Monday, December 31, 2007


Ina writes to Vance on February 16, 1936:
Well, I wish you were here right now. The hill east is a marvelous pink and the shadows fall blue to its top. We have about three feet of snow and it is cold. It began piling up week before last and we have had sub-zero weather off and on ever since. Week ago Friday at 9:30 p.m. it was 12 degrees below. That is the coldest we have noted. The last few days are colder – yesterday a.m. it was 8 degrees below, this a.m. 6 degrees below and the highest today we noted was 4 degrees above. Dad keeps a lantern in the cellar “of a nite” and nothing has frozen. At Musser’s it registered 19 degrees below. Reports from Saskatchewan are as low as 55 degrees below, Montana 40 degrees below. I dread to think of Pearl [living the farm life in Alberta] . . . The front door is corked up. We have been using the dining room evenings this cold weather. It is so much warmer, but I’m going back to the other room as soon as possible. I make a little fire in the bedroom every evening now and then the bed is warm. I hang up some things by the stove so keep comfortable. . . Now I must go and build the fire in the bedroom and wash my late dinner dishes and do all the little things to make the evening comfortable. . . . Monday, a.m., and 4 degrees below but clear as a bell. Dad has Earl Plank here and they are sawing down a tree by the pond for wood. We have plenty of limbs but snow too deep to get to them.

Imagining myself in Ina’s house, I can hardly fathom the inconvenience! In a world where hot and cold running water and indoor plumbing are standard, this lady never had such convenience in her own home. The difficulties of carrying water for everyday use and keeping it from freezing she doesn’t mention. Having grown up on the farm, Vance undoubtedly understands the winter routine. Also, Ina’s house wasn’t insulated, and it was cold and drafty no matter how many rooms they closed off. As Ina grew older, she would leave the farm in the winter, visiting family in Idaho Falls, Seattle, Portland, and Drain (OR).
(This picture of Grandpa Jack and Dick was taken by Ina in February 1936.)

Sunday, December 30, 2007

30 ON THE 30TH



Mike had an appointment at TaxTyme yesterday (Sat., 12-29), so I took advantage of the opportunity to ride along and shop in Lewiston. Mike shops an agenda. I like to poke along and look at things, so I enjoy a certain amount of shopping alone. I have things on my mind and sometimes I don’t like to say what they are.

So, I went to Wal-Mart – clear back to the back corner where they keep the crafts – yarn, fabric, patterns. I’m thinking of the Bratz dolls. The little girl who came to our Christmas loves Bratz dolls, and I was just wondering if they had patterns to dress these brats – er, Bratz (dolls with attitudes). I found nothing for the Bratz but was totally captivated by the vintage doll patterns, specifically for the 8-inch Vogue Ginny, Muffy, Madame Alexander dolls. Now we’re talking my favorite dolls! I have those original patterns, but it’s a foregone conclusion – I will buy the reprints if only to encourage the market. My dolls look old now but I still love them and they would like to have new clothes.

Back to the Bratz – An online search confirmed that commercial patterns for Bratz clothes do not exist. One site encouraged me to make my own patterns but to be sure that I’m relaxed and free of stress before beginning in order to keep frustration at a minimum. Do these people know me or what? Another site offered crochet patterns using bits of leftover lightweight yarn. Maybe I’ll give that a try. Tough to do when you don’t have a doll on hand. Not sure I want a brat – er, Bratz.

Today’s highlights – Clinton and Elisha came over. Clint watched football with Mike while Elisha and I visited. I showed her the photo album Hallie organized for my 50th birthday. They left about 4:00. Clint will drive back to Hagerman tomorrow. Then brother Chuck called from his home in Ivins, Utah, to visit for a while.

Saturday, December 29, 2007


The info below was extracted from Carol's email message:

With the kitchen remodel (everything is still not back in the new cabinets!) and Mother's need for more of my time and care, I've neglected some other things I needed to do.

Each morning I go over to help her get dressed and give her breakfast and return each evening to get her ready for bed. She has so much difficulty breathing that she pants and struggles whenever she moves any part of her body--sometimes even with her oxygen in her nose. When I'm not there, she often forgets to put the oxygen on, which makes it all much worse.

This picture of Carol, Mother Bennie, and Hallie was taken in Memphis in May 2007.

