We have several possibilities for the identity of 2nd grader Walter Rianda: One – He is son of Lizzie and Louis Rianda, the swiss dairy farmer. Two – He is son of Lena Kerns who may or may not be from Switzerland. Three – He is Walter “Gamba” Rianda the machine & forge works owner/councilman. Four – he is all of the above.
The curse of the “all of the above” option! The challenge is there are bits of evidence around for a Walter Rianda in Gonzales, Monterey county, California but none that tie one man together. Then again, what are the odds that there were that many Walter Riandas of the same or similar age in one place?
Let’s start with some definite dates. The most information is know about Walter A. “Gamba” Rianda from his obituary. He was born in 1915, died in 2003 and (an important clue) a member of the Swiss-American club. That certainly puts him at the right age to be a second grader at Gonzales Grammar School in 1923 (see adorable photo above.)
Next we’ll go chronologically:
1920: Walter Rianda born about 1911 lived in Gonzales with Lizzie Rianda (a 36 year old widow, with Swiss parents) and 7 siblings.
1928: In nearby Salinas, Monterey county a Walter Rianda works as a sausage maker. Three other Rianda’s listed next to him, relation unknown. Age unknown. (Would Walter be too young to be working away from home?)
1930: Walter A. Rianda born about 1916 lived with mom Lena Kerns and step-dad Adolf in Gonzales in 1930. Lena’s dad and husband Adolf are both listed as being from Switzerland. There are no siblings listed.
1928-1938 CA Voter Lists: Walter A. Rianda, a blacksmith of Gonzales, was a registered Republican.
1940: Walter Rianda, born in 1915 lived in Gonzales with wife Gwendolin. He’s a blacksmith, she’s a stenographer.
It’s possible that all of these are one person, just not provable (yet.) Walter from 1920 could have a wrong brith year (common); Mom Lizzie may have remarried another Swiss and then went by Lena. Other Rianda’s, possibly relatives, lived in the area including next door to Lizzie and Louis in 1910. One issue is that Walter “Gamba” was married to a Katherine, not Gwendolin – but maybe Gwendolin died early, divorced, who knows.
Wether a son of Lizzie and Louis or Lena and Adolf (or both), I hope 8 year old Walter finds some descendants!
The family story goes that Grandpa Walt and his first wife were drinking buddies with Katherine and her first husband. Walt and Kay divorced their spouses, married each other and lived happily ever after (sober for grandpa, and many Bloody Mary’s for grandma :)