Chapter 30-The Life and Times of William Roy Caple-1944-1947

Bomber my Dad, Verle made many of their bombing missions aboard.

Roy dreaded the day his son would head overseas. In January of 1944, he’d been assigned to a B-24 bomber crew. Each day the news of the war, felt suffocating. Every battle reported meant someone’s cherished brother, spouse, son, husband, father, or friend would never return home. There were lists of local boys wounded, killed or missing in action in the paper each day.

At the end of April his son headed to Italy assigned to the 743rd air force and the 445th bombing group. Roy moved the big red pin for Verle from the United States to Italy.

Knowing Jack provided protection to the vital ships in the Pacific and Verle was on some of the bombing raids over Eastern Europe, he and Iva sat in apprehension in front of radio each night listening to news of the war in the Pacific and in the air over eastern Europe. Would they be the next house to receive the dreaded telegram? ‘We regret to inform you…

In the meantime, they took the slogan make every trip count and rationing in stride. The list of the things to do without grew day by day. It became normal to see the barrage balloons over the bay or draw the blinds tight at night. Roy’s carpentry skills were in high demand as new workers swelled the town’s population to nearly 70,000.

On Thursday August 3rd Roy trudged up the steps to their house tired after a long day of work. Before he was halfway up the stairs. Iva flew out the screen door waving what looked like a telegram in her hand. “Daddy.”

Roy’s legs shook, a chill began to cross his shoulders. As he drew closer, he noticed she wore a smile.

 Can’t be sad news.

He leaned onto the stair railing. “What is it?”

“Good news! Verle’s home, well not exactly home but back in the states.”

She waved the telegram in front of his face. “Here, read it.”

 Roy took the thin page from her hand.

I arrived today in New York via the ship “Henry Gibbons.” Should be headed by train to Tacoma soon. More later.


Roy slowly exhaled and climbed the remaining steps, collapsing in relief on the chair nearest the door. His boy was coming home.

Iva stood in the doorway of the kitchen. “Just think, maybe by next Thursday, Verle might be here.”

The following week Roy, Iva and Jerry sat on a wooden bench under the domed rotunda inside Union station in Tacoma.

Jerry hopped from one foot to the other in front of them. “When will he get here, I can’t wait to see Uncle Verle.”

Iva took a toy car out of her purse. “Soon, in the meantime you can play with this.”

Moments later the loudspeaker announced his train was arriving on track five. They hustled out to the tracks.

Jerry jumped up and down. “I see him, I see him, Uncle Verle is getting off the train now.”

Roy patted his grandson’s shoulders. “Yes, I see him too.”

 The three surged ahead and enveloped Verle in a group hug as soon as he stepped onto the pavement.

“I can’t tell you how good it feels to have you back home,” said Iva as the four of them made their way to the car.”

“Believe me I’m happy to be here too. Have you heard from Jack lately?”

“I got a letter 2 days ago. He says not to worry but daily we hear news of someone who has lost their loved one.”

Verle gave his sister a hug. “At least you can quit worrying about me for a while.”

 Once home they peppered Verle with questions about his bombing missions and life in Italy.

“Most of our missions were routine. But there was one where we barely made it back after losing three of our engines. I was sure glad when we had safely touched down on the runway.”

“Did you live on the plane?” asked Jerry.

Verle laughed. “No, I lived in a tent under a grove of olive trees along with my crew mates.

“Like camping? “Asked Jerry.

“A little bit but we didn’t do our own cooking. Unless we were on a bombing mission, we sat around without much to do.”

“Did you see anything of Italy?” asked Iva.

 “Not a lot unless the view from the air counts. You remember my friend Ralph, don’t you?”

 “Of course,” said Roy.

“He was stationed nearby and I did get to see him a few times in a place called Foggia.”

 Roy took a sip of his coffee. “Is be assigned to a bombing crew too?”

“No, he’s a mechanic keeping our planes in good running order. Once I did go over to the Adriatic for a swim.”

Iva set a plate of cookies on the table. “That sounds exotic.”

“It wasn’t. The beach was filthy, I had no desire to return. I was in Naples for a week before I left, but since we had no idea when the orders to ship out would come, I didn’t get much chance to sight see.”

Roy took a cookie. “How long did it take to cross the Atlantic?”

“A little more than 2 weeks. We were part of a convoy of troop ships. The ship I was on also carried wounded soldiers being shipped home and around one thousand refugees.”

Iva held up the latest issue of life magazine featuring a transport ship with refugees on its cover. “Goodness, were you on this one?

 Verle peered at the cover. “That’s it all right. They kept the refugees pretty isolated from us. Nevertheless, we heard about the heart-breaking hardships they endured. Many of them were skilled workers, doctors, musicians, and actors. The entertainers put on shows for us. It sure broke up the monotony because beside reading and playing cards there wasn’t much to do.”

“Have you heard where you’ll go next?” asked Roy. “Will you be going back to the combat zone?”

“No, my rotation back to the states is permanent. After my leave I report to Santa Monica and wait for further orders. I hope they will send me to pilot training. Air travel is going to be the future of travel after this war is over. There will be a need for pilots.”

Roy slumped down in his chair; he preferred his son stay grounded once the war was finished.

All too soon Verle’s leave ended. From Santa Monica he sent news he was going to Colorado for pilot training.

Roy let out a huge sigh of relief when a letter arrived a few weeks later.

Dear Daddy and Iva,

I am being sent to Long Beach to become a trainer for navigators. It seems I have a bit of a depth perception problem. I could take off in a plane fine but my landings left something to be desired. I am a bit disappointed but looking forward to going back to my original plan and finish engineering school when this war is finally over.

On May 5th of 1945 Victory in Europe was announced. While Roy and most of the people in town were relieved to hear the news a deep sense of foreboding still pervaded the Northwest. The war in the Pacific still needed to be won. While Verle was safely state side his son-in-law wasn’t.

On August 15th President Truman announced the war was over. The streets of Bremerton immediately filled with the sound of automobile horns honking.

Roy joined his fellow workers out on the street as confetti rained down, camera shutters clicked, and girls – hundreds of them – kissed sailors. Everyone hugged and shouted. Roy felt happier than he’d been in a long time.

By late September Verle had been discharged and had resumed his college studies. Soon after Jack returned.

Roy thought about returning to Puyallup but he’d grown comfortable living with his daughter. He had become good friends with his boss and his wife at the housing authority. He enjoyed going on outings with the two of them but bulked whenever they brought up the mention of his dating someone they knew. Mae was the love of his life, he had no need for another.

He decided to stay in Bremerton. Mae’s parents could stay in the Puyallup house. From now on he’d just be an occasional visitor there.

On December 12,1946 he became a grandfather again when Jack and Iva welcomed a new little boy into the family. They named him Jack Leroy Bailey. Life had settled into a new normal.

In July of 1947 the new Ford Sedan Roy had ordered after the war arrived in Tacoma. Verle had also ordered a car but it hadn’t yet arrived. Roy decided to let him have the Ford. At 62 he was getting old, he could make do with his old car for his remaining driving years. In all likelihood Verle would soon need one for work.

Roy was bursting at the seams with pride when in late August of 1947 Verle earned his engineering degree from the University of Washington. A dream that once seemed unattainable. Born to a father, grandfather and great grandfathers who had never gone beyond the eighth grade he was the first Caple to graduate from college.

The downside of him graduating was he’d accepted a job with Allis Chambers in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

“How are you planning to get there?” Roy asked, wondering if he’d end up with the Ford after all.

Verle twisted his hands. “I’ll drive, the Ford is brand new and I have done plenty of moving in the last few years. He hesitated before adding  “except then I always knew Uncle Sam had a place for me to stay.”

Roy sensed his son was nervous about making this trip on his own. “How about I ride along and help with the driving? I’ll take the train back home.”

Verle stopped twisting his hands. “That’s a great idea. We could make a trip of it. I was thinking if trying to see the sights along the way.”

The two of them got out a map to study.

Roy pointed to an area on the map. “If we went this way we could stop and see Yellowstone.”

Verle stretched his arms above his head. “Yes, let’s. I’ve always wanted to see Old Faithful.”

Roy pointed to the map again. “If go out the parks eastern gate we can visit your mother’s Aunt Sadie and Uncle Bert in South Dakota. I could show you where your mother grew up. The Black Hills are beautiful. “

After they studied the map a bit longer, they decided to give themselves two weeks to get to Wisconsin and they’d camp when they could to save money.

On Labor Day weekend the family gathered together at the Puyallup house to celebrate Verle’s degree and new job. The women of the family filled the dining room table with ham, heaping bowls of mashed potatoes green beans, peas, homemade rolls and all sorts of salads. On the sideboard sat Roy’s mother-in-law apple pies. As they sat down to eat Roy’ father-in-law rose. At age 80 he still stood tall and slim.

He raised a glass of apple cider.  “Too our Verle, congratulations on your degree and new job.”

The family clicked their glasses together. “Congratulations.”

“Thanks,” said Verle, “now let’s eat.”

Two days later Roy loaded his suitcase into the black Ford ready to set off on his journey with Verle. He gazed up at the sun just peaking over Mt. Rainer turning shading it into hues of pink.

He turned to Verle. “Looks like the mountain giving you a royal send off.”

Roy’s in-laws joined them beside the car to wave them goodbye.

His mother-in-law handed Roy a small box. “Be sure to give this to Sadie when you see her and give her a big hug. It’s been too long since I saw my baby sister.”

Roy placed the box inside the car. “I sure will.”

Roy climbed into the driver’s seat as Verle gave his grandparents a last hug goodbye. As he settled into the seat next to him. Roy turned the key in the ignition.” Let’s get this this show on the  road.”


Author’s notes:

Most of the information for this piece came from my father’s written memories of his war experiences, college and acceptance of his new engineering job after the war.

Chapter 29-The Life and Times of William Roy Caple-Iva goes to San Francisco

In late January of 1944 Roy came home from work to find Iva packing a suitcase in her bedroom.  

