Chapter 5 A new house in the town of Lind
To Keep Mabel Happy
After sixteen years of living in isolated dusty and dusty location Mabel longed for adequate water to grow a garden and some roses. The ample crops and good prices of wheat since settling on the Elmore farm had given them a comfortable savings account. Mabel wanted to move into town. Russel did not like the idea at first. He felt that their lease carried an implicit promise that they would live on the farm to protect the property. But Mabel prevailed. They could not build their home on the rented farm property.
Mabel prevailed. It was time to build a house in Lind. A lot was purchased on the north hill in the town of Lind. Booster Moon was hired to do the construction. Mabel’s main requirements were windows that did not leak dust and lots of closets. They had found a magazine floor plan that appealed to them, they found a draftsman in Spokane, and he created a set of blueprints from it. It cost the outrageous sum of fifty dollars. Booster was an experienced builder, and in January of 1950, they moved into a lovely three bedroom home with thick carpeting in the front room and dining room, big windows with pull drapes, central heating, a second bathroom in the full basement and an attached garage. The house was built on a hillside, so that the basement had a ground level opening in the back while the living room had a street level door in front. A special feature was the cemented roof of the garage, creating a delightful patio outside the kitchen door. The actual move day was memorable. It was the coldest day of the year. Temptures hovered around 5 degrees and ice made it difficult to carry furniture..
The lot selected fot the house was in an area of nearly solid rock. The hole for the basement was blasted using dynamite bringing concern for the neighboring houses. The house construction was done a professional but everything else was family farmer do-it-yourself. Russel and Mable established a landscape plan with retaining walls that created terraced beds for vegetables or roses. Russel and Ross Hunt mixed concrete and constructed concrete for retaining walls adjacent to the driveway and sidewalks in front of the house. They hauled dirt from the farm to create a layer of soil on the rock base of the property. The plans, the blasting, and the construction were all done without permits and contracts were verbal. There were no detailed plans for finishes, for cabinets, for heating, or for site grading. The local builders knew how to build with quality without any technical experts. Government approvals were unnecessary
The geography and the small town life
The town of Lind was ninety miles southwest of Spokane. Three blocks after entering town was city center requiring an abrupt left turn. In three more blocks, one was out of town. Sometimes an unwary driver would miss the turn and drive the entire mile length of town. The town had adequate water and most people had lush tree lawns. Pat and Dick had never before lived in a house with a telephone. Local phone numbers were three digits. Long distance calls were handled through an operator but it might cost several dollars for a short call. The Lind telephone operator knew everyone and every activity serving as an area answering sysstem. One might call Hilda Hougan and be informed that she was out of town for the day. If an important call came to someone without a phone the operator knew a neighbor who would walk or drive, many miles, to convey a message. Charge cards did not exist. The family could charge items in any store in town. As a teenager Dick could walk into the hardware store and simply say “charge it” for a box of 22 shells (No signature required.). Grocery delivery was common. School plays or dances attracted everyone in town. Offically the streets had names but we did not know our house address. Service stations attendants pumped gas, cleaned windows, checked oil and smiled. Television arrived and, only a few people, availed themselves of the fuzzy black and white images. Coke was 5 cents and double dip ice cream was 10 cents. Minimum wage was $0.75/hour. Women’s slacks were not common and men never wore shorts. Aside from school teachers and ministers there were three people in town with a college degrees.
Much of eastern Washington bears the scars of the ice age 15,000 years ago. Glacers blocked river drainage from Montana for years until a massive collapse released the entire lake. The rushing water scoured the land removing soil and creating valleys in the basalt base. The dark colored bare rock remains exposed on hillsides around Lind. Areas stripped of soil, called scab lands, have never recovered although land at higher elevations was undisturbed. The Elmore farm elevation protected it from the Missoula flood. We should say floods as the flooding process repeated itself an estimated at 40 times throughout a thousand years. Regarding climate, 10” annual rainfall limited the variety of crops, Dryland wheat farmers learned to utilize the limited moisture and claimed that they were the most efficient wheat farmers in the US. A couple decades earlier farming was dependent of horses. The farm employed more men. The town had a population greater than 1,000. In 1950 it had 700 residents. 70 years later the population has dropped to 400 and the retail business has nearly disappeared.
We didn’t think of Lind as a dusty little town in the midst of poor farmland. It was home. The old German farmers had a work ethic instead of high education. While Lind had a population of 750 people, it had four grocery stores. There were three hardware stores and three new-car dealerships. And five churches. We could add the, out of the city, Mennonite church, that served numerous industrious farmers, merchants and teachers. The farmers were Republican while townspeople were Democrat. The major town grocer, Harry Kasper, was Jewish, while his wife was Catholic. Small towns had many retail establishments because people were unaccustomed to travel. In subsequent years, cars became better, roads were better, and the lure of better shopping decimated small town retail business. There was no restaurant in town. Restaurant food was too expensive. Small town gossip enforced monogamous relationships.
