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Lessons from Odd Jobs: P.S. - The Wonders of the Internet

By Mark D. Roberts | Friday, April 11, 2008

Yesterday I put up a story about the strangest job I ever had: trimming the grave marker of my boss, Mrs. Bivans. Today I want to jump off from that story to marvel on the wonders of the Internet.

I don’t remember much about Mrs. Bivans. I know her last name. I know that she lived in a giant house on Cleveland Rd. in Glendale, California. I know that her husband was buried in a nearby cemetery, and that he was a successful businessman . That’s all I remember.

Just for fun, I thought I’d try to see if I could learn anything about Mrs. Bivans from the Internet. I Googled on “Bivans Glendale.” 519 links appeared. The first was for the Bivans Corporation, which is the company founded by Mrs. Bivans’s husband (or, at least, by one of his relatives).

The next link was to, a website that lists patents. According to this link, Elbert L. Bivans invented an “Accumulator for Cartoning Machine” and had it patented in 1970. I was not sure whether this man was Mrs. Bivans’s husband or some other Bivans relative.

The rest of the “Bivans Glendale” links didn’t seem especially helpful, so I decided to try and find Mrs. Bivans’s house on Google maps. Using the Satellite function, I scanned the homes in the area where Mrs. Bivans lived. I’m almost sure I found her home, though I can’t be positive. I did find a house on Cleveland Rd. that has a pool and tennis court in the locations I remember, more or less. Then I summoned up Google Earth, which allowed me to zoom in on the property and get its precise coordinates. It looks like the property has not been kept up since I was last there in 1974. The pool appears to be empty and the tennis court, no longer with stripes, is cracked and aged.

While looking for Mrs. Bivans’s house on Google maps, I noticed that Grand View Memorial Park was right around the corner. Surely that was the cemetery where Mrs. Bivans’s husband was buried. Googling on “grand view memorial park,” I was surprised to find several web entries, including one called “Grand View Memorial Park (dot) Info.” This site describes itself as: “A source guide for news and information about Glendale CA’s oldest, and currently troubled, cemetery.” Well, it turns out that what bothered Mrs. Bivans in 1974 got much worse, so much so that the cemetery was closed to visitors because the grounds were so poorly kept up that they were deemed a safety hazard in June 2007. In 2005 it was discovered that approximately 4,000 bodies buried at Grand View were not properly interred (whatever that means).

The Grand View Memorial Park (dot) Info website contains links to many photos, including the ones in this blog entry. The photo I posted yesterday of overgrown grave markers also came from this website, ironically enough.

On the Google page that came up in response to “grand view memorial park,” I noticed a link to “Find a Grave.” Could I find Mr. Bivans’s grave through this site? The link led me to page of famous people buried at Grand View, a group that did not include Mr. Bivans. But I noticed a note that said if I was looking for someone who wasn’t famous, I should visit the main “Find a Grave” website. Clicking on “Search 22 million grave records,” I was taken to a page where I entered “Bivans” and “USA” and “California.”

Lo and behold, my search returned three entries, including Bivans, E Litton (b. 1908 d. 1971) and Bivans, Gail Roy (b. 1904 d. unknown), both of whom are buried in Grand View Memorial Park. Voilà! Immediately I remembered that Mrs. Bivans’s full name was Gail Roy Bivans. When I worked for her, I thought it odd that her middle name was what I considered a man’s name. It seems that my visit with Mrs. Bivans to the cemetery came three years after her husband’s death at the too-young age of 63. Mrs. Bivans died later, and was buried with her husband at Grand View.

Next, I Googled on “Gail Roy Bivans” and “Gail Bivans.” Nothing came up, except a gift of some photographs once given to “Mrs. Gail Bivans,” who in turn donated them to the Colorado Historical Society. It does appear that the father of the man who gave the photos to one Mrs. Gail Bivans lived in California. But I cannot determine whether she is the same Mrs. Bivans I knew. It would be consistent with her character to give generously to a museum, but who knows?

Next I searched for “litton bivans” on Google. Sure enough, I found that an Elbert Litton Bivans had invented and patented a Pepper Mill in 1946 and a box-making machine in 1954. The Bivans Corporation, presumably founded by Mr. Bivans and still in existence today, sells cartoning machinery. Mr. Bivans was also one of the trustees of California State University, serving until 1971, the year of his death.

After it seemed as if I had exhausted what I could learn from Google, I went to the Los Angeles Times website. I searched the archives for “Bivans,” and found an obituary dated February 2, 1992. I took a chance and purchased the article. There I found among those who had recently died: “Bivans, Gail R., 87, of Glendale, homemaker. Scovern Mortuary, Glendale.” I also found a letter to the editor dated August 30, 1987 from Radford Bivans, who identified himself as President, Bivans Corp. Perhaps he was a child of Mr. and Mrs. Bivans. Surely he was a relative, since Bivans isn’t a common name.

bivans gailI found another article from the Los Angeles Times dated June 12, 1943. This article, entitled, “New Units of Voters Pick Chiefs,” identifies a Gail R. Bivans as the corresponding secretary for the Los Angeles League of Women Voters.

