My Father: Harry Allyen West
I notice that as I have written my life story I have mentioned
my father more than my mother.
Because of Mother's ill health
it was Dad who took us places, did much of the cooking and
baking. It was Dad who took us to buy school clothes and
shoes. But we didn't love him more than Mother.
Dad was born in Lowell (ed: Lawrence), MA, Aug. 26,1880
When Wilbur and I, my brother Vern and Jean, his wife, went
on tour of the US (1977), we stopped in Lowell to hunt his
birth record. There was none under the name West. Dad had
impressed on us that his mother was Lillian Peevey (or Peavy
or Peavie) but we didn't think to look for that name. We
have a feeling that he may have been illegitimate.
He was orphaned when he was young and lived with an aunt
who didn't care for him.
After she put him to bed at night he would climb out of
his window and look throught the dining room window and watch
his aunt and the hired man eating all sorts of good foods,
and plenty of them. His life is a blank until he ran away
to NYC, sold newspapers and lived in a piano box. This much
he told us of his youth and why we didn't ask questions,
I don't know.
We know he joined Teddy Roosevelt's Rough Riders and fought
in the Spanish-American War. Part of Dad's uniform was a
beautiful blue cape with a red lining that we loved to wear.
Teddy Roosevelt was always his hero - he could do no wrong.
When Roosevelt was campaigning for President of the US and
came to Missoula, Dad was very active on the committee working
for him. He took me to the train and held me up so Roosevelt
could shake my hand.
In spite of his admiration for Teddy Roosevelt he had a
strong dislike for army life and war. Consequently, he wouldn't
let Vern join a Boy Scout troop because he claimed
it was too militaristic. Dad had a dishonorable discharge
may have influenced his feelings. From as early as I can
remember Dad told us he had a dishonorable discharge. I've
always intended to write and find out why.(2)
Back to earlier times. When Dad was discharged from the
Army (1902) he ended up in Connecticut. For a time he worked
at the Winchester Arms Company. Finally, we know he was working
in Hamden and living with a relative of Mother's, Elizabeth
Peck. There he met Mother, they fell in love and were married
March 30, 1904, just after my grandfather died (January 20,1904).
Evidently Dad learned the carpentry trade in NY City for
he told us of working
with Scandinavians and Irish. All his
life he disliked them and the Catholics and tried to instill
that feeling in us, me especially as the oldest child. I
can remember that when my best friend in Seattle told us
she was marrying Howard Rosenquist (a Swede!) Dad asked, "Why
are you marrying that Swede?" How embarrassed I was.
It took me a long time to get over my feelings about Catholics.
Because Dad had grown up an orphan with no family, our family
meant everything to him. Throughout his life the only place
he went without Mother was to Ris Unicorn Meeting. He always
sent Mother a dozen carnations for her birthday no matter
how little money we had, and always sent American Beauty
roses for their anniversary. He never forgot.
Christmas was an extra special time for Dad. He always cut
the most perfect tree he could find up Hellgate Canyon. He
and Mother always decorated it Christmas Eve. He purchased
some of the first strings of electric lights shipped to Missoula
from Germany. The little globes were in the shapes and colors
of fruit and nuts, pears, apples, oranges, walnuts, etc.
Some lasted until we were in Seattle and then I hung them
on the tree as ornaments. Wilbur didn't realize how I felt
about them and threw them away.
I'll have to mention some of our Christmas Traditions. Both
Mother and Dad were from the East Coast and were accustomed
to oysters and clams and missed them in
However, on Christmas oysters were shipped into Missoula
and no matter what the cost we had oyster stew for Christmas
breakfast. We still do. Every Christmas my son-in-law, Hans
Klein, makes it for us. It took me a long time to eat an
oyster, but I finally learned after coming to Seattle.
Another holiday Dad enjoyed was Halloween. How I wish I
could remember all the escapades he and his friends got into
when he was young, such as putting outdoor toilets on a roof!
He always went with us when we soaped windows. (Yes, I really
did that!) Of course Dad didn't, but he enjoyed watching
us do it. We picked on homes unfriendly to children. We also
used tic-tacs that made noises on windows. We always "tricked" people
but I never heard "Trick or Treat" until the principal
of Interlake School, Mr. Gibson, told the school to "treat" not "trick."