Friday, December 28, 2007


Well, the foot surgery kept me out of the saddle 3 weeks. As Kathy mentioned, we went to the bike shop yesterday and picked up a set of big platform pedals off a mountain bike. I put them on the Schwinn road bike and did a little session on the stationary trainer. That went well so this afternoon I hit the road. I found it's easier to cycle than walk. It went well with my foot and not too bad on my shoulder but I did have a flat. At least now I know I'll be able to get at least a little exercise. M/W


By pre-arrangement, Clinton came over yesterday morning (Thurs., 12-27). He brought with him new clothes that he needed for weekend activities. I washed, shortened and pressed while he helped Mike set up the TaxTyme operation in a Lewiston office. Then after lunch, he designed a tool pouch out of an old pair of jeans and I stitched as directed. He insisted the end product would be serviceable. I think it’s a good idea that needs refinement. We agreed we have no dearth of worn out jeans; we can try again.

After Clint left, Mike and I ran errands. He is ready to return to more vigorous exercise, i.e. cycling, so we went to the bike shop and bought secondhand pedals broad enough to fit the big sole of his walking shoe / sandal. I have started an old-fashioned “farm” shawl for myself so we stopped by the craft shop for yarn.

What a surprise to find Chris and Dan from Moscow here at the house upon our return! They declined to come in as they still had more stops to make, but we were so glad we hadn’t missed them. Chris left a gift from her workshop / sewing room on our door – a pair of holiday pillowcases (a head start on my collection of holiday linens, she said) and a little tree ornament (a lace angel). While we had an early Christmas celebration, they are having theirs this weekend.

And Ken took Nellie hunting, giving that bundle of energy a needed outlet.

All in all – a great day!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007


It’s back to town time after a wonderful Christmas on the farm. Mike and I left Clarkston Thursday morning and drove to the farm. The Magnum was packed full. When I asked if I could take a coffee pot, Mike said no, and I suppose he was right. One more thing might have caused an explosion. Ordinarily we would make several trips in preparation for Christmas, but due to Mike’s foot surgery we stayed in town. We had to take provisions for a four-day stay in the country plus decorations and gifts. After unloading the car, I set up the tree (a pre-lit artificial) and tried to coax the house into looking as though Christmas were coming. Holiday stuffed animals, candles, and holiday throws helped me out. By 5:00 p.m. I was ready to start my baking – Chex mix and festive fruit squares. That’s what “baking” means these days.

Friday evening Hallie and Nick arrived so Saturday morning our holiday games began. We started with Scrabble, then moved to Chinese Checkers in the afternoon and Dominoes in the evening. Somehow I found time to roast the turkey and make a mystery pecan pie. It snowed in earnest during the afternoon.

Sunday both Mike and I were up bright and early. He was in some pain and I had to be sure that Santa’s work was in order. About noon, Clinton arrived with his friend and her little girl. It was snowing again so we enjoyed some time outdoors watching Nellie try to figure out why snowballs disintegrate on impact and doing some sledding. We opened our stockings and gifts late afternoon and Clinton left to return to Lewiston.

Monday morning, Christmas Eve, Hallie and Nick left about 9:00 a.m. for Connell, WA, where his parents live. By that time the county had plowed all the way to our gate. Hallie reported that she had to make two runs at Plank’s hill but had no other problems getting out. When we left during the noon hour we had no problem in the Magnum – again packed full, this time with the remnants of our holiday.

That same morning -- Christmas Eve -- Mike and I spent in preparation to close the house for the winter. I took the tree down while he cleaned the kitchen, gathered laundry, etc. Arriving in town about 1:30, I unpacked boxes and started laundry while Mike washed the filthy car. Our neighbor came over with a gift, a more meaningful gesture than he will ever know since our celebration was over. We also found a gift from the Denver Warnocks at the door and saved opening it until Christmas morning.

Monday, December 24, 2007


Hallie & Nick arrived at the farmhouse rather late Friday night. "We went through Orofino on our way here," said Hallie. "The house was dark." "No decorations, huh?" I asked. "More than that -- no one there. No lights -- not so much as a security light. And the cars are covered."

I wouldn't go back if I could. And I wouldn't trade today's blessings for yesterday's. Still -- it was hard to think of the house standing in darkness at Christmas. I just can't think of a way to develop this entry that seems very productive. Somehow, though, this little tribute to the way it used to be seemed in order. KW

Thursday, December 20, 2007


This was my mother and dad's Christmas card in 1960.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007


Grandma Ina is spending Christmas in Portland with her daughter, Myrtle (also called Lynn in those days). She writes about Christmas shopping in downtown Portland:
. . . Lynn went out and got a nice little tree, just right for size and shape, and for only 25 cents, much to our surprise. Next day was fine and sunny and we went down town to do our last shopping. The shops were beautiful with all sorts of gay and clever Christmas displays. The markets were a dream of luscious foods, and I wished for Dickens to describe them for me; turkeys, geese, ducks, fat chickens, beef roasts and cuts of all kinds, hams, bacon, pork roasts and chops, cranberries as big as cherries, bags and baskets of nuts (the biggest walnuts and filberts I ever saw), jars of mincemeat, pies, cakes, and cookies of every sort, baskets filled with the finest fruits, and all wrapped in colored cellophane. I kept falling behind to admire things, while Lynn went blithely on her way among the happy people.

