I was looking through some of my mom’s old grade school pictures, and the names on the back. I find myself amazed at the number of names that are familiar to me for one reason or another. I have lived most of my life right here in Casper, having moved here when I was 3. My mom has also lived here most of her life, with the exception of the first 6 years of her marriage, so I guess it stands to reason that there might be a name or two from her classmates that might have stayed on in Casper.
It was just somewhat unexpected I guess, although I don’t know why. Some names, of course, were common enough so that I wasn’t absolutely sure, but many were names I had heard…from my friends. One is the mother of a girl who was my best friend in junior high. Another was the mother of someone who was a client of mine a few years ago. Another was the same last name as a mortal enemy, later turned friend from junior high. And there was one who was related to someone I bowled with.
A name that really amazed me, although it probably shouldn’t have is most likely the daughter of a man who developed part of this town, because there is a street named after her, and again the name is not a common name and the street carries both her first and last name, so what are the odds that she isn’t the same girl? Pretty slim I’d say.
As I looked at the faces…kind of searching for a face that looked like one I use to know…it occurred to me that I was really looking at something very special. I was looking at the past, and the past had met my past, and who knows, maybe that past might just meet the future, because who knows how many of the children of those kids have stayed on here in Casper. It is totally possible that while the names might change due to marriage, many of the families remain the same, and my children’s children might go to school with the great grandchildren of classmates of my mom’s…as the past meets the future.
In mid 1951, my father-in-law was hired to work on the railroad in Dalin, Montana. It was a necessary job change for him, since the prior job he had been working couldn’t seem to pay it’s employees, and you just can’t raise a family with no money, nor can you continue to work for someone on the hope that they will finally pay you. I’m quite certain that this job felt like they were rich, after the struggles of the previous situation.
At the time of the move to Dalin, they had only their daughter, Marlyce. During their 5 years in Dalin, the family would grow by two more children. Debbie was born in 1953, and my future husband, Bob was born in 1954. Both Debbie and Bob were born in Miles City, Montana, although Bob was almost born on the road between Billings, where the family had gone to spend the day, and Miles City. Thankfully they made it in time, and Bob was born in the hospital in Miles City.
During the years they lived there, the family lived in a house that was owned by the railroad. There were actually two houses on the property. A big house where the boss lived, and a smaller house where my future in-laws lived. But the interesting thing about the property was that there were also two railroad cabooses that had been turned into homes for some of the other railroad employees.
Now, I don’t know about you, but to me, that would be an interesting idea. I’m sure someone decided that it would be an inexpensive way to house the employees who didn’t have big families, and it did serve it purpose, as you can see in the picture. The kids must have thought it was interesting, because they liked to play around there, although maybe they never gave it much thought. When I look at it from the future, it seems like a very different kind of life than any I would have imagined, but I suppose that many things we take for granted today would seem quite strange to the people of the past.
Trains have always held an interest for me, and I especially liked the caboose, so I’m quite sure I would have wanted to see what they were like inside, and maybe the kids did get a chance to see for themselves, I don’t know for sure. I also think I might have found it somewhat interesting to live in a caboose, at least in the short term. It would undoubtedly get to be pretty cramped after a while, but for the single person workin’ on the railroad, it might have been just the ticket.
I came across an old friend on Facebook today…one for whom I had been searching a very long time. It was a relief really, to finally find her. Even though I am still waiting for her to respond to my friend request, I feel like I have to write a little bit about what a wonderful person she was…and what a great family she had. Very rarely could a friend spend the night and have the sisters and the friends get along too, but that is what Gale, her sisters, Lynne, Lea Ann, Michelle, and I did. When I would spend the night at her house, Gale, her sisters and I would have so much fun. They lived out in the country, and actually had two houses. The main house, and the little house where all the girls slept. It was an unusual arrangement, I know, but the girls were all old enough for it to work, and all were good girls.
They had, as I recall, chickens, pigs, cows, and horses on their little farm, and I would help out with the chores when I was there…something I found fun and interesting, but I’m sure that Gale and her sisters would disagree with me on that one. We would ride horses, and lots of other fun things that I couldn’t do living in town, so going to Gale’s family’s place was always a favorite thing to do in my book. I do remember a couple of bad things too…well not real bad, but I remember a time that Gale was riding a horse, and she was heading back into the coral, and the horse was in a hurry I guess, so he got a little too close to the fence, and ran Gale’s leg into the fence. I don’t recall if it bled or not, but it wasn’t broken. I just remember being real scared for my friend right then. Another thing that happened was that one of the cows was in a hurry to eat, and he stepped on my foot trying to get into the barn. Good thing it was a calf and the area was a little muddy. My foot sank into the mud and wasn’t hurt to badly. I don’t even think I ever told Gale that it happened, but I sure remember it. Not my last encounter with a hungry cow, as those who have read my blog for a while can attest. I seem to have a knack for being in the wrong place at the wrong time where cows are concerned. It’s probably best that I don’t spend time around them anymore, lol.
