Editor’s Note: The story continues, through the decades of the Rockaway Beach Train Depot. See links at the end for The introduction, Chapters 1 through 6.
By Virginia Carrell Prowell
The young couple was looking forward to their first rental season. Virginia would lie in bed at night thinking of a name for their rentals. I don’t know why she didn’t just call it The Train Station, after all, that is what I am, however; she thought she needed a beachy sounding name and all the ones she could think of were already taken. One night while she laid there, the echo of the surf pounding the beach lulled her to sleep. In the morning when she awoke, she remembered how the surf echo rang in her ears. “I’ve got it, I’ve got it. Honey, wake up, I’ve got it.”
“Well keep it to yourself, whatever it is you’ve got. Keep it until later and go back to sleep.”
“No listen, I have a name for our apartments, we can call it ‘SURF ECHO’. What do you think?”
“I think I’m awake now and I’ll get up and go fishing.”
He sure knew how to burst her bubbles, but she was used to it and she just gave him an added nudge with her foot to propel him out of bed a little faster.
That day she went down to the city hall and official-ly registered my name as SURF ECHO APART-MENTS. She stopped at the variety store and bought a ledger book to keep track of all the guests she would be having.
Mama and Papa Danin, as they were lovingly known by everyone who lived within my walls, gave the new owners lots of advice and promised they would send all their over-flow customers to the SURF ECHO. Mama told Virginia she must keep records and approved of the ledger book she had just purchased.
The next day she was busy washing all the bedding, mopping and waxing the floors, washing the windows and curtains. It seemed like she was really enjoying her-self. Willard made sure there was plenty of stove wood for the apartments and lots of kindling.
It was the later part of May and they just knew they would rent my rooms over the Memorial Day holiday. It was a big disappointment for them when the holiday came and went and not one person inquired about their “Vacancy.”
June was also a bad month for the tourist trade, but they were sure that July would bring more people and they were rewarded with their faith. The 4th of July they filled up both of my apartments. They were excited but a little apprehensive. The children were given strict instructions about their behavior. They were not to bother the tenants and they were to keep the noise level down while people were renting.
At last a successful weekend, now came the unending chore of cleaning, washing, scrubbing toilets and making ready for the next group. All in all, the renting business wasn’t as successful as the Carrell family had hoped for and it put a real crimp in their life style. They wanted to be free in the summer months to go out to the valley where their families lived. The money they took in wasn’t enough to compensate for all the work so they decided to rent the apartments by the month.
Mrs. Brown, aged mother of Mrs. Fred Smith, a neighbor was looking for something close to her daughter. My end apartment was just what she had been looking for. Mrs. Brown was a sweet grand motherly type woman and she loved the children. The girls were invited in many times for tea and she would read to them from her Ideals magazines. This was a special treat for them and they were always most polite. Danny didn’t enjoy that sort of thing but he was always on the spot for a cookie hand out.
Les Young, a fellow that worked with Willard was looking for a room to rent and the middle apartment met his needs just right. He was a quiet fellow and never complained about the noise of the children.
Now, they decided, this is a good set up, we have the places rented and we also have our freedom.
WATCHING THE FAMILY GROW
Since this family has moved in, I’ve resigned myself to the fact that I’ll always be a residence and not a train station. That dreadful automobile seems to have made an indelible impression on the population. Everyone has one, two or even more now. The train still goes by occasionally, hauling lumber and other freight. The sound of the whistle and the shake of the ground still send thrills through my timbers and memories of the ‘good old days’ are vivid in my timbered structure.
Danny started the first grade in September of 1952. Virginia immediately got involved in the school activities and in PTA specifically. Through her activities, she made many friends and was constantly making cookies, going to meetings and just generally keeping herself involved in her children’s activities.
Willard was a steady worker at the mill and eventually got on the day shift which pleased Virginia greatly. It cut down on his fishing time but he made up for it on weekends. Willard’s mother and father were frequent visitors from the Gresham area. It was always a great occasion when Grandma and Grandpa Carrell came to visit. Willard and his father, Willard, Sr. were on an equal par when it came to their enthusiasm for fishing. The young lad, Danny was being groomed in the same mold, so when the grandparents came down, the “men” went fishing. Virginia, the girls and Grandma Carrell always had shopping to do, recipes to exchange or handwork to show off.
