Alligators 'n Roadkill

Alligators 'n Roadkill
On The Road


Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Part IV of the Continuing Saga that is sorta my Life Story.

Part IV, in which we will move yet again (surprise)……

It was while we lived in Goldendale that Mike had a huge paper route (really bigger than his resources could handle) for a time, and so did Dennis (a more modest enterprise, one that could be walked).  I used to help Dennis with his route, and one year, for having signed up a certain number of new subscriptions, he managed to accumulate enough points that he and I both got to go on a chartered Greyhound bus, all the way down the river to Portland, Oregon (the newspaper in question was probably the Portland Oregonian, but it might well have been the Oregon Journal).  In Portland, we were taken to Jantzen Beach, a large amusement park, known far and wide.  We spent the day and had a great time.  Dennis also managed to buy himself a bicycle at the local Western Auto.  Speaking of Western Auto, this was truly an American original.  Every town of any size had a Western Auto.  These stores sold everything for the car, from batteries to tires, and all parts, plus most things for the home.  They carried hardware, great bikes (and everything you needed for your bike; Western Flyer was their brand), their own line of radios, TV’s, appliances, and parts for appliances.  These were just a few brands carried by Western Auto:  "Tough One" Batteries, "Wizard" Tools, "TrueTone" electronics, and "Citation" appliances, and “Revelation” firearms, (and I think, also sporting goods, like footballs, basketballs, and the like).
Also, in downtown Goldendale, on Main Street, very close to Western Auto, was the local ‘five and dime,’ or dime store, like a Woolworths.  I guess these stores were sort of a high class Dollar store, if you can believe that.  I mean, obviously, if they sold mostly stuff that only cost a nickel or a dime, that price range might well suggest junk.  Yes, they had a lot of Japanese junk, all right.  (It must be understood that literally everything from Japan, in the fifties, was very poor quality, and that meant both workmanship as well as raw materials).  But, everything was displayed more openly, and instead of racks and hooks, and shelves to shop from, there were these big, open flat-topped bins, with everything reachable, and touchable, and easy to get hold of – oops!  Can’t end a sentence with a preposition, now can we?  Let’s say, easy to reach, instead.
Goldendale’s Main Street, in addition to the theater, featured a small supermarket, locally owned, the newspaper office (the Goldendale Sentinel, a weekly publication),

a barber shop, a Dentist Office (Ol’ Doc somebody or other - West?), upstairs above some other business), the local creamery, a couple of restaurants (The Simcoe Café and Mac’s Café), various shops, J. C. Penny, and a Safeway.  I think there was also OK Tire and Rubber company (part of a chain that sold new tires, and ‘recaps,’ which were just that: old tires, whose rubber had worn down, but whose walls were still in decent shape, so new rubber was molded onto them; they typically cost a fraction of what a new tire cost, but the rubber was likely to come rolling off at speed, especially in hot weather).  Needless to say, the old man bought a lot of recaps.
I also got the opportunity to play Little League baseball, and our team traveled to places like White Salmon, maybe Lyle, and other towns down along the Columbia River.  The Old Man liked to fish, and while it was usually Dennis who went with him, I do recall going fishing a time or two.  This was strictly stream fishing using night crawlers for bait.  We kids had the job of getting the huge worms, and this was actually very easy to do.  Just go out into the front or side yard with a shovel.  Push it down into the usually moist earth, and lean it one way or the other, and look at the exposed earth.  Inevitably, you would see one or more worms moving (this was best done at night; don’t ask me why) by the light of a flashlight.  You just grabbed as many as you could, and put them into an old coffee can.  Fishing always required an early morning start, and it really did not take all that long to get a good number of good sized trout.  Occasionally, we went for Steelhead.  The myth (story I seem to recall hearing from the Old Man) was that a trout was the young version of a Salmon, and the Steelhead was the in-between version.  Supposedly, those trout that could make it from creek to river were able to grow into Steelhead, and then, if the Steelhead could make it down river, to the ocean, and then return, you had a Salmon (hey, that’s what somebody told me, and I’ve never forgotten it, nor have I ever researched it to verify it this is for real).
Actually, there was an incident involving fishing and a barbed wire fence that might be worth recounting.  On one particularly auspicious (? For lack of a better word) occasion, Dennis and Garun (I don’t know how to put the phonetics into the pronunciation of his name, as uttered by Bernie, his helpmeet, especially when in her cups - Oh, God, now I’m going to get side tracked big time, trying to sort this mess out – OK, time out:
Bernie, which is short for Bernice, my mother’s name, mistakenly thought – for many, many years – that the way to help and to try to control the old man’s drinking, was to drink with him, trying, as it were, to keep pace with him.  This was, of course, a hopeless task which she set for herself, as no one in their right mind would want to keep up with him.  Although - in a deliberate aside - in later years, keeping up with him became relatively easy, since his tolerance for alcohol decreased with the years, and he’d be smashed long before he could see the bottom of the bottle of his cheap booze of choice. So, she’d get mushmouthed drunk even quicker than he did, so that his name, when pronounced by her (she always called him Garland instead of the ‘Al’ that he preferred) in this condition, sounded something like, “garn,” as in, darn, but pronounced with a serious deep south accent, which, of course, she did not possess.  So, now, we’re talking about Gaaarrun, but say the last syllable very fast, so as to kind of pass over the ‘u’ – thusly, “I’ma…..I’ma……..I’ma gonna tel’ you sumpin’, Garn, you ‘bout drunk!”
OK, now that we’ve dealt with that important little matter, back to the fishing trip with Dennis and Garn……..
In order to get to the part of whatever stream they were seeking to plant their hooks in, Garn and Dennis had to get past a barbed wire fence.  Usually, this means, one person holds a top strand up, while the person crossing/passing through, pushes a lower strand down, so as to create a space big enough for the average person to get through.  Now, I wasn’t there, and Dennis may not have been the most reliable of sources here (mostly because to the end of his life, he could not tell this story with a straight face and a serious amount of giggling), but my understanding of the event is that somehow the lower strand was either not pushed down far enough, or it snapped up at the wrong moment in time, like when the old man was halfway though.  Somehow, one or more of those nasty barbs reached right on out and/or up, and snagged the old man’s jewel sack (um, uh, scrotum?), viciously tearing said sack (pun intended, Mike), causing profuse, one might even say, perfuse, or one whole hell of a lot of bleeding from said sack.  The fishing trip was thus cut short, not to mention other certain other well placed hewing or trimming, and they returned home post haste.  The old man subsequently, like right away, went to the doctor, where he underwent an emergency “re-sackification,” as it were, thus closing that particular gap.  OK, back to the narrative………..
Salmon fishing along the Columbia River was reserved at that time to what we now call Native Americans, or Indians.  Not too far from Goldendale, just upriver from The Dalles, Oregon, were the Celilo Falls.  These falls were impressive enough just to look at, but the Indians had built some very rickety looking scaffolding all over the rocks, to afford themselves of relatively easy access to the waters. 