The evenings in the little house were probably the most fun, however. We would watch movies and eat popcorn, and when we would hear the phone ring, then the real fun would begin. You see they had a party line. Now I’m sure most of you don’t even know what that is, but they were somewhat common back then. A party line is when several families share the same line. The odd thing about this is that you can pick up the phone during a conversation…provided you can do it quietly…and listen in on the conversation. And that is exactly what we did. Sometimes it was pretty boring, but sometimes you would hear a boyfriend/girlfriend conversation, and then…well, it could get interesting. After a while, we couldn’t stop laughing, and that would end the eavesdropping for that call. The people talking would start yelling at us to get off…right now!!! And so we did, but we laughed about it the rest of the night. I’ll never forget the great fun I had with Gale and I can’t wait to re-connect with her and her family again…hopefully soon.
As the time for the school dances arrives again, I am reminded of my oldest daughter, Corrie and her husband, Kevin, and the dances they went to. They fell in love when Corrie was just 15 years old, and one of their favorite things to do was to go to the Co-Ed Ball and Prom. They went to both of them each year from the time the began dating until Corrie graduated. They were like Cinderella and Prince Charming. Theirs was a fairytale romance…love at first site. My beautiful little girl was becoming a beautiful young lady. She looked so pretty.
The pictures done, they headed out to their romantic evening, with eyes only for each other. Love blossomed at those dances, as well as their other dates, but it is always those special evenings that stand out in your memory. The dance committees had created an evening of moments with balloons, crepe paper, cardboard, and spray paint. An evening to remember.
With each new year and each new dance, they grew and changed…blossomed really. I remember that I was always so proud of the handsome couple they made. But, along with that thought was the little feeling of sadness that my little girl was growing up so fast. You know the one. That feeling that you suddenly want to put on the brakes and slow down time, but you know that you can’t. So you smile and wipe away a tear or two, and send them on their way to their evening to remember.
Every year these dances come around, and a new set of students head out, all dolled up. A new group of parents think back to the day their child was born and wonder how it could be possible that they are already heading out for their high school prom, or other such dance, and wish they could turn back the clock, so that their little one could still be their little one.
When we are young, we think that life is a long time. We wonder when we will get to be the grown up one, heading out on that special date, and before we know it..we are already sending our own children out on an evening to remember.
When kids get to the age where they can start to dress themselves, the results can be a pretty funny. Sometimes clothes are on backwards…sometimes inside out…sometimes the colors match…sometimes they don’t. It all seems so foreign to a child, and yet before long they will master the whole idea of getting dressed. It’s funny how as young parents we are so concerned that their clothes be right, so people won’t think we are neglectful, but when we look back on the whole thing…we wonder why we worried so much. It is a natural part of that transition we call growing up. No one expects kids to be perfect at it from the beginning.
Sunglasses and hats are a couple of other items that take a little work to master, and always seem to go on upside down or backward, although these days a hat on backward puts your child right in style. Still, it can be very comical to watch your child doing their best and yet not being very successful at it. Somehow though, the hardest thing for kids to master is getting their shoes on the right feet. It just seems like for the longest time those shoes are always on the wrong feet. Why is that? What makes shoes invariably look right to a child on the wrong foot. I mean, shouldn’t they get it right at least part of the time? But, they don’t. They always put those shoes on the wrong feet. It is amazing…and funny at the same time.
With clothes, hats, and sunglasses, they get it right at least part of the time…but those shoes can be on the wrong feet clear into grade school sometimes. Maybe it’s because shoes, and least little ones sometimes don’t look a lot different, one from another. But putting your shoes on the wrong feet, well…it just feels odd…at least to us, so why doesn’t it feel odd to them? Or maybe it does, but they just don’t exactly know why that is. That’s what makes it so funny, I guess. Here you have a child who has finally mastered the whole idea of getting the clothes on right with very little help. They are so proud of themselves, and then they put on those shoes, and it’s like being back at square one.
