Things Were Different in the 1930's, Part 2
An enterprise entered our community at that time, when Clark Green built a saw mill. It was located within the city limits of Davenport. For added income, Clark set up a chop mill and a grinder that turned out the best whole wheat flour around here, that is if you didn’t mind a little chaff as added fiber. Clark’s rig was also able to make chaffless white flour by a special sifting process that was unique for its day. Your own wheat was ground and a small percentage was held out as payment. —The Green set up kept most of us supplied with what we could afford during those skimpy years.
Clark came from a long line of Greens. His aging father, Willis Sr. was his helper and general manager. Between Clark’s work load, he would lug up some logs from the canyon. Telephone orders were filled from stock on hand, or sawed up to your specification. It was a neat service, if you were ready to nail down the green lumber before it warped into funny angles. Of course, in those days, only a few of us could afford fancy dried lumber, anyway.
When our old barn started caving in, I needed a couple of replacement sheds. By borrowing $200 from the bank, I was able to head for Davenport’s first and only saw mill. Clark had the dimensional lumber, but no foot boards. After loading his mouth with chewing tobacco, Clark was ready to start the buzz saw. Soon boards were coming out with plenty of thickness.
While waiting for my second load of lumber to get cut up, I went into the office, and started visiting with Clark’s dad who was in his early 90’s and was aiming for the century mark. Free of the responsibilities of raising a family, Willis Sr. wanted to help out one of his seasoned sons.
Willis had a unique arithmetic way of figuring with numbers, but our total came out the same. Seems like great-grandpa Willis didn’t learn all the tough parts of the multiplication tables at school, so he developed his own style.—This brief encounter with arithmetic brought out his strong remembrance of his school days that were spent in a log school back in Iowa. He remembered well how he stored his slate in a dug out shelf between the logs above his desk.
"Things Were Different in the 1930's" Kik-Backs No. 3, p. 23
Men employed at the Green Sawmill. Back row from L to R: Felix Bayle, Ross Green, Clarence Lang, unidentified, Martin Lang, Clark Green, unidentified, Joe Murphy, Jess Green, unidentified, unidentified. Front row, L to R: unidentified, Albert Hesley, unidentified, unidentified, unidentified. Real photograph postcard.
There always were pros and cons for any advanced technology that tries to locate itself in an established community. Some people accept new expansions, while others want to keep the status quo. I imagine there were the same objections to the Kennedy space launching pad that was built in Florida. Space scientists wanted a launching pad there, maybe because that spot was designed by nature not to sink during blast off. Sure, some houses were moved, and maybe a palm tree or two had to be transplanted elsewhere.
Things were quite different in Lincoln County in the 1930's. Everyone looked forward for any expansion that the State or Federal cared to do - such as widening the State Highway. Those extra bucks the highway department spent, kept our bank account from becoming empty. Mom and sister Ethel fed the road construction crew, making it possible for them to buy a brand new Sears washing machine that had a built in gasoline motor and a foot pedal to start it up with.
Since there were no big projects begging to settle in Lincoln County, we had to depend on a little shrewdness of our own to survive. When wheat was selling from 30 to 50 cents a bushel, I was lucky to find a special marketing place for some of my wheat. It worked as a substitute ‘til the first Triple-A farm program came on the scene.
Ham Thomas retired from his farm south of Davenport and went into the chicken slaughterhouse business. I had a verbal contract to supply all the wheat his chickens could eat before they were done in and made into fryers. --My Model T Ford held five sacks of wheat. Ham paid me a dollar a sack, which figured out to be 5¢ a bushel above the going market price. By getting my empty sacks back, another 10¢ a sack was added to my slim profit. A big deal in those days.
"Things Were Different in the 1930's" Kik-Backs No. 3, p. 23
Before the cement in the Coulee Dam was thoroughly cured, Lake Roosevelt had its own ‘Love Boat’ cruising around. I doubt that Captain Merrill Stubing of TV Love Boat fame was even born at that time.
Our own Miss Coulee had her captain too, when she journeyed up and down the inland waters. Captain Frank Selde may not have had romantic eyes, but he was more amusing and entertaining than Merrill. With a grin from ear to ear, Frank steered the pleasure boat, Miss Coulee up to the loading ramp at Fort Spokane. It was harvest time of 1942, when 60 of us rented this holiday boat for an all day Sunday cruise up the new man-made lake.
Excitement ran high when Frank and Leonard Hutsell pointed this cruiser north with its load of human cargo. Seeing the shoreline scenery move was real fascinating to some of us.
