Alligators 'n Roadkill

Alligators 'n Roadkill
On The Road


Monday, June 7, 2021

There is indeed a sixth part to this little saga.


Part VI, wherein we pick up again in Tacoma.  Patty remembers this period in this way:

From there we moved back to Tacoma.  We lived in a series of houses, Dad had a series of jobs, I finally graduated from high school and attempted to do college.  Oh yes, in order to make the move there we had to live with Grandad and Margaret for a summer.  He was a tyrant and Mom and I did lots of cooking and cleanup and Mom had to bake her great homemade bread once or twice a week.  But just imagine them being able to take all of us in? 

I met Mike [her husband] the summer between high school and college and we dated for the two years that I attended.  Throughout all the years our lives were shadowed by Dad’s drinking and certainly Mom’s as well.  Mom was tortured by his abuse and once when we lived in the first house there in Tacoma Dad got involved with another woman and not for the first time.  I don’t think she could handle it anymore and she tried to end her life.  Unfortunately back then she had to spend the night in jail instead of being taken to a care facility.  She never received proper care and during the time we lived in the house on Cushman she had quite a few more problems.  When Mike decided to go back home to Wisconsin to become a cop we married and made the move.  Best thing I ever did!

It was also about this time that Pat got married, and she and Mike Roberts, her husband moved into a small apartment not too far away.  Two things:  Mike had the most gorgeous 1955 Ford, four door sedan, with the sweetest sounding dual exhaust pipes you ever heard.  He had purchased it new, and kept it immaculate.  Blue and white, two-toned paint job.  Dennis had himself a girl friend, and wanted to take her out to something special, and persuaded Mike to loan him his beautiful car.  Naturally, he crashed it, and it was totaled.  This was truly heart-breaking stuff, this.  Mike was getting close to taking his discharge, and he and Pat were already planning to move back to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Mike’s hometown.  So, now, they had no ride.  Mike picked up a (I think) 1952 Ford that had some engine problems.  I was so impressed then, when he took that old car around back of his apartment, and parked it close to a phone pole in the alley.  He then used several windings of GI commo wire, wrapped around and around one of the metal spikes imbedded in the wood of the pole, to pull that V-8 from his old ’52, so he could rebuild it.  He then proceeded to do just that, and he and Pat had a pretty decent ride to get them back to Wisconsin.  Maybe not as sweet as the ’55, but this ’52 had a nice sound to its exhaust, as I recall.

So, we’re still on Cushman, where my father, during these nearly four years, worked in some kind of mills, and obtained some training at a business school, and then began working as a bookkeeper.

But, nothing was ever stable.  My old man couldn’t keep a job (did I mention that he was an alcoholic?), but also (I suspect) because he couldn’t take direction.  His drinking was not a pretty thing to see, as he became a mean and solitary drunk (as I described above).  He kept his booze (almost always cheap rotgut; I recall his favorite brand for some years was Four Roses, which was known to be a cheap bourbon), in the freezer.  For you young people, who never experienced the refrigerators of the forties and fifties, they all had a main door that opened up from top to bottom.  Then, inside, at the top of the compartment thus revealed, would be a second, smaller lightweight door (some of these were aluminum; some were plastic, and some were a combination of both) that opened to the small freezer compartment.  He kept his booze in the freezer.  It was the old man’s habit to drink his booze straight from the bottle, with a drink of water, for chaser. Before we get to his nocturnal drinking, though, let me ruin your day by presenting you with this truly unforgettable picture:  The old man never wore PJ’s, and didn’t wear undershorts to sleep, just a T-shirt.  He would grab the shirt around back, and bring that through his legs, and then pull the front of the T-shirt to meet the back, and then, hold it together with one hand, if someone else happened along.  He was a truly disgusting sight!  So, now that you’ve got that mental image fixed forever in your mind, now you can prepare yourself for the sound effects: 

At any hour of the night (but, long after we all went to bed) he would get up, snuffling and snorting and coughing and gagging, and snotting, and make his way to the kitchen and the fridge.  So, after announcing his eminent departure from the bedroom in this manner, he would make his way, in the dark, to the kitchen.  Next sound was that of the fridge being opened, then the freezer door, then, maybe some more snorting and snotting, the water running for his chaser, the doors of the fridge and freezer being slammed shut, and then, back to bed he’d go, hacking and coughing, and snorting (and, likely scratching, too).  Let’s not forget that he only had vision in one eye, and this tended to interfere with his ability to judge distance, not to mention the fact that he was stumbling - half drunk - around in the dark.  So, add to the sound effects, the sounds of various obstacles being encountered during his nocturnal journeying, and of course, the truly horrific oaths uttered by him when some part of his anatomy came into contact with things like the corner post of the banister to the stairs, or the little shelf that jutted out from the wall in the hallway (where the single household phone rested).

