Chapter 2: Introducing Russel

Mabel Meets Her Future Husband

Russell with Dick and PatEsther Nation, a good friend of Mabel’s at the telephone company, was a pleasant person with a big, good-natured boy friend, Sam. One day, Sam and Esther drove to Idaho with friends who were on the way to get married and it was suggested that the other Sam and Esther should also get married, so they did! Sam and Esther had never before discussed marriage. In Spokane, the Nations belonged to a pinochle group and invited Mabel to join them one night and among the people she met was a young man named Russel Cline. As he did not have a car, Sam and Esther drove him as well as Mabel to their homes. Russel asked Mabel if he could see her again, but she said no. She really wasn’t impressed with him and anyway she was already going with someone else.     Ralph, the man Mabel dated during this time had been married before and had an eight-year-old son. Mabel decided that she didn’t want to marry him because this would make her the boy’s mother. From her experiences with her own step-mother, she did not want to be one.

Soon after the card party, Sam and Esther invited Mabel to go on a picnic which Russel also attended. After that picnic, the Nations often invited their friends to join them, Mabel and Russel travelling in their car’s rumble seat. One evening the four of them decided they were hungry so they drove to Coeur d’ Alene to eat and didn’t get home until 4:30 in the morning.


Russel was born in Kahlotus WA on 26 January 1909 as the youngest of five seven children born to Hattie and Emery Cline. Following is a brief introductioon to members of the family. Father, Emery, had moved from Indiana in Walla Walla WA in 1890. He was educated enough to have a teaching certificate in two states. Emery had a lifelong love of literature. Mother, Hattie, was born in California in 1869 but moved to Washington when 12 years old. She obtained a teaching certificate in Washington. They married in 1889. They were a farm family.

Daughter Florence was born in 1890. At age 16 she married Harry Hunt. They farmed at Grandview IA while raising a family of 10 hardworking children.

Twins, Ralph and Ruth, born in 1892 died in their first year.

Edith, born in 1895, at the family farm in Dayton WA. She married Ray Fitting who was chief ranger for the St Joe National Forest. Edith spent years as editor of the St Maries newspaper.

Dorothy, born in 1897 completed a BA at U of Idaho. After colorful college years she married Professor Carl Naether and they lived in Los Aangeles.

Winfield, born in 1903, established an advertising company that grew to importance. His resume includes traveling with the governor of Idaho to visit President Roosevelt.

Russel, the focus of this history, was born in 1909, lost his mother at age 8 and led a confused childhood.  When Russel was born his mother Hattie Abbott decided to shorten the LL in Russell.  She said that there were already too many double letters in family names.  Thus Russel misspelled his name in his own marriage certificate.

Hattie died of a heart attack in 1917. (Footnote for Hattie obituary clipping) Emery recognized that he lacked the dedication to responsibly raise a young son. Emery did not remarry and decided he could not support a young son.

Let us jump forward in time to a conversation that took place 35 years later, when Russel’s son Dick was courting Marie Kosola. On a visit to Marie’s uncle Walter Eades, Walter wanted to know more about the family background and asked a number of personal questions about Russel. To Dick’s surprise, Walter went on to explain that shortly after his marriage he and his wife knew Emery Cline very well. At that time, Emery was seeking a stable home for his son Russel. He asked the Eades if they would entertain such a task. They declined the responsibility. On hearing the story in the late 50s, Russel would not grant it credibility.

Russel grew up living with first one, then another of his older sisters and his brother. When Hattie died, Russel’s sister Dorothy was teaching in a one-room school and living at home, so Russel could stay home the first year. At this time his sister Edith was teaching at Connell. Russel attended Dorothy’s school and, being precocious, accomplished two academic years during that one year. At one of his subsequent schools he also completed two years of work in a single year. Consequently, Russel was two years ahead of his age in completing grade school. He dropped out of school for two years but since he was unable to find a satisfactory job, he went to Spokane to live with his brother Winfield. Russel graduated from North Central High in 1926 and stayed to work in Spokane.

