When Charlene and George Boller were married, they never imagined their love would produce such a large family.
Now nearly 65 years later, a family of four children has grown to include 12 grandchildren and 23 great-grandchildren, ranging in age from 16 years old to just weeks old.
“We’re very blessed,” Charlene said, as she and George looked through the photos of their family hung on a wall in their Valencia home.
When it all started
The couple started dating in the eighth grade and became high school sweethearts, graduating from Van Nuys High School.
When George enlisted in the U.S. Navy after graduation, he was sent off to the Philippines, and it wasn’t long until Charlene followed.
“Back then they didn’t have jet planes, so she flew on this small, propeller plane,” George said, adding that Charlene’s flight stopped in various locations before arriving in the Philippines. “It was a 37-and-a-half-hour flight.”
“I was scared to get off the plane,” Charlene added, chuckling. “I had never traveled anywhere in my life.”
All the same, the couple got married in a little chapel, and began married life in a little house outside of the base in Manila.
They had their first child, Bobby, as they adjusted to life in the Philippines, which was not only quite humid, but also a very different culture.
“I had to wash his diapers by hand with a (washboard),” Charlene said.
When Bobby was less than a year old, it came time for the Bollers to return to the U.S., and George was stationed in San Francisco for a year before being honorably discharged.
They then returned to L.A. to be closer to family, as George tried to find work, applying to both police and fire departments before being hired by the Burbank Fire Department, where he remained until he retired.
The couple soon had the remainder of their children, a total of two boys and two girls.
So Charlene didn’t have to work and could stay home with the kids, George did odd jobs in his spare time, even delivering flowers for a stint.
Then when the kids were old enough, Charlene began working as a waitress at Warner Brothers Studios before ending up at a little Italian restaurant across from the fire station where George worked.
Charlene was only about 40 years old when the couple had their first grandchild, so young she had her call her “Char Char” instead of grandma.
Soon, the other 11 grandchildren followed, all girls but one boy, Kyle Boller, a standout Hart High School quarterback who went on to receive a full ride scholarship to the University of California, Berkeley, before being drafted by the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens.
After George retired, he and Charlene moved to Pismo Beach, where they’d built a beautiful home to retire in, but that didn’t last long.
As the grandchildren grew up, the Bollers constantly found themselves traveling back down to the L.A. area for birthdays, piano recitals, football games — you name it.
“Even then, we missed a lot,” George said, adding that after 14 years, they finally decided to move back down, wanting to enjoy their growing family as much as they could.
When George and Charlene had their first great-grandchild, it began to dawn on them how special their little family had grown to be.
With many of their friends only lucky enough to have one or two grandchildren, let alone great-grandchildren, they began joking that they didn’t mind sharing theirs.
And while they never expected to have such a large family, they both agree that they cherish it now and wouldn’t trade it for the world.
For Charlene, it’s the relationships she gets to build with them that she holds dear, as she used to be close with her grandparents and loves being able to have that same relationship with them.
“Sometimes you can tell a grandparent something you wouldn’t tell your parents,” she said. “It’s a different relationship, … and something I hold dear.”
For George, it’s romping around with the kids that he enjoys, as he admits he’s really a child at heart.
Through the years, he was even able to coach quite a few of the kids in football and baseball, a memory he, too, holds dear.
Even so, the children are only one of the blessings in their lives together, and their faith remains an important part of their lives.
“We are thankful and give God all the glory and praise for His love and grace,” Charlene added.
Now, the couple hopes to live to see all their grandchildren married, though the goal keeps changing as their family continues to grow.
“We are so very blessed,” George added, smiling.