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This and That -- or Whatever Stories
One day I was in what I call "The Computer Room" cleaning out files and shelves and trivia and straightening out my desk looking for a notebook that had a list of chores and things I had to do. I knew there was ivy to trim, grass to mow and some touch-up painting to do but when I found the notebook I was surprised to find that there were fifty or sixty items out of two hundred undone and about sixty or seventy more that had to be added to the list. At the top of the list, (item 5), was "Memories" and under comments were the words "Carnivals (Firpo, Welch, Sullivan), Vilho, Norman, Centennial" and a few others.
Item 5 was only the start of all kinds of jobs to do. I wonder how I managed to get home chores done while I was working five or more days a week. A former boss of mine, also retired, one day said "I do all the things I used to do before I retired, but not as well and not as fast." Me too. It takes about five times as long to do a task than it used to. Most of the time is "wasted" getting started followed by a lot planning and some dreaming, and procrastinating and looking for equipment and materials to do the job. After the work is done, cleaning up the messes I've created, especially when painting, takes additional time. I guess now is the time to rewrite the list and use a systematic approach. (I'll get to the systematic approach list later--I have other things to think about now.)
I have not used the computer often except to write letters and to play solitaire. The grandchildren hogged its use when they visited us, to design pictures and play games. In my mind I hear voices coming from the computer room with questions like "Will someone print my picture", or "How do you get Dark Vader out of what ever", or "It's my turn". (In a screaming voices, no less.) Some of their results were saved, and I suppose I should continue to save them--it might mean I'll have to "trash" some of my "important" writings later when the disk is filled. (In 1997, a new computer replaced my Classic which had replaced my original computer eliminating the need for trashing important and not so important items.) For the last few years though, they haven't used the computer very much since Dave usually brings components to attach to the television which they call Nintendo. Peter does use with the computer to play the "simple" games--the kind that I can play like solitaire.
Maybe I can store them in a few floppy disks. Come to think of it I have a lot stuff on the revision of our church constitution that could be trashed. I worked on the project for a long time but my changes, based on interpretation of District requirements and of discussions with the pastor, some elders, and some church members. I revised some articles and ideas four or five times and in the end, the new constitution got to looking like the old one. During the last meeting it was concluded that the old constitution was o.k. as it was. The project was cancelled and since it was cancelled, there's no reason for me to save what was written.
Often in the quiet of the evening and a boring TV program, I come to the computer, pat it a little and play games of solitaire that Dave had programmed into it or, like now, write about stuff and things. Dave comes around quite often and urges me to get on with my "Memories," but it seems that what I write or think about writing would be as boring to a reader as the TV is to me. Then I think, "It's only going to be read by my kids, so why should I worry?" I'm sure writers (authors) must have the same feelings. Some start writing when they are young while others, like Norman Maclean who wrote "A River Runs Through It" wait until later life. By the way he had an interesting statement in his "Acknowledgments". He wrote,
"When one doesn't start to be an author until he has reached his biblical allotment of three score and ten, he needs more than his own power (to write). It was my children, Jean and John who started me off. They wanted me to put down in writing the stories I had told them when they were young." I guess Dave, Ted, Linda and Karen at various times started me on writing when I told them of some events in my life. If ever comes a time when I must write an acknowledgment to a story I would have to say they prodded me--I'm at the age of plus 75. (At the rate that I have been writing, I'll probably be 86 before I can write "Fini.")
Getting back to my list of things to do, I can start cleaning it up by writing about "Memories" though that might be a continuing thing. Various events of the day remind me of some event, insignificant or otherwise, that could be of interest to someone. At least they are of interest to me. I've already written some things that are stored in the computer so I'll add some more. I was telling a new neighbor about my writing project and she asked how many pages I've already written. "About 200" I said but I don't know. The writings won't be in chronological order because one thought brings back another event that occurred at a different time in life. As I mentioned in the beginning, Carnivals under Item 5 of things to be done, came to mind first, so that's where "This and That" will begin.
