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 (1).

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 always 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.

Teddy Roosevelt in Missoula 1912

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 which 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 Missoula.

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, MI. 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 it.

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 lampshades!

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 snails to 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 Bridge. There 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 them.

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 as Lawrence, MA. Harry's exact date of birth is unclear, but it was probably slightly earlier than 1880. While he consistently said he was born on August 26, the date varied between 1877 and 1880. 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 1879.) On his 1918 WWI draft registration card he gives his birthdate as 26 Aug 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. It was "Without Honor".