Yes, we did have a phone on Cushman Ave., but for you young people, I suppose a little bit more information might be helpful.  First of all, the phone was black, with a big round dial.  It had a short cord (maybe three feet long) fastened to a connector in the wall.  It was in the hallway for a specific purpose, and this was common to household telephones, all the years that landlines were the only thing going.  By the way, here is what those phones looked like:



If the phone rang, anyone could answer it, but if it was a personal call, each person was limited to three minutes.  So, phone calls tended to be short and to the point (since most of the calls were bill collectors, anyway, you know it did not take long to say, “No, he’s not here.  I don’t know where he is.  I don’t know when he’ll be back.  I will tell him”).  But, mostly as a result of this early conditioning, up to today, I don’t like to spend much time on the telephone.  “Hello.  How are you?  We’re fine.  Give my best to ……..,” and that is pretty much all I’ve got to say.  You see, I only become long winded when I sit down in front of the monitor.  OK, back to Cushman Ave., circa 1963………

But, first, now that I think of it, here is what the phone looked like when we lived on the ranch back in South Central Washington, near the little town called Roosevelt:

                                     Really!  That’s what it looked like!  Our ‘ring’ was something like two longs and a short.  OK, I can see I need to offer more information here:  What is not visible in this picture is that on the right side of the wooden box was a small hand crank.  When turned very quickly, that crank created a small electrical impulse which traveled along the phone lines.  That small charge was enough to get the bells (seen on the face of the phone) to ring, just a little.  So, to differentiate between one person and another (several families had to share one line; hence, the term party line.  Really!) on the same line, one full revolution of the hand crank made a short ring, and two, quick revolutions made a longer ring.  So, to call the party that was assigned two longs and a short, required than one crank twice, quickly, then pause, then crank two more times, again quickly, another pause, then one revolution.  In theory, everyone on that line then knew that the call was for us, so they were to leave their phones alone.  But, of course, everybody listened in on everybody else’s calls, so there was no way to keep one’s business to one’s self (as if there ever is, in a small town).

(Now, we’re back in the house on North Cushman……….)  I was very happy in this house all the way through my Junior year and most of my Senior year of high school.  I had friends all over the neighborhood, played football on the front lawn of the nearby Junior High, or went down to shoot hoops at Wright Park.  I started collecting records at this time, first 45’s, then albums.  I learned a bit about hooking up multiple speakers to an old time radio, as I had speakers all over the basement where I lived  (thanks to Mike Roberts, who was (as I mentioned before) in the Army at that time, and who even contributed most of a roll of commo wire, I think it was called WD1, or something. 

You see, it was Mike who showed me how to connect the speakers, and it was this simple “electrical” mystery opening up for me that led me to pursue a later – short – career in electronics.  I learned to haunt a Goodwill store on (I think) South Tacoma Ave., at about this time, and found some really special old tube type radios for a buck or two.  I worked part time at the Tacoma Boys Club, so I had a little spending money.  Then, I worked for a short time at a branch of the Tacoma Public Library, until I was fired ‘cause I spent too much time reading, and otherwise neglecting my assigned duties.  Did you ever spend eight hours sorting books, and then putting them on shelves?  At any rate, I had stopped all pretense of part time work by early in my Senior year, so that year of high school found that basement to be pretty much party central for me and a host of friends.

OK, we’re making slow progress, but it is sure…………we’ll pick up again with Part VII….

Monday, May 10, 2021

A Fifth Part of my little Saga


More in Goldendale………

Another kid I spent time with was Paul Nehmi (I think that was the spelling).  He was rich, by my standards, because his father was the manager of the local Penny’s store (as in, J. C. Penny), and he lived some blocks away in a modern house.  Not only did they have indoor plumbing, but his mother cooked on an electric stove!  One interesting side note about Goldendale comes to mind:  Basketball was big stuff in this little town, with a population of around 2500.  The coach at the high school was worshipped, and his program encompassed the entire town, with the P. E. coaches at the elementary and the middle school, working hard to bring the younger guys along, so as to get them ready for the big kid’s game.  All games were broadcast on the radio, and it was a given that Goldendale would go to State each year.  At that time, schools at that level of competition, like B (?) went to their State Tournament in Tacoma every year.  The bigger schools of course had their state tournament in Seattle.

