Sunday, September 15, 2013

One Man's Journey - Part XVIII

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The Move

I don’t recall that we were excited about this move. We knew we were going to a land where Christmas trees grew all over the place, where there was salt water, seashells and it rained a lot. None of these things we had seen. Neither Dad nor Mama, as far as I know, had ever seen saltwater or big cities.

It was in the evening when we boarded the train in Caldwell, so soon after we got started it was pretty dark. I don’t recall that we had eaten before we boarded, but Mama had prepared a large box or basket of fried chicken and other goodies, so we had a kind of picnic going.

Forty or fifty miles out of Caldwell we crossed the Snake River into Oregon. Dad pointed this out to us and the light from the moon, or maybe the train lights, made the water gleam. That was the last time we would see our beloved river for several years.

La Grande, Oregon

Gary Halvorson, Oregon State Archives, via Wikimedia Commons
I’m not sure at what time it was that we arrived in La Grande. I’m sure it was before midnight. Dad woke u up to tell us where we were. I’ve wondered many times what their feelings were. They had left the place about 14 years before and had never been back to visit the cemetery or any of their friends. It must have been a heart-rending experience to be so close to their old home and their little girl’s resting place, and not being able to spend a little time in the area.

I don’t know how long the train stayed there, but it couldn’t have been much over 30 minutes. Neither Mama nor Dad left the train. I’m sure they felt too bad. If I could have only felt the loss as deeply as they did, I’m sure I’d have made a greater effort to get them back there. But, who knows what the cards will bring up in this life. I shall mention La Grande further along.

November 1918

If we changed trains to go to Spokane, I can’t recall. In any event, we did arrive there the following day to spend a few days with Aunt Gertie. This was the first large city we’d have ever been in, but as far as I know, we didn’t see any of it.

The only thing I can remember about the visit was meeting a man, I believe a friend of Aunt Gertie. This man wanted to keep me, promising that I would be educated and taken care of. I often wondered in later years if the guy had some cheap labor in mind. Perhaps that is unfair, but such a generosity makes one wonder.

about December 1, 1918

I don’t’ remember the trip from Spokane to Everett, but from there into Seattle, we saw some of the largest trees in the world and so thick. Wall-to-wall Christmas trees – the extent of the waters of Puget Sound fascinated us. We knew we were going to like it if we could just get into it. We didn’t realize at the time that the stuff was about two degrees warmer than a block of ice.

Seattle – 1918

Diller Hotel (1909), via Wikimedia Commons
It was rather dark when we entered Seattle, so missed a lot of goodies that we would catch up on later. I don’t know where we detrained, but we did stay at the Diller Hotel located on 1st Avenue just south of the Pike Place Market. I’ve no idea how long we stayed in Seattle, but it was at least a week, and perhaps a few days longer, and you can bet that Colonel and I made the most of it.

I believe that Seattle at that time consisted mostly of 1st and 2nd Avenues as main business districts. Of course, there was Ballard and a few other districts like it, but our traveling was restricted, so our visit remained pretty much to 1st Avenue and the waterfront where we had a chance to view the huge naval ships, as well as freighters and merchantmen. There were some two- three- and four-masted sailing ships in service and these lay at anchor in the harbor for us to admire and wonder about; especially, for two very green kids fresh off the farm. We had never seen a boat larger than the old double-ended that was still tied up way, way back on Snake River.

We had never seen a sailor before, i.e.; dressed in uniform, but we sure saw plenty in the days we spent there. Literally thousands of them; also soldiers, but not so many. Even though the war had been over for less than a month {Armistice: 11 November 1918}, there were quite a few foreign ships at anchor in the bay and their crews roamed the street and mixed with the U. S. sailors.

Before our coming, we had little knowledge of foreign people and/or of black people. Most of the blacks we had seen had worked for the railroads as cooks, porters, etc. But here there were lots of them, along with Japanese, Chinese, English, French and what have you. We had seen Chinese before because two or three had operated the restaurant in Caldwell. We saw lots of Filipinos also; many served in the Navy as cooks and busboys. Maybe more about Filipinos later.

First Avenue was lined with dozens of tattoo parlors, curio shops and cheap clothing places, as well as a large number of moving picture houses. All of these places were out to attract the servicemen and separate them from their money. There were many other attractions, too. I believe our range was from Pike Street Market to Pioneer Square. Without transportation, that was about our limit.

The movie houses were what attracted us most and we would get out of one and go into another. The cost was ten cents and candy, popcorn and other goodies were easily purchased. After going a lifetime up to date without much entertainment, we kind of went overboard. Most of the movie houses played westerns and had canned music out front, and I believe much louder than inside the theatre.
Seattle Police mounted squad (1912); Seattle Municipal Archive
We got by pretty well and learned a lot in the process. Colonel miscalculated one afternoon and stayed until after dark. Dad called the police, but Colonel showed up before the police found him. Happy ending. I must note here that there were many mounted police in Seattle (horses). As far as I know, there were no motorcycles or cars used. They wore the old coal scuttle helmets, which was curious to us.