Before finishing grade school and high school, I learned that one should be careful with people involved with carnivals. Some are nice and some aren't. For instance, one time at a carnival in Mullan I stopped to watch one of the concession stand operators move three walnut shells around on a table and challenge guys to pick the one that had a pea under it. He made it look so easy to pick the right one that I could have won if I had played or been allowed to play. A couple of the miners won money, a dollar or so until the bets got larger. Then the carnival guy won a few bets up to five dollars or maybe even ten. In them days a nickel could get you into a movie or buy you a bag of popcorn. (I told you that some thoughts would come to mind as I was writing--this time it was popcorn.) Anyway, I was standing to the side during a play when I saw the carnival guy change the position of the shells while his "guest" was fishing for some money out of his pocket. Of course the player picked the shell where the pea had been--I wanted to say "No, it's been changed" but I guess I was smart enough to keep my mouth shut. It was a ten dollar bet! I don't play shell games. Betty and I don't even take part in get-rich schemes proposed by guys calling on the phone. Even LOTTO seems to be a no-no in our house.
About the popcorn I thought of. After the carnival had finished its stay in Mullan, (down the hill from our house) my friends and I watched the carnival guys tear down the rides and stands. One of the concessionaires offered us a huge bag of day-old popcorn for twenty five cents. It seemed like too much to pay but he said we could sell it around town and make some money. It wasn't so. We got sick from eating too much of the stuff before it was even half gone--at least I did. We sold the remainder to another "sucker" for a nickel and bought some candy at the drug store. The candy tasted much better than the "stale old popcorn". We lost only twenty cents or five candy bars on the deal. At a carnival in Wallace one time, a concessionaire called me over to try my luck at throwing hoops onto a peg. I told the guy that I didn't have any money and he said, "That's all right--I just need you to lure some customers to my stand." He said I could keep anything I won, just to help him out. Somehow the three rings I tossed all found the target and I was about to pick my prize when he said, "See what you would have won if you had paid me!". It made me feel like I had a bag of stale old popcorn.
But not all carnival people were like these. One time a carnival was set up in a field just outside of town, near the Hunter Mine Mill. On a hot day before they were in business a couple of my friends, Vilho Lehto (Val) and Frank Primozich and I walked out to it to see what was going on and since we were hot we decided to go to the creek in the wooded area east of the carnival site to skinny dip. We didn't use the term skinny dipping then but anyway we stripped and waded out into the water. We cooled off fast and were really enjoying ourselves when I stepped on a piece of glass, I think, and put a big gash in the instep of my left foot. (I know which foot it was because I just checked the scar which is almost invisible now.) It bled a lot and I was worried how I could get home. What made it worse was that my mother had warned me not to go swimming. Help came when a roustabout from the carnival arrived and wrapped my foot with a bandage he tore from his shirt. It stopped the bleeding and he said not to walk on it for a while or until I could put my shoe back on. My mother didn't scream at me when I got home. Instead she doctored the cut using a concoction she made from balsam pitch and unsalted butter. The roustabout was a great guy in my eyes--and so was my mother who didn't bawl me out. (Come to think of it, my mother didn't ever scream at me.)
This same Mullan carnival had a strong man in it that said "I'll give fifty dollars to anyone who can stay in the ring with me for three rounds." This was a lot of money in those days because a mucker in the mines didn't even get but five or six dollars a day for his work. I don't know if he was a good guy or a bad guy but he was sorry he made the statement, because three men from town each managed to get fifty dollars from the carnival people. I don't know how much they had to pay for the privilege of fighting, it just didn't register in my memory bank. I didn't see any of the fights because I didn't have the price of the admission, but those who did see them talked long and loud afterwards about them.
The first one to get in the ring was a fellow, Paddy Sullivan, that had been a prize fighter and had quit when he couldn't win anymore and because he had suffered from the beatings to his head. He worked in the Morning Mine doing strong man, routine jobs and was liked by everyone--they said he was "Punch Drunk." What I really remember about him was that he used to run to Wallace and back every morning before going to work. It was remarkable to me because I thought people didn't run fourteen miles in one stretch. Of course I see things differently now because son Ted runs in various races including 26 mile marathons and runs five to fifteen miles every day, even when he's on vacation. Dave manages five miles, probably once a week, and has run in shorter marathons. Even Linda does some running along the Columbia River near Elmer City and sometimes has Eddie or Sammy or Heidi run with her on some Coulee Dam runs. I used to be able to run or waddle a mile or so--but not fourteen. To get back to Paddy Sullivan, he went into the ring and according to what I heard, the Carnival Strong Man hit Paddy with every thing he had (not all punches landed) and he couldn't knock Paddy out in the three rounds. That was the first fifty dollars.
