Category Archives: Puyallup

Chapter 19- The Life and Times of William Roy Caple -1918 – Puyallup, Influenza and War Ends

As the train pulled into the station in Puyallup, Roy spotted his parents waiting on the platform. He and Mae gathered their bundles and made their way down the aisle to the door. A porter helped them get their baggage onto the platform.

Roy’s mother threw her arms around Roy. “You do not know how good it is to see you again.” She kissed Mae’s cheek, “And you too, your family now.”

Roy’s Dad stepped forward and shook Roy’s hand. “Good to have you home, son. He tipped his head toward Mae. “Glad you finally brought that girl of yours back to Puyallup. I brought my delivery truck to collect your baggage. It’ll be a might crowded, but I expect we can all squeeze into the cab.”

As they drove down Main Street. American flags fluttered and red, white, and blue buntings hung from all the buildings in support the war in Europe.

 “Sure, wish they’d get that mess in Europe done with,” said Roy. “If you ask me, it should never have started and we should have stayed out of it.”

His father steered his truck around a corner. “I have to agree with your son, I’m proud of my service in the War Between the States, but this war is a horse of a different color. I fear nothing good will come of it.”    

His sister, Lida, and her husband George were out on the porch when his dad jerked the delivery truck to a halt in front of the house.

Roy gazed at the big white house before making a move to get out of the truck. “I’ve missed this place, it’s good to be home again.”

Lida hugged both Mae and Roy. “You don’t know how much I have missed both of you.

Roy took a step back. In his 2 years away, she’d changed from a girl to a beautiful young woman. He stretched his hand out to the dark- haired man standing next to her. “You must be my brother-in-law”

 “That I am, George McKay.” He offered his hand, “It’s a pleasure to meet you, I’ve heard so much about you.”

Roy chuckled. “Nothing good, I imagine. Would mind giving me a hand unloading our baggage.”

Over dinner, Roy reached for Mae’s hand. “We have an announcement to make, we’re expecting a little bundle of joy.”

“Oh, wonderful,” said Lida. “I can’t wait until we have a child of our own.” 

“I knew it.” said his mother, “the minute I saw Mae. She is positively glowing. Now we’ll have two grandchildren. Joe’s little guy is such a cutie. When can we expect this little bundle?”

Mae blushed, “Not for a while, mid-December I think.”

“How nice, another December birthday. Robert, Joe’s boy turns two in December.”

“I can’t wait to meet him and Joe’s wife,” said Mae.

Roy’s mother stood up to clear the table, “Hopefully they will be by Sunday, since they moved to South Prairie, I don’t see nearly enough of him.”

Roy and Mae spent the next few days with his parents. They agreed three families in one house were too much. They obtained some rooms at the nearby Scott hotel to live in until he got their house built on the lot next to his parent’s home. He found a job in Tacoma working as a shipwright for the Wright ship building company.

He bought plans for a craftsman bungalow, a style becoming popular. He purchased a large tool chest of the tools he’d need from a retired carpenter. Every spare moment he had that summer he spent working on their house. He wanted it ready to move in before the baby arrived. His brother-in-law, George, came over and gave him a hand whenever he could. Roy found he enjoyed the man’s company. And Lida and his wife picked up their friendship as if there had been no six-year interruption. The two couples enjoyed going on outings together.

News of the war in Europe continued to make headlines. Roy was not happy when a third draft required all men up to age 45 to register. The first draft had been up to age 31, and he had escaped it by a year, but now at age 33 he would have to register.

On September 18th, he took the interurban bus to Tacoma. With a heaviness in his heart, he got off on Pacific Avenue, walked to the tall Bank of California building. He stared at the door as he rode the elevator to the third floor and found room 302. He’d considered applying as a conscientious objector.

Chuck at the shipyard said, “Roy if I were you, I wouldn’t do it. I’ve heard of too many cases where you get drafted into the regular military pronto. Besides, I doubt they will ever draft guys your age, anyway.”

Roy hoped so, besides not wanting to leave Mae and their soon to be born baby, he wanted no part of killing in this war.

