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.