Alexis Smith was my first customer in the store. She was a lovely actress and an avid horsewoman. I remember she gave me a hundred dollar bill to pay for the Wallace China cowboy dishes she was purchasing and I had to make change. Because I was just six years old at the time, Daddy stood nearby to oversee the transaction. Miss Smith was a gracious, patient client. My sister, Frances Harrison Hays, also grew up working in our parents' store. She garnered remarkable knowledge assisting studio designers and costumers to put together appropriate wardrobe for individual actors and groups of extras that needed to be fitted for movie apparel. Later, Frances took her special knowledge of clothing and became a motion picture costumer and winner of two Emmy awards.
Ours was a thriving, exciting world because of the wonderful people who frequented Kandelin's and became friends of our family. Ranchers, farmers, rodeo cowboys, singers, poets, painters, and visitors from other lands crossed the threshold of my parent's business. Also, a host of renowned folk came by: Clark Gable, Joel McCrea, John Wayne, Gary Cooper, Jane Russell, Rex Bell, Bing Crosby, Willie Shoemaker, Johnny Longdon, Walt Larue, Rex Ellsworth, Pidge Beery and his wife, Maxine (daughter of silent film idol Buck Jones), Cary Grant, Ali Kahn, Nikita Kruchev, the Emperor of Japan and so many more. I was a wee little girl when Clark Gable put me on his shoulder and took me to lunch. Alas, to fully tell this story would require an entire book and much time from you, my reader. And so, I move on....
My education was quite interesting. My mother, Betty Lou, was a wonderful teacher. She inspired in me a love of words and worked with me when I was just a little girl to become a better student in every way. Both she and my sister were avid readers which meant that I was a very lucky child. Mama and Frances read novels and poetry and plays to me from an early age. There are so many wonderful books to read, as you know. I am especially fond of the works of J. D. Salinger, Frank Yerby, Dean Koontz and the poetry of John Donne.
When it came time for college I initially chose to attend the University of the Seven Seas. We traveled by ship from Long Beach through the Panama Canal, disembarking in Lisbon. Our small group attended the University of Barcelona and toured many European countries, including the Soviet countries of Hungary, Russia, and Poland. This was all at the height of the Cold War! I returned to Europe again and studied art and architecture at Westminster College in London and the Sorbonne in Paris. Eventually I earned my degree at San Fernando Valley State College (now California University Northridge).
My young life was spent in the company of motion picture makers and cowboys and so it is only natural that I would find my husband among them. I met my future husband, Steve Chambers, when I was fourteen years old. He was a bull rider, hockey player, motorcycle racer and golfer and I was smitten from the first. We married seven years later. By then Steve was working as a stuntman in the movies. Through all our years together he has been my hero - a stuntman and an actor for over thirty years, Steven took care of his family by doing some of life's most dangerous work and I have great respect for him. You have seen him perform hundreds of times in such movies as:
The Fast and the Furious, Maverick, Lonesome Dove, No Way Out, The Warriors,
Predator, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, The Last Castle, High Crimes,
Twister, Dances with Wolves, The Crow, On Deadly Ground, Lethal Weapon 1 - 4
Steve has also worked on dozens of TV shows. For instance, he spent four years working as the double for "Murdock" on The A Team.
Steve and I have two children: Jacob Steven Chambers and Stacy Kandelin Chambers. Jacob has followed in his father's footsteps and has built a solid career as a stuntman. He has performed stunts on such movies, TV shows, and commercials as:
Water for Elephants, Dexter, JEdgar, Just Like Heaven, Mr. & Mrs. Smith, Spider Man,
The Time Machine, The Perfect Storm, Enemy of the State, Dukes of Hazard II, and
License to Wed, Days of our Lives, NCIS, Nike and Toyota commercials....and so many more!
He is also a capable helicopter pilot and a photographer of wonderful pictures!
Our daughter, Stacy, is on leave from our Sheriff's Department as she and her husband David welcomed a new baby boy to the family. His name is Erik Alan Stanley. David is a Sergeant with our local Sheriff's Office as well as a member of our Sheriff's SWAT and K9 teams. David's talented and loyal K9 partner is Shadow. Stacy and David have three older children as well: Emma, John, and Franklyn. These three wonderful kids have been my audience when I write for children and think about the little ones who will hear and read my stories. Steve and I are very blessed to have this wonderful, expanding family!
Many members of our family now live in a valley in northern Nevada. We have a small ranch and have adopted two wild mustangs. Their names are Pancho and Lefty. Every day this wild duo becomes a little bit tamer. They will now eat grain and sweet feed from of our hands. My husband retired from the motion picture business in 2002 and become a Docent at the California State Railroad Museum in Sacramento. A Docent is a trained volunteer who is able to lead tours and work to restore and keep running the beautiful engines and railroad cars from days gone by. Steve finished his training and is now a Brakeman on the railroad. He has always loved trains and studying U.S. rail history, especially the history and equipment of the Southern Pacific Railroad.
My favorite saying comes from Auntie Mame written by Patrick Dennis. In his book he writes about his outlandishly wonderful aunt, Mame Dennis, who spoke these immortal words:
"Life is a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death!"