 That fall news of war continued to make headlines as well as reports of a nasty flu in Europe and parts of U.S. But in Puyallup, Washington, it was a distant problem.

On October 5th Roy picked up a copy of the Tacoma paper while he waited for the bus. Once seated he unfolded the newspaper. The headline at the bottom of the front page caught his eye.

 “Flu scares in Seattle.”

The article stated churches and theaters had closed. He pointed the story out to the man seated next to him. “That’s getting close to us.”

“I wouldn’t worry about it,” said the man. “We’re safe here, haven’t heard of a single in Tacoma or Puyallup.”

“You’re probably right,” said Roy.

But when he opened to another page, he found another disturbing headline ‘Fluenza Rumors officially Denied’ said an article about Camp Lewis.

Over dinner that night, “He read the front-page article aloud to Mae.

“Goodness,” she said, “that doesn’t sound good. I’m glad we’re young and healthy. Maybe we should suggest to your parents that stay close to home for the time being.”

Roy closed up the paper. “That’s not a bad idea, but you know Dad. He likes to keep busy supervising his transport business.”

Mae dabbed her mouth on a napkin, “And with Lida and George going out daily, I suppose it doesn’t help much having them stay home. Besides, I haven’t heard of any flu cases here.”

On the 7th of October, the Puyallup Tribune mentioned there were a few cases in town. The schools and theaters closed indefinitely as a precaution. People were encouraged to not meet in large groups and to keep ‘rooms fumigated daily.’ Mask wearing became  common though not required in Puyallup. Nearby Tacoma required masks for all waiters, cooks, barbers, and city employees. Quarantine signs appeared on houses. Roy noticed one on the door of a sweet older woman who lived a couple of blocks from his home.

“Poor woman,” he remarked to his wife, “she isn’t in good health, this flu will do her in.”

 Only to hear a week later she’d recovered, but her strong healthy logger son had died within 3 days.

 A neighbor told him, “He seemed better and got up to eat dinner with the family and died later that night. The newspaper reported that four of the six young adult children of the George family died within four days of each other while the parents remained well.

Roy worried about Mae. She was due to give birth in a mere six weeks. Had he made a mistake moving to Puyallup.

A letter from Mae’s family arrived. That evening she read it aloud to him.

Such awful news about the flu, her mother wrote. We’ve had a few cases in Belle Fourche, but it’s hit Lead hard. So many miners are ill and too many deaths. I am thankful you aren’t there any longer.

Mae folded the latter up. “No one seems to be spared, this flu is everywhere.”

Just after midnight on November 11th, the loud continuous whistle of the town’s cannery roused Roy from a deep sleep. He rolled over and whispered, “Do you hear that.”

“Yes,” said Mae. “I wonder what it means.”

Minutes later, all the whistles and bells began to ring. From the hallway outside their rooms someone shouted, “The war has ended.”

Soon the hallways of the Scott hotel filled with the noise of cheering and noise makers.

Sleep was impossible, so Roy and Mae hastily dressed and went out to join the rest of the revelers. Out on the street, pedestrians carried flags and every kind of noise maker available. Cars joined the group on Pioneer Avenue, beeping their horns. Roy and Mae made their way toward his parents’ home a short 2 blocks away. On the way, they ran into Lida and George.

Lida threw her arms around Roy, “Isn’t it wonderful, the war is over. We’re joining the crowd headed to town. Won’t you join us.”

Roy looked at his wife, heavy with child. “I think we’d better pass.”

They found his parents on their covered porch beating pots in celebration and went up to join them.

His Mother hugged him. “This is the best news, now I don’t have to worry about any of my boys getting drafted.”

After most of the crowd in front of the house had headed for the downtown area. Roy and Mae went back to their rooms at the Scott Hotel to catch a nap before he had to head to work.

After breakfast, Roy kissed his wife. “Don’t get up I can see myself to the door. He patted her round belly. You two try to find some time for more sleep.”

He walked to his bus stop amidst all the wild cheering still going on. The bus arrived full of men waving flags out the window and creating a ruckus of noise. Instead of work, many headed to celebrate in downtown Tacoma.

