The first ten years of my life were spent in our home on 21st Avenue in Seattle. One of my first memories (probably one I didn’t want to remember) was when the street and sidewalk out in front were paved. This was before asphalt so meant cement. When the temperature goes up, cement will expand so every so often cement has to be given room to expand. This space (in between sheets of cement) was filled with tar, which could absorb the pressure. There was not much traffic on our street so occasionally Mother would allow us to play out on the sidewalk. We found that on warm summer days we could pry up ball of soft warm tar and use them for chewing guy! You can imagine what Mother did when she found this out!
Not to digress – but along this line – years later when we lived in Sunnydale, we looked down on a brick highway. Like cement, bricks will expand with hear but they are joined together with mortar – which does not expand. I can remember on a very hot day hearing a roar and looking down and seeing bricks flying in all directions.
World War I was beginning about this time and I can still remember all the excitement. My father had been working for Meacham and Babcock – and electrical contracting firm – they had sent him down to Fort Stevens Oregon, to do the electrical wiring on the barracks, etc. and up to Cedar Falls to help do the wiring on the tunnel that carried the water from Snoqualmie Falls from the top of the falls to the power house where the generators were far below – and on some City Light project, etc. But now, in response to the times, they switched to building ships. They built a shipyard over by the Ballard Bridge and went to work. Of course all this took time, but they did build one ship which was supposed to be used to carry troops to Europe, but by the time it was completed the war was over and it joined the fleet of “shipping board” boats that were anchored in Lake Union.
Everyone joined the war effort! “Victory Gardens” sprang up in everyone’s yards – front and back; even in the parking strips! People were encouraged to buy “Liberty Bonds” the money from which was used to finance the war. We children in school bought “Savings Stamps” at 25 cents apiece. When we filled a book we would exchange it for a $5.00 stamp and then turn these books in for a $25.00 savings bond. We didn’t have much money in those days but we children finally saved enough for 1 or 2 bonds apiece which we were able to collect on years later.
One effect of the war, was the flu epidemic that hit so many families. Many people were sick and many died. Schools, churches, movies etc. were closed. People stayed home if possible, and if they had to go out, they wore gauze masks. Our family was lucky enough to avoid it, but I remember putting on our masks and going to visit Uncle Vernon’s family, who were not quite so lucky. Thank goodness they all recovered at that time.
I have many memories of our life on 21st Avenue. Of how the popcorn man used to come by with his horse and wagon and with his whistle, which was powered by his gas burner, calling all the children to come and buy some hot popcorn; or on rare occasions an ice cream cone. I also remember the vegetable man with his heavy load of fresh fruit and vegetables. While Mother was busy buying her food, we girls were busy finding bunches of clover etc. to feed the horses!
Christmas was always a happy time for our family. I can remember that our first Christmas tree was a cedar tree! Of course, a cedar tree has very droopy branches – branches definitely not good for holding all the little candles that were always clamped onto the tree. To this day, I don’t know how we were lucky enough to set the tree on fire when the candles were lighted! Erna and I both ad little birds that were put up near the top where they could look at the silver star that always graced the top of the tree! I still have my little bird – and although it lost its tail long ago, I have always had it on my tree ever since.
I afterwards learned why Mother was so enamored with cedar trees! When she was a little girl she lived on a treeless prairie, but in her back yard was a large lone cedar tree! At Christmas people from miles around would come and beg to have branches from their cedar tree. They would take an old broom stick and bore holes in it and insert their cedar branches and have “Christmas trees” of their own.
As we grew older, the cedar trees, which did not mean so much to we girls, were turned into pine trees. I don’t know why we didn’t settle on the popular Douglas fir – but probably because the pines were harder to find. There were fir trees everywhere, just for the cutting! At any rate, every December brought our annual expedition tot eh woods to search for the ”perfect Christmas tree”! It was a wonderful tradition!
