San Miguel Island: My Childhood Memoir REVIEW

by Phila Rogers March 06, 2014

This incredible historical memoir San Miguel Island: My Childhood Memoir 1930-1942 tells the story of Betsy Lester Roberti's childhood on desolate San Miguel Island, the westernmost of the Channel Islands. The memoir was published in 2008 by the Santa Cruz Island Foundation. Betsy loved the island— its sea mammals, challenging weather, and all the treasures that were discovered in the sands or washed ashore. She writes vividly about the sights, smells and routines of her daily existence, all enhanced by priceless vintage images of the family incorporated throughout the book.

San Miguel Island is one of the Channel Islands, lying about 20 miles offshore of the California coast.  The islands, most of which are now part of the Channel Islands National Park, provide an extra dimension of magic to the Santa Barbara coastline. The northernmost Island, San Miguel Island lies just south of Point Conception and is visible on only the clearest days.  The approach is challenging as you beat your way up the channel against the daunting northwest winds.

Betsy's parents moved to San Miguel in 1930 to raise sheep before she was born. Unlike earlier occupants of the island who suffered from the isolation and the harsh weather, the Lesters thrived until the Navy took over the island in 1942. Rather than leave his island home, Lester shot and killed himself.  The mother and the two girls returned to Santa Barbara to live, returning to the island only for brief visits.

Her mother, Elizabeth, wrote an earlier book in 1973 about their adventures called The Legendary King of San Miguel also available in the shop. For lovers of history, this pair of memoirs is a treasure.



Phila Rogers
Phila Rogers

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