Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Aunt Elizabeth's Clocks

Elizabeth Ashbaugh was Mother's older sister. They were very close both while they were growing up and after they were grown. Mom was the traveler of the two; Elizabeth stayed in Truth or Consequences pretty much her whole life. I don't know that she traveled much at all. So, Mom would breeze into town from Alaska, or Utah, or Afghanistan, and they would take up life much as before. I don't know whether Elizabeth envied Mom, thought Mom was flightly, or whether she thought much about it at all.
Aunt Elizabeth (Tootie is, of course, named after her, a story all its own) lived in a cinderblock house on the outskirts of town west of T or C. In fact, I don't know if she lived in T or C or not, since the hamlet of Williamsburg was just west of her property. She lived, almost literally on the edge of town, in an area where the streets were gravel and there were no sidewalks.
I loved Aunt Elizabeth's house. It was shaded by trees all around, and cool even in summer. One of the things I remember is Aunt Elizabeth's eclectic choices for clocks. Three in particular. One was a huuuuge (to a ten-year old) grandfather clock of some gleaming red wood. It had a long pendulum that swung back and forth with a measured and solemn "tock." The second was right next to it on the wall. It was a clock that advertised some beer or other, Jax or Lone Star. It featured a revolving drum painted in blue colors. When the clock was plugged in, a light behind the clock shown through and the drum rotated, looking (if you had imagination) like a waterfall.
My favorite though, was a mantle clock that chimed. It had a bong-bong-bong-bong melody for the quarter hour, a longer one for the half, a longer still for the three-quarter, and a full melody for the hour, plus striking the numbers. That way, you could be in another room and know that it was fifteen past whatever hour had recently struck.
I loved to sleep in Aunt Elizabeth's house, because I would wake in the night and listen for burglars, arsonists, or monsters. Then the clock would chime and I'd know that everything was all right, and I'd go back to sleep.
I loved that clock so much that I recently bought one, a clock made in about 1930 that is as close as I could find to the one that Aunt Elizabeth had. I wake up in the night to hear it chime and I am as comforted now as I was then.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Dad's family

This is Dad's family. It seems very Grapes of Wrath to me. The second image is the writing on the back of the picture. I really have no idea who the writer is, except that she is standing in front of "Dord," which I think was a nickname for Dorothy. The only ones I remember are Grandmother Shook, Esther, and Ralph, who is at the extreme right of the picture.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Aunt Ruth and the outlaw

During the latter part of the 19th century and early part of the 20th, you could go down to your local photographer with a picture and he'd make it into postcards. The picture above was a postcard, though it was never sent through the mail. Seated on the horse is my grandmother's aunt Ruth. This is my Dad's side of the family.
On the back of the postcard is written,"This is Ruth and that notorious outlaw Frank James - a young man she had been keeping company with. He is in Mo. [Missouri] now."
The scene (adobe house and windmill) suggest New Mexico, but dad was born in Glenelder, Kansas, and I think that's a more likely possibility.
If it is indeed Frank James, the time would have to be about 1870. That would fit with the chronology of the family.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Dad's "singing"

Dad couldn't carry a tune in a wheelbarrow. And, he didn't sing much. He'd sing in church, all right, and if you were next to him, you kind of had to ignore what he was doing and concentrate on getting your own notes right. But there were two songs that I remember him singing to us as kids. One was called "The Preacher and the Bear," about a preacher who went hunting on Sunday and got into a lot of trouble because of it. I think that this song appealed to his sense of humor, which tended towards puns and word play a lot. The song that I remember, though, was "The Wabash Cannonball," an old railroading song. I have no idea why Dad liked this song. Maybe it was the rhythm, "Listen to the jingle, the rumble and the roar...."Whatever, I really liked it, and I never hear it but I think of Dad singing it to me.

