John Albert Renfro, Class of 1940

August 22, 2003
Santa Paula High School
By B. J. Harding, President, SPUHS Alumni Association Biography #220 (Have you submitted yours?)John was one of six children of John Willis and Mary Achilles Renfro. The other children of this family were Robert (’36), Emma (’39), Marion (’41), Delmar (’47), Edward (’49) and Joyce (’51). All the children were born on the Bishop Ranch (later known as Ferndale Ranch) up Santa Paula Canyon.When the children were small, the family moved back into Santa Paula and then to Ventura where the children started their schooling. By the time John had reached the 4th grade, Dad came back to Santa Paula to work on a ranch and the children were enrolled in Briggs School.John went to SPUHS and enrolled in gymnastics, taught by Randall Bryden. It was here he excelled and became very adept in the floor exercises. He received his school letter, and placed fifth in floor exercises in a Southern California meet hosted by Beverly Hills High School in 1940.Following graduation, John got a job on the Ray Joy Ranch helping with planting, cultivating, and threshing beans. At the end of the season there was extensive rainfall and no field work was available; John was able to convince Randall Bryden to hire him to assist with the gymnastics classes, and they put on tumbling exhibitions during halftime at basketball games.John then got a job at Teague McKevett packinghouse, where he worked repairing boxes, washing lemons, sorting rots, stacking boxes, and when the lemon pickers went on strike that year he helped pick lemons and did whatever Teague McKevett needed done. By this time the lemon season had slowed down, and his buddy, Raymus Payton, convinced him to go with him to Indio and work in the date industry. Here he learned to load cars, separate fruit, and pack dates. It was here that he met Florence Bauman, who also worked in the date packinghouse, and they soon became engaged.About this time came December 7, 1941. John was ready to enlist in the Marines, but Florence had different ideas so on May 9, 1942 John and Florence were married in Santa Paula. Now being a married man in the agriculture industry, his bosses applied for and received a deferment from the draft for him.
John continued to work between Santa Paula and Indio until the U.S. changed the draft rules and he was drafted into the Army. Florence went to Minnesota to live with her parents, and John was on his way - first stop, Fort McArthur, followed by Camp Roberts, then Fort Ord. The Army ordered suntans for uniform and they shipped out to Camp Anza in Riverside. The next stop was Los Angeles Harbor and off to the Philippines. It was now VJ Day by the time the ship reached Pearl Harbor.From Pearl to Manila was another experience. John’s ship had been an old banana boat which had been torpedoed earlier and listed 10 degrees. A typhoon was coming and the ship almost ran aground. They finally landed in the Philippines, where their first assignment was to clean up debris left over from the war.John was then assigned to Batangas to work in and then run the Beer Garden, a pleasure venue for the military operated by the PX division. Here he sold beer, popcorn, pretzels, cigars, cigarettes, peanuts and hamburgers to the servicemen.About this time his wife had their third child, and this made him eligible for discharge. He picked up his wife and children in Minnesota and returned to Santa Paula. John worked for the Ray Joy Farm, and then went to work in Yucaipa for a brother-in-law in the ready mix business. He worked in this business for 30 years, mostly driving trucks, until his health began to deteriorate. John retired, and then worked for seven years during the Christmas holidays at the Redlands mall as Santa Claus.In January of 2000 his wife died, and John is now living near his daughter in Barstow. John and Florence had nine children in their 58 years of marriage, all still living in California except for one daughter in Alabama and one in Arkansas.

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