“What’s going on?” 

She glanced up from the packing. “Oh Daddy, I have had wonderful news. Jack’s ship is headed for Oakland for more supplies. He wants Jerry and I to meet him there as they should be there a while.” 

“I see,” said Roy. “But why the rush to pack? Shouldn’t you wait for word they’ve docked?” 

“I don’t want to waste a precious moment of his leave time traveling. I decided to take the first train bound for San Francisco. It leaves at 9 tonight. Will you take me to the station in Seattle?” 

“Tonight, that’s crazy.” 

“Maybe, it is but I’m not waiting. You won’t mind staying here by yourself, will you?”  

“No, course not, that isn’t the point. San Francisco is no small town. How do you intend to find each other if you leave before he’s arrived?” 

“I don’t know, we just will. She pecked him on the cheek on the way to the kitchen. “I’ll get our supper on the table.”  

“How long do you think you’ll be in there?” 

“I don’t know, Jack said they might be there as long as a month.” 

There was nothing Roy could say to dissuade so reluctantly he went with here across the bay by ferry and drove her to the train station in Seattle, where he left her, Jerry and two suitcases on board a train bound for San Francisco. 

“Call me when you get there,” he instructed. 

“I will Daddy, but it will be late in the evening, and I will have to find a place to stay so don’t expect to hear from me until morning. I will call before you leave for work.”  

Roy spent the next two nights tossing and turning worried about what might happen to his daughter and grandson. He was relieved when the phone finally rang. 


“Hello, it’s me,” said Iva.” Jerry and I have arrived safe. We are spending the day at the ferry building watching for Jack coming across on one of the ferries coming from Oakland. Will you let Jack know if he should call?” 

“Yes,” said Roy.  

Before he could say another word the voice of an operator interrupted, “to continue this call please deposit a dollar twenty-five.” 

“I have to go,” said Iva and the phone went dead. 

 He hadn’t even been able to find out where she was staying. All he could do was wait to hear from her again. 

Three agonizing days went by before he received another call. This time it was from his son-in-law. 

“Hello,” said Jack. “Is Iva there.” 

“No,” said Roy, “she’s in San Francisco waiting for you.” 

“What? Where?” 

“She said she’d be watching at the ferry building for you. I haven’t heard from her in almost 3 days.” 

“Oh dear,” said Jack. “That’s a long time. Don’t worry, I’ll find her. “ 

“Please call me when you do, I’ve been so worried.” 

“That will be another 1.25,” interrupted the voice of an operator. 

“Okay I will,” he heard Jack say in the background. “Don’t worry I’ll find her.”  

Somehow, they did find each other and that evening he received another phone call. They’d been reunited. 

Roy slept better knowing his daughter and grandson were with Jack that evening. In the ensuing three weeks the house felt empty with Roy inside alone. And he missed his daughter’s cooking, his tended to be cowboy stew consisting of beans and bacon. A few days after she and Jack had reunited, he received a postcard with the address of the apartment they would be staying at until Jack had to ship out again. While he missed his daughter and grandson’s company, he was happy they could be together for a while in these uncertain times.  

 Three weeks later the phone rang. 

Roy picked up the receiver. “Hello.”  

A nasal sounding voice said, “will you accept collect call from Iva Baily.” 

“Yes, yes,” said Roy.  


He could tell by the tremble in her voice something was wrong, very wrong. 

“What’s happened?” 

“It’s Jerry, he’s in the hospital. His legs won’t work.” 

Roy felt himself go clammy.  

Iva continued; “we took him to the navy dispensary.” 

“Polio?” he croaked, dread filling his heart.  

“At first, they thought so but its isn’t that. They couldn’t decide what was wrong, so they sent him to the Stanford hospital. That’s where we are now. They have done all sorts of x-rays and tests and now they have his lower body in a cast. They think he might have osteomyelitis. It’s a serious bone disease.” 

Roy could hear his daughter’s voice waver. 

“On top of that Jack must ship out in a couple of days. He wants me to bring Jerry home where our doctor can care for him.” 

“I’ll come get you,” said Roy, “just tell me when and where.” 

“No, that’s not necessary. We contacted the Red Cross and they have arranged for me to have a roomette. Jack will put us both on before he must leave but I will need you to meet us at the train when it arrives in Seattle.” 

“Of course, of course,” said Roy, wondering how she’d manage both the boy and her luggage. 

Two days later Roy paced the tiled floor of the Seattle train station. After arriving, he’d learned the train bound from San Francisco had been delayed by six hours. The trip was long enough for his daughter with a 4-year-old in a cast without such a delay to deal with. 

Finally, he heard an announcement that the train from San Francisco was pulling into the station. He hurried out to the loading platform wondering if he should ask someone for permission to board and aid his daughter off the train. But when he asked the man at the base of the steps passengers were descending shook his head no. 

After what seemed an eternity, he spotted his daughter carrying Jerry while a porter carried her two suitcases behind her. 

He raced over to hug her. She looked so weary, not at all like the young, spirited girl who had left a month ago. He gave her a big hug and took Jerry from her arms. At four he was a bit of a load and the cast he wore made holding him awkward. But the poor little guy couldn’t stand up alone.  

“Can you manage the two bags?” 

“Yes, she said. “I’m so tired, please I just want to go home.” 

Once settled on the Ferry for the hour ride to Bremerton Roy asked how the trip had gone. 

“Fine until we pulled into a station and had to trade engines. I was told we’d have to wait 6 hours for a replacement, but I could stay in the roomette as our car was going onto Seattle. But there was no dining car available while we waited. Jerry was so hungry and so was I. A kind lady volunteered to stay with Jerry while I went inside the station to find something for us to eat. But when I returned the car was gone.” 


“Yes, gone, I was so frantic. But then someone told me the car had switched to another track onto another train. You will not believe how relieved when I found the car with Jerry again.” 

“I can just imagine,” said Roy. “The kind lady was probably glad to see you, too.” 

Iva nodded, “she was worried about what she would do if I didn’t find them.” 

“I called our doctor yesterday,” said Roy. “He said to bring Jerry in just as soon as you got back. Do you want to go directly there first or home? 

“The doctor,” said Iva.” I want to know what he thinks is going on.” 

The receptionist at the office when they came in said, “Right this way, doc said to expect you and that he wanted to see you immediately.” 

 She led them to an exam room and popped a thermometer into Jerry’s mouth. 

 “98.6,” she declared a few minutes later. At least he has no fever.” 

“He never did,” said Iva. 

“I’ll let the doctor know you are here.” 

Minutes later there was a knock at the door and the doctor walked in. “I’ve been expecting you folks. Now let me look at this fine little fellow.” 

 He took his stethoscope from around his neck and put it in his ears to listen to Jerry’s heart. And then patted him on the head. “Your ticker sounds fine. Tell me do you hurt anywhere?” 

“No, said Jerry, “but my legs really itch.” 

The doctor chuckled. “I bet they do. Let’s get those casts off so I can get a good look at those legs of yours. And then you can have a lollipop.” 

Roy and Iva watched as the doctor carefully cut the casts off Jerry’s legs.  

“There now.” said the doctor. “Can you wiggle them for me.’ 

 Jerry did more than wiggle, now free of the cast, he bent and flexed his legs as though nothing was wrong.  

“Let’s see if you can stand,” said the doctor lifting him off the examining table. 

Not only could Jerry stand but he walked across the room. He was a bit wobbly, but he was walking. 

“Can I have a lollipop now?” 

“Yes,” said the doctor. He called to the nurse, “take this boy and get him a lollipop.”  

When jerry had left with the nurse the doctor turned to Roy and Iva. “I don’t know what to say. He seems perfectly fine now. Those legs will be a little weak from disuse, but I predict that he will soon be racing around like normal in a week or two.” 

“I’m so relieved,” said Iva, “Thank you.”  

“I did nothing,” said the doctor. 

“If you have any problems contact me immediately but think he’ll be just fine.” 

Once back at the house Roy said, “Iva, why don’t you lay down and get some rest.” 

“I will just as soon as I write Jack about Jerry. He will be so relieved to hear Jerry is walking again.” 


Authors notes:

The information for this chapter came from my Aunt’s written account of the events.

Chapter 28-The Life and Times of William Roy Caple-Hurricane weather-1943

Roy knew that if he went to Texas his time spent with Verle would be brief but he decided to go anyway. Any time together was better than none. He boarded the train in Tacoma and arrived in Houston on the 25th of July, 1943. He found accommodation in a hotel near the base. He and Verle enjoyed supper that evening at a nearby restaurant. Verle told him all about the training he was doing. Roy caught him up on all the doings in Puyallup and Bremerton.

On the morning of the 26th Roy rose early as he normally did and strolled into the diner attached to his hotel. He grabbed a Houston newspaper to read over breakfast and sat at the nearest empty table. He turned his cup over for coffee.

A pretty young waitress filled it. “Good morning, don’t think I’ve seen you here before.”

 “I’m here visiting my son. He’s stationed here at Ellington Field.”

She handed him a menu. “I wouldn’t plan on seeing him today.”

“Why not?”

“Big storm brewing, I can feel it in the air. I recommend you stay inside the hotel all day.”

“Really,” said Roy. “I was planning to take a long walk and see some of the area when I finished my breakfast. This is my first time here.”

“Well, if you do go out, I wouldn’t go far, maybe over to the hardware store on the next block and get yourself a flashlight.”

“A flashlight?” asked Roy.

“Power’s bound to go out” she replied, “you don’t want to get caught in the dark without one. Now what would you like to for breakfast.”

“I’ll take the special,” said. Roy.

“How would you like your eggs? she asked.

 “Over easy’”  

After she left Roy opened up the newspaper he’d grabbed.

 The headlines read ‘First Storm Warning of the Season.’

The article warned of 30–40-mile winds and small crafts advised to stay put. Sounds like a nasty day all right thought Roy as he set the paper down and sipped his coffee. But nothing I’m not used to with our winter storms.

