Table of Contents (click on link to go to a section):
1.  In the Beginning
2.  Life in Benton, Kentucky
3.  Childhood in San Diego, California
4.  The Years Away
5.  Back in San Diego
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I was born in Paducah, Kentucky on April 16, 1947.  My parents lived in a small town called Benton, Kentucky, which was approximately 28 miles from Paducah.  Benton had no hospital at that time, so my mom delivered me at the Paducah hospital.  
Benton is shown in the following map.

Shortly after I was born, we moved to St. Louis, Missouri, where we lived with my maternal grandparents in a large house, with my three uncles:  Toe (Anthony), Frank, and Junie (Benjamin) Badami.  I had lots of relatives around and was probably very spoiled!  My grandma was my favorite person in our family.  We stayed there until I was four years old, and then we moved back to Benton.

This photo is of me around 1949, when I was two years old:

This photo is of my grandpa (~47), my mom (~23), and my grandma (~45),
taken around 1942, in St. Louis, MO:

The photo on the left is my dad, David Bluitt Gilliam, in about 1942, when he was 25 years old.  The photo on the right are his parents, Otis E. Gilliam and Lula Johnson Gilliam, who was alleged to be one-half Cherokee Indian.. 

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In 1953, when I was six years old, I started Benton High School -- which had all twelve grades in one building.  A short time later, in November, my mom had my first brother, David Benjamin Gilliam ("Benny" for short).  I was quite put out having to share my home with another child.  He seemed to get all the attention!

The photo below shows me at 6 years old, my dad at 36 years old, and my brother Benny at a few months.

My dad like to hunt and we always had dogs.  First, I remember having a pointer and then, when I was eight years old, I remember having a breeding pair of weimaraners and black labs.  In the summer of 1955, we had two litters of pups -- one from each pair.  I loved puppies and remember the joy of having three black lab pups to play with that summer:  Lady, Tramp, and Jock.  Those were the days when parents didn't have to worry much about their 8-year-old daughters wandering around unescorted.  Benton was so safe that we did not lock our doors at night and, in the summer when it was really hot and humid, we left the doors open with just the screendoors for protection.  The only policeman that I remember seeing in Benton was called "Chewing Gum Charlie."  He drove around and walked around the streets of town, protecting us and I never saw him with a gun straped on.  

This is my first dog -- a pointer.  I was about 6 years old.

Unfortunately, summer vacation was eventually over and school started -- I was assigned to Ms. Margaret in the third grade.  She was a tough teacher and we had lots of assignments.  She once took us all to her house during the day so that we could pull weeds in her yard!  Soon it was Christmas time. I remember that I often heard talk from the adults in my family of a place called "California."  I wondered what that was.

Christmas eve, we had company:  my Uncle Carl, Aunt Julia (my dad's sister), my cousin Nat, and my cousin Cherye.  Cherye was seven months older than me, so we played a lot when they were in town.  The snow was falling and suddenly we heard a knock at the door.  A man asked my dad if he knew anyone who had a black lab puppy dog -- he had just hit one in the road next to our house.  Unfortunately, it was my Tramp!  Cherye and I started crying hysterically.  My dad took Tramp to the basement, where he laid on a blanket on the floor.  He stayed there several days.  One day, my dad told me that he was going to take Tramp to the vet to make him better.  Poor Tramp had lain on the floor for days, unable to get up.  I trusted my dad to make him better for me.  

I kept waiting for Tramp to come home.  About two weeks later, my parents were sitting in their chairs in front of the fireplace, reading the newspaper and listening to music on the radio.  Curious as to how he was doing, I asked my dad, "When is Tramp coming home?"  My dad looked at my mom and she looked at him -- and a quiet hush fell over the room.  