Not a lot of work went on at the shipyard that day. The ship workers spent much of the day pounding on anything that would make a booming sound, joining the mill workers who in turned pounded on large logs. The busy harbor filled with boats, small and large, blasting their horns and whistles as if to say peace at last the war has ended. Everywhere folks were happy and celebrating.

Mae greeted him at the door at the end of the day and gave him a big smooch on the lips, “Hasn’t today been the best day. Did you see any of the celebrating in Tacoma?”

Roy hung his coat on the coat tree next to the door. I saw little of the city, but I can tell you there was plenty of celebrating going on at the port. He patted her protruding tummy; I hope you two got a chance to nap.

Mae patted her tummy, “I caught a catnap or two but his little one has been kicking all day. I guess he or she wanted to celebrate, too.”

After Roy washed and changed his clothes, he sat down for the dinner Mae had prepared.

She poured him a cup of coffee. “I hear there’s going to be an enormous bonfire in front of Victory Hall tonight. Appears folks can’t quit celebrating.”

“I can’t blame them,” said Roy taking a bite of the stew she’d prepared. “But I for one am bushed, it’s early to bed for me.”

School reopened in Puyallup on November 16th. The nasty business with the flu also seemed to end with the war. Although isolated cases in Puyallup would continue to occur for the next year, life went back to normal.

_______________________________________________________________________________________________

Authors notes: specifics on Roy’s registration for the draft came from his draft registration. Interestingly enough the room he had to report in the Bank of California building was the same room my husband registered for the Viet Nam War draft. He often mentioned that he had opposed this war and that he had considered being a conscientious objector should he be called for service.

Information on the deadly Influenza outbreak of 1918 came from old Tacoma and Puyallup newspapers as did the information on how the town celebrated the ending of World War I. My grandfather also spoke of how older people he thought would die from the illness lived while the healthy younger ones did not.

Chapter 16- The Life and Times of William Roy Caple -Roy Moves to Wyoming

For the next 2 years Roy continued to write to his Wyoming girl. At the end of the 1914 logging season, he once again went to spend the winter break in Wyoming. He had been saddened when his parents had decided to move to Missouri to be close to his mother’s family. He considered moving with them but he liked Puyallup. Maybe he could buy his parent’s home, he thought. He was thankful when they decided to make the trip a visit rather than a permanent move.

His parents were getting older and particularly his father was showing his age. He preferred they lived close so he and his brothers could look after them. His brother Joe married at the end of 1914. Sometimes both his brothers joined him for a time in the logging camp. Their presence kept him from feeling lonely for family, especially when Richard was there as he would often serenade, he and Gus in   the evenings with his violin playing. He continued to care for his raspberry field. But at the end of the season in 1915 decided to let the field go. His dad could use the income selling the property would yield. Roy purchased the lot next to his parents house from his dad in hopes he could some day build his forever home on it.

By the fall of 1915 logging wages were low. Rumbles of discontent filled the air. Men in all sorts of work talked of striking and forming unions. Roy preferred to  avoid conflict if I could be avoided.

Thoughts of Mae continued to occupy his days. Her parents were having a tough time making a living off their homestead property. They both hoped her parents would decide to sell the property and join their family in the Puyallup area. Instead, they moved from their ranch to Belle Fourche to run a boarding house.

In November a logging operation in Spearfish, South Dakota, where he’d inquired about work the previous winter, wrote, and said they were looking for loggers, if he was interested.

As much as he hated to leave his family and friends in Puyallup, he needed to be closer to Mae. He made the difficult decision move to South Dakota. He’d hang on to the lot of land he had purchased from his father. He still hoped to one day return, build his Wyoming girl her dream home, where together they’d raise a family and grow old. In the meantime, he’d cast his lot in South Dakota.

On a chilly day in early December, he stood with his parents waiting beside the tracks to board a train headed to the Black Hills.

His mother wiped tears from her eyes, “Please give the Phillips our regards, especially Mae. And bundle up, it get’s so cold there.”

He gave his mother a gentle hug. “Don’t worry I remember the cold we got in Oklahoma. And don’t forget I have already spent the better part of two winters there.”