During this time Daddy began to get restless. I don’t know whether it was because of the war – or what – but he wanted to get next to the earth – so the family decided to move to the country. In the fall of 1918, they found a 10 acre ranch in Sunnydale, which is on the Des Moines highway about ten miles south of Seattle. It belonged to a widow, Mrs. Swett, who had not been able to keep it up. The house was small, with a small greenhouse attached to the south side of it. It did not have running water (but it had a good spring under a big weeping willow tree). There were several small sheds, but a short time before, a new road had taken the north side of the property, including the barn, etc. However, it had good soil, a100 tree apple orchard, 6 quince trees – plus a cherry, pear, and plum trees, etc. All in all, Daddy could see many possibilities here – so he bought it. (Just a sideline – when Mrs. Swett moved out, she left her cat, Tootsie. She knew that it would be some time before we moved in because Daddy had so many things he wanted to do – but she said Tootsie was a good mouser and could take care of herself – if we would just bring her some cold boiled potatoes when we did come! We did so – and enjoyed several generations of here offspring as a result!)
Daddy had a big job to get the “ranch” ready for our family but with Grandpa’s (Bates) help, two new bedrooms were added, and a porch that had room for an enclosed toilet and wash basin. (In all that time that we were there, we used a folding rubber bathtub that we stood up in the middle of the kitchen on Saturday nights.) Daddy also enlarged the spring under the willow tree, into a well equipped with a gas engine pump, and put in a water system. To make the system work, he had to have a water tank high enough so that gravity would carry the water whenever he wanted it – and would give enough pressure to make it effective. This would require a tower to get the tank up high. So – Daddy proceeded to build one. He made the base of the tower large enough to act as our garage – tool house, and store house for food for all of our animals, etc., etc.
On November 11, 1918, Daddy had taken Erna and Myrle and me along as helpers and was up in the tower working on the tank that he was building. Mother had stayed home with Ruth, who was still a baby. Of course, the three of us were not very old, but with the help of ropes, ladders, etc., all of us were up on the platform, helping Daddy try to get hoops around the tank (I’m not sure we would have been there if Mother had been with us because it was not the safest place in the world!)
All of a sudden we heard the awfullest noise coming up from the valley below us! Looking down at the brick road going by we could see a car driving along dragging a number of 5 gallon cans behind it! The noise could be heard for miles! Of course this was before the days of radio – but Daddy knew what this meant! The armistice ending World War I had been signed!!!
In some way or other, we got down off that tower as fast as we could and got in Old Betsy and headed for home! We picked up Mother and Ruth and headed for downtown Seattle to join in the celebration!
I think everyone for miles around was in Seattle by then! Everyone was honking their horns and shouting!! I can remember one car that went by that had a long “union suit” (long armed and long legged underwear) that they had stuffed to make it look like a body. It had a sign (it hung on the side of the car) on it that said “Kaiser Bill”. The riders in the car had rifles with bayonets, and would stab it every so often and the car would backfire! The whole town was celebrating the victory – with thankfulness that the war was over! (I did not see anything like this over the years when any of our other wars had ended. We thought that all our troubles were over!)
In due time everything was ready. Te water system worked perfectly, etc., so we happily moved to Sunnydale! I entered the Sunnydale School – a 4-room school (plus Kindergarten in the Grange Hall next door) in the 5th grade. Yes, I entered, but I didn’t stay long, because the very next day I broke out with the smallpox! I really wasn’t very sick – but at that time we were quarantined for four weeks, and by the time it had run through the family the year was nearly over!
At least, this gave us a chance to get acquainted with our new home! I loved it here on the ranch! We had lots of room to play in and in time we had a dog, Max, and a number of kittens, a horse, Maggie, a cow Topsy and then her calf, Daisy, rabbits, chickens and ducks – yes eventually 1000 of them! And a pig or I should say, pigs! Each one has a story of is own, and I will try to tell a little about each in time. We also had a big garden with enough vegetables to supply the family. With all of this, there was enough to keep a man full time busy to keep up with everything, but my father was still holding down his job with the contractors in Seattle – so most of the “ranch work” was left up the Mother and us girls (he did all he could – so was always busy and I think enjoyed life in the country) I don’t know how Mother was able to do everything – milking, churning, gardening, washing, etc. Of course there was no washing machine and everything had to be washed by hand. The only refrigeration we had was a cabinet out on the cool side of the woodshed. The separator was there too and when the milk pail was brought in from the barn, the milk was poured into the separator, and separated. The cream was rich enough to be whipped, but what we did not keep for whipping cream was placed in large flat pans and allowed to set overnight in the cooler. By the next day the thick cream had risen to the top and could be skimmed off and used for cooking or as food for the animals. We always had plenty of good food in our family.