My dad looked at me and said, "We thought you would forget, so we decided not to tell you that Tramp died."  I was devastated.  I felt a lump in my stomach that I had never felt before.  I felt my face flush -- my eyes filled with tears -- and I began to loose control.  I felt so betrayed.  I wasn't sure if the tears were the result of Tramp having died or of having my parents think that I would forget about him, thereby relieving them of the burden of having to tell me of his death.  I went to my bedroom and climbed into bed.  I continued to cry, wondering what had become of Tramp.  I went to church regularly and had heard of heaven.  My dad's father had recently died, so I thought I knew what death was (I'd attended his funeral).  Soon my dad came into my room to talk to me.  I said, "Is Tramp in heaven with PeePaw?"  He responded, "No, honey, dogs don't go to heaven. Heaven is only for people and dogs are not people.  They are just animals.  When they die, they are just dead and gone."

That made me feel even worse and I cried more deeply.  I was so miserable to think that my little Tramp -- who I loved so much -- was lying somewhere decomposing into nothingness -- because God wouldn't let dogs go to heaven.  That was when I decided that I did not like my Dad's religious beliefs, if that was the way they looked at things.  I knew Tramp had to be in heaven if one existed.

Shortly after Tramp died, my dad decided to move us to California.  I had no idea what that meant, but I did not think that I liked it.  In early February 1956, when I was eight years old, my dad gave away my two remaining labs -- Lady and Jock -- to some people in the country.  So, I lost Tramp in December and then I lost Lady and Jock in February.  I was so depressed, but nobody paid any attention.  I was just a kid.

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I don't remember the actual trip to California, but I remember being deposited with my Aunt Bert and Uncle Charlie in San Diego.  My parents moved up to Inglewood, California with my little brother, where my dad apparently had a job.  So, there I was -- eight years old -- I lost my three beloved pets, my family abandoned me, and I was stuck living with perfect strangers:  my aunt, my uncle, my cousin Sandy, my cousin Joe, and my cousin Kathy.  I was miserable, because I had lost my three dogs, my hometown, and my family.  Nobody understood why I became withdrawn, depressed, and sullen.  That was 1956 and before all the psycho-babal.  I enrolled at Montezuma Elementary School for the remainder of the third grade and was a very good student -- what else was there to do?

It turns out that my mom was pregnant with my second brother, who was born July 26, 1956.  They let me name him.  I named him Robert after a blond boy upon whom I had the wildest crush!  We called him "Bobby."   My Mom called him "Bestest One" -- he was always her favorite.  My dad got a job in San Diego, so they moved to a small duplex in the area of town called Clairemont, in September 1956.  I remember that address to this day (but cannot remember what I did last week):  3365 Clairemont Drive, San Diego.  I enrolled in Whittier Elementary School for the fourth grade.  I was nine years old at that time.  

This photo shows my mom (~37), my brother Benny (~3), and me (~9) in front of our duplex in Clairemont:

About two years later, my parents bought a brand new, 3-bedroom, 2-bath, house in a new development in Chula Vista.  It was 1959, and I think they paid about $12,000 for it!  I enrolled in the sixth grade at Kellogg Elementary School -- Mr. Bickel was my teacher.  

Our house was on the outskirts of town at that time, which was ideal for a tomboy!  The neighborhood had lots of kids my age.  I had lots of girlfriends who were also tomboys.  We loved to explore all over the countryside from Chula Vista to Otay Lake.  We had wonderful times together:  riding bikes all over, going downtown to shop and buy french fries and Green Rivers at the soda shop, building forts in the canyons with tumbleweeds, having slumber parties where we ate like pigs and told ghost stories, playing girls' basketball at the Recreation Center, and discovering boys eventually!

In the fall of 1959, I enrolled in the 7th grade at Castle Park Junior High School.  I liked school, got good grades, and was in the advanced classes for all subjects that were offered.  My favorite teacher was Mr. David Bannister, who taught us Social Studies.  He always said, "To thyne own self be true, and it shall follow as the night the day, that thou canst then be false with any man."  I really admired him.  When I was starting my ninth grade, my sister, Martha Ann Gilliam, was born.  She was really tiny (about 5 pounds) and cute, so I played with her like a doll.  
My sister, Martha, as a baby.