Every kid likes to spend the night with a friend. There is just something about staying at someone else’s house that is…well so different from their own home. We have all been there. I loved spending the night with my friends, and sometimes cousins were just as much my friends. I remember one time I wanted to spend the night with one of my cousins, and I simply did not see anything wrong with the fact that Elmer was a boy and I was a girl. So my mom and her sister worked out a way, so I could stay the night, but I had to sleep in my cousin Darla’s room. It worked out ok, and I got to continue to play that evening with my cousin, Elmer.
My grandchildren have done the same thing. Cousins work out well for those coveted sleep-overs, when friends are either not available or you are too young to have many. Another thing that makes for a different and fun thing to do is camping out on the living room floor…especially if you get to use some blankets and make a tent. I remember as a kid, my sisters and I would sometimes build a big tent out of sheets or blankets, and spend hours in there pretending to be on a camping trip, or maybe using the tent as a secret clubhouse. The imagination can be an amazing thing when a group of kids get together. My grandchildren always loved those slumber party type of sleep-overs…camped out on the living room floor…not that much sleeping got done. I remember having all 4 of them over one time when Bob was out of town. My bedroom floor was wall to wall sleeping bags, and constant giggling. I suppose many people would think I was crazy, but we sure had fun.
But, probably one of the sweetest things I ever heard concerning spending the night, came from a little girl who was a little too young to have many friends yet, but her sister and brother got to spend the night, and she wanted in on the action too. She had watched them get to go and spend the night, and it just never seemed to be her turn. Sometimes we just don’t realize how ready a child can be for this kind of thing. She thought about it long and hard, and finally figured out what she wanted to do. Sometimes, it isn’t about figuring out what friend to stay with, but rather who might work as a friend. That was when Lindsay asked her mom, my sister Allyn, if she could spend the night with her friend, Grandma!!
Kids just naturally have a love of musical instruments. Almost from the time they are born, they play with rattle and other noise makers for entertainment…sometimes to the point of headaches for their parents. It is a love of beautiful music…and believe me, we all have very different ideas of exactly what beautiful music is…that leads us to try to create the music we love on our own.
At Christopher’s age, it’s all about the noise level, the louder it pops, clangs, rings, or squeaks, the better they like it. Wait…I think that part of a kids love for music last at least until their 30’s and sometimes even longer, so really Christopher is just doing what every teenager does, only with different instruments. And he was having the time of his life doing it. You can’t help but smile, even though you know that after a few minutes of cuteness, the noise probably drove his parents nuts.
As kids get bigger, their choices of instruments change, and the opportunities they have in school help with those changes. I’m sure you all remember the recorder that kids learned to play on about 4th grade. Most kids sound pretty much like I do when I play the recorder…a sick duck, but my daughter Amy had a way with the recorder. She could make it really sing. That’s why we chose the Clarinet for her when she got to fifth grade, even though her sister, Corrie had chosen the Violin. Both girls played very well all the years they played in school, and I thoroughly enjoyed going to their performances.
Christopher played the Trumpet in 5th and 6th grade, and his brother, Josh played the Clarinet in 5th grade, following in his Aunt Amy’s footsteps. My granddaughter, Shai chose not to play an instrument, but go into choir for a time. Caalab would be the one to continue in the musical world, when he decided to take up the Guitar and follow in his dad’s footsteps. He now owns several Guitars, and continues to get better and better. He takes Guitar in school, and nobody has to tell him to practice. He loves to play. Where once he had rocks in his pockets, he now has multiple picks. He may not always have his Guitar, but those picks seem to always be with him. Typical, I guess for the boys in the band.
My grandchildren have gotten to the age where teasing their grandma is considered a sport. Words spoken in irritation…provided they were not aimed at that grandchild…are suddenly the funniest thing they have ever heard. They love to bring up past irritated sayings and then ask me to repeat the saying…hopefully using the same tone I used at the time they first heard the remark. The problem is that often what struck them as funny is something I gave very little thought to, and therefore barely recall saying, much less the proper tone to use in the repeat performance. Consequently, they ask me to try again using the right tone, and when I don’t know the right tone, they try to re-create the tone for me, so I can then repeat it for them, so they can laugh about it. Mostly, they end up laughing at my feeble attempts to re-create the tone to match their tone.
