Helen Lengfeld was the founder of United Veterans Services (Formerly United Voluntary Services). This is her biography as written by Helen and her son Lewis Lengfeld; ca 1980.
Helen, of course, grew up next door to the Giannini's but was never allowed to plays with the boys because they had inherited from Chloe the Cuneo "curse," hemophilia, and would bleed at the slightest bump or injury. Sports were out for them. The ambulance from Mills Hospital two blocks away would scream at all hours of the days or nights. Only Claire would play since girls didn't inherit hemophilia, just pass it on, but she was too small and too young then. Today, Claire Giannini Hoffman is still living in her father's house; her brothers died long ago.
Helen went to a different private school almost every year along with the other society children who lived in San Mateo and Burlingame like the Ford's (Del Monte Products); Emily Pope (Pope & Talbot); Genevieve Bothin (Lyman-DeLimur); Arabella Schwerin (McCreery). The schools didn't last because they weren't very good. Finally Helen's mother persuaded Helen's tutor at the Raymond, a redoubtable Midwestern schoolmarm of real talent, Dora Shinn, to come back with them to open up a good private school.
Helen Lengfeld 1914 "Mrs. Shinn's" became the accepted private grammar school for two generations of Peninsula society. Dora's students credit her to this day with their ability to do sums in their heads and spell and speak properly, when their grandchildren, the product of sloppy public schools, can't.
In 1911, the leading Jewish families of San Francisco and the Peninsula got together and decided to organize a posh Jewish country club where they could play. The existing social country clubs - Burlingame, San Francisco, and Menlo- had strict exclusionist policies. In 1912, the Beresford Country Club was opened in the hills behind the Beresford Station on the Southern Pacific, just south of the Tobin Clark estate. Helen was the youngest member the day the club opened. Today, 68 years later, she is still a full member, although she hasn't had time to play golf in many years. For two decades, she was the Club's Women's Champion as well as its regularly reelected Women's Gold Captain and Team Match Captain.
By 1941, the "old guard" had dwindled away. The Club was down to 50 members; with assessments every few months and heavy dues, young people couldn't afford to join. At the Annual Meeting, two non-Jewish members, who had joined probably for that purpose, proposed that the Club, a choice property be sold (perhaps to them) for a profitable real estate investment. Helen stood up and said, "Nonsense, why not open the Club to the community? Lots of nice people, bankers, realtors, businessmen, who can't get into Burlingame or Menlo would be glad to join." The next morning, she was invited by the then President of the Club to be the first woman since the Club opened on the Board of Directors. (She still is, after 68 years of the Club, the only woman to have ever served on the board. Tsk, tsk!)
Working with the Board, Helen got 81 towns people of San Mateo and Burlingame to come to a kick-off golf event in December to persuade them to become new members of Beresford on a new and inexpensive basis. December 7 was a beautiful Sunday morning. Helen was getting everyone off the first tee when someone with a portable radio announced that Pearl Harbor had been bombed and that we were at war. Everyone scattered to the winds, including Helen's husband, who was San Mateo County Coordinator of Civil Defense, and her son, a Deputy Coordinator, who had air raid duty. Despite this awful start and the disappearance of dozens of potential members who went off to war, Helen persevered and, with the aid of the Club's new president, Bill Follett, who installed money-making slot machines, and the sale of a few pieces of property to pay taxes, the Club was saved for its members. Renamed the Peninsula Country Club, it has been an outstanding success. When membership threatened to exceed the Club's facilities, a ceiling of 435 members was decided upon. At that point, the membership fee, which had been zero with a $25 per month dues in the "Special" of 1941 and had risen slowly, began to shoot upwards as non-members sought to buy memberships. When memberships hit $14,500 (5 times Burlingame's) a halt was called and a ceiling of $9,500 was set, still a far cry from the zero when Helen saved the Club.
Back to the 1910's. When Helen graduated from Mrs. Shinn's, Sadie sent her off to Miss Murison's Finishing School, the only proper place in San Francisco for a proper young lady to go (long before Miss Burke's or Hamlin's). Helen was its only commuter, taking the train every morning to town and coming back every evening, except on the increasingly rare occasions when her mother let her stay in town at her grandmother's or aunt's so that she could go to a big evening party. In the summers, she played golf, usually as the youngest player, but one of the best. As often as possible, she persuaded the family to go to stay at her favorite place, Del Monte- a day long expedition and, in the early days of dusty, rutted roads when the women were all wrapped in endless scarves to keep out the dust while the chauffeur silently cursed as he tried to avoid breaking an axle on the chuck holes that pitted the unpaved highway.