After he ate, he put on his hat and went outside for a stroll. The sky had a particular weirdness to it and the air was so still.  Don’t think I have ever seen the sky look this.

He walked not straying too far from the hotel as he got his daily exercise in. He decided to stop at the hardware store and pick up a flashlight and batteries just in case. At the last moment he decided to add a couple of chocolate bars in case the diner closed early. Around 10 rain began to fall and the wind began to pick up so he headed back to his room to read. He was glad he had packed an extra western in his bag, it looked like he’d have plenty of reading time today.

At noon he headed down to the diner for lunch. Outside the wind howled and rain pounded on the pavement.

A new waitress waited on him. “I’ll have the burger and fries,” he said as she poured him a cup of coffee. “Looks like quite a storm out there.”

“Yes,” said the waitress, I don’t think we will have power much longer.”

Looking out his room window when he returned after lunch, he noticed the rain was flying almost horizontal so great was the wind

 Now and then he saw a shingle or other small debris sailing in the wind. He decided standing next to a window wasn’t such a good idea and shut the blinds.

Roy spent the rest of the day lying on his bed reading as the wind howled and rain poured outside. He was glad he’d heeded the waitress’ warning to not stray too far away this morning. He wondered how his son was doing at the base but he wasn’t too concerned. Surely, the Air Force would have the cadets tucked safely inside the buildings. In the late afternoon when the winds subsided Roy ventured down to the lobby. The man at the desk warned him not to go outside.

“Why not?” asked Roy, “The worst seems to be over. My legs could use a stretch.”

“It’s a hurricane,” said the desk clerk. “This is just the eye. The winds will return for your safety I urge you to stay inside.”

The desk clerk was right the winds did return though they weren’t as strong as earlier. When it grew dark, he went to bed. At midnight he awoke to find all was calm outside.

The next morning, he was surprised by a knock on his door.

 “Mr. Caple you have a phone call down at the desk.”

 Roy hurried down to the lobby where the man at the desk handed him a phone.

“Hello,” he said taking the receiver.

“Daddy, it’s Verle. Did you weather the hurricane all right?”

“Yes,” said Roy, that was quite the blow. I spent the bulk of the day stuck in the hotel. Good thing I brought extra books along to read.”

“It was quite a blow,” agreed Verle. “I heard the winds clocked in at 132 hours here at the base. But the good news is I’ve been given the entire day off.”

“You don’t say,” said Roy, “that’s good news indeed. That will more than make up for not seeing you yesterday and being trapped in my room.”

“I need to go,” said Verle, “but I will meet you at your hotel in about an hour. Maybe we can grab  some breakfast then.”

“Sounds good,” said Roy. “See you soon.”

He handed the phone back to the desk clerk.

“Everything okay,” the man inquired.

“More than okay,” said Roy. “My son has the entire day to spend with me.”

When Verle arrived, they hugged.

” How did you happen to get the day off?”  asked Roy.

“Because of the storm. You wouldn’t believe what we cadets went through yesterday.”

“You weren’t caught out training in the storm, were you?”

“Not exactly caught,” said Verle, “more like sent out.”

He lifted the cuffs on his long sleeve shirt back to reveal bruises.

Roy gasped, “how did you get those?”

“They sent we cadets out to hang onto the ropes holding the planes down so they wouldn’t blow away. Guess they were more important than we are. Once I had a hold, I wasn’t about to let go. I thought those fierce winds would blow me away.”

“But what are the bruises from? “Asked Roy.

“I had gloves on but when you are reaching and holding on for dear life, a gap forms between the glove and your jacket. Those raindrops came down hard. Let me tell you it felt like being stung by unending horde of attacking hornets.”

There were also shingles and seashells flying around like whizzing bullets sometimes those hit too.”

“I can’t believe they made you do that,” said Roy. “How long were you out there?”

“A long time they sent us out around noon. After four hours the winds began to subside and I thought they would let us go in. But instead, they said it was the eye of the hurricane.

Roy nodded, “I was told that too when I headed out for a walk.”

“Well anyway,” said Verle, “we were told the winds would be coming from the opposite direction. So, we had to turn all the planes around. Then the winds came back and we held on again except they weren’t as fierce so it was easier. Still, they left us hanging on out there until nearly midnight.”

“That’s about when I woke up,” said Roy. “I noticed the wind had died down.”

Verle nodded. “Boy did it feel good to hit my bunk last night.”

Roy was aghast. “I can’t believe they’d treat you that way. Did anyone get seriously injured?”

“I heard of several broken bones.”

Roy shuddered, “I’m glad you are okay.”

The two spent the rest of the day chatting about the doings back home and surveying the damage done to the nearby town.

After supper that night. They hugged good-bye.

“Thanks for making the trip to see me,” said Verle. It was a long way to come for such a short visit.”

“It was worth every minute of travel to see you again. Besides I enjoyed seeing a new part of the country from the seat of a train. And now I can say I have experienced a hurricane. That will give me something to tell my fellow builders.”

A bus drew up across the street. “There’s my bus, give my love to everyone back home.”

Roy watched as his son boarded the bus. The next morning, he rose early and headed home.


Authors Notes:

Most of this information came from my father’s written story of his experience during the what became known as the “surprise hurricane”. Because of oil production in that area of Texas the military did not want the enemy to know a hurricane was headed for the Houston area and therefore the residents received little warning of how severe the storm would be. His father did come for a visit and weathered the hurricane at the hotel.

Chapter 27-The Life and Times of William Roy Caple-1942-43-War Years

In June of 1942 Roy drove his car off the ferry  and headed for Puyallup anxious to see his son who would be home again after finishing his first year of college. Like he had done during WWI, Verle would be working in Tacoma’s shipyards over the summer.

 As he neared his home just off Pioneer Way, he decided to make a slight detour and swing by the fairgrounds. He wanted to see for himself if the reports that the grounds had been turned into an internment camp for the local communities Japanese population were true. As he approached he saw that both the fairgrounds and adjoining parking lots were filled with makeshift housing surrounded by barbed wire fencing and guarded by soldiers.  

Frowning he turned away from the fairgrounds he had so freely walked in the past and wondered what would become of the crops and just ripening fruit so many of the Japanese farmers in the area had tended. Over the years he had interacted with these farmers on many occasions and his son had counted several of their sons as friends. He had never known any of them to be anything but good, loyal American citizens.

Once parked he grabbed his carpet bag out of the trunk and headed into the darkened house. Like all the houses in Puyallup he had months earlier covered the windows with black curtains and blinds. Once inside he flung open the curtains flooding the main floor with sunlight.

Glancing out the back window he saw his mother-in-law, Mattie approaching the back steps. He opened the door noting that the bucket of water, shovel, and sand he had left next to the door still stood. A requirement for every house in town ready to put out any incendiary bombs that might fly.

“Welcome home, Roy, ” said his mother-in-law stepping into the house and setting a plate of cookies on the table. “Papa’s gone to the train station to fetch Verle. It will be so nice to have him here for the entire summer.”

Roy nodded toward the cookies. “Why don’t I put on a pot of coffee to go with these cookies. I agree it will be nice to have Verle back home again even join him on weekends.”

Roy enjoyed spending weekends again with his son. They listened to the Rainer’s play baseball on the radio and caught up with the news they each had, of their weeks activities.

As he prepared to leave for Bremerton on Sunday the 30th of August after enjoying an afternoon celebration for his  son’s 20th birthday. Verle said, “Daddy the air force cadet program is offering a deferment until after graduation. I have decided to sign up with them.”

Roy nodded, “I suppose it is inevitable you’ll have to serve.  At least this way maybe you can get your degree first.”

He didn’t tell him that of all the armed forces choices his son could have made this was the one he least liked.  As a covered wagon boy Roy didn’t trust those flying machines. He didn’t like the thought of his son being in one.

Toward the end of summer his son-in-law had purchased a small lot of land in Navy Yard city on which to build a house. In their spare time he and Jack soon erected a one room shack for the family to live in while they went about building a house. By fall they had the house finished enough to move into. Tearing down the outhouse they were grateful to once again have indoor plumbing

On Christmas of nineteen forty-two the family gathered once again in the Puyallup. Like the year before it was a subdued affair. The tree glittered with lights and tinsel and like always, presents sat under its boughs but Roy couldn’t shake the fear next year’s holiday would be very different. Already many of his friends’ sons and acquaintances had left for wartime duty. Even though his son had a deferment for college he didn’t believe it would last.

After everyone had left for home Christmas evening, Roy sat with his son munching on some leftover sugar cookies.

“Daddy, I am having a very hard time concentrating on my studies with this war looming over my head. Maybe I should enlist now and get it over with.”

Roy stood and stared at his blackened curtains that felt like ocean waves engulfing him. He couldn’t lose his son too.

“Verle, I understand the uncertainty you are feeling over the war. I feel it, too. No one knows what their future will hold. I also know now, might be your only chance at a higher education.”

He eased himself back down into his chair and leaned towards his son sitting in the chair opposite his. “Your next term starts in a week. Stick it out one more session and then decide what you want to do.”

At the end of the holidays Roy went back to the hustle and bustle of the Bremerton Navy yard and set to building housing for the workers flooding the city.

In late February his son-in-law got his marching orders. Jack would serve in the Navy. The first of March saw him leave for basic training in Idaho.

He and Iva added a red pin for Jack to the world map they’d hung above the kitchen table help keep track of the ever-changing events of war.

Roy thought maybe they should return to Puyallup, sure he’d now find work in nearby Tacoma. But Iva was determined to keep the house in Bremerton for Jack to come home to when the war ended. He’d feel better being nearby to help her, so he stayed.

As his son’s winter quarter drew to a close Roy got the call he dreaded.

“Daddy, I got a letter today. My deferment ends when this quarter. Believe or not I am relieved to finally know.”

Roy’s hands began to tremble. “When do you leave?”

