I often get a question about my imprint, Pearl White Books. Where did the name come from? One nice thing about publishing independently is you are given the opportunity to choose what name you wish to have as the “publisher.” Some indie authors use their own name, others come up with a title that reflects their writing in some way. I decided I wanted something that represents a little about me and how I look at writing – or life in general, actually.
So I racked my brain for something clever – Speedy Turtle Press? Or how about One Way Publishing? I also considered just using my business name, DK Affiliates. But nothing seemed to click.
I started thinking about influential people in my life. The first person that always comes to mind immediately is my maternal grandmother. She has always been my role model, someone I aspire to be. Grandma was a musician, a teacher, a woman of faith, and a voracious reader. My first book was read at her house, and my first plunk on the piano occurred on her baby grand in the living room. She was a giver – at school, at church, in the community. Everyone who knew her, loved her.
As you have probably guessed by now, her name was Pearl White. Yes, really! Obviously my great-grandparents had no idea she would marry someone with the last name of White when they named her Pearl. I never even thought about the coincidence of her name. To me, she was just Grandma White.
Pearl Leone Hays was born in 1901 in Clovis, California (on the outskirts of Fresno). Her father was a farmer, mostly peaches, apricots, and grapes. Her mother was born in England and came to the United States in the 1800’s after her father, a Congregational minister, felt pressure to leave because he wasn’t associated with the Church of England. Pearl was the youngest of eight children and graduated from Clovis High School in 1919. She went on to receive her degree in music from Cal-Berkeley in 1923. She married William White, an attorney, in 1926. They moved to the hills of Berkeley in 1930 and raised their three children in a large Tudor house on Euclid Ave.
That same house served as a haven for her eight grandchildren. I was the oldest of the crew and recall many holidays in that house that was full of delicious aromas coming from the kitchen, beautiful music played on the piano – that is, until it was time for the 49ers football game! Gazing out the dining room window, one could see the gorgeous view of the Golden Gate Bridge on one side of the bay, with the Oakland Bay Bridge crossing the other side.
Grandma White was a member of many philanthropic organizations in Berkeley, active in the First Congregational Church, music teacher and then Dean of Girls at Garfield Junior High. It wasn’t unusual to see her in a police car on a “ride-along” or sitting on the 50-yard line for every Cal football game. Students sent to her office for disciplinary reasons left with a smile on their faces and promises to do better. She attended San Francisco Symphony concerts regularly and kept the playbill from every one. She received many awards for her community efforts, the most prized being Berkeley’s Woman of the Year in 1975.
Pearl White survived the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, the 1918 Spanish flu, World War I, the Depression, World War II, and cried when protests on the Cal campus dominated the headlines in the 1960’s. She battled breast cancer in her 40’s, which resurfaced as lymphoma in her 70’s and caused her death in 1979.
The last time I saw Grandma White was in August of 1978 at my cousin’s wedding. I was going through a major upheaval in my life at the time – newly divorced, new music teaching job, living on my own. None of my past mistakes made any difference to her. She was always so proud of me and had every confidence that I would come out of any situation with my head on straight and my feet planted firmly on the right path.
I have a vanity dresser that was in my mother’s bedroom in the Tudor house on Euclid Ave. One drawer is full of clippings from newspapers that Grandma had collected over the years, things that inspired her. Every letter from her always included one of her inspirational clippings. I’ve saved every single one. My favorite one is this:
When things go wrong, as they sometimes will,
When the road you’re trudging seems all up hill,
When the funds are low, and the debts are high,
And you want to smile, but you have to sigh,
When care is pressing you down a bit,
Rest if you must, but don’t you quit.
Life is queer with its twists and turns,
As everyone of us sometimes learns,
And many a failure turns about,
When he might have won had he stuck it out.
Don’t give up though the pace seems slow,
You may succeed with another blow.
Success is failure turned inside out,
The silver tint of the clouds in doubt,
And you never can tell how close you are,
It may be near when it seems so far,
So stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit,
It’s when things seem worse, that you must not quit.
With inspiration like that, how could I NOT name my imprint after my grandmother? She is with me each and every day as I trudge through this life of ups and downs. The greatest compliment I’ve ever received is when family members say to me, “You’re so much like Grandma White!” A better legacy there’s never been, and no nicer tribute to an amazing lady than Pearl White Books.