Then came World War I. Helen had made her debut in a big party at Beresford. She was busy partying 2 or 3 times a week in the City when war broke out in April of 1917. She immediately dropped everything and took up Red Cross bandage making under her golfing friend, Helen Cheeseborough. Helen was so proficient as making surgical dressings that she soon became a teacher of others at the age of 19. She once confessed that her greatest joy was when she had a class of high school teachers and watched them all tremble as they came to their final examination.
Helen still led an active social life in the evenings, aided as always by the regular Southern Pacific commuter train. As a lively, attractive girl and heiress, she had lots of suitors, especially among the heirs of the families that regularly visited the San Mateo house to be with her grandmother Helen, whom everybody loved, and her brilliant though blind grandfather, whom everybody respected for his broad knowledge. Helen played the field until 1918. Then one of her mother's friends (still alive today in her 90's) warned her that she was getting older and told her, "Don't fascinate; fasten one."
Whether or not she followed the lady's (Dede comment: must have been Palmyre Cahn Nickelsburg) advice, she did marry the lady's sister's nephew on July 25, 1918,I a huge wedding under the trees in San Mateo, attended by hundreds of friends of both families (who had known each other for many, many years). He was Louis Lengfeld, and his story as leading developer of San Mateo and Hillsborough in the 1930's will be told later in the LENGFELD section later on.
Lieutenant Lengfeld of the Army Medical Corps was stationed at the Base Hospital in Menlo Park (now the Menlo division of the Palo Alto Veteran's Hospital of which much more later). His new wife followed him to there, then took the long trip with him to his pre-overseas station at Fort Worth, Texas, where she nursed him through a terrible case of the flu, which he and millions of others got but healthy Helen escaped. The war was over November 11. Before coming home, Helen and Louis visited his ancestral home in New Orleans.
Once they were home, The Foorman's bought the young couple the big house next door at 145 El Camino Real (then known as 145 County Road, before everyone got excited about using old Spanish names). It would be nice to say here that Helen settled down to a quiet life of domestic tranquility, but that was not Helen's style. She had a well-to-do and loving husband who needed pushing from time to time, but she herself was never made to sit around the house. Her first child, Lewis Foorman Lengfeld, was born two blocks away in Mills Hospital in San Mateo, in one of the quickest births on record there, at noon, November 6, 1919. Her second child, Frances Helen Lengfeld, was born at the same place, December 24, 1920.
The two babies, in close succession, did a lot of damage to Helen's health. She felt "poorly," something that had never happened to her in all her life before. She tried trips to warm climates, Hawaii and Southern California; neither worked. Then her doctor suggested the opposite. He sent her for a winter to Cisco, just below the Donner Pass in the deep snow country of the Sierras. That didn't really work either, but it did give her a chance to become one of the very first women skiers in California and to take many spectacular photographs she later enlarged and framed of the beautiful snow country decades before it was overwhelmed by today's hordes of ski buffs. Helen was as enthusiastic and able photographer as her father had been. For many years, she carried her heavy old Graflex with her everywhere. Many of her photographs were published in golf magazines and books, unfortunately before the day of credit lines.
Golf was her salvation. When all else failed, she slowly took it up again, and golfing restored her health. From 1923 on, she played golf most of the days of her life for the next 18 years. She was always too much of a sports woman for her own success, refusing to pull the same unnerving tricks that were played on her and others by the semi-professionals of her later golfing years. To go into her golfing career in detail would take too many pages. In her time, she won the Women's San Francisco City Championship, the Northern California Women's Championship, many, many lesser titles, and was runner-up for many more, but she played for fun, and she thought everybody else should, too.