We got a small young chicken, ripe olives, cranberries, huge filberts, and some holly sprigs to make it complete; all this to be added to our supplies at home. About noon we went into Mannings (tea and coffee importers) who have a fine lunch room and serve their famous coffee. We had Scotch scones and coffee at a little table and rested. Got home about 3:30, tired and happy. I had captured the Christmas spirit which had eluded me for some time past.

That evening we set up the tree and put boughs and sprigs of holly on the pictures and curtains. The tree had too many boughs for our purpose and so it furnished decorations too. We made the tree gay with stars, beads, and silver rain, then tied tiny packages and red bows of cellophane on to complete the picture. Other packages were piled around the tree which stood on the table in front of the windows in the living room. We retired late, and wished each other a Merry Christmas, for it was after twelve before we slept. We arose late next morning, and after a leisurely breakfast and some clearing up, lighted the tree with old fashioned candles. After admiring it for a while, we opened our presents.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007


I'm sorry I confused you with the previous entry. It crossed my mind to add an "editorial" explanation but then I forgot. My two grandmas, Ina and Nina Saunders Portfors had known each other for many years, Ina being almost a generation older than Nina. The Dobson families and the Saunders family were neighbors while farming on a ridge near Troy in the 1890s. Time goes on and eventually Ina's daughter, Pearl, marries Nina's brother, Albert. More time goes by and Ina's son, Vance, marries Nina's daughter, Dorothy, but that is yet to happen. Why are you people confused? (LOL) This picture is one of my favorites. It was taken at a Fourth of July picnic in 1933. Sitting front left is my Grandfather Charlie Portfors with Grandma Nina Portfors just behind him. My mother is next to him holding Harriet. Seated to Mother's left is Aunt Muriel Saunders German, Nina's sister. The tall lady behind Aunt Muriel is Nina's mother, Alice Mary Stinson Saunders. Alice was an experienced farm wife when Ina was having babies, and I know she looked to Alice for advice. So, Ina was naturally interested in the health of Nina's mother who was very elderly in 1934. And yes, 116 is way to skinny for Dorothy, who had just given birth (to Joni) in November 1934. Mother suffered bouts of anorexia. The photo includes other family members including Jack and Ina; Uncle Al Sanders and son Stanley; Uncle Earle and Aunt Bernice Dobson; Aunt Naomi Long and her family; etc. Pearl and Al's visit brought the two famlies together on this occasion. I believe Aunt Pearl took the picture.

Monday, December 17, 2007


Well, “they say” you don’t have to answer a Xmas card -- see – till next Xmas. It is more in the nature of a gift, so to speak, tho I’ve always hated not to do so. My way is to get a supply of New Year cards; then if I’m caught a few lines on the card fixes it or the card alone, see! I sent Portfors a Xmas card this year and they hadn’t sent me one so Nina called me up and we had a nice chat. Dorothy and Fairly are fine. Dorothy weighs 116 pounds and feels better than for a long time, also never weighed that much before. Fairly now in the Forest Service work establishing look-outs. He was in the erosion work. Nina’s mother has been in Portland since August and had a cataract removed from her blind eye so now sees pretty well once more. She’s with Bessie.

Sunday, December 16, 2007


You say you're coming . . . when?
And you wanted to sleep . . . where?

Saturday, December 15, 2007


Christmas morning I arose tardily to begin my 1934 Xmas. Dad went to “feed the chores” and I began breakfast: biscuits and sausage for him, beefsteak, cream gravy, and lite bread for me, also grapefruit, cereal, cranberries, and honey oranges. I gave Dick [Aha! – the dog’s name is Dick! Here Dick!] a generous breakfast of meat scraps, etc., and the cats also with liver to top it off and wished them all a “Merry Xmas.” I then fell to work and was all done and dressed and fixing my apples for salad when the guests came. Doris & Ruth [June’s daughters] helped me lite the tree and arrange seats. It looked very pretty and everybody seemed to enjoy themselves.

The girls set the table and made themselves generally useful. Mrs. Cordell and Aunt helped in the kitchen. In fact, Aunt helped me out by dressing a fat young rooster and bringing it ready for the roaster. She also insisted on making pies since I had my hands full – mince and pumpkin. One of each would be plenty, I said, but no – here came two each and ginger cookies frosted. She’d tried a new recipe. So we had mince and pumpkin pie with whipped cream on it, ginger cookies, fruit cake and do-nuts, and fruit and whipped cream for that, coffee, oranges, nuts and candy besides the after dinner mints. Well, we just parceled out the leftovers amongst the guests. I got thru it just fine. It was a good day.