Later, when I was a senior in Tacoma, I skipped school and attended some of the games at UPS’ (University of Puget Sound) Field house, and saw some of the guys I had attended grade school with, now in the big show.  By that time the former coach from Goldendale had ‘made good,’ and had become coach of the basketball team at UPS – Coach Bud Wilkerson, or Wilkinson.

We stayed in that small town, in the same rented house until the night Mike graduated high school (I had just finished 7th grade).  I recall that Mike had been awarded a medal (sponsored by Bausch, as in Bausch and Lomb, I believe, for outstanding Science achievements).  But there was no time to even congratulate him on his achievements, as we were all herded aboard a Greyhound Bus that very evening, and ended up back in Tacoma (of course, I didn’t know at that time that we had lived in Tacoma before), this time at my paternal grandfather’s home (for some reason he was never grandpa or grandfather, but instead, he was called Granddad by all; no, it is not likely that this had something to do with that most excellent Bourbon, Old Granddad, because that is good stuff, and I don’t think he could afford the good stuff anymore than the old man could).  We stayed with him and his second wife (Margaret) for that summer, and then moved to a rental house just before school started that fall.  It was while we lived here (N. Division Ave., is all I recall; just two doors from Frisko Freeze, the best burgers and shakes anywhere) that we got our first television.  Naturally, it was a used one, with a big wooden cabinet, and a very tiny screen. Remind me sometime to tell you about what we watched on TV in those days, and, now that I think of it, at the same time I can write about what I remember from the radio in those years before we had TV, and our first record player, and first records.

 We actually stayed in that rental all through my 8th grade, and most of my 9th, then moved to yet another rental, in another part of town.  Now that I think of it, however, there are a couple of things about this house that come up in my memory.   This house was actually sort of special, in that it had some unique features in – of all places – the bathroom.  The countertop was stainless steel, and the bathroom was overly large, with a separate stall for the toilet.  The story was that this had been a house of ill repute (how appropriate) and a busy ‘entertainment’ center during the years of prohibition.  Maybe that is why that upstairs bathroom was so fancy.

There was something else about that bathroom that was special.  Now, what was that?  Oh, yeah, this was the bathroom where the old man passed out while on the toilet.  Keep in mind that most of my younger years feature this memory of a mean, mean drunk.  The mean drunk who, when in his cups, and at his ‘best,’ would look at you with serious mayhem, if not murder, in his eyes, just for coming within eyesight of him.  He would also mutter incomprehensible drunkenly slurred things to himself while ‘at his best,’ as it were.  And, basically, you knew better than to get within easy reach of him.  Then, of course, when he was on a real tear, and was beating up on the old lady (who never did learn to leave well enough alone), you would try to plead, grab an arm, or somehow get him to stop (and, her, too, because she was usually just about as drunk as he was by this time).  He never did until he passed out, and peace descended upon whatever shack we were living in at the time.

Well, let me tell you, when he passed out on the toilet, and wound up laying on the floor, with his pants at half mast, and with the slobber running down his chin, a lot of the fear dissipated.  I only wish somebody had a camera, and that we could have preserved that image for posterity.  Of course, today, such a thing would be a no brainer, ‘cause every frickin’ kid has a cell phone with a camera built right in, and that sucker would have been all over you tube and facebook, and the internet within minutes.  I guess that’s one nice thing about progress.  No, I did not own a cell phone at the time I wrote this (and, if I still had kids at home, the only way they would have one would be if they went to work to earn the money to buy their own damn phone, and to pay the damn bill, too)!  Well, that was one of the fonder memories of that house.  But, you know, the fun has to end sometime, so…

            We moved again before my sophomore year of high school, requiring me to attend a school different from where most of my friends were.  Actually, there were two moves.  First, south of down town, and the huge gulley that runs through the middle of Tacoma, kind of east to west, to a small place a block off Pacific Avenue (maybe on Wright St.).  We only stayed here a few months, and I seem to remember we had to ride the city buses to and from school, up until the end of my 9th grade.  This place was memorable mostly for its proximity to King’s Roller Rink, where I learned to roller skate, and where Dennis and I (and, likely David and maybe, Pat) had some good times.  Then, before my sophomore year began, we moved again, way north, to North Verde Street.  We pronounced it as ‘vurd,’ because we did not know that this is the Spanish word for the color green, pronounced as vair-day (accent on the ver).  After the end of that school year, we moved yet again, to the first (and only) house that my parents ever tried to buy, located at 625 North Cushman Avenue.


 Above is that house as it looks today – pretty much what it looked like all those years ago.  (recent photo courtesy of Richard T. Oxley, a guy I went to Junior High and High School with, all those years ago.  He spent a number of nights in the basement of this place).

