Helen Lambert learned the importance of family since she was little. Her tightly knit childhood family influenced her to focus on that same quality for her own family.

By: Maegan Martens
Published: Monday, Dec. 15, 2008

They first laid eyes on each other at a roller skating rink in Hawaii.

After struggling, she realized she couldn’t skate. As she was taking a breather, she watched him goofing off with his friends. They were playing in a hoist that was holding them up so they wouldn’t fall. She got the biggest kick out of it because he was over six feet tall.

He soon gave up and decided to sit right next to her. They exchanged words of “hello” and the conversation began. Her mother sitting near by prevented her from saying too much. As she got home, her mother lectured her about how young ladies do not talk to strange men. If only they knew what destiny had in mind for them.

“I guess guardian angels must have been working together,” Helen said with her smile stretching from each diamond earring. “All of a sudden I got a telephone call and he asked me to go out.”

Helen Lambert was born in Honolulu, Hawaii, June 30, 1918. She celebrated her 90th birthday this year in Chico, Calif. where she has lived at Sycamore Glen Retirement Center for the past 19 years.

First Steps

Her first baby steps to take on the world started when she was about 10 to 11 months old. Her father put a box in front of her so she wouldn’t fall. Instead, the box hit her on the way down with her plopping on the ground with a pool of blood.

In grade school, Helen started to develop her personality, know her future career and she still believed in Santa Claus.

Her personality developed when the 5th and 6th graders helped beautify the campus. There was only one man in charge for the entire clean up of the school so they helped clean up and they enjoyed a picnic their parents made.

One day Helen and her friends were pulling weeds and picking up papers. All of a sudden this boy came along and put a caterpillar down one of Helen’s friend’s back. During this he managed to smash the caterpillar against her blouse. Helen’s feistiness kicked in.

She took the role of Rocky for a split second as she punched him and told him that wasn’t very nice as he fell on the ground. The picnic continued on and all the students headed back to class.

As Lambert walked in, the teacher said “Ms. Helen Hindemith, can you please come to the front of the desk?”

Helen was excited because she knew the teacher was going to praise her and tell her she did a good job. She was wrong. She had to apologize to the boy as her teacher lectured her on how young ladies don’t go around punching boys.

As she very quickly apologized, she walked pass his desk and whispered “when I catch you after school I am going to blacken your eye.” She kept her word and looked for him after school but he was no where to be found.

She decided her experience as Rocky was not a career she was looking into. Instead she wanted to follow in the footsteps of Mrs. Arnold, the public health nurse.

Trouble student becomes third in class

About 12 years later in 1936, Lambert graduated high school and took some time off while she worked at the pineapple factories in Hawaii. The pineapple factories started in 1922 by James Dole. It became the largest pineapple plantation in the world in Hawaii that produced 75 percent of the world’s pineapples, according to Wikipedia. Lambert helped contribute to this success.

After a year working for the pineapple factories and an additional year working with the RN first aid station, Lambert decided to go to St. Francis Trading School.

She chose to take two years off to goof around. Lambert’s relaxing personality was a part of her Hawaiian spirit.

Hawaiians were very relaxed and they didn’t rush to get things done. Things could be done the same whether if they were done fast or slow, they still got done.

“It wasn’t a rat race to see how fast we could get things done,” Lambert said. “We worked at a snails pace but that’s how it was.”

When Lambert started to attend St. Francis, she was surprised to have both book work and practical work jammed into three years. She graduated third in her class.

helensmarriage1

No longer than a week after her graduation from St. Francis, Lambert married the only man she had ever dated. Her roller skating husband, Frank Lambert took Helen’s hand in marriage June 15, 1941.

After three months of seeing each other, he gave her a ring. Her engagement lasted about a year and a half. They could hardly wait to be husband and wife.

The night before her wedding she worked a long shift which gave her only nine hours before the ceremony to get ready and most of that time was spent sleeping. She got up two hours before the ceremony and was married at the Methodist Church. The wedding was small with Lambert’s immediate family and a couple of close friends. A small dinner at a local Hawaiian restaurant was how they celebrated their reception.

Two months after her marriage, a baby boy was on the way. Lambert was happy because her and Frank wanted to start their own family.

“But of course if we would have known the war was going to come on, it would have been different,” Lambert jokes.

Unknown aircraft is spotted

It was Dec. 7, 1941 and Lambert was at home with morning sickness. Her husband was on duty for the army up at the dispensary. Lunch plans were made and they were supposed to meet Lambert’s parents at Pearl Harbor.

Lambert’s neighbor came over and said “Helen, something is happening.” They went out on the porch and they saw a plane fly overhead.

