My Great Adventures…..A Journal

This WordPress.com site follows my happy trails.

Category: Grade school.

Fifty Six and Twenty Two

Our family bought a new 1956 Chevrolet Station Wagon in the fall of 1956. Our old 1952 had been a good car. Mom and Dad decided to return to the northeast area of New York State when school was out for the summer of 1957. The new station wagon was needed for the trip. In April of 1957  my twelfth birthday present was a twenty two rifle. It was a tube loading semi-automatic. The picture of me holding the rifle in front of the 1956 station wagon is part of our living room decor today. The hood ornament on the car was even with my shoulder in the picture. If the rifle was standing vertical it would have been about the same height.

Spokane was in the midst of many changes when we moved east in the summer of 1957. As children we saw these changes, however, we didn’t realize how significant they really were. The old propeller driven bombers at Fairchild Air Force Base had been replaced by the massive jet powered B-52 Stratofortress’. They frequently flew low enough over the city to be able to read their identification numbers. The steam locomotives which built our countries rail networks were being replaced by the modern diesel locomotives. They could travel long distances much faster and more efficiently than the old steam locomotives. At times it was quite a contradiction when one of the low flying B-52’s came over while a train with multiple steam engines was huffing and puffing up the grade heading east out of Spokane. Two opposite worlds.

Our years in Spokane were a great experience for all five of us kids, but we looked forward to making the move back to New York. The trip back to New York was relatively uneventful. It’s pretty hard when you spend five days on the road with a large family. You only want to get where you’re going and get out of the car.

We did have one interesting stop at the U.S. side of customs going into Canada at Sault Saint Marie. The customs officer made Dad open our small U-haul trailer. He pulled a bunch of items out of the trailer and scattered them around on the pavement. As he walked off Dad said,”Hey, you’re the a______ that took the stuff out of my trailer. Now you put it back in it.” He meekly returned and repacked the trailer. Dad thanked him.

There is an identical 1956 Station Wagon which has been in my own family since 1980. Upgraded with more power, modern brakes, and different colors it’s like one of our kids………and the twenty two rifle stands in my gun case.

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Neah Bay Swells

Our family took a vacation to visit the Olympic Peninsula at the NW corner of Washington State. We were going to visit Olympic National Park and Dad wanted to try salmon fishing if the weather was good. We traveled from Spokane to Seattle, caught a ferry across Puget Sound, and drove north through Port Angeles. It had been a long ride and all of us kids were wound up like eight day clocks.

Mom and Dad rented a beachfront cabin south of Neah Bay on the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Neah Bay is the small northernmost town on the Olympic Peninsula. It had a sheltered harbor with access to the Strait of Juan de Fuca which is 12 miles wide between Vancouver Island, British Columbia and the Olympic Peninsula.  You would never convince us kids we weren’t on the ocean. We had a sandy beach, waves rolling in, and could see an occasional whale if you took the time to watch. It was fairly cool weather and the water was real cold, but that didn’t stop us from having a great time. Dad inquired and received directions to a marina in Neah Bay that had rental boats.

Dad had me up at four in the morning and we headed to Neah Bay. The operator at the marina assured Dad he would have no problem navigating the breakwater at the mouth of the harbor if he was proficient in operating an outboard motor boat. Just keep nosed into the swells as you navigate between the buoys into the strait. We got our gear into the seventeen foot aluminum boat, checked and warmed up the motor, and waited for the sun. Several boats went out ahead of us. Dad wanted to keep them in sight so we could fish close to them.

The ride across the harbor wasn’t bad. As we got closer to the harbor entrance we could only see the other boats once in a while. The swells started getting increasingly higher. It was like we were on a roller coaster. The motor could barely push us to the top then we would sail like a rocket to the bottom. You could see landmarks on top, but only the swell in front and behind the boat when inside the trough. The swells were exceeding twenty feet. When we broke over at the top the outboard motor propeller would come completely out of the water. Dad negotiated a U turn in a large trough and we returned the rental boat. Our adventure was over.

We didn’t get to salmon fish…………but we sure got a wild lesson about breakwater and swells.

Rain n Perch

Uncle Clifford often took me with him to various places. He wasn’t an avid fisherman and hunter like my Dad, but he was part of one of my best fishing memories. It was late spring and the weather was warm. The water in the lakes around Spokane were still cold due to low night time temperatures. Uncle Clifford decided he would like a feed of perch before the water warmed up. Perch are excellent eating when taken out of cold water. They get soft and lose a lot of taste when in warm water. My Dad was a trout fisherman and never fished for any warm water fish. Going perch fishing was a new experience for me.