In 1953, Susie started the first grade, which left little Claudia home alone with her Mom. She was no trouble, Virginia took her to all the meetings she attended during the day or she would let her visit with the Danins. They thought of the Carrell children as their grandchildren and were good substitutes for the grandparents the children had become so fond of in the valley.
One night as Willard and Virginia lay in bed, Willard said, “I think Danny is getting too big to be in the same room with the girls. They need to be in separate bedrooms. I’ve been thinking about putting a dormer on the South side of the roof and making a bedroom over the middle apartment.”
“Before you could do that you’ll have to lower the ceiling in the middle apartment won’t you?”
“Of course, I know that, that 16 foot ceiling is too high anyway. It will be easy.”
“When are you going to start this project?”
“Oh! One of these days.”
“Why don’t we make a door from the kitchen into the middle apartment for an extra bedroom and then you wouldn’t have to go to all that work.”
“No, we might want to rent that room again.”
“You might want to rent it but I don’t want to rent that room anymore. It was alright when Les lived there but I wouldn’t want just anyone in there, It is too close to our living quarters and I need to have my washer in that room.”
“Ok, Ok, but I’m still going to put up that dormer and lower the ceiling in the middle room.”
I thought they were really going to have a fight about this deal but like always, Willard grabbed her and said, “That’s enough now, we’ll talk more about it later, give me a kiss, let’s go to sleep.”
I’m not sure I’m looking forward to his new project. A dormer … hmmm, I think that is one of those protrusions on a roof. That means he will be cutting a hole in my roof and altering my roof line, I’m not too wild about that idea. I just hope he does it with care and keeps, my profile dignified.
Months have passed and he still hasn’t started on the dormer project. Virginia mentions it once in a while, just short of nagging. It is either the weather holding him up, not enough time off or he doesn’t have enough money. I wish she wouldn’t remind him so often, maybe he will just forget about it.
There is talk about a strike at the mill. This has Virginia and Willard really worried. With three children to feed, a strike could mean some hard times for them. Well, if the strike comes, at least they won’t have enough money to cut that hole in my roof.
The strike is a reality now, Willard doesn’t think it will last too long and doesn’t seem too worried. He told Virginia, “Ma and Dad need their berries picked, let’s go out there and pick for them while the strike is on.”
“OK, that will be a change for the children. They love it at Grandma’s and she loves to have them out there, too.”
It didn’t take them long to pack up there things and leave. At least this time when they left, I wasn’t completely empty. Mrs. Brown was still occupying my end apartment and they left their little dog Wiggie.
Wiggie thought he was a great protector. He especially liked to bark at a large Boxer dog that trotted by daily to visit his master downtown. The Boxer was three times his size and tried not to pay much attention to Wig-gie. Each day Wiggie would get a little more aggressive until one day, the Boxer had had just about enough of his nonsense. He turned and knocked little Wiggie to the ground and then stood there with his front legs pinning the squirming, growling black pest down. The Boxer didn’t bite at him or try to hurt him in any way. In fact, he stood there, holding down Wiggie and looking around as if he were just enjoying the scenery. When Wiggie finally stopped growling and snarling, the Boxer let him up and trotted on down the street. Wiggie never bothered him again.
In about two weeks, the family was back. The strike wasn’t settled yet and still worse news came. The mill in Garibaldi was closing down. They were taking all the machinery to South America. Willard and Virginia talked about their options. Should he try to work in the plywood mill or try some other mill in a different city? Whatever they did they would have to wait until the strike was over.
Willard had heard about a mill in St. Helens. He and Virginia drove over there one day while the children were in school. I hoped in a way they wouldn’t get the job. I have become accustomed to the lively action with these children around and I would miss them. On the other hand, maybe I wouldn’t get my roof torn apart if they left.
When they returned, they had mixed emotions about leaving the beach. Willard wasn’t much for making fast decisions. He loved his fishing surroundings and they had made many friends. Virginia was totally involved in the school activities. He wanted to think about it for a while. The riverbank was always the best place for him to do his thinking.
About a week had passed since they had returned from the valley. They had decided to go to a drive-in movie. When they returned, Virginia was not feeling too well, so Willard tucked all the children in bed while she went straight to their bed. She complained about her head aching clear down her neck.