More importantly for the game of golf itself, she started running tournaments, something she does very well, especially for her friend, Sam Morse (S.F.B. Morse), longtime "King" of Del Monte and Pebble Beach, which he developed from the old Southern Pacific land grant of the most beautiful part of the Monterey Peninsula. In 1925, she helped organize the Women's Golf Association of Northern California (WGANC) and became its long-time Secretary, using her children (who thought it was fun), to help her roll and get out monthly posters to clubs. Later, she was WGANC President, and for years, after her good friend Rachel (Mrs. Wm,) Colby gave up the golf post to help her husband make the Sierra Club work (Helen served on the WGANC Board for 16 years). Nonetheless, despairing of ever getting private club ladies to let public links players into their tournaments, Helen organized the enormously successful "Pacific Women's Golfers" to let thousands of women public players who couldn't afford to join a private club have tournaments of their own to play in. PWG, nowadays, has its annual Helen Lengfeld Day in her honor, as do half a dozen other worthwhile golf organizations she started for various good reasons many years ago.
Some years ago, she started CWAC, the California Women's Amateur Championship, because the regular such championships excluded non-private club women, and so clearly was not a real state championship. She made a few private-club enemies in the process, but CWAC is a great success at Pebble Beach, every December, with hundreds more women wanting in than can be accommodated by the ever-lowering handicap limit caused by the course limit of 100 players. To take better care of the ones who don't play well enough to get into CWAC but have supported golf for years, she recently started a championship at the easier Del Monte course every year for the over 50's (in age).
She was a longtime member of the prestigious Women's Committee of the USGA until her monthly golf magazine, her hardest chore of her entire life, supposedly spoiled her "amateur" standing. Since she's never taken a nickel for anything she's ever done in her life (quite the contrary, she's thrown a fortune into everything she's ever been involved in), there must have been some other political reason - probably her too obvious contempt for the abilities of Joe Dye, the longtime paid USGA dictator. In any case, "The National Golfer," her once successful women's golf magazine, took far too many of her nights for far too many years. At first, it helped her support her charity golf work. Later, it didn't. Her family was very glad when it was buried; editing it was an enervating chore for Mrs. L., as they all call her (because they don't believe in calling an elder of her standing "Helen").
When she reached 60, "Sports Illustrated" took a couple of pages and a full page picture to give her a "lifetime" award as "Mrs. Golf," something they have never done for anyone else. It looked as if they thought, in a kindly way, that they were capping the end of a long career with a eulogy. Little did they realize that Helen had another good 30 years ahead of her still, full of new achievements.
Perhaps her greatest achievement in women's golf, certainly the one she herself likes the best, is in her work to develop golf opportunities for junior girls just starting out. For years, no-one let junior girl golfers do anything except in school. 33 years ago, Helen started the California Junior Girls Championship at Monterey Peninsula Country Club, a private club where the tournament is still held annually (thanks to the goodness of its members) for girls under 18. It started with 12 girls from throughout the state. For many years, it has had 50-60 girls, about all there usually are who can play championship golf before 18 in this state. Over the years, many of its "graduates" have gone on to become national women's champions and even to make a successful pro career of golf (something Mrs. L isn't really too fond of even though she has supported the women's pro-golf circuit since it started and is called their "Little Mother" by most lady pros for all she has done for them).
Most incredible of all, HFL (Helen Foorman Lengfeld) has, for 33 years, fed all the junior contestants at her Pebble Beach house every night of the tournament. Her family thinks she's absolutely crazy to do it, but she says she has two very good reasons. She feels that every girl who is learning to play good golf, no matter how poor her family may be in money, must be able to afford to play in the tournament since no subsidy is permitted without losing amateur status. Helen Lengfeld 1920 Furthermore, eating is meeting; and during those long buffet dinners at the house, Helen gets the girls to organize in an association to help in their non-junior years, and lectures them gently on the on the virtues of lifelong good sportsmanship verses the evil end that comes from bad sportsmanship. (It's a wonder that the girls, and all her thousands of friends, love and adore her, but they do despite the fact that she's always pushing them to do something good and worthwhile instead of sitting around and talking and accomplishing a very pleasant nothing. If she ever had access to a room full of Mafia dons, she'd soon have some of them, at least, donating money to one of her good causes or volunteering to help out on their own time. No-one knows how she does it, but she does.)
Five years ago, some of her friends organized the Helen Lengfeld Junior Girls International Team Matches, an annual event held alternately in Canada and Pebble Beach for teams of the best junior golfers from as far away as Venezuela. It is similar in some ways to the famous Curtis Cup matches between the US and England carried on for years by Helen's Boston friend, Margaret Curtis (Longfellow's great niece) who left Helen her huge collection of pictures of women's golfing events in her will.