Uncle Clifford took me to Liberty Lake because he heard it was excellent fishing this time of year. The lake was 700 acres averaging twenty five feet in depth. We rented a boat at the local marina and asked about the best fishing areas. The weather was overcast as we made our way out on the lake. The water was nearly calm and not many people were fishing. With the exception of a few nibbles, the bites were few and far between. After a couple hours of very slow fishing the wind started to stir and we got a couple fish. We were going to give it a while longer and head for home if fishing didn’t improve. The sky was turning dark and the winds increased.

Just as we were contemplating leaving a thunder shower moved over the lake. The darker the sky and  harder the rain the more fish we caught. The thunder was loud, but we never saw any lightening. Uncle Clifford decided we’d keep fishing if the lightening stayed away. We caught so many perch we ran out of bait and had to make some from the smaller fish. We were having a ball. As soon as our bait hit bottom we would reel it up five or six feet and get a bite. The more it stormed the bigger the fish we caught.

The minute the rain shower passed the fish stopped biting. We had two stringers and a five gallon bucket full of nice sized perch. The tackle box and the small net were floating around in the several inches of water accumulated in the bottom of the boat. We were the only ones on the lake. We looked like a couple of drowned rats. It took well over an hour for Uncle Clifford to filet the perch at the marina cleaning station. Sometimes you just have to be dumb enough to stick it out and catch the fish.

The perch provided several great meals………..and the goosebumps from the wind and rain still return when recalling this adventure.

Skid Row Stroll

We lived about four miles from the downtown business district of Spokane. All of the big stores and movie theaters were located downtown. Myself and one of my best friends were allowed to go downtown to see movies when we were twelve years old. We would do odd jobs or get enough money from our parents to pay for the trip. A city bus line passed about a half mile from home and routed through the downtown area. We normally had just enough money to pay for the bus fare and admission to the afternoon matinee. It was quite a privilege to make this trip by ourselves. Most of our friends were never allowed to go downtown. However, we never took the bus to get downtown. The bus fare was used to buy drinks and snacks at the movie. Our parents assumed we were taking the bus, but the conversation never came up. We walked the four miles to get to the movie and it was a great adventure.

Spokane had an area along Sprague St. which was called skid row. We had to walk through skid row to get downtown. Skid row was an area of rundown buildings which got left behind as the city grew and modernized after world war two. There were all kinds of sleazy bars and the area was frequented by drunks, addicts, and drop outs of society. The people of skid row had nothing in common with the hobos who frequented the jungles along the railroad tracks and near the stockyards. The hobos were friendly and helped each other. Most of the people on skid row were dirty, ragged, and unfriendly. Wine bottles and garbage was everywhere. The people on skid row slept in doorways, on the sidewalks, or wherever they fell. We would weave around them as we walked. Some would ask for money or stare at us, but they never bothered us. They gave us no reason to fear them. Walking through skid row was just part of getting to the movie.

We often took different streets and routes as we walked to and from the movies. The downtown area was an exciting place for a couple young boys who seldom saw it. The high rise buildings, ornate architecture, and huge display windows in the stores were fascinating to us. Every trip we made downtown was a true adventure along with going to the movie unattended.

Our parents didn’t know we walked through skid row instead of taking the bus…………but they never told us we couldn’t walk.

Crisscrossed

Keville and Gladys had a horse on their farm in Elk, Wa. He was a perfect family horse and very contented with children. There were no saddles or bits, just an old bridle. During the summer my day trips with the horse would include one or two of  Keville and Gladys’ kids. One of these trips turned into an adventure which few people would ever experience.

It was a perfect summer morning for a day trip in the mountains. My companions were Keville and Gladys’ three year old and six year old sons. We never had any specific destination on these trips. We would catch an old road near the farm and follow them into the mountains. With the exception of hunting season or active logging these roads were seldom used by anyone. About mid day we located an old abandoned ranch site. The old fields were grown in with heavy vegetation and small brush. There were remnants of the old house and buildings. Myself and the six year old were slowly walking through the area on foot and leading the horse with the  three year old riding. The ground was so overgrown it felt like walking on a big pillow. The winter snow had packed everything to the ground and it was dried by the summer sun. There was a noise from behind me. The noise was a combination of swishing grass and creaking metal. When I turned around it appeared the ground was moving all around us. The horse exploded into violent bucking, the reins got yanked out of my hands, the three year old went several feet in the air before landing  ten feet from the horse, and the six year old was screaming frantically.