His father reached out his hand to shake and then thought better and gave him a hug. “Son, please tell me you will bring that girl of yours back for at least a visit if not to live. This isn’t good-bye it’s just adios until we see each other again. Soon, I hope.”

Logging in Spearfish allowed him to see Mae on weekends. In December of 1916 he left his Spearfish logging camp and arrived in Belle Fourche and took a room in the hotel. After he deposited his bag and gave himself a shave. He descended the stairs out to the street whistling Jingle Bells in anticipation of seeing Mae in a few minutes.

On arrival Mae flung open the door. He read the look of alarm on her face. His gut felt sucker punched..

He reached for her hand. “What is it?

She handed him a telegram.

“This arrived this morning from your mother.”

His heart started to palpitate as he took it from her hands. Something happened to my father, or it’s one of my brothers. His hands trembled as he opened it.

 Mr. Cook killed yesterday in accident. Planning for his burial in Sumner. Details will follow in a letter. Mother and Dad.

Mae took one look at his blanched face. “Its sad news isn’t it. Is it your father?”

“No,” he said, “It’s Gus, he’s dead.”

“Oh no,” said Mae. “He’s so young. Here sit down, this is such a shock. Does it say what happened?”

Roy shook his head. “No just it was an accident that occurred yesterday. I am in shock.”

“Let me get you some tea”

“No, I don’t need want any. I’m sorry I don’t think I want to go out for dinner , I need to be alone for a bit and get some air.”

“It’s alright,” she said softly. “I understand. But please come back in a bit and let me know you’re okay.”

“I will.”

He got up to leave. He walked down the steps of their boarding house not sure where he was headed. He walked aimlessly for the next hour. Gus who’d been so full of life. His falling partner, an orphaned kid from Sweden who’d come to make his fortune in America. His life snuffed out too soon. He wondered if a tree he’d been falling had taken him. He’d seen other men lose their life that way. It wasn’t an image he wanted of Gus. No, he’d remember him the way he’d been when he’d left the logging camp in November. Full of life and plans for a future on a piece of land he’d recently purchased. He shook his head wondering if he’d be dead too if he’d been working with him yesterday. Or could he have done something to save him? Just like the day he lost his big brother, in an instant life is gone. He took a gulp of fresh air. There was only one place he wanted to be right now. That was in the arms of his sweetheart. He looked around, he wandered around a bit and was now over by the town stockyards. He turned left and headed back for the Phillips boarding house. He knew Mae would be there anxiously waiting for his return.

A few days later Roy received a letter from his mother with the details of Gus’ death.

October 10, 1916,

Dear Roy,

Your father and I have just returned from laying Gus to rest. We buried him in the Sumner cemetery. I know you must wonder what happened. From what we were told by the loggers who accompanied his body to town, a large limb fell unexpectedly from a tree, breaking his neck and crushing his skull instantly. You can take comfort in knowing his death was instantaneous.

I am told his will leaves you as sole heir. I have enclosed the address for the attorney, taking care of his matters. He asks that you write immediately so the probate can be closed. Your presence in town will not be necessary, he can take care of the matter by mail.

Roy folded the letter in half. And took a deep breath of air. So it was a “widow maker,” the name his fellow loggers gave to the giant limbs that storms left lodged in the tree canopy until one day something set them flying from the tree. One could run from a falling tree, but if you didn’t see one of those coming, they were impossible to escape.

It didn’t surprise him Gus had left him the heir of his will, but it was sad he had so few to mourn his loss.

Logging in South Dakota provided even lower wages than Roy had been earning in Washington. No matter how careful he was with his money, he’d never be able to support a family on it. Working in Lead at the Home Stake mine seemed to be the only alternative. Faced between choosing to work in the mine or leaving Mae behind, he chose the mine. It would  be another year before Mae turned twenty-one. Though they’d talked of marrying anyway, Roy was a man of his word.

“Mae I promised you Father I’d wait until your twenty-one before asking for you hand in marriage. Some cowboy might still come along and sweep you off your feet.”