Now on to the other, and more demanding half of Helen's life, her traveling charity work. In a way, it really started in 1934, after a trip with Fran and Lew (her two oldest children) to the Chicago World's Fair in 1933 and back through Yellowstone. It proved to her that driving back and forth across the United States, despite the bad roads, was no real problem. For years, Helen had driven all around California to tournaments, but she didn't like to drive alone. In 1934, she discovered an kindred spirit, Barbara Beach Thompson, who had just graduated from Stanford and who played excellent championship golf. Barbara, thanks to her long-dead father's development of Federal Telegraph (later part of Mackay Radio) could well afford to travel and play golf, as could Helen. They made a congenial pair, with many of the same interests (such as antiques and golf, so traveling together was a pleasure. (Incidentally, Barbara's father, Beach Thompson, started his life in California as the owner of the San Domingo Mine in San Domingo Creek in Calaveras County not 10 miles from Sam Foorman's private ranch).
Barbara and Helen traveled extensively to eastern tournaments for 7 years and directed and played in numerous ones in California. Barbara was the better player because she took the game itself more seriously than Helen did. Barbara was also very much interested in rare books and music, two interests she shared with Helen's son, Lew. The two of them went to the opera and symphony together when Helen didn't chose to go, and eventually became partners in the start and development of Books, Inc.
The second, and most demanding half of Helen's life started in December of 1941. WE have already discussed the tournament at Beresford and the shock of Pearl Harbor on that first tee, December 7. Two days later, at cocktails after the big women's team match at the Olympic Club, some of the ladies present asked Helen (the "Great Organizer") if she could develop an organization to help during the war ahead. They felt guilty playing golf when our men were dying in battle. So Helen, on the spot, started "Women's Golfers for Defense," its nucleus the 200 women present at the team matches. But what to do to help? Helen heard of the recent involvement of Phyllis de Young Tucker (a lifelong friend and daughter of Mike de Young, founder of the Chronicle) in heading the San Francisco unit of the American Women's Voluntary Services, an organization of social ladies who were following the lead of Lady Reading and her noted war-working Women's Voluntary Services of England.
Phyllis, still involved in the confusion after Pearl Harbor, said she was sure the AWVS could use Helen's 200 golfers, but she wasn't yet sure where. She mentioned the state office of the "AWVS," also located in San Francisco, and that it was headed by Doris Ryer Nixon, an expatriate who had returned to Santa Barbara home after France's takeover buy the Nazi's and had now come to San Francisco to organize the state for the AWVS. Helen was startled. She hadn't seen Doris Ryer since they went to school together 30 years before in San Mateo. She headed off for the Fairmont Hotel where Ben Swig had given Doris half the central rotunda for her office. Helen and Doris hit it off together instantly. Helen became Doris's chief assistant, ultimately first vice-president of the AWVS of California, and eventually its president after Doris's untimely death from cancer.
Helen and Barbara decided to become teachers of Civilian Protection, taking advanced classes put on by the offices of Chemical Warfare Service. With a car full of equipment, they taught classes in school auditoriums all over California, crawling on the floor in their AWVS uniforms to show how to douse magnesium bombs, demonstrating how to put out fires and how to protect oneself from bomb attacks like those in England, etc. Fortunately, none of the techniques ever had to be put to use, but 1942 was a time of great fear of attack. Even horrible nights like the one in Fresno high up on a broiling hot stage teaching 5000 over heated (it was 117 degrees outside) people how to protect themselves, was worth the effort.
By 1943, Helen and Barbara had mastered all the many things the AWVS could do to help with the war effort. With help from a grateful government in the form of an unlimited gas allowance, they began to tour the U.S. to set up AWVS units everywhere. By this time, they were the official National Field Representatives of the AWVS and the pride and joy of Alice McLean, its national founder-president. More than 200 units were set up all over the country by Helen. They did such things as service clubs in hospitals (where USO didn't go); officer's clubs in cities without bases; "homes away from homes" (rented store buildings where hordes of service men could be entertained wholesomely on otherwise dull evenings); daycare centers for the children of working service mothers; and many, many more service connected good works, even to emergency truck driving, ambulance driving and harvesting. Helen got some of her golf course friends and pros to grade and build short golf courses for the recreational recovery of patients in military hospitals. A wall covered with framed Awards of Merit are her only record of 5 years of hard and constant work and travel.
