My grandmother turned 90 this year. Last Christmas, I took some of her old pictures and some stories she had written in a notebook between 2003 and 2006 and made a hardbound book for her using Blurb.com. Here’s the text from the stories.
My Life, and Some of the Things Dad Told Me About
by Phydalis Emma (King) Walraven
Born March 26, 1918 to Stella (Bassett) King and Ernest R. King. Baptized at St. Joseph’s Church. The rest of my life I have been a member of St John’s. Made my First Communion and was confirmed there. In September of 1936, the first day of September, also at St. John’s, Charles Walraven son of Anne and Anthony Walraven and I Phydalis King were married. We were blessed with six children:
Kenneth — October 23, 1937
John — December 5, 1939
Nancy — August 23, 1942
Lynda — July 7, 1944
Ilene — November 12, 1951
Luann — March 7, 1955
. . .
Now back to my childhood. We lived with my Grandparents Peter and Mary (Rickard) King. When I was two, Mom and Dad bought the farm, forty-five acres that my grandpa homesteaded when he came here from Canada. He built a fourteen-room house. Dad, Mom, and I lived in the back of the house and they lived in the front of the house. There was a stairway that went up from the back and the front.
I don’t know where my grandparents went to live after a July 5, 1920 chimney fire that destroyed the house. I don’t remember any more until four or five of living in the new house Dad built.
I remember of telling an old gentleman where the King place was as I was walking home from school and I told him “in that tar paper house.” When I got home he was there talking to Dad I learned he was the township supervisor.
I don’t remember what was on the sides of the house or when he finished it. I helped him put on the tile roof. He finished the house by the time I was sixteen. He built a beautiful stone fireplace in the living room. He took the wall out between the old living room and bedroom and made a beautiful big room. Then they had a fire and lost everything again (electrical fire).
My Grandpa King had planted a big orchard so there were all kinds of apples and pears and also a grape arbor. Back then everyone made wine and cider.
We also raised our own pork and beef, also had chickens for eggs and eating and cows for milk and butter.
When I was growing up my Grandfather Bassett would bring a big black suitcase filled with fireworks. Gramp was a diver and was away from home a lot. He put cables up the river deep so boats wouldn’t hit them. He drowned when I was twelve. It was a bad year.
In April 1934, Grandpa King was living with us when he passed away. In July Grandpa Bassett drowned, in August Grandma Bassett died, and in November my Great Grandma Willett died. I lost all my grands in six months. My Grandma King died when I was about five or six, I remember her though. She had breast cancer. After she passed on Grandpa mostly lived with us.
My Grandma Bassett and Aunt Cora came and stayed at our house in the summer to help Mom cook. We always had a couple of hired hands then. Grandma Bassett being an invalid since she was 36, I was with her a lot. She taught me just about any card game you could think of.
I went to Raby School. I graduated in June 1933. When I was twelve they paved Center Avenue so at recess at noon we would sit by the fence and watch. All that was where I decided I was going to marry Dad. It was six years later but it came true. Our corner was the gathering place. The kids on the south side of the road (22nd) went to Portsmouth School on Cass & Knight Road. We were on the north so we went to Raby on Center & Knight Road. That was when I first met Dad. He and Marv would come down and play cards with Charlotte and me.
I didn’t see him as much being two years older than I was he started high school. But when I started high school there were no buses. I rode to school with him and Aunt Jean. We started going to basketball games and that was it until we decided to set the date. I remember one night he walked down and I decided if he didn’t kiss me good night I was going to kiss him, and I did. His eyes got the most surprised look like a little boy getting caught in the cookie jar.
Charles’ dad bought a Model A Ford to drive to school and it also was for Marv to drive too. So Dad bought a Model T Ford Coupe. He took the wheels off an old Buick and put them on the T.
When we were in it, it was like being in a big truck, you could see over all the cars ahead of us. To keep it running all the you needed was gas, a couple of coils, some wire, and a pair of pliers. We could drive up to Rose City and back with it. Grandma Walraven would pack a lunch for us. We didn’t have much money back then.