Friday, December 14, 2007


Jan. 13, 1935
Dear Son,
We are “as well as usual,” blessed phrase! The snow is about 15 inches deep and drifted. The trees are beautiful with it and we have magnificent effects at sunrise and set.

I got along just fine with my Xmas doings. “This is the first Christmas I ever spent without the voice of one of my children in the house.” But don’t let your heart sink at that thought. There were children to the right of me and children to the left of me, north, south, east and west, and though they didn’t “bay and thunder,” they charged the lonely Xmas idea with such skill and loyalty that is was dispelled as a visit before the sun. We had a lovely time, not only that day but beforehand.

The morning of Dec. 24, I made donuts for I must have fresh donuts for Xmas, and you know “do-nuts and coffee never hurt anyone.” That evening after all was cleared away, Dad popped two kettlefuls of lovely corn and we sugared one and put taffy over the other. We heaped a large platter with balls till Dad said, “Oh, that’s enough,” for he wanted some left to eat. Well, I sent him off to the living room to eat and read. Then I prepared my dressing and sweet potatoes for the morrow and put my buns to rise, for I’d baked lite bread and roasted beef too. At last I repaired to my seat before the fire with a pan of sugared corn, nuts and candy and filled eleven little Xmas boxes for the tree. Then I fell upon the boxes. Ethel’s was wrapped with green string and I cut this off to tie on packages, being foolish about green string for my tree packages . . . The packages were all so pretty and I had a great time hanging them on the tree and under it.

Thursday, December 13, 2007


Dec. 20, 1934
Dear Vance,
Just a line or two to let you know I am busy running to mailbox nowdays and writing letters. I killed a beef a few days ago – dressed 260 pounds. Come and help eat it up. Got a 240 pound hog of Jay Cordell, also made some sausage today. I got my fall grain sowed and all of the plowing done but 5 acres. I have 9 traps set for coyotes but have not got any yet. We have about 6 inches of snow but it has not been very cold – 18 above the coldest. I will have to cut my summer wood after the holidays.

When Ina and I get the old age pension we are going to come and make you a visit. We will have nothing to do. Will have to turn the farm over to someone else. The government won’t allow us to work any more so as to give someone else employment that has not got a job.

There is lots of chinks around here this winter. I counted 20 in one bunch and some got away before I counted them. Merry Christmas. From Dad

(Top photo is Jack Dobson sitting in the dining room. Behind him in the corner is the old treadle sewing machine. Photo above is Jack going about his chores.)

Wednesday, December 12, 2007


Thursday Evening, Dec. 22, 1934

I’m standing the Xmas doing fine. Ruth has been here two days helping for I’m making a dress for her of one of Ida’s. Most of my letters and cards are written and my last box went off today. I forgot to tell anyone it would be a ‘skimpy Xmas.’ Pearl said she couldn’t send presents. Nothing to sell tho they have vegetables, fruit, beef and pork and of course plenty of milk, butter, so they’ll do, but Al had borrowed $600 on his salary to pay some bills and get stuff and it was all gone. . . Ethel said this move would strap them and she couldn’t do anything either. Well, anyway, you ‘have done something’ so here’s hoping. Ruth is coming down to help me decorate the tree and they’ll all [June & Bertha’s family] be here for Xmas as usual and maybe Cordells will too if he is able and John B. I’m expecting a good time. I wish you’d come over. Couldn’t you have arranged it?

[Again she lists the items she has sent to her children and grandchildren, much as in prior years – useful items, needful things. The gift to Myrtle was most interesting, I thought.] “To Myrtle an atlas she’d wanted and a lady doll to muffle her clock at night. I made the doll, a full old-fashioned skirt of velvet lined and padded with cotton. I hope it fits. . . “

I may fill little boxes with sugared popcorn, nuts, candy for the tree just to make it livelier. Shirley sent me a box with paper tags, etc., and some small stick candy and nuts for the boxes. We send a crate of eggs to town about every two weeks and it keeps us in groceries. I got candy, nuts, oranges, grapefruit, etc. We’ll have to have some lettuce, celery, etc., come up for Xmas, too. Aunt is helping me out by doing some of the cooking – pies, cookies, etc. Earl’s box has come and Myrtle’s. I must close with love and all good wishes, tho that doesn’t express it at all it seems to me. Mother – hugs & kisses.
(Top photo is the barn in the 1930s. Lower photo is the barn in 2007.)