Harvest had just begun, so a lot of the more serious minded farmers were leaning over the railing, talking about the crops and watching the water split alongside the boat. The seasoned wives just sat inside with their lunch baskets and peeked through the windows at the lofty mountains passing by.
For Sugar and I, it was our first group romantic outing. Communications on board brought my sister-in-law and farmer George a little closer to saying ‘I do.’ For my fresh married brother-in-law, it was like an extended honeymoon, as the two spent most of the time as silhouette figures on the bow of the ship.
There wasn’t as much hanky-panky going on as seen on the real Love Boat. The double decked Miss Coulee was big enough so everyone finally had his or her thing a-going. Reserved-like farmers began loosening up a bit. Jokes and kidding of the simplest form became a hysterical event. Even the lunch-box sitting wives left their windows to join the fun.
A refreshing waterfall midway toward Canada was where the boat docked. Finding a flat spot, we spread our picnic lunch out on the grass. More fun took place, ’til the boat crew figured it was time to head for home. A simple but slippery trail back to the boat gave the young bucks a chance to help the lovelies over rocks and other stumbling objects.
What happened to Miss Coulee? Well, prosperity set in after the war. People began buying their individual happiness. Factories started turning out high-powered speed boats, so fun loving people could go zooming over the water with skiers holding on behind.
That left Miss Coulee with absolutely nothing to do. Lonely and rejected, she was pulled out of Lake Roosevelt and drug overland to Lake Chelan. Here the mountains were taller and loaded with more growing things. She changed her name to “Lady of the Lake.” It caused pride once again to enter her hull.
Right now, this proud ‘Lady of the Lake’ is carrying lots of people up and down the glacier-like lake. Serving pleasure to the sight seers, the lonely ones and those who are happily married - a sort of northwest Love Boat.
"Love Boat" Kik-Back Country, p. 91
After the war it was rumored that soon television would arrive, but it took ’til 1950 before it got to Spokane. Like a nut, I sent to Seattle for a console TV set, and had it sitting in the living room for three months before a test pattern was ever sent out in our direction. Guess I just wanted to be ready.
The neighbors played it cool and didn’t start buying TV sets that winter. But they did want to see what was going on inside the picture tube. We had two steady sets of neighbors making it here for their favorite weekly TV shows.
The Monday nighters came to watch wrestlers slam each other around. With a little fantasy instead of reality, that group got entertained to their satisfaction. The Wednesday nighters came to see Groucho Marx “Bet Your Life” and usually stayed ’til TV went off the air. For Sugar and me that winter turned into a local social event. Sugar made and served so darn many cookies that I had the beginnings of a lump in front of my stomach.
When neighbors started buying their own television sets, I took a quick course in TV repair and bought meters and lots of other fix-em stuff. But after years of bringing dead TV sets back to life in the surrounding country side, it got to be old stuff. Now days with remote control, solid state, trouble free TVs, it’s time for me to just sit back and enjoy these electronic marvels. Ever since the crystal set days, my love affair with radio and TV may explain why I have a TV set in every room except the bathroom, and that’s because it’s just used mostly during the commercials.
"Growing Years Of Radio And TV" Kik-Back Country, p. 67
1984 marked the 125th anniversary of the YWCA in the good old U.S.A. Their motto is: “125 years and still pioneering.”
A person can’t help but feel good all over about their imperative statement which was printed on that year’s annual report cover, “—to thrust our collective power toward the elimination of racism wherever it exists, and by any means necessary.”
This is quite a contrast from what is going on over in Idaho, where a so called Christian organization calls themselves Neo-Nazis. Their sworn duty is to keep the banner of race violence going at full blast. Just like what has been going on for ages.
On the bright side, the majority of us live with lots of love and tender care in our hearts, and wouldn’t harm a soul intentionally. However, some of us did take up debunking. But the road of debunking can be a lonesome one. For every myth a person destroys can isolate a person from the community of believers. So it’s best to settle down and respect the sacred beliefs of others.
But a few didn’t care to give up that easily, and probably never will. For example: There is a predominate free thinking housewife whose name is Ruth Miller. She has the ability to destroy myths. “Show me a dogma, and I’ll tear it apart,’’she says.
For the benefit of her children, Ruth did return to the world of the church. “I tried the Baptist,” she stated, “They worried too much about religion. Everyone in our family had only been born once.”
Ruth then tried the Methodist. The first time her senior son questioned a contradictory verse, the Sunday School teacher announced the class wasn’t considering Divine Revelation today.
Then she tried the Unitarians. There she thought she found heaven on earth in the sanctuary of kindred souls. For a while Ruth was with glee in her new found community.