She laughed, “Fat chance of that. I only have eyes for you.”      


Author’s notes:

[i] Gus Cook was a real person and my grandfather’s falling partner. His death certificate confirms the date of death and that he was killed by a falling limb giving him a crushed skull and broken neck. Roy’s mother Margaret Caple was listed on his death certificate as person giving his date of birth, place, etc. It stated he had no known family. He is buried in the Sumner cemetery, Pierce County, Washington. Roy inherited the piece of land he had recently purchased just outside of Puyallup city limits.

Chapter 12-The Life And Times of William Roy Caple-Meeting Mae

At the start of 1912, Roy was 26 years old. He’d yet to meet a girl he cared enough about to marry. Not that there was much chance of meeting a girl in a logging camp.

From time to time, he’d attended the dances the camp held. A dancer he was not. The legs, which kept him out of harm’s way in the woods, turned to mush when he tried to dance.

He’d learned to read the sounds of the woods. Every ping, chug or whistle he heard meant something different. He’d grown accustomed to the steady sawing sound the buckers made cutting limbs from the giant trees into logs that would fit on trains. Daily he experienced the shattering sounds of mighty trees as they fell to the ground.

Besides the logging, he ran a raspberry field on some of his father’s acreage. It was a small operation; one he could manage himself with the help of a few hired pickers at harvest.

He’d toyed with the idea of buying enough land to raise berries full time. But that meant taking out a mortgage and giving up the nest egg he’d saved. He’d spent his childhood being poor, he loathed the thought of borrowing money. He wanted to be debt free. So, he stuck to logging.

Now it was a Friday in late February, it was time to get his raspberry field in order for the coming growing season.

 “Timber,” yelled Roy as he leaped from his springboard.

Together he and his falling partner, Gus, watched as a tree let out one last groan, creak, and snap before it fell in a thunderous roar. It had taken them all day to topple the immense tree, but together they had gotten it done.

Gus tugged on his end of their twelve-foot crosscut saw, “bet the lumber from that one is enough to build an entire house.”

“You’re probably right,” nodded Roy. “What do you say we take this saw over to the dentist shack and head for camp.”

On the way Roy, chuckled to himself as he remembered his first day logging. He’d thought the dentist shack meant a real dentist, not someone who sharpened the blades on their saws. It hadn’t taken him long to learn that loggers had a language all their own. Now he now spoke it as well as any of them.

At the shack, he and Gus heaved the saw onto the counter. Come Monday morning its teeth would once again be razor sharp, like a hungry piranha ready to munch way its way through any tree it encountered.

“You still fixing to go home tonight?” asked Gus, as they headed for the crummy, a train car, which took the men to and from the bunkhouses to the woods.

“Can’t put if off any longer,” said Roy. “Sure you don’t want to come along and help me prune?”

Gus adjusted his spectacles. “I reckon I’ll stay put and rest. Give my regards to folks. Tell them again how much I appreciated spending the holidays with them. Sure made this orphan feel less lonesome.”

“Guess, I’d rest too, if I could,” said Roy, as the crummy jerked to a stop near the bunkhouses. “I’d better hurry if I’m going to catch the last train into town tonight.”

At the bunkhouse he washed and changed into clean clothes. Finished, he glanced at his pocket watch.

“Time for me to go,” he said to Gus. “See you Sunday night.”

The next morning Roy awakened to sun streaming through the bedroom window of his parent’s house. One eye cocked open, he squinted at the clock. “6:30 already,” he mumbled, “I’d better get a move on, I meant to be up earlier.”

He donned a clean pair of overhauls and a plaid shirt and ventured downstairs to the kitchen where his mother poured him a cup of coffee and set it on the table. “It’s nice to have you home. I miss the days when all my boys lived here. Your father is already off making deliveries. He said to tell you he left the pruning shears you need on the back porch.”

“Thanks,” said Roy, sitting down to drink the coffee. “I should’ve been off earlier, too. I really hadn’t meant to sleep so long.”

His mother buttered a piece of bread. “Did I tell you new folks have moved into the rental next door.”

“No, Tell me more.”