Yesterday we saw the podiatrist for a post-op check on Mike's left foot. The podiatrist was more than pleased with his work. The bandage was changed and Mike was "admonished" to continue to wear the walking boot / cast anytime he is on his feet. His next appointment is 12-18-07 for removal of stitches. The doctor said we will see diminished swelling by that time. Getting around is difficult but not impossible. He has been to the library for books and we've done some limited shopping. It's so good that he can be mobile and at least enjoy a change of scene.

What concerns us most at this time is that Mike is experiencing significant left shoulder pain. This impacts not only our plans for the holidays but worries him because of his tax prep responsibilities for CashTyme. I expect he will schedule a medical appointment soon.

Now you know why I'm spending the holidays with Ina. We're not generating much holiday spirit here, although I've finished one gift and am completing another. There's no place for a tree at the town house, but I have my Christmas Village displayed as well as some other Christmas ceramics. In this picture you see some of them cavorting over the holiday dishes. (KW)

Tuesday, December 11, 2007


Though not a Christmas entry per se, anyone who has traveled the controversial route connecting northern and southern Idaho will surely enjoy the following written by Ina in the fall of 1934. Shirley leaves the area to spend some time with Earle and Bernice in Idaho Falls, where they are both teachers and lucky to have good jobs in Depression years. Shirley's absence will make Ina's Christmas celebration in 1934 rather lonely.

"Shirley left a week ago today for Idaho Falls and it just makes you rave to think that it’s like a trip to another country to get to the southern part of your own state. You have to go to Lewiston and I believe stay all night, then on to Grangeville where you arrive about 7 p.m. and stay all night, then to Boise and stay all night; arrive Idaho Falls at 4:30 next day. Her ticket from Grangeville was $13.45 one way, and I believe that is exactly what mine cost to Portland and return. We arranged it so Henry Shockley could take her to Grangeville and that made it a lot easier as well as less expensive. She needed a change badly, and may be able to find a job down there. It seems strange to be here alone again, and lonely. You must write to me, Vance."

Monday, December 10, 2007


When I was a little girl, I had a favorite color book that both my mother and I loved – Little Miss Christmas Meets Santa Claus. The sweet-faced Miss Christmas was typical of children’s illustrations of the 1950s. Someplace along the line, my original copy was tossed; I had probably colored on every page and therefore it was deemed used and useless and thrown out. Over the last several years I would occasionally search the internet for this color book in vintage or replica form, but I was not successful in finding it – until Thanksgiving Day. I was actually looking for information on vintage Christmas cards to include replicas when a specific website came up and I found myself looking through rows of Christmas cards from the 1950s – and there it was – the Little Miss Christmas color book. The original drawings are the work of Charlot Bij, who also illustrated some of my other favorite Christmas books. I should have known all those faces were the work of one person – just never thought about it.

So, I ordered two copies of that long-sought color book. “But you’re too old to color,” said Mike. No, I’m not! And besides, the point is to nurture one’s inner child, the person who truly counts. (KW)


“This is such a strange winter. We had a skiff of snow Friday night, but today it is all gone and the ground quite soft though I believe not all the frost has gone out of it. It rained a bit yesterday up here and quite a little in town. People are surely sick of it, but it does help those who are too poor to have much heat, when it stays so warm. Seems colder tonight and is somewhat cloudy so it may snow.

“New Year’s Eve the Harold Powells asked Henry, Myrtle and myself over for the evening and we had a most enjoyable time listening to their good radio and playing anagrams. They really are delightful people. We didn’t come home till after 2 a.m. so we were somewhat sleepy at Aunt’s the next day. She had the usual big dinner which everyone thoroughly enjoyed . . .

“Last Tuesday night we had a few people in for the evening . . . Myrtle was very anxious to have “Pit” so we got a “Pit” deck and played that and “Anagrams.” Had lunch about midnight and we might have tried some square dances, for we can get good music over the radio, but it was too late. Mama stood it very well; we had planned she could slip away to bed, but she stayed up after all, being quite gay and giddy. We had a nice time and I think the folks did though we did nothing so exciting.”

This picture of Aunt Shirley and Uncle Henry Shockley was taken on their wedding day, June 24, 1937. They are standing on the south end of the front porch in front of Grandma Ina's clematis.

Sunday, December 9, 2007


Written by Ina, January 14, 1934:
Dear Vance:
Your presents are very nice indeed and you said you wouldn’t spend much on us! The etchings are lovely and will make a fine group over the mantel. Thank you, and don’t do it again. These look like money to me. You mustn’t make false promises, you know, about not spending much on Xmas presents. Well, these things are the aristocrats among pictures. I feel I’ll have to live up to them . . . The glass on both etchings was smashed to bits but they were not hurt. We took them to town and Oud’s replaced the glass for the princely sum of 55 cents for both. It is good clear glass, too, bright and shiny, so don’t tear your hair. There was lots of packing but too much weight on them, I think, in mails.