But it didn’t take long for Mary [Ruth?] to discover that the Unitarians welcome Humanists, and encourage them to hold membership in a liberal political party; . . . welcome atheists, especially if they support ERA . . . welcome Christians if they can learn to relax.
Not very well pleased, she looked at her primary source material and found out that her community of religious liberals contributes to a dogmatic political journal.
“Take note,” Ruth said, “There is a debunker in your midst, and I intend to continue my lifestyle. This Unitarian is a registered Republican, anti-ERA, is supported by a military paycheck, and evil of evils, smokes in public!”
It’s easy to see that no one denomination can please everyone. Maybe that’s why there are so many different breeds of churches.
Whether you agree to disagree, college professors can also add food for thought. Chris Sublett, an art teacher out at Cheney is one of them. The professor became friends of the Jim Gooleys when Jo was one of his art students. This gave Chris a change to take loads of farm pictures out at the Gooleys, and Mielkes’ farm. Later Sublett had his prize photos on display for a month in downtown Spokane, including a framed-in statement of knowledge, which read:
"If man’s imagination were not so weak, so easily tired, his capacity for wonder not so limited, he would abandon forever his dreams of the Supernatural. He would learn to perceive in water, leaves and silence more than sufficient of the absolute, and the marvelous, more than enough to console him for the loss of the ancient dreams.”
"A Debunker Speaks" Kik-Back Country, p. 62
Late artist Chris Sublett created photographs, drawings, jewelry and sculptures. He grew up in Quincy, Washington and attended Quincy High School. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree from California State University, Long Beach. He received a Master of Fine Arts from Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan. He taught at Eastern Washington University in Cheney for nearly thirty years, retiring in 2002. arts.wa.gov
Getting back to the common people, courtship during horse and buggy days was a problem. Especially for those young fellows that weren’t born with a silver spoon in their mouths. Some young men just used the family rig which limited their dating. In dire need for independence,
they would rent a horse and buggy from the livery stable. Nowadays with easy car payments, it is possible for the young blade to go tooling down Riverside Avenue on Saturday nights.
How far did some of the young men go to achieve a rig of their own so they could take the fair sex out for a buggy ride? Well, Pat Sullivan, a young guy who used to own the quarter I live on, figured for the want of a buggy, it was worth mortgaging his farm. So on July 2, 1904, the Spaulding Buggy Manufacturing Company’s sales office in Harrington took a mortgage on this 160 acres for $120, the full price of their fanciest buggy with the fringe on top. Two days later on July 4th, Pat was then able to take his girlfriend for a buggy ride to Davenport, and a sightseeing drive through the main street of the town.
On Sept. 14, 1904, Pat gathered in enough dough from his harvested wheat crop to pay the mortgage off on his farm. It’s interesting when you know the story, and check through the Abstract of Title for records of this man’s wild spending spree.
That fall Pat Sullivan started doing a lot of courting in his mortgage-free buggy. However, years later he died down at Miles without finding any lasting female companions.
Some young bucks could not afford a horse, let alone a buggy. Roy Horton who used to work for dad, got a job over at the George Sweezy farm. One Sunday morning while the Sweezy family was at church, Roy got lonesome and walked to Davenport. He had previously met a girl in town who he figured didn’t mind going for a buggy ride with him. So, he rented a horse and buggy from the livery stable for the afternoon.
That evening after checking in his rent-a-buggy and horse, Roy faced quite a walk back to the Sweezy farm. In those days it wasn’t too romantic looking at the rear end of a horse when you parked with your date, but it was a good substitute until cars came along.
"Those Horse and Buggy Days" Kik-Backs, p. 99
I’m still thinking about Bill Thornburg breaking in a horse so he could be transported in a more reliable way. During the animal powered transportation days, a certain amount of time had to be spent to get all the bugs ironed out. After break-in was accomplished, the live horse-power part of these vehicles grew in value. Nowadays, a modern combustion motor vehicle depreciates as soon as the rig is driven away from the car dealer.
In the horse and buggy days not everyone living in town could own their own transit system. It was next to impossible for the average city family to have space enough to accomodate the necessary equipment. Each residential lot would have had to have room for a stack of hay, a manure pile, and a stable to hold the driving team, plus a proper shed to store the carriage in.
Of course if you were among the rich and the spoiled living in a large city, it was a different story. Spokane’s early day, classy people that had plenty of estate, built their stables to match their mansions in design. Driving teams had to come up with certain qualifications, including the color of the horse’s hide and body build.