“You see that plane?” Lambert’s neighbor asked. “I don’t think that belongs to us.”

Lambert looked up and “wee wee up in the sky” was a plane but nothing happened. During that time she was looking up, her phone rang.

“Honey get ready to be evacuated,” Lambert’s husband said on the phone. “There is a little disturbance at Pearl Harbor.”

In the mean time, her family was still planning on meeting Lambert and her husband for lunch at Pearl Harbor.

Her mother and brother had this game they played where they chased fire trucks and on this day all the fire trucks were going to Pearl Harbor. They ran to the top of Red Hill and they saw the attack on Pearl Harbor. They ran home but by the time they got home, Lambert’s dad had already started walking to Pearl Harbor for lunch.

The family didn’t know what happened to him for a while but he came home safe and sound. He never talked about what he saw that day.

As Lambert was getting ready, all she could hear on the radio was “this is an attack, take cover. This is an attack, take cover.”

The chief picked up Lambert, her dog Butch and their neighbor Mrs. Thompson. They were taken up to Diamond Head which was considered the safe place. When they got up the hill, they were surrounded by live ammunition. Everyone was hysterical and crying. There were babies crying and women pleading to go home.

After staying at the top of the hill for a long period, everyone wanted to drink water but everyone was scared that the Japanese contaminated the water. Finally water was served with bologna sandwiches and beds were made from cots.

Lambert just wanted to go home.

World War II, Two boys

Food was being rationed. Black outs made it hard to see at night. Phones and mail had to be censored because of fear the Japanese would find something out.

Lambert and her mom tried to do what little shopping they could. She was pregnant and she went to the butcher to buy a pound of ground meat because that was all they could afford. They gave out the last of the ground meat to the person before Lambert. She had to make do with what she had, so she made meals out of canned tuna. She has thousands of ideas to make canned tuna and ground meat. To this day, she still likes meat loaf.

Lambert started to go into labor.

Frank Lambert was born April, 6, 1942 on the last Army Day. His nickname was Jeep.

After Frank was born, she did a private duty and worked 12 hour shifts. She also censored mail.

“We would cut out everything that looked like a hit about where soldiers were,” Lambert said.

Food continued to be rationed which made it more difficult to feed the newborn baby. When he was ready to drink orange juice, he couldn’t because it wasn’t available. Baby food wasn’t available so Lambert fed Frank carrots that her aunt had grown in her garden. Lambert had to get prescriptions from the doctor to get milk for his formula.

About two years later, Alan Lambert was born August 25, 1944. Food was easier to come by during this time with the war wrapping up.

Five different homes in 14 years

Lambert’s husband took his family on an adventure to many places that he was stationed. Their first adventure was to Texas. They lived there for four years as their family started to form.

In 1950, the Lamberts moved to New York and spent two and a half years there.

Their next move was to Stockton but Lambert’s husband had to leave them for a short time while he was stationed in Korea during the war.

The family joined him in Japan after the war where they spent a little over a year exploring the Japanese culture.

Lambert was worried about how the frequent moves were taking a toll on her two boys. She frequently checked in with their teachers to make sure they were on track and fitting in well. Her boys were doing well and they were very active in the Japanese culture with wrestling and ping pong.

Instead of gifts for Easter, the family decided to take an educational trip around Japan. They took trains to Tokyo, Hiroshima and Osaka.

The final stop for the Lambert family was in Manteca, Calif. The boys finished up high school and went off to college.

When Frank left for West Point, it was difficult for the entire family. It was the first time Frank was going to be away from the rest of the family.

Her caring and loving personality developed in the islands with the friendly atmosphere the Hawaiians shared with each other.

Lambert’s mother use to hate going shopping with her because Lambert was friends with everyone. They would always have to stop so Lambert could say hello to her friends walking on the other side of the street.

Settling Down

Lambert and her husband stayed in Manteca until Frank retired. They moved up to Lake Almanor and stayed there until Frank’s health was starting to go bad.

They celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary together June 15, 1991.

About five years later, she lost her one and only love.

Lambert plays an active role at Sycamore Glen. She is the head of orientation at the retirement center and she can play a good hand of cards. Every once in a while, she jokes around with the center’s pet bird Spike.

Her blunt opinion, sarcastic humor and slightly hidden smile compliments her soft grey curls, her tiny figure and her floral blouses.

“I would like to be remembered as a caring person,” Lambert said. “I know sometimes they think I don’t have love in me at all because I am very critical about some things, but I want them to know that I am caring.”

Listen to this audio clip from Mrs. Lambert, in which she describes her christmas present from her aunts.

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