Thursday, July 15, 2010

Sugar and Books and Other Stuff

There wasn't an Island public library like there is now. When school was out for the summer, so was my access to lots of books and I was thoroughly addicted to reading - books, comics, the newspaper, Reader's Digest - almost anything. So the Kitsap County Bookmobile was my love. It had begun its bi-weekly trips to the Island in 1947. The route for each trip was tacked in Gramma's kitchen. One of the stops was at the top of the Hawley hill. I didn't miss a visit and waited in line no matter how long it took, for my turn to enter the book-lined van. The metal steps creaked and the inside-warmth enveloped me as I grabbed a stack of books. The checkout card inside the cover of each book more often than not was crowded with stamped dates and initials. I could hardly wait to get the books, dash to my grandmother's kitchen for a jar of Kool-Aid and a butter and sugar sandwich, to hide out behind the woodshed and read all day. The war's sugar rationing had finally ended so one of our favorite lunches was the aforementioned sugar on buttered, homemade bread. Coupled with the heavily sugared Kool-Aid I was set for an all afternoon and well into the night reading marathon, amply fueled on sugar. Obviously there was no concern about the effects of too much of the sweet stuff.

Because the Northwest is located on more northern latitudes, summer days are longer than for nearly the entire rest of the country. Even though I slept fewer hours than anyone in my family, I still woke up to sunshine and went to sleep with the sun still bright. My bedroom window faced west; my bed was pushed against the window sill. With my head and shoulders poked through the iron bedstead I could hear all the outside sounds and feel the warmth of the sun. Those days were languid; the air was soft and sweet.

Kids had so much to do, the summertime Saturday matinees at the Lynwood Theatre were suspended because attendance was so low. School buses picked us up for swimming lessons at the Naval Radio Station's pool. At Day Camp at the Sandspit, we girls pressed flowers and leaves. There were sports and crafts classes at the high school, "Vacation Bible" classes, bicycle and horse riding, and building forts in the woods. "Catching the ferry waves" while floating on an inner tube was one of my favorite ways to pass hours. The sun beat down, the salt water was cool. My grandparents' house was a five minute walk up the hill from Eagle Harbor, in Hawley, so my sister, brother, cousins, and uncle spent a lot of time on the beach. We popped the slimy heads of kelp seaweed, caught tadpoles in the beach swamp, chased crabs from beneath rocks, and built more forts within the huge beach driftwood piles as well as played and swam in the water. We didn't know it was supposed to be too cold for much swimming.

In the grey, damp days the rest of the year, the Saturday matinees drew full-house crowds. We watched serial adventures of "Sky King", "Hopalong Cassidy", "Roy Rogers", "Flash Gordon" and many more. Porky Pig, Bugs Bunny, The Road Runner, Donald Duck, and all the other cartoon characters bashed each other as we laughed at the ubiquitous violence. Many of us brought our own homemade snacks because the theatre's popcorn and candy were too expensive.

Our daily lifestyle was different than now in many ways. Groups of kids meandered all over the Island from one house or activity to another. Hitchhiking was not unusual. And not just kids, adults too would stick a thumb out for a ride to the theatre or to Winslow or maybe just for a ride home from work. Drivers were editorially admonished for failing to pick up hitchhikers.

There was one taxi, owned by the same man for a long time. He was part of the Island's fabric. One time he very responsibly reported in the paper, that someone had left a set of false teeth in his cab and the owner could have them back pending identification, of course.

Yes, the times were simpler but mishaps could be more dangerous just because emergency services were not always available. Like the time some kids were playing by jumping off the roof of the woodshed into a pile of hay - they were pretending to be paper dolls. One girl landed on her arm and broke it. There was not a doctor available right away. The result was the girl's arm was poorly set because she had to wait several days. I guess her parents didn't realize her arm was broken. The girl's arm remained permanently bent and pretty much useless.

It's always a wonder how kids survive childhood - being immortal and adventurous and infallible are a state of youths' minds. In the winter, I challenged pneumonia by walking through deep puddles and ditches filled with rain water until the tops of my boots collapsed and my feet sopping. I climbed trees so far to the top, they bent over with my skinny weight. Log-hopping on the beach especially when the tide was coming in was another favorite challenge. In those days the driftwood piles were left in their natural state. They were wicked arrangements of huge logs, sharp snags of knots and knurls, and often the logs were decorated with big, rusty spikes. Those were cast-offs and broken pieces of piers and docks and usually frosted with sticky creosote.

