Saturday, December 5, 2009

Sorry to be redundant

The time between my postings is so long that I ask your patience if I repeat myself. Thanks.

The nation's soon-called "war machine" was already going at a feverish pace when Grandpa punched his first time card at "the Yard." President Roosevelt surely sensed mass-America would respond to his call to arms. The patriotic fervor that gripped the United States in late 1941 drew everyone into one big bundle of energy, focus, and determination. No enemy could attack us and get away with it.

So - to return to my story.

The Americans who journeyed from their homes to locations so different from where they had grown up certainly suffered a kind of "culture shock." For my family they left the prairies, mines, and fresh water lakes of Minnesota for an island surrounded by the salt waters of Puget Sound and craggy, snow-covered mountain ranges. I don't recall any stories about any effect their new geography might have had on family members. Such is the testament to the energy and excitement that propelled the nation then, and in our case, the Scandinavian culture of stoicism. I can only imagine my grandmother's fright as she boarded the ferry in Seattle for the cross-Sound trip to Bainbridge Island - she was terrified of water. It is even more surprising to me that in subsequent years she let us kids go off on our own to play on the beach and float on inner tubes day after after summer day in the waters of Eagle Harbor. There was no thought of pollution from ferries or any water-borne vessels. The Creosote plant that, more than forty years later was declared a super-pollution source, smoked away on the opposite shore from where we played. We avoided the sticky, tarry black stuff that dotted the driftwood but as children will be children, sometimes we played with it and sometimes there were accidents. Like the time a glob got stuck in my hair and had to be cut out. The pungent smell was ever-present and was as much a part of the landscape as the smell of the saltwater ecosystem. (By the way, I should mention Gramma was in charge of all the family's children; her own and her grandchildren because our parents were busy working.)

Grandpa purchased one of the old Meigs sawmill houses in Port Madison before the rest of the family arrived. It was a small, two-story place with four bedrooms on the second floor; two on each side of the central hallway. On the main floor there was the parlor, dining room, kitchen, pantry, and the only bathroom. There was no central heating system. In the parlor, which was not used often, a small wood-fired heater sat to one side. The kitchen was the hub of all action. The cookstove, also wood-fired, served many purposes. Of course it was where all the food was boiled, fried, baked, and roasted. It was the heat source for canning vegetables and fruits, simmering jams and jellies, for drying clothes when it was too wet and/or cold outside (in the Pacific NorthWest that is most of the time) and to warm the house. That is, in the winter. In the summer, it kept the house too warm. Just outside the back door, a wooden staircase led to a basement pantry. It was dirt-floored, damp, dark, and musty. Gramma nearly fell quite a few times as she hauled foodstuffs up and down the steep stairs.

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