“I haven’t gotten my orders yet, the letter said I would be hearing soon on when and where to report.”

With his heart pounding, Roy eased his trembling body into a nearby chair. “Okay, let me know as soon as you get word.”

“I will. My last exams are the end of next week, if I haven’t heard by then, I’ll stay in Puyallup until I do.”

After work on Friday March 20th, 1943 Roy headed his car onto the ferry bound for Tacoma to join his son in Puyallup. When he arrived at the house, he found it empty.

Verle’s out visiting friends, he thought. He made himself a pot of coffee and bite to eat and settled into his favorite chair, to read.  An hour later he heard the latch on the front door click, as Verle entered the house.

 Roy rose from his chair. “Out visiting friends?”

“No, my orders arrived today. I am to report to Fort Kerns, Utah on the 28th for basic training. I went to the train station to make reservations. I leave here on the 26th.”

Roy sighed. “So soon.”

 He gave his son a hug, “I will be here to take you to the station.”

On the morning of March 26th Roy arose early. Outside it was dark, rain poured from the sky as though it too, felt the heavy sadness within him. Dressed he went into the kitchen. Upstairs he heard the water running, no doubt Verle would be down soon. He set a pot of coffee on the stove and popped bread into the toaster for their breakfast.

His son’s packed bag sat next to the front door. How was he going to keep himself together when he left him at the train station? For once he was glad his beloved Mae wasn’t with him. It would have broken her heart to see him off.

Neither he nor Verle ate much of the toast and jam he’d laid out.

Out in the car Roy switched on the windshield wipers. “Looks like it is going to rain all day. At least you should have dry weather in Utah,” he added in an attempt to lighten their somber mood.

Verle nodded. “Not that I expect to be given much time to enjoy it.”

Neither said much after that. From time to time, when he thought Verle wasn’t looking, he stole a glance of his boy, trying to drink him up in case this was the last time he’d see him. How could be sending his little boy off to war? He’d never been anywhere far from him.

In Tacoma Roy turned onto Pacific Avenue. Though now daylight the street sat gloomy and dark. Ahead the cars headlights flashed on the big copper dome and the sweeping arches of the train station. When they entered the interior, they found it packed, with military personnel coming or going from various destinations.

Verle set his bag down near a bench. “Daddy, you stay here while I find what track my train leaves from.”

Roy took a seat on the bench. “Will do.”

As he waited, he looked up at the skylights that sat at the top of the rotunda dome. Like the rest of the windows, they’d been painted black painted black to keep enemy planes from spotting them from the air.

Would light ever enter this world again, would life ever seem normal, again?

He spotted Verle scurrying back towards him. He pointed to a sign. “I leave from track four. We should go over there.”

When the conductor called all aboard for Portland. Verle stood shifting his feet from one foot to another. “Guess it’s time to go.”  He reached for his bags.

Roy took them, “Allow me.”

He walked him outside to the loading platform and set the bags down.

His eyes welled up into tears as he gave his son a big bear hug. “Remember to write, the family is counting on you coming back.”

“Don’t worry,” said Verle, “I’ll be back just as soon as we win this war.”

Roy watched as the train carrying his son disappeared from sight and slowly trudged back to his car and headed for Bremerton. That evening he and Iva stuck a large blue pin on the map to designate Verle’s location along with the red one for Jack.

The next month brought little news from Verle, just a postcard saying he was alive. After another month went by a letter arrived.

Dear daddy,

After a month of marching and learning to live the military life, I will be sent to the aviator cadet center in Santa Anna, California. There I will take tests which will qualify me as either a pilot, navigator, or bombardier.

Roy shuddered. He doubted he’d ever feel comfortable with air travel. The thought of anyone one, much less his son, up in the air still seemed utterly foolish to him. And on top of that there would be enemy planes trying to shoot him down.

To keep from thinking of the unthinkable things the future might bring he kept busy with work or adding finishing touches to the house he and Jack built not that long ago.

 On a warm day in May Roy came home and sat his hat on a shelf in the front coat closet as Iva greeted him with a glass of cold lemonade. “Thought you might like something cold instead of your usual hot coffee.”

“That does sound good,” he said as he eased himself into the comfortable chair he now thought of as his own. “What’s for dinner.”

 “Burgers and fried potatoes.”

“Nothing wrong with that,” said Roy smiling. “You know that’s one of my favorites.”

“I know. They’re Jerry’s favorite too.” She handed him an envelope. “We got a letter from Verle, today.”

Roy set his glass down and took it from her hand. It had been a while since he’d last heard from his son.

Dear Daddy,

I have news. The air force has classified me as a navigator. I am happy with this appointment. It was my first choice. Next I go for navigation preflight training at Ellington field in Texas. If you look on a map, it’s about fifteen miles from Houston. Didn’t you always say you wish you’d gone to Texas when you were a boy and lived so close to the state line? Why don’t you catch a train and visit while I am there?

 Give my love to all the folks in Puyallup. And tell Iva to keep those cards and letters coming.

Love, Verle

After dinner he and Iva moved the big blue pin for Verle to Texas.

Daddy,” Iva said, “are you going to do it?”

“Do what? “

“Go to Texas.”

“Are you sure you could get along without me?”

“Of course, I’m a grown woman. Jerry and I will be just fine by ourselves for a few days. You work so hard you deserve some time off and you could see if Verle is really doing all right.”

Roy couldn’t help but smile. His daughter had always been protective of her little brother.

“I reckon I can think on it. It’s not like I need to go tomorrow.”

Chapter 26-The Life and Times of William Roy Caple-1930-1941

Iva and Jack didn’t stay in Tacoma. Before long they moved to a place near the Puyallup Fairgrounds. Though Roy hadn’t been crazy about the marriage, Jack had grown on him. When they announced they were expecting a baby Jacks’ parent’s gave them permission to build them a small place on their property to save on rent.

“I would be happy to build it for you,” said Roy when they told him. “With a little help from my brother Richard we can have it built in no time. But are you sure you will be okay living in a place without running water.”

“It’s okay at least it will be all ours,” said Iva. She smiled and added, “And you can be sure I will be by often for a warm bath or to do some laundry.”

Roy chuckled, “the two of you can come by anytime. The house seems lonely without you around.”

On September 29th, 1939, Roy sat on his porch basking in warm sunlight when his son-in-law pulled up in front of the house in his car.

 He jumped out of the car wearing a broad smile. “It’s a boy!”

Coming up onto the porch he handed Roy, a candy bar, “Here you go Grandpa.  Iva and baby are both doing well.” 

He patted Jack on the back. “Congratulations! There’s nothing like the moment you welcome your first child into the world. Now tell me about him. Have you named him yet?”

“Yes, we named him Jerry Verle. He has dark hair and blue eyes like his mother and all his fingers and toes. We can’t wait for you to see him.”

When Roy held the new baby in his arms for the first time he felt filled with the same love he’d felt when he’d first held his two children, if only Mae could have been there with him.

He wasn’t the only one smitten with the new baby so were Mae’s parents. Iva brought the baby round frequently, which gave her grandmother the opportunity to fuss over him and give motherly advice.

Meanwhile Verle excelled in school especially in Math and Physics. His teachers encouraged him to go on to college. Roy wished with all his heart he could help pay the necessary tuition but he barely had the funds to keep food on the table.

On June 5th, 1940, Roy and Mae’s parents sat proudly in the audience at Puyallup High School and watched Verle graduate. He found himself wondering where his son would find employment. There still were no jobs to be found in the community. And now there’d be the competition of another graduating class.

With the war escalating in Europe, Bremerton’s Navy yard, hummed with activity as boats from overseas sailed in for repairs. That summer Jack found work there and he and Iva moved.

 A new bridge had recently gone up over the Tacoma Narrows, eliminating the time-consuming ferry ride. So, Roy saw them frequently on weekends.

During one of Iva’s visits, Verle grumbled. “There’s no work to be found around here. I can’t spend the rest of my life picking berries.”

Iva scooped little Jerry up off the floor. “I bet you could find work in Bremerton. Why don’t you come back with us and look?  We have an extra bed in Jerry’s room.”

Verle Looked at his father. Roy could see the hesitancy on his face.

“Tell you what,” Roy said. “Leaving today is kind of short notice. Why don’t you let him mull it over and he’ll let you know next week?”

Later that evening Roy advised his son, “Go over and look around, you have nothing to lose. If you find work great if not you come back home.”

The next weekend Roy loaded his son’s suitcase into the car and they headed across the Narrows bridge for Bremerton. Roy had heard tales of the bridge moving up and down when the wind blew. Iva and Jack said they’d never encountered it. As he returned to Puyallup that evening a storm began to roll in. By the time he reached the bridge it was quite windy. Ahead in the center of the bridge he noticed a car disappear only to reappear a few seconds later as the bridge moved up and down.

 “Now see why they call it Galloping Gertie,” he said to himself when he reached the other side. But they say that’s what it was designed to do.”

Verle found work in the shipyards and settled in with his sister’s family. Roy felt a bit lonely without him.  But the boy still had plenty of friends in Puyallup, so most weekends he made the trip home.

On Friday morning, Nov 8, 1940, Roy went to the corner store near his house.

Mr. Bryan looked up from the newspaper spread across the counter. “Roy, what do you think about the bridge collapsing last night.”

“What bridge? I haven’t heard about it.”

“Why ‘Galloping Gertie’ over in Tacoma. Don’t your kids cross it, often?”

“Yes, I’m expecting Verle this evening.”

“Guess he’s going to have to go the long way around if he’s coming this weekend.”  said Mr. Bryan. “Can you imagine that great big bridge and all the money spent on it and it only lasted 4 months.”

“Was anyone on the bridge when it went down?”

“No, one guy did try to cross but he got off before it collapsed. Here look at the picture. Sure, looks like it was a galloping.”

Roy looked at the photo. “Thank God no one went down with it.”