That same year, my Dad decided that we should go back to church again -- we had regularly attended the local Church of Christ in Benton before moving to California.  So, we started going to the Chula Vista Church of Christ three times a week:  Sunday morning for Sunday School and services, Sunday evening for bible study, and Wednesday evening for bible study.  I met Alice Wojciechowski (later Alice Houge), who is still a good friend.  Except for family, I've known Ali the longest of any friend.

In the fall of 1962, I enrolled in 10th grade at Hilltop High School.  I only went there one year, however, because they were building a new high school that was closer.  In the fall of 1963, I enrolled at the new high school -- Castle Park High School.  I was in the first junior class.  I enjoyed it, but was anxious to leave home and see the world.  I wanted to leave high school early, so in the summer of 1963, I attended summer school at Helix High School to earn extra credits.  

With those credits, I was accepted to Pepperdine University in Los Angeles for the fall of 1964, which is when it was located in south-central LA -- not in Malibu.  I had enough credits and an A-average, but I was only just 17 years old and 4 months, so I was afraid to go to the "big city."  At the last minute, I decided to go with my good girlfriend, Rita Hopkins, to a small Church of Christ college in Lubbock, Texas -- Lubbock Christian College.  About a month before I had to go, I contacted LCC, applied, and was accepted.  They told me that the affiliated high school was accredited and I could get a high school diploma by taking one high school course, which I did, but it turned out not to be recognized by the California school systems.  

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The 1964-65 school year in Lubbock, Texas, was a real eye opener for a naive young girl.  I met some of the most hypocritical, judgmental, and two-faced people in Texas, who were prejudiced against people who were "not like them."  Many of those "Christians" hated people from California and thought they were all "going to hell."  One of the students told Rita and I that our first week at the college.  They told us to take our sin and corruption and go home to California.  The California kids tended to hang out together as a result:  Karen Graves, Sharyn Todd, North Witcher, James Barron, Rita Hopkins, and myself.  I wonder where they are now.  I did meet some nice people, but most of those were either NOT from Texas or NOT church people!  I met my future husband -- James Smith -- who was from Denver, Colorado.  

After one year of that torment, I returned to San Diego in the summer of 1965, took a couple of adult school classes to earn my high school diploma, and enrolled at Grossmont Junior College in the fall.  (I did not realize the importance of where you go to college at that time and I just wanted to go close to home and cheaply.)  In early 1966, Jim Smith came to see me in San Diego, since his dad had moved to the LA area.  We started going together, but my family did not approve.  I quit school, moved out of the house, and a couple of months later, ran away to Denver, Colorado.  I was mad and didn't tell my family where I had gone, so they had no idea where I was for about six months.  Jim and I were married on July 19, 1966, but I did not call my folks until mid-November.  

Jim and I both got jobs in Denver and rented a small one-bedroom apartment.  I worked as a disbursement clerk at the First National Bank of Denver at 17th and Welton Streets.  I distributed the trust funds to the beneficiaries of trusts that the bank administered.   I remember a young, beautiful female attorney who worked in the trust department -- Anne Gorsuch (later Anne Burford, who became head of the EPA under President Ronald Reagan).  She was an inspiration to me to go back to school and get a good job. I eventually did go back and get a B.S. in Physics and a Juris Doctor, which is what she had.  I think that experience in Denver had a significant effect on my life.  Remember, in the '60s, girls were not generally encouraged to become professionals.

Jim was not fond of snow, so when the winter started, he wanted to move back to California.  I had become pregnant (remember I was very naive), and we moved back to California in March 1967.  I stayed with my aunt in San Diego, and Jim stayed with his dad in LA and got a job.  Our first son, James Allan Smith, Jr., was born April 24, 1967, in San Diego.  In June 1967, Jim and I rented an apartment in Garden Grove, and I got a job as a Report Preparation Clerk at Security Pacific National Bank in downtown Los Angeles.  I had a long commute, so we eventually moved to a small apartment on La Mirada Avenue near Santa Monica Blvd. and Western in the LA area.  