The horse’s feet had picked up strands from an old barbed wire fence laying on the ground. As the horse stepped forward the stands got crisscrossed around the other feet. It was all over in less than a minute. The horse bucked loose of the old fence and headed for parts unknown. The three year old was lucky to have landed out of harms way. The six year old stopped screaming and stared at me with a bewildered look. It took about thirty minutes to locate the horse while carrying the three year old. The horse had a cut just above one foot and a slight limp. We walked him home with the three year old riding.

The horse never knew what grabbed his feet……….and the sound of that rusty barbed wire pulling through the fence post staples is still fresh in my memory.

Waitts Lake

Our family often made day trips to Waitts Lake north of Spokane. Waitts Lake was a 470 acre lake with excellent fishing for brown and rainbow trout. A large marina on the lake had a boat launch, beach, picnic areas, docks, boat rentals, diving tower, and a small bait shop type store. There was lots of room for children to play and swim close to the picnic area. Swimming was also allowed on a designated dock which had the diving tower.

Waitts Lake was a wonderful place for an eleven year old boy. Dad fished out of the family boat, but we didn’t have to be confined to the boat. We could fish from the docks and nearby shore areas. We could play at the beach or docks near the rental boat facilities. Before learning how to swim we would dive from a dock and swim underwater to an adjacent dock. It wasn’t long until diving off the dock got boring. The diving tower was in the middle of a big dock. It had several landings from five foot to twenty feet high. It took some intervention by Dad, but Mom allowed me to start diving off the lower landings of the tower.My skills at diving and swimming underwater to the access ladder at the end dock evolved pretty fast. As my skills improved so did the height of the landings from which my dives were being made. In no time at all my dives were at the twenty foot level. The dives were nothing fancy, but my body always entered the water head first. The higher the dives progressed the easier and faster it was to swim underwater to the access ladders.

Most of the fishermen rented their boats early in the morning and returned them by mid afternoon. The operator of the marina would allow me to help him doing odd jobs around the boats and docks. The flat bottom boats were returned to the middle dock and unloaded. My job was to row them to their assigned parking space and tag them to the dock by a tether chain. The marina had a crude boat wash which rotated the boats out of the water and held them on their sides for washing. The operator would wash the boats while letting me row them to and from the boat wash.

The experiences at Waitts Lake were a great adventure. My fishing, diving, and helping out at the marina were wonderful days that will always be a fond memory. Mom enjoyed the days at Waitts Lake too………..but I don’t think she ever looked to see me dive from the top of the diving tower.

Giant Steps

One of our neighbors in Spokane had a son who was twenty years old. He worked full time on shift work at a paper mill. His parents were retired. Gene was like an idol to all the young kids in the neighborhood. He had a 1949 Chevy with a 1954 Pontiac center grill, glass pack muffler, tuck n roll interior, and a perfect paint job. He spent a lot of time outside and we would always visit him while he worked on his car or around the house.

Gene’s family owned a farmhouse about thirty miles out of Spokane in the wheat growing region. The vacant house was on a dirt road in an area of rolling hills. Every few weeks Gene would drive out to the old house to make sure everything was in good shape. He always drove his Dad’s old green pick-up, because his car was too fancy to drive on dirt roads. Very often he would load up two or three of us neighborhood kids to ride with him. I experienced a great adventure and Gene got the daylights scared out of him while traveling home from a day at the old house.

Three of us were riding with Gene in the old green pick-up. We were sitting side by side on the old bench seat. It was pretty close quarters in the cab. My seat was against the passenger side door and the window was down with my arm resting in the opening. Gene was on the paved highway in a small town. The highway made a very sharp left turn as it changed directions on the edge of town. One of the kids in the middle was trying to retrieve something off the floor. Lifting my foot to get it off the floor caused my knee to come up under the door handle and the door flew wide open in the middle of the sharp turn.

As the door opened my instant reaction was to grab the arm rest and hold on. I was clinging to the door and taking giant steps to keep from falling. Gene was smart enough not to slam on the brakes which would have sent me hurtling past the truck. Gene completed the turn and got us to a stop while I was still on my feet. It happened so fast there was no time to think, just react.

All’s well that ends well………and those were the longest, fastest, and wildest steps my legs ever experienced.

 

 

Evening Outings

Mom and Dad’s lives were centered around raising five children. Most of the recreational activities they enjoyed were with the whole family. Once in a while they would go out dancing with other couples on a Friday or Saturday night. There were venues which came to Spokane which they enjoyed individually. Myself, my sister Sharon, or both of us would attend the venues with Mom or Dad.