So, thanks to the Internet and a free hour, I now know lots of things about Mrs. Bivans that I hadn’t remembered or even known before:

Her full name: Gail Roy Bivans
The date of her death: February 2, 1992 (about 18 years after I worked for her)
The place of her burial: Grand View Memorial Park
Her husband’s name: E. Litton Bivans
Her husband’s ability: inventor
The likely state of her former home: poor
The condition of the family business: good
The name of a likely son: Radford
Her political involvement: League of Women Voters

I also learned that Grand View Memorial Park, which, according to Mrs. Bivans in 1974, did a poor job of upkeep, got so bad that it was closed to visitors, and is only now being re-opened.

Isn’t the Internet amazing? When I’m doing fun searches like I just did, I’m reminded of the treasure hunts I loved as a kid.

Topics: Lessons from Life |

6 Responses to “Lessons from Odd Jobs: P.S. - The Wonders of the Internet”

  1. Todd Bartel Says:
    April 11th, 2008 at 12:32 pm

    Damn corporations! I remember when cartooning was done by hand, one by one. Now I learn that the Bivans Corporation makes “cartooning machinery”.
    Great article Mark. I remember jumping the wall of the Grandview Cemetery at night to tell ghost stories with my friends. The creepiest part was hearing the clanks and creeking noises coming from the caretaker’s cottage. Probably just a poor old security guard making tea.

  2. Mark Roberts Says:
    April 11th, 2008 at 1:53 pm

    Todd: Whoa, that’s cool. BTW, I fixed “cartooning” even before I read this note. For readers of Todd’s comment, I previously had a typo that said the Bivans Corp. made “cartooning machinery” rather than “cartoning machinery.”

  3. Vivian Woo Says:
    April 29th, 2008 at 9:43 am

    Dear Mark,
    This is the first time I have visited your site, and was intrigued and pleasantly surprised by your recent post. I am the VP of Sales & Marketing with Bivans Corporation. One of my duties is to upkeep our website, so I often Google our company, and that’s what lead me to you. Anyways, to answer your question, yes, Radford Bivans was most certainly the son of Gail. And from what I remember, there was also a sister who tragically committed suicide at a youngish age. Rad was very devoted to his mother Gail, and visited her often until she died peacefully while reading in her favorite chair. As for Bivans Corp., Gail’s husband E.L., founded the company with a couple of friends. They started by selling fishing reels (you can look for the old reels on Ebay), moved onto pepper mills, then cartoning machinery (seems like a very non-linear chain of events, but what do I know). When E.L. died, Bivans Corporation passed to Radford. Rad, as he was known, sold the company about 12 years ago to a group of investors, including myself. Rad passed shortly after that, and leaves 2 sons, daughter, and wife. Bivans is still a family-run business, since quite a few members of my extended family are involved. We manufacture packaging machinery. The packaging machinery industry is approximately 31 billion dollars, and we have a very-very small portion of that business. Automation is amazing; I.E. when you go to Vons and pick up a box of cough syrup, that product was created using packaging machinery. A machine blends the syrup, fills it into a bottle, puts a label on the bottle, places the bottle into a carton (that’s the portion our machinery fills), places a group of cartons into a shipping case, groups the cases onto a pallet, and off that pallet goes to a distribution center and ultimately to Vons and into your hands! Well, I hope I’ve added something to your search. Thanks for the memories!!!

  4. Mark D. Roberts Says:
    April 30th, 2008 at 9:33 am

    Vivian: Thanks. Your comment was quite unexpected and quite enlightening. Best of luck with your business!

  5. Patt Bivans Cunningham Says:
    August 7th, 2008 at 12:57 am

    I have been researching the Bivans family for several years. I communicate with two other Bivans looking for links to each other family. When searching the internet the Bivans Corporation pops up all over the place. I want to thank you for your wonderful report. I have often wondered about which Bivans was involved in this company. Elbert Litton Bivans is not listed on any of the three trees that I work on, so now having a name maybe I can back track further. And Vivian response was very helpful also. Yes, the internet is amazing. I get immersed in researching and then sidetracked and then find more than I was looking for in the beginning. Example: tonight I started with the Manhattan Project (Bivans on the Straight Flush - weather plane for the Enola Gay), then to Clark County Wisconsin GenNet for obits (found several missing links), and then here. Who knows where next?

  6. Phyllis Bivans Says:
    November 8th, 2010 at 9:11 pm

    I am a Bivans looking for family.


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