The second contender was a fellow who I remember as Firpo, who also been a prize fighter (retired?) in a light weight class. I don't know too much about him except that he lived in Wallace and worked for the Day Mining Company in 1948 while I was employed there as an assistant mining engineer. In fact we worked on a surveying project that the boss engineer was moonlighting (working Saturdays and Sundays). The work consisted of surveying a tunnel location for a fellow who had a claim on the property. I assisted in the surveying phase of the work and Firpo cleaned out brush and stuff that was in the line of sight. He also picked mushrooms to take home, including one that was really huge but "tasted good, and wasn't poisonous." Well, anyway, Firpo went into the ring and applied his boxing skills for three rounds without our strong man "laying a glove (according to witnesses) on him." That was the second fifty dollars. The strong man came out of the tent, screaming "If I would have had another minute with the guy, you would have had to drag him out of the tent by his heels!"
Mullan had a policeman to see that there was peace and quiet in the streets and saloons of the town and I suppose at the carnival. (Mullan had at least nine saloons at the time to serve a population of 1800 people and only three or four churches) He had an occasional assistant on payday nights and other festive occasions and if the troubles hadn't been so widely separated "Army" Welch wouldn't have needed help. He was the third man to take on the Carnival Strong man and was the third to be paid fifty dollars. The bout ended in the second round when Army connected and the strong man was "dragged out by his heels". Were there any others willing to fight the strong man? I can't remember.
A few years ago while I was active in the Lutheran Social Services, I attended a planning meeting in a church near the Sea-Tac airport. During a fellowship break, I talked with a retired pastor and when I told him I was originally from Mullan, Idaho, he remarked "I just buried a man that used to be a constable in Mullan--I wonder if you might have known him, his name was Lawrence Welch and was in his eighties.?" I said I didn't know about Lawrence--but I did know Army Welch and he was the town policeman.
Betty and I go to Fairs and Carnivals every year, but limit our time looking at displays. I bypass the concessions except for the hamburger with onions stands and feel a little queasy about going on any of the carnival rides. I often recall the old day carnivals and I wonder how many times I've repeated stories of my experiences to Betty? She's nice and smiles at my narrations but sometimes when I'm telling friends of my experiences, she does tell me that "you've told them that story before." Who can remember tales told once before?
My dissertation of marriages will have nothing to do with how people should act to maintain a lasting relationship or what causes disagreements which end up in divorce or the like. After all, I'm no expert on the subject--my wife and I have only been married forty one years or so. (Last Valentine's day Betty caught me buying a card for her. She didn't look at the card then but remarked she should have read my selection and then we could put the card back in the rack--she didn't mean it!)
My discussion deals with what two of my close friends, Vilho and Norman, and I talked about on the subject while we were quite young, grade school age or so. I thought of them while I was writing about carnivals. Vilho, or Val, has passed away and Norman lives in Seattle, with his wife Martha. I haven't seen Norman but once or twice in forty years. One time was at the centennial celebration in Mullan a few years back in 1989, where he insisted in calling me "Eppi" as he did when we were young. Eppi was his way of pronouncing my Finnish name which was Etvi. (accent on the first syllable, please.)
I mentioned Vilho during my swimming episode near the carnival grounds. Norman, at the time, lived near the Hunter Mine Mill in a red two story house, not far from the swimming hole. You only had to cross the Yellowstone Trail (two lane dirt highway) and the Northern Pacific railroad track to get there. I guess I could have gone there to get help when I cut my foot, but the Heikkilas were family friends and I thought maybe they would tell my folks. They found out anyway.