After a few months, I found a job as a secretary at Dames & Moore, Civil Engineers, in Westwood near U.C.L.A.  I became very interested in engineering and decided to major in science or engineering.  I started taking night classes and walked to L.A. City College to take night classes -- a dangerous activity today!  Eventually I graduated from Cal State University - Los Angeles on June 10, 1972, with a Bachelor of Science in Physics.  I had my second son, Jeffrey David Smith ("Jeff"), a few days later on June 15, 1972.  

I interviewed at TRW in Redondo Beach (now a part of Northrup Grumman) in December 1972, and started work there on February 19, 1973.  I was a Member of the Technical Staff in the Materials Technology Department until 1997.  I worked on various projects related to space science experimentation planned for the Spacelab to be flown on the Space Shuttle.  I assisted a Principal Investigator (Jo Reger) who performed zero-gravity experiments on metals on NASA's Skylab.  Later, I transferred to the Heat Transfer and Thermodynamics Department and worked on analysis and design of satellite thermal control systems, such as DSPFLTSATCOM, and MILSTAR.  

From August 1983 to June 1987, including summers, I attended Loyola Law School at night, while working full-time at TRW.  I passed the July bar that year.  In September 1987, I took a 6-month leave of absence from TRW and took a position as an associate attorney at Parkinson, Wolf, Lazar, & Leo in Century City.  I bought the 11.8-acre parcel upon which my house now sits in August 1988, while I was living in Torrance, California.  I always wanted to build a custom home.  

In 1990, I started looking for a position in San Diego, and my headhunter sent me to Southern California Edison Company to interview for the position they had for a gas attorney, who they planned to move to San Diego when the Gas Fuels Department moved after approval of the pending merger with San Diego Gas & Electric Company.  [They convinced me that the merger was 99.9% going to be approved, but it was not, and I ended up working at Edison in Rosemead until I retired on September 30, 2013!​]
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In 1993, I decided to move to San Diego anyway.  I leased my house in Torrance and rented a house in San Diego.  I started researching my construction project in 1994.  In 1995, my employer assigned me to its nuclear work and gave me a satellite office at San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station where I worked several days a week.  I would either drive from San Diego to SONGS or drive to the Metrolink Station in Oceanside and take the Metrolink to the head office in Rosemead.  

Eventually, in March 1997, I sold my house in Torrance and bought a 23-foot-long 1979 Allegro Class A motorhome to live in temporarily while I worked on my construction project to build a house on my lot in Blossom Valley.  First, I lived at Camplands On The Bay, in an area of San DiegoCalifornia, called Mission Beach, from March until July 1997.  That was a fun time, since I knew several people who had boats at the Marina.  When the rates went up to summer rates, in July 1997, I moved in with my aunt Bert in San Diego.  I stayed there until October 1997, which is when I finally broke ground for my house!  I moved my RV to Lake Jennings Park to be near my property.  A short while later, a friend of mine from Chile (Alfredo) offered me a room in his house, so I moved there until I moved into my "dream" house in April 1998.  During that time at Alfredo's, I bought my first three Labs from Kasey Mando of Ultra Quest Show Dogs and Arabay Ranch.  I had already bought a mini horse that I was boarding at her property east of my new property in El Cajon.

My building project was completed and I received a Certificate of Occupancy in April 1998, so I moved in!  It was so exciting to move to the country (almost 12 acres) into a house I had designed and had built.  

​For the next few years, I acquired a few more mini horses and frequented mini horse shows with Kasey.  I owned and showed Blue, Zaney, Ellie, Sargent, Marnie, Major and Starla at various times.  Now, I only have Blue (21) and Ellie (17), having sold Sargent and lost the rest to various medical problems.  

