Monday, May 2, 2011

Amanuensis Monday - More Letters from Great Aunt Cleo, Part 2

Continuing Cleo's letter from last week:

That summer I worked in a camp across the road from our place. We had thirty boarders for meals the first one at six a.m. when they came home from working the night shift. They were mostly engineers and supervisors. They were putting a tunnel under Lake Youngs which was to be a reservoir for the City of Seattle. It was fed from the upper Cedar River. Below where the tunnel came out there was another camp of over one hundred men. My dad had built the mess hall and many other cabins for the thirty men to live in. We owned forty acres there.

For the four months that I worked there, I made enough money for my first year of college. I received one dollar a day working from six until nine in the evening. I was supposed to get two hours off in the afternoon but didn't always get it. I made two cakes a day and put up thirty lunches after the last dinner. Mrs. Cummings and I did all the work. In four months the only day I had off was the fourth of July.

The tuition at what is now Western Washington University was fifteen dollars a semester so outside of my two weeks in the hospital I had enough money for two semesters. It was the quincy that put me in the infirmary.  Of course, I worked for my board and room. One place the man of the house was Bellingham's head detective. The second was head of P.A.F. Cannery. They went to Alaska every spring so I moved across the street for the rest of that year and all of my last year. There I built the fire in the furnace and cook-stove, took out the ashes, cleaned the chicken roosts and cooked breakfast before going to school. Twice a week I wiped down four flights of stairs because the doctor was coming to give Mrs. Getty her therapy to help her recover from her stroke. She was seventy three years old. The 48 and 50 year old Getty girls worked in Bellingham's leading department store. I had dinner ready the minute they walked in the door six nights a week.

The second year I got ten dollars from my dad a few times for books. All the money I made that summer was from pitting pie cherries across from the Panther Lake school.

I taught two years above Wenatchee the first two years I was out of college. It was impossible to get into King County without experience. At that time there were two thousand trying for those positions and practically no openings. Then I got hired at Panther Lake teaching the first three grades. I received 105 dollars a month for twelve months and lived at home for 25 dollars a month. I had only received 100 dollars on Badger Mt. for the actual months that I taught and paid 30 a month board which wasn't all that great. The board I mean.

After one year at Panther Lake Mom died of a strangulated hernia. I stayed home and kept house for Pop and Chick. My dad died three years later and Chick lived with me on the ranch. Violet [Jurstrum] stayed with me too. When the ranch was sold we moved to Renton renting a house from brother Ray. Violet taught in a school a few miles farther on so we drove together.

After six years at Panther Lake I got a teaching position at Lake Meridian where I received quite a raise and in addition a teachers cottage with light, water, fuel and telephone free. It was here I saved most of my money. After three years I got married to John B (Bennie) Cavanaugh and gave up teaching.

Cleo and Bennie, 1934

We moved into the house I was born in. I had loaned my folks money and at my father's death received property as payment. Eleven months after we were married Jack was born.

(Right) Cleo holding Jack and my grandmother Aune holding my mom, 1939

When he was two and one half we moved to Richmond Beach where Myrna was born three months later. Then we moved back to Seattle into another house I owned. It was next to the home place. My dad had built this house too. After a year we sold it and moved to the Mt Baker district into a house I had bought and rented out. Here we lived for twenty years. The children finished grade and high school and the UW while here. After Jack had one year at the U and Myrna was a junior at Franklin High I went back to teaching at Panther Lake. The first two years I taught kindergarten and the next ten years first grade.

Cleo's students

For nine years I drove out from Seattle sharing rides with different people one of them being Violet. Then we bought a new large eight room house with two baths upstairs and a powder room on the first floor. We have really made money here since we paid somewhat over twenty six thousand cash and now 25 years later is probably nearer to one hundred seventy five thousand. We are less than a mile from the home at Star Lake where I lived as a child and attended Star Lake school. We are still here at 26511 Highland Ave. Kent as of Feb 1991...

When Jack was twelve and Myrna nine we drove through Yellowstone Park and on to Denver. We camped most of the way cooking out. Myrna was mostly responsible for the camping- she loved it. This could have been due to her scouting experiences. On the way there she wanted to stop at every river, irrigation ditch and mud puddle to go swimming. Her dad being a long distance truck driver wanted to plow right through and we made record time. In Denver we stayed a motel for a couple of days. Aunt Bess [Travis Gordon] had us for meals. We saw my cousin Paul and wife Ruth and their two children Richard and Lilah. Richard was fifteen and Lilah perhaps twenty, married with a small daughter...

The Gordons

Since we moved here I have lost four brothers, Everett in 1974 at seventy one years of age. He had cancer of the lungs. His two girls are Jean Hewitt at Salt Lake and Janis Moore in Vista Cal. Charles or Chick as I called him died in 1986 at 77 of Emphysema. He never married. Brother Namond or Ray as we called him died in 1987 at 86 or nearly so of strokes. He has three girls. Dorothy Snider of Bellevue, Doris Ann of Kent and Shirley Barger of Seattle. Roy the last of my brothers died in 1987 also. He had cancer of the lungs. He was eighty years old. I am left without siblings to reminisce with about my early years. Roy has five children.

The Proctor boys

I have a number of health complaints all of which have been in an acute stage for some time. They are diverticulitis, thalacemia with anemia, a severely degenerated lower back and an enlarged weak heart. None of these things seem to be bad enough to do me in...
After retiring about twelve of the teachers I taught with got together every two months for lunch in each other's homes. Also about the same number from my high school at Kent did the same. The last couple of years due to deaths, health problems and some who don't drive anymore we have given up the lunches. I still see a couple of the teachers I taught with in Auburn at retired teachers. I still keep up with a few of my high school chums. Namely Joyce, Thekla, Marguerite Gross, Helen Zanzow and Ruth Hoban...

Cleo, Thekla and Roy in Bellingham

I am one of those few people left who remember their first car ride and also remember seeing their first airplane. I remember the depression before World War One and how we lived mostly on eggs, milk, apples, potatoes all of which were from our own place. In the summers there were vegetable from our garden. My dad had four houses he rented out in Seattle but no one could pay their rent. After the war everyone paid their back rent.

I remember how worried we all were that brother Ray might have to go to war. If the war had lasted one more year he would have been old enough. My folks were so much against the army. It was probably due to their hearing so much about the Civil War. The Spanish American War could have had some influence on their concerns. My folks were even against the boy scouts because they felt it was somewhat in preparation for the army. Their dress was similar at that time or I should say uniform. All this probably influenced my aversion to making a career out of learning to kill people. My folks talked and discussed very openly things of a political and religious nature all our lives. I think this is partly responsible for my independent thinking...

Cleo, 1926

The depression of '29 didn't have much of an impact on me personally but I sure saw it on so many of the people around me. I was teaching in Kent and had a steady income. Ray and Everett had good jobs with the City of Seattle.  I stayed home. My dad's renters couldn't pay their rent again.
I love to dance and when Violet and I lived together we went dancing every week in Seattle. Mostly to the Trianon where Vic Meyers had a twelve piece orchestra. Violet liked to go to the Swedish Hall sometimes. I'm ashamed to say we even went in the middle of the week sometimes to do the shodishes, polkas and hambones. We always came home alone. One sure wouldn't dare do that now..."

For the rest of this letter, Cleo discusses details of her later life and other subjects not relevant for this blog. I have really enjoyed transcribing her letters, greatly appreciate her efforts and hope that more like these will surface in the future.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for sharing Cleo's letters - it's wonderful that you have all these details about her family and working life :-) Treasures! Jo