Mentioning the railroad track reminds me of a time when a fellow screamed at me, and probably saved my life. It happened when my mother was in the hospital with spinal meningitis, and I was staying at the Heikkilas. After school I had to walk the mile or so to their house, either along the railroad tracks or up the highway. Norman and I usually walked the rails together, but one day I was alone when I found a stick that looked just like the one a blind man in town used to get to the post office and to the stores. The stick was just the thing to use to play I was blind. A helper or switch engine went up the track towards Larson and after it passed I pretended I was blind and felt my way using the stick and the rails to guide my way--it was fun and I didn't peek at all. Suddenly an older boy, maybe a Senior in high school, yelled, "Hey kid, aren't you going to get out of the way of that engine?" I opened my eyes and there was the helper engine bearing down on me--it had just gone around the bend and started back. I jumped sixty-eight feet (or maybe just six) and watched the engine go by. I never turned around to thank Biffo Downes for his powerful voice. A few years ago while we were in Deborgia, Montana, visiting my cousins Sennie and Irene, they told me that Biffo lived just a mile down the road (Four lane Interstate 95, not the Yellowstone Trail.) I wanted to see him and thank him. I don't remember why it didn't come about.
But to get back to marriages. Norman, Vilho and I talked of many things in our early youth. Once we talked about marriage before we really knew what marriage was like except that our parents were married--and lived together. I remember making a prediction that I would be the first of us three to get married, Norman would be second, and maybe Vilho would be the third one. I can't remember if I got any argument from my friends or if they expressed an opinion. My predictions weren't very good as it turned out. Vilho was the first one to tie the knot, and Norman was the second, (I was right on that one.) Vilho was the third, and I was the fourth. Vilho was the fifth, sixth and maybe the seventh.
Vilho was a nice guy most of the time but was a little vicious at times, especially when he had a few. He passed away several years ago--his mother, who was in her nineties the last time I saw her, blamed his death on his first wife who had led him to drink. It wasn't so but I didn't argue the point with her. Vilho and I fished the mountain lakes around Mullan and we hunted together at times. During my work with the Day Mines, I was his partner in surveying the mine workings, and he was very exacting in his work. The most outstanding job, I think, was the joining of two mines located on opposite sides of a mountain with a tunnel and "hitting it right on." There was no celebration, waving of flags, or bands playing to herald the meeting of mines, just a "job well done." Norman was my next door neighbor in Brock's Addition of Mullan until we moved to Aberdeen, Washington, when I was in the first grade. When we came back to Mullan, my folks bought a house with the address 316, Idaho Avenue, and Norman's family moved to house near the Hunter Mines Mill on the Yellowstone Trail. (I mentioned this when I wrote about carnivals.) Norman was a year ahead of me in school and was my roommate at the University of Idaho for about two years. All the fellows, at least in college, called him Heck--it was easier to pronounce then Heikkila. (Hay-key-la, with the accent on the first syllable.)
Norman got a degree Physical Ed, and was Mullan High School basketball coach for at least one semester. He also managed a movie house in Wallace and was the county treasurer for a while. I met him at the Centennial celebration and he remembered that I found an error in the books that he and his aid were sweating out before the auditors came.
I wrote a letter once to Don Roberts, a classmate of mine, and mentioned growing old. I told him I first became aware of aging in my teens when I had to start wearing glasses to see the blackboard at school. Later my age became apparent when I had to get an upper plate of teeth to be able to eat, when I lost my sense of smell (with no corrections available), and how I drooled a lot. I just started wearing hearing aids to hear exactly what Betty was saying to me when I wrote the letter to Don. I now consider myself old since I can't keep up with my grandchildren--even Peter, who became two in July, 1994.
Talking of drooling, I can remember (when I was still young) a few oldtimers around town who chewed tobacco and would drool dark liquid down their chin. My drooling would be more obvious if I chewed tobacco and if Betty wasn't around to hand me a Kleenex.
Statisticians have developed a lot of statistics (which they have been trained to do) about causes of aging and various kinds sicknesses. When I was young the ills were classed as stomach aches, colds, measles, rheumatism, pneumonia and headaches. The medicines were aspirin, cod liver oil, hot lemonade and nature remedies. Today you can't name or count the number of ailments possible, and senior citizens without a good medical plan can't afford to buy the medicines to cure their ailments. The government tries to help provide medicines and cures for all of the problems and have reports of all kinds to help determine what groups are prone to particular sicknesses. For instance, the statisticians have found that senior citizens have more aids than any other age group. This is quite possible when you consider medic-aid, hearing aids, roll aids, band aids, walking aids, (crutches, walkers, canes) first aids, government aids, etc. By my use of many of these aids, I realize that I am a senior citizen.