It’s a good thing that I’m a good sport too, because anything is fair game here. A broken heel and the consequent limping walk…along with the ensuing irritated grumbling, makes for the perfect pick on Grandma item. As does my irritation at the radio speakers in my car when they were going out, and the sound would “get really low, and then BLAST out at you!” And, let’s not forget that my grandsons are now all taller than me, so they think it is pretty funny to manhandle Grandma, because she isn’t strong enough to push them out of the way…much less get away from them. I have been relegated to the basement, as it were, in that all three of the boys are taller, so I have become Little Grandma, which takes me back some to when all of my cousins and I called my great grandmother, Little Great Grandma, a name she didn’t seem to mind either, and now I understand why she didn’t.
There is just something about having your grandchildren lovingly teasing you that has a pleasure all it’s own. You realize that while your children, at this age, were totally embarrassed at the un-coolness of their parents, your grandchildren have no such inhibitions where you are concerned. Somehow in your old age…not that I’m old, mind you…but somewhere in what seems to your grandchildren to be your old age, you have somehow managed to retain or maybe recover your coolness!! And the truly amazing thing is that all you had to do to achieve such a great accomplishment was say something silly in the middle of an argument like, “We are sooooooo done here!”
As we go through this journey we call life, this world we live in will go through many changes. As I was looking at old family pictures, and it got me thinking about what a change it must have been to go from the horse and buggy days to the automobile. My grandfather and my Uncle Ted (back seat right two people) I’m quite sure grew up with the idea that cars were going to be around, but my great grandfather (back left) must have been quite in awe over the changes going on in his life. I remember the first time I drove a car, but I had ridden in a car many times by that time, and they were commonplace items. I just can’t imagine seeing a car for the first time as an adult, but that is what so many of our ancestors did. Bob’s grandmother talked often of the changes from a horse and buggy to the car.
When I was a kid, a computer took up an entire room, and nobody had one in their home. Then came the PC, and people started buying them. Pretty soon everyone had one in their house. Now there are laptops, netbooks, tablets, and even smart phones. I remember too, when the only phones that existed where in a building or the occasional telephone booth…remember those. Telephone booths almost don’t exist anymore, because we all have a phone in our purse or pocket, and most of them are smart phones now, so we can even access the internet with them.
So many changes have taken place in in the past 200 years alone, that our ancestors would not even know this place if they could see it. I have to wonder how much of it would absolutely terrify them, if they could step into our time. And what would our thoughts be if we could step back into the old West? Back to the days when the harvesting was done with a horse and wagon, and it took a large group of people to get the job done. Hay was cut down using scythes and loaded in the wagon using rakes and a pitchfork. That was a much harder time in our history, and the harvest wasn’t taken so much for granted. School was planned around it, because the kids were needed to help with the harvest too.
Sometimes, I think we all need to look back in time once in a while, and really see how very blessed we are to be living in a time where much of our work is easy, food is abundant, travel is quick, and staying in touch with people all over the world is a normal, everyday event.
My grandson, Caalab loves dogs..all dogs. His goal is to have one of every kind. A lofty goal, considering the sheer number of breeds out there, but he also plans to own a place big enough to handle it, at least he is planning ahead. So far he has two dogs. Rhythm is a Beegle, and Blues is a Husky/Shepherd mix. Yes, they really are Rhythm and Blues. Caalab’s dad, Travis works for the radio station, and does a blues show, so it stands to reason.
Rhythm is an older dog, And he doesn’t like to do much…in fact never has…except when Travis decides that Rhythm needs to do some dancing. Then he holds his hand above Rhythm’s head and sings “Rhythm is a dancer!!” Rhythm dances around and around. Other than his dancing, he has always been pretty lazy…probably the main reason he is much heavier than Blues. Rhythm would eat constantly if you would let him, but he will do it is a way that takes the least amount of work. That became very obvious the other day when my daughter, Amy fed Rhythm and he started eating and after a few minutes, he got tired. So he laid down on the floor in front of his bowl and proceeded to continue eating while laying down. Never had my daughter seen such a lazy dog.
Blues is the younger of the two dogs, and he is interesting in that he has one blue eye and one brown eye. He is rambunctious like most puppies and younger dogs are, and he keeps things hopping around their house. Blue thinks water is a toy. Watering the lawn or any other use of water is open season for Blues to chase the water and try to eat it. One time when Amy had the hose and was playing with Blues, she was dancing the water around, and Blues was jumping up and down trying to catch the drops as they came down. At one point, he slipped on the wet ground and landed on his side. He let out one little yelp and that was it. He was back on his feet and back at it…chasing the drops. With two silly dogs, there is never a dull moment. It’s free entertainment.