Monday, December 5, 2016


I have dried rose petals two summers so had plenty for three rather small cushions, one each to Ethel, Myrtle, and Irl and Bernice. We sent Shirley Jean a cute little print apron and hankie in pocket, and Shirley put in a little cup and saucer from her old tin things. Shirley also put in a book cover for Myrtle as she had hinted at wanting another. Irl and Bernice get a jar of fancy strawberry preserves. They failed to get any put up last year and Irl was so disappointed. Well, you see, our Christmas has cost next to nothing for what we bought was necessary anyway, but we’ve had a big time this hard times Christmas. Everything looks different when you look at it from Robinson Crusoe’s standpoint, surrounded by a sea of depression, and things show up at a more real value. We appreciate the actual values of things. So we’re going to have a very merry Christmas. Ina Dobson, Christmas 1932

I’m touched every year when I read what Ina has to say about her gift list. Having few resources, she manages to come up with gifts for everyone on her list: “premiums” from the purchase of feed and seed, books they had read, used toys from her own children, items she and Shirley made (such as dress protectors, book covers, and aprons), etc. If she spent money for a gift, it was for something needed anyway, such as gloves, stockings, etc. It gave her joy to plan her Christmas giving. Family members might also include a package of beans or popcorn grown on the farm.
The small farmer had little money but plenty to eat. Ina and her sister Bertha both shared cream, eggs, and chickens with friends in need.

Ina gifts were simple but heartfelt – and there’s something to be said for that. KW

[What do you suppose was the purpose of the cushions stuffed with dried rose petals?] 


Sunday, December 4, 2016


I got a pair of leather-faced gloves for Dad and for Shirley a pair of brushed wool gloves which she needs for going out these winter nights. Henry Shockley comes along and takes her to the singing bees, play practice, etc. Luella Miller started it by asking him to do so, and he seems to remember easily. Well, it is nice she has a way to go and no harm done. Ina Dobson, Christmas 1932

A neighbor told me that another farmer, Jay Cordell, was interested in Shirley, but when Henry came along, Jay backed off. Did Luella think Henry was a better match for Shirley? Or was it simply that Shirley needed a ride? Perhaps Jay wasn’t interested in the “literary” events in which Shirley wanted to participate. (Shirley and Henry married in 1937.)

In the 1930s, and even when I was a youngster in the ‘50s, one could buy a boxed assortment of Christmas cards, usually of the same general type. For instance, if there were twelve cards in the box, there would be three each of four different designs. Mother told me that she would buy such boxed assortments, and she and Fairly (her first husband) would sit together to do their Christmas cards. As she read off a name, he would choose the card.

It wasn’t that way for Mother and her second husband (my dad), though. By the mid-‘50s, Mother selected a beautiful card from a catalog. Then my dad would send to his list and Mother to hers. They both had friends from their previous lives, and Christmas was the time to provide the update. In those days cards were also sent to local friends, too, and Mother took care of that.


“Doing the cards” was a big deal. They set up a card table and worked at it for several days. Distant friends were sure to get notes and sometimes long hand-written letters. KW

Saturday, December 3, 2016


Christmas 1933, Ina’s son Vance (my dad) set out from his home in Raymond, WA (125 miles south of Seattle), to spend Christmas with the folks on the farm. Apparently he became concerned about the weather and stayed in Seattle, but somehow the family at Gilbert didn’t get the message that he wasn’t coming. His sister Myrtle, however, did make it home, traveling to Lewiston from Portland on the train. She writes as follows on December 29, 1933:
I got through in good time, the train was five hours late into Lewiston and we used all the tracks north and south bank, but still I got in in plenty of time to catch the stage* to Orofino. Ed Ingram came for me and we had a hard time making it in from the highway – six inches of snow on top of soft roads. There was a heavy mantle of snow over all the trees. I got a picture of the house [before] the snow began to go. But we will have more, I hope. Myrtle Dobson (Aunt Lynn), Christmas 1933

Well, Vance disappointed his mother Ina “big-time,” so it wasn’t the happiest of Christmases. Oh well. Some Christamases are like that. We wouldn’t know a thing about this if he hadn’t saved the letters, and that’s why my mother tossed them. "Too much information," she might have said.

*I don’t know what “stage” means. In my day, the bus was called "the stage," but in those days, I would think they rode the train . KW

Friday, December 2, 2016


Your Aunt Bertha and Uncle June will be with us, and Mr. and Mrs. Boehm have promised faithfully to come. We have some left over candy boxes that we’re going to fill with sugared popcorn, “old hard Christmas candy,” and the Orofino Mercantile’s best assorted nuts. I had some chickens and eggs to trade at the Merc, so I got supplies and some treats, and Lydia put in an extra pound of the hard candy. June and Bertha felt unable to get treats, so in a way that makes the tree loom larger. We promised to have a regular tree and we’ll all be children and have a lot of fun out of it. – Ina, Christmas 1932
Real time update:
“Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.”
If a mouse isn’t going to stir at my house, I have to take action. I figure setting the traps is Mike’s job, but he kept asking me if I had set them, so finally I did. I put four on the shelves in the garage, resulting in two catches the first night and two the second night.

Kathy – 4; mice – 10,555,679.3

We arose this morning to a low of 24. Checking into next week, we saw that it's going to be cold. Since we were on our way to Orofino today for Harry Cummings' funeral, we decided to go earlier and winterize the farmhouse.  KW

Thursday, December 1, 2016


Out of the welter of Christmas plans comes this letter and how I wish I were coming to you with it or better still that you were coming home. No use to think of these things, though, and I hope and trust you’ll be with friends and be cheered and happy.
 – Ina to her son Vance, Christmas 1932

How like a mother to worry about her son at Christmas! But Ina's pleas that Vance would come home for Christmas fell on deaf ears. In 1934 she wrote, "I'm expecting a good time. I wish you'd come over. Couldn't you have arranged it?" But, I guess Vance didn't want to "be home for Christmas."

Ina was taking a break from her Thursday afternoon chores. Jack had been out to the mailbox and came back with some early cards. They sat down together at the diningroom table  to read them while enjoying coffee and sour cream sugar cookies. Oh! The nutmeg flavor was delightful. It tasted just like Christmas! KW