Sometimes Dad would have a nickel and I would hunt up five pennies for big double dip ice cream cones. When we were dating Wenona Beach was the place to go. There was a ballroom where name bands played. A big building was where you could roller skate to music.
There was a rickety old Jack Rabbit and merry-go-round, arcades, and booths. The Fourth of July with fireworks, it was the place to go.
. . .
These are some things about your Dad. When they lived in Essexville, “they” were called Walraven’s Angels (Charles and Marv), they were always into something. One Easter Sunday they both had new suits. They lived across from the sugar factory and knew every part of it. (Grandpa worked there.) That Sunday after Church they went over there. It was pretty dark where they were but they knew where the plank was across the three foot open space between walls, but somebody moved it and they fell in there, new suits were full of soot. I can just hear Grandma Walraven when she saw them. Back then things were pretty bad not much money, and one of his friends had a big family, so when the coal cars came into the sugar factory they would climb up on the cards and throw coal down. Then they would all help pick it up and take to their friend’s place.
Every Saturday Dad and Marv caught the trolley car to the movies. It was in the building that Mill End is in. It was before the talkies so dad would read and tell Marv what was being said. People would holler at him to shut up.
The kids all swam in the river. Back then the raw sewage ran into the river. Dad always laughed when telling me they had to push the turds away to swim.
. . .
Dad graduated in 1934. I went to high school two years and I hated it. For Christmas of 1935 he gave me my first ring. It wasn’t very big but it sure sparkled. We set the date then September 1, 1936. Mom made me a beautiful wedding dress.
Charlotte had just come down with TB. We couldn’t decide on a hat or a veil. But I had my First Communion veil Grandma Bassett had hemmed by hand. And with a headband it was really nice.
. . .
Charles and I bought the twenty-acre farm across from my Dad’s place. We moved in the day before Thanksgiving. It was so nice to have our own place. The house was new but it was not finished inside. There was only one piece of sheet rock in the corner of the kitchen. The chimney was in the corner by it.
We covered the walls with heavy building paper. The kitchen, the bath, and in between the bedroom. We had a big wood stove for heat, a kerosene stove to cook on, a kitchen cabinet the shelf pulled out, and table and chairs new that Grandpa and Grandma Walraven gave us for a shower present.
For a wedding present they gave us a bed and dresser. We were in heaven.
We lived there seven and a half years. April 9, 1944 we moved to our place on Borton. It was quite a change, there were no cupboards, bathroom, or water in the house. There was a dug well with a pump.
Dad checked it out and had to clean it out, it had frogs and worms in it. Then he hauled some water in it until it rained then it would fill up. We got a well driller and soon had water in the house.
There was a sink but Joe Badaire’s sister was trying to take it out and her brother told her that went with the house. She also took the mailbox. Joe made her bring that back. It was so funny, she sneaked by the side porch and left it and ran back to the car.
We went to the lumber yard and bought two door upper cupboards and the lower had two doors and two drawers. It was a long room but only eight and a half feet wide. You had to walk a ways to get from stove to refrigerators and back to the sink or cupboard. The tables was in the center with one light bulb in the ceiling, it wasn’t very bright. Also the linoleum was gray, the wainscoting was gray, and two narrow windows.
The yard was mostly brush from the driveway to the front of the house. So I cut brush for a week. Dad was working at Dow’s.
There was no way to drain the field so we had a ditch dug along the east side for 80 rods. The corner on the back ten acres was sort of a creek bed, it had cattails, water with ducks in it, and lots of stones. One stone was so big Dad used TNT to break it so we could get it out.
Then we hired King Herman to clear it. He had a big single Prairie plow to go deep and break up all the brush.
The next year we did some tiling. We couldn’t afford all of it in one year. We had to place all the tile in rows “no wonder my arms are so long.” We would take two tile in each hand off the wagon. But we had unloaded them from the truck that brought them, then we had to reload them on the wagon. So they were handled many times. We tiled about four times, all cement tile.
