1910 Early Years in Missoula - #1
After a year in the log cabin up the Rattlesnake our
family moved into town to a house at 820 Cherry Street
where my brother, Vernon, was born. People who know
him now wouldn't believe what a skinny little baby
Mother couldn't find any formula that agreed
with him until one day her doctor suggested Eagle Brand
Condensed milk. He thrived on that. Perhaps that is
how he acquired a yearning for sweets. Once when he
was in high school we gave him one whole recipe of
boiled frosting for his birthday. He ate it all.
Sometime that first year Mother's cousin Edith, her
husband, and her mother also moved to Missoula from
Connecticut. Frank Austin and Dad bought property at
1114 Poplar Street and the lot next to it. They
built two identical houses on the back of the lots
and later Dad built a big house on the front of the
property. The Austin house was later bought by the
Perrys and moved to a lot at the end of our block,
and remodeled. We started sleeping in the new home
before it was completely finished and everything moved
into it. One winter morning Dad went to the old place,
started a fire so it would be warm, and made cereal
for breakfast. As we went out the door to cross the
yard I said, "Dad, look at all that smoke." It
wasn't just smoke but the house was on fire. Dad ran
in and grabbed a big wicker rocking chair full of clean
clothes and that's all we saved from the old place.
Dad and Frank were partners in a contracting and construction
company for a while, with a shop next to the Higgins
Avenue Bridge on the east side of Higgins
But evidently they didn't agree and one night they
left Missoula without saying anything to us. We heard
Frank was riding his bicycle in Pasadena and was killed
in an accident.(1) Edith later married a wealthy man
and the next we heard of her, she and her husband were
in Seattle with their yacht, visiting friends. Although
Mother wrote a note to her, it was never answered.
She left a request when she died that she be buried
in the Pioneer Cemetery in Mt. Carmel, Connecticut,
where so many of our ancestors are buried.
I was already living on Poplar Street when I started
first grade. No one questioned class size in those
days. Prescott School was a two-story building with
two large classrooms on both floors. Each room housed
The first day I was very bewildered when Mrs. Farmer,
our teacher, told us to bring tablets to school the
next day. Why should we bring pills, I wondered?
I was always envious of the ones who brought their
lunch to the school and could play most of the noon
I wonder if teachers read books to their classes
these days? I waited all week for Friday to come
another episode in an exciting story the teacher
read to us.
One thing our school had unlike the others in town
was a little brook that ran in front of and around
one side of the school grounds, and then turned south
and ran not too far behind our home. We were warned
not to play in it at recess but we did then, before
and after school. One day my brother fell into it and
I pulled him out. For years he told the family how
his sister saved him from drowning. When his wife saw
it in 1977 she exclaimed, "Is that little thing
what you fell into?"
My school years were fairly normal except for two
incidents. Once when I was in the first grade a classmate
stole my Heinz green pickle pin, an advertising gimmick
the company gave away. I ran home and hid. When the
teacher phoned to see where I was, my parents found
me and back I went.
When I was in the sixth grade I had a habit of turning
my eraser over and over on my desk while the teacher
was talking to us. Evidently this made her very nervous
and she asked me to stop, which I did for a short time
but then, absent-mindedly started doing it again. She
told me to write the multiplication tables 100 times.
I guess I still fiddled with my eraser for I was assigned
the task of writing the tables many more than one hundred
times. Even my classmates helped me finally. I must
have gone home and cried about it for Mother and Dad
went up to have a talk with Miss Nedra and it was decided
that I was to stay out of school for the rest of the
year. I was overjoyed, of course. No school! Of course,
I didn't graduate with my friends in 1923 but finished
in 1924. (I still find it hard to sit absolutely still
without tapping my fingers or pencil on a table.)
But I soon found out the days were awfully long when
everyone else was in school.
The next year I went back and who was the teacher?
Miss Nedra, but she couldn't have been nicer to me.
I still have the Montana State Song music she gave
me the last day of school.
It was during my sixth grade that World War I was
being fought and all of us, boys and girls, knitted
sweaters for the soldiers. The bandages we rolled turned
out much better than the sweaters.
1. Frank Austin died 25 Mar 1912 and is buried in
Mt. Carmel cemetery. He shares a marker with Albert
Root, his father-in-law. The name of his wife Edith
is also on the marker, but has no dates.
1988/9 Life Story Class
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