Mom loved country music. During the 1950’s a lot of the country music stars performed in Spokane. Dad liked music, but didn’t have much interest in taking Mom to see the singers. He would stay home with the kids while myself  and/or Sharon went with Mom. These shows were a great adventure for young children. We would sit as close to the front as possible. Mom’s favorite shows were singers who regularly performed at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville. She listened to them on the radio at home and loved seeing them in person. The shows in the 1950’s were much different than the concerts of today. All the seats were good seats. The entertainers communicated and participated with the audiences. There were no booming speakers or light shows. Things were simple and the music was real, as were the performers. We loved attending the shows as much as mom enjoyed them.

Mom watched wrestling on television and took me to a few live wrestling matches. The wrestling was not impressive to me, but it was an evening of entertainment to Mom. It never entered my mind to ruin her evening by giving her my real opinion of the theatrics. It was worth suffering through the wrestling matches to get a good seat at the next country music show with her.

Dad had a real love of hunting, fishing, and wildlife. He belonged to a Sportsman’s Club in Spokane. The club would bring in guest speakers on a regular basis. The speakers were explorers, wildlife experts, authors, and others. They would give a description and slideshow in their area of expertise. He often took me to these presentations with him. We would dress in our Sunday clothes and go to an auditorium or conference room to attend. The speakers normally had informal chat sessions before, during, and after their presentations. These were great adventures for a ten to twelve year old.

Country music and my love of the outdoors remain with me today………but wrestling left long ago.

Bacon Bait

If you’re not used to western terminology the term “park” might confuse you. The Rocky Mountains have natural open areas surrounded by forests. These areas are found in all sizes and are separated by evergreen forests. When looking from a distance they appear to be irregular fields of grass land. These areas are called “parks”. It is very common to see elk, bear, and deer feeding in these secluded parks from a long distance.

When we fished at Browns Lake during the summer there were several of these natural parks on the side of the mountain above the lake. We would frequently see bear feeding in these parks. They were a long ways away and didn’t present any problems for activities at the lake. It was pretty unique watching them feed on the vegetation in the parks and occasionally dig out an animal burrow.

When the fall bear hunting season opened Dad took me camping and bear hunting with him on the mountain. This was my first experience bear hunting with Dad. We camped overnight at the lake. Dad fixed a big breakfast with home fries, bacon, and eggs using the campfire and coleman lantern for light. He always said, “I cooked your eggs until they bounced”. My eggs had to have hard yolks when cooked and he often joked about it. We cleaned up camp and headed for the mountain parks just as daylight was breaking. It was cool, but not cold. Dad had on a wool hunting shirt and my favorite jacket with zippered pockets was keeping me warm.

We walked slow, checked wind direction, and stopped often to look and listen. It was a real adventure to be on my first bear hunt. Late in the morning we stopped in a nice sunny area to look for bear. Dad asked me, “What is that spot on your jacket?”  During breakfast I had slipped several pieces of bacon into my jacket pocket. As the temperatures warmed up during the day the bacon created a six inch diameter grease spot around the pocket. Dad just shook his head when he found out it was bacon grease. When he found out the bacon was for bear bait he cracked up. He laughed until he couldn’t laugh any more. My bacon was left dangling on a small evergreen tree.

The grease never came out of my favorite jacket……..and some bear probably enjoyed my bacon.

Rainbow Twice

Several times a year our family would camp and fish at Browns Lake northeast of Spokane. We would cross the Pend Oreille River (pronounced Pond Er Ray) on an old, steel framed, wooden planked bridge at the small town of Usk, Washington. Browns Lake was about 80 acres in size, fly fishing only, no motors, and great fishing for rainbow and cut throat trout. A couple large beaver houses were accessible from shore. They had plenty of room to back cast your fly without getting snagged on anything.

Mom didn’t get much time to fish while camping with five young children. She did, however, have an interesting adventure at Browns Lake. Mom was fishing on one of the beaver houses when a nice 16 inch rainbow hit her fly. She was really excited as she worked the fish towards the beaver house. Every time the fish would make a turn the sun would reflect off the brilliant colors of it’s sides. About the time the fish got close enough to net it, the leader of the fly line got wrapped around a stick under the edge of the water. The big trout flopped a couple times and disappeared into the side of the beaver house. Mom was heart broken to lose the big trout right at her feet.

Later in the day Mom decided to try her luck again. As she walked out on the beaver house a movement caught her eye. Laying in a small pool among the sticks and twigs of the beaver house was her 16 inch rainbow. Apparently when the fish got off her line earlier it got trapped within the sticks. It was alive and in good shape, it just couldn’t escape back into the lake. Mom grabbed it with both hands and stuffed it in her creel. She was all smiles. Dad couldn’t believe her luck.

Mom didn’t get to be the best fisherman too often……….and even the best fisherman doesn’t get a second chance to catch the same big fish twice.