“You’re probably coming down with a cold. You’ll feel better in the morning.”
In the morning, Virginia awoke to swollen cheeks on both sides. They were swollen from her cheek bone, clear to her collarbone. Her head pounded when she tried to raise it from the pillow.
“Guess what,” quipped Willard, “you have the mumps. You stay here; I’ll get the kids their breakfast.”
“I guess you’ll have to, I can’t get my head off this pillow.”
It was Saturday morning and the children were all downstairs when Willard started making their breakfast.
“Where is Mama? Why are you making breakfast?” asked Susie.
“Mama doesn’t feel well this morning, she is going to stay in bed a little longer.”
Willard poured them all a bowl of ‘Wheaties’, his favorite breakfast, and they were all satisfied with his choice.
After a few hours, the children inquired if Mama wasn’t going to get up pretty soon. Finally Willard told them their Mama had the mumps and she wasn’t getting up all day. He took her a cup of coffee and some toast, but she slept most of the day. At noon, Susie took her a bowl of soup.
The entire day, Willard cared for the children, and they helped him stack wood and do the household chores. In the evening, he played some games with them and then about 8:30 he told them it was bedtime. When he spoke, the children were prompt to obey. The two girls brushed their teeth and went upstairs to bed. They want-ed to kiss their mother goodnight but she advised them against it. Danny sat in his chair, not saying a word.
“Hey, young man, didn’t you hear me say it was bedtime?”
“I’m not sleepy yet, can’t I stay up a little longer?”
“Well, it isn’t a school night, I guess you can stay up another half hour.”
At the end of the half hour, Willard reminded him it was time to go to bed. Danny brushed his teeth and then sat back down on the davenport.
“Hey there, I thought I told you to go to bed.”
“I think I’ll sleep here on the davenport.”
“No, I think you will go upstairs and sleep in your own bed.”
“But Dad,” complained Danny, “I don’t want to get those bumps.”
“I’m afraid, Son, you are already exposed to those ‘bumps’ so you might as well go on up to bed.”
Danny obeyed his father but when he went up my stairs, he put both hands over his mouth so he wouldn’t catch his mother’s bumps. I guess it must have worked; he didn’t get the mumps nor did any of the children.
The summer was a busy one as usual for this family with company coming almost every weekend and Willard got back to work after the strike. Virginia started doing a little nagging about the dormer he had promised to put up.
“Don’t worry, I’ll get it done this summer.” he told her.
“I know you said you would but summer is almost over. Why don’t you just set a date and do it on that day.”
“OK, Ok, I’ll do it on Labor Day weekend. How does that suit you?”
“It is fine with me; I just hope it doesn’t rain on that weekend. We have been so lucky with the good weather so far.”
She didn’t know it then, but those were ominous words.
Finally the Labor Day weekend was here and the dormer project was started. I just hated the thought of another saw blade cutting into my sound structure, but they were determined to alter my roof line with that stupid dormer. The weather on Saturday was beautiful when the whine of the saws started invading my weathered shingles and timbers. OOH, that sound, it brings back that sorrowful day they cut me in half.
Willard’s father was there to help. They ripped and gouged at my shingles and my sheeting underneath until they had a terrible gaping hole in my roof. They raised my cut out portion with some house jacks while they put the support structure in. Next, they draped me with can-vas and plastic tarps to keep the wind and weather out. It took them most of the day to do that much so I supposed the next morning they would finish the job.
I supposed wrong. Early the next morning, these two fishing fools were up and headed for the bay for some salmon fishing. Virginia was fit to be tied.
“They are going to fool around until it rains and then we’ll really be in a mess.” Her objections fell on the wrong ears. There was nothing she or her mother-in-law could do about it except wait until they returned home. About ten a.m. they came in with several nice salmon but that didn’t help sooth any ruffled feathers on Virginia.
“You’re going to mess around until it rains.”
“Don’t get in such a stew, we’ve got two days to finish it.”
“Not if it rains and I heard it is going to rain on Monday.”
“Oh well, smiled Willard, “that weather man is never right.”