I haven't mentioned or said anything of my work in the Naval Shipyard or at the Naval Torpedo Station so far. The shipyard was brought to mind one day in February, (1994) when Betty and I were grocery shopping at the Red Apple in Sheridan Village. We were starting down an aisle to pick up some cereal when Archie Eslick, also grocery shopping, tapped me on the shoulder. "How the heck are you, Pete?" This started a long discussion, not of how I felt (actually I was feeling pretty good), but of remembering of shipyard events. In the shipyard, everyone called me Pete and many of the oldtimers I meet still call me by that name. Those that know from the Naval Torpedo Station call me "Ed" since the office I worked in already had a "Pete" when I started working there. This has been to my advantage because I don't have to think of where I was associated with the person who, like Archie Eslick, taps me on the shoulder. While Betty went on to pick out the cereal and other groceries and bring them to the cart, Archie and I talked about ships and sea trials, a subject we both knew about. Archie started work in the shipyard (PSNS) about the same time as I did in 1943. He worked as a machinist and advanced to quarterman status in a short time. During the war years promotions were given out more often than in peace times, and Archie deserved them. He was about my age and seemed to have a negative feeling toward some of the design engineers. However, he liked me which was a good thing because his crew and I were teamed up quite often in test work aboard carriers, battle ships and destroyer guided missile ships. I don't think we ever did anything together outside the shipyard. As I said, Archie greeted me with "hello Pete" and the first thing I thought of was testing of distilling plants aboard carriers. These plants converted sea water into a drinkable (potable?) liquid and were quite complex, especially to me. My first experience with one was a 10,000 gallon per day, two phase Soloshell. I'm not sure of the capacity, but we were to check the capability of the plant to deliver the amount of water required at the required temperatures, pressures, vacuums and what ever for a twelve hours. I think we had to maintain a 130 percent production. Archie's men were the operators and I had to record the data at 30 minute intervals. In order to do my job, I numbered the gages, and thermometers to match the columns in my data sheets. Everything went fine for several hours until I noticed a drastic change in some of the pressures and temperatures with no change in water output or quality. I immediately started worrying about our 130 percent output. I saw some smirking in the faces of the machinists, including Archies so I knew they were playing a gag on me. "Hey guys" I yelled, "shut down the plant--we have to start all over because you've lost plant balance. Do you know what to do Archie? Is it big job? or do you just change my numbers back to where they were?" I didn't know of the balances and requirements without looking them up in the instruction book, and would have been in trouble if I'd have caused a plant shutdown. Every thing went fine after the numbers were changed back to where I originally put them. There was a lot of laughing about the "shut down the plant".
One time on sea trials of a DLG (a guided missle ship) the rolling of the ship was causing green faces. I went to the dispensary to get some dramamine (?) for the crew in the machinery spaces, and possibly for me. Returning down the passageway with the pills, I met Archie, smoking a big two-foot long black cigar. He asked me what I had in an envelope. "Seasick pills," I said. He took a big puff on his three foot long cigar, blew the smoke in my face and said, "Do you know what the best cure is for seasickness, Pete? Just find yourself a nice shady tree and lay down under it." This was followed by another gust of cigar smoke in my face. Archie apologized for this in the grocery store. He remembered doing the "smoke in your face" trick to others too, and said he had apologized to a lot of guys. I thought the cigar was big and black but it must have been just a normal size of five inches and not really black -- it did seem that way.
There were a lot of incidents in the shipyard, with and without Archie being involved. This evening I can't think of them -- and I suppose I should close for now anyhow. I still have the bicycle to ride and a shower to take for tomorrow's church attendance.
One Sunday our Pastor's sermon included the topic of making idols or gods of man-made things like, for instance, forming a golden calf to worship during the Exodus into the promised land. This they did while Moses was on the mountain, talking with God. The people believed that the golden calf could bring them food, water and things they wished for and rid them of hardships. In other words, they could have good luck in the days of wandering in the Wilderness. I looked back in my life and remembered that in my youth I imagined that I had lots of troubles and thought that a ring, golden or otherwise, would help me to get a good grade in a test, win a game (of checkers?) or catch a bigger fish than my father--or more fish than my friend Vilho.