We had our own bank, an attorney, a town jail, a town newspaper, and a teen recreation center. At noon each day a siren would echo across town. It was the test of the emergency system. When there was a fire or need for an ambulance, the city telephone operator would call the closest merchant to blow the siren and the trained volunteers would rush to the fire station. Lind had a doctor, some of the time. One doctor had come from a West Virginia area with coal mines. Miners eventually developed serious lung problems from coal dust. He wondered how the local farmers continually worked in clouds of dust without lung problems. The doctor discovered that the small dust particles were rounded rather than sharp like coal dust. Also Lind had two train stations, several grain elevators, two gas stations, two bulk fuel distributors, five fraternal organizations. And two town drunks. Continuing the retail census, one motel, movie theater, telephone office, dress shop, insurance office, leather repair business, rail express office, Greyhound bus stop, a weekly newspaper, a lumber yard, an airfield, and a slaughterhouse.
Schools were a center for much town activity. A high school of 75 students had athletic teams for four sports. The marching band had 25 musicians. Most of the town attended the annual school play. Two annual school dances invited the whole town and used the gymnasium. In summation, the small town provided nearly everything found in a large city.
Russel and Mable 1954
There were additional freedoms for everyone after the move to town. Mabel had the opportunity to become involved in additional social groups. Russel could make routine visits to the implement store, the pool hall or the local grain wholesale house, etc. without the feeling that he was abandoning Mabel. Everything was within walking distance and there was no concern about being snowed in during the winter. Pat and Dick could visit friends anytime.
Mabel now had water so she could indulge in a previously hidden talent for gardening. The vegetable garden produced the usual radishes, peas and beans, cucumbers, beets and chard. No spinach — Russel hated spinach. On the back edge of the lot was planted an asparagus bed and a strawberry patch. It was a large lot so there was a generous area of grass. Along the west side, two trees were planted. But Mabel’s special joy was her new rose garden. Many hours were spent visiting Manito Gardens in Spokane to choose the most beautiful specimens for her collection. A climbing rose, Red Blaze, even found its way up the side of the garage to the rail around the patio.
Lind was a joy for Mabel. She no longer had to wait till Russel went to town if she wanted a pound of butter or a spool of thread. She could walk down town and browse the stores. She went to the beauty shop and had her hair done. While Lind was too small a town for mail delivery, the post office was an easy walk also. The town center was a down–hill walk and return was up-hill so exercise became a part of each day. Remember, Mabel was 51 years old at this time. The six block walk wasn’t heavy exercise.
Here was a full community of friends. The town women had many daytime activities in which Mabel was soon involved. Homemakers Club was an organization tied to the County Agriculture Extension Office. Its main purpose was to educate women in home-related skills, such as food preservation. Each meeting, however included crafts, and Mabel learned many enjoyable new hobbies with this group. Playing cards continued as a favorite pastime for both Mabel and Russel. The new next-door neighbors, George and Hilda Hougan played bridge and in a short time Russel became an avid bridge player. Mabel learned bridge, but she would always prefer pinochle. It didn’t require so much analysis.
The family began to attend the Methodist Church. In her youth, Mabel regularly attended church. Russel seems to have had no religious background. The church was a center of the social part of town. The Women’s Fellowship, sponsored by the church, became a favorite monthly activity. Many of the members of this group included old friends from Sandhills. Russel slowly became more involved in the church. It may be odd but Dick spent many hours at the church because there was a pool table in the basement. The church and basement were never locked and nobody required permission.
During this time period world tensions were high. In 1956 and 1957 here was talk of war with the USSR. There was a Cuban missile crisis and the Korean War. The Iron Curtain was an absolute barrier. All of the small towns were mobilized to report aircraft traffic to discover flights that might be a threat. A small building on stilts was erected at the edge of town for aircraft watch. Each of the Cline family members volunteered a couple hours a week to man the aircraft watch and reporting site. It was a high traffic day if one ever observed more than a couple crop duster airplanes.
Fraternal Organizations Were Important
Fraternal organizations were very strong in the 1930’s and 40’s, as social gatherings. Remember, there was no TV or internet yet there was need to have contact with the world particularly for isolated farm famlies Meetings of these groups were structured around rituals followed by relaxed social interchange. Russel and Mabel had been members of the Odd Fellows and Rebeccas for many years. Russel become a member of the Masonic Lodge, and felt a particular devotion to the charitable activities of this group. Mabel joined the companion organization, the Eastern Star. Althoughj Mabel joined, she did not have enthusiasm for public speaking. Russel and Mabel each occupied positions of increasing stature in the organizations. It took seven years to complete the leadership cycle of “chairs”, the last four being a commitment that should not be broken. As the years went by Mabel realized that she could speak in front of people after all! Eastern Star proved to be a huge step in self-confidence that stood Mabel in good stead for the rest of her active life.