Take for instance, old man Glover, the father of Spokane. His oversized family house was, and still is a massive pile of stones, cement, and lots of heavy wood that was used to frame out large hollow like rooms. Bigness really takes away that homey feeling. The bulky combination barn and stables are all gone now, but the horse and coach path still circles the mansion’s portico and loading dock - a reminder of the days of splendor and, of coachmen. The mansion is now being used as a church educational unit and is on the state historical register.
"Those Horse and Buggy Days" Kik-Backs, p. 99
Man has been the dominating creature over women ever since a creator was supposed to have performed the first chest surgery on man, when he took out one of his ribs and made him a partner, or playmate. In those days, women were held in low esteem. Still are to some extent, or there wouldn’t be such a struggle to get the ERA to become law. Our mates do a lot of other stuff besides causing us to glow every once in awhile.
I can’t help but wonder how many of us guys would have become successful wheat farmers if it hadn’t been for our better halves propping us up and making us feel that we are not such bad eggs. A lot of employed young wives are making it possible for their mates to keep their heads above water ’til good prices and bountiful yields can outsmart this darned expensive way of farming.
"Comments" Kik-Backs, p. 57
It’s been weeks since disturbance set in on Mount St. Helens. She seems to be through throwing up her messy stuff that can’t be successfully washed away with a hose. Our eyes soon told us this mountain waste will be around for quite awhile, sabotaging our lungs and all mechanical things that need air.
If the mountain behaves itself, there is nothing left but to summarize it all. Just think, old St. Helens has put Lincoln and Adams Counties back on the map and made more Washington history. During the height of our private holocaust, the Russian Afghanistan events were shoved from the front page, and the reporting of that Iranian stiff that wears an oversized beret and bathrobe was dampened.
When President Carter swung this way and stopped off in Spokane on his inspection trip, he mentioned the town of Ritzville. (That word touched us yokels). It gave us a feeling he cared, even though the next day he may have been back in his Rose Garden, or down in Florida for more inspections. All this may appear to be window-dressing, but what else could any president do? He had no political power over restless Mount St. Helens.
Sounds like volcanos and earthquakes have been around for quite a long time, doing their thing by shocking and puzzling the heck out of our ancestors. When a little band of Hebrews got to Mt. Sinai, it was belching quite a gob of fire and smoke, also making a lot of racket and doing some shaking. It scared the living daylights out of Moses and his faithfuls who happened to be fiddling around that rather bare mountain at the wrong time.
The few faithful prophets of this generation are not up-tight about what’s going on now inside of mother earth. My father-in-law said that fire and brimstone won’t pour over this planet ’till after the millinium, when a lot of other not so hot things will happen. Of course that catastrophy ain’t suppose to happen for quite a spell yet.
"Mt. Saint Helens" Kik-Backs, p. 57
Come late Saturday afternoon, away out in the rippling horizon, many a farmer were unhooking their string of work horses at a shockingly early hour. After all, Saturday night was starting to arrive. Even the horses had a feeling that this was the evening for that extra bonus of rest and would tear down the home stretch. Only a steady pull on the lines kept the nags in the proper working range, and when you said “whoa,” you had better grab ahold of a piece of your combine, or whatever, or else you’d lose your balance.
As the skies darkened, Davenport took on a carnival atmosphere. The streets were used that night for congregating groups to stand on and visit. The early arrivals were able to get their hair blocked into its original shape while the barber’s scissors were still sharp and before the row of barber shop courtesy chairs became full of shaggy dogs waiting their turns. The first evening showing at the motion picture house was usually full of town kids.
The peak flow got parked and into the streets by 7 o’clock, then from nowhere and other odd places came the strangers that were looking for a harvest job. These guys exposed their professional trade by the symbols they were wearing. For instance, if these weather-beaten guys were skilled sack sowers, their hat would be punched with a sack needle just deep enough to miss their skulls. Twine was neatly folded around the exposed end of the needle.
If his hat happened to be leaning on the side of his head, it meant he was a cocky sack sower and could not be snowed under. Guys with their legs slightly bowed and with a new pair of leather gloves sticking halfway out of their hip pockets were looking for a job of driving all those horses that were needed to pull your combine. Then, the rather nervous guy that wore a cigarette in his mouth and a Bull Durham sack in his shirt pocket was just looking for anybody that would hire him.
Not only strangers mingled with the farmers, city folks would stray downtown after supper to join in the fellowship. Sen. Charlie Meyers, if he was in town, could be seen visiting with the farmers and the fair sex. I remember old Doc Bumgarner; he would hit the streets during the peak hour. He was rather a stout man, with an ever-present cigar that would never leave his mouth unless he had something to say. Greetings were usually a friendly nod, and he would lift his hat off his head when he saw a lady.