Listening to the news on the radio that evening Roy was surprised when he heard the latch on the front door click. Looking up he saw his son standing in the doorway.

“Didn’t expect to see you this weekend with the bridge being down.”

“I found a ride going the long way around. Can you imagine that long bridge just collapsing? The good news is they say the old ferry system will be running across the narrows by next weekend.”

The summer of 1941 Roy and Verle enjoyed following their baseball teams, while the Nazi’s conquered the Balkans and invaded the Soviet Union. Still the conflict seemed distant to him until August 11th when the  newspapers reported a badly damaged British warship had limped into the Bremerton navy. Then he began to worry the U.S. would soon become involved.

Home on a weekend at the end of August Verle confided to Roy, “Iva, and Jack haven’t charged me any rent. I saved most of my earnings and have enough to swing a year at the University of Washington. What do you think? Should I go?”

“Verle, you have no responsibilities to hold you back.  Yes, go! “Your Uncle George Mackay has a house near Green Lake. It isn’t far from the University. I’m sure he’d let you stay with him now that his two girls are gone. That would help you save on rent.”

At the end of September, he left Verle at his brother-in-law’s house happy to know he’d still have family to keep tabs on him. Two weeks later Roy decided to accept his daughters invitation to look for work in Bremerton.

As the news from Europe became more dire by the day, the Bremerton shipyard hummed with activity bringing with it an influx of thousands of new workers. With housing in short supply his carpentry sill were needed. In no time he landed a job building needed new housing. He took Verle’s place sharing a room sharing a room with his grandson and an adopted a cat named, Blackie.

Each day he scanned the headlines of the newspapers. The news from Europe seemed to grow more ominous by the day. He knew it was only a matter of time United States would be drawn into the conflict and both Verle and Jack would be prime candidates for conscription.

On October 9th, he, Jack and Iva discussed the war news over dinner.

 Jack took a sip of his coffee. “Seems like Japan is growing restless again.”

 Roy nodded. “Didn’t you say your sister’s husband is stationed at the naval base in Hawaii.”

 “Yes, and my sister is living there, too.”

Iva began to clear the table. “Surely, they are safe, its’ not like they are in Japan.”

“I suppose you’re right,” said Jack as he rose to switch on his and Roy’s favorite radio show.”

On the morning of December 7th Roy awoke to a cloudless day.

“What a beautiful day,” he commented to his daughter as he sat down for breakfast at the kitchen table.

 He looked over at Jack, “After we eat why don’t the two of us go out and see if we figure out the reason for the racket your car started making.”

“Good idea , agreed Jack, “I could use you know expertise.”

After eating the two men donned their jackets and went out to work on the car. Meanwhile Iva switched on the radio to listen to music while she washed the dishes. Mid song the music stopped.

An excited sounding announcer shouted. “We interrupt this program to report Japanese planes are bombing Pearl Harbor.”  

Iva dropped her dish rag and ran to the front porch. “Jack, Daddy, I’m not sure what it means but the radio says that Pearl Harbor in Hawaii is being bombed. Isn’t that where your sister is?”

Jack stared up at her. “Oh my God!”

Both he and Roy laid their tools down and hurried into the house where they spent the rest of the day glued to the radio. It wasn’t until late that evening they remembered the tools they’d left out in the street with the car’s hood still up.

The next day the fear in town was almost palpable. Everybody thought Bremerton with its vital repair facilities would be the next target for the Japanese. At work in the in the navy yard Roy along with everyone else kept their ears on the radio and eyes on the sky.

One of the men working with him said ,“What should we do if we see a Japanese plane on horizon.”

“Run for cover, I guess,” Roy answered, wondering exactly where that would be.

And what about Iva with Jerry and Jack? Would they be safe? Would his son be across the bay in Seattle? The thought of something happening to one of them sent chills running up and down his spine.

On his way home that evening he joined the grim-faced cluster of people in front of the newspaper office to read the fast-breaking news come over the teletype. That night Bremerton conducted their first blackout.

On December 9th the phone awoke Roy at 2:30 A.M. Outside his door he heard Jack scurry toward the kitchen to answer the phone. His heart pounding  he rose, dreading the worst.

In the kitchen he heard Jack say, “thank you for letting us know.” Turning around and seeing Roy he smiled. “It’s good news, Western Union called my folks.  Sis and her hubby are alive and well.”

Later they learned his brother-in-law hadn’t been on duty that morning. Running to get to the navy base he had fallen into an old outhouse pit and it had taken him most of the day to get out, perhaps saving his life.

Overnight the city of Bremerton was fortified. Barrage balloons, held in place by long cables that could entangle enemy planes, encircled the city. Thick smoke screens were put in place to impede an enemy plane’s view. Nets were erected in Rich Pass to allow ferries to come in and out but not submarines. Air raid sirens and drills were conducted each morning at 9. Soon anti-aircraft guns were displayed throughout the city, in schoolyards, parks and sometimes even in backyards. Roy helped Iva and Jack install the required blackout blinds on all their windows. The Puget Sound Navy Yard was the only place on the Pacific capable of repairing large battleships so naturally people feared the worst. 

The town filled with even more young people coming to work. A town with insufficient housing before Dec 7th, now had people living in tents, garages and converted chicken coops. Roy felt grateful he and his family had a house to live in.

Life had again changed. Now his and everyone’s thoughts were on the war.


Author’s notes:

Most of the information about Bremerton before and during the war came from memories both my dad and aunt wrote or recounted to me. Some came from newspaper articles and a book titled ‘Victory Gardens and Barrage Balloons, A Collective Memoir’,’by Frank Wetzel. In it he gives a very factual account of the events in Bremerton during this time as well as his and others memories as teen-agers living in there at that time.

Chapter 25-The Life and Times of William Roy Caple-Live Goes On-1933-1938

It wasn’t easy for Roy to go on after Mae’s passing. Numb with grief, he went through the motions of life, but deep inside he felt as though he’d died too.

Three weeks after her death, Iva looked at him over the breakfast table. “I told Auntie Hazel I would go over to her house after breakfast to help her and Grandma with the Thanksgiving dinner. Grandpa got a turkey from the neighbor’s farm for us to have. You and Verle are to come just as soon as that football game ends.”

Roy sighed. If he could have his way, he’d send Verle to dinner on his own and skip the day all together. He was in no mood for celebrating. But he knew if he did Hazel would be over nagging at him to be there for his family.

“Don’t worry, we’ll be there. Shouldn’t we bring something?”

“I got us covered,” said Iva. “I told them I’d bring a sack of potatoes. And grandma is making her apple pies. You know how you love her pies.”

“I do,” he agreed. Though not even the thought of her tender pie crust and sweet tasting apples sounded appealing. He’d no appetite since Mae had departed from him. Grief hung over him like a heavy winter blanket.

For his son’s sake, he’d agreed to attend the annual Sumner-Puyallup high school football game like they had since the youngster became old enough to understand the game. The two towns had played a game every Thanksgiving since they’d both had teams.

The game began promptly at eleven. It was only nine, he supposed he had time to sit a bit and peruse the newspaper, except he could never concentrate on reading anymore. His thoughts always wandered to Mae and that horrible day 3 weeks ago. Her death had left a massive hole in his heart, one he thought would never heal.

At 10:15 he donned his overcoat and hat and he and Verle headed for the town’s football field.

Roy noticed the boy needed a haircut. I have been neglecting him.

“Daddy, do you think the Vikings will win this year?”

“Well son, that would be nice but their win record isn’t very good.”

Verle kicked a rock down the street. “I know but wouldn’t it be great if they did.”

Roy looked down at his son and smiled. “I reckon it would.”

The smell of roasting turkey mingled with baking pies and bread filled the air when he opened the front door of Hazel’s house. For the first time since Mae’s passing, he actually felt hungry.

Mae’s father, Alex, sat in a rocker in the corner of the front room. “So, boys how was the game?” 

Roy hung his hat and coat on the hook next to the door. “Puyallup lost as usual.”

Iva entered the room, wiping her hands on an apron. Roy noticed it was the one Mae had favored.

 It should be her wearing it and she should be working in our kitchen. Mae always hosted Thanksgiving dinner.

“I’m starving,” said Verle, “when do we eat.”

“Soon,” said his sister. “Auntie Hazel said we’d put dinner on the table as soon as you got here.”

His children and in-laws crowded around the table, loaded with platters of food. Mae’s father gave a simple blessing and began to carve the turkey. A job Roy had always held when they’d hosted Thanksgiving. Suddenly his appetite left him as his thoughts went to all he’d lost in the last three years. A mother, sister, and now his beloved wife.

“Say Roy,” said his brother-in-law, Daniel interrupting his thoughts. “Any word about town on work I might find?”

“No,” said Roy. “Wish I could find more myself.”

The family made feeble attempts at idle chit chat but no amount of pretending could hide the fact the most important member of the family was missing.

Roy decided he couldn’t go through this again at Christmas. He’d take up his half- brother Milo’s offer to spend the holidays with him in La Connor. Puyallup held too many memories of Christmas past.

In January Mae’s parents decided to move back to Puyallup. Roy was grateful they’d be nearby to help with the children. Iva was a teen now and try as he might, there were times when she needed another woman to talk over things with.

The next few years were not easy. It continued to be a struggle to make ends meet. Iva, now in High School had a job in the library which gave her the money she needed to buy clothes and other necessities a teenage girl needed.

He relished summer trips into the forest to fish and hike with his son and brother. Other times he and Verle enjoyed listening to ball games on the radio or when they could spare the time and money took in a real ball game.

In the spring of 1935 President Roosevelt created the WPA as part of his New Deal plan. It gave work to unemployed folks for public works projects. Puyallup got some of those projects and he obtained more regular work helping to construct the town’s Wild Wood Park. Although he didn’t get as many hours as he’d like it did give him a dependable income making it a bit easier to make ends meet.  