Monday, May 12, 2008


In Hot Springs, there was only one nice lawn in our neighborhood. Aunt Elizabeth had a lawn, it was true, but I don't remember it as thick and green. I don't even think we had a lawn, unless you count tumbleweeds. The lawn in the picture belonged to an older man who lived at the bottom of our block. The street was on a slope, but the man had built up the soil around his house so his lawn was level. We used to hunt for four-leaf clovers on his lawn. It was green and thick, and I can't imagine the time, energy, and money he must have put into that lawn. In the picture, we've been easter-egg hunting. The boy in the center with the jacket, has a bucket of easter eggs. The little guy kneeling to his right, our left, is me. Immediately to his left is our friend JoAnn Henning. I am ashamed to admit that I can't pick out my own dear sister. In the background is a 1949 Pontiac, I think, so I was nine or ten when this was taken. Possibly it was in the summer just before we went to Alaska, which would have made it 1951.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Mother Used to Recite "Lasca"

Click here to go to one of my other blogs to see a copy of the poem in mother's handwriting and read the entire poem.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Isn't She Tute?

This is me. I'm pretty sure this is Grandma's house in Hot Springs (now Truth or Consequences) New Mexico. I think we must have left Vancouver, Washington and gone home to stay with them while Dad was in Puerto Rico. I remember the train ride. We had a roomette, and mother said I washed my hands in the little sink all the way from Washington to New Mexico. I imagine she was glad to have something to keep me occupied. My hair was naturally curly. I imagine I was about 2 1/2.

I'll have to see if I can find the naked pose of Ron trying to get over the fence. That was in Oklahoma. Do you have the picture, Ron?

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

A Summer at Ojo Caliente

One summer, probably between my first and second grade? Maybe the year before, Dad was working on a highway in northern New Mexico. He built a little house trailer and away we went to camp the entire summer. We stayed near a village named Ojo Caliente, though in my memory there are lots more trees than you see in these pictures. We were probably camped among scrub pine. I have an idea that the people in the picture with dad and the dump truck were relatives who came to visit. He has

the look of being one of Anna and Gus Yarbro's sons. Maybe the one that lived with Mom and Dad when we were in Altas, Oklahoma when I was still a baby and Ronnie was just beginning to walk.

The fellow standing behind Dad (who is seated) with his hands on his hips looks very like Gus. I think he's the same fellow with the cowboy hat in his hand in front of the dump truck. As a Yarbro, he would have worn a Stetson.

Ronnie is walking right in front of the wheel of the tanker truck. That was our water supply. There was no electricity to our trailer, though there may have been a light plant down at the camp center. They built a platform so there could be dancing on special occasions.

The fellow on the bulldozer is not Dad. I think he must have been running a shovel or a dragline, because his oiler, Joe Gray was there at Ojo with us. He loved dad. He was a Mexican and called Dad Jeemy. His wife, Romelia, made flour tortillas every morning, and I always tried to be there when she was cooking them.

Back to the bulldozer. I looked at that picture, and the name Blackie came to my mind. Do you remember him, Ron?

That was a magical summer. Full of adventure and freedom. One day a truck carrying lettuce and other veggies turned over, and we all OD'd on lettuce. Mom gave us a salt shaker full of sugar, and we'd sprinkle it on the leaves, roll them up, and eat them. I can still taste it!

I can still remember the harrowing ride on a lowboy trailer to another town where the fellows were supposed to play baseball. The whole little camp community piled on the trailer and off we went on a shortcut through the mountains. It was a gravel road with hairpin turns so sharp that the truck would have to back up and jockey around to get around them. By the time we finally arrived, the game was over.

The construction company that Dad worked for was owned by Royal Skousen. I still have a picture that his wife did for my mother, a very pretty picture done in pastels on fine grade sandpaper of a path through a woods.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Picnic on the knik

Mother taught Sunday School most of the time we lived in Alaska--usually the class that Ronnie and I were in. She said it was because no one else would teach Ron. He had this infuriating habit of goofing off but ALWAYS having the right answer to the question that the teacher asked to show him that he was being inattentive.

Mother loved teaching kids, and she loved parties, so we'd get together as a Sunday School class and do fun things. This is a summer cookout at the Knik river. In my last posting (just before Ron's posting about Wally) there was a picture of Mom standing on the highway that leads to this bridge. Just across the bridge, the highway makes a 90 degree turn and runs along the base of the mountain. Pioneer Peak is its name.

At this time of year, the river is quite narrow, but in late August a lake that forms behind a glacier eats its way through the ice and the whole lake empties into the Knik and pours out to sea. The lake is called Lake George, and the phenomenon is called the Lake George Breakup. It's quite spectacular, because the river gets huge and blocks of ice float down it.

