Our Hometown Stories: Barbara S. Cochran: English Rose
By Rachel Singer
In September 2008, my girlfriend Belinda and I traveled for a week through England on a "Tudor Tour." We are Anglophiles who love everything English, from the countryside to the history. It is no secret that we are certain in a previous life we walked the dark palace hallways with Henry VIII, his legions of admirers and of course his doomed wives....
Hearing a British accent transports me back to that glorious week of breathtaking castles, mystical pub gardens, and cathedrals filled with dust mites and ghosts.
KHTS AM-1220 has their own English Rose in the guise of "Senior Hour" host Barbara S. Cochran. It was certainly fitting that Barbara and I sat down for a chat, a cup of tea and a scone at "The Tea Garden."
What a storied life she has led. It is my great pleasure to give you this Hometown Story filled with history, drama, humor and tragedy. Thank you Barbara for a most lovely afternoon.
On October 16, 1936, Barbara Scott was born a "cockney". You were considered a "cockney" if you were born in London within earshot of the pealing bells of St. Mary Le-Bow Church. "Cockney" refers to an area in London's East End and a distinctive dialect where the letter "h" is dropped in most words...."Ip Ip Ooray Guvnor"!
The Scott family hailed from London, England and included Barbara's parents, Reginald and Lily and younger brother David.
Patriarch, Reginald Percy Scott was the personal valet to King Edward VIII, the only King in the British monarchy to abdicate the crown. He willingly gave up his legacy in order to marry his true love, American divorcee, Wallis Simpson.
Reginald Scott, in his later years, recalled to Barbara, a time when he walked King Edward VIII's young niece Elizabeth through the palace gardens. He could not have foreseen the small girl would one-day reign over the British kingdom as Queen Elizabeth II.
While in the palace employ, the Scott's lived in London at Charterhouse, a vast complex of buildings, which included grand banquet halls for visiting dignitaries, offices and employee housing.
Gracing a wall in Barbara's home is a piece of history. Her father captured in sepia tones dressed in his royal finery. The lavish Charterhouse reception photograph shows Reginald Scott standing formally in attendance behind the King of England.
Barbara's youngest memory involves sirens, bombing raids and the safety of her father's shoulders:
During Hitler's "Blitz" of London in the early 40s, daily bombing campaigns were thrown at the city residents. Barbara recalled a frightful evening;
"There was a very long outdoor corridor leading to our home. When my father returned from work, I ran to greet him. As he approached, the sirens began blaring and I jumped terrified into an alcove. I heard my father's footsteps and cough. I peered out and he grabbed me, put me on his shoulders and we ran to the safety of our home."
Once King Edward VIII abdicated, Reginald Scott joined the Royal Navy and moved his family away from London to the small town of Welling. Sadly for Lily Scott, the move and her husband's naval career meant there were extended periods of time when "Reg" was absent from their home.
Though not subjected to the continuous bombing raids in London, the Scott home was still equipped with both outdoor and indoor bomb shelters. Barbara shared a childhood recollection; "I carried a gas mask to school on my back like children today wear a backpack."
The relative serenity of Welling was shattered one afternoon when a "buzz bomb" (so named for the buzzing sound created while they sailed through the sky) glided over their neighborhood chimney tops and exploded only blocks away!
"The metal shrapnel rained down on our homes and the violent impact of the bomb produced a crater that looked like the top of a volcano," Barbara recalled vividly.
Children are resilient, which was affirmed when Barbara sang to me a childhood nursery rhyme that begins, "Shoot those buzz bombs down boys, Shoot those buzz bombs down!" Apparently when you are living through a war, "Mary had a Little Lamb" doesn't quite cut it.
While in the service of the Royal Navy, Reginald Scott was the attaché to Winston Churchill. He accompanied Churchill in February 1945 to the Yalta Conference in Crimea, Russia where the English Prime Minister met with Stalin and FDR to discuss and assess post-war Germany.
May 8, 1945 was VE Day and signified an end to World War II in Europe. It also signified big changes for the Scott family.
Traveling on a Pan American airliner in 1947, they left England for a new life in the United States. To 10-year-old Barbara, the move was a marvelous adventure. To her petrified mother, who stated adamantly, "I am not flying!" the 18-hour airport delay and subsequent flight was traumatic.
