Our Friends | Oh, That’s Just Marilyn

by | Mar 28, 2022 | Our Friends, Family & Caregivers

When I first heard we had a new client, a Mrs.von KleinSmid, I wondered: Could that be THE VON KR?! So I drove down to the Island to meet her. Yes, she had red hair and had taught at Harbor View. Even though neither of my kids had been in her classes, everyone knew Mrs. Von KR and every student whom she taught, loved her. She had a presence then and she still does. Here is Marilyn in her own words.


I was such a weird kid, quirky. My parents always said, “Oh, that’s just Marilyn.”

My mom was an OB/GYN nurse who explained sex to all my friends. Mother was a character and I was close to her. She had books lying around about how you got pregnant. All was very natural. She graduated from the University of Washington in nursing and music. She played the piano.

Mother was born in Canada. She didn’t get along very well with her family. Her sister was beautiful and doted upon while my mother became overweight. But one day she went from a size 16 to a size 10 with some kind of liquid diet. We had no idea she was doing that.

Father was quiet and bright. He graduated from the University of Denver in chemistry. Father played violin for the symphony orchestra. Both my parents were very musical. My father was shy but after he had his stroke in his sixties, he became so affectionate, like a whole different person. My mother often said he should have had the stroke sooner!

When my brother was born I was five-and-a-half. My parents sent me away. (I was such a weird kid.) My parents sent me to this strange family for a whole month because I was so active. They didn’t think they could handle me. The boys in this family would chase me around the house and slam the doors on my fingers, put q-tips in my ears. My mother had been sick a lot. She weighed 207 lbs. and my father couldn’t handle us. There weren’t babysitters like there are now. Eventually, they did get a nanny, Miss Penny, till I was about 10.

I was very independent. I lived in the attic in this huge house in Silverlake Terrace. No one else could get up the narrow stairs so I was alone. The next door dog had puppies and so I secretly got one and had her up there for several weeks before my family even knew I had a dog — Heidi, who was part Dalmation, part Shelty Collie. I had her till she was 12 when she died.

I went to Montecito School for Girls. I had learning/reading problems. Every night I would have to practice my reading. They didn’t know I was dyslexic. My brother also was dyslexic and he got tutors; but not me. My brother was a good kid though. Anyway, I would work twice as hard as everyone to be able to read. When I was disciplined I was sent to my room which was a joy to me to be in my own world. I loved listening to jazz and classical music. I loved the radio. “Behind the Green Door” was one of my favorites shows. When I was sick I would get paper dolls to cut out and listen to the radio shows.

I would get up early every day to study. I had a mean teacher in third grade — Miss Russell. She made you stand up and read. That was so hard for me. Then my parents heard about this great area, San Marino. It had a very good school, San Marino High School. I was in the second graduating class from San Marino.

Then I went off to the University of Arizona. The Asiatic flu came along in 1957-58. I got that flu having only been there two weeks. I remember the doctor who diagnosed me had one arm and he drove an Edsel convertible. He said you need to go to the hospital. I went to St. Mary’s but all the rooms were filled. I was put in the laundry room for a week. I had to go home in December and then worked at Bullock’s in Pasadena in the cosmetics section until I could go back to school. I ended up going to Pasadena City College for the semester and summer school. It had a reciprocal relationship with UCLA so I could then go to UCLA because I had all A’s. At UCLA I went into a sorority where I had a lot of friends. I was then dating Bill von KleinSmid whose great uncle was president of USC. He really put SC on the map. Bill’s uncle Rufus always wore a top hat and doffed it in greeting. He was a very nice man.

Bill was his second nephew. I met him skiing at Snow Valley. He was with friends as was I. Supposedly, he didn’t have any money to buy gas so I paid for the gas and our relationship started from there. I was twenty when we got married. (I knew my parents needed my bedroom for my brother who had been living in a room the size of a closet). Due to Bill’s USC connection, I transferred there to finish my education.