Pool halls did a landlord’s business. Loss of body moisture during the week was being replaced in the smoke-filled halls. Some of us not-so-hardy guys were doing the same thing up at The Mitten. Also, that’s where some of the young ladies hung out. There was never enough time to talk over current events. Crop yields were either excitingly exchanged, or disappointingly told. Nine p.m. arrived too soon, and most of us left our sloppy way of shopping until the last minute, causing the store keepers to leave their door blocks under the doors much longer.
Finally, when the stores pulled in their rugs, the lady folks started to pile themselves in their family cars. These tired farmwives would beckon some of us street stragglers over and ask us to get their respective husbands out of the pool hall so they could get home and into bed.
Usually the farmers that fell for the pool halls were card players and would play for hickies (fake cardboard money). The hickies had to be spent right there. If those “fun on the town” farmers were lucky, they may have won enough hickies to take home a week’s supply of tobacco or snoose. While cards were being dealt, a tap on the shoulder was all that was needed to get their attention and response. “Tell her I’ll be out pretty soon.”
There are now very few left who used to get tapped on the shoulder to get the wife home Saturday night at a decent time. Some that were looking for work then are farming today or retired. It all seems like a dream.
"Looking For The Heart Of Saturday Night" Kik-Backs, p. 55
In the days of the sacked wheat era there were many like Ed [Deppner], piling sacks to the rafters in warehouses, then loading them back into boxcars, with a cart that held five sacks at a time. The Rocklyn Farmers Warehouse was just a good example of many such long shed like buildings that dotted the railroad side tracks.
Brains began replacing backs when the bulk wheat method became popular. Then the supermarket kind of elevators took over. Now if you happen to be a weakling, you can still get a job at the elevator, or as a wheat hauler. All you need is a good thumb to push a button with, or fingers strong enough to grip small hydraulic levers.
A few years before the ending of the sacked wheat days at Rocklyn, another company took over the defunct warehouse. Later bargain notices were sent out to those that were interested in the remnants of this landmark.
The Hardy brothers salvaged the rather modern ‘weigh the whole works’ outdoor scales. Like scavengers, the rest of us picked out what we would benefit from, and a good bonfire took care of cremating the remains. Even the ashes seemed to have disappeared by the time the new elevator started placing wheat in its cement multi-storage bins.
"Oh, My Aching Back" Kik-Backs, p. 76
The Hardy Brothers
Nowadays every weekday is the same in downtown Davenport. The two grocery stores stay open to 9 p.m. throughout the year. The mobility of people only varies on Sunday when the shoppers wear a more leisure look as they stroll down the shopping lanes and later pick up the Sunday paper.
Years ago, between the time when the Kaiser started raising hell and up to Hitler’s wild slaughtering spree, all stores closed during the weekdays at a respectable hour. Sunday was a tight day; everything was locked up solid.
The blue nose law did allow the drug stores to stay open. After all, most lawmakers did not like to deprive themselves, let’s say, an ice-cream soda, or maybe a cigar to chew on after church.
But, on Saturday night during the summer, all plugs were pulled. Nearly every store in Davenport left its doors wide open, including Tobiason’s Saddle and Leather shop, until the 9 o’clock bell rang.
There were five grocery stores in town during this period, Piggly Wiggly, Burgans, Allen’s Grocery, H.H. Granger Food Supply and the Farmer’s Store that was run by the Campbell family. In those days most Davenport food outlets did not let you gawk around for your staff of life.
When it came your turn, the clerk would look over his glasses at you, with his ever-ready pad and pencil in his hand, and ask what you wanted to take home. If you said three cans of corn, he would wet his pencil and write down three cans of corn, and put the price down just to the right of his pencil. When you finished reading off your list, the clerk would walk around in different directions filling a box up with your pre-dictated order. If you were not a deadbeat, you could pay for it later.
"Looking For The Heart Of Saturday Night" Kik-Backs, p. 55
Lucas Brothers, Davenport Department Store, J.H. Berge, and Granger Groceries, Davenport, ca. 1907
There is evidence that lifting wheat sacks can either make or break a person. Example: Years ago, ‘Wolf' Boyk, and his future brother-in-law, Ralph Brown, were taking in wheat at the Rocklyn warehouse. Both were models of physical fitness. Between loads they would practice basketball shots in the hollow end of the warehouse. During midday I complained to the two athletic minded guys that lifting wheat sacks could in time wreck us. Wolf insisted it was making him stronger. He wanted to bet he could lift a 130 pound sack over his head. It was worth a small wager, so I got my movie camera from the truck to register the momentous event. The feat was achieved, but Wolf Boyk developed an instant hernia that eventually sent him to the hospital.
