Interview from January 30, 1995
We had electric heat, but before that we had the regular coal oil lamps. We had to get up early to make the fire every day and fire up the wood stove, which we had until the 30s. We would make oatmeal, and we would have pancakes every morning. In the late 20s we got a Model T Ford. My mom tried to learn to drive one day but she crashed into a tree and never tried it again.
I didn't finish high school; I'm kind of ashamed that I never did. I didn't go past the 10th grade because we had a large family, and I was ashamed of the clothes I wore. I babysat a lot and I worked in a dress shop for $15 a week. I also sold soap door to door. It was Rinsol, I think. I made $3 a day and I thought I was so rich. One summer I picked strawberries, and it was so hot that I nearly had a sun-stroke so they put me in a shed which wasn't much cooler than it was outside. I've never liked the heat since then. I also picked cucumbers one year and picked up potatoes with my brother. Working in the dress shop gave me confidence because I didn't have very nice clothes of my own. I wore plain dresses most of the time, with a print or something on them. We didn't wear slacks or anything back then, just dresses, unless you were playing or something, in which case you wore jeans, but I never did. I had one dress that I just loved. It was a white eyelet dress with a black ribbon around it just above the waist. My mother bought it for $5.
We had a large family and Dad was the head of the household. You always passed the meat to him first. Dad had his own special chair that no one else was allowed to sit in. Well if Dad wasn't there, why you could sit in it just fine, but if he was there, then you had to move. We walked a lot. It was a long way to our grade school, well, 9 or 10 blocks, so we walked a lot. I always came home for lunch because Dad always came home for lunch, and we had a full hour to eat.
Spring vacation was a lot different than it is today. Back then they called it Clean Up Week. The kids cleaned, raking up yards and making the yard all nice, and if we were good then on the last day we would get to have a bonfire. We would roast potatoes and sometimes marshmallows after the coals died down.
Every Saturday morning, my brother and I would go to watch a movie. It was 5¢ to get in, or maybe it was a dime, but I seem to remember it being more like a nickel. It was always a continuing story, so you had to come back every week. They gave out candy and stuff. They were always cowboy movies. I watched so many cowboy movies that I would have dreams that some man on a horse was chasing me and I was trying to get away, and I would thrash around so much that I would fall out of bed.
I can't remember which was my favorite movie but I will never forget one of them was called "Montana Moon," and I just loved that movie so much, and I wish that they would release it again sometime. I didn't ever see "The Jazz Singer," but I did go to the Vaudeville one time in Spokane. My parents couldn't afford to take me most of the time, but I went with a friend of mine one time. Her parents took us and it was just beautiful. I remember there was a painting of a ship on the stage. Afterward we went out for ice cream and I had an ice cream sundae. It was the first ice cream sundae I had ever had. We usually made our own ice cream a gallon at a time because our freezer couldn't keep it cold. We had an ice chest type thing that was about half the size of a normal refrigerator. We just kept a 25lb. chunk of ice in it to keep things cold. We couldn't shop for the whole week, we just kept the butter and the milk and maybe some meat in there. We didn't have real fancy meals.
Over labor day, we didn't ever go on any vacations, but Dad always got labor day off because of the union; it was the four Ls ... Loyal Loggers of Lumber ... anyway it was four Ls so on Labor day we would all go to the lake for a picnic. My mother would fill a basket like a clothes basket full of food for the lunch and we would take the electric train to the lake. There were always races and things there and it was something I always looked forward to. Sometimes my mother would bundle us up and she couldn't afford to take us to the circus but she would bundle us up anyway so we could see the parade. Us kids never really felt neglected or deprived.
We used to play cut the pie out in the snow with all the neighborhood children. The auditorium park had rides in the summer and they would shoot fireworks on the fourth of July. We would sit in the gully near the river, where we could sit up and see and look down on them. In the winter we would slide down the hill on sleds. Dad made a sled for me and my brother. It couldn't have been more than 18 inches long. We would go to a big hill. I would lie down on the sled and my brother would lie down on top of me because he was my younger brother. People thought we were sliding down with no sled because it was so small. I wish I still had that sled. I don't know what happened to it.
I didn't watch any sports until high school, when I watched football. Sports are so big business lately that they don't even seem like sports anymore. I played baseball and volleyball and tennis, and I went swimming in the summer at parks. During the Great Depression, Claude and I would get together with friends from the post office every other week on a Saturday afternoon. We would have a potluck supper and then we would play baseball and then pinochle.
I used to love Coney Islands. Sometimes Claude and I would splurge and we would go to a movie and then we would go to a Coney Island place. Coney island places are like chili dog places, like chili dog stands. They were 2 for 15¢ if you can believe that. And beer was 5¢ each. There was also this little man with a hamburger wagon and he would make little hamburgers for 5¢ each.
Something I didn't like about the 1920s was the dark wallpaper. It always made the room seem so dark. The style came back a while later but I never wanted to see it again. That was something that made an impression on me. Nowadays, everything is improved, the style of living is improved and comforts and such. I was never uncomfortable but there were 7 children in my family. We always had 3 meals a day and Mom baked. We would come home from school and you can't slice bread when it's fresh baked, so we would always get a loaf that we could just break hunks off of and spread butter in, and it was so good.
For the record, both my father and I tried for years to find "Montana Moon" on video or DVD for her to see again. As far as I can tell, they never released it outside of theaters.