By Diane Y. Welch
Times have changed dramatically in the world of the written word. With the global reach of blogs and social media, everyone, it seems, is a writer.
For Rancho Santa Fe resident and longtime professional wordsmith Ruth Giffin Godley, 94, these changes have not fazed a lifelong career using her literary talent.
Taking advantage of modern self-publishing tools, Godley has documented her personal odyssey in a book that retells stories of her life and career as a freelance writer.
Godley compiled her memoir, “Life, What Have You Got for Me Today?: 88 Years of Adventure at Home and Abroad” in partnership with her daughter, Janice Giffin, who edited the book and provided its foreword.
The adventure starts with the first story titled, “The Ten Pound Tootsie Roll.” Born in Lawrence, Mass., 10-year-old Ruthie Drosos — as Godley was known then — won a prize of a gigantic Tootsie Roll from the local pharmacy. Neighbors were invited to enjoy a slice of the sticky candy: “Even Grandma and Grandpa Shufelt took out their false teeth to enjoy some,” wrote Godley.
The tale is one of many memories that Godley recalls about her childhood, growing up in the small New England community with her mother and her grandparents but no father, which was a mystery that she lived with most of her life. That mystery is solved and retold in the last story of the book, “Back to Beginnings: My Kalomira Family.”
After a rocky beginning in 1937, writing an unproofed newspaper advertisement for silk hosiery, Godley started on her career path in promotions. As a young woman, she had attended the Leland Powers School of the Theatre in Massachusetts, where she honed the chatty skills for radio advertising, a talent that would ultimately have her talking her way into the glamorous world of television and travel.
Tired of the harsh East Coast winters, Godley’s then-husband, Ralph Giffin, decided to move to California in 1953.
“I despised it,” said Godley of San Diego. The family – five children (which later became six) and the dog — moved into a small apartment off El Cajon Blvd. “Everything seemed hopelessly wrong!” she said.
A house-hunting trip to Lemon Grove had Godley lost and the car running out of gas. The navigational error had a silver lining, as she landed in Rancho Santa Fe and immediately “fell in love with it.” She impulse-bought an acre of land for $2,750.
Godley’s adventures soon took wing. She starred in television commercials, became public relations director for the fledgling community of Rancho Bernardo, and founded Rancho Santa Fe Living Magazine in 1964.
Her fate was sealed when a representative from British Airways asked her whether she was interested in a weekend flight to England. It was 1971, and BOAC’s (British Overseas Airways Corporation) inaugural flight from Los Angeles to London was being promoted. It would turn into Godley’s inaugural travel assignment, as the trip represented the first of many adventures that would take her around the world as a travel writer for the magazine. “I had arrived!” she said.
In later years, she would fly on the Concorde, attend the wedding of Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson, and visit far-flung destinations such as Korea, India, Moscow and more, “without spending a dime.”
An easy read of 55 humorous short stories, organized in four parts, the book takes the reader along on Godley’s life journey, which spans many generations. She compiled the book now “to make a statement,” said Godley, who will be 95 this October and whose Chit Chat column used to run in this newspaper. She wants her stories to be preserved for future generations and for others to enjoy.
The book is available from Amazon.com as ebook or paperback. There will be a local author display of the book at the Rancho Santa Fe Library and an author’s talk with Janice Giffin soon. Check the library event schedule for date and time.