Of course, there are exceptions for those that successfully handled wheat sacks throughout their weight lifting years. Old Ed Deppner, Rocklyn’s well known haymaker, is the only person I know personally who spent a very large part of his life lifting wheat sacks. Even though it took its toll, he still has a very workable back.
Mr. Deppner started piling sacks of wheat in 1915, when Mike Maurer, Ed Boyk, and Herman Bursch built a warehouse at the Rocklyn station. Deppner’s part time summer job outlasted five wheat buying managers. Throughout those years of devoted work, Deppner has lifted thousands upon thousands of sacks of wheat. His energy helped build many wheat piles, both inside, and outside the warehouse. Especially in 1923 when the outside stack of sacked wheat outstretched the warehouse by twice its length, and four times as tall as Ed Deppner.
How come this 91 year old guy survived those years of lifting wheat sacks? I don’t know. However, he now complains that his neck hurts when he turns it. It could be from looking behind to see what his dump rake is doing when he is raking hay. Keeping his head forward when feeding his cows this winter should remedy that.
"Oh My Aching Back" Kik-Back Country, p.76
Wilbur Hardy 1931 / photo courtesy of Gerald Hardy
A lot of us natives were born during the phasing out period of the stationary thrashing outfits. That style of thrashing left a lot to be desired. However, all the sacks of wheat were sowed up on the spot, and piled in rows to be hauled to market at a later date.
But when the combines took over, it scattered the wheat sacks all over the field. It was caused by the sack sower not having a place to store the filled sacks. When it got a little crowded on the sowing platform, the sack sower would trip a playground type of slide, releasing the few sacks that would come crashing through the stubble, to land right smack on the ground.
Of all the foolish things to do! Why even in those days, a team and a bulk wagon, or an old time truck could have picked up a good size dump of bulk wheat right from the combine. But since they didn’t do such smart things then, all those scattered 130 and 140 pound sacks had to be picked up from ground level by human back power.
True, we now have huge piles of wheat on the ground, but do have scientific ways of picking the wheat up. That is, whenever anyone wants the surplus stuff.
In the days of not knowing better, I spent a season during harvest picking up wheat sacks. Every pound of wheat that was raised on my farm, and Orlin Maurer’s had to be lifted onto an old high bed truck. Many of the sacks weighed more than I did. Sure, a lot of big guys performed this feat without hollering.
The results? As an old guy now, I realize I’m paying for my youthful folly by lifting scads of wheat sacks. In my case it didn’t promote a strong back. I now have to depend on running, swimming, and special exercises to help keep my back from making a cripple out of me. I’ve learned to do a lot of grunting, and very little lifting when asked to help carry something heavy.
Oh, My Aching Back" Kick-Back Country, p. 76
After my inherited uncle left town, we as a family could once again enjoy evening strolls through the Plaza. A dandy place to meet friends and tourists. It was there that dad and I got acquainted with three Civil War veterans. Their hobby was to impress anyone who cared to listen to their Civil War tales.
When those old soldiers started piling up stories, dad and I noticed that two of those brass-button veterans had opposite viewpoints on how a certain battle was fought. It got to where they disagreed so hotly that verbal insults began flying back and forth. Finally they got up and started poking each other with their canes. Their cane battle didn’t last very long, because they ran out of breath from all the excitement. Those two never came back to the Plaza, thinking the other may be there.
The remaining veteran that stayed out of this ruckus, kept coming back to the same park bench. He then had a chance to tell his pet Civil War stories without being interrupted. He said the other two veterans were a couple of wind bags.
Even though this lonely Civil War guy was widowed, he wasn’t burned out yet. Short skirts were making their first appearance in the 1920s. The sidewalks through the Plaza were full of pedestrians. One evening in the middle of this old guy’s war story, a trim lady in a short dress passed by. His droning vocal sound ceased as his eyes followed the lady ’til she walked out of his line of sight. After depositing some tobacco juice on the lawn, he wiped his chin and said. “She’s a darn good looker. Did you see her legs?”
Also at the Plaza, cults were found floating around quite a bit after the holiday season. A cowboy preacher and his wife came to the Plaza for a week of evening stays. On religious grounds, it seems like anybody could start up soap-box services.
This couple’s outfit included a fancy car, with religious symbols painted on the fenders. One door had a painting of a redeemed cowboy roping a sinner.