And then the war was over. What a shame to let an organization of 400,000 good-hearted women dwindle away when there was so much that needed to be done in peacetime. Others let it all go. Helen wouldn't. By good fortunate accident, Lew, in his capacity as Efficiency Coordinator for the Western U.S. Civil Service Region, had recently surveyed the Menlo Park Veterans' Hospital (the old Base Hospital in which his father had served 27 years before). That weekend he had come home and couldn't resist reporting to Helen and his Dad the incredible conditions of neglect and inefficiency he had found there- the worst by far of any of the series of government installations he had surveyed and helped to improve. He suggested to Helen that she go there and see if the AWVS could help, as they were doing in so many military hospitals that had previously only had the rigidly limited services of the Red Cross. She and Doris went, only to be told by Dr. Donnelly, the director, that "nothing" was needed. As they toured the hospital briefly, they saw the horrors of locked wards and chain-gang repression all around them, but they could do nothing.
Fortunately a few weeks later, the President of the US appointed General Omar Bradley as the Veteran's Administrator to clean up one of the worst managed and outdated agencies of the Federal government and prepare the hospitals to receive the huge new influx of battle-wounded veterans from WWII. One of his first acts was to open the hospitals to volunteers, following the advice of Karl Menninger that contact with outsiders helped to break the shell of failure that kept many men, especially mental patients, from recovering and wanting to go back out into the world. Another of Bradley's early acts was to send his friend, one-armed war hero General Waldron, out to Menlo Park to replace Donnelley and clean up the mess - to turn a jail for mental patients back into a hospital for their recovery. One of Waldron's first acts was to welcome the AWVS and to turn over a large Quonset hut in the center of the hospital grounds to them to be a service center where volunteers could entertain and talk with patients in the afternoons to help speed their recovery.
So began Helen's chief contribution to the welfare of her country, as well as the constant everyday workload that has tied down all the rest of her long life. In 1942, she had been instrumental in renting a store on El Camino Real in downtown Menlo Park and setting up and active AWVS unit to staff it day and night as a service club, a place of entertainment for some of the thousand if ambulatory patients and staff of the Army's huge Dibble General Hospital (now Stanford Research Institute) nearby. She needed someone who had free time to run it - and found her, forcefully, Her old golf friend, Kay Stern had just lost her beloved only son, Howard, in one of the tragic freak accidents of the early days of the war. Kay had retied to her bed and was preparing to give up her own life in despair. Helen went to her house, said hello, and then said firmly, "Kay, get out of bed and come down with me to the Menlo Club. Those injured boys need you." Kay did, and 20 years later, she was still serving every day, running the service club at Menlo VA, where she eventually racked up 40,000 service hours before she died, an all time record, except for Helen who has never counted her voluntary hours because they never end.
When the war ended, Dibble was to be closed. The purpose of the service club on El Camino had come to an end, but the VA Hospital needed the same help and had a place to put it. So, Helen called a meeting of all the Menlo AWVS volunteers. She audibly told Kay to lock the door, and then announced that the club was closing but that the VA Hospital just down Willow Road needed the exact same thing on a permanent basis. She admitted that it was a "Mental" hospital (a dreaded phrases she often had to counteract in the years to come) but said that the patients they would work with were non violent and merely needed to be brought out of their mental shells and back into the real world. She asked that everyone there come over to the VA Quonset the next day and start decorating it. Almost everyone agreed to come.
Today, 35 years later and now in its own little house, the "Haven" (as the patients named it because that's what they said it was to them) is still the model for dozens of Helen's imitations of it in VA Hospitals throughout the country. Hundreds of its afternoon and evening patient visitors have been encouraged by the contact with the volunteers to come out of their self-imposed mental prisons and get back into the world. Many, many of them have found outside jobs. Everyone loves the program, especially the volunteers whose life work it quickly becomes.
The "Havens" are only one of Helen's programs in the VA. With the help of her thousands of friends in all walks of golf, she invented and developed the "Swing Club," a golf program, either indoors or out, to help patients in Army & VA hospitals to have healthy recreation with volunteer companionship. At its height, there were more than 60 of these Swing Clubs in the 180 VA Hospitals, but the taking of outdoor space for parking and buildings has cut the present number down to just under 50. Other of Helen's programs in the VA are legend: escort service for patient's families and nurseries for their children when they visit; information desks; shopping and letter writing services for the patients; parties and entertainment of all kinds; escorts and trips outside the hospital; stamp clubs in 23 hospitals; and on and on.