First Kasey took me to horse shows and my minis won many awards. Then I adopted a JRTCA Jack Russell Terrier, Outlaw Giza born in 1999, and Kasey convinced me to take her to ARBA (American Rare Breed Association) shows where she became a champion.  On November 3, 2001, I went to my first AKC dog show, which was held at Irwindale, CA.  I took 3 Lab girls and 2 PRTs.  My Casper was Winners Dog and my Dotti was Winners Bitch in PRTS, so I was hooked!  

Casper's son, CH Blossom Valley Romancing the Ghost (Romeo) was the #1 PRT in the AKC in 2005 and was in the Top 5 or 10 for four years before he retired. Our last show, I won Best Bred by Exhibitor PRT at the Eukanuba Invitational in 2008.  Over the years, I have bred and shown many nice PRTs.  In April 2014, Romeo sired a litter of puppies with my Cruella, and all four (4) of the puppies were shown and finished their champion titles. In 2016, Tony won a Reserve Best in Show and a Best in Show in New Mexico.  So his name officially is BIS MBISS RBIS GCHG CH Blossom Valley Guilty Pleasure of Wild Fire.  He is now retired.

Tony's daughter Pauley (BISS GCHB CH Blossom Valley Doppleganger of Wild Fire) showed in 2018 and 2019. She was the 2019 #1 PRT bitch and #2 overall (#1 dog showed twice as many days as Pauley). At Westminster 2020, that dog was retired and his well-known handler showed a different dog, but the ignorant judge picked him Best of Breed because she recognized the well-known handler and THOUGHT he was showing the former #1 dog, so she gave him Best of Breed over Pauley who should have won.  Many people were disgusted at her choice and emailed me privately or called me to tell me that they thought she was a bad judge who always judged up the lead.  It is common today for judges to judge the dogs based on the handler.  Most of the modern day judges don't have the knowledge of the breeds like the judges when I started showing.  The AKC has made it too easy for judges, who don't know the breeds, to get sanctioned to judge breeds and so they pick winners based on the status who the handlers are in the ring too often.    

The original purpose of dog shows was to meet other exhibitors and compare breeding stock and find dogs to which to breed.  Now, the purpose is to make money for the AKC, the judges, and the handlers with no regard for the exhibitors who pay for everything.  They instituted an "Owner-Handler" competition, but it is not respected and often the OH BIS is held after regular BIS when people have left and they are dismantling the dog show equipment.  It means nothing because it is not given the same respect as the regular group judging.  

You know what they said about the goose that laid the golden egg?  Well, the AKC's practices have killed the goose that paid for all the conformation shows.  They don't know why attendance at dog shows has declined over the past 20 years and why purebred dog breeding has declined.  Their focus is to make money to pay obscene salaries to upper management, to provide a retirement income for judges who mostly were former handlers and who often judge well beyond when they've lost their cognitive ability, and to provide a livelihood for handlers who nowadays don't have a real job.  We saw how that worked out with the COVID-19 lock-downs when most dog shows were cancelled and all the handlers were without a way to make money. With all of the focus away from the owners and breeders of the dogs at the dog shows, owners and breeders are leaving the "sport of purebred dogs."  The goose is in a coma and will eventually die.  The first big cluster every year was always the Palm Springs cluster, which used to draw 5,000 dogs. Today, they are lucky to get 3,000.  That is a significant decline. With declining entries, they raise the entry fees, which leads to further decline in entries. It's a death spiral.

The people who will remain are the rich backers who are people who find self-fulfillment in having their names on winning dogs and who need a tax write-off and who often do not themselves breed or keep dogs.  I saw one such lovely dog who was backed by millionaires and shown by one of the top handlers retire from showing and the millionaires had no interest in taking him home to love. Instead he lived his short life in a crate in his handler's garage providing stud services until he died of a broken heart.  This is not my idea of a good life for a dog that provided so much ego stroking to his uncaring owners or handler. ​

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Updated 11/26/2020