Sunday, July 13, 2014

My Belgian Pen Pal

Forty-five years ago, I was studying French in junior high school in Long Beach, California.  To increase interest, students could sign up for a French-speaking pen pal. I signed up and, voilà, my pen pal was Christine Dallons from  Charleroi, Belguim.

Of course, I was a schoolboy then and I wrote schoolboy letters that were probably not very interesting.  Of course, she was a schoolgirl too and, truthfully, I could hardly make out her graceful cursive script.  Sad to say, we gave up after two or three letters.

I now live 120 miles away in Bakersfield, California. I run a small plastics manufacturing company.

My pen pal’s name has been banging around in my head these forty-five years and, recently, out of curiosity, I looked for her on Google and Facebook.

I didn’t find her exactly, but I did find an interesting family history of a man with the same last name from the same town in Belgium.  Thinking this was perhaps some sort of relative, I read on.   François Dallons, a glassmaker, moved his family from Charleroi, Belgium to Indiana in the 1890.  In1906, the gas field that fired the glass plant gave out and the plant closed overnight. The Dallons family moved to Stockton, California where there was work making glass for repairing San Francisco after the earthquake there.

In 1920, the immigrant’s son, Victor Dallons, moved his family to Bakersfield. In 1923 they bought some land, and built a house on 8th Street, just a few houses down the street from where my company is today!

When I saw a picture of the house, which I immediately recognized, I couldn't help but laugh how small the world is.

Reading on, the likelihood of a relationship to my pen pal doubled.   There was a second branch of the Charleroi Dallons family that had moved from Belgium to England and then Los Angeles.  During World War II, the grandson of  François Dallons, Willis Dallons, who lived on 8th Street, was stationed in Los Angeles, met and courted the granddaughter of distant relative Jean François Dallons, Suzanne Dallons.   They married and one of their sons, now retired and living in Florida set up the website I found. 

I haven’t found Christine yet, but she’ll be interested to know that her probable-relatives have been doing well in America.
The Dallons family moved on from the house on 8th Street years ago.

What an odd coincidence of human migration.