No one here can recall such rain and floods at this time of year ever and we had such high winds for a week or more. June’s old bean house blew down onto grass separator damaging it a good deal. . . Dad cut the tall pine just back of the house. It had become dangerous, but there are still others back of it to shelter the house. He also cut the group of small pines just northwest of the hog house. Some were dead and now it gives us a beautiful view of trees and mountains to the north and east. We hated to cut them but are glad to be so we can see out and we have such lovely changing pictures.

P.S. If you are near a radio, tune in on the Columbia network Saturday p.m., 7 o’clock and hear Byrd talk . . .

This view to the north and east was taken by Ina in 1934. In another letter she provided that the only camera she has is a little Kodak with "one viewfinder up and down."

Saturday, December 8, 2007


Pssst -- Mike! We can still go hunting, right?

It doesn't look good for hunting, does it?

I get the picture. Too sad for words.


This Christmas of 1933, Vance set out from Raymond, Washington, to spend Christmas with the folks on the farm. He turned back for some reason and didn't make it clear to the awaiting family that he would not be 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:

“It’s a great treat to be at home and to have had Christmas here. . . Thursday a.m. we pulled down the blinds and had the tree. It was piled full at the foot, besides the table. A huge Xmas was had by all.

I got through in good time, the train was 5 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, the snow began to go. But we will have more, I hope. We took pictures of the tree with all the presents, then yesterday took a picture of the wreckage for fun.”
I've seen those pictures, I thought to myself. And sure enough -- I've posted them for you. The tree sits where we now have the piano. Note the little black stool in the photo above. That now sits at the back door of the modular home.
Regarding Myrtle's visit, Jack writes: "Myrtle kept us interested in her chatter while she was here. We couldn't hear ourselves think at times.

Friday, December 7, 2007


The Christmas of 1933, Vance was expected home, but when it didn’t work out on his end, his communication to the family waiting at the farm was not clear. I’ll skip Ina’s description of their worry.

“Well, we had the usual ‘frugal Xmas,’ with gifts piled around the tree and on the library table, etc., also hung a pair of stockings on Shirley’s door. We were afraid we’d have a black Xmas but Sunday it began snowing and Xmas a.m. we had nearly 6 inches and a lovely snow falling. . . On the whole Sunday went off pleasantly. I made my pumpkin pies for the dinner and in the evening Dad popped two kettlefuls of corn and I put molasses and sugar taffy over it. Very good! We heard part of A Christmas Carol over the radio and various other good music. Monday a.m. June’s arrived in force, but we decided to hold the tree (for you) until evening and had a lively day and a good dinner though not lavish, and I ate my fill according to a previous promise to myself. In the evening, we had more radio, more popcorn balls, more nuts and candy, and learning you hadn’t come in on the stage, decided to distribute part of the presents, so lit the tree . . .

“Yesterday we were at Aunt’s for New Year’s Day. And oh! The lavish dinner! Oyster soup – very good, fried chicken, gravy, potatoes, corn on the cob, cabbage salad, Jell-O fruit salad, fruit cake with thick icing, mince pie, pumpkin pie, apricot Jell-O pie, etc., etc., etc. – and then Aunt said, ‘Why Ruth! We didn’t put any citron preserves on the table.’ Also, popcorn balls, nuts, candy, and gum.”

Ina adds: “The snow is all gone off in a rain and dreadful reports from California over the radio last night – 12 inches of rain in 30 hours, lives lost, damage to houses, bridges, roads, etc. We never had such work before at this time of year.”

This picture was taken July 4, 1933, when some members of Ina's family were present at an extended family picnic. Al Sanders stands in the back. From left: Earle & Bernice Dobson, Pearl Dobson Sanders, Grandma Ina & Grandpa Jack Dobson, & Stanley Sanders (13 years old). Granddaughter Shirley Jean Robinson stands in front (7 years old). (KW)


Following Mike's foot surgery, I listened to the nurse's instructions for his care and was then handed a release and asked to sign on the bottom line over the words "responsible adult." So it's come to this, I thought. No longer parent / guardian but "responsible adult." Responsible for what? I wondered, although I knew that if Mike heard the discussion, he wasn't taking it in -- meaning that someone would have to be -- well, responsible.