After a bite to eat, the two men started back on the project and were climbing all over my roof, pounding and cursing. I don’t think either one of them was much of a carpenter. They had a lot of trouble getting things level and putting in the windows. By evening, they still didn’t have all my shakes put back on my roof, but they had to stop because of darkness. Again the tarps were draped over me.
The next morning, as Virginia had warned, it started to rain and I don’t mean a little sprinkle, it came down in torrents. I don’t have to tell you how mad Virginia was. She was so mad; she didn’t even say “I told you so.” The men were scrambling around trying to make sure all the tarps were secure, but with that kind of a downpour, nothing could keep the water from coming in. Buckets, pans, jars, tubs, and anything that would hold water was set around upstairs to catch the water streaming in.
Willard’s mother and father had to leave for home in the afternoon and it wasn’t a very cheerful departure. Willard assured his father that everything would be ok; he would get all the leaks stopped. By evening all the ceiling tiles in my middle room were sagging. Virginia took a knife and poked holes in each sagging piece and put buckets underneath to catch the water pouring down.
“Well, it looks like you’ll be putting new ceiling tile in here too.” She said in a smirky voice.
“Well, I never did say I was a carpenter.”… Boy he sure said a mouthful that time, but I have to give him credit for trying.
Fortunately for Willard and their marriage, the weather cleared the next week and he was able to put all my shakes in place and made his best attempt to put waterproofing material around all the seams. All calm seemed to be around the Carrell household.
School started and for the first time, all their children were in school. Last year Virginia was elected PTA president again so she was still busy with school activities. There were always a lot of children around so things were never quiet.
A new neighbor moved in next door, the French family, Jeanette and Kenny and their two children, Vickie, little Kenny, better known as Butch. The couple was about the same age as Virginia and Willard and they quickly became good friends. Ken and Willard were fishing buddies and Jeanette and Virginia did a lot of visit-ing. Vickie and Butch were just a little younger than the Carrell children. Vickie wouldn’t start school until the next year and Butch was a couple years younger.
Vickie was a real little chatterbox and made frequent visits to Virginia during the day, much to Virginia’s de-light and amusement. She would come over to ‘bisit’ and tell Virginia everything that went on in the French household, word for word. “And do you know what Bajinia?
“No, what Vickie?” and then Vickie would start repeating her parents arguments, word for word, not leaving out any detail, even the swear words.
“Now Vickie, you shouldn’t tell those things.”
“Well Bajinia, that’s what they said.”
Virginia would chuckle to herself and later tell Jeanette about it.
“Yeah, I know,” said Jeanette, “We don’t have any secrets around her.”
Vickie was very fond of Virginia as well as her grandparents. She adopted the name of anyone she felt close to. Her name was Victoria Jean French. When asked her name, she would answer, Vickie Jean, Toria Jean, French, Archambault, Carrell.
The winter of 1954 was much the same as most winters and the driving rain found its way under the eaves of my new dormer and water was dripping everywhere. Bottles, buckets, tubs, and what have you were again engaged to keep my inside ceiling from falling down. Willard was constantly up on my roof gobbing tar where he thought the water was getting in. Frankly I had about enough of that black sticky stuff but he knew if he got enough of it in the right place, it would stop the leaking. The trouble was, he didn’t know where the leaking was coming from. Finally he discovered that it only leaked when the southwest wind blew and it rained, which was most of the winter. The rain was getting under the shingles and running down my rafters. That dumb dormer has caused him and me more grief that it is worth.
“Don’t worry honey, I’ll fix that roof when summer comes and the weather is better.” promised Willard.
In the meantime, Virginia was beginning to show signs of being pregnant or she was eating more than the rest of the family. Her fourth child was definitely maturing within her, in fact from the size of her, I’m not sure she isn’t going to have number four and five.
Her mother, Mildred Schultze, had come to stay and was living in my end apartment. She was a slender, wiry woman and loved to comb the beach. Finding a glass float was her fondest dream. Willard had found several on different occasions and she was dying to find one too. Finally after a stormy night, she came upon her first glass float and it was a huge one. It was bigger than any Willard had found.
Upon his retirement from the Army in the spring of 1955, Virginia’s brother, Bob, came to Rockaway to see his mother and sister. Since he hadn’t seen either of them for several years, he decided to stay on for a while and visit. Bob was a tall good looking fellow with a captivating smile.
