Nothing bad happened, the boys were polite as can be to us girls. We just wanted to see if we could get away with it and we did. We made it back on campus and we never got caught.”

Living in California gave Londalene an opportunity to spend time with her young niece, Judy. Judy was just 5 years old and had a brain tumor.

She said, “My niece passed away and she was so sweet and intelligent. She was blind before she died, but she could feel around and find the smallest things even though she couldn’t see. I was glad I was able to spend time with her before she died.”

After a year in California, Londalene moved back to Holly Pond. This time the family traveled by bus.

“The war ended while we were on our way back home,” she said. “When the bus driver heard the war was over, the bus driver pulled the bus over and we had a celebration.”

When Londalene finished high school in Holly Pond, she married her sweetheart, Clois Jean.

She smiled, “They told me if I had never married, I would always be Young.”

She also joked that she had always gone by “Lene” until she married. She decided to add the “Londa” because she didn’t like the sound of “Lene Jean.”

Londalene was one of nine children. Two of her siblings died in infancy. Today, at 92, she is the only sibling still living. She says she is “a kid at heart and still enjoy things kids enjoy.”

She always wanted a doll for Christmas, but her family couldn’t afford it.

“Santa Claus wasn’t able to do a lot at our house,” she said. “My cousin got a new doll every year, but I don’t ever remember getting upset about it. Kids accept things and I have dolls now.”

She has since been to 49 of the 50 states.

“I haven’t been to Maine, but I was 50 miles away from there once. I didn’t think it was worth the 100 miles to say I had been to Maine. I’d crossed state lines before and once you cross the state line, it’s no different than the other side. I guess I’ll die without seeing Maine, and I am OK with that.”

Today, Londalene enjoys her days at Westminster Assisted Living and participates in all the planned activities. Her room is filled with whimsical items including her favorite doll. Part of her routine is walking a mile each day, which she attributes to her good health. She loves reminiscing about her travels and sometimes wishes she could visit San Francisco one more time.

Her advice for a healthy life?

“Let kids play in the mud and the dirt. It’s good for them. We always played outside and got muddy. We ate fruit straight from the trees. Besides, kids wash off easily.”

Copyright 2019 Humble Roots, LLC. All Rights Reserved.