So Helen Lengfeld has become "Little Mother" to the entire Veteran's Administration. Every Administrator from General Bradley on has called on her for advice or visited her home in Hillsborough to consult with her, as have dozens of members of the top VA staff in Washington DC. Top VA people who retire form the service at 65 or 62 then join Helen's organization and work as volunteers in the hospitals part-time for the rest of their lives. They see that the veteran affiliated groups serve only occasionally in the hospitals because those hospitals are part of their duty to their members. But Helen's group gave 1,000,000 man-hours a year are given by non-veterans who are filing a need from the goodness of their hearts. There is a real and obvious difference in spirit as in deed.
Helen was asked to join the national Veterans Administration Voluntary Services Committee when it started 35 years ago. She has attended every annual meeting but one ever since. For years, she has been on it Executive Committee and has been active in planning its annual meetings, including this year's 35th anniversary meeting next month at which she, at 82, will be the last surviving active original member present.
"Active" is the right word, too. For years, Helen and Barbara crisscrossed the nation visiting Veteran's Hospitals and planning activities in them (not all of which workout, of course. Many programs die when hospital executives who supported them are transferred away.). When Barbara died in 1965, Lew tried to fill in the gap but couldn't spare the time. So, 1966 was Helen's last big national trip to the hospitals. She and Lew took 2 months and 12,000 miles to cover 65 hospitals, including the only 4 she hadn't yet visited. When they reached Miles City in bleak eastern Montana after a detour of 600 miles to avoid a late snow, Helen had at last been to every one of the 180 Veterans' Hospitals (plus 20 more that had been closed since she had been to them years before), a record unmatched by anyone inside or outside the VA. And, she did it as a volunteer, on her own time and money. AS she says, she doesn't want to ask any volunteer to get involved in any hospital she hasn't seen and evaluated. Today she no longer travels the nation by car, but her phone rings 4 to 7 times a day with VA calls from all over the country. She's apt to make just as many VA calls herself.
No longer is it the AWVS, nor has it been for many, many years. After WWII , Helen kept the AWVS alive almost single-handed. Her good friend, Alice McLean, the founder, was pushed out as President shortly after a great meeting of the world's leading ladies, from Madame Pendit and Evita Peron to Eleanor Roosevelt, that she organized at her place in the Catskills with Helen and Barbara's constant help. Although Helen was National Field Director and National First Vice-President, the handful of no-longer-active social ladies of New York City controlled the AWVS absolutely through a provision in its By-Laws that 30 of the 40 members of its national board must live within 40 miles of NYC. The active volunteers in the 160 units that Helen has organized and kept going throughout the land, resented the do-nothing domination of the New York handful of non-workers. As the years lengthened, the resentment grew.
Finally, in 1950, the 10 "outside" members and the bulk of the 160 units decided to force the issue. More than 8-0 of them got together by phone and agreed to give their proxies to Helen instead of to the New Yorkers with the idea that she could use them to redress the 30-10 imbalance and to elect more "outside" Board members who were concerned with furthering the work of the AWVS.
The annual meeting of the National AWVS for 1953 convened, as always, in New York, in a spirit of cold hostility. The New Yorkers had been forewarned and were ready to preserve their prestigious position. They accepted Helen's valid 81 proxies, then tore them up right in front of her face and threw them in the wastebasket, voting their 53 instead. When the "outsiders" tried to speak, they were shouted down by a claque of black, non-members from Brooklyn who had been hired for the purpose. Helen, who had never once been thanked for devoting the 12 longs years and the million dollars or more of her own money to building the AWVS nationally, had to sit and hear herself castigated for promoting her own position and profit (nonsense, of course).
There was no other solution. Even though it meant that New York, by a provision in the By-Laws, would take all their painfully accumulated operating funds, the rest of the country walked out in a body (except for one old lady from Nevada who for years had been too deaf to hear the proceedings but who came back to the meeting anyway). They went back to Helen's hotel suite, where some non-Board members were waiting to hear what had happened. Barbara was so angry at the injustice of it all that she couldn't even talk, but Helen told the group what had happened. She said that the good work must go on, and that the only way was to form its own organization.