He loved to tease his sister even though they were now adults. He spent his 20 year career in the army as a cook. His mother had bragged that he was no ordinary hash slinger, but was a real chef. When he ask Virginia if she wanted a good recipe for a salad dressing, she quick-ly picked up a piece of paper and pencil to write down the ingredients … One egg, one cup oil, one teaspoon salt, one-fourth teaspoon pepper, and then he started list-ing one spice after another ending with one teaspoon of up doc.
Virginia was writing as fast as she could and then she looked up and said, “Up doc, what’s up doc?”
“I don’t know,” said Bob. “What’s up with you?”
She threw the paper and pencil at him as he went in-to his mother’s apartment.
Virginia also liked to cook and prided herself just a little in her culinary accomplishments. One day she invit-ed Bob and her Mother in for dinner. She worked all day to make things just right. She baked a nice cake piled high with frosting and coconut. After finishing his piece of cake, Bob leaned back in his chair and said, “Yes sir, Willard, you’re pretty lucky to have a wife that can cook that good.”
“Yeah, she doesn’t do too bad.”
“Yep,” said Bob. “That’s the best corn bread I ever tasted.”
“Corn bread?” exclaimed Virginia. “You’d better get your tongue checked; it either can’t taste right or it can’t talk right.”
He surely did like to rib her a lot but she was pretty good at holding her own with him.
The Carrells never locked my doors at night, so when Bob went down town to have a few beers, he had easy access to my door. Early one morning, about 3:30 a.m., Virginia was awakened by someone talking. She thought at first she was dreaming and then as she lis-ened, she heard … “Yeah, that’s right operator, Frieburg, Germany. Number? Oh let’s see, I don’t know what number this is, I just wandered into this house.”
Virginia jumped to her feet and grabbing her robe, she dashed into the living room to see her inebriated brother sprawled on the couch with the phone in his hand. “What are you doing? Who are you calling? Did I hear you say Germany?”
Bob looked at her blurry eyed and said, “No lady put that knife away, I’m not going to hurt you, I just want to use your phone. What operator? Oh don’t worry, she won’t hurt me. Now lady just put that knife away.”
“Bob, you idiot, keep your voice down, people are sleeping. Who are you calling anyway?”
“Oh don’t worry lady, I’m just calling my sweety in Germany. I miss her sooo much, I just had to hear her voice. You just go back to bed and I’ll leave you a nice tip.”
“I’ll give you more than a tip if you don’t quiet down, and don’t talk too long.”
“That’s a nice lady, just go back to bed.”
Virginia quietly slipped into bed trying not to wake Willard but he was already awake.
“What is that stupid brother of yours up to anyway.”
“Oh he’s calling his girl friend in Germany.”
“Germany? He’d better have the money to pay for it.”
“Oh! He will, I’m sorry he woke you up.”
Virginia’s child was due about the 10th of May and she was getting tired of her shape or misshape. The days seemed to drag by. Her mother felt her daughters dis-comfort and tried many ways to help her and get her mind off the heavy load she was carrying. In the evenings, she would engage Virginia and Willard in a spirited game of pinochle. Grandma Schultze was an avid card player and took the game seriously. She would look at her hand for many minutes contemplating her plays and unconsciously whistled through her teeth. This procedure would jangle Virginia’s already fragile nerves but she would never make any direct comment to her mother.
Two weeks passed by, every night a pinochle game and every night, Virginia would have false labor pains. I’m not sure if she was having labor pains or jangled nerves from her mother’s constant whistling. Finally the doctor told her if she didn’t have her baby by the 23rd of May, a Monday, she should go into the hospital and they would induce labor.
Monday, Mary 23rd came, no baby, so Bob volunteered to take Virginia to the hospital since Willard had to work. Bob loaded her and her suitcase into the car and waved goodbye to the mother. He took her directly to the hospital but he did not go directly back home.
The mother paced my floors all day, waiting for her son’s return with news about Virginia. Willard didn’t come directly home from work either. He went to the hospital to check on Virginia. Grandma Schultze was nearly crazy with worry. Finally Bob returned.
“Where have you been? And how is Virginia?” questioned the mother.
“Hell, I don’t know how she is, I just let her out at the hospital door, I suppose she went on in and had the kid. Isn’t Willard here yet?”
