Steinbeck's mother, Olive Hamilton Steinbeck
Steinbeck's mother was formidable, as the story of the airplane ride from the Salinas Californian suggests: "I can remember my mother sitting in our family box [at the California Rodeo] with bull dust gradually settling over her and refusing to leave until the last of the wild horses crossed the finish line...she always seemed to me a little bit like Queen Victoria sitting in that box...Queen Victoria slightly dusted over with Bull dust."

In 1905 she was a charter member of the first social club in Salinas, the Wanderers Club, which met three or four times a month to discuss travel books. There were 30 members from around the county, a select group clearly, and everyone did a report on one country each month. In 1905 when Mary Steinbeck was born on the same month that Olive was to give her report, she, undaunted, reported on schedule. Olive was active in town affairs and, to her family, often seemed almost too busy with a breathless social life.

Source: Salinas Californian, January 11, 1969. John Steinbeck's letter to Dorothy Vera.

Photo Credits: Stanford University Libraries Department of Special Collections & University Archives

The Steinbeck House / Valley Guild  


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