I was in heaven, but that’s another story.  We stayed in that really special (for me) place all through my junior year, up until the last month of my high school, while I attended one of the most special high schools anywhere (which is yet another story, but look it up on the ‘net; it was featured in the 1999 movie, 10 Things I Hate About You), Stadium High School.  Meanwhile, Pat and Dennis both graduated from that school one and two years ahead of me.  We’ll pick this up again, when Part VI gets done…………


Thursday, May 6, 2021

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


My little saga continues.

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………

Sunday, May 2, 2021

Part Tres of my little Memoir


Part III of the Continuing Saga of the Dungans……


Ever go on a road trip with Garland?  Believe me, this is not something you really want to do, ever.  By the way, this just seemed like a good place to bring this up, right after talking about gas stations.  First of all, Garland smoked.  A lot.  Secondly, he was a pig, what we call in Spanish, un grosero, as in uncouth, ill mannered.  He had a bad habit of ‘hocking oysters,’ which means he would clear his throat very loudly (and grossly), working up a great big gob of (what was it we used to say?  Oh, yeah, “Great Big Gob of Green Greasy Gopher Guts”) this truly viscious and viscous phlegm.  Now, he always drove with his window open, and his left arm out the window.  Once he had this gift for the road ready (we, of course, sitting in the back seat knew this was coming, and were already preparing ourselves), he would first turn his head to his right, and shout, “Duck!”  This was our signal to do just that.  Then he would turn his head back all the way to his left, and send that mess of easily-mistaken-for-road-kill-if-it-ever-gets-to-the-road gooey, slimey phlegm hurtling out his window, most likely to splat on that side of the car (shudder).  Then, he would turn his head back to the right, and say, “Unduck!,” and we would.

Garland’s favorite beer (and, here he actually showed some class, if not taste) was Miller High Life, which of course only came in clear glass bottles.  I seem to recall that there was a deposit on empty beer bottles in those days (a nickel for empty milk bottles, three cents for soda pop bottles, and maybe a penny for beer bottles), but that made no difference to Garland.  As he drove, he drank (surprise).  As he emptied a bottle, his routine was to fling that bottle, not just simply out his window, but out his window, over the top of the car, aiming for the right side of the road, as far off the road as he could get it.  Wasn’t that considerate of him?  His other goal, of course, was for that glass bottle to shatter loud enough so that we could hear it as we drove (merrily? Very seldom) along.

OK, we left off with us living up in the Rattlesnake Hills, above Prosser.  I believe we stayed there in the Rattlesnake Hills long enough for me to get through second grade, and then moved to another ranch sometime in 3rd grade.  After getting this far, Mike remembered some more details, that he has graciously provided in order to set me straight:

 Minor exception regarding chickens and churning: First had chickens and eggs on the Rattlesnakes… same with churning butter. Used the butter churn (glass jar with the wooden paddles) and at mom’s direction, we kids took turns turning the crank… hour after hour…. Mom later learned that the cream should be close to room temperature before starting the churn… We had gone from the refrigerator to the churn and it was a tiring – long process. Speculation is that during our long effort, the cream had come up to room temperature and then did proceed to provide butter. 

Meanwhile, we had yet to move from the Rattlesnakes, down to the next place on our list.  This was to an area, way down close to the Columbia River, near a little wide spot in the road called Roosevelt.  This is where Mike, Pat, Dennis, and I all went to a three-room school for one school year.  There was a ferry across the river there, to Arlington, Oregon, which was the nearest place with such refinements as a restaurant.  That ferry was important, because the second year we were in this area, Mike had to ride that ferry across the Columbia River every day to attend school in Arlington, Oregon, because our little school only went so far, and the nearest high school (heck, maybe it was only the 7th grade; what do I know?) was across the river.  And, of course the proximity to Oregon was a big plus for the old man, ‘cause they didn’t tax booze, beer, and cigarettes as much as Washington did at that time.  And, I seem to recall no sales taxes.  After seeing the map whose link I shared, Mike has offered these memories of this place/time:

 (4) 19. Ranch near Roosevelt… Think I found the exact on this one… about 15 miles W and one mile S… traced Old Hwy 8 and Sundale Rd [this was after looking at the aforementioned map] there is (was) [a] substantial orchard called “Sundale” not far down the road and I found a sharp turn in the road and recall the house located there where dad “finagled” [note:  finagled, as in “if you give me some gas, I’ll pay you………….sometime”………..NOT] some gasoline from the resident there… He (the neighbor) had one of the old glass top gasoline pumps where you elevated ten gallons to the top with a pump handle, the glass top was cylindrical in shape and graduated in one gallon increments, then a conventional hose handle affair to your fuel tank.