Willard finally showed up to tell them Virginia still did not have a child. He ate his dinner, changed his clothes and then returned to the hospital with a promise he would call as soon as the baby arrived.
It was about 10:00 p.m. when Willard called to give them the news that a baby girl had made her appearance.
The Carrell girls were excited and thrilled with the idea of having a baby sister. Danny wasn’t quite as enthusiastic. He would just as soon had a baby brother. Two sisters were really enough for him.
A name hadn’t been chosen yet. Willard and Virginia couldn’t agree. Willard wanted to name her Juanita, but Virginia flatly rejected that name. They decided to let the two girls name their little sister. The two girls talked it over and decided they would name her Diana Marie. There was a little girl that came to visit the French family named Diana and they thought she was so pretty; they wanted their little sister to have her name. Virginia was pleased too because one of their best friends was named Marie.
I’ve had many people stay within these walls, but this will be the first newborn I’ve had any experience with. I suppose the routine will be a bit different and I’m sure the quiet of the nights will be interrupted with crying and activity related to this little intruder. It should be an interesting experience.
In three days Virginia was home with her tiny bundle. Excitement among the Carrell household ran at a feverish pitch. You would think this was the first baby they had ever had. All the children lined up to hold the baby and Danny was first in line.
“I’m the oldest, I should hold her first.” He had to have an excuse because he didn’t want anyone to think he was excited about a baby girl. “She sure is fat isn’t she?”
“Yes”, replied Virginia, “She really is a little chunk. She is only 18 inches long and she weighs 8 pounds and 3 ounces.”
Susie was next in line to hold her baby sister. She just sat there gleaming with pride. “She isn’t really fat, but she sure is cute.”
“My turn, my turn,” Claudia was jumping up and down with excitement.
“Ok, now let’s not fight over her. She will be here for a long time and you will all have plenty of time to hold her.” warned Virginia.
She gently put Diana Marie in six year old Claudia’s arms. Claudia was all smiles as she looked down at her. “Mommy, what are those little white spots on her nose, should we squeeze them out?”
“Oh no, we don’t squeeze them, they will disappear in a few weeks.”
I wonder if they will all be so excited to hold her and take care of her after the newness wears off.
A few days passed and Virginia was bathing the baby when Danny came running in. “Whatcha doin’ Mom?”
“Well, I’m giving your little sister a bath.”
“She’s still kinda fat, huh?”
“Yes, but she’ll grow out of it soon.”
“What’s that thing?” said Danny, pointing to the baby’s navel cord.
“That is the baby’s navel, which is where the baby was fed while she was inside my tummy.”
“Hmm, you mean that thing was inside of your tummy?” It looks like a feather doesn’t it?” He was refer-ring to the frayed cord that was tied around the navel cord.
“Yes, it does resemble a feather alright.” answered Virginia as she continued to bathe the baby.
Danny ran outside again to play but in just a little while he stopped what he was doing and ran back inside.
“Hey Mom, I was thinkin’ if you lost all your feathers, you couldn’t have anymore kids could you?”
Oh well, she’ll have to try a new approach to educate him about the birds and the bees.
In the next few weeks and months that passed, company poured in to see the newcomer. I think every relative and friend this couple knew came to visit. Sometimes Virginia referred to me as Grand Central Station. That really filled my siding with pride. Maybe I wasn’t as big as the Grand Central Station, but in my hey day, I was the grandest in this town.
Hunting season was here again and Willard looked forward to his father’s arrival in anticipation for their hunting trips in the woods here on the coast. Grandma and Grandpa Carrell’s visits were always a highlight for the children as well. Grandma had Hershey bars and bananas for them and besides that she was a jovial, warm and cuddly grandma. Virginia loved them too and it was a good occasion to deep clean my interior. From my ceilings to my floors, everything got an extra good polishing.
The two Willards were up early on Saturday morning, they were meeting a friend of young Willard and they wanted to be up in the woods before daylight.
Virginia and Grandma Carrell had a busy day planned too. They were going to Tillamook to shop for new shoes for the girls. They left about 11:00 a.m. and I thought I’d be alone all day with Wiggle Tail to keep any intruders away.