A Farmers Life
The men in the farming community had many ways of abusing their bodies. They were idle for many months of the year and got little exercise. But, if a job required, they would spend all day at heavy labor in the heat of the day. This was a time when men were very macho. No man ever complained about hard work. (They would always complain about poor crop prospects.) One would work to absolute fatigue without suggesting that they were tired. There was no such thing as exercise for health. The diet included lots of fattening foods. Russel enjoyed eggs, bacon, and buttered toast for breakfast every morning. Most men, including Russel, smoked cigarettes. Even at that date, cigarettes were called cancer sticks.
The nearby O’Sullivan Reservoir provided some outstanding fishing. Russel took Vern Conklin fishing and showed him where the perch fishing was just outstanding. Vern enjoyed it so much that he brought his two older brothers back to the spot a month later. They were having so much fun that one of them fell overboard. In a rescue attempt a second brother fell overboard and both drowned. Russel worked with the volunteer crew dragging the lake to recover bodies. When they snagged a body and pulled it to the surface they grimly pulled the body onto the boat and Russel methodically disconnected the hook. Russel realized that some tasks, no matter how unpleasant, needed to be done.
An Initial heart attack
The Masonic Lodge meeting hall was on the second floor of the Phillips Building, on the main street of Lind. The upstairs meeting room was reached by a long flight of stairs, with no landing to break the climb. Each year the lodge had a banquet for incoming officers. The gathering necessitated many trips up and down stairs carrying chairs and other necessities. It was in preparing for the banquet Russel was to preside over, that he collapsed on the stairs of a massive heart attack. He had just celebrated his forty-second birthday.
During the next week, Russel lay in a condition so critical that the doctor told Mabel there was no more he could do, and little hope. Pat, who was a freshman in college, feared that she would never see her father again. But Russel survived. Recovery was long, with many weeks of bed rest after leaving the hospital. By summer, however, he was back in form. He had always been a perfectionist, quick to temper. The heart attack seemed to accentuate these qualities. Ross, ever patient and good-humored, attempted to take it in his stride. Eventually, however, he severed his association with Russel and found employment elsewhere in the community. At the same time Russel was increasingly considerate and supportive to direct family. His priorities had shifted.
No one ever told Pat and Dick that they should go to college when they completed high school. It was just one of those things that was understood. We were not grooomed for any specific vocation but free to choose. Russel and Mabel were eager to support the children in school. Mabel and Russel would have gladly paid all of the college costs. Pat chose to pay for much of her costs by working at the cafeteria. Dick worked as a troubleshooter for the campus maintenance department. As Mabel commented, “when we were young we didn’t have two nickels to rub. We wanted our children to have some fun.”
Pat 1950 and Pat 1963
It was important to treat both children equally. Whatever was provided to one would be provided for the other. At college graduation Mabel and Russel bought a new car for Pat. Therefore they did the same for Dick. They helped Pat and Loren with funding for purchasing the farm equipment. For equality, they provided a down payment for Dick to buy a first California home.
Upon high school graduation Pat enrolled at Washington State College in Pullman. Pat was eager to get on with life, so by attending college summers as well as regular terms she graduated in three years. She received her diploma in education in 1954. Her first job was as a second grade teacher in Othello. Loren Woodside had come home after four years serving the Coast Guard. The summer courtship resulted in marriage in December.
Dick also elected to attend WSC. After a year of general studies he chose to major in physics. It took Dick five years to obtain a degree. During the summer of his sophmore year he met a nursing student Marie Kosola. Their courtship led to marriage in 1957. Subsequent to graduation he took a job at the Naval Missile Center at Point Mugu, California. Although Mable and Russel could comfortably pay all college costs, Pat and Dick each worked part time. Some of that work is described in the appendix.
More health issues
Mabel had gall bladder surgery in October 1956 so it was a stressful time for her. One positive result of her illness was a nice washing machine and clothes dryer. Since Mabel was restricted from lifting, Russel had to do the washing. Mabel would never ask for a new machine but Russel quickly recognized that washing clothes was hard work.
There followed twelve years of failing health for Russel, a second serious heart attack. Diets were advised and blood-thinning agents prescribed. Physical work was difficult. None of the hired help for the farm were satisfactory.
By now Pat was married to Loren Woodside, and Russel soon discovered that his new son-in-law, raised in the city, yearned to be a farmer. The deal he offered was just too good to turn down. Russel would provide the equipment, Loren would provide the labor, and they would split the profit (since the lease was in Russel’s name) 49% – 51%. Loren was delighted. Pat, more aware of her father’s impatient nature, was reluctant. But the two men were an amazing match. Loren proved to have the same desire for work well done. He was eager to learn, questioning everything, and Russel took delight in explaining.