 As Patty recounts:

 After that we lived in another country setting and went to a three room school house that was remarkable.  We all had such a great time there.  Of course the house wasn’t much but I do remember churning butter and going down the road to an amazing apricot orchard where they were the size of peaches and the juice ran down our arms.

 As I further recall (following her prompting), at this ranch we had a large side yard that we kids turned into a great big riparian adventure land.  We had rivers running all over the place, fed by the garden hose.  There was a milk cow, that the older boys were responsible for milking (I was scared to death of that sucker, and she knew it).  Chickens, also, and I didn’t care for trying to take away their eggs, either.  I also remember making butter in a large glass churn, with wooden paddles.  And, there was a falling down shed, between the house and the barn and chicken house, with the remains of a (I think) 1935 Ford.  I want to say that this was a convertible, and it was mostly intact.  It would undoubtedly have made a great project car for someone with the time and money.  I played in that sucker many times.

From this place, I recall the big events were monthly trips to town, Goldendale, for the grocery shopping.  This always happened on a Saturday, and part of the adventure was that mom would take us all to the library, where we each got our own library card.  At some point, I went through a series of books for kids, that all had the same basic cover.  This was burnt orange in color, with black lettering, and these were biographies of famous Americans, going back to Ben Franklin and George Washington, to Andrew Jackson, Davy Crockett, Daniel Boone, Abraham Lincoln (did you know he was born in a log cabin?), Ulysess S. Grant, Thomas Edison, and so forth.  We learned that everything American was good (and not just because we had saved the world twice), and everything that was not American was pretty much bad.

By the time I was in fourth grade, we were in a town again, and my father was working in another sawmill.  This is where my brother, Dennis, and I had some of our greatest times.

But, I also experienced one of my more traumatic school-related events here, as well.  Not long after we got here, in fourth grade, I don’t recall the teacher’s name, but one day she started in on a verbal rant, saying “John, how could you?  “You have lied, and you have done……..” - this horrible thing, and that horrible thing, and I just could not believe that she was talking about me.  It had to do with a paper we had written and handed in, and all I knew was she had one in her hand, and she was looking at me, and just ranting………I was terrified, mostly because I had no idea what she was talking about, and did not know what I could possibly have done, not to mention I had never had anyone talk to me in such a manner.  I was also scared totally out of my mind.  I didn’t know what else to do, so I bolted.  Jumped right up, and ran out of that room, out of that school, and all the way home to my mommy, crying my eyes out…….well, this was one of the few times that she ever got involved in our schooling.  My mother took me back to the school, and to the principal’s office where we learned that the teacher in question was not even talking to me or about me.  There was another John in that class (how could I know?  I was new), only he spelled his name Jon, and it was he that she was so upset about.  Maybe that is when I learned to not put much trust in teachers (forgive me, Blanca).

Other than that experience, Dennis and I both had pretty good times in Goldendale.  We had free run of the town of Goldendale, which was the county seat of Klickitat County, and had both the Klickitat River and the Klickitat Creek running along edges of town.  I remember a great big old tree just outside the back door, onto which somebody nailed some boards, to make like a ladder, so we could climb way up into its huge limbs.  And, the back yard had a large cleared area, obviously done for a garden, but we turned that into a huge play area for playing with all our cars and trucks.  We had roads, and gas stations, and all kinds of buildings and stuff.  I remember that the name brand, Structo, figured prominently in the toy trucks we played with (before Tonka got so big, Structo trucks were the tough trucks).  Old D cell batteries were the gas pumps at our gas station, blocks of wood served for buildings, a piece of wood was used to ‘grade’ our roads, and so on. 

Fairly early on, we did have our one and only childhood fight, with someone other than each other.  I have no recollection of the cause, but there was a large family who lived just up the street from us – the Rileys.  One of those damn Rileys was another boy, about the same age as Dennis and I.  For some reason he did not like us, and while it was Dennis who took most of his verbal abuse, I somehow got involved.  So, he took us both on at once, and beat us both very quickly and easily.  That took a while to live down, and eventually I think we achieved some sort of truce, if not better, by becoming friends.

We rented the house on West Broadway from the ‘rich’ old widow, who lived right next door, in a more modern, well equipped house.  This was Mrs. Bridgefarmer, and she also rented rooms in her basement.  I recall one of the renters there was a Chinese man and his son.  The man was employed as a cook in one of the local restaurants for a short while.  This was my first contact with a non-white person.  Just a bit of culture shock was involved.

