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

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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.

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