Tragedy Hits Home

Influence of the Southern Pacific Railroad
In the early 1920's, there were nearly 3 million miles of rural highways in the U.S., and most of them were designed for traveling by horse. Although there were roughly 4 million Model T's (also known as Tin Lizzie's) rattling about the roads across the country, the railroad was still the nation's number one industry and provided a major source of mass transportation and shipping.
The western terminus of the transcontinental railroad was established in a section of eastern San Francisco bay area land that was previously a forest of oak trees. The industry transformed the physical, economic and demographic landscape into what emerged as the city of Oakland.
Family Tragedy
The (Central) Southern Pacific rail yards where Augustus Mayer worked were always bustling with activity. At 43, he was a loyal Southern Pacific employee. When he was asked to stay on for a few minutes after his 4:00 p.m. to midnight shift on January 24, 1924, he said "yes."
It was a foggy night at the rail yard, and there was a long train that the switchmen found difficult to manuver over a hill. Augustus was at the back of a train poised to disconnect the rear engine at the appropriate time. Suddenly, the train went off the track, and Augustus was crushed between the rear engine and the caboose. He died from the injuries several hours later after having the opportunity to see his family one last time.
The Southern Pacific railroad's sphere of influence at that time was insurmountable. Widowed at the age of 37, Harriet didn't have the resources to legally battle such a powerful entity. She received only $5,000 as a compensation to take care of her family.

Money being scarce, Ce at 15 began developng her clerical skills, and also worked at Smith Brothers Stationers on Saturdays to help support the family. Sometimes, she also played the church organ for weddings and masses.
In order to raise their mother's spirit's, the children gave her the upbeat nickname of "Bimmie" which at the time had the connotation of "young and vibrant." The name stuck and everyone, including her grandchildren, came to call her "Bimmie."