|Vivian ELY PEELER
My husband, William Lee Peeler and I were both born in Illinois . He was born in Ford County in 1873, and my family came from Franklin County . We were married in January of 1900; I was 23 and William was 27 years old. Just two years prior, William had fought in the Spanish-American War where he was awarded the rank of Colonel.
William had quite an active life before we married in addition to his U. S. Army stint. He left his parent's farmhouse when he was 17 to attend college in Normal, Illinois. At the same time his family decided to stop farming, and his father opened a shoe and gent's furnishings business. After completion of college, William went to work in the new family business until the business was profitably sold only a year later.
My husband's next career move consisted of managing the bicycle department of C. C. Martens in Bloomington, Illinois. Three years later, he had raised that department to a new level of success, so he decided to open a bicycle shop for himself. It was reputed to be the best bicycle shop in Central Illinois for the two years that it was open.
It was during this time William became interested in bicycle racing and was of course, one of the best in the state losing the state championship by only six inches in 1896. He also managed and played baseball for some of the best amateur teams in Illinois . Never one to stay at a career for too long, my husband accepted a lucrative offer from A. G. Spaulding & Brothers to go on the road as a salesman for two years. William liked to say it was then he picked up his most prized possession.Me!
He quit being a salesman to begin ranching and farming in Normal, Illinois. On our 240 acre ranch, we raised Registered Aberdeen Angus cattle and Poland China hogs and children. This is where our first four children were born. We had three girls: Viola, Verna, Mable, and then a son, John.
For a spare time diversion, William became an auctioneer for seven years associating himself with the foremost auctioneers of the day, he learned to conduct sales with phenomenal success.
When we moved to Corona in January of 1909, it was at the request of C. D. McNeil, William's uncle, who was already living in Corona . C. D. McNeil was in the real estate business and one time president of the Corona National Bank.
My husband organized 25 citizens of McClean County, Illinois to make the move to Corona with us including his mother, his sister, my brother and our four children (our son was less than one month old). We were on a 'mixed' train, which means that livestock rode on the same train as we did. Some of our Rhode Island Red and Plymouth Rock chickens and my husbands favorite horse, Dolly made the trip.
Upon arrival in Corona , we lived first on Victoria Avenue , then at 812 Main Street (close to where Corona Community hospital sits today). Our last two children were born in Corona , Calvin in 1910 and Vivian in 1914.
My husband, true to his style, had many occupations while living in Corona in order to take care of our brood. His first job upon arrival in Corona was assisting in his Uncle's shoe store but only for a short time. Next, he operated a livery stable. William could see the future coming, so he taught himself to be an auto mechanic and soon opened an agency for first EMF auto and later the Studebaker. The business was called the Crown Garage & Machine Works and was located at 215-216 East 6th Street .
In 1915, Mr. and Mrs. Leo Lloyd, our friends from Illinois who moved to Corona with us, my husband and I drove to San Francisco to the World's Fair. What a trip that was!
1916 was an exciting one for our family as the Corona Road Races were in their third and last year. William was president for the Citrus Belt Racing Association; he was instrumental in reviving the racing spirit that many Coronas had lost after the 1914 races. He teamed up with a man from Los Angeles , George Bentel, who knew all the ins and outs of racing. Together they taught us many ideas for the 1916 race and held a public forum in January of 1916, a pep rally of sorts to drum up enthusiasm to continue the races.
At the forum, the people of Corona were told how much advertising their city had lost out on by not holding the race in 1915 and how much the drivers from the previous years had enjoyed the Corona track. My husband's salesmanship background came into good use; he was very persuasive. The people of Corona , even those who had been skeptical or against the races being held, changed their minds. It was decided to hold the races on St. Patrick's Day, but this was later changed to April 8th. The purse was $1,200.00, the second largest offered for one race outside of Indianapolis up to that time.
Some of the drivers stored and repaired their cars in our business garage for up to 10 days before the 1916 races. Our daughters, being as enterprising as their father, sold parking spaces for the race on our front lawn as our home was located only one block from Grand Boulevard . We let them keep the proceeds.
Speaking of proceeds, I was glad we were able to bring our Illinois ' chickens with us to Corona . My daughters and I had set up quite a lucrative business selling eggs and young chickens to our neighbors. I owned one of the few incubators in town, and we set out 100 eggs twice a year. Verna was especially good at resuscitating the apparently dead chicks by blowing in to their mouths. This practice did not come into use for people until many years later. As talented as Verna was at keeping our young chicks alive, she never was very good at chopping the heads off the chickens, so I always retained that duty. Oddly, Verna was our only child who never married.
Eleven years after moving to Corona , William was involved in many civic duties including Director of the Riverside County Fair (now called the Date Nut Festival). William ran unsuccessfully for State Supervisor of the First District at this time, and I remember one of his campaign speeches. He said, "I am not as large a property owner as some but all my interests are here (in Corona ). I pay taxes on eight properties besides my business. If the old saying is true that success is attained by ninety percent work, we will get results, for I will work. And we will devote the time to office that it requires; be it all my time, all well and good, you will find me on the job."
In the 1930's, my husband (in his 70's) started yet another profession. He managed the New and Used Furniture Store at 420 Main Street . He also repaired furniture and his slogan was "Try and Bring Us a Job We Can't Do".
After the children were grown, we moved to 720 Ramona Avenue (now a professional building) and later just before retiring we moved a few blocks south to 1015 Ramona. Always enterprising, William had a cabinet shop in our garage after retiring in the late 1950's.
William died in January of 1961 at the age of 83. When I passed away in April of 1965, I had 11 grandchildren and 16 great grandchildren.