More Random Memories of Missoula - #7


As I look back on my childhood I can see that it was entirely different from my grandchildren’s and great-grandchildren’s. Since there was no radio nor TV I depended on reading and playing the piano for indoor activities, and games such as hide and seek, statue, and baseball in the street. I loved to walk on homemade stilts using tin cans and long sticks.

And I was protected from the realities of the world. I can remember one day when the newspaper was hidden from us children which made us inquisitive. After much eavesdropping on my part I found that the word “rape” occurred in my parent’s and neighbors’ conversations. It meant nothing to me, and even when I looked up the definition, I didn’t understand much. And of course I didn’t ask. The term “pregnant” wasn’t used much if at all. I just heard, “in the family way.” Today my seven-year old great-grandson, Rickey, knows more than I did when I was a teenager.

My mother had bad attacks of asthma and had to sit up many nights, so Dad took over. When we were ill Dad took care of us. I so vividly remember when I had earaches. Dad would put a hot piece of toast over my ear and drop oil of peppermint on it into my ear. He would rock me and sing to me, usually, “My Wild Irish Rose”. His nickname for me was Rosebud for the wild roses blooming in June, the month of my birth. When we had stomach aches Dad would mix a little Jamaica Ginger with warm water and give it to us. I loved it for it was sweet. One couldn’t buy it over the counter during Prohibition for it had quite a bit of alcohol in it.

My mother wouldn’t have a deck of playing cards in the house so I didn’t know a club from a spade until I was in high school spending the Thanksgiving weekend with a friend. Agnes lived a number of miles from Missoula near Ronan but during the school year lived in Missoula attending Missoula County High School. Her father drove us that Thanksgiving weekend and we left during a blizzard. We had hot water bottles and blankets but the water soon cooled. I can’t remember ever being as cold as I was on that ride in the old Ford car with snapped on curtains that kept out the snow but not the cold. After safely negotiating the Pass we finally got to Agnes’ home. That night everyone played cards and I was expected to join in. They looked at me with amazement when they found out I knew nothing about cards. At home we played Flinch. [Which reminds me: An Interlake Principal, Mr. Gibson, wouldn’t let us P.T.A. women use playing cards in a skit we put on for a meeting. He insisted we use a Flinch deck.]

How excited our family was when Dad bought a washing machine. No, it wasn’t electric for they had not yet been invented. This one was turned by hand which was a vast improvement over the scrubbing board. When we first moved into the house on Bagley we didn’t have a washing machine and it was practically impossible to get one for it was during the Depression. A neighbor, Mrs. Potter, somewhere found one which we bought.

Of course we didn’t have clothes driers. We hung them out on the lines in the backyard. During the winter if I got my wet hands on the wire my fingers would freeze to it. When we took the clothes down they would be stiff as boards and stand on the ground.

Another memory is about my getting sick and throwing up whenever a friend came to spend the night. I guess I got too excited. Wilbur told me he got sick as a little boy whenever they got on the boat in Friday Harbor to come to Seattle.

My mother was not superstitious, and was quite vehement about it. We were taught not to mind if black cats walked in front of us and that the figure 13 held no special properties for bad luck. How surprised I was to learn, years later, that the reason my father-in-law didn’t come to dinner one time was because there would have been thirteen of us.