In less than an hour, they were all back, all except Grandpa Carrell. Sad and tear stained faces told me that Grandpa wasn’t coming back any more. He had a heart attack while hunting and by the time they got him to the hospital, he could not be revived.
The happy and exciting weekend had turned to one of the saddest ones this family had experienced since they became my permanent dwellers. Saddened Grandma Carrell sat with her head down trying to sort out what she would do without her mate of thirty-eight years.
“Oh dear,” she sighed, “What am I going to do with those one-hundred and fifty jars of peaches I just canned and all that jelly? What am I going to do in that big house? I can’t drive, how am I going to get around?”
Virginia put her arms around the mother-in-law to comfort her. “Don’t worry Ma, we’ll be around to take care of you and you can learn to drive. Gerald and Rosemary live close by, they will help too.”
Gerald was Willard’s younger brother who lived in Gresham near the grandparents. He would have been down to hunt to but his wife was still in the hospital with complications after the birth of their fifth child.
The next day Willard took his mother in her car and Virginia followed him with the children in their car for the trip over the mountain to Gresham.
The skies opened up and the fall monsoon season started the next day.
The winter of 1955/56 was both wet and cold. When the rains finally stopped, the arctic air came down from the north and chilled the air. It seemed especially cold to me because the family was gone so much. Of course Grandma Schultze and Wiggie were still around but my walls yearned for the feel of the children running in and out and the sounds of giggling girls.
Little Vickie French came bounding through my doors one December day to announce, “Guess what, Baginia, we have a baby sister too.”
The excitement started all over again over a new baby. The father Ken was not far behind with a cigar for Willard. Well, there is never a dull moment around here with all these children being born.
Things went along quite normally. Virginia was busy with the new addition to her family and the children busy with their school activities, Willard with his work and fishing … and then came a thing called Television.
I remember when the radio came to town. The first one came on a shipment to my docks. It wasn’t long until they put one in the station masters room along with the teletype, just before the telephones came in. It was hard then to imagine voices coming out of the little box that originated clear across the country. Now here is a box that not only has voices coming out of it but pictures too. This old framework has really seen it all.
The entire family just sits and stares at that picture box with voices and music blaring out from daylight till bedtime. The children turn it on first thing in the morning to watch some cartoon characters race around, screaming and yelling. This doesn’t last too long before Virginia turns it off so they can get ready for school. Of course, when the children are off to school, Virginia discovered some entertaining programs for herself. I can see this could get to be an addictive practice. When the children return home, the cartoons are back again. Virginia allows this while she is preparing dinner for the family but I noticed when the program Popeye comes on, she becomes quite annoyed. One day I overheard her tell a friend, “I wish they would take that Popeye off the air.”
“Why,” ask her friend, “I think it is a cute program for children.”
“Oh I guess it is just me, but everyday when I’m get-ting dinner, I hear Olive Oil saying, ‘Popeye, Popeye, save me, save me’ and her voice just goes right through my head.”
When Willard comes home from work, the television is usually turned to the news and programs he and Virginia enjoy.
In the spring of 1957, Virginia’s brother, Bob, made a return visit. This time he had his new wife, Rena. This was the “sweetie” Bob had talked to long distance to Germany.
Having Bob return made my timbers quiver. He’s the one that helped Virginia tear down one of my walls. I hope she doesn’t make anymore requests of him this time.
Rena was a big fan of TV too and in the evenings she enjoyed watching a particular detective show she called “Ten Four” which starred Broderick Crawford. She would really get excited when the car chases were on and would shout, “Catch’em Ten-Four.”
Bob and Willard wanted to watch a movie concerning the second world war. There were scenes where planes were bombing Germany and Rena sat on the edge of her chair and exclaimed, “Yeah, you dirty devils, you are the ones that bombed my country and ruined all the beautiful churches, you dirty dogs.”
“Hey,” Bob interrupted, “Who in the hell started it all any way?”
Rena grinned and sat back and whispered, “Well, they did destroy a lot anyway.”
With that, Bob changed the subject. “Well now that you have lived here a few years, how do you like living on the coast?” Bob asked Virginia.
“Oh we just love it. The weather is so much more mild than it was in Portland. We seem to get more rain but it doesn’t snow and freeze as much as it did in Port-land.