My dad, when he arrived in this country, was given a ring by his father (my grandfather, naturally). It was made of Alaskan gold and had an inscription on the inner surface stating "From AP to TP". My grandfather's name was August Peterson, and of course my dad's name was Theodore. (Actually my dad's full name was Carl, August, Theodore.) This ring was sure to fit the bill and bring me "Good Luck" and I was happy when my dad let me wear it. He wrapped some "pakka lanka" (string) on the ring to make it fit my finger. My good luck was to begin at the moment the ring was slipped on my finger.
I showed the ring gloatingly to friends--from now on I would have nothing but the best of luck playing sand lot baseball, climbing higher into trees than the others and things like that. I remember those two items because they showed me that the ring wasn't so powerful after all. My team, made up of neighborhood kids (we called ourselves the VISA Juniors after a local senior Finnish team of twenty year olds.) During our first game in the lucky ring era we lost to a team of kids from the other side of the ball park and a friend of mine got mad at me for not letting him pitch. The ring hadn't helped me.
On the way home, I decided to climb a tree. It was an easy climb even with my mitt in my hand and my baseball in my pocket. One of the branches broke and I hit the ground real hard on the side that the baseball was on. It hurt like blazes. After a sleepless night I put the ring in my dresser drawer. I saw it many times in the 50 or 60 years and the other day I saw it again in my present desk drawer. After the 50 or 60 years I still have a lump on my thigh to remind me of the failure of the ring to bring me good luck.
Also in the desk drawer was a heavy silver ring mounted with a cameo. This ring came into my possession during the war around 1944, and was really collateral for a loan of fifteen dollars to be paid back after the war was over. Norman Heikkila was in the Navy during the time and picked up the ring in Italy along with some cameos. He made convincing speech about the value of cameos and then asked me to loan him the $15. How could I refuse, after all he was my friend from the 1920s?--and the ring was worth a lot more than $15? He also asked me to lend him $100 after the war so he could buy an outboard motor and gave me a promissory note. I still have the ring, and got a bad debt tax reduction on my Income Tax in about 1960. I still think of him as a friend and hope he doesn't ask me for another loan--I don't know what my answer would be.
There was another ring in my desk drawer that I received (or bought) from High School in 1936. I wore it for several years but put it aside when the letters started wearing out. I can't remember having any good luck, or bad as a result of wearing it or is it luck to still have the ring after nearly sixty years? I can still make out the lettering on it though some of it is pretty faint.
Talking of class rings, I'm reminded of another class ring, however, it belonged to our Mullan neighbor, Linda Ranta. She graduated from high school several years after me and had lost her ring while swimming in Rose Lake. The Finns from Mullan went bass and perch fishing and picnicking there a lot in the twenties and thirties. They usually congregated at Elston's Resort and sort of shared "Kala Moijaka", (fish stew) and generally had a good time visiting and swimming in the lake off of Elston's dock. During the 1989 Mullan School Centennial a fellow approached Linda and asked if she recognized a ring that he had found while using a metal detector off the docks in Rose Lake. It still had a little mud attached to it but Linda recognized her lost ring and wore it anyway mud and all. I think that was good luck, finding the ring--it had been bad luck to have lost it in the first place.
Not all rings bring you luck or maybe you shouldn't attribute luck to rings and golden calves. I have been wearing a ring for over forty years and if luck can be based on rings, then this one has brought me nothing but good from the time I stood up church and said, "I do" as Betty slipped it on my finger. At least this ring is great to have on my finger.
"Hold on tight boys, I'm going to step it up to thirty five!" These were the words of a school teacher who picked up a friend of mine and me as we were hitchhiking to Wallace where I had a dental appointment. Anna Constan, my English teacher in the seventh grade, had just bought herself a brand new car, a 1930 or 1931 model Plymouth sedan. I don't think they had made many Plymouths before that time.
We laughed about her 35 mph speed but then she hadn't driven a car for very many miles and it took a lot of courage to drive that fast. Besides the speed limit was 35 mph. I can't remember any highway patrolmen at that time, especially with radar units to check for speeders. It was a nice road as I remember and had recently been paved using "tar from Trinidad." The highway, the U.S. 10, had been the Yellowstone Trail. It is now Interstate 90, a four lane highway with a 55 MPH limit on curves over Lookout Summit into Montana. It's easily negogiated at 65 or more depending on the presence of the Highway Patrol.