Now going back to the animals, Max was the first addition to the family, and was one of the incentives for moving to the country. He was a roly-poly puppy – half Sheppard and half Collie and soon had won all of our hearts. We had many a romp with him. When he was tired he would stretch out on the porch and go to sleep. All of a sudden, out of a sound sleep, he would wake up – jump up and head for the gate leading to the driveway. Sure enough, several minutes later, we would hear Old Betsy coming down the highway and we knew Daddy would soon be home. We never could figure out how Max could hear that car when he was asleep and it was so far away! He must have had a sharp sense of hearing!
Tootsie always had a batch of kittens for us to play with and each of us girls had our own. Mine was always a black one – usually “Nigger” by name. I remember that one Nigger now grown up decided that my bed was her bed too – so decided to have her family right there on my bed. It was a nice present, but really not appreciated so the new family was soon moved to a more appropriate home. But I
did love my cat!
As for our two cows, Topsy was the mother. She was a brown and white Jersey – Guernsey and gave lots of good rich milk. She was a gentle cow and when Daddy was away and Mother – who had never before had to milk a cow, had to do it she stood very still. Mother always said she could kiss Topsy because she was so good. Daisy was the playful child who did not want to cooperate. She, thanks to her father, was black and white, and had the characteristics and appearance of a Holstein. Mother used to say that she tried to tip over the milk pail. So it was always a struggle when she tried to milk her. But – we always had lots of good rich milk, whip cream, butter, cottage cheese, etc.
Our chickens were Rhode Island Reds, so we not only had fresh eggs, but often a good chicken dinner too. That was fine – except for the day that Erna discovered that her favorite, Brownie was missing from the flock. I don’t think any of us enjoyed the dinner that day. We also raised rabbits for food.
Also – way back in the farthest corner of our farm we had a pigpen with a pig. One weekend Uncle Vernon and Aunt Etta came to see us, and in the morning Daddy took Uncle Vernon with him when he went to feed the pig. On the way to the pen Daddy told him all about the pig. When they got there Daddy got busy with his feeding and Uncle Vernon started looking around. All of a sudden he said, “I thought you said you had a pig.” Sure enough Daddy looked and there were 2 pigs there.
We never did find where that pig came from nor how he got into the pen, so we decided to keep him – and gave him the name “Lucky”. We later learned that there was a pig farm on the next road up from us and think a pig from that farm got out, and wandered through some thick woods and a swamp and was glad to find the comfort of our pen. Anyway, we were glad to have it.
Then there was Maggie! When we moved to the ranch, Daddy promised us a horse – so he finally found Maggie for us. We wanted a horse to ride and Daddy wanted a horse to help with the work. Maggie was friendly enough and loved to eat apples from our hands, but as for anything else – she was no good. I guess Daddy did not ask about her background and training and we later found that she was a “pack horse” and that was all. We did not have a saddle but I was willing to ride bareback. I finally got her bridle on and somehow got on her back. She pranced around a little and then, paying no attention to the bridle at all, she headed straight for the low hanging cherry tree and brushed me off her back. I was not hurt and after I turned to get up, I found her just standing there with her hoof on my skirt! She did not try to run away but she was not going to give anyone a ride, and she never did!
Daddy did not have any better luck either. We had a big field in back, so Daddy planted it in field peas thinking it would make good winter fodder for the animals. In the fall he cut it and let it dray and then wanted to use Maggie to get it to the barn for storage. He made himself a sledge – 2 wheels in the back and a sled runner in the front. He loaded the dry peas and hay, etc. on the sledge and then tried to hitch Maggie up to pull it. But he no sooner got her hitched that she took off – the faster she ran, the more the peas rattled in their pods and that awful thing handing on behind her really terrified Maggie! She ran all around that field scattering peas and hay everywhere! What a mess! Daddy finally caught her and got her unhitched and quieted down but that was the end of trying to turn a packhorse into a saddle horse or a workhorse. Daddy finally sold her back to a packhorse company.
And then, there were the ducks! Daddy heard about White Peking ducks – about how fast they developed and what a market there was for them in the Chinese restaurants in town and about how they could practically be raised on scrap lettuce and other vegetable trimmings that could be picked up free down at the Farmer’s Market so he decided to make his fortune.
