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.
- 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..