Out back of the house, and very close, was a separate building on the property that was likely old enough to have been a carriage house at one time, or a stable, but we called it the wood shed.  It was – as I recall – at least two rooms, quite old, with upainted, and seriously weathered wood.  The floor on one side was just dirt, with the accumulation of many years of wood chips, and shavings form wood being cut for burning in either the wood cook stove, or a wood stove for heat, all that we had in that house. That building was our Cavalry Fort and/or the Sheriff’s office for whenever we played Cowboys and Indians. 

Most Christmases were – to say the least – disappointing times.  Not much in the way of gifts for anyone, the Old Man usually was not home as evening came on (he was likely in a bar, pissing away his paycheck), so the anxiety level always grew.  The family tradition was to open gifts on Christmas Eve, and we had to wait for him to come home, all the time worried that when he did, he would be in a bad mood, and that was not good.  Too many Christmases were ruined by his lashing out at one and all (but, of course my mother took the brunt of his drunken anger), and what we had all too often was the classic scene of crying, frightened kids, and crying, bruised wife and mother.

However, on at least one Christmas, Santa did come through for me.  I desperately wanted a two-gun holster, with Mattel Fanner 50 pistols, ‘cause they looked like what Hopalong Cassidy wore.  (Here’s what a Google search turns up on these awesome ‘toys:’  And, I got them!  Even got some caps to shoot with them.  Wow, that was so cool.  At one point Dennis, I think, got a Red Ryder BB gun.  Or, Daisy.  And, on reflection, I think it was a pump action, instead of a lever cocking action, so that would likely make it the cheaper of the two types, I bet.  Here is a pic of a pump action type BB gun, similar to what I remember:

We (Dennis and I) also played all up and down the creek, swimming in pools in hot weather, playing cowboys and Indians, Army, whatever we saw in the movies on Saturday afternoons.  John Wayne was naturally everybody’s hero, but since he couldn’t possibly make enough movies to satisfy our need for him, we kids looked forward to Saturday matinees, when we got into the local theatre for only twenty cents.  We got a quarter to spend, so that left a nickel for (usually) lemon drops.  Those movies included coming attractions (we called them previews), a news reel (short), at least one cartoon, the feature movie, and then a second movie.  There may also have been an episode of one or more serial that everyone looked forward to.  And, just about every kid in town was at that one showing. 

We also played baseball with a friction-tape-wrapped ball, and a very old and weathered bat, in nearby pastures using cow patties for our bases.  One of our favorite places to play was near the city dump.  There were some large rocks overlooking the dump itself, and up in the rocks, we found what we thought were caves.  We’d go through the junk when no one was around, and find ‘treasures’ that we took up to our cave, and used to decorate, or furnish the cave.  I also loved to play in the wrecked cars that were parked on a back lot at the local Ford dealer (or, maybe it was the Chevrolet dealer).  That was the closest I ever expected to come to a newer car.  Dennis and I also became Boy Scouts in Goldendale, and attended the meetings in the basement of the Public Library, a dusty, cluttered area.

Sorry, but since this is again running long, we’ll take a little break here, and continue the report of the sojourn in Goldendale in Part IV…….

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Some more of my memories


Part II  (We left off in Rocky Ridge, and this is from Patty):


There we roamed the woods and played in a creek and had wonderful adventures…walked the train tracks and picked up rock salt to suck on.  We bathed on Saturday nights, the baby first followed by the only girl, and then you boys.  We slept in the loft where the snow filtered in and we had a baby squirrel for a pet for a time.

I think that was where Dennis was bitten by the dog and suffered terrible cuts to the face and had to have the rabies shots etc.  I saw him with the flesh hanging and his fear and all the blood and we were all pretty scared for him.  Thankfully the folks took good care of him.


Then, my recollection is that we moved to some sort of company housing in a small lumber town (Eatonville), followed by a rental house in that same little town.  I started First Grade at about this time, and we moved before I finished that year.  I do remember – vaguely – parts of First Grade, and how easy I found it to be.  I remember that Mike was part of a group of older students who created a massive snowman (or, was it a snow woman?) on the school grounds that winter (there used to be a family photo of this).  I vaguely recall that there was a building, like a garage, next to the house we lived in, and there was a pretty nice cabin cruiser (as, a small boat) in there.  And, I remember playing in and on that boat.  There was something else about an abandoned building that had a number of rotten eggs in it, and that is how I know that odor so peculiar to rotten eggs.  Ain’t nothin’ like that nowhere, nohow. 