Mike has had his challenges over the last 48 hours since coming home, most of them stemming from reaction to pain meds. He has now discontinued all prescription pain medication and is actually doing a lot better. The throbbing pain has abated and soreness set in. We returned the little scooter apparatus -- perhaps prematurely -- and he has been experimenting with various walking aids. Right now he finds his hiking sticks helpful. (KW)

Thursday, December 6, 2007


In 1932 Ina and Jack came by a radio. When some of the children learned that $3.00 would put it in working order, they “sent the needful,” as Ina put it. Here Ina describes listening to the radio on New Year’s Eve, 1932:

"Last night Shirley and I stayed up to see the New Year in from the east coast to the west. They began at 9:00 at New York City when pandemonium broke loose on Broadway till we could hardly hear the chimes from the great Trinity Church. Perhaps you were listening in, too. We bathed while the New Year was crossing the Great Plains and getting into the mountains to be heralded at Denver. Chicago ushered it in on Central Standard time. I curled up on the couch and took a nap while 1933 was crossing the mountain chains and reaching the city which sits by the Golden Gate. There again was great sound and we could hear the steamers bellowing and such a confusion of sounds [so that] we could hardly hear the bell tolling out the midnight hour. Earlier in the evening we heard a funny and clever program from the New York studio, “The Kukus.” They put on such clever skits. We heard Arthur Lipman . . . I’ve often read his poetry in the Saturday Evening Post."

This letter is one of my favorites. To think of a rural farm family hearing the sounds of celebrations as the New Year -- 1933 -- gradually arrives in cities across our country is fascinating to me. I love listening to the old radio programs. I have a tape of "A Christmas Carol" as originally broadcast in 1939 with Lionel Barrymore and was delighted to find some radio stations still broadcast it on Christmas Eve. (KW)

Wednesday, December 5, 2007


Mike is home and "resting comfortably" after surgery on his left foot. Because his bones are hard and in such great shape, the doctor was able to do a different procedure than expected and Mike was provided a walking boot. We had been told repeatedly that this surgery would require him to stay off the foot for six weeks and over the last month we have planned for that eventuality. We are so grateful that he can walk and in fact is walking now. Of course, he's not supposed to go anywhere or do anything -- no strenuous activity -- but just knowing he can put weight on his foot, move through the house, and walk from the car to house or business is such a relief! It means he can feed the dog, make his muffins, stand in the shower -- all those little things that one takes for granted. And, if all goes well, in three weeks he will be fitted with a walking shoe, the doctor said.

There was a little glitch with surgery. He evidently had an allergic reaction to the anesthesia which caused heart arrhythmia. He is never to have that anesthetic again.

I enjoyed several hours of productive shopping while Mike was indisposed. I arrived at Wal-Mart before daybreak and cashiers were waiting to serve me when I was ready to check out an hour and a half later. (KW)


Shirley, Ina's youngest child, writes to Vance on 1-2-1933:

“Christmas and New Years are both history again after all the feverish making and planning and mailing. It did keep us going before Christmas, but it was fun and we surely made several somethings out of quite a lot of nothings.

“I decorated the house with lots of boughs and the Drain mistletoe [from relatives in Drain, Oregon] over both sides of the sliding doors, and your holly added so much to the window curtains. I’m very glad you sent it for it would have been a disappointment not to have any. . .

“On Wednesday night before Christmas a big bobsled load of us – nineteen in all and with a four-horse team – went up to the old schoolhouse to the school program and tree. It was lots of fun and I believe the last I went to was when . . . I was in the program myself back in 1923! I got a great kick out of watching these various kids perform and make mistakes and more fun still to see them eating candy and popcorn balls up front while the tree was being ‘had.’

“We had a lovely snowstorm this morning – quiet and such big soft flakes falling so thickly.”

Tuesday, December 4, 2007


This photo is of June (Junius) and Bertha Dobson on the left and Jack and Ina Dobson on the right. Jack and June were twins, Ida and Bertha sisters.
After Christmas, 1932, Ina wrote the following to Vance:
We had a very pleasant and jolly Xmas. The Boehms and June’s were here and the little boxes of treats were just the thing. We kept the tree till all got here. June was the last as he had to shave, much to Aunt’s disgust. She said he sat around and read instead of shaving, and she had Ruth [Aunt’s daughter] call him and tell him we were waiting on him, and then she called him up and told him he was holding everything up. We all got tickled over it. When June came in sight, Shirley lit the tree, and it was so very pretty. She had the rooms decorated very nicely, too, with boughs. After the gifts were distributed, I dragged the cask from Myrtle to the center and we unloaded it. It held two packages of fancy prunes, two packages of fancy raisins in cellophane, and a quantity of fine nuts and six packages [of something]. Imagine the crunching and munching and general messing of wrappings, etc. The moon was shining in brightly and lighting the tree and everything else in sight. One of Earle’s packages contained two fresh coconuts . . .

