Monday, April 25, 2011

Amanuensis Monday - More Letters from Great Aunt Cleo, Part I

I came across another letter from my Great Aunt Cleo Proctor Cavanaugh. It was written on July 1, 1991. She reminisces about her childhood (as written with my notes in brackets):

Cleo Ruth Proctor was born Mar. 15, 1905 in Seattle at 4221 Ferdinand St in Seattle. It was the first house my dad Daniel Hewitt Proctor built after coming out here from a farm near Sidney, Iowa where he had lived with his mother, brothers Charles, William, George and one sister Sallie.  He was sixteen at the time. They had lived in Equality, Ill. before that time where his dad had owned and operated a livery stable.
My first and only memory of the home place was when I was three years old. Ray, Everett and I were playing across the street at the Myers with their little boy who was my age. Ray had put up two saw horses with a heavy plank across them and one plank going up to the saw horse and one going down. We ran up across and down this until our mother called us for dinner. I remember saying as we left we'll be back tomorrow and Ray, no we won't we're moving tomorrow.
Brother Roy was born and the two bedroom house had become too small. We moved to an old ranch west of Rainer [sic] Avenue where we stayed until I was five. Three things stand out in my memory there. The house was large, cold and drafty and one morning I came to the top of the stairs with my eyes stuck shut with pus from a cold. Mom as we called our mother [Millie Travis Proctor] was getting Ray and Everett ready for school. I can picture them so well in their little wool suits with the knicker pants of dark blue surge even though I couldn't see. Mom told me to sit down right there till she could get to me. There were no railings on the staircase. 
Another memory was when my 19 year old cousin Kate Travis came to visit from Iowa. I was so jealous of her. One time I was in the out house when Mom and Kate came out to go. They called me to hurry several times but I just sat there burned to a crisp.   Of course Mom was interested in catching up on the news of her dad, brothers and sisters in Iowa. That with the new baby Charles was leaving me out in the cold. 
I remember the day Charles was born and seeing him wrapped up and lying in a big rocking chair. Aunt Sallie Proctor was helping out. Mom had had such a difficult time with his birth. She got a rupture in the navel and had to wear a trust until I was fifteen at which time she had it operated on.
From there we moved to a nice home on Ferdinand St. west of Raineer [sic] Avenue. It was across from the Lees. They became my folks good friends which we kept until my folks died. I and Margarite Lee Smythe were good friends until she died a few years ago. At this time only 3 of the eight children are living. I don't know them as well as the older ones.
From here we moved to a one room shack my dad had built on a lot he had bought. There were two tents joining the shack. We stayed here for a year. It was there I started the first grade but due to measles, tonsilitis [sic], bad colds and what not and with slow recovery I missed most of the first grade so was only given credit for one half year. Seattle schools had half grades at that time. Next we rented a nice home back of the shack. The bedrooms were all upstairs. From seven until eight years of age Roy and I shared a large double bed in my folks room. The room was large and Chick had a cot in the room too. At eight years old my folks moved me to the head of the stairs to a room meant for a bath room. The plumbing was roughed in. It was large enough for a cot and a night stand. I think Everett was jealous of me because I had my own room, because he said robbers would get to my room first if they came but I reminded him the doors were locked but then he reminded me they would come through the bathroom window which opened out on the roof of the one story kitchen so every night for four years I went to sleep watching the window for robbers. 
When I was nine years old we moved to Star Lake to a house that was part log. The large kitchen and three bedrooms were added on to the large log living room.The south end of the log part was covered by a beautiful wisteria vine. My bedroom, which was in the middle, had a beautiful honeysuckle bush out my window. We owned ten acres. It was mostly in the apple trees. My folks made considerable money from the apples. I had my favorite tree in the back yard with a good seat among the branches and where I hid to dread such books as Uncle Toms Cabin, Rex Beaches books on Alaska and all of Zane Grey's books. My favorite was John Halifax Gentleman by whom I do not remember. Also there were magazines I got from my Uncle Fargo who worked at Fort Lewis and brought them home. My folks weren't hap[y about the magazines. True Story was one and I think there was the Red Book too. 
We walked about a mile and a half to a one room school which is still standing at 272 and Military Road. All five of us kids attended the first year we lived at the ranch. Ray in the eighth grade and Chick in the first. That first year was cold with lots of snow. Pop as we called our dad made a sort of sled using two small longs crossing them with boards. Our two good horses Topsie and Bird pulled us to the school. I think Ray and Everett walked. That year the stock well froze over after it had flooded out of its bank. It was here I had my first of four severe falls on my back. We ran down the slope and shot out over the ice which was frozen very thick. I slipped and landed on my back. It really shook me up, especially my back. The next two falls were when I was fourteen and jumping my horse over a log to head off cows I was trying to bring home for milking. This time I broke my arm. I was knocked unconscious from the fall. When I came to, Kate, my horse had come back over the log or come around it and had her head down in my face nuzzling me. The strap on the saddle had broken. I and the saddle was on one side of the log and Kate on the other.
The next fall was from a high rope swing in the school yard. I had pumped up so high standing up that the swing instead of going back in its ark [sic] dropped straight down causing the rope to break. I landed on my back and as usual was knocked out. When I came to Roy was leaning over me yelling, "Are you dead Cleo, are you dead." I had hit my head on a rock and cut a place on the back of my head. The blood ran down the back of my dress. I didn't even tell the teacher. I was either tough or dumb I guess. It's been only in about the last twenty years I guess that a piece of the scalp wasn't raised. 
The last fall was when I was sixty two. I was sailing down between the two rows of 35 kids in my first grade room when I hit some spilled milk from the thermos of one of the kids. I fell flat on my back so fast. It's no wonder after these falls my back is severely degenerated.  
We had to take state eighth grade exams to enter high school at this time. I passed with flying colors. 
At this time we sold the ranch- trading it for a house in Ballard in Seattle and one thousand dollars in cash. We moved into the house which still stands at 2820 W 71st. I attended Ballard high school which at that time was the largest high school in the city. We stayed here for a year and we all enjoyed our first full bathroom. We then moved to Swan Lake on the Seattle pipeline. The first year my dad drove Chick, Roy and I three miles in our seven passenger Buick to meet the school bus to Maple Valley school. There were only forty high school students the rest were grade school children. We picked up a couple of other kids on the way.  
Next year Ray and Everett were driving to Seattle to work so we rode to Renton to school with them. We sure got to school early. Only the janitors were there. The next year Ray and Everett got work with the city of Seattle's water department and my dad got the Kent school bus to come within a mile or so of our place so I graduated in 1924 from Kent High School. 
The Proctors- Sallie, Cleo, Millie, Roy, a friend, Chick, Dan
To be continued...


  1. Oh wonderful that you have this letter and her story. thanks for sharing. I look forward to reading more.

  2. Cleo does a wonderful job of describing her childhood. The frequent moves, her falls and even her pouts. It's a grand letter and a fascinating read.

  3. Imagine a 16 year old building a house - amazing! I had 3 siblings but we were fortunate enough to have a big farmhouse and a bedroom each. It didn't stop me (as the eldest) telling the youngest that the owls in the wood could get through the cracked glass in her window. What a horror I was :-) and kids don't change much over the generations. Looking forward to the next part of your letters :-) Jo