Hattie in back, Florence, Edith, Emery, and Dorothy

After his time with Dorothy, Russel went to live with his oldest sister Florence. Born in 1890, thus 20 years older than Russel, Florence was married to a farmer, Harry Hunt, and her first two children were older than Russel. They lived in an area near Richland but subsequent to this time period they moved to Grandview Idaho. The Hunts were quite poor but freely shared everything with friends. Russel once mentioned that they would swim across the Columbia River at Richland. During late summer there was very little water flow and it was a small river.

Russel and Emery / Grandad and Billy
Russel and Emery

Russel fit well with the Hunt family, but was shuffled along so the sisters could share. Soon it was time to move on to Edith, who by then was married to Ray Fitting and living in Great Falls, Montana. While the sisters all adored him and quarreled over who should have him, it was hard for the boy to understand why he didn’t belong anywhere permanently. Russel sometimes commented that during his school years he changed school at least once each year.

Getting Married     (This gets confused with the previous bold entry.)

Mabel’s and Russel’s friendship blossomed with time and they finally decided to get maried. He admitted being “somewhat younger” than Mabel, which she interpreted to mean maybe a couple of years which was OK with her. Some years later on January 26, Russel’s father Emery noted that it was Russel’s birthday and mentioned his age. It was only then that Mabel discovered she was not just three years, but eight years older than her husband. She was — upset and she locked herself in the bedroom and wouldn’t speak to him for the rest of the day.

Their financial situation restrained the young friends from    Russel and Mabel had very little money and this initially kept them from marrying. But one day Russel came to the house and said he wanted to talk about money. They sat down at the dining room table and he explained that he paid his brother Winfield and sister-in-law Peggy to rent a room with them. Also Mabel paid room rent to her step mother and her father as well. It looked as if they could have their own place for the same costs so there was no need to delay marriage.

The young couple were not going to marry on a weekday as it would mean losing a day of work. So one Saturday they they decided to go to Coeur d’Alene to get married by a Justice of Peace since Idaho had no requirements for a waiting period before marriage. They drove to Idaho only to discover that the Justice of Peace did not work on weekends. Being resourcful, They didn’t give up. They drove up and down the streets until they found a church and the nearby parsonage. They went to the door, apologized for interrupting the minister’s dinner and asked if he could marry them. He was happy to officiate and his dinner guests served as witnesses to the ceremony. Mabel was so excited that throughout the drive and the ceremony, she didn’t say a word. But after the ceremony and through supper at a local restaurant she couldn’t stop talking. Before making wedding plans, Mabel and Russel had already arranged to rent an apartment. However, they didn’t have much to put into it. They spent part of the afternoon of their wedding day buying some cooking utensils. The apartment was close to their jobs so they would be able to walk to work.

Russel’s Job

Russel’s job consisted of collecting payments for the classified advertising department of the Spokesman Review newspaper, which meant riding a motorcycle to people’s homes to make the collections. He took several spills on the motorcycle due to the combination of poor mechanical brakes, rough roads, steep hills, and icy conditions. While he never got injured, Mabel didn’t like the idea of him driving so much on his job, especially during the winter months when snow and ice were on the roads.

In spite of the dangers involved, Russel’s job paid $90 per month, while Mabel earned $100 at the telephone company. Russel’s job also proved to be frustrating since many times people were not at home when he stopped to collect. He sometimes had to contend with dogs. Russel often told the story of one unhappy encounter. As he approached a yard with a Beware of Dog sign, Russel could see that the dog was tied with a leash short enough to allow safe cross of the yard, so he wasn’t deterred by the barking. When he had got halfway across, a loud noise caused him to look behind and only then did he realize that the dog leash was tied to a clothesline that gave the animal total coverage of the yard. By then it was too late and both, pants and skin bore tooth imprints.