Did I spell Knik right?


This unfortunately marred picture is our older brother, Walter Eugene Shook. He died, so the family story goes, shortly before his first birthday, of pneumonia. Dad made his coffin, a family friend dug the grave, and Wally was buried the next day without being embalmed. Mom and Dad were too poor to afford a stone, so they dug Wally's grave at a 90 degree angle to the other graves in the Las Palomas graveyard. Mom and Dad had lost their first boy's grave (see an earlier post), and they didn't want to lose Wally's. Later, our aunt Elizabeth had a small bronze marker made for Wally. Wally's grave overlooks the Rio Grande.

Out behind the firehouse

This picture was taken one winter when we lived at the Bureau of Reclamation housing at Eklutna, Alaska. There was a fire station there, and Dad was the volunteer fire chief. One day he bulldozed a skating rink outside the fire station, then set up lights around it. In the evenings after school, we'd go down to the rink (just the kids mostly), use the fire hoses to water the rink, then put the hoses on racks to drain. By the time we had finished with the hoses, the water was ice and ready to skate on. In this particular picture, someone is sitting on the bank with me on one side and Tootie on the other. I think it's Dad, but can't be sure. I know he skated with us once or twice, but not too often as it was very cold.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Mother and Pioneer Peak

This is mother standing on the highway that ran from Palmer to Anchorage, probably somewhere in the vicinity of The Butte. The road ran straight to the mountain, crossed the Kinik River , and then ran along the base of the mountain alongside the river. We lived about four or five miles (?) from the place where the highway crossed the Kinik. Every spring a snow slide would come down and block traffic for a day or two.

This is obviously in summer, and I have an idea it was the first or second year we lived in Alaska.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

My Dad, the Provider

Dad was always a hunter. When we lived in Wyoming he hunted for deer and cottontail rabbits to supplement our diet. He shot a bear, too, but the meat turned out to be too strong to eat.

When we moved to Alaska he would go out each fall and bring home a moose. He was a very patient man and would locate a trail that had evidence of moose usage, and then he would sit and wait for one to come along.

He always came home with one, which he would skin, and then he and mother would cut it up down in the basement. Ron and I would wrap the meat, and in the freezer it would go. Mother always called the roasts rum roasts, no matter what part of the moose they came off of.

Moose is wonderful meat. It's very similar to beef, which was very, very expensive when we lived in Alaska.

Dad went hunting for carabou one year, but we didn't care for that meat as well, and mom asked him not to go again.

These pictures were taken somewhere in the early 1950's. I don't know who the fellow is who is helping Dad skin the moose.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Up a tree, as usual

This is kind of a puzzling photo, but illustrates a situation that happened a lot. I think I was caught in the fork of a tree, and Mom was trying to get me out. Tootie is trying to keep Mom from falling into the canal. You can see Mom's head peeking out from behind the tree, and one leg down below. One of Mom's feet is between Tootie's. Tootie, you will notice, is nattily attired in a cotton summer dress and saddle shoes.I think this was somewhere in Wyoming, in either 1949 or 1950. Anyhow, it was shortly before we went to Alaska.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Grandmother in Hot Springs

This is a picture of grandma Smith, me (all small unidentified boys become me) and an unknown woman in front of grandma's house in Hot Springs. The building across the street is, I think, a church. Don't you love the adobe architecture? This was on a street on the east side of town, across the main drag from the school and a couple of blocks away. The time would have been about 1945 or so. The woman is dressed quite nattily, but I don't think it's Mom. She doesn't have the right gestalt. Grandmother would have been nearly 60 by then. The time was early spring, because the trees hadn't leafed out, but grandma isn't wearing a coat, so it can't have been too cold. I remember it snowing only once while we lived there. In the morning there was snow, so Dad built us a sled out of scrap lumber, but by the time he had it finished, the snow had melted.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

The Shook family at home in Alaska

This has to be late in 1951 or early in 1952. We were living in a log cabin on a country road around a large hill called "The Butte." In this photo, I'm 11, Tootie is 9/10, Dad is 40, and Mom is 35. Butch, the dog, is 5 (or 35)? This was for some occasion or other, since I am dressed up in my complete boy scout regalia, complete with flashlight. Mom is in her favorite outfit: sweater and slacks. Dad is wearing engineer boots, which is pretty much all he wore except on Sunday. Tootie's dress I don't remember all that well. She will, it is to be hoped, fill y'all in on it.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Grandfather, Grandmother, and Butch