In 1936 he and Verle followed the rowing crew at the University of Washington, along with the rest of the Northwest, as they met and won one challenge after another. Now they were in the race for the gold in Nazi Germany.

On August 14th Roy rose and put a pot of coffee on the stove to boil. He fiddled with the knob on the radio and tuned into KOMO so it would be ready when Verle got up to join him. He still found it incredible, a device sitting in his dining room could tune into events occurring on the other side of the world. While he had followed Jesse Owens story with pride, it was the rough and tumble boys from the University of Washington Crew team that enthralled him. After all they were Washington working class boys, not so different from what he’d once been.

At 9:15 the voice of NBC’s announcer began to crackle over the airwaves.

“Geez, Daddy.” said Verle. “It’ hard to believe what we are hearing is coming all the way from Berlin isn’t it.”

“Hush,” Roy said.

It was hard enough to make out what was happening over the radio without his son chattering. They heard a lot of wild applauding. Who was it for? Finally they heard the American boat had won by a mere six tenths of a second. He and Verle stood and cheered. As the radio turned to other news, he and Verle went off to do their chores.

In June of 1937, Roy sat in the auditorium of Puyallup High school beaming with pride as his daughter Iva graduated from High School. How he wished Mae could have been there to see this day. The first child in either of their families to graduate from High School. It was just as well she didn’t want to go onto to college for there was no way he could have found the money to help pay her way.

On December 21st of 1938, Iva arrived home early one evening with her latest beau, Jack Bailey. He didn’t know much about the tall lanky lad standing in the room with her except he was a Bailey related somehow to Mae’s sister’s husband.

“Daddy,” she said,” We have something to announce.”

Roy set the newspaper he was reading down, “Okay, I am listening.”

 Iva clasped the hand of the young man. “We got married this afternoon in Tacoma.”

He rose from his seat. “What? How could you? What do you think you are going to live on?”

I have work, sir,” said Jack. “I am working for the Civil Conservation Core.”

 “And we found a small place to rent in Tacoma,” added Iva.

In shock all Roy could think of was the hard road ahead his daughter had chosen to go down.

He turned toward her. “Well, sister I guess you’ve made your bed, now you’re going to have to sleep in it.”

“We will be spending Christmas holidays with Jack’s folks instead of going to La Conner with you and Verle.”

“It’s just as well,” said Roy. It’s a bit late to spring a fourth person on them.”

As Roy shut the door behind the two love birds as they left to return to Tacoma, He sighed. This was not the path he and Mae had imagined their daughter would go down. He hoped the boy turned out to be a decent sort. Still he feared a marriage started on a shoestring would never last.

Little did he know that the choice his daughter had just made would change the course of his life.


Authors notes:

  1. Although I never got to taste one my great grandmother Martha Phillip’s was known for her wonderful pie crusts. I recall at my first attempt at making a pie crust both my dad and grandpa said it tasted just like hers and the pie soon disappeared as they helped themselves to seconds. I have never succeeded in making a pie crust that good again

2. Iva wrote of having a job in her high school library which gave her the money for a young girls needs.

3. My Dad in his later years, often talked about following the rowing crew of 1936. After reading the “Boys in The Boat” by Daniel James Brown, I realized what a huge this story had been particularly in the Northwest. And yes, Komo radio did broadcast the Berlin race live. If you haven’t read the book I suggest you do, it’s a great read for anyone even the non sports fan.

4. My grandfather often told us how shocked he’d been when my aunt Iva arrived home after eloping. He didn’t know much about Jack and thought the marriage would never last. He said he told her, “Sister you’ve made your bed now you will have to sleep in it.” While Iva later said she regretted eloping and springing it on her dad that way, she never regretted having married Jack..

Chapter 24-The Life and Times of William Roy Caple- 1933

After his Sister’s death Roy took solace in spending time with his wife and children.  Mae’s parents had decided to rent a farm just out of town on Waller Road.  They had a four-bedroom farmhouse and when Mae felt well, they enjoyed weekend visits.

Roy did his best to help his father-in-law with some of the heavier work while Mae and her mother worked in the kitchen.

One evening they sat in their parlor listening to the player piano with Verle pretending to play the tunes.

Roy bent over and whispered to Mae. “Looks like we have a new musician in the family.”

Mae laughed, “Yes, even though he can’t carry a simple tune.”

On Sunday as they got ready to leave his mother-in-law handed him a basket. “Mind you handle this with care. I put a dozen eggs inside, the hens have been laying more than we can use this week and I also put in a pitcher of milk and a freshly baked bread.”

The next morning, they enjoyed scrambled eggs and toast slathered with fresh berry preserves.

“May I be excused?”  asked Verle as he wiped the jam from his lips.

“Where are you off to in such a hurry? “ Roy asked,

“The guys are going to have a baseball game and I don’t want to be late.”

“Well, then by all means be off with you. Mae if you don’t mind, I think I’ll take my coffee out to the porch and enjoy the fresh air while I read the paper.”

“Go ahead. Iva and I will do the dishes then we’ll make some pies with the berries we picked on Friday.”

Roy stepped out onto the porch and settled himself upon the wooden rocker he’d made. Across the road from the store, he could hear the Salvation Army setting up their band in the Hobo camp.

A bit later Mae wiping her hands on her apron came out. “Mind if I join you. Iva says she can handle the pie making by herself.”

“It would be my pleasure,” said Roy as the sounds of “Onward Christian Soldier” began to drift a cross the road.

“I see were being serenaded again”

“Ah yes,” said Roy. “I don’t know why they bother the men never pay any attention to them.”

Mae took a sip of her coffee.” I thought we’d take the pies to this evening’s neighborhood potluck.”

“Just so long as you leave some extra pieces at home for me and Verle.”

 There was nothing he or his son loved more than berry pie.

The neighborhood had taken to holding potlucks every Sunday night. Nothing fancy everyone brought whatever they could contribute and the men pooled their money together to buy some wieners to roast over a bonfire. The tough times seemed easier when they were shared.

He and his son took in baseball games whenever they could. Iva had become a teenager.

 One morning Mae informed him. “Iva is going to go get herself a perm today with some of the money she’s earned.”

Roy frowned, “What’s wrong with her hair the way nature made it.”

“Oh Roy, every girl wants curls. So no matter what you think when you see her this evening, say something nice. She’s sure she’ll be the cats meow.”

Roy kissed his wife on the head. “Don’t worry, I will be sure to tell her she’s beautiful just like her mother.”

On Friday November 10th, 1933 Roy came home early in the afternoon after delivering a cord of wood to a neighbor. He found Mae leaning back in the chair, wheezing.

 He sat down in front of his wife; her wheezing breaths were coming in short gasps. “How long has this been going on?”

“Not long, could you see if there’s any belladonna left in the cupboard.”

He rummaged around the cupboard and found some shoved in the back. He returned to Mae’s side who continued, wheezing in short, strained gasps.

“Try to keep your breath regular. Remember in for five and out for five, come on breathe in 1, 2,3, 4, 5. Now out 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.”

As her labored wheezing continued his mind raced ahead. What would he do if she turned blue or lost consciousness?”

 I’m getting the doctor,” said Roy.

“No, she whimpered, we can’t afford it.”

“Yes,” said Roy, “you need his help. I’ll be right back.”

He ran over to the store as fast as his legs would carry him. “Call doctor for me. Mae’s having a bad asthma attack.”

He raced home. Inside the house, he dropped to her side. “Come on Mae, come on, take some deep breaths in for five and out for five. You can do it, you’re doing well.”

Despite his calm reassurance her breaths grew torturous, with each inhalation, it was as if she was at war with herself. The seconds crawled by until the doctor arrived it was as if time had stood still.

The doctor when he arrived dropped to her side.”How long as this been going on?”

“I’m not sure. I found her wheezing when I got home about an hour ago. But it’s getting worse.”

After listening to her heart and lungs the doctor hung the stethoscope around his neck. “Help me move her into the bed. I’m going to give her a shot of morphine.”

After the shot Mae’s breathing started to ease. A sense of relief flooded his body but then he realized she wasn’t breathing at all. The doctor grabbed his stethoscope and put the round metal end on her chest.

His face grew graven. He took the ends out of his ears shaking his head. “I’m so sorry. She’s gone.”

“No,” moaned Roy, as his own heart raced. “It can’t be. She can’t be gone.”

“I thought her heart would be strong enough for the morphine. There’s nothing else I can do. You have my deepest condolences. I will step out and leave you alone to say your good-byes”.

Tears streamed down Roy’s face as he accompanied the doctor to the door. “I’m afraid I can’t pay you.”

“Don’t even think of it, there is no need to pay.” He patted Roy on the shoulder. “I have no words to tell you sorry I am for your loss. I’ll let the folks over at the store notify your family for you.”

 Roy went back to the bedroom where Mae lay. She looked so peaceful. He laid his head down on her chest and sobbed. “How am I ever to go on without you?”

 It wasn’t supposed to end like this. She was only thirty-seven, she had so much more life to live. Why at 48 he was the older one. They were meant to grow old together, watch their children graduate, get married and play with the grandchildren sure to come.

“Oh, Mae,” he sobbed. “There will never be another for me. You were my one and only love, of this you can be sure.”

When no more tears would come he wiped his eyes and stood. Shaking and feeling lost he glanced at the clock. The children would be home from school soon. They couldn’t find him like this, he had to be strong when he told them their mother had passed. He walked into the front room and closed the bedroom door behind him.

He had never felt so alone in all his life.


Authors Notes:

  1. Information about the rented farm and player piano came from my Dad’s writings and reminisces he shared with me. As did the info about the Sunday neighborhood potlucks.
  2. A note Mae wrote to her mother described Iva getting a perm for the first time.
  3. Info about Mae’s death came from things my grandfather said along with his children’s memories of that day. He death certificate verified the info.

Chapter 23-The Life and Times of William Roy Caple-1929-1933

On October 24th, 1929, Roy hurried home from work looking forward to a relaxing evening. He scooped up the newspapers from on the doorstep before entering the house.