He cleaned out the ivy and honeysuckle covered woodshed and bought some incubators and brooders and went into business. We had 10 acres of land and no real close neighbors so there was no problem there. The pasture down in front was well fenced and had several springs so looked large enough to care for the cows and ducks too. He started with 1000 eggs and expected to get several batches of ducks each year.
Everything went fine with the first setting and soon we had a big flock of ducks down in the pasture. The only trouble was they did not stay down in the pasture – they got through the fence and started marching around the house, quacking all the way, wanting to be fed. This would start at daybreak and continue until someone would go out and feed them. Daddy usually gave them some hot mash to supplement their market greens, but this took some time to prepare – in the meantime there was no let-up in the quacking! (About this time Myrle was in the 1st or 2nd grade and one of the stories in her reader was about a duck who had been conned out of his savings and who went around saying “quack, quack, when do I get my money back?” so that is what we thought of when we heard all of the loud quacking!)
All went well and ducks grew big and fat. Daddy found a ready market for the ducks – but them came the blow! The blow that put us out of the duck-raising business! The buyers wanted the ducks all butchered and plucked. Getting the feathers off was not so bad, but ucks are covered with down and that is another story! Daddy struggled with a number of ideas, but never did come up with a satisfactory method. I think he had to sell most of the ducks alive and that did away with the dreams of making a big profit in the duck business. We never did get our money back!
One of the nice things about our ranch was our 100 – tree orchard. There were a few pear trees, a cherry and a prune tree, 6 quince trees and all the rest were apples – apples of all kinds and descriptions – and I love apples! We had a “root cellar” under the house with bins for apples. We would fill them up every fall, and soon learned which ones would last all winter long. I loved to curl up with a book and 2 or 3 apples and a purring cat! We had many more apples than we could eat – so Mother would let us sell the apples if we picked them we could keep the money for ourselves. I can remember putting our blackboard out on the road wit a big sign “Apples $1.00 a box”. We sold quite a few too. People liked some of the big red ones we had (I never knew what the were) but I did not think they had much flavor so I liked the others better. I earned enough money to buy tires for Mother’s old bicycle – I also still have a book I sent to Sears for at the time – “1700 Conundrums Worth Knowing.” It was great having some money of my own! Many people came to buy quince from Mother. They were hard to get. When ground up and cooked with apples, they made good “quince honey”. I loved it.
One advantage of our location, was the fact that we had rich neighbors who lived next door. They had a big house and barn and out buildings – and a couple to help with the work! The lady with the housework and a man for the outside work! And there were 3 children. The oldest was about a year older than I was – Elma Miller, and her sister Betty and a younger brother, Lynn. We soon got acquainted, but did not have too much time together because they attended private school in Tacoma. However, Elma and I had fun together up in their big old barn – playing that we were Egyptian princesses. (That was the only time I ever enjoyed dancing!)
The Millers had a big fireplace and in front of it was a polar bear skin rug – but even more exciting was that on either side of the fireplace were bookcases full of books – and they were nice enough to loan me any that I wanted! It was not easy to get to the library in Seattle – so I really took advantage of this. They had good books – but I remember that it was here that I got acquainted with “Tarzan of the Apes”! I have always loved to read so this was a real joy.
Speaking of reading, etc., the back part of our property bordered on some unimproved forested land. Naturally, we had to go exploring. We soon found an interesting spot just right for a group of girls who wanted a secret place “to play”. It became our “story nook”. When we branched out farther, we found an interesting swampy area where there were swamp flowers and some mossy pools with yellow pond lilies. In the fall I even found a few wild cranberries and picked enough to have a small dish of sauce for Thanksgiving dinner.
I remember walking along one of the pools when I noticed a small ball of moss about eye level on a branch in front of me. It was about the size of a man’s pocket watch. It was a hummingbird’s nest! When I looked in, there were 2 little eggs about the size of peas. I stayed away from that path – but did go back once saw 2 little scrawny birds about the size of hornets, that had hatched. I enjoyed getting out there – but know that area has not survived progress, because after we moved away Highline High School was built close to that site!
We were lucky enough to be only about ¼ mile from the Sunnydale School. We could hear the bell from our house, when some lucky child was allowed to pull the rope. Of course, all teachers wee unmarried women, so there was a lot of excitement when we heard that our new 7th and 8 th grade teacher was going to be a man! We couldn’t wait to get to school that September.