This is a picture of my grandparents on Mom's side. They are on the porch (!) of their home in Truth or Consequences. The family sons (and Dad) built it for them when I was about six. It was a smallish home, 24 feet or so on a side, square, with four rooms inside divided by two walls that crossed. Out back there was a screened in porch where I used to sleep when I visited there. I remember once how excited I was when I found a nest of black widow spiders in a corner by my bed. It was always kind of dusty, since New Mexico is always kind of dusty. This picture would have been taken in the early 1950's, I'd think. I think the dog is Butch, my family's black cocker spaniel, and a wonderful companion in all our travels. Good natured and willing to put up with a total lack of grooming, he was always there. He was struck by a car and killed on July 30, 1056. On the back of the picture is written, "Your old Folks. The dress I have on Anna made me for Ma day." I assume the picture was sent to Mom. Grandpa is wearing leather slippers. That's all I every remember him wearing, even when we went downtown.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Uncle Nate and Ronnie

This is a picture of my uncle Nate holding me. I think this is me. Actually, I will claim to be any kid of the proper age in a photo. Nate was in the army at the time, so it would have been in the early 40's. So the age is appropriate. We are standing outside a building that the family simply called "The Old Place." It was a bar that my
Aunt Elizabeth and her husband Ray (I'm his namesake) owned. They tore it down when I was about six and built Ashbaugh's a bar closer to town. Note the delicate tinting on the photo. It could be that it was a black and white photo that was tinted in the photographer's lab. Looks like an early digitization, but of course, they didn't have such things then.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The Kids in the Band

This is in Alaska. I'm, oh gosh, 14 or 15, and Tootie is 13 or 14. The band there was a big part of our lives. We were very proud of our uniforms, which were wool. Tootie was first clarinet and I played the snare drum. Our band leader, Mr. Plumly (Did I spell that right, Liz?) was a man of immense energy and considerable charisma. He came into town like a whirlwind sometime about my freshman or sophomore year and made the band into something excellent. I enjoyed my time with the band. Occasionally, Mr. Plumbly (how's that spelling?) would stop in practice, look at the back of the room, point his baton at me, and ask, "What are you doing back there, building a house?" I was always chastened by this but never knew precisely what he meant or what I was doing wrong. I have no idea who was sitting on the couch to my right. Poor person got cropped right out.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Mom and Dad's Wedding

I don't know whether I am inventing memories or not, but the way I remember it is that Mom and Dad ran away to get married and Granddad Smith was going to shoot Dad. Mom was very young, in modern terms, to get married. She was 17 1/2 years old at the time. Dad was 22. The certificate reads that they were wed April 21, 1934 in Mesilla Park, New Mexico. It was actually a double wedding, with Mom's best friend Helen and her beau (no name in my mind). The pastor was Lewis, who was kind of a legend in the area, since he was a traveling preacher who had the whole of New Mexico as his back yard. He used to travel from place to place on horseback, knitting small baby caps as he rode. When he baptized a kid, he'd give him or her a little cap to wear. I have one, blue and white and kind of ragged now.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

The kids go "outside"

Color film deteriorates over the years, doesn't it. I can't understand it, though, because it's only been -- oh my gosh, 53 years. This is a picture of Tootie and me at Seatac airport in the summer of 1955. We flew outside (to the 48 states). The next morning, we picked up brand new 1955 Buick, drove all over the west with it and back to Alaska. We almost didn't make it our of Seattle. Mom hit the wrong gear and almost put us into the Puget Sound. During this trip, I visited old classmates in Truth or Consequences, was sealed to my parents in the Manti Temple, lost an eyeglass lens in the Colorado River, visited Provo for the first time, attended a family reunion in Modesto, California. Boy was I beat when we got home to Alaska. Don't we look stylish? Especially Tootie. She is wearing a hat, which ladies did when they went out, and carrying a nice little handbag, which ladies did. I'm natty in a tan sport coat, gray slacks, and buttoned collar with no tie. The coat looks polyester, but this was way before that.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Dad and his machine