Two years later, his health continuing to fail, Russel took Pat and Loren to Spokane to meet with the farm property owner, Ollie Watkins. Russel explained to Ollie that he could no longer be daily involved in operating the farm, and hoped, since Loren knew the land and had proved so capable, that he might be extended a lease. Ollie was agreeable, but now exercised his desire to shift a section of the farm to operation of his nephew.
Retirement, for a farmer is never boring. It seemed Russel could finally relax. He would go to the shop and tinker for a while, or just drive by and see how much rain had fallen the night before, and then head back to the house to read the paper or work on his books. He took pride in having up-to-date records of his investments. It was also a joy to stop at the farmhouse and see the grandchildren. One afternoon Pat heard her father on the doorstep commanding her to get upstairs to Scott’s room. When she complied, she found an open window, through which two-year old Scott had crawled. He was standing on the edge of the roof chatting with his grandfather. Fortunately, he came willingly back to his mother.
Remember the Grandparents
Elmer and Carrie Roning celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in 1960. They had moved shortly before that to live in Pasco with Carrie’s daughter Sig. Within the next two years they were both to pass away, Carrie first, of congestive heart failure, and then Elmer, of a heart attack while taking a walk on a brisk January day. Elmer and Carrie, always thrifty, had saved money through the years to pay for their burial. Everyone knew about it. But when the brothers and sisters gathered for the funeral, the account was gone. Sig told them she needed help paying the expenses. Valuable gifts were also missing. The reaction from Cliff, Carl, and Mabel was explosive. They paid for the funeral because Elmer was their father but vowed never to speak to Sig again.
There was little Russel could do in the way of physical activity by now, but he could still drive. He was always ready to chauffeur Mabel for any errand. Many afternoons were spent in sightseeing drives around the countryside. Having a husband with such delicate health was an endless strain on Mabel. She worried every moment he was out of her sight.
Finally a stress test revealed that there was damage to the arteries from arteriosclerosis. A new technique of treating this problem was being developed, called by-pass surgery, so Russel made a trip to Seattle for tests at the University of Washington Medical facility. The examination revealed damage too severe for the operation. He came home with the news that he had little time left. He accepted the news with stoicism. Jumping ahead, a year later the surgery had been proven successful. Russel had an appointment with a surgeon at UCLA at the time of his death.
Mabel and Russel had foresight and faced the realities of their life knowing the Russel would die before long. The inability to drive would be a continuing handicap to Mabel. The Lind house was far larger than needed. No alternative housing was available in Lind. Aside from daughter Pat there were no close relatives nearby. They began the search of an alternate location where Mabel could live an active lifestyle.
The chronology of Russel’s Cars
A listing of the cars Russel owned tells much about his life. He started with a cheap used car. It did not take long to justify the need for a better car. As time went on he purchased new cars even though the prior car was still operating well. Farming did require lots of driving over poor roads so cars deteriorated rapidly. By 1955 only ocasionallly did one see a car more than 10 years old. Mabel never learned to drive. Purchasing a new car every three years was common. Cars one the 40’s and 50’s did not have the reliability common today. Cars needed frequent “tuneup”, oil change, new tires and many small parts. Today we have an electronic ignition, occasional oil change, radial tires are superior. better suspension, federal standards for performance and safety. Also, prosperity permitted car replacement.
- 1926 Ford purchased secondhand in 1931
- 1936 maroon Ford coupe purchased new
- 1939 gray Ford sedan driven to death. No new cars were available during WW11
- 1946 green Ford sedan. Poor quality, post-war hurry to manufacture.
- 1949 blue Ford sedan Drove Alcan highway to Alaska, Never reliable
- 1950 blue Ford sedan, — Later this became Dick’s car
- 1952 green Mercury station wagon, Travel back East and to CA
- 1954 blue Buick Century sedan, took Florence and Harry to Calif.
- This was a hot car. Once got it up to 100 mph
- 1957 green Buick LaSabre took many trips to Palm Springs. Dad didn’t like the color.
- 1960 blue Buick LaSabre
- 1963 white Buick Electra — A very large car. Dick inherited this car upon Russel’s death.
Starting in 1948 Russel also had a pickup truck which was replaced each two to four years. There were always two wheat trucks for the farm and another older truck for carrying farm lubricants. Other farm equipment included a crawler type tractor, a seeder with fertilizer spreader, a cultivater, and two combines. In the 1950s this was over $100,000 of rolling machinery. For value comparison, at this time a new Chevrolet cost $2,000.
Aircraft watch station, 1952. Dust storm approaching Lind. Wheat sacks. Each sack is 140 pounds, 1938.