Ada Florence White Mann Curtis
Updated: Sep 17, 2020
Hi, thank you for checking out our new blog, Folsom Unveiled. My name is Kaitlyn Scott and I’m Folsom Historical Society’s historian. Each week I will be highlighting a different topic related to Folsom’s history that not everyone knows about by diving deeper into a place, event, person or piece in our collection.
People ask the question “what 5 people living, or dead would you invite to your dinner table?” I think the woman I am about to introduce you to would have to be one of my 5 because of her individuality and penchant for life. I would have loved to meet her, ask her about her adventures and find out what it was like to be so different from the other women of her time. I honestly wish I could be more like her. My other 4 would probably be Akhenaten, Abraham Lincoln, Cleopatra and Christian Bale, in case you’re curious but this list honestly changes daily because I have no clue how I would really limit myself to just 5 out of the hundreds of interesting people who have lived. Without further ado, let’s start with this week’s dive into Folsom’s history.
Ada Florence White Mann Curtis, or Florence as I will call her for the rest of this blog for our sanity and because she preferred it, was one of the most interesting women to live in Folsom. Born on June 19th, 1882 in Summit, Illinois, Florence’s brother James had asthma, so the family moved to Arizona for a dryer climate and then to Southern California. Once in California, Florence went to San Diego for her education and became an entertainer at the Hotel Del Coronado and played piano for silent films. Her independent streak would continue throughout the rest of her life.
During her time in San Diego, she also had a dance and music act with her brother, James White and was a member of an all-girl band. In 1905 at the age of 23 she had her son Elmer Thayer Mann and married his father, Frank Mann, the following year. The couple made their home in Los Angeles but divorced four years later and she married Homer Curtis in 1911.
Florence and Homer had their first child together in 1912, a son, Earl Don Curtis and later a daughter, Marian Eleanor. Florence’s oldest son, Elmer or “Al” as he was better known, stayed in Los Angeles with his father when Florence and Homer moved away. They eventually settled in Sacramento and Homer ran the Cascade Laundry Service. However, Florence did not seem to ever settle down completely and soon moved to Folsom in 1926 and opened the Golden Glo restaurant on Sutter Street.
During the Summer, Earl and Marian lived with their mother in Folsom and worked at the Golden Glo and the rest of the year lived with their father in Sacramento at their home on San Francisco Boulevard. The restaurant also doubled as a bus stop and ice cream parlor with rooms above it that Florence rented out. In 1934, the restaurant burned down taking most of Florence’s belongings with it. Not one to be discouraged, Florence reopened the following year at a new location on Sutter Street and purchased property on Natoma Street, her home was at 507 Natoma while she rented out other properties next door.
Florence sold the Golden Glo in 1946 to the Horn family but remained in Folsom, tending a vegetable garden and raising chickens. She was part of the Aircraft Warning Service during WWII and a member of the Rebekah’s and Order of the Eastern Star.
Although she was now retired, Florence did not slow down. After the death of her husband in 1952, Florence purchased a travel trailer she called “Rosie” and visited everywhere she could such as Canada, Mexico and the Grand Canyon with her driver, Francis Relvas. She studied the Esperanto language (a constructed language created to encourage unity) and traveled to Esperanto conferences throughout the country and learned Braille as her eyesight declined. Florence lived to be 100 years old and passed away in November of 1982.
So why is her life so amazing? Florence was born in 1882 and was married with children before women were even allowed to vote in the United States. Think about that for a moment. She was on her own, supporting herself as an entertainer while most women had limited options besides being housewives and mothers. To be very clear, there is nothing wrong with that, women can be anything they want but Florence made choices for herself at a time when women often were unable to. She took control of her own life, went to school, worked for herself and continued to be independent until her death. She didn’t live by the rules set out for her; she made her own and I think that is very brave. Everything she did seemed to go against the norm. She had a child without being married, she got a divorce, she ran her own business, owned her own properties and traveled wherever she wanted. By the end of her life she had done more than most women or men could ever dream of, and I think that makes her life worthy of remembering.