I thought I ought to include Dad's office. This is where he worked while I was a young boy. Later, he became shop foreman and didn't work with such dangerous machinery. That's Dad in the center of the standing men. Behind him is the steam shovel he operated. They don't use them any more, as backhoes are much more efficient. I've also included a picture of the whole thing.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

A visit to Uncle Clay and Aunt Alice

On the back of this picture are the words "Clay's June 1, 1973." I do believe that I took this picture, as I was there that day. The people in the picture are (left to right) Aunt Alice, Clay (barely visible), Mom, and Dad. This was at Clay and Alice's house in Alamogordo. We had visited the white sands earlier in the day and somewhere I have a picture of my son James, who was then 9 months old, playing on one of the white sand dunes. Note that Dad has the typical slanted cap and that Mom is wearing clothes and carrying a bag that she got in Afghanistan. Dad would have been 61 and Mom 56 at the time. They had been back from Afghanistan for about two years.

Monday, March 3, 2008

In Palmer, Alaska, 1951

I think this was the summer I turned 11. In this picture, Tootie is 9. I had seen a person on stilts on a movie somewhere and decided I could make some. I used 2x2 boards about six feet long, pieces of 2X4 for footrests, and straps from an old belt to hold my feet in. I got a friend in the Army to find me some old combat boots, and nailed the top parts to the stilts to hold my legs in place. I had to sit on the top of our Husdon Hornet to put them on. Two things amaze me about this incident. The first is that I never fell down. I caught on quickly, and walked all over the place, up hills, over ditches -- I was king of the world. The second thing that amazes me is that Mom let me do it in the first place. The two dogs in the foreground are Butch, our Cocker Spaniel, and(I believe) Suzie, our Golden Husky that we adopted when someone shot her left eye out.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

The whole fam-damly

This is a photo of Mom, her mother and father, her sisters, brothers, and assorted in-laws, nephews, and nieces. Mom is the one on the extreme left. She is dressed in her favorite outfit for comfort and travel, gabardine slacks and moccasins (I think they called them "squaw boots" in those non-pc days). The picture was taken in about 1953. We were living in Alaska at the time, and Dad, Tootie, and I stayed home while Mom flew outside for a family reunion. The occasion, if I remember (this is more than 50 years ago) was my grandparents' golden wedding anniversary.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Dad reading the paper

This is Dad reading the paper. He must have been in his early thirties at the time. You'll note that the picture was once in a photo album (look at the upper left corner). I initially thought this was taken during the time when Dad was in Puerto Rico during WWII. Notice right beside him the pith helmet on the edge of the chair. However, there also an old treadle sewing machine in the left of the picture, and on the wall a strung bow (as in bow and arrow) with a feather hanging from it. This indicates the presence of a woman in the household and that it was in the southwest, so perhaps it was during the time Dad was working on Elephant Butte Dam or the time the family was in Parker, Arizona. If it's Elephant Butte, dad is in his late 20's. If it's Parker Dam, he's older. Dad is, as always, skinny as a rail. As he got older, he got less stringy, but never chubby. How did he do that?

Friday, February 29, 2008

A mysterious photo

I love this photo. A young man in a uniform, with his girl (wife? sister?) holding on to him while he looks away. There's the faithful dog in the foreground, the horse in the background, and the mysterious adobe wall behind them.

Who are they? I have no idea. The photo is from our family archives, so I assume I'm related to someone in the picture. The uniform suggests a military school rather than, say, the army, but I don't know. Her dress suggests late 19th or early 20th century. I'd love to know, but perhaps that would destroy the stories that I can make up in my head.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Mom and Elizabeth

I love this photo. It shows Mom (on the left), her older sister Elizabeth, and Elizabeth's son Emory sitting at their feet. Mom and Elizabeth were very close, even though Elizabeth was some years older than Mom. Tootie will tell you how many.

Tootie, whose real name is Elizabeth and who now goes by Liz, was named after the Elizabeth in the picture, and Emory was named after Elizabeth and Mom's oldest brother. This is a practice that we still use in the family, with several kids and grandkids carrying the names of Mom's brothers and sisters.