About a couple of hours after sundown, this cowboy preacher and his mate would drive up to the Plaza, set up a table, and load it with trinkets that were made by semi-starving Indians from the Pueblo, Colorado district. A block-like box was used as a pulpit.
His gimmick was to sell enough ornaments from the table to support his calling, and to buy some food for the starving natives down on the reservation.
The Rev. Cowboy wore nickle plated spurs, glass studded boots, a fancy silk shirt with lots of colors on it, and a cowboy hat that cost lots of bucks. It didn’t seem like the holy team sold enough stuff to keep their equipment up to snuff.
His sermons were amusing and rather harmless. He wore dark glasses, even though the only thing shining were the Plaza street lights. His wife testified that the dark glasses were to help keep him from seeing the temptations of the world. I remember dad remarking to a friend, “is that the only way she can control him?”
"An Undesirable Relative", Kik-Back Country, p. 59
I’ve been thinking back to those seven years that I had to spend in southern California. In the 1920s that part of the country wasn’t as overloaded as it is now. The air was still air down there then, and people weren’t so thick. Orange orchards had not been yanked out to make room for freeways and monotonous rows of houses. In those pre-Oral Roberts days, Aimee Semple McPherson and her Angelus Temple were busy ruling the roost, ’til she used up all her magic charms.
Before Aimee was arrested, and before her sensational kidnapping trial, it was a big deal to drive over to the Angelus Temple with relatives that were ‘gung-ho’ on Aimee McPherson. The temple did make you feel like you were in heaven. Blue sky, with lots of clouds, were painted on the huge ceiling. Also, angels were artfully painted as floating around in various places. When the band stopped banging away, Aimee in a white robe would make her grand entrance by descending down an open staircase that led to her throne-like pulpit. But it got to be kinda boring watching Aimee heal the stuttering, the deaf ones, and untangle a few contortionists.
When Aimee was at the height of her glory, my dad’s brother-in-law, Emil Bell, and family were living in Hermiston, Oregon. He thought he was designed to be an evangelist. The bleak sagebrush hills of Hermiston caused Emil to think of a better place to start his mission of salvation. So he dumped my aunt and their two children permanently, and left for the fertile evangelistic soils of southern California. On his way, he picked up a tuneful singer who worked as a ‘starter’ just before Emil began his arm swinging sermons.
Of all things! When Emil got to Los Angeles, he thought he could get a job working for Aimee McPherson as some sort of come-on preacher that could help herd the stray ones into the Angelus Temple.
When Emil Bell realized he had to start from the bottom of that highly competitive evangelistic ladder, he parked himself at our place. After cussing the world out in general for being so wicked, Emil opened up a shop downtown, and held some revival meetings.
It was luck that my dad’s brother-in-law got starved out, and left for other towns where picking was easier. There were just too many German Lutherans at Orange, and they gave him a rough time. Emil was a schemer, a womanizer, and a hypocrite.
"An Undesirable Relative", Kik-Back Country, p. 59
Speaking of these early day harvesters, a recent finding just outside of Harrington, on the road to Lord’s Valley, there on an old California land company farm, a pioneer ranch house floor was yanked out for replacement by Herb Armstrong. There, before his very eyes were ancient combine tracks imprinted during the harvest of 1893. All the indentations of the bull-wheel cleets that ran the ground-powered harvester were clearly visible.
How did these original tracks stay preserved for all these eons? Simple: Right after harvest 88 years ago, that ranch house was put together on that stubble field, using rocks from the pasture and homemade mortar for the outside foundation, sealing in perfectly this little tidbit of history.
Harringtonites did use their noodles during those tough years when the Roosevelt administration was handing out dough quite freely on W.P.A. projects. They chose to have a swimming pool made with a building over it, and had it attached to their school. It still keeps kids and adults happy.
What did Davenport do with it’s W.P.A. allotment? They had a golf course built on a pile of scab rock. The course was never a success. Between the sagebrush and rocks, squirrels got busy and made lots of extra holes, causing great confusion and frustration among the golfers. Davenport was so embarrassed, it was glad when a much-needed hospital was built, as it helped cover up part of the folly.
"Early Boom Town, Harrington" Kik-Backs, p. 72
Johnnie Russell’s early-day spread of farmland flowed in several directions, some of it ending up against the Town of Harrington. My dad told me Johnnie took great pride in his accomplishments. Being well heeled, he could do funny things after harvest with the sacks of wheat that was laying all over his fields.
