By default I have become the historian and keeper of the family photos and papers. Among this collection are the courtship letters my Caple grandparent’s wrote 100 years ago. In the process of getting ready to write about and share these letters, I began rereading the stories my Aunt Iva, their daughter, wrote of her family memories.Written mostly in the 1980’s these stories also deserve to be shared. Below is the one she titled “My Mother.”
The photo is of my Grandparents William Roy Caple and Mae Edith Phillips on their wedding day August, 1, 1917.
by Iva Bailey
When I think of my mother, I think mostly of a girl of sixteen whom my father met when her family moved next door to his family in Puyallup.
The Phillips family came to Puyallup one day, when my mother was barely fifteen. They came from Wyoming. I’m not sure if they came with the idea of making their home here or if they came to visit some of my grandfather’s family who had come earlier.
It must have been love at first sight for my mom and dad because there was never any one else for either of them.
The family remained in Puyallup for a little over a year before my grandmother became so homesick for her family they decided to go back to Wyoming.
It was to be four long years before mom and dad married.
Dad worked in logging camps in and around the Puyallup Valley. Some of the winters would be so snowy and cold they would shut the camp down until the snow melted in the spring. When this happened my dad would go to Wyoming to visit my mother and her folks, some times he would stay until it was time for the camps to open up again. In between those times the courtship was carried on by letters.
After my dad passed away in 1972 at the age of 86, I found a lot of the letters mom and dad had written through the years before they were married. From the letters I got to know the girl who was to be my mother. The girl my Dad addressed in the letters as “Pet”, “my little Mazie” and “my little Wyoming girl.” From the letters I learned of their loneliness when they were apart and their happiness when they were together. I could see and feel my mother grow from a young girl to a young woman. I learned the things that made her happy and the things that made her sad.
The letters told of things that happened on both sides of my family during those years. I got to know some of the relatives I had only heard mentioned once in a while when I was growing up, relatives that had died before I was born. In those letters I found dried flowers my Dad had picked in the woods while he worked and sent to his little Wyoming girl. In turn my mother had sent wild prairies flowers to him.
They had worked out a code that they carried on a little private correspondence with. They called it their China letter. It consisted of numbers. We have tried every way to figure out this code but so far we have failed. Just about every one of the letters contain a small sheet of the numbers. It was their way of saying to each other what they didn’t want he rest of the family to hear.
Dad finally went to South Dakota to work in the Homestead gold mine in Lead which was close to Mona, Wyoming where the Phillips family lived.
After a time, on August 1, 1917, they were married. They lived in Lead until later that year in a blinding snowstorm, they left South Dakota to make their home in Washington.
At first they lived in an apartment in the Scott Hotel which was located a block away from the home, my dad soon built for his little Mazie from Wyoming, and I grew up in. He built the house himself. The front porch was built of cobblestone he carried from the Carbon River stone by stone in a pail. It must have taken a long time because there were a lot of stones in that porch. The house had all the conveniences that other houses built at that time had. Dad often express his regrets in later years, that my mother never knew the conveniences added through the years, but I am sure she was happy in that house.
My mother had beautiful black hair and pretty brown snappy eyes. She was about 5 ft 6 and never weighed more than 120 lbs. When I was young my desire was to grow up to look like she did.
I was born while they were still building the house. Dad was working in the Todd ship yard in Tacoma while he was working on the house so it went slow. This was the time of the first world war.
My brother Verle was born when I was nearly 4. My Mother had the measles shortly after that and from that time on she was to suffer from Asthma. The attacks she had were so terrible she had to fight to breathe. Now they have oxygen and drugs that would have relieved her but then the remedies would help for a while but soon have no affect at all. I remember the powder she would burn in a little container. I think it was Beladona leaves made into a powder. It smelled terrible. The smell would wake me up at night and I would know my mother was having an attack. It was a helpless feeling knowing I couldn’t help her. Dad tried everything possible to get help for her. We moved to another climate for a time but she only got worse so we came back home again.
There were times when she would feel real good and we would have such good times. She liked to sew and could make anything she put her mind to. I remember the pretty dresses she made for me. She never used a pattern. She could look at a dress in a catalog and make one just like it.
As I look back it seems like such a short time. I was fourteen in 1933 when her heart could no longer stand the strain of the asthma attacks. She passed away Nov. 10th of that year. She was just 37.