So the United Voluntary Services was born, 27 years ago, It was open to both men and women, and was dedicated to voluntary services, with very low dues structure and a severe limitation on paid help. It was not as social as the old AWVS, but it got the work done. Its motto came from General Bradley, who several years before had told Helen that he thought her mission should be to "Build a Bridge of Service: between the hospitals and the community.
Although 154 of the 160 AWVS units transferred over as a whole or in part to the UVS, the way was not easy. Money for programs was a real program. In 1956, Louis Lengfeld suffered a massive stroke and died. Inheritance taxes played havoc with his estate, and free spending for the UVS was no longer easy. For awhile, the National Golfer helped. Then it didn't; too much new competition. Then Barbara died in 1965, leaving her money to Stanford in an old will that that she had never thought to change in her long last years of suffering from diabetes. Gone was another source of gifts and support. Lew attended his first National UVS meeting in Albany, NY, that year and was horrified to find that the UVS was more than $90,000 in debt to the bank at 13% interest, all guaranteed by Helen, of course. Something had to be done.
A new UVS headquarters was opened on Second Avenue in San Mateo, replacing the old house on Tilton that had served for years. Part of the new space was named the "Treasure House," and featured many of Helen and Barbara's antiques to be sold to keep the UVS going. That worked for awhile. (Helen had previously tried a bar and restaurant in the family's Casa Mateo Inn motel on Bayshore Blvd. in San Mateo, to the horror of her mother who died soon thereafter. The heavy hands of the bartenders and the taking ways of the restaurant manager, who supplied his own restaurant in Modesto with food from the Casa storeroom at 2-3AM made certain that Helen lost money instead of making it for the UVS.)
After a year of two of Treasure House operation, the work became less exciting; so the ladies decided to exhibit in a Burlingame church antique show at the Hyatt House….40 dealers including the UVS. Having had 3 days of it, Helen decided she could put on a better show. So, the Hillsborough Antiques Show, now world famous, was born in the basement of the Villa Hotel in April, 1968 with 23 dealers. It was a fair success, and made a little money with a great deal of effort on the part of Helen and Lew. With very little more effort, said Lew, we could put on a much bigger show and make some real money for UVS.
The November 1968 show was moved to the A Building of the San Mateo Fairgrounds where 65 dealers could be accommodated, and Helen and Lew started a 3 year trek up and down the coast to secure dealers worth inviting to do the major show that Hillsborough soon became. By the end of three years, with Helen talking people into it and Lew managing the business end and the show itself while Helen oversaw the restaurant, the Hillsborough Antique show, with 221 dealers, had become by far the largest antique show in the West; the largest charity show in the world.
In 5 years, the Show cleared the UVS bank debt. Since then, it has supported all UVS national activities. The 27th Show this November has a waiting list of over 1050 dealers wanting to be in who can't be fit in. The show is now known worldwide, with dealers coming to do it from Europe and the Orient to buy, and collectors streaming to it at the level of 40,000 (May 1) to 60,000 (January) from all over the United States. Lew complains that the paperwork takes all his weekends. Helen complains that the calls to get in constantly interrupt her days. But both are happy that the Show adequately supports the good work of the UVS. Helen also puts on 2 little shows every year, one of 80 dealers that supports the superb program for the Monterey UVS Unit, and one of 45 dealers in Solvang that does the same for the Santa Ynez Valley.
The community service activities of the UVS have grown and grown over years. First, a series of programs for retarded children; then dental care for the children of the poor; service work at military bases; help for Korean orphanages; and on and on and on. Helen still presides over the annual meetings, including the last one in Puerto Rico, and pushes everyone to do more. Her telephone rings all day long with problems, requests, and questions. She finds a solution to them all.
Her 80th birthday party two years ago at the Peninsula Golf and Country Club was happily attended by more than 600 of her friends who badly overtaxed the huge parking facilities at the Club for one of the few times in its long history.
So much for some of the story of Helen Foorman Lengfeld. There is a lot more we have left out- and undoubtedly, a lot more to come- but this fragment is already far longer than we intended it to be.
(note by Dede: not mentioned was birth of 2nd daughter, Kathleen (Kay) Margaret Lengfeld, b 14 July, 1927)