Friday, March 17, 2006


Happy St. Patrick's Day! When I was a kid, St. Patrick's Day was a BIG deal for two reasons. First, I went to a Catholic grade school where all the nuns were from Ireland. Secondly, my Nana & Grandpa Hanifin were both from Ireland. Those crazy Irish grandparents had a passle of kids (seven, yes seven), who in turn had 31 children combined. So today, in honor of my wild Irish streak, I will recount the tale of my Nana and Grandpa Hanifin (who I never met because he died before I was born). This was originally posted on, a site for the Irish side of our family.

Thomas Hanifin, born Feb. 1, 1903 in Doonmanagh, Minard Parish, Co. Kerry, Ireland, and Margaret Brosnan, born April 1, 1903 in Minard West, Minard Parish, Co. Kerry, Ireland, grew up and went to school together in Ireland and were sweethearts.

On September 2, 1926 at the age of 23, with her parents blessing and a dowry of $500 from her father, Margaret left Ireland. The story has been told by Margaret that the reason she left Ireland was her father was match making and wanted her to marry an old bachelor whom she did not want to marry, so off she sailed to new York on the ship Franconian, where she was sea sick the whole journey, and headed to Chicago, Illinois to stay with her cousins. Margaret worked as a housekeeper for well-to-do families in Chicago until 1931.

In 1927 at age 24, Tom left Ireland for Wellington, New Zealand arriving on October 31, 1927 and worked as a gardener at a convent. Tom and Margaret corresponded with each other during that time. In 1929, Tom was able to leave New Zealand and on July 5, 1929 arrived in San Francisco and headed for Chicago. Tom worked as a painter at one of the big hotels in Chicago. Tom and Margaret were married in Chicago on July 4, 1930.

As the depression continued and jobs were scarce, they were encouraged by friends in Los Angeles and Margaret's uncle John Brosnan in Perris to come to California as there was work there. They arrived by train in Los Angeles the summer of 1931 and arrived in Perris shortly thereafter. Perris at that time had a population of 700. They stayed with Margaret's uncle John Brosnan in a house he built at 318 E. 2nd Street. Uncle John had come to Perris in 1929 and was a carpenter; he also worked on the aqueduct that was being built to bring water to the valley. Tom went to work for a Rancher named Bob Mitchler and the family moved to a ranch house on rider street. Margaret still had her dowry money and with what she had saved from her job in Chicago she came to Perris with $1,500. The money was used to buy a lot and build their first house in 1935/36. Uncle John and Tom built a small 2-bedroom white frame house at 315 E 1st Street (Southeast corner of 1st & F Street) which they lived in. Uncle John had bought wood in Long Beach from the buildings that had been destroyed in the 1933 earthquake and that is what he used to build Tom and Margaret's house and other homes that he built in Perris. Tom worked for various farmers, namely Harry Hughes, John Coudures, Sr. and Bob Mitchler. In 1936 Tom started working as the caretaker of the Perris Valley Cemetery on Perris Boulevard and worked there until 1964. Tom was a very caring worker at the cemetery and always prided himself on keeping the grounds in excellent condition and maintained a beautiful rose garden at the entrance to the cemetery.

As their family grew they moved into a house at 285 E 1st Street which they lived in until 1943 when they bought 13 acres and a house at 900 Park Avenue for $2,300 where they continued to raise their children. Tom enjoyed traveling through the valley buying, trading and selling livestock. He would take his finds to the San Jacinto Auction or the Los Angeles stockyards to make a few dollars to support his family.

The family also raised many kinds of vegetables which were sold to the local Kirkpatricks market, farmers market and the Riverside produce company. The children sold vegetables from a wagon around the neighborhood - watermelons, tomatoes, potatoes, turnips, beets, carrots and bell peppers to name a few. Tom also butchered livestock, mostly cattle and pigs, for many people in the Perris Valley. Tom also had a bull that was very much in demand in the valley. Margaret did her share by looking after seven children, milking the cows and feeding the animals. She would even kill and pluck the chickens and skin the rabbits for dinner.
During the depression years, when they lived on 1st street, their good friend Vera "Dede" Xydias has told us that Tom was always taking milk and vegetables to those who were in need, despite the fact they were poor themselves.

In the late 30's when they lived on 1st Street and Tom was working at the Perris cemetery Tom could see their house in plain view as there were no houses or trees between them. When the cow was ready to have a calf Margaret would put a white sheet over the fence and Tom would come running home.

The Hanifin household was especially cheerful and merry when it came to company - Tom would dance the Irish jig while Margaret played the accordion and a good time was had by all. Tom and Margaret had seven children, the oldest being their only son, John. They were then blessed with six daughters Josephine (Jo), Margaret (Peggy), Mary, Eileen, Kathleen (Katie), and Elizabeth (Betty).

Tom and Margaret were a very devout Catholic couple and their family life centered around the church. They were very active in the church activities including many barbeques & fiestas. Tom used to help deep pit barbeque the meat and Margaret would bake cakes, pies and cookies. Tom was in the holy name society and Margaret in the alter society.

Tom passed away on November 28, 1964 from colon cancer. He is buried under his favorite shade tree at the cemetery. In 1968 Margaret moved to a duplex to be close to the church. She attended daily mass and enjoyed cooking for the priests and enjoyed the closeness of the Irish Sisters of Mercy that taught at St. James school. She always loved making Irish soda bread and cookies for her children and grandchildren. Margaret died in 1998 of old age and is buried next to Tom in Perris, CA.


V said...

So weird to read about something so close to my home town. Good stuff lady!

Rose-Colored Beer Goggles said...

Great story :o) Happy St Pat's from a scotch/irish/filipino mutt-soon-to-be-Murphy!