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 he was. 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 Ave. But evidently they didn't agree and one night they left Missoula without saying anything to us. We heard later that 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 two grades.

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 break.

I wonder if teachers read books to their classes these days? I waited all week for Friday to come to hear 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
1910EarlyYearsInMissoula.txt Page 2 of 2 01/18/01 11:36 PM