I liked to climb out my second story bedroom, jump to the ground, and sneak to the beach where I pulled out a tiny rowboat that Mr. Uglesich always left secured to a log. Broken piers of the abandoned Hawley ferry boat dock still stuck out of the water. At night, I loved to row the itty-bitty vessel around those piers, stirring the water with the oars to see the pale neon-green phosphorus swirling around. It was quiet; the water splashed, the gongs of the buoys were like church bells; it was my own planet. I wasn't necessarily adventurous; I just liked to be alone. The dark night was comforting to me.

For a few years after WWII ended,there were C-ration and even hand-grenade boxes to be found tucked in the nooks and crannies of the beach. At least one grenade was reported as found. Grandpa took the well-crafted wooden boxes and used them to store tools. I had one for years and years. At one time it was my son's toy box. But the C-ration tins held treasures - Hershey bars (often hard and grey-tinged with age) for us kids; cigarettes for the older boys, and water-proof matches. Well, one time, my cousins, uncle, sister, and brother decided to try smoking. We chose an upstairs closet where my Gramma's new clothes were hung. Actually, the older kids tried the cigarettes and wouldn't let my brother, sister, and I, being younger, have any. Not to be left out, we rolled up some paper and lit that! Yup, started the closet on fire. Did we yell? No! We closed the door and ran outside not wanting to "get in trouble." Fortunately, Gramma was outside and saw smoke seeping through the siding. The volunteer fire crew wasted no time getting there and successfully put out the fire. Not only did we get in trouble with parents and grandparents, Fire Chief Sinnett and the family insurance guy, Fred Tyzko, admonished us in no uncertain terms. We were terrified. Both those men were notably held in high esteem by all Islanders. But the worst result was seeing Gramma cry over the loss of her new clothes - they had been the first new ones she owned in a long, long time.

As antidote to fearlessness, without all the conveniences we enjoy today that make our lives so much easier, kids were helpmates in maintaining households. After-school chores and periodic tasks; like meal preparation, trash removal, wood chopping and stacking, laundry, pumphouse repairs, gardening; an endless list, kept young people too busy to have time for lesser pursuits. It seemed nearly every boy could do car repairs and maintenance. Cars, too, were simpler - and far cheaper. So there were many time-consuming activities. Young people came in handy.

For car and truck parts, there was a junkyard. There is a story, too. It was located just up from the ferry dock and behind what used to be, a little market, at the east end of the bridge over the ravine just before Winslow proper. The ravine was a perfect spot to dump all the old vehicles. Van (the junk yard owner) had a crane perched at the edge of the ravine. One time I went there with my Grandpa. I was fascinated to see Van's female partner standing on the business end of the crane, motioning directions to Van where to drop her in the bucket. I think she (I don't recall her name) knew where every car part was in that huge junk pile. One time my little sister agreed to babysit for the couple's numerous children. At about 2 in the morning, she called our mother, crying that she was afraid and the party-goers were not yet home. Mom piled me and her into Grandpa's old Model T and we sat in Van's similarly junky trailer until some hours later when they banged and crashed through the door. Mother would not take any money and forbade them calling for babysitting services anymore. More of the story has it that Van invited the entire Island population to a beer blast to celebrate his marriage a couple years later. The two junkyard-ers had been together seven years and decided to tie the knot legally instead of succumbing to the state of Washington, seven-year-common-law-marriage rule. I wonder whatever happened to the junk in that ravine which was also home to huge plants of skunk-cabbage and ,according to Islander Roy Spearman, a resevoir that held some "beautiful rainbow trout.".

1 comment:

  1. I think that store was Nakata's at one time...not real sure. Seems like there was a freezer place there also. Where we had to keep large amounts of meat, as there was no freezers at home... only the old reliable ice box...and then there was the iceman. There was a large resevoir in the gully back there that had some beautiful rainbow trout in it. Remember catching a few there. Van's wife's name was Anita. She was the only woman on the island that rode a full size Harley. Did you live near the Sargeants at the top of Hawley Hill? He was my uncle and my cousins names Marlen and Betty. My Aunt Vera worked at Allen's department store in winslow and my Uncle Pete owned the Eagledale garage that later became Daughters. I think.As far as cars I think Dr Wilt had the first Volkswagon and Ann Vining had the first Corvette.