Living Arrangements

Downtown Spokane was very hot in the summer and the apartment was uncomfortable. On one of his rounds for the newspaper Russel discovered a house on a hill on Roan Street, at the north edge of town. It would rent for the same price as the apartment, $10 per month, so they moved there. Transportation soon included their own car, a 1926 Ford coupe, they bought on April 27,1931 for $60. The money was payable in four monthly installments of $15.

When Mabel’s brother Cliff and his wife Babe bought a home, they asked Mabel and Russel to move in with them to help cover their house payments. The Ronings had a five-year-old son Bob, so that when Mabel became pregnant during the time they lived with the them, the Clines moved into a two-bedroom house on Montgomery Street. Clifford’s house had no room for the addition of another child. Mabel and Russel rented the house for $10 a month. We have to remember that bread cost only five cents a loaf at this time, so their expenses were low. Although she wanted to keep working, Mabel become so ill from the pregnancy that she had to quit. One day not long after she had quit her job, Russel came home with the bad news that he had lost his job. It was the year 1933 and the Depression was in its depths. Russel could only find odd jobs which might pay a dollar or so per day. The depression which had started well before this time, was felt most severely in the cities. It was an economic crisis that fed on itself. People were out of work so they had no money to spend. Businesses could not realize a profit so they laid off workers. There was so much competition for jobs that business owners did not increase salaries. Most odd jobs were not adequate to support a family.

Pat Is Born

As the time neared for the baby to be born, Mabel came down with a severe cold and cough. Russel took her to see a doctor who gave her some medication and admitted her to a hospital for the night. When the doctor told them nothing more could be done for her at the hospital the next day, they went home. But after being home for no more than a day, Mabel began to feel labor pains, so she returned to the hospital where she was told not to get excited since it would be some time yet before the baby would be born. Russel stayed with her until the end of visiting hours, and then went home. Not long after he left, the labor pains increased and Mabel asked the nurse to call her husband. As the time drew nearer for the baby to be born, Mabel wanted to know if anyone had called Russel, only to find out they hadn’t. The hospital only called him after the birth of the baby.

The Clines had agreed that if the baby was a boy, Russel could select the name, and if a girl, Mabel could choose. Mabel had decided to name her girl Carol. Babies, in her mind, were supposed to have red skin, be wrinkled and bald. When the nurses brought in a little girl, she was white skinned, and had so much black hair the nurses had combed a curl into it. Obviously, this was not Carol, so Mabel had to choose a new name. The baby was christened Patricia Joyce, and called Patsy.

While visiting Russel’s brother and his wife to show off the new baby, Winfield and Peggy mentioned their concern that neither Russel nor Mabel were working, and asked how they managed to get by. As they had no children, Winfield proposed he and Peggy would take the baby if the young parents didn’t have enough money to take care of her. Appalled at the idea of doing such a thing, Mabel and Russel explained that they could make their payments as they had money in the bank that they had saved from their earlier jobs. Mabel took pride in the dividend payments from her telephone company stock.

The Prospect of Moving

In May of 1933, Russel’s father Emery wrote that at age 73 he was getting too old to do farm work. His farm was located in an area called “the Sandhills” that was 11 miles from Kahlotus, 12 miles from Washtucna, and 17 miles from Lind. Emery found the demands of the farm too great and living alone on the farm hard. He was willing to share the farm, the work, and the income. It was not much – a rented farm, a small house – but it was a guarantee of a roof and food. By this time, Russel had been out of work for six months so the offer of a home on the farm was welcome and Russel quickly agreed to the offer.

As an adult Russel was a serious young man but still given to fun. He loved to sing little ditties to his family. He might sing By-By Blackbird, Buffalo Gals Are A’Coming Into Town, or Three Little Fishies. Alternately he could recite The Village Blacksmith, Abou Ben Adhem or Invictus, poems which he had learned as a child. He was skilled at mathematics. When his daughter Pat’s high school algebra teacher was poor at communication in 1947, Russel could explain each day’s lesson but he was careful to never provide the answer. Throughout his life crossword puzzles, card games, jigsaw puzzles, or other mental challenges were his favorite pastimes.

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