In 1948 we remodeled. It had two hip roofs on the sides. We cut it down in four pieces and took the entire top off by putting up a jim pole and using the tractor and chains lifted each piece down to the ground. Had a lot of wood for the furnace. I sure pulled a lot of nails, a five-gallon pail full. My Dad and I did most of the work. Charles was still working at Dow’s. One night when we had the roof almost done and tarp over the rest, we got a real bad wind in the middle of the night. Dad was up on the roof putting some planks on the tarp, we were afraid it was going to take the whole roof off. It was the fall of 1947 we started. It was quite a job, had to put out bags of straw in between the eaves to keep out the cold. We had dug out a 14 by 24 basement for our bedroom, the entrance to the house and down the basement, and kitchen. We then got the drywall up. The first night we slept in our new bedroom it must have been about 30 degrees in there. We finished in August 1948 we plastered. It was so cold and damp that week that Dad and I slept on the springs and mattress on the kitchen floor. Dad had such a cold and going to market not getting enough sleep I thought he was going to have pneumonia. But we all survived. The next summer we put in the cupboards and covered the wood floor.
. . .
Dad and I accomplished a lot in 44 years of farming.
The first ten to fifteen years we always had a horse and a cow and chickens and pigs. When we were farming our first twenty acres we always had old nags, we couldn’t afford and young teams were not for us.
We had one old white horse that I used to pull a spike drag over the potato rows before they came up to knock out the small weeds. We couldn’t afford new harness so the blinders to keep them from looking to the side or back were in very bad shape. The blinder on the right side hung down and she could see me. She would slow down, so I had a stick with a three-foot clothesline rope. All I had to do was hold it up and twirl it in the air and boy did we ever speed up.
For quite a number of years I canned about 1,000 quarts of tomatoes, peaches, plums, and assorted relishes, also jams and jelly. We never were hungry. Had to stretch our money until the next year.
In 1953 we bought 80 acres of hunting ground in Gladwin, put up a cabin and built a fireplace. Sold it before Dad passed on.
We garden farmed until 1956 when we bought the Pinconning farm from Uncle Fred and Aunt Cora. The man that owned the ground before them raised sheep so every ten acres has fences around it. So we had steel posts and rolls of fence to take down. Then we went through the same thing with the tile again. About four or five more times put in tile. When we retired we rented it to Sonny Vermeesch. Then we had a pond dug and well drilled to fill the pond so he could irrigate. We started raising potatoes and it was too hard to bring the machinery back and forth so we rented out the farm on Borton.
In 1956 we bought four lots on South Dease Lake near Hale, and built the first cottage on lot 1.
In about 1974 we built the last cottage on side of hill. Had a full basement, it was a 24 foot by 24 foot chalet with an eight and a half foot wide porch the entire width with a bedroom above it. One large bedroom at the other end upstairs. Bath, bedroom, kitchen and dining area, and living room on first floor. I sold it two years after Dad died. Being built in the side of the hill it was 30 feet up to the room above the porch.
In 1978 we built the new house where the old school stood on Borton. When they closed the school the land reverted to us and that is where we built.
After 44 years we retired. Then Dad had his big surgery but came through it good and we had a chance to do some traveling, eight and a half years. Our trips with Jake and Arlene were wonderful.
In January 1994 Dad learned he had cancer. He lived until May 14.
In April 6, 2001 moved to Reese. I bought a very nice condo.
The year before I moved I had double bypass, two weeks later had a blood clot. I ended up as a heart attack and cardiac arrest. They used paddles to start my heart and here I am today. It is now October 11, 2003.
. . .
Lynda asked me what my favorite flower was. I started to laugh because Dad always kidded me about “licking lilacs.” There was an old fallen-down house on the way up to the cottage. It must have been for a long time, it was surrounded with bushes because you could only see a few boards. They were so pretty.