One particular year long ago, Mr. Russell wanted to see what his crop looked like in one big pile. That fall, when his neighbors were busy hauling their sacks of wheat to the warehouse, Johnnie greased his wagon wheels up for a different reason. He had his hired men cart all his crop back up to his farmstead, including all the sacks that were laying in the stubble that bordered on the edge of Harrington.
The sight pleased Johnnie’s eyes, as he looked at his man-made mountain of sacked wheat from every angle. When farmer Russell got tired admiring his wealth in the sack stage, he must have gathered all his hired men and said to them, “Let’s get busy boys, and start hauling all this scenery back to town, so I can have it turned into money and see what my wealth looks like in bank-book figures.”
"Early Boom Town, Harrington" Kik-Backs, p. 72
In 1934, when the depression was still hanging around, dad and I were browsing around the ruins of the old Harrington manufacturing company building that got burned out 10 years previous. Not realizing that the front part of the old factory was being used, we opened up a large door, and there before our very eyes stood what we thought was a brand new Harrington harvester. It was almost assembled. For a minute we thought a ghost of the past was doing funny things to our sight.
Soon voices entered our ears, and a small sagging shop door popped open. In came a couple of guys in coveralls and an oldtimer, Charley Kerran, who my dad knew very well. The mystery came to an end. Kerran was having his faithful, worn-out Harrington harvester restored. We admired Charley’s pride and joy. Everything was being rebuilt, even the wood holding the separater was replaced. “They don’t made combines like they used to,” Charley commented with pride.
Emil Jahn was managing the usable part of this old factory. Later that winter, I used the heated part of the building for a “do-it-yourself” tractor overhaul. A three-week stay, including a private tractor stall, cost only $15. The ailing tractors of Turner, Rux, Burns and the Watson brothers made their home there too that winter.
Before hard times ended, the once proud mansion of the former state senator Charley Bethel was sold for taxes. Warren Welch, an early day settler, took over legal ownership of this historical building. He and his wife just set up housekeeping in the southwest corner of this sad mansion of a past era.
My dad and Warren were old homestead pals, so on my pop’s final northwest visit, I chauffeured him to Welch’s relic. The conversation finally got to former Senator Bethel. “So, this is the old Bethel Mansion,” Pop said. “He was a senator when we lived on our homesteads.”
“Ya, I know, you could hear him for blocks when he gave a political speech, so he must have been a good senator,” was Warren’s reply.
Old Welch inherited a room full of the senator’s law and state record books. Warren had gutted out all of the printed pages from those very durable, hard leather- bound book covers, and made gift and storage boxes out of about every book, thus bringing Senator Bethel’s brainy collections to an end.
"Early Boom Town, Harrington, Kik-Backs, p. 72
It is factual that Wilbur is a great little place. The controversial Wild Goose Bill just added the needed color to get it started. Later, this town was able to furnish the right inspiration for an early day citizen to become governor. The city of Wilbur has since stayed solidly on the map, without shrinking very much.
That can’t be said about Harrington. Its local newspaper folded up years ago, and the highway has long since ducked out of Main Street. Still, Harrington wins by a hair as being the most interesting early-day boom town in Lincoln County.
Years before fossil fuel was needed, a lot of mules were carted up from Missouri to the Harrington district for horse-power usage. Later, this pioneer town became the mule capitol of the west, and held annual Mule Day celebrations. In 1923, Pathe News flickered this annual event in lots of movie houses.
A monument about twice the size of a tombstone should be placed at the Harrington entrance, just far enough off highway 28, so the snow plows wouldn’t dent it. A suggested inscription should read as follows:
“One block east and one block south of this monument, sets the remains of an early pioneer factory. When the 20th century was hardly 15 years old, two daring guys, Lew Dunning and Charlie Erich, strayed into this humble burg from California.
"They figured this frontier community deserved a harvester that would be precisely designed to fit the rolling, volcanic hills of Lincoln County. They sold stock and got farmers excited enough to invest. Lots of lumber and iron were shipped in, and soon this factory gave birth to lots and lots of harvesters. They were all christened "Harrington." Later this factory even molded and assembled its own combine motors.
"These part wooden and iron machines soon graced the wheat fields for miles around, causing inferior imports from California to slow down to a trickle.
"Straight outdated chain hitches to pull these rigs were very cruel to all mules. Two local inventors, Talkington and Green, got busy and made hitches of their own design, so the new harvesters could be pulled without causing the animals to rupture. A third humane inventor, Shendonie, brought his own hitch with him from California. As many as 32 mules could be hooked together for pulling purposes."
“This monument was put up by the local Historical Society for the Prevention of Lost Records.”
"Early Boom Town, Harrington, Kik-Backs, p. 72