When we got to school, we found him – not in the room taking care of enrolling students – but out on the playground playing tennis with the early arrivals! Ant that was just he beginning! The next 2 years were really fun! Mr. Dimmit was a good teacher- and he knew how to inspire his students to do their best. He also did things that not many other teachers did at that time. He took us on an excursion to Seattle, where we got on a boat and went to Port Townsend so that we could sing for some wounded soldiers who were housed in one of the beautiful homes there. We sang “My Isle of Golden Dreams” and “2nd Hand Rose” among other songs. It was a wonderful experience for a class of boys and girls from the country! There wasn’t anything we wouldn’t do for Mr. Dimmit! He later became the Superintendent of King County Schools!
There was another bell that we could her from our house! This one was on Sunday mornings, and was from the little “Free Methodist Church” that was on the next road over north of us. We usually went down to our own Methodist Episcopal Church in town (Seattle), but Mother did not drive, so when Daddy was away we had no way of getting there. Sometimes Mother would let us go to this little country church. It was quite different from our big metropolitan church in town. There people there were very sincere, and were not afraid to express their feelings with a loud “amen” or “Praise the Lord”! They asked people to come to the altar, confess their sins, and give themselves to God. I finally had to respond, and went to the altar. It was a very emotional time and left me with a feeling of elation and happiness. I had been accepted by God! We had never had such emotional services in our sedate church. To this day, I still remember that experience with joy and I think that maybe it wouldn’t hurt if we had a little more emotion included in some of sour staid services!
Another nice thing that happened while we lived at the ranch was that one of the ladies of the community, Mrs. Schurr, decided to start a Camp Fire Group and Erna and I joined it. We were still newcomers to the community, but this gave us a chance to get a little closer to our classmates. In spite of having a young preschool son, Franklin, to keep her busy, Mrs. Schurr had a good program for us, and even took us on a hike down to Miller’s Beach on the Sound.
All went well, until Mother heard that a new group was being formed at our church in town, and that Mrs. Bertha Gardner would be the guardian! She knew Mrs. Gardner and realized what an opportunity this would be for us, so even though it meant we would have to go to town on the bus and walk 4 blocks uphill to get to the meetings she insisted that we drop the Sunnydale Group and join the group in town!
Neither Erna nor I wanted to do this, but Mother insisted, so in spite of being ostracized by our classmates, we finally made the change. It was never quite the same at school after that – but it was probably the best thing that ever happened to us. I’ll tell more about it later.
Daddy did a lot of electrical work after the war, and finally took on a number of smaller jobs for himself. Among others, he built the first power line between Longmire Springs and Paradise. We spent some time with him that summer – and learned the difference between mountain huckleberries and the little blue ones we have here at sea level. (Myrle and Ruth have a story they can tell of how they helped Mother pick berries while Erna and I were out hiking to Anvil Rock with some friends of Uncle Rays.)
Another job that Daddy got was to build a power line to Elma, Montesano, Aberdeen and Hoquiam. This was quite a long line and Daddy needed a place to live so he used his ingenuity and came up with the right answer. He brought an old fire truck. It was just a heavy old wagon that had been pulled (by horses, I guess). At any rate he had one with a heavy chassis, and built on it. On one half he built a room for all of his tools and supplies, and on the other end he had his living quarters and office. He could pull it with his truck – sop just moved it along as his work progressed.
When weekends came along he would leave his headquarters where it had been parked and go home. On one such weekend it rained very hard and when he got back on Monday, he found that he was parked in a field that was flooded with a foot or so of water. Of course, that gave his wagon a name – and from then on it was always called “the Ark”. The Ark served Daddy very well, and he used it on a number of jobs. This was just an example of how Daddy “used his head” to find answers to his problems.
I never heard Mother complain about anything, but I’m sure that it became quite apparent, that with Daddy away so much of the time, life on a ranch was pretty hard on her. So by the winter of 22 – 23, it was decided that we should move back to Seattle – and West Seattle was the location settled upon. I think one reason for this was the fact that I had started going to High School there. Sunnydale had no High School so sent their graduates to West Seattle High. My father’s nephew Percy and his wife, Lillie, lived there and invited me to stay at their house. I did so for a while, but then joined the others, and traveled back and forth each day. We rode on the Des Moines bus as far as Spokane Street and then caught the West Seattle street car – on the elevated track.