Thursday, July 2, 2009

Memories of Cars, Boys, the End of WWI

This is the first automobile Grandma remembered. It belonged to her step father's parents. Here she is inside the car. I am interested in the chains on the tires, which must have helped drive in the sand of southeastern Washington.

Here is my grandfather, Howard Tess, holding a puppy. He was ten years older than Grandma, a veteran of the first world war.

This is my grandmother before her marriage.

But I met my husband while we were in Troy. He even made meals with me. One time when he invited himself to supper all we had was boiled cabbage and potatoes, and I thought that nobody ever would sit down to a meal like that, and pretend they liked it, but he did. He sat down and said it was delicious, although I found out later that he didn’t like that. He didn’t like cabbage at all. He didn’t like chocolate cake either, and I made that for him for a long time.
Carol: He liked spice cake, I know.
Yes, he liked spice cake.
Well, all of a sudden out of the clear blue sky we got a letter saying Dr. Smith was coming home. And for many reasons that I haven’t mentioned here, I did not want to follow his plans for my life. He had plans that I would become his secretary, and he would be my teacher, he would tell me exactly what to do, and he would pick out who I should go with, and who I should marry. And I just couldn’t face the idea of that. So, everybody got together, Howard’s folks and my mother, and it was decided that we would get married. It was a very very hasty affair.
Carol: Where’d you go on your honeymoon?
We went to Chicago on our honeymoon. We were married in Milwaukee, by two ministers, because the one wasn’t, he wasn’t, what do you call it? Ordained. Yes, although he had been out in East Troy, and had been ministering at the church there. He was the one that gave us advice on the sense of matrimony. And he was very nice, and we liked him. So this older preacher was there when we went to be married, in his apartment in Milwaukee, and the older preacher pronounced us man and wife, so we’d be securely married. Which we were for forty-five years. And had two beautiful daughters.
Carol: You moved in, didn’t you, when you were first married, with your in-laws in the other side of the house?
Yes, we did. We lived in, well, it was the living room, two rooms, three rooms, a kitchen and a living room, and a bedroom. And -
Carol: An outhouse out back
Yes, oh yes, the outhouse was out in back. And actually, there was no bathroom, we had to use our in-laws’ bathroom, which was if we wanted to take a bath. Otherwise we went to the place outside. But if we took a bath we had to go next door, and use their bathtub, because we didn’t have such a thing. We had a coal stove for heat and we had a coal stove that we put in storage later and we lost because they sold it while it was in storage and we were young and green and didn’t know enough to make a fuss about it. So we lost that completely when we moved to Elkhorn. It was brand new and our prized possession.
They’re going got ask me some more questions.
Carol: Mother, you told me about how out at the ranch you got around. But I know that you and Grandma didn’t drive, so how did you get around while Grandpa was gone and you were alone?
Well there weren’t even any cars to drive back in those early days. The only car I ever saw was when my stepfather’s brother - I don’t know how he managed to get out there – he got out to the ranch in one of the first cars that was ever built. And it was a wonder on wheels to all of us. Nobody will believe this.
And the first time I rode in a car was in Grandpa Smith’s in Milwaukee, and he had a Pierce-Arrow, and he took us for a ride. It was a great big mammoth thing. When you set in the back seat you felt as if you were in the living room. And it was carpeting had had seats that folded down from the front seat so four people could set and face each other and converse. And there was room to put a table in between, if you wanted to. You could even eat a lunch or play cards there. And when he came to us he would get out and light the lights by hand, And we’d chug along at fifteen likes an hour, and Grandma would say, “Oh, you’re going much too fast, much too fast. Slow down, slow down.” Of course there weren’t any cement roads then, It seemed we were going a lot faster, probably, than we were. But we never went very fast. And there weren’t very many cars on the road, because very few people had them at that time.
Carol: Yeah, but how did you and Grandma get around?
When we got out of Troy we didn’t have any transportation of any kind, and we would go with the neighbors who had horses and buggies. And finally somebody lent us a buggy and we found an old broken down horse. And the horse and the buggy were united and we tried to ride that to East Troy. But it was a sad and sorry state and the old mare did not have a good disposition. She was very balky. And she was apt to balk in the middle of the road and we couldn’t move her one way or the other. And she also nipped people.
Carol: Well you didn’t have much luck, You weren’t any child when you learned how to drive a car.
Oh my no. 
Carol: How old were you?
Oh my heavens!
Carol: I guess maybe you weren’t that old.. You must have been sixty.
Well I didn’t drive, you know, I never drove. Howard didn’t want me to drive.
Carol: Oh I remember when we were little you trying to learn to drive.
I tried to one time, but he was glad that I didn’t learn because he really didn’t want me to learn how to drive. He liked to be king of the road. Well, I scared myself to death. I pretty near had an accident a couple of times. Howard always kidded me about trying to run the sheriff down in the middle of Elkhorn because he pushed on my radiator and tried to push me back in the intersection. 
Carol: I remember another story that was interesting was after the first world war, I guess you were uptown Milwaukee and it was being celebrated.
Oh yes, that was in grade school. Yeah – 
Carol: You were probably in high school. 
No, I don’t think I was even in high school yet. They threw the talcum power –
Carol: Yeah, tell them about that story.
Well we let out from school when the wonderful news came that the first world war had ended, so of course everyone was on Grand Avenue down Milwaukee , which is now Wisconsin Avenue, but at that time it was Grand Avenue. And the stores were all closed because people were going crazy. They’d go in and loot them and help themselves to anything they wanted. And the clerks couldn’t stop them. The police didn’t stop them. So finally they locked all the doors, nobody could get – so they just wandered up and down the middle of the street, and screamed and yelled and threw things at each other. We got a whole handful of talcum thrown at us, and most of landed in my eyes. I couldn’t see anything, and my eyes were smarting and burning and I had to go home finally. Which was probably a good thing because it went on and on ‘til nearly all night long. It was a tremendous celebration, but there was a lot of damage done. Lot of people hurt.

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