She was a fledgling writer and editor for the university's yearbook, the 1926 Quad, as well as the Stanford Daily, a campus newspaper. As a graduate student she wrote lengthy and deeply researched features, including stories about the school's hefty endowments and the publication of the university's yearbook. Her writing was fluid and engaging—she clearly delighted in journalism.
"In a few short miles one passes from sea level to mountain top, each region abounding in the wild creatures and plants peculiar to it," Allene wrote about Stanford's role as a game refuge.
She was particularly enamored of the gorgeous Northern California countryside. She had moved from her native Missouri several years before, and her surroundings were often featured in her writing.
Inside the yearbook's offices she met David Lamson, the charismatic editor in chief for a popular humor magazine, the Stanford Chaparral. They shared so many interests, both brainy students who were engaged in the Stanford community. By graduation Allene had been charmed by the handsome writer, and they were married just a few years later.
Her thirty-one-year-old husband of five years was slim and fit with dark brown eyes and a full head of thick, wavy dark brown hair just beginning to recede at the forehead. Much of the time David Lamson seemed pensive—curious women might have labeled him "intriguing." The outer corners of his eyes drooped just a bit, but his young daughter almost always drew out a sly smile that turned big and bright. He was perpetually charming with friends, which made them a popular couple, much to Allene's delight.
In 1933, David was the sales manager of the Stanford University Press, the school's prestigious publishing house. He had spent a year teaching advertising at the university—a writer with ambition. Allene was an assistant executive secretary with the YWCA, which was more of a job than a calling. The position didn't tap the skills she had earned from her two degrees. It stifled her, but unemployment wouldn't do.
"She needed something to occupy her mind," David explained to a friend. "She was not satisfied to be home."
The Lamsons were a modish couple, both hailing from well-respected families. David was from Cupertino, California—his mother and two sisters lived nearby, one of whom was a well-known physician with her own medical practice. Their friends were some of the most moneyed figures in Palo Alto—there was a chemist with the National Research Council, a metallurgical engineer, a journalism professor, and an attorney. One of their closest confidants was socialite Louise Dunbar, President Hoover's glamorous niece, who cavorted with the city's bluebloods.
Allene gazed in the mirror as she examined the tiny lines on her face, as most women do. She was twenty-eight years old and the mother of a toddler, a little girl with black curly hair she named Allene Genevieve, whom she called Bebe. Allene smoothed her braids, coiled them, and fastened each to either side of her head neatly with hairpins, part of her morning routine. It had been such a taxing night, the last evening of a holiday weekend. She and David had zipped between social events for the last three of four evenings. There was a visit with the Ormsby family on Friday, several bridge games at the Swains' home on Sunday, and dessert with their friends Dr. and Mrs. Ralph Wesley Wright the night before. The Lamsons enjoyed being hosted by friends, intellectuals who challenged their ideas and tickled them with quick wit.
"I would say they were quite happy," remembered Dr. Wright.
But the couple's enthusiastic socializing might have finally taken its toll. After chatting for several hours with the Wrights over dessert the night before, the Lamsons arrived home by eleven with Allene's stomach in knots. Perhaps it was the lemon pie and orange juice that Mrs. Wright served, she wasn't sure. David tried to be considerate; he insisted on lying down in their daughter's nursery at the back of the house so he wouldn't disturb her, which had been their routine for years when she needed rest. Luckily two-year-old Bebe was at a sleepover with David's mother—a blessing, the families would later say.
David reminded Allene that he planned to do yard work the following day; he removed his work clothes, bathrobe, pajamas, and house shoes from the hall closet so he could slip out quietly in the morning. Allene snuggled under the sheets and closed her eyes, but not for very long.
The stomach pain had returned around three that morning when she called his name; there was no need to shout because their house was so tiny. David appeared at their bedroom door in his pajamas. He ran his hand gently across her back to comfort her and then suggested she have a bite to eat.
Soon Allene could hear him collecting things in the kitchen. He handed her a glass of lemon juice mixed with water; then he quickly left and returned with some warmed-up leftover tomato soup and a toasted cheese sandwich. Eating something hot usually lulled her back to sleep, but she had little appetite that night. She nibbled on the crust and took just a few sips of soup.
David returned to the nursery as Allene fell asleep again. The house was quiet now without Bebe; it was almost disconcerting. A silent home meant a respite from the incessant crying of a toddler who had suffered from horrible sinus infections all winter. It had been an exhausting few months for Allene—night after night of coaxing a sick child back to bed with the help of a nursemaid in the little girl's room. David was the one to suggest that Bebe stay with his mother; he also told the nursemaid to take the holiday off so he and his wife could have some privacy. With Bebe sleeping at her mother-in-law's, Allene was in a peaceful home, despite the indigestion.
By nine that morning, David appeared in the bedroom's doorway once again. His shirt was off, his chest was sweaty, and his face was wet after hours of early-morning yard work near the bonfire.