"I don't think she ever forgave my dad," Barbara noted.
After a brief time in South Carolina, the Scotts settled in North Carolina where Reginald worked as a manager in various Country Clubs throughout the state. Barbara explained, "I went to 12 schools in 12 years."
The Santa Clarita Valley became home in 1968 when Barbara's first husband Joe Stearns was transferred from North Carolina to California.
The Stearns rented a home in Newhall and three years later they were rudely introduced to a familiar California phenomenon, the earthquake!
The 71' Sylmar Quake rattled and shook Santa Clarita. Barbara and Joe were able to purchase a neighboring home which had been earthquake damaged for only $1000 down and payments of $171 per month!
Though Barbara and Joe separated in 1973, she retained the home and lives there today with her wonderful second husband Russ.
Barbara is the proud mother to three children. Her eldest, Dee Dee found her calling at a young age and is an interpreter for the deaf.
Scott Stearns is an entrepreneur in the Antelope Valley and runs his own T-shirt screening business.
Scott and Dee Dee have blessed Barbara with six grandchildren and she is anticipating the birth of her first great-grandchild in early 2010!
Tragically, Barbara lost her oldest son Charles Nathaniel (Chuck) in 1985 when he contracted AIDS from a blood transfusion. Chuck was the wild child who lived life to the fullest and lived it always on the edge.
Chuck raced motorcycles and was darn good at it. He was the first American to compete in the Paris Dakar Desert Rally. One of the most difficult grueling rallies in the world, it encompassed 8700 miles from the Eifel Tower in Paris to Dakar on the west coast of Africa. Chuck placed 7th overall.
Three years before this momentous race, Chuck suffered a shoulder injury that required minor surgery and a blood transfusion. In the early 80's, donated blood was not screened for the HIV/AIDS virus and he was given tainted blood. After an exhaustive battle that he fought with his mother by his side, Chuck passed away.
"He lived more in his 26 years than most people do in a lifetime," Barbara smiled.
The 1970's were a time of cultural change. Always looking to make a difference, Barbara breathed life back into the defunct SCV hotline, "Hotline We Care." Partnering with her friend Gloria Hillard, the two helped countless residents of the SCV with their calming words and professional referrals. This selfless endeavor was a labor of love and trained volunteers had calls funneled into their homes 24/7.
It must have been Karma that brought Russ Cochran, a Principal in the Saugus School District, headlong into her path. They collaborated on a proposal to fund a clinic for drug abusers and after a first date at TIP'S, the two were an item. "I knew he was the man for me," she said.
After a whirlwind courtship of 23 years, Barbara and Russ Cochran decided it was time to tie the knot. The crazy kids eloped in 1996 at the Little Church of the West in Las Vegas with two of their close friends in attendance.
Since retiring in 1998 from the independent typing service that she successfully ran out of her house, Barbara has not sat idly by. Her son's death was a turning point that led her to re-evaluate her priorities. She discovered that truly "living" life is what is important.
Each year Barbara and Russ take a grand overseas adventure. In addition to the colorful stamps added to their passports, the two add an abundance of laugh lines, memories and the sheer joy of a shared experience.
Barbara's love affair with the Santa Clarita Valley is certainly a reciprocal one. This community that she has given so much to, has responded in kind with naming her Santa Clarita Woman of the Year; Volunteer of the Year and Zontian of the Year.
Zonta is especially near and dear to Barbara's heart. She told me a story of genuine kindness.
"In 1985, after my son died, I pledged money to the Boys & Girls Club in Chuck's name. I found out that the Zonta Club had pledged $500 in Chuck's name also. The amazing thing was that I knew nothing about Zonta at the time and they didn't know me. I couldn't believe a club of women would do something so good. I joined Zonta in January 1986."
Barbara is 73 years old, blonde, beautiful and "fit as a fiddle" thanks to swimming, Pilates, golf and Curves. She is a master crafter and lucky friends and her favorite charities are often recipients of her baskets of homemade soy candles.
Quite the chameleon, this elegant lady pulls on a helmet and effortlessly slips into the persona of a "motorcycle mama" who enjoys nothing more than a two-wheeled road trip with Russ.
I ended our visit with a simple question, to which Barbara responded; "I love my husband, my family, my life and my community."
The feeling is mutual.