His mother swallowed, “They’re the nicest family, I hope they stay. They’re some relation to your friend Justin Phillips and the Henry’s. The last folks barely moved in and they left.”

“You, don’t say.” Roy gulped his coffee and scooted his chair back. “Sorry I can’t dawdle over a breakfast. I’ve got a lot of work to do before I head back to Nagrom tomorrow.”

He grabbed his jacket and hat and opened the back door. “See you at supper.”

He hunkered his chin down inside his jacket to ward off the morning chill, as he headed toward his berry field. The morning sun had risen above the foothills surrounding the valley, bathing them in a pale pink. High above rose the majestic peak of Mt. Rainer.

Roy stood at the head of his field and gazed at the view. Today Mt. Rainer looked as though it was holding court over the entire valley. I’ll never tire of this view, he thought. Sure beats flat, dusty Oklahoma. I can’t believe it’s been 11 years since we left there. Mother and Father are right, time flies. I best stop my gawking and get to work though, or I’ll never get done. 

Several hours later, engrossed in his work, a voice startled him.

“Hello, you must be one of the Caple’s sons.”

 Roy looked up from where he knelt on the ground. A tall, bald-headed man extended his hand to shake. “Name’s Alex, Phillips. And which son might you be?”

“I’m Roy, the middle son. Mother mentioned you’d move next door. She said you’re related you to my friend Justin.”

“He’s my nephew. My brother John, his dad, lives across the Narrows in Tacoma. I have a brother Herbert and Hue here in town, though.”

Roy set his pruner down. “I’m acquainted with both of them. Mother mentioned you’re also related to the Henry’s.”

Alex nodded, “We’re shirt-tail relatives. And I have two daughters and a son. Hazel, my middle one goes to school with your sister, Lida. And I mustn’t forget my wife, Mattie. Speaking of her, I’d better scoot on home or she’ll have me in the doghouse. Hope to see you again soon.”

“Might be awhile,” said Roy, “nowadays I spend more time in logging camps than home.”

He seems nice enough thought Roy as he got back to work. When the sun dropped low in the western sky, he stopped and surveyed what his work. Content with what he’d accomplished, he picked up his tools and headed for home. As he approached the house, he noticed his sister Lida stood in front with a knot of people.

He took his hat off as he passed them and bade them a “good-day.”

Lida ran over and tugged on his arm, “Wait, I want to introduce you to our new neighbors.”

She held onto his hand and led him back to the group. “This is my brother Roy.”

She pointed to a dark-haired girl with an enormous bow pinned in back. “This is Hazel, she goes to school with me.”

A freckle faced red-headed boy peeked out from behind her.

“That’s Daniel,” Lida said, “he’s kind of shy and eight.”

 She pointed to a tall, young woman on her right. “And this is their big sister.”

Roy found he couldn’t take his eyes off of her. Something about her dark hair and eyes the color of melted chocolate captivated him.

 She put her hand out to shake. “How do you do, I’m Mae.”

He reached out to take her hand, then noticed how filthy his was. Swiftly he dropped it to his side. “I’m sorry I’m really not dressed for socializing. I’ve spent the day working in my raspberry field.”

She smiled at him, revealing enchanting dimples. “It’s okay, it’s nice to meet you just the same.”

 He waved his hand goodbye, “Nice to meet you, too.”

Great, he thought. Some impression I must have made in these mucky clothes. He opened the back door and stepped into the kitchen.

His Mother looked up from something she stirred on the stove. “Roy, take those muddy boots off before you take another step.”

“Sorry, Mother, I forgot I wasn’t at camp.”

He balanced on one leg and the other and shook off his boots. He headed to the sink to wash. The delicious smell of cooking vegetables and beef filled the air. “Mmm, something smells wonderful,” he said as he grabbed a bar of handmade soap and lathered his hands. “What’s for dinner?”

“Beef stew,” she said, “and because I know how much you love them – biscuits. You’ve just enough time to change into clean clothes before it’s done.”

Roy chuckled. “They aren’t that bad, are they? But I’ll change.”