Bill and I were married for 24 years and had our two daughters, Kristin and Lauren. Bill was really tight. After going to therapy for four years, I wrote him a letter saying that we needed to work on our relationship but it didn’t work. So I made my plans to leave. When Bill was gone one day, I had a good friend of mine with long hair (he was a former principal) drive his VW bus painted red, white and blue with stars on it to my house to help me move. My neighbors thought I was leaving with him but he was just helping me move my stuff out.

With Bill, we had COUPONS. No more coupons! I will never ever use one again. One day I threw the box of coupons at him and said “never again.” He would buy things and put them in the freezer for years and when he finally went on a trip, we threw it all away. And then I got rid of him. But that was after those 24 years of marriage.

I first taught at Corona del Mar Elementary, fourth grade, (where Sherman Gardens is). Then they started a new fifth grade class at Harbor View Elementary. I was hired to teach this new class of fifth graders. The other teachers got rid of their worst students to make this new class for me. So I was teaching at Harbor View and checking coupons while my girls, Kristin and Lauren were young. My neighbor would babysit.

When teaching at Harbor View, I did it all: I directed the shows and conducted the music for them. I was always the conductor of music in school. I was always directing. It started with my class at Harbor View. It was a lot of work, trying to create a story out of it. But I had been creating plays, directing plays in my bedroom, all by myself since I was small. When I was 10, I had even started something like a summer school for the kids in my block.

For five years I did mostly substitute teaching while the kids were young. All the kids loved field trips. But in class I was very strict. I made them outline everything and answer essay questions. If anyone misbehaved, I would make them write correctly one hundred times: I will behave in Mrs. Fyke von-KleinSmid-Randolf’s class. No one wanted to write that. I loved to do pantomimes for learning. Teachers could be more creative then. Also, we didn’t have a teacher’s union. After 30 years of teaching and with computers coming in, I realized it was not my way to teach. That’s why I retired. It was 1995 and I had started teaching in 1960.

After I got rid of Bill, I met my second husband, Charles through a dating service, “Great Expectations,” which was in Irvine. Every month they would send you an envelope with a heart on the back. You had to have an interview and your picture taken. Then they gave you a list of potential dates. I started with the A’s, being a schoolteacher. Charles joined a bit after me and the person interviewing him pulled out the M volume. I was MA. He had graduated from West Point which was a big deal to my parents. So we dated. Charles was originally from North Carolina.

I had been very sick. I had Meniere’s disease but it hadn’t been diagnosed. (They think Van Gogh had Meniere’s disease; that’s why he cut off his ear.) For my birthday, my daughters and friends had a dance for me and Charles was invited. I drank some Kaluhua and felt better. Then Charles sent flowers to my school. He asked me if I would like to go with him to his reunion at West Point. So we went and had the best time. After West Point and four dates, I invited Charles to move in with me. He had been living in a small apartment that was just too far for convenience. Even though my daughters were skeptical, it was a great decision as we were married 32 years. We remodeled our little house on the Island and put an elevator in because Charles had bad arthritis. My parents had bought it for $35,000 in 1957.

Charles was a civil engineer and had worked in many places around the world. From his building runways in Saudi Arabia, he had Arabian robes and a turban which he would wear to teach my class about that country in his best southern accent. Charles was generous and great fun.

Once I retired in 1995, Charles and I traveled overseas every other year. Everything was only first class. Remember, no more coupons! Charles did have bad arthritis and then later he got multiple myeloma. There was nothing that could be done. He died in 2018. It was very painful to watch. He was so sick and in so much pain. Then I started to have problems. But every day I still enjoy a mimosa and visiting with family and friends. Life is a great pantomime.


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Coral Tree In-home Care provides caregivers, old-fashioned kindness, and neighborly support to older adults who want to live at own home safely, comfortably, and as independently as possible. Since 2010 we’ve helped more than 500 families in Newport Beach, Laguna Beach, Newport Coast, Corona del Mar, and neighboring Southern California communities live safer, happier lives.

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