Oral histories can often be incorrect. I recall my dad saying we were descendants from George Walton, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. Wrong. Genealogy research has proven that one not only false, but impossible.
A cousin called last night, and during our conversation I asked if he knew how his grandparents met. I was very curious because of the oral histories I’ve been told and I was trying to fit the pieces together.
It turns out some of the stuff I had been told was not true.
If you’re an empty nester, one of the best things you can do for your posterity is to write your history. Oral histories will change over time and get distorted, so write it down.
My blog is one of the ways I hope my posterity will learn about me. I’m sure there will be things I miss along the way, but at least there will be no disputations about things I am clear about in my blog.
That Got Me Thinking
That got me thinking about what I want my posterity to know. So, why procrastinate?
My earliest memories were of living near the university in Pocatello, Idaho. Our neighbors were the Bowsers and they had a son named Ricky. While I thought of Ricky as my best friend, he was pretty mean to me. At least on two occasions, Ricky bloodied my nose. He said it was part of being in Kinder Guarding (as he called it).
Ricky had a baby brother named Mark. I wanted a baby brother named Mark. Ricky was really good at throwing a ball. I worked hard to learn how to throw a ball. It seemed it was all about keeping up with Ricky.
During that time, it seemed I only saw my dad on occasions. I knew he worked for Consolidated Freightways, he had been in the Air Force, and went to college. Aside from that, it seems I’d see him infrequently. My mom worked, and so I spent most of my days at my grandparents’ house on South Johnson.
At grandma’s I had a friend a few doors down. I can’t remember his name, but I remember he looked like a child version of Oliver Hardy. Across the street were the “twins”. Grandma watched them too. One of them played trumpet and that’s what got me interested in playing trumpet.
Grandma and Grandpa gave me lots of freedom. I explored the hills near their home, visited the parks in the area, the river and the corner store we called “Del Monte’s”. (We called it that because of a large Del Monte logo painted on the side of the building.) I was free to roam wherever I wanted as long as I told Grandma where I was going.
My favorite thing was to go looking for loose changes on the sidewalks. A penny would actually buy some candy at Del Monte’s.
When we lived in town, I didn’t have much freedom back home. It was the Bowser’s house our our house. I wasn’t allowed to wonder any further.
A beatnik lived downstairs. His name was something like Hodge Podge. I would visit him when he was home and he’d let me pound on his bongo drums.
When dad was home, they’d have other grown-ups over to play board games. I’d have to stay in my room. I learned that ‘children were to be seen, and not heard.’ In the case of game night, it was ‘children were to be invisible.’
Mom got pregnant and we moved in to a new house around the same time. There was a lot of change going on. They sold the MG, bought a 1953 Chevy DeLux and an old station wagon, and mom was sick all of the time.
In the new house the two upstairs bedrooms were my parent’s and the baby’s. My basement was in the basement under the baby’s nursery. In some ways, I liked having a room in the basement. It was an escape. In other ways, I hated it. It was lonely.
It was just me and mom at home. She was taking the laundry to the basement when she stumbled and fell the full flight of stairs. She was about 7 or 8 months pregnant. I was never so scared in my life. Mom was crying because she was afraid she was going to lose the baby, and I was crying afraid I was going to lose my mom.
My brother was born, and in spite of my parent’s hopes for a girl, whom they planned to name Stephanie, it was a boy. And, my lobbying paid off. They named him Mark, just like Ricky’s little brother.
The new house kept dad home more. When he was home, he was mostly working on the house. Otherwise, he’d head off to the school where he taught. (He was a teacher at Highlands High School when it first opened, and worked the year prior to its opening on helping get it ready.)
In the mornings, dad would be gone before I got up. Mom would kiss me and Mark goodbye and leave us in the hands of Mrs. Hansen. She was an old lady who smelled of coffee and cigarettes. While she never did anything to me, she always scared me. She wasn’t a pleasant lady. She’d feed me breakfast, and send me out the door to school.