“Oh yeah, interrupted Bob, “It never snows here in the winter time, just in the spring like it did the first time I was here.”
“I remember that Easter.” Virginia laughed, “You told me the kids were shaking the pillows out the win-dows.”
Everyone had a good laugh, remembering the day back in 1952. Bob and Rena left Sunday. Virginia was sad to see them go, but I was thankful all my partitions were still in place.
The next few years seemed to pass without too much fan fare, Virginia and the children were busy with school events and of course Willard never lets up on his fishing and never missed a day of work until the fateful day the mill where he was employed burned. This was a bad blow to this family. Willard tried to find work in other mills but to no avail. It was November, 1959 and Christ-mas was coming but it would be a slim one for them.
One windy night as the quiet was interrupted by the creaking of my roof trusses, Virginia tossed and turned in bed.
“What’s the matter with you?” Willard asked.
“Oh I was thinking about going out to find a job.”
“Where do you think you can find a job?”
“Well I was talking to Mama Danin and she said their renter, Mrs. Robinson was the administrator at the hospital in Wheeler and that she was sure she would have a job for me.”
“What do you know about hospitals, you don’t have any experience at that kind of work.”
“I know I don’t but I have taken care of this family through all their sickness and I think I could learn.”
“Well, go ahead and try if you want, but you won’t have to work for too long. I’ll find something before long.”
The next day, Virginia visited Mrs. Robinson and came home all smiles.
“Well what did she say?”
“She said to buy a pair of white shoes and a white dress and show up at seven a.m. Monday morning at the hospital.”
“Well, I’ll be damned, good for you.”
And so a new chapter in the life of this family start-ed.
Virginia’s shift at the hospital started at 7:00 a.m. and she came home about 3:30 p.m. This lasted for only a week and then she was put on the swing shift, 3:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.
Everyone chipped in to help. Virginia planned the meals and got them started but instructed the girls on how to finish them. Willard was very cooperative, that is to say he ate anything that was put before him. I don’t think he knew which side of the frying pan was up and he obviously didn’t want to learn. No one really complained too much until the night Claudia made her first attempt at making gravy. She seemed to be the more adventurous one when it came to cooking.
“What are you making Claudia?” asked her dad. “It sure smells good.
“OH it’s just hamburger patties and I’m going to make gravy, too.”
“Now that’s the way to cook, make lots of it, I love gravy; but are you sure you know how?”
“Oh yeah, Mom told me how to do it.”
“Ok then, I’ll leave you alone, call me when supper is ready.”
In about a half hour and much discussion in the kitchen between Susie and Claudia about the Mom’s gra-vy looked, supper was put on the table.
Willard mashed the potatoes in his plate and then reached for the gravy. He hesitated for a moment and then put the pasty-looking substance over his potatoes and passes it on to Danny.
When Danny attempted to serve himself he ex-claimed, “Hey, who made this lumpy stuff anyway?”
“Never mind.” scolded his dad. “Just eat it and no comments.”
Danny obeyed and ate his dinner then asked for more potatoes followed by “Please pass the lumps.”
Claudia burst into tears and Danny was sent up my stairs for a while.
The next day Virginia asked how the dinner was.
“OK,” said Danny if you like lumpy paste for gravy.”
“Oh shut-up.” shouted Claudia
“Now, now you two, that is enough. Claudia what happened to your gravy?”
“Well I’m not sure, I couldn’t remember if you said two tablespoons of flour or two cups, so I put two cups in and then when I added the milk, it got all lumpy, but Daddy ate it and didn’t say anything, just Danny had to make a big fat stink about it.”
“That’s alright sweetie, gravy isn’t the easiest thing to make. Next time I make it, I’ll let you help me and then you can learn how. You did fine for the first time.”
On the other side of the room Danny muttered, “Hope it’s the last time.”
In a few months Willard was back to work at a sawmill in Tillamook. He was working days and Virginia was working swing shift. This wasn’t such a good arrangement for a married couple with children. One day Willard asked Virginia if she couldn’t get on the day shift so they could see more of each other. This was soon arranged and the two girls were relieved of their cooking chores, much to the delight of everyone, especially Danny who really preferred his mother’s cooking.
Here are the introduction, and Chapters 1 through 6 …