When a teacher is truly called to his/her profession, the influence is undeniable, gracious and true. Rosalie Hamilton, 100, of Placerville seems to have that true calling.
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Still going strong and as fascinating, as ever, Hamilton, will be 101 on Sept. 3. As a teacher and a mother, she has had a big impact on El Dorado County.
In fact, Hamilton moved here in 1939, back in the day when El Dorado County was very rural.
In 1932, she married Alfred Lawrence Hamilton, who came from an old pioneering family. He was raised on a pear ranch in Camino with some 50 acres of pear orchards before the blight. From a farming family herself, Rosalie fit right into the community.
Rosalie and Alfred were married for 67 years, until his death in 1999. Their sons, Alfred and Carter were born in 1934 and 1936, respectively.
Not only did she teach thousands of students in her many years of teaching, she raised lawyers who are instrumental in the community. Al retired from private practice but soon became part of Senior Legal Services, where he helps countless numbers of seniors each year.
“My sons were good students,” Rosalie said modestly.
Carter went to Madrid to study Spanish.
Now Rosalie’s grandchildren and great-grandchildren also carry on the legacy of education that she started so many years ago. Her grandson Paul earned his Masters in Spanish, encouraged by Rosalie, and is doing spectacularly well. He is now in London working on his doctorate.
Her other grandson Tim is a lawyer in private practice in Cameron Park.
Rosalie greatly enjoys her great grandsons, Paul and Roland Carter Jr. In fact, Roland went to Paris recently where he met up with Paul, and they had a fabulous time.
Passion for learning
Paul and Rosalie have been on some seven different trips, including Spain and Morocco.
“I love those cruise ships,” Rosalie said enthusiastically.
But it is not just Rosalie’s children and grandchildren who have carried on a legacy. Rosalie herself is a beacon of old-fashioned values with a passion for life, for learning and for teaching.
Born in San Pasqual, Rosalie still speaks some Spanish herself, though she was more fluent in the past.
She and her family, including seven older siblings, moved to the Imperial Valley in Southern California. An agricultural oasis in the desert due to irrigation from the Colorado River, the Imperial Valley borders Mexico. Being born on a ranch in that area gave Hamilton an appreciation for many things, including the Mexican culture.
Rosalie is the only one left of her four brothers and four sisters. Her longest surviving brother, Evert, died in 2006.
Her life seems to be a road map of California, with forays in Glendale, Burbank, Stockton, the Stanislaus River (where she fished for salmon) and many points in between.
Rosalie attended Pacific Union College, where she earned her two-year credential. Though she started teaching before fully certified back in the day, she returned to college for her degree later on, and even spent summer sessions in Mexico.
While Al and Carter were young, Rosalie took a hiatus from teaching, also keeping busy on the ranch as well.
Love of culture
Splashes of color in Rosalie’s beautiful ranch-style home show Mexican influence with beautiful serapes and other objets d’art with Mexican roots. She has some remarkable handmade dolls. It turns out that she learned how to make them herself while studying in Saltillo, Mexico. Not only did Rosalie learn the art of doll making, she also dabbled in ceramics.
Throughout her years as an elementary teacher, Rosalie played the piano and often sung Spanish songs with her students introducing them to a language and culture that was rare for Northern California in those days.
Rosalie retired from Gold Oak School in Pleasant Valley after teaching there for 16 years, but her teaching career spanned more than 50 years. She taught at Gold Hill School when it was still a one-room schoolhouse..
Rosalie is a member of the Retired Teacher’s Association, though she no longer attends their meetings.
She was also a member of the Placerville Shakespeare Club, but has retired from that group, she said.
There were no fruit trees on the ranch in the Imperial Valley Rosalie recalled. However, her father leased land to Mexicans, who raised cantaloupes. The crops were rotated every three years, alternating with alfalfa.
“Vine-ripened cantaloupes are delicious. The ones in the stores are picked too green,” Rosalie said.
“My mother was a good cook. Friends from Beaumont and Banning (near Riverside) would come down with a truckload of fruit and she’d bake pies,” Rosalie said. “I can still smell those pies baking. And I can still smell those yeast rolls she made. My mother baked bread, too. On the ranch, everybody worked hard.”
But when Rosalie moved to Camino in 1932, fruit trees became part of her life. She canned about 100 jars a year of pears, peaches and tomatoes. She had a pressure cooker.
Rosalie, who rode horses with her dad on their ranch, says that cooking is not her forté, unlike her own mother. However, her canning skills were legendary, and she makes wonderful corn bread, among other things.
A nickel a stump
When she and Al senior got together, he was working at a shipyard in Stockton. Though work rather dried up, Rosalie and Al seemed undaunted by the Great Depression. They moved to Camino, where they helped on the pear ranch. Then their entrepreneurial spirit prevailed.
They were able to buy Christmas trees for a nickel a stump. Rosalie borrowed her sister’s truck and she and Al took those Christmas trees to Burbank, where they set up a Christmas tree lot and camped in a tent.
Those Christmas trees sold for a dollar each. Rosalie and Al drove back to Camino in a brand new 1941 Buick.
While on Victory Boulevard in Burbank, Rosalie and Al heard the news on the radio on Dec. 7, 1941. Pearl Harbor had been bombed in a sneak attack. She’ll never forget that, but looking back on it, it is ironic that she heard it on Victory Boulevard, since the United States was ultimately victorious in the “war to end all wars.”
The pear orchard was sold in the early 1950s. In the meantime, Al, Rosalie and the kids lived on Gold Hill Road while their home was being built. Their home was finished in 1952, but they didn’t actually live in it until a few years later.
Rosalie is blessed because she is close to her family, both literally and figuratively. Also, she has help on the property, where Roberto and his family assist in outdoor upkeep, and drive Rosalie wherever she needs to go.
Natalie comes to clean the house periodically, and Rosalie’s tenant and neighbor Allison brings her lunch nearly everyday. Allison has rented from Rosalie for 16 years, and is a dear friend. She’s the one who told Rosalie: “Don’t forget to tell the reporter the story of the Christmas trees and 1941 Buick … I love that story.”
She’s looking forward to meeting her brand new great granddaughter any day now, and of course, her own birthday is coming right up.
“I’ve got some aches and pains,” Hamilton said. “But I’ve had a good life. I’m not ready yet to go to the ‘Pines’ (Placerville Pines, a convalescent facility).”
Living in the country, Rosalie’s folks held their own worship service every evening. Rosalie learned the piano and all the old hymns. At her age, she has gone to a lot of funerals, and recently she was very moved by the hymn “When the Roll is Called Up Yonder,” and she broke into song: “When the morning breaks, and the roll is called up yonder … I’ll be there.”
In 1959, their gracious home was featured on the pages of the Sacramento Bee, a model of well-appointed modernity and style. The writer in that 1950s style, gushed about the home’s elegant and gracious beauty. Today, the home is aging gracefully, like its owner, and it is a classic.