Because my mom taught at my school, I wouldn’t see her at school. She got home before I did, and so I’d walk home from school where she was always there after school tending to Mark.
Summers would come, and dad would take off to Moscow, Idaho, where he was working on his PhD in entomology. During the sumers Mark and I spent about 80% of our time at Grandma’s. Actually, I probably spent more like 90-95% of the time there. I recall many times when mom would take Mark and go home, and I’d stay with Grandma and Grandpa.
And, prior to my starting school, I spent about 90-95% of my time at my grandparents’ house. To me, it was a safe place where I loved to be.
Once summer, before Mark was born, I was sneaking matches out of the house and trying to lite them. My dad’s dad, my Grandpa Walton, came to Pocatello once. My dad took me to meet him, and they got in an argument. While they argued, my grandpa’s gambling buddy taught me how to lite a paper match. This led to me “practicing” and catching a shed on fire.
I thought I was going to jail for sure. The police gave me a good talking, but my biggest fear was when dad came home from Moscow, Idaho, that I was going to get beat to a bloody pulp.
Church in Pocatello
Weekends at Grandma’s house meant going to church with her in the Pocatello 1st Ward. It was full of people with white (and blue) hair. They all knew my grandparents. There weren’t many children in their ward.
When we lived near the university, we attended church in the new Institute Building. I only remember going to church a couple of times there. It was always stake conference. I don’t ever remember attending primary there, or at grandma’s.
Living on Teal Avenue, we attended church down the road on the corner of Hawthorne Road and Quinn Road. I remember going to Primary there. Mom was called as the Primary chorister. The things I remember about that time were these three incidents…
- Trying to figure out with the rest of the boys how to get up to the widows walk around the top of the steeple. It was a place I wanted to go. As a result, we would open doors and look for passageways that might lead us to the top.
- Getting caught in the middle of a snowball fight and getting hit by a rock packed in a snowball. I went running in to the primary room crying. My mom about passed out when she saw me heading towards her with a bloody face.
- Deciding to fake being sick and having one of the girls at church bring me homemade chocolate chip cookies because she heard I was sick. Wow, did I feel guilty. I never faked sick after that, and I have always cherished the thought of this girl’s act of kindness and concern.
Visits to Highlands
I think mom was overwhelmed working and taking care of two boys. So, on weekends, she started to insist dad take me to school with him. (While there wasn’t school on weekends, my dad spent most of his weekends at the school “prepping” for the upcoming week.)
While there I’d play with the big bull snake, the lab rats, look through microscopes, and books. Dad was usually down the hall talking to a particular home ec teacher, or in the teacher’s lounge talking to a fellow teacher.
I recall one day wrapping the bull snake around my neck, and going off to search for my dad. When I found him in the home ec room, the lady teacher about screamed when she saw the snake around my neck.
Learning to Ride
Dad bought me an oversized girl’s bike. His thinking was it would be easier for me to learn and I could grow in to it because it didn’t have a top-tube.
I hated that bike.
I learned to ride it, but not after a serious accident where I seriously injured myself.
After that, I was very insistent I get a new BOYS bike. I was told if I could buy it, I could have it. I started saving my money.
The bike was $42. I remember that. About the time I had earned $21 my dad broke down and took me to get the bike. I was in tears. I cried that I didn’t have the money and I wasn’t in the mood to look at the bike of my dreams when I got there because I knew I didn’t have the full amount. It was a Schwinn Typhoon in Flamboyant Red with 26″ wheels.
It wasn’t until after going through all that agony my dad told me he was going to pay half the amount. I was so happy I told my parent I was going to ride my bike home. My mom wasn’t having anything to do with my riding my bike home along US Highway 30. Finally, they agreed but they were going to follow me in the car.
I made it home without any problems. From then on, it was me and my bike.
Enough for Today
Well, that’s enough for today.