My cousin Vieno's husband Selden did have one of his cars reach 60 MPH once. It was a relic of a car that used unleaded gasoline--the only kind of gas they had in those days. Selden (aka Kaiser) decided that he would use some high test gasoline used in airplanes that he bummed from an airport (?) friend of his in Kellogg to see how fast he could make his relic go. He managed to hit 60 on his way home to Mullan--before he blew out two cylinders, half of his power train. Thinking about it now, it's a wonder he kept the car on the road.
I've mentioned the Yellowstone road a few times in the past, or at least the road from Mullan eastward. I remember the two-lane dirt road that went from the west through Mllan into Montana. I guess it went all the way to Yellowstone National Park. I should look up the history of of the Trail if I'm going to write about it--or maybe just for my amusement.
My memory road started west of Mullan, crossed Lead Creek near the Morning Mine and went up Mill Road, then down to Earle Avenue, Mullan's Main Street. It then headed east towards the Hunter Mine. I do remember that when they paved the road with "tar from Tinidad" it didn't go beyond Mullan city (Village) limits. A dirt road continued under Hunter Mill structure and then eastward to Larson and then over the old summit into Montana. Forest service roads nowadays are kept in better condition.
For the last several years during the fall-winter-spring months Betty and I have attended Wednesday morning bible classes led by the pastor. We have covered many books of the Bible so far such as Isaiah, the major and minor prophets and many of the New Testament books. At the present time we are studying the Psalms. During our Bible discussions, some passage will trigger topics relating present day events and memories of our personal lives. Some topic discussions last for 10 minutes or more and give us insights of the present day world, politics, and even religion. The other day the pastor in discussing Psalm five or six, or whatever, remembered that in his home the family always ate their evening meal at five and everyone was expected to be at the table. He said that being late for supper resulted in some form of punishment such as washing dishes or something even more drastic.
I was reminded of an event in my childhood which came about because of being late for supper (for the second time in two days). I didn't bring it up during class but Dave said I should write it up. Several things occured much before the discipline stage for being late happened. When I was six or seven my dad joined some other miners in a contract to dig for ore at an abandoned mine (Snowstorm) in Larson, east of Mullan. In the old days when cars weren't rugged, the mining companies put up boarding houses and living quarters for the miners, and possibly for their families, near the mine. My mother and I stayed at one of these places while dad worked the mine and I can remember eating from a rough home made table with four heavy legs and a shiplap top. When the contract fizzled out we moved back to our newly purchased home in Mullan and the rough table came with us because we didn't have much furniture and had paid cash ($500) for the house.
After we had settled in, my dad went to work in the Morning Mine and I started playing with old friends and even new ones. One friend, Vilho, was usually the one that I joined up with, and we did a lot of things like fishing, hiking and even going to the city dump to look for good things that people threw away. One day we got on the road to Wallace and hiked two or so miles to a little creek that fed into lead creek. There was an old abandoned one room cabin there built by a prospector and it was a lot of fun rummaging through it and trying to hand catch some fish in the creek. By the time we were through playing, it was kinda late and I was late for dinner. My folks were "mad" and perhaps a little worried and they told me so. That was the extent of their discipling me though I was told not to do it again unless I was given permission.
The next day while I was piling wood or something, Vilho came around and said that he had lost or left his his knife in the cabin and talked me into going back for it with him. It was early and I guess I kinda forgot to ask for permission--we didn't find the knife but we had a lot of fun again. I suddenly remembered that I was supposed to be at the dinner table when my dad came home from work. I remembered too late and the dinner dishes had been cleared off the table and my dad had taken off his belt by the time I got there. I can't remember the discussions but I do remember dad hitting the table top quite hard with his folded belt to give me an idea what I was in for. The shiplap board that he hit cracked into two pieces and I'm sure my fears were shown on the tears on my face. Mom and dad looked at each other and went into the living room closing the door behind them. I stood in the kitchen, waiting for them to come back for the punishing phase of the episode. It was then that I heard the two of them laughing on the other side of the door. When they came back into kitchen they gave me a hug and fed me -- it was the closest I had ever been to getting a spanking. I didn't even have to wash the dishes!