Dad and Mother were members of First Presbyterian Church
where I sang in the choir. The church had several Sunday
Schools throughout Seattle and Dad taught at one of them
and was a deacon.
When Mother died in June 1930, Dad sent word to all of her
relatives. One he
contacted was Edith Stoner in Lansing,
When we lived in Defiance, Ohio, Edith and her family
lived across the alley from us.
Edith and Dad started a correspondence that finally ended
with her coming to Seattle. And she and Dad married. Edith
brought her youngest son, Vernon, with her planning on persuading
Dad to move back to Michigan with her. Dad wouldn't move
nor Edith stay here so they were divorced in 1932. There
had also been some friction for Dad thought her son was a
bad influence for my brother.
Being alone again, Dad started getting books to read at
the lending Library on Stoneway, owned by,
as it turned out, a mother and daughter from Missoula, MT.
Every Sunday night
there was an organ concert by Crawford on the radio (no TV
in those days!) and Dad and Bessie would listen. Yes, you
guessed right. Dad and Bessie got married.
The only fly in the ointment as far as I was concerned was
that Bessie always had a grudge against me. Why? Someone
at the 1st Presbyterian Church told her I didn't want Dad
to marry her. The fact was, I was very happy to have them
marry for Dad was lost by himself. Days were ok when he was
busy but nights were something else.
My denial of expressing such a feeling made no impression
on Bessie. Then one day I phoned and asked them for lunch,
but when I asked Dad I said "You", not you and
Bessie. When I invite John and Kristen, Cara and Cliff, I
say, "You," never thinking that I am excluding
the other person. When Dad showed up at the luncheon I asked
where was Bessie? When he said she wasn't invited I was horrified.
I couldn't imagine them thinking I would exclude one of them.
Dad and Bessie were happy in spite of me. I never regretted
their marriage and I think Mother would have been happy about
For a time they stayed on at 1324 Allen Place, but soon
moved into a two story house Dad built in the Mr. Baker area.
I was never comfortable visiting for my three were enamored
with going to the lavatory on the SECOND floor. They didn't
have a second floor at home. Bessie and her mother, Mrs.
Lena Smith, asked them not to use that one. Then my three
continually wanted to touch the fringe on the beautiful table
Dad died of a heart attack Dec. 22, 1948. Dad would have
loved the Christmas music that was played at the Columbia
Funeral home and the Christmas murals in the yard.
Bessie and Mrs. Smith moved to Long Beach, CA to be near
her brother. We all - Wilbur, Viola, Jeanne and
I visited them a number of times. Jeanne and I collected
take to Bessie's pet duck. Both Bessie and her mother died
in Long Beach.
Dad's story wouldn't be complete without mentioning his
gardens. He loved to work in them. While we lived in our
last home on Vine Street in Missoula he
rented land on the Missoula River next to the Van Buren Street
he grew every kind of vegetable which we canned. He shipped
his lettuce to Spokane. On the land where his garden grew
there is now a mall and a motel in which Viola, Wilbur and
I stayed when we were there.
In our backyard he also had a garden and always grew sweet
peas. They grew so high we had to climb on a ladder to pick
At his last home in Seattle, 10202 65th Avenue S, he had
the best corn I ever ate. I'm ashamed to say I ate several
ears at one meal. His dahlias were lovely, so were all the
other flowers he grew. But his sweet peas were "tops".
(1) Grandma says
Lowell here, but all documents have Harry's place of birth
Lawrence, MA. Harry's exact date of birth is unclear,
but it was probably slightly
than 1880. While he consistently said he was born on August
the date varied
The earliest documentary evidence we have of Harry is his
enlistment into the army May 15, 1901 in which his age was
recorded as 21 years 8 months. (Making his year of birth
WWI draft registration card he gives his birthdate as 26
1877. The date of birth on his death certificate was 26 Aug
1880, but the information was supplied by his widow.
(2) JA got records. There was virtually no information.
He enlisted in Hartford Connecticut, May 15, 1901.
He left the service in 1902, Ft. Myer, VA. It wasn't Dishonorable.