East County life in the ’30s was heavily influenced by its flourishing agricultural industry. “Brentwood only had about 1,000 people in those days but that increased a lot when harvest time rolled around,” said Elma. “Just about everyone knew everyone else and we all had a pretty good time back then. Even though the depression was still going on, Brentwood had lots of agriculture jobs and most people did alright.”
Elma’s family – Carl, Jo, Jeanette, Corky, Pat and Jim Miller – moved to Brentwood while she attended Fresno State. When she came here to visit, she had so much fun she refused to go back to school. “I was the new girl in town and my sister Jeanette introduced me around,” she said. “We used to go dancing at a place by the river in Antioch. That’s where I met my husband.”
Elma married Aubrey Lawrence, who worked for the Garin operation, in 1934. They raised two daughters, Karen and Laine, who still live in Brentwood.
Elma joined the former Brentwood Women’s Club in 1950 and became the club’s longest-serving member. Over the years, as her children grew up, she was deeply involved in the PTA and became a Girl Scout leader. She also joined the Odd Fellows Rebecca’s Auxiliary, a club called the Sew and Sews (take a wild guess what they did) and another club known as the 20/30 Woman’s Club.
Aubrey, also active in community affairs, died in 1981. Lawrence Street, in Brentwood’s Garin subdivision, is named after his family. Aubrey’s father, Frank Lawrence, owned the former Ford Garage in downtown Brentwood.
Speaking of downtown, Elma recalls that when she arrived, Brentwood boasted only one paved street: a two-block segment of Oak Street extending from Brentwood Boulevard east to Second Street. Her family lived for a time in what was once the Brentwood Hospital, a two-story house across from Veterans Hall. The hospital was eventually torn down to make room for the former post office.
Elma now lives in an assisted-living home in the Deer Ridge subdivision, where her daughters visit her daily. Her general health remains good.