Leave Seattle, early December 1918

Our Seattle visit over, we boarded a fairly large boat for Port Townsend. On the way up the Sound, Dad pointed out the many fortifications that were still manned for the protection of Seattle. These guns all pointed in a westerly direction, and I’m sure became obsolete shortly after the war ended as I don’t ever remember seeing them again.

We took the train from Port Townsend to Sequim, and all I can remember of this ride was the large virgin timber we passed through. I believe that Mr. Bradshaw picked us up at the depot and took us to Sequim’s only hotel. The dirt streets of the town had never been paved, so as a result of heavy rains, they were a mess. As long as you could get from one board sidewalk to another, you could do okay.

Dad managed to rent a fairly large house, two story, but all of our household goods had gone astray. I believe the stuff was finally located in Portland, Oregon.

This place was probably a bit over one-quarter mile from town center, and was just about one-quarter mile north of the high school. Between our place and town was a large tract of land that, to my knowledge, had never been logged; and we spent a lot of time exploring it. On our property was a large barn that apparently had been used in a dairy operation at some time. We spent quite a bit of time in this building hunting rats. Up to this point, we had never seen a rat, and were totally surprised at the size of the things. It didn’t take us long to get the old shotguns unlimbered and it wasn’t very long when we had the place cleared of the rodents. However, there was always a few around to keep us interested.

I don’t know if the schools reopened before we had arrived, but we did start to school as soon as we became settled. Colonel was in the eighth grade and I don’t know where the building was where he attended. The high school was a wood frame building and must have been quite old, since the English had had a settlement many years before. ???

I don’t recall all the subjects, but I do know we had Algebra, English, Modern and Medieval History, Shop, and I believe a science course that was interchangeable with the history class.

I should mention here that the Waldrons, Phil’s parents, lived across the intersection of the road from us. {The Waldron and Aitchison families became life-long friends.}
Phil Waldron was in the Army and had been in France for some time. I believe he returned home soon after the first of the year (Jan 1919). My first recollection of Phil was him setting on a bench, in full uniform, telling stories about the war to a group of old-timers who had never been beyond Port Townsend or Port Angeles in their lives. The bench was located in front of a store on a very muddy street in the middle of town. I believe Phil and Mary were married shortly after he returned home from France.

Blasting caps

I must pause here and tell you a story about an incident that could have ended my career at a very tender age.

One day, I was rummaging around in the barn when I found a metal can about the size of a snuff can, only a bit deeper. I tried to get the lid off, but it was rusted tightly. I knew something was in the can because it rattled when shook. Not being able to get the lid off, I took it outside looking for some tool that would allow me to remove the lid. On the top rail of the fence were two or three horseshoes. I took one down and tried hammering the lid off. It still wouldn’t budge, so I place the can on top of the fencepost, which enable me to apply enough force to the blows to remove the lid. In the can, I found what I thought were a number of rifle cartridges, maybe 10-12, or more. Since I’d never seen anything like that before, I took them to the house to show Dad. He just about flipped after he saw the battered can. He explained that these things were dynamite caps and were to be treated with extreme caution. I shall never forget the lecture Colonel and I got on the careless handling of dynamite caps. (Both of us handled many in the years following.).

First job

I believe it was right after the first of the year 1919 that I got my first job in Sequim. A Mr. Musgrove, or Musgrave, operated a small chicken farm just south of our place about halfway to the high school. I helped him in the evening and on Saturday and Sunday. I don’t know what amount I was paid. I would guess seventy-five cents or a dollar per day. The job entailed scraping dropping boards, feeding and other chores.

The Picture Show

Mr. Musgrove also owned and operated the local motion picture house and he asked me to take tickets. All I was required to do was stand inside the door and retrieve the stubs that Mrs. Musgrove had just sold at the window about six feet from where I was standing. I don’t know what I earned, but I was allowed to view a big part of the last show and it wasn’t too long that I was able to get Colonel into sit with me. I believe the house operated about twice a week, maybe three times, and always a couple of shows on Saturday and Sunday. It must be remembered that this was the only entertainment that was close. It was a long drive to Port Angeles or Port Townsend, and automobiles weren’t all that popular. They were comparatively costly to buy and upkeep was certainly a lot to be desired. Most mechanics were ex-blacksmiths who knew what they were doing when fixing a wagon or shoeing a horse, but certainly knew little about the internal combustion engine or any of the things it was sitting on.

The problem with transportation kept us pretty close to our home, so we did a lot of walking. Dad was able to get a few jobs and I believe he was busy most of the time.

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