They went out onto that scaffolding when the Salmon were migrating up the river, and speared as many as they could.  Most of the salmon was then smoked on shore, and sold to tourists, and anyone else fortunate enough to be able to get some.  That was good eating.
Next must have been Goldendale and I don’t remember what job Dad did there but I began babysitting there and earning money for clothes and whatnot.  We kids enjoyed being there and school was pretty stable for that period of time.

After having the chance to read what I had written to this point, Pat then sent me a email that added to this narrative:

Wasn’t Goldendale just the best little town?  I remember the five and dime and buying crayons and fresh paper and even paper dolls at that time.  The Penney’s store was the old fashioned set up with drawers that stocked the bras and panties each in its size and drawer.  I had some girl friends that I enjoyed and remember always hitting the studing and the grades.  My babysitting really took off and I sat for two families over the time.  Mom told me (I was starting this at the age of 11) that I had to buy my own shampoo and girl stuff which would include feminine hygiene stuff because I couldn’t expect Dad to pay for same.  WHAT?  I was 11 years old for heaven’s sake!   
I remember getting a terrible throat infection one time, the very worst I ever had, and friends being allowed to come and say, “Hi”, through the window as I was in bed for some two weeks.  When I went back to school all thin and white the teachers took one look at me and sent me home for another week.  That was also the house where Dad got involved with the woman next door, a single parent with a girl she was raising, wasn’t it?  She was a drinker too I think.  But overall, we did experience small town America at its best for sure.  Thanks for the memories…..Love,  Pat
Mike worked after school in the local creamery (for those not familiar with this term, small towns used to have local businesses that processed dairy products.  These were called creameries, and they would produce local butter, ice cream, and sell fresh, whole milk) at one point.  He also got placed by the old man, I believe, on some local farm for a large part of at least one summer, hoisting hay bales on the back of a truck, and into a barn, and performing other seriously manual labor, for some extra money, most of which was undoubtedly confiscated by the old man. 
Meanwhile after reading what I have so far, Mike has provided some more memories:

Drove wheat truck for Dutch Kelley in Roosevelt area (around age 16… lasted some 3-4 weeks) the next summer worked longer for…. ???? in the hay business, bailing hay and like you say, serious manual labor (damn bails weighed as much as I did). During school I worked at the “Reliance Creamery” whose products included butter, ice cream, and ICE. I recall providing ice to the same Indians for salmon fishing, poking the ice down to 100 or 50 lb. blocks and loading it in their cars. Cool, late model cars always dirty and trashed out on the inside. Ice cream was a farce… The owner purchased a mix “wholesale” and we merely “churned?” in a freezer type machine, dumped it into cardboard boxes (Reliance Brand) and it was sold in the grocery store you mentioned. The town did have two grocery stores… one being the Safeway and the other being this independent (actually, I think the owner was Thompson, the same dude that owned Reliance Creamery).
(Back to my narrative):  Yeah, that was another of his less lovable traits.  He’d require that we find work, and then take most of the money we earned.  I also remember Mike being involved with his best friend (Johnny Householder?) in experimenting with model rockets, a big time diversion for teen aged boys in the fifties.  They had some notable success, as I recall, too.  One kid I knew also had a rocket that was actually pretty impressive.  This was a clear blue plastic rocket ship that was filled with water.  Then, it was placed on its base, which had a hand pump affixed to it.  We would pump the hell out of that sucker, and then so much pressure was created that the rocket would fly very high up into the air.  I’d estimate today that it probably went up at least 20-30 feet.
One friend that Dennis and I had was a kid down the street, and across the alley from us.  His father was the town barber, and they had a normal family.  What a contrast to our house.  They had a root cellar outside their back door that was no longer used for its original purpose (a root cellar was basically a room underground, with rock and cement for walls and covered with dirt.  Its purpose was to store perishables, like potatoes, apples, canned goods, and things like that, before refrigeration was common).  We played WWI in that thing, since it served as a bunker, and we could easily imagine the trenches of WWI, as depicted in the movies.  Also, Mike (or whatever the kid’s name was) had an old WWI steel helmet that we all took turns wearing.

You know what?  We gonna cut this puppy off right here, and pick it up again, still in Goldendale, but in Part V………

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