“Please do,” she said, swatting the air behind him. “And don’t you get smart with me.”

Upstairs, he slid his feet into a clean pair of trousers and thought about the girl he’d just met. I sure wish I weren’t headed back to Nagrom tomorrow; I think I’d like to get to know her.

Monday afternoon found Roy and Gus standing on springboards falling another tree. Hitting a patch of sap, they stopped to clean their saw.

Gus grabbed the bottle of oil they always kept handy. While he cleaned his side of the saw, he said, “You aren’t very talkative today. I’ve barely heard a word out of you since you got back last night. You’ve got a dreamy, faraway look in your eye. If I didn’t know better, I’d swear you’d met a girl.”

“I have,” said Roy, reaching for the oil to clean his side of the saw.

“What!” said Gus, “Are you serious?”

“I am, and I’ll be darned if I can’t get her out of my mind.”

“Tell me about her, is she a looker?”

Roy let out a whistle, “I’d say so, tallish, slender, dark hair and the most enchanting brown eyes. Trouble is, I met her while I had my muddy work clothes on, I don’t thing I made much of an impression.”

“I wouldn’t worry about it,” said Gus. “Surely she’s seen men in work clothes before. Did you talk to her much, how old is she?”

“Well, really we didn’t talk, just a glad to meet you. As far as age goes, I’d say twenty.”

“Will you see her again?”

“I spect so her family moved into the vacant house next door.”

Gus gave his side of the saw a pull, “Sounds to me like you and I need to plan an outing to Puyallup soon.”

Roy gave his side of the saw a push. “Mother’s birthday is next month maybe I will go then.”


My Grandma

This story is about Margaret Ragsdale Caple. Although my aunt says she was born in Kentucky all of her records indicate Missouri as her birth place. The family came to live in Puyallup sometime between 1900 and 1904.  The Puyallup house, in this story, burnt down in the late 1930’s. The G.A.R. home mentioned was the Meeker mansion. Today it has been restored back to to the way it was when it was Ezra Meeker’s home and is a museum.

Margaret Ragsdale Caple with grandchildren in 1923

Margaret Ragsdale Caple with her 5 grandchildren in 1923. Standing in back are Robert Caple and Blanche McKay. The girl standing in front is Iva Caple Bailey and the older baby is her brother, Roger Verle Caple. Margaret McKay is on the right.

My Grandma

by Iva Bailey

I was only twelve when my grandma Caple died, but I have many good memories of her.

For the first eight years of my life, grandma lived right next door to us in Puyallup. We all lived on 16th street, south-east, in what was then called Meeker Junction.

The house grandma lived in was a large, two-story, white house with a big bay window in the living room that grandma called the parlor. There was a porch that went almost all the way around the house. This was the home my dad grew up in and the house that was for a short time, my second home.

My grandfather Caple had died in 1920 when I was only two years old. I really couldn’t remember him but his memory seemed to live on in the house too.

Grandma had snappy brown eyes and long beautiful hair when it was combed out she could sit on it. She would let me brush and comb her hair, then she put it up on her head with big, bone pins and pretty combs. To me she was beautiful.

Even though grandma was born in Kentucky, she was of English parentage and she was an avid tea drinker. She and I had many tea parties, complete with Johnny cakes, as she called the little cakes she made. I remember, in particular, the sassafras tea she would make for us.  It tasted so good to me then.

Years later, when I was grown up, I bought some sassafras bark and made some tea, but it didn’t taste the same as grandma’s.

The feather bed she had brought with her from Missouri, in the covered wagon. How I loved to spend the night with grandma and sleep in the big feather bed. In the morning there would be sunken spot where we had slept. She would let me help her fluff and make up the bed again.

When I was about eight, grandma traded the big white house in Puyallup for a house in Orting, which was about ten miles away from Meeker Junction. She was a Civil War veteran’s widow and as such was entitled to commodities. To get the commodities she had to live in Orting where there was a colony of soldier’s widows. There was then, and still is, a soldiers home there.

Once a month the army officials would deliver grandma, coffee, tea, sugar and other staples. To grandma on her small widow’s pension, this was a big help.

