Most of Abe Beckman’s career was devoted to the industry of dry cleaning. An odd beginning to an art career, you may think, but there were numerous branches of interest defining this man’s life.
Abe and his wife, Edith, owned and operated a well respected dry cleaning business in Menlo Park, California, after having sold their dry cleaning store in the Marina in San Francisco. Named after their eldest of two daughters, “Arlene’s” remains on Chestnut Street and continues to dry clean San Franciscans’ clothes. In its heyday, Arlene’s—backed by Abe’s dry cleaning prowess—was one of the few trusted dry cleaners contracted by the big Union Square department stores to clean their most expensive and fragile gowns.
While dry cleaning doesn’t sound like an exciting career, Abe was one of those people who sucked the marrow out of life.
Abe’s Adventurous Spirit
Based on the number of people who regularly asked Abe if he was a movie star because of his handsome face, his beautiful wavy hair and his sparkling, easy smile, it was apropos that this patriarch was born in Los Angeles before moving to the San Francisco Bay Area.
The gregarious Abe had a positive outlook on life while exuding an adventurous spirit. At a young age, he earned his pilot’s license—one of the first produced by the government and signed by Orville Wright. Abe was a pilot from the “fly by the seat of your pants” generation, but eventually, he began flying with the Marin County Sheriff’s Air Patrol.
When this pilot wasn’t flying, he was sailing on his boat out in San Francisco Bay or picnicking with his family during weekly outings. Arlene recalls, whenever the family went out on those picnics, they would bring along drawing materials…a humble start to Abe’s art career.
Drawing and painting became a life-long interest of Abe’s, and he remained self-taught until he retired from his business and enrolled at the Academy of Art in San Francisco.
It was there that he switched from 2-dimensional surfaces to sculpturing in clay, wax, bronze, wood and stone. It was also during that time when he converted a Toyota into his own electric car: one of the first of its kind. Menlo Park folk would wonder at the silent car he drove through town.
The consistent fostering of creativity rubbed off on Arlene who developed her award-winning skills in drawing and painting, but her creative spirit didn’t stop there.
Growing up around Abe and Arlene meant there always was an art project being worked on, or museums to visit. Long before there were designated art classes for children, Arlene regularly shared artistic projects with her children. And while her children grew up dreading yet another museum to visit, as adults, they look back on the experience and education with gratitude.
“Mom always had an art project for me and my sisters,” says Joelle. “And then when we would visit our grandparents, grandpa couldn’t wait to show us his latest sculpture. We thought that was what all families did.”
Additionally, because Arlene had her own business (Mop Tops) selling designs for children’s rooms (at a time when nobody else was focused on such an endeavor), part of her business included selling her designs at art fairs throughout the Bay Area and beyond. Indeed, her business was so successful, her income paid for her husband to return to school at Hastings University and become an attorney.
Starting from a young age, Joelle and Michelle began exploring their own artistic abilities, leading to honed strengths. Moreover, Michelle adds singing, music, acting and writing to her credentials, while Joelle has focused on her writing, starting in television news before earning her master’s in journalism from Stanford University and becoming a newspaper reporter and author. Currently, Michelle is studying toward her master’s from Georgia Tech University and is considering continuing on toward her doctorate.
Now, it’s time for the latest generation to expand the artistic legacy of this family. Just as Joelle was surrounded by art while growing up in the Linder household, Jesse and his sister have been influenced by art. Jesse’s path has taken him toward drawing, animation and video, while his sister enjoys drawing and singing.
It’s art that makes life beautiful. You’ll have to wait and see how the next generation, G5, interprets that adage to carry on the family’s artistic penchant.
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