While I meandered around the picnic grounds during the school centennial, Betty met some former next door neighbors of mine when I lived at 316 Idaho Avenue. She called me to come see Oliver Silfvast, his wife Martha and his sister Elsie. The Silfvasts were musical and I thought I was too since I sang in a Finnish singing group and in a school chorus and played a trumpet In the school band and orchestra. I even played for some dances in Finn Hall and Montana bars--3 point 2 beer had just been legalized.
Oliver was a violinist and won honors at state school contests. He and his accordianist friend, Earl Mattson and a composer, Oscar Wallin, played for all the dances at Finn Hall. Incidently, Oscar Wallin was the composer of that nostalgic fox trot, "The Sugar on My Mush". I'm sure you're familiar with it. Elsie played it on the piano along with others, but not professionally. I can remember sitting on the front porch and listening to her play. My favorite piece that she played quite well was "Nola" and it remains in my memory. I'm sure you're familiar with it too--it wasn't composed by Oscar.
I said I was musically inclined and hinted that I could sing. Some of my class mates at the at the Centennial remembered me as being a good trumpeter which made me feel good but not good enough to dig out my trumpet from our basement storage. By the way Elspeth asked to borrow my horn to learn how to play it. She had heard some high school girls play trumpets at the Taylor's church. Karen said that she took it to a repair shop and the workers were amazed at the conical bore, silver and gold plated instrument. They played it and thought it was great.
Going on about my musical abilities I wasn't complimented on my singing. It was while the Sifvasts were entertaining the older folks at their home with pinochle that I found out I wasn't a singer. The young ones (except for Oscar) gathered around the piano and sang familiar songs of the thirties (and before) while Oscar played chords on the piano. I marvelled how good they sounded when some harmonized. I sang the familiar melody but decided to harmonize one of the songs. When we finished the song, one of the group said that we didn't do so good on it. "Somebody sure sang some sour notes." I realized I was the one and I don't think I ever tried singing harmony again unless I had practiced on the bass parts before hand. When I sang in the church choir the organist, Karen, emphazised the bass notes during practise so I could sound o.k.
Come to think of it, I don't try to harmonize songs being played on the radio--even when there is no one around. It's been about 70 years now since I heard my first radio. It was powered with dry cell and wet cell batteries. Radios have come a long way since then and most of them use electric power or single "dry" cell batteries. Advancements in radios, televisions and recorders are mind-boggling (an expression from a video series from a few years ago.) and dare us old timers to operate them except to push the on-off switch and to throw away a unit that doesn't work. This reminds me that all of my grand kids can operate the most complicated electronic devices that permits them to play nintendo games, watch video tapes, record tapes and what have you. It's exasperating.
Going back to radios I was sort of a kid electronic wonder with the first radio that entered our house in Mullan. A salesman (Ted Asvestas) was trying to get my dad and mom to buy a radio and brought a battery operated one that I talked about a moment ago. It had all kinds of switches and two tuning dials to pick up stations. After turning the dials and adusting volume controls, I was able to pick up stations from Wallace, Spokane and Denver and perhaps some others.
The salesman came back one day with a120 volt, AC Amrad radio and took the battery powered monstrosity to another potential radio addict. The new radio was great with one station selecter, one power off-on switch using house electricity and one volume control. My dad helped its reception by putting up a copper wire antenna about fifty feet long up the hill from our house and a iron ground made from a jack hammer drill bit. We could get stations KHQ Spokane, KOA Denver, KPO San Francisco and even station KWAL from Wallace. There were other stations, too, on good reception nights. I remember my mother and father and visitors sitting in a circle around the radio, eyes glued on the radio and listening to great programs like Amos and Andy -- even foregoing a hot game of pinochle. Incidently I helped survey a new transmission antenna for the Wallace station in about 1948. One day the salesman came to our door and asked if I would come with him to his new client and operate the old battery powered unit. You can see that I was sort of a kid wonder when I got it to work. However I have problems with the modern electronic home entertainment systems and call on the kids to help me out. I'm lost when I have to set up the VCR or prepare the system for Nintendo. Even Peter at age four can do that!
And that's about all I have say at this time. If I remember some fantastic (?) episodes in my life as I edit or reread what I have written thus far in life, I'll add to this--THIS AND THAT.