Meanwhile, Mike has offered that I may well have the order of which house we lived in reversed here.  He recalls the separate, stand-alone house first, followed by company housing, second.  Patty remembers:


The next place I remember was maybe Eatonville, a logging town, actually a company town.  Dad being an alcoholic never held a job very long.  He didn’t take direction at all well so this was the root of all the moves we made.  I myself went to 13 different schools growing up, thing was though, we all made the adjustments very well and everyone made terrific grades and made friends wherever we moved.  We just never brought any kids home to play because we always lived in shacks.  [Not to mention that] The alcoholism was too embarrassing to expose anyone to.


Mike, after looking at the map I referred everyone to, had this to say about Eatonville:

  … I recall the other sequence such as free stand shack followed by company (see tar paper) housing off toward the mill pond… (Wow!!! Eatonville has an airport??? Shit, airplanes weren’t yet invented!!!!!!


In my memory, then our father’s work went from the saw mill, to a dairy farm, in another rural area, near the small town of Elma, some distance west, near Grays Harbor, on the coast.  Patty recalls:


The next place was maybe a dairy farm where Dad was a farmer’s helper.  We had great times playing in the woods and even built small log cabins out of sapling trees with the farmer’s permission.    Life went on.


All I remember from here was playing in and around woods and fields, in the early spring.  I remember May Day and flowers and picking wild flowers for our mother, while out in the fields.  We played Indians or something like that, and used these great big ferns as our spears.  We would pull them out of the ground, strip off the leaves, and the shaft that remained made an excellent spear for throwing.  This is where I also recall something like unfinished lumber that we stacked to serve as a fort of sorts.  I also remember the Saturday bathing, in the unheated kitchen, which was the warmest room in the house by virtue of the wood-burning cook stove that was always there.  The tub was simply one of those big old round galvanized things (a tub, doh), placed in the middle of the floor.  Mom would periodically add hot water, from a bucket that was placed on the stove full of water for just this purpose, while the bathing ritual began.  And, yes, it was much like Patty described.  We didn’t stay in the Elma area longer than it took for the school year to end, then we moved from western Washington, to East/Central Washington (near Prosser), where we moved in with my mother’s sister and her husband, on their little farm (way too small for all of us, plus the three of them).  Here, our memories take divergent paths, as Patty remembers a reverse order:


After that was the move to the eastern side of the state where we lived on a ranch and had chickens and I witnessed slaughtering a cow for meat for the freezer.  We had a horse we could ride named Blackie and once he got scared by a rattlesnake and took off running with me on his back and no saddle…Ohhhh Boy!

After that job failed [for dad, that is; she’s being very considerate here, as we all know full well that the job did not fail, but Garland undoubtedly did] we did spend a summer with Aunt Dorothy and Uncle Claire on their small dairy farm.  My gosh, what they must have gone through having Mom and Dad and five kids there.  They were very kind.  I once went with them to a Grange Dance on a Saturday night and was highly impressed to see the social setting that they were involved in.  They had a high old time.  Note:  After reading part of what I had written here, Patty says that she believes the order of stops was indeed Prosser/Aunt & Uncle, first, Rattlesnakes/ranch, second.


We stayed there, with Dorothy and Clare long enough to begin another year of school, and then we moved to a wheat ranch (up in the Rattlesnake Hills, north of Prosser).  I remember a ravine, down at the bottom of which was the barn, where we were allowed to keep a milk cow.  There were lots of farm cats, whose job it was to keep the mice under control.  Somebody killed a rattlesnake, down near the barn here, once, also.  There was at least one saddle horse, and I recall one Sunday, probably, we were all in the yard, and David was up on the horse.  But, he was too small to guide the horse himself, so I had the reins, and led that horse around the yard.  Well, I didn’t think of it, and went around the house, under the clothes lines, leading the horse.  What I did not realize is that the horse was much higher than I, and naturally, David was therefore way up there.  So far up, in fact, that the clothesline pretty much swept him right off the horse, which ducked under.  I arrived back at the area where the family was gathered with an empty horse (little plug there, for a very good book, by the way:  David Niven’s semi-autobiographical Bring On The Empty Horses). 

I also recall the wheat harvest while we were at this ranch.  Mom cooked for the harvest crew, which was no mean feat.  I got to ride in one of the trucks that ran out to the field to meet the combine, and into which the wheat (which the combine not only cut, but then separated from the chaff – nothing biblical implied) was dumped whenever the combine was full up.  Then, I rode with the guy who drove the truck to the grain elevator, where the truck was weighed, and its contents were then received and credited to the wheat ranch owner.  I recall that this truck driver, part of the itinerant crew, was from California, and that these guys traveled a circuit, so as to serve a number of wheat farmers, spread over a very large area (like, parts of three states), following the wheat crops.  I ate the whole kernels (I had teeth then) at his urging, and found them to be really good.