Mae came out of the kitchen, drying her hands on a dish towel. “How was your day?”

“Busy,” said Roy. “How about yours?”

“Oh, you know the usual housekeeping chores.”

She came over and gave him a kiss and nodded toward the rolled-up newspaper in his hand. “The children are upstairs doing their homework. If you’re lucky, you’ll get a few minutes to relax  and enjoy your papers before they come down for dinner.”

Roy sat in his easy chair and unfolded the paper. He liked keeping up with the news and subscribed to both the Puyallup Herald and The Tacoma News Tribune. Bold headlines topped The Tribune.

Dark Day on Wall Street. Conditions almost panicky as millions of values vanish every minute.’

 Hmm, that doesn’t sound good. Thank goodness I don’t have anything invested in the stock market.

Over the next few days, the news grew gloomier as the paper reported increased losses in the stock market. By the end of the year, stocks had dropped $15 billion. Remembering how destitute the recession of 1893 had left his family, Roy worried a bit.

Still life for the next 10 months hummed along normally. He continued to work for the logging camp near Crocker. His job as a saw filer provided better pay than the back breaking logging work he’d done in his younger years. The children grew and brought joy into his and Mae’s life. She still had asthma attacks, but in between they had good times.

His mother had moved to Orting a couple of years earlier in order to get the rations entitled to Civil War veteran widows. On a Friday in late July of 1930, he dropped the children off at her house on his way to work, to spend a long weekend with their grandmother.

The next morning he and Mae were enjoying a leisurely breakfast when someone from the nearby grocer rapped on their back door.

“Mr. Caple, Mr. Caple, come quick you have an urgent phone call.”

Roy hustled out the back door and took a shortcut across the yard to the corner store on Pioneer Street.

Mr. Bryant, the store owner, nodded to the receiver lying beside the phone box. “I think it’s your Iva she sounds hysterical?”

Chills ran up and down his spine. With shaking hands he picked up the receiver and spoke into the box on the wall, “Hello.”

“Daddy,” bawled Iva. “You have to come quick, it’s awful.”

 She was so hysterical he could barely make out what she was saying, but evidently something had happened to his mother and the neighbor was with her.

“We’ll be there as fast as we can come, try to calm down.” He hung up the receiver and dashed out of the door.

Mae was pacing in the yard when he crossed the street. “What’s happened?”

 “Something’s wrong with Mother. I couldn’t make out much from what Iva was saying but the neighbor is there.”

I’ll get my purse and be right out,” she said, as he headed for their Model T.

When they got to Orting, they found Iva crying in the yard.

Mae wrapped her arms around her. “What’s happened?”

“I don’t know, It’s grandma. Mrs. Wilson called the doctor, he’s with her now. She got up from bed like usual and told me to sleep a while longer. But when she came back, she talked really funny, I couldn’t understand anything she said. She got in bed and then she couldn’t get back up.”

A stroke, thought Roy as he hurried into her house. In the bedroom he found the doctor bent over his mother. He turned his head toward Roy when he entered the room.  “Are you her son?”

“Yes, is it a stroke?”

He nodded. “I’m afraid so. I doubt she’ll ever recover. She won’t be able to stay here.”

Roy decided to move her to the old Meeker Mansion which had become a home for Civil war veteran widows. That way she’d be close enough to check on daily. On August 5th, 1930, she passed away peacefully in her sleep.

 A few days later the family gathered in Orting’s soldier’s cemetery to say their good-byes as they laid her to rest, on the gentle slope of a hill, next to his father.

Bereft himself he tried to give comfort to his sister Lida who took the loss of her mother especially hard.

In the years ahead Roy would think of his mother’s death as the beginning of the lean years, the bad years.     

 By 1931 the full brunt of the stock market collapse had hit Puyallup. Industry after industry curtailed  operations or went out of business. The logging operations where he worked shrank and then stopped.

 In 1932 Roy found himself out of work with no prospects of another job. Their small savings dwindled as he and Mae struggled to keep food on the table. Thankfully there was no mortgage on their house to worry about.

During the 1930’s most homes in Puyallup used firewood for heat. Roy decided to lease some of the  logged off land on the hills above Orting. The big trees were gone but plenty of small timber had been left behind that he could cut he could cut for firewood. He’d take orders for cords of wood or sell it on the streets. Sometimes all he got was 5$ per cord. Poor wages, but  nearly everyone in town was in the same boat. Sometimes he found work filing a few saws for loggers and or helping bring in a farmer’s crops.  In the summer the family picked raspberries and then blackberries. If they worked hard, they could bring in as much as a dollar or two each day

As much as possible he let the money the children earned be used for their school and clothing needs. But sometimes it couldn’t be helped they needed a few of their hard-earned dollars to make ends meet.

Fortunately Mae was nimble with the needle. She kept herself and Iva in clothing by turning sugar sacks and old clothes into something new. Still many a night they went to bed with their stomachs unsatisfied by the meager portions the evening meal had provided. Roy loathed those nights. He had never wanted his children to experience hunger the way he had a times during his childhood. On top of that his wife’s health continued to be precarious.

The freight trains that rolled a block away from their home began to carry men hunting for work. Because their house was close to a junction the trains frequently slowed or stopped there making it an easy spot for men to hop on or off.  A hobo camp sprang up on space near the tracks. Not a day went by without some of the men coming by their house looking for work in exchange for something to eat.

He and Mae were sorry they couldn’t give them any kind of work. But they did their best to see to it they never went away empty handed. Sometimes all they could offer was a carrot to help make soup or a cup of fresh coffee. His family grew used to hearing the Salvation Army group each Sunday when they came to the camp to pray and sing. The children thought it funny to watch the men hang their just washed underwear as the band played onward Christian soldier. Though the sanitary conditions were terrible, the camp was peaceful.

Mae canned vegetables from their garden to help get them through the winters and they picked berries together as a family wherever they could find free ones.

In the spring when their stock of home canned vegetables grew low Roy donned his leather gloves and picked nettles and other edible weeds. Mae cleaned and cooked them into a kind of edible spinach. His children didn’t care for it. But in lean times any food for free was welcomed.

One time he asked a farmer if he could have some apples knowing he was going to dump them as part of a government program to give growers more money.

“No,” said the farmer I can’t give them to you. “But I will tell you where I am dumping them.”

 Different things like that got them by.

His sister had been subject for years to periods of melancholy which grew worse after their mother’s death. After a rest at the Western Washington Sanatorium in Steilacoom she seemed better but then her dark moods came back.

He and Mae did their best to help his brother-in-law with their three girls and cheer his sister up. Lida and Mae had long been friends and the two families got together often. Their two oldest children were close in age to Iva and Verle and they enjoyed playing together. The two men had much in common as Roy too struggled to keep his family afloat and cope with Mae’s asthma attacks.

Early in the evening of January 6, 1933, Roy took his son Verle over to his wife’s relatives’ home to help with some bathroom repairs.

He had just reattached the faucet to the sink when heard a knock on the front door. A voice said, “I’m looking for Roy Caple his wife told me I could find him here.”

Dread filled his body as he placed the wrench on the floor. “Why had Mae sent for him?”

He found his brother-in-law George McKay in the front room, wearing a pinched face and bloodshot eyes.

“What’s happened?”

“It’s Lida,” said George as he broke down into sobs. “She’s gone.”

“What,” stammered Roy.

“She took her life,” said George. “She thought she ’d become too much of burden for me.”

“No,” moaned Roy as he covered his face with his hands. “How could she think that? We all loved her so.”

 “I left the girls with Mae. They were the ones who found her. I’d given anything for them to not have been the ones to find her.”

On January 10th the family huddled once again around a graveside, this time three brothers minus their baby sister.

Lida Caple Mckay circa 1916


Author’s notes:

  1. Most of the information on the depression years in this chapter came from both my dad’s and aunts writings and discussions I had with them. Both wrote and talked of being with their grandmother the day she had her stroke. Both wrote and talked of the hobo camp near their home.

2. My dad told me how he had gone with his Dad to help a relative the night they found his Aunt Lida had passed away. And her two oldest daughters told me about how she had sent their youngest sister to school with them that day. And how they were the ones who found her hanging in the attic.

Chapter 22-The Life and Times of William Roy Caple-The 1920’s

Although he missed his dad the year 1921 went by in a happy blur. He found time to install an indoor bathroom. The fruit trees were growing and had even bore a bit of fruit.

The following spring Mae’s parents and sibling moved into a house near theirs deciding to make Puyallup their permanent home. Her dad found work as a janitor at the WSU farm.

On August 30th of 1922, a baby boy joined the family. His birth overjoyed them. With a girl and a boy, they had the perfect family. They named him Roger Verle, but he soon became known as just Verle.

A few months later Mae developed a high fever, cough, and rash. Roy summoned her mother to check on her.

“Looks like she has measles,” she said. “She never had them as a child.”

She recovered, but the persistent cough continued. He grew concerned when in addition to the cough she sometimes wheezed.

“Perhaps you should go see Dr. Clay.” he suggested.

“Roy don’t worry so about me. You know coughs can linger for quite some time. I just need a little more time to recover.”

One day shortly after that conversation he came home from work to find their front door ajar. Inside he heard a voice say, “breath in through the nose and out through the mouth. That’s it, easy now.”

He pushed open the door. Mae sat upright in a dining chair her eyes closed, beads of sweat sat on her forehead, her chest quivered. Beside her sat Dr. Clay listening to her lungs through his stethoscope. Nearby hovered her mother.

“What’s happened?” asked Roy.

The doctor looked up and removed his stethoscope from Mae’s chest. “She’s had a bad asthma attack. But you can relax the worst is over.”

“Asthma,” stammered Roy.

“Yes, “said Dr. Clay. “I’m afraid there isn’t much I can do for it. There are some home remedies that might work. Often a strong cup of coffee or holding one’s head over a steaming bowl of hot water supplies relief or warm flannels to the chest when breathing grows labored. I’ll give you some belladonna powders, if you have a particularly horrific attack, you can burn it. Many find it brings relief.”