Your two huge packages came Saturday evening and were a source of great curiosity. You do think of the nicest things! They are lovely and the [magazine] rack is not bulky and will soon be full. Think you did a good job on the painting, especially the birds. [We still have and use this magazine rack my dad made.] Don’t just know where I’m going to put the table yet, but it is a darling little table and adds greatly to our possessions. . .

Well, we had a great Xmas, and it helps to pass the winter. People can do things like this if they want to. No use to let everything go because of hard times.

Monday, December 3, 2007


Continuing the letter of Dec. 21, 1932, Ina lists the gifts she is mailing to family members. "We sent Stan a premium fountain pen Dad got last year – think it will do him good service – and a pretty quilt top, all the material on hand. Aunt put in a pair of pillowcases and Ken’s old toy typewriter. 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 Jean has always been crazy over them. 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 Xmas has cost next to nothing for what we bought was necessary anyway, but we’ve had a big time this hard times Xmas. 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 Xmas.

"Myrtle’s box, or keg (?) came yesterday and looks like it would hold about three gallons. Her letter says it is treats for all so that will add to it. Ethel found that $3.00 would fix up the radio so got busy and she, Earl and Myrtle sent the needful and we are very glad indeed to have it. There is a big box here from Irl and Bernice and a small one from Pearl, and Ethel got some bargain blankets so she sent two pair home and June’s get one and also they get a teapot from her. So we’ll have lots of Xmas. And Dad and June have each killed a young beef so that makes for good eats . . . "


We were out before 8:00 this morning in order to run errands and also attend a pre-op appointment with Syringa Surgery. I will drop Mike there Wednesday by 6:00 a.m. for bunion / hammer toe surgery. The plan is for me to pick him up between 9:30 - 10:00. I will probably wait for him in Lewiston. Sounds like a good time to shop at Wal-Mart to me! I just have to remember to turn the cell phone on in case they need me. Recovery will constitute six weeks of "down time" for Mike. We've worked so hard to think it through and cover our bases (winterize the farm house, cut wood, pick up new tv, put up exterior Christmas lights, final hunts, etc.), and I find myself forgetting that I will be able to get out and do things.

Sunday, December 2, 2007


Grandma Ina writes from the Gilbert homeplace on December 21, 1932:
Dear Vance,
“Out of the welter of Xmas 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.

"We’re going to have June’s [family 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 Xmas candy,” and the Merc’s [the Orofino Mercantile] best assorted nuts. Listen, the hard candy cost 9 cents a pound, cream 15 cents a pint, nuts two pounds for 35 cents. Some change! I had some chickens and eggs to send down [to the Merc] lately and so 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.”

“I’m putting a pound of Climax [chewing tobacco] on [the tree] for Dad. He doesn’t know I got an extra pound. It is for fun but I know he’ll be glad to see it coming. I got a pair of leather-faced gloves for him, too, and for Shirley a pair of brushed wool gloves which she needs for going out these winter nights. I also got her a box of pretty stationery – also a necessity. Then I’ve got her going on a surprise which is a pretty print apron. She’ll never think of it for it was left over from the stuff I made Pearl’s quilt top with."

Saturday, December 1, 2007


Ina's house in the 1930s -- and Kathy's house, 2007

“The house isn’t haunted,” volunteered my son, Clinton, who had just returned from spending a night or two in the farmhouse. At that time, we were still in the remodeling process. “He just doesn’t know,” I thought to myself. Just because there aren’t ethereal sightings doesn’t mean the house isn’t haunted. In fact, when Mike and I began to discuss the possibility of remodeling the farmhouse as our own home, I at once thought of my grandmother, of the abiding love her children had for her and then for her memory. And I wondered if I could really feel free to make the house my own. Mike and I continue to think often of the history – not only of the two Dobson families living on adjoining farms but of the Russell Ridge community in general.

Fortunately, my dad had a sense for what might prove interesting or important in the future and he saved letters written by his mother and siblings during the lean depression years. During the month of December I hope you will join me here as I share “Christmas with Ina” in her own words.

As my account begins in 1932, Ina is 62 years old, and Jack, her husband, is 69. The farmhouse is 15 years old. They have no running water, no well. They carry water from a spring. They have no electricity; they use kerosene lanterns for evening light and the house is heated by the fireplace and the old wood cook stove. Grandpa Jack farms with horses. Life on the farm is hard; they are older and tired and they have no choice but to keep on. They do have a telephone, and as you will see, they have just obtained a radio. Of their six children, only Shirley, age 22, remains at home. She will eventually marry Henry Shockley who is mentioned frequently in these letters.