It was also while we lived here that Dennis broke his arm.  I don’t recall how, but I do vaguely remember that the rest of us kids waited at home while the folks took him to the hospital to get a cast, and then, he slept downstairs for a time.  There was something about someone had poisoned our dog, and/or some of the many cats about this time, and he could hear their agonized dying moans or wailing during the night.  I don’t have much more in my recollections of these events, but maybe he does, if he was willing to share his memories.

I know that we also ate a lot of fresh food then, things that you can’t find today.  There was sweet corn on the cob that we picked ourselves, from the field of one of many farmers down in the valley.  This, of course, was especially good, with the butter just dripping off it, lightly salted.  There were also great big huge, juicy, dripping red delicious apples (Sunday drives were a part of the old man’s routine, whenever he had a car) and more than once we went as far as the area over by Wenatchee, where the best apples in the world still grow.  Hermiston melons were the preferred watermelon (from Hermiston, Oregon).  The entire Yakima River Valley was serious agriculture.  Hops are still raised there (I believe this is the only place in the U. S. where they are raised), along with just about anything that you can think of that is good to eat, along with some crap you might not care for (parsnips).  There was at least one occasion when I recall everyone involved in turning the crank on an old-fashioned ice cream maker.

Let’s see, our evenings were spent listening to whatever the old man wanted to hear on the radio – Jack Benny, Fibber McGee and Molly, Bob Hope, The Shadow, Johnny Dollar, The Green Hornet, and on Saturday mornings, we kids listened to Sky King, or The Lone Ranger, or Roy Rogers.  I also remember daytime radio featured, besides the old soap operas, shows like Don McNeil’s Breakfast Club, and Arthur Godfrey (remember the hit song, “I Can See Clearly Now,” originally by Bob Marley?  Well, another version of that song, from Johnny Nash, came out in 1972.  Johnny Nash got his first exposure on the old Arthur Godfrey radio program.  There’s some real trivia for ya).

The first car I remember was a dark green, four-door 1942 Plymouth.  It seems like the old man was partial to Chrysler products, as this was followed by a two-door, light blue 1946 Plymouth sedan.  Then, there was a 1952 two-toned, two-door dodge sedan, but that was a few years in the future, from the time we were living up in the Rattlesnake Hills.

For those who never experienced a trip to a gas station, back when they were called – rightly – Service Stations, here is what I remember:  The car pulls up to the pumps.  The Service Station Attendants always (even for cheap skates like my old man who never had enough money to fill his tank) first asked, “Fill ‘er up, sir?” and then they “checked under the hood.”  This meant that they made sure the radiator was full of water, the oil up to the mark, and all belts and hoses were in good repair.  This ‘service’ included checking air pressure in the tires, and adding air as necessary, from the air hose that was part of every Service Station’s ‘Service Island,’ along with a water hose.  This was offered even when the response to the Attendant’s question was something from Garland along the lines, of, “Just give me two dollars worth of regular.”  Going back to the 30’s and 40’s, but still existing in the fifties was another thing that no longer exists.  On that Service Island, and between the pumps would be a wire rack, with slots for glass quart-sized containers that had metal spouts for caps.  Most of these were full to the mark with motor oil.  The attendants filled these glass jars/bottles from a fifty-five gallon drum of motor oil as needed, constantly cycling the empties, so that the rack always had plenty of full bottles.  This method of selling bulk oil was already becoming a thing of the past in the fifties, as cans of motor oils began to be more prevalent, and cans were taking the place of those glass bottles.

I do not recall my father ever working on his car, and as far as I know, most people did not do routine oil changes on their cars, anyway (just adding a quart here and there, as needed, which means that every car I ever saw had very black, thick oil in the crankcase).  Understand that we never heard of engine coolant, other than water.  I remember watching guys do major engine work, by the shade of a tree (thus, the term, “shade-tree mechanic”).  First, they would drain the crankcase, setting the used oil aside.  After they finished replacing the camshaft, or main bearing, or whatever major thing they had to do, they would reassemble the engine, and pour that same motor oil right back in.  Any necessary gaskets or seals were created out of whatever was handy, utilizing gasket paper only if it was available.

Antifreeze was commonly used only in winter months in those places where freezing was likely to occur, and then, it was always mixed with water using some formula that dictated so much antifreeze to so much water, depending on the likely low temperatures.  Motor oil was either 30 or 40 or 50 weight, and either detergent or non-detergent.  There was no multi-grade/weight oil.  My personal favorite was the brand sold by Union 76 Stations, called Royal Triton, which had the most beautiful purple color.  Now, we’ll get back to residences in Part III.