I can remember how really upset I was by this move. Grandma traded houses with a lady by the name of Mrs. Zettiker. I didn’t like this lady. She had taken my grandma’s house away from us, or so I thought in my childish mind. I can remember my dad trying to explain to me that it was to grandmas best interest that she make this move.

Mr. Zettiker came and she changed grandma’s house. She put a bathroom in the room that had been my play house. She tore off the big porch that my cousins and I had played on when it rained. All this didn’t make me like her any better. I was glad she never lived in the house. She rented it out and I had several “best” friends there during my growing up years.

I would visit grandma every chance I had, which was pretty often. Dad worked in the logging camp which was above Orting, so he would take me along often, when he went to work, and I would spend the day or week-end with grandma. We had some good times together, grandma and I.

It was the summer before I was twelve that will always live in my memory. Grandma had gotten up early one August morning to water her garden. She left me sleeping in the big feather bed that she and I loved so much. In a short time she was back. She was talking to me but I couldn’t understand her. She lay down on the bed beside me and I knew something was wrong. I don’t even remember getting dressed, but I guess I did. I ran to the neighbors and hysterically told her that something was wrong with my  grandma.

The neighbor helped me call my dad in Puyallup. We had no telephone at home, so I had to call a neighbor who got Daddy to the phone. I was so hysterical by the time Daddy got to the telephone he could hardly understand all that I was trying to tell him. He knew something was wrong with grandma.

 By the time my mother and dad got to us, grandma was in a coma. She had a stroke and never regained consciousness.

They moved her to the G.A.R. home in Puyallup. There she died a few days later on August 5th, 1930. She was seventy-two.

She was laid to rest with my grandfather in the Orting Soldiers cemetery on August 8th, which happens to be my dad’s birthday. It seemed to me then, that part of the light had gone out of my world.Headstone-Caple, Margaret Malinda (Ragsdale)

Grandma’s Wash Tubs

 

Laundry drying on the rope outside

The Grandmother in this story is Martha Smith Phillips. She was born in 1877 in Tama County, Iowa. Her family moved to the Black Hills in the 1880’s and she worked in a laundry for a short time in Riverdale, Wyoming before marrying Alexander Phillips. She passed away in 1973.

Grandma’s Wash Tubs 

By Iva Bailey

When I go to do my wash in these days of automatic washer and dryers, I think of my Grandma Phillip’s wash tubs. They were two big galvanized tubs, one for washing the other for rinsing. They sat side by side on a bench in the kitchen close to the wood range, where the water was heated in a wash boiler.

In my earliest memories the tubs had to be filled from the water heated on the stove. Later coils were put in the stove and a tall range boiler or tank,as we called it, stood in the corner and was connected  to the coils in the stove. Grandma thought then, that she was special to have such a luxury.

Grandma always washed on Monday. The clothes were scrubbed on a wash board. If they were really dirty they were then boiled on the stove in the boiler after which they were put in a tub of bluing water to rinse.

Grandma liked windy days to wash clothes.The wind would blow them dry faster and they would smell fresh.They were hung on the line with round-top peg clothespins.They didn’t have the spring kind until later. They were better because they wouldn’t fall off the line. The whites were always as white as snow waving in the breeze.

Tuesday was ironing day. She never put off ironing like I do when I wash clothes in my automatic washing machine. It is so easy to put it off, I hate to iron. Grandma liked to iron. She had two flat irons she heated up on the stove. She always tested it with a wet finger. If it sizzled it was just right for ironing. She ironed with one a while then, the other heated one. She especially liked doing up, as she called it, the white men’s shirts. She had worked in a laundry in South Dakota in her earlier days and was never happier than when she was ironing.

Grandma also used her tubs for baths before bath tubs. She also used them for canning fruits and vegetables. The jars were washed and sterilized, filled and cooked in the jars. I remember green beans always took a long time. It was a hot job in the heat of the sun and the heat of the stove.

Grandma Phillips lived to be ninety-six and before her life ended, she had some of the conviences of modern-day, but I think the happiest days were the days she would hang her sparkling white clothes on the line to dry.