He scribbled out a bill and handed it to Roy. “Try to have her avoid stress. You can expect more episodes. It’s best to stay calm and let them pass. If they seem to get out of hand give me a call.”

Roy went to Mae’s side and took her hand. “How are you doing?”

“Better, but I got so scared, it felt like I couldn’t breathe. Thank goodness, Mama was here when it happened.”

“Were you doing anything stressful?”

“No, I had put Verle and Iva down for their naps. Mama and I sat down to visit and relax over a cup of tea and suddenly it felt like I couldn’t breathe.”

He looked at his mother-in-law.

“She gave me quite a scare. I summoned your mother and the doctor. When he arrived, your mother took the children next door.”   

Asthma would be a cloud over their head from then ever after. Roy was grateful that the children had two loving grandmothers and a grandfather close by to help when things were too much for his wife. She had periods of time when she’d be quite well. But just when he thought the asthma attacks were over, she’d wake up in the middle of the night gasping for air.

She’d say, “Roy don’t get up, you have work in the morning. I’ll just make myself a strong cup of coffee and sit in the rocker for bit.”

Often that was enough. He grew to dread the smell of belladonna burning. It meant her breathing hadn’t eased.

He’d get up and gently rub her shoulders, “breathe in for five, that’s it, now breathe out for five,” until her breathing eased.

If he noticed her lips turning blue, he knew she wasn’t getting enough oxygen and he summoned the doctor.

In between attacks they lived life much as ordinary families did. Each spring he tilled the earth for her to plant a garden full of vegetables and flowers. They took joy in watching their children grow.

He continued to strive to learn and better himself by reading and when he could afford it take correspondence courses. And he continued to love building things.

When he told Mae he’d always wanted to build a log cabin. She suggested he build a small one the children could play in. It took him a while to find, cut and haul enough logs just the right size.

The children eagerly watched him as he built it.

  “When will it be done, Daddy,” said Iva.” I want to play in it tomorrow.”

“Now Iva,” said his wife, “let your father rest. He’s already put in a hard day’s work. He will finish it in due time.”

He took the windows out of an old, discarded car and gave the cabin two windows. Mae made red checkered curtains for it, which reminded him of the ones his mother had made long ago. He installed a small bed and built a little table and chairs. Wooden apple crates became shelves and a wooden grape basket supplied a crib for Iva’s dolls. The children were elated with it.

Next, he built a small house on the property, to house his in-laws.

The summer of 1927 he got a job as the fire watchman for a logging camp. It meant he needed to be on site 24 hours a day five days a week.

“Mae,” he said. “How would you and the children like to come with me and spend the summer in the woods. You haven’t had a breathing spell in a long while.”

“I’d love it, it would be good for the children to get out in nature more.”

He put up a large tent up for them to sleep in. He split cedar for shakes and built a lean-to of them for Mae to cook in.

When the logging crew went back to camp each evening, they would have the woods to themselves. They picked berries which Mae canned or made into jam. Every weekend they’d load up the Model -t and make the 16-mile trek back to Puyallup. Mae would get the washing done and they’d stock up on the needed groceries for the next week.

That fall and winter Mae had so many bad asthmas attacks he feared for her life.

“The only thing I can suggest,” the doctor said, “is to move to high dry climate.”

He hated the thought of moving. Iva had started school and Verle would be ready for first grade the coming year. He didn’t want them to have a childhood full of moves, as he’d had. Puyallup had been his home now for most of the last 25 years. But he loved his wife too much not to consider the doctor’s suggestion.

During the winter of 1928 one of the loggers, he worked with said, “I heard of new logging camp starting  up high in the Blue Mountains of Oregon.

 “Really”, Roy said. “My wife’s doctor said a high dry climate might be best for her. Thanks for the tip I am  going to look into working there.”

 When he suggested it to Mae she said, “Roy, I don’t know. Our roots are here in Puyallup. We both agreed we didn’t want our children to move around the way you and I did.”

“I know, but your health is also important for them.”

“But we don’t know if it will even help. I’d hate to leave this house behind only to find we should have stayed put.”

“What if we went to try it out for the summer?”  “Your parents could look out for our place  here. If we like it in Oregon we can sell the place later, if not we’ll come back.”

“I guess we could try that.”

He spent his spare time the rest of the winter building a cupboard to fit the running board of their Model T Ford to accommodate the staples they needed on the long camping trip it would take to get to Kinzou, Oregon. They left as soon as the school year ended. He got a job unloading the bricks from the railroad for the new buildings being built.

While the new town of Kinzou provided a high, dry climate it was also dusty. Many a day he’d come home to find Mae coughing and wheezing. One hot, dry evening as they relaxed outside, he heard her begin to wheeze.

“Roy,” she said, I’m having trouble breathing.”

 He got her a strong cup of coffee. “Sip it slow and remember to breathe in five and out five.”

 The wheezing continued.

 “Roy, can you get me the belladonna.”

 He rummaged inside the lean-to cupboard and took it back to where she sat. “There isn’t much left but I will light what we have.”

 By now her breath was coming in short gasps. His mind raced ahead what if she got worse? What if she needed a doctor? There were none for miles around.

 Fortunately, the spell passed but he knew  they needed to leave Kinzou.

When Mae’s relatives in Yakima, WA had heard they were going to try living in a high dry, climate. Her Aunt Ann had written.

Why don’t you move to Yakima instead? The elevation might not be so high but it is warm and dry. There are plenty of jobs for Roy in the orchards.

He decided to move the family there for the rest of the summer. While he worked as a pruner in the orchards Mae had the support of a loving family to help with the children.

When he asked her if she’d consider staying there?

 She said, “Of course not, Puyallup is home, I can’t wait to go back.”

 They returned in time for the children to be back at school.

Verle age 6-1928


Authors notes:

  1. According to my grandfather, my grandmother loved a little boy in the neighborhood named Verle, but she thought two Verles in the same area would be confusing. They decided to name my dad, Roger Verle, instead. While he was still quite young the neighbor boy moved away and my dad was ever after known as Verle.

2. My grandfather said Mae developed asthma after contracting measles while my dad was still a baby. However on her death certificate her doctor wrote the start of her asthma as occurring the year before he was born.

3. In her memories my aunt Iva wrote of how she hated the smell of belladonna burning because she knew it meant her mother was having trouble breathing.

4. The information about the log cabin playhouse came from my aunt Iva’s written memories of it and my dad’s memories. I recall when I was small and we drove down River Road in Puyallup my dad would point out a log cabin sitting in a junkyard on the side of the road and saying it was once his playhouse. My grandfather had sold it to the owner toward the end of the Great Depression for 10 dollars for use as the junk yards office.

5. Both my aunt Iva and dad spoke and wrote of the summer they spent in the woods when there dad was a fire watchman. They both remembered it with fondness.

6. Kinzou was a new logging camp in the Blue Mountains of Oregon. It never became successful and ceased to exist. Information of the town and preparation for the journey came from my aunt’s and dad’s written account of that summer. Both recalled the day my dad almost drowned when playing in the log pond. Apparently my Dad crawled on a log which rolled him under. My aunt screamed and a one-armed man pulled him out. He always said his sister saved his life that day for if she hadn’t screamed for help he would have drowned.

7. According to my dad the place in Yakima where Mae’s relatives lived was quite isolated. He recalled that even in the days of cars they would have to send a horse and wagon out to collect them whenever they visited.

Chapter 21-The Life and Times of William Roy Caple-1920

Samuel Hugh Caple 1945-1920

Most of the next year passed in a blur. Iva continued to delight them and now that she was mobile Mae spent a lot of time chasing after her. Roy continued to work in the logging camp but now had a safer job as a saw filer. In October he finished the stone porch.

Mae came out and stood on it the day he declared it done. “I can hardly wait until the weather warms and we can sit out here.”

In late November a shadow hung over their heads when his father developed an infection in his foot. His diabetes complicated the situation and despite the attention of his mother and doctor the infection grew worse.

On December first, his mother came over to his house with a grave look upon her face. “Roy, the doctor just left, he said your father’s leg has turned gangrene. It has to come off.”

No, he thought, how can it be this bad.

“Your father has absolutely refused to allow it. You know what that means, I can’t bear the thought of losing him. Please talk some sense into him.”

Chills rolled over Roy’s body. Over the years he and his old man had had their differences, but he’d always been there for him all the same. He wasn’t ready to lose him either. But his dad had a stubborn streak. Once he made up his mind, it was impossible to change. Still, he had to try. Maybe if he let him think about it overnight, he’d be more amendable to listening to him.

The day next day he trudged up the stairs to his parent’s room. His hand quivered as he turned the knob. His father lay on the bed under a blue and white quilt his mother had made. A putrid smell of rotting flesh filled the air. A deathly pallor sat upon his father’s cheeks.

He approached the bed, “dad.”

His father’s eyes fluttered open. “The doctor says he needs to amputate your foot if you want to live. The family still needs you; I need you.”

“No, you don’t,” answered his father. “No one needs an invalid and I don’t want to spend more time living in the soldiers’ home. Once was enough for me. It’s better this way. My life has reached its end. I am okay with that.”

Roy felt a sadness squeeze his heart as he took a deep breath. “Dad, there’s still time to reconsider.”

“No,” said his dad. “My mind’s made up; I saw enough legs sawed off in the war to know it’s not for me. If it means the end, then so be it.”

The family kept vigil over his dad for the next few days as his father became delirious with pain and finally on Dec. 6th, he drew his last breath. They buried him in the Soldiers cemetery in nearby Orting with a simple headstone, bearing the name Sam’l H. Caple and his regiment in the Civil War, Company B, 5th Iowa infantry.


Writers notes.

Details of Roy’s father’s death come from what my grandfather and aunt told me and from Samuel’s death certificate.