In dating the picture, I'd have to do some very fancy guessing, but why not? I'm going to guess in the late 1920's. The hair styles and Mom's age seem to indicate that, along with Emory's age. If you look closely, you can see a hint of garter on Mom's left leg. Looking at the clothing, it's clear that they were dressed up for come occasion. The picture would have been taken at the Smith family home, possibly in Cutter, where Grandad had a ranch, and where Mom was born. Those hills in the background would have separated Cutter from Hot Springs.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Two cute kids again

I had a real good growing-up, and part of that was because of Tootie. She was always there, no matter where we were, and we moved around a lot. Actually, the family, especially Mom, Tootie, and I, were very tight. That meant that when we moved, we took our support group with us. It didn't matter too much how well we fit into the community, because we always had each other. Also, I have to admit, since we were Mormon, we always had an extended family to slide into. Because we lived mostly in the outback, the congregations were usually small and they where happy to see us (They were happy to see anybody).
So, here we are, Tootie and I. I don't know where it is. I see an old car in the background, and I estimate that I'm about seven (I'm not wearing glasses). But it didn't matter where we are. It was Tootie and me, "She's not heavy, she's my sister," type thing.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

My young mother

Mom always was young, even when she was in her 60's. She'd dance around the kitchen in a modified Charleston, waving a spoon and saying "Tcha tcha tcha," to whatever tune she had in mind. In this picture, my young mother is actually young. It was taken, I'd say, in the early 30's, when she would have been sixteen or seventeen. Note the coquettish tilt of the head, the draped fur, the lines of the dress, the neat shoes. The strong-jawed person beside her is, I believe, my uncle Clay (Help me on this Tootie). And, don't you just love the car?

Monday, February 25, 2008

Mom's parents

The photo is of my grandparents on their 50th wedding anniversary. Behind them is a set of pictures taken on their wedding day. Grandad is handsome in his cookieduster mustache, and Grandma has a very prim Gibson girl look. She was about four years older than he was, and he lied about his age to make up for it. There are many stories about Grandad, who was a bit of a loose cannon. One of my favorites is the time he bought some mules and paid for them with a rubber check. The sellers got unhappy about that, kidnapped Grandma, my mom, and my uncle Nate and held them till Grandad came up with the cash. I guess they thought the courts were too slow. Grandma was small but a real pepperpot, and I think she made her kidnappers sorry they every messed with her. Apparently, she gave them a tonguelashing the entire time they had her. And it wasn't politically correct, either.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

A clean-cut trio

I wish I knew exactly when this picture was taken. Judging from the hairstyles, I'd suspect in the late 40's or early 50's. Tootie will know. It's in a nice cardboard frame with a hinged back on it, so you can fold it up and it stays nice. It was always important to Mom that the family history be represented. I don't know if this was a conscious decision or if she simply felt a need to have photos taken. What is impressive about this photo is that it's obviously a studio shot, and that would have been expensive, and we didn't have a lot of money. My feeling is that Mom would have saved a dollar here, a dime there, in order to save enough to get the picture taken. In those days, family photos weren't put on the wall. They were tucked away in a drawer. Then, on special occasions, when family came to visit from Amarillo, we would haul out all the pictures, the adults would go slowly through each one, commenting at length, and the kids would suffer in fidgety silence.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

The family in 1955

I think this picture was taken in the summer of 1955, when we made a trip from Alaska to the lower 48 (It was called "going outside"). I was 15, Tootie 14. A couple of things about Dad (aside from the fact that he's missing the top of his head). He always carried a little notebook in his shirt pocket. I still have one, full of notations, measurements, times and dates. Second, if you look at his belt, you'll note that the buckle is on the side, not on the front. Folklorists tell us that in one of his movies, John Wayne's belt buckle slipped around to the side, and that started a fad. Dad apparantly liked it, because that's the way he wore his belt. I tried to do it that way because he did, but it didn't take. Tootie is wearing a sailor cap. I think we shared it, but when I wore it, I gave it a sailor's crush, so eventually I think she just took it over. I'm wearing a haircut called a "Princeton," flat and short on top, long and swept back on the sides. It required a substantial investment in hair-care products. Mom was one of the first people I remember to wear sunglasses a lot. Most people just squinted. With pictures like this, I always wonder, "Who took it?" There's a whole story behind that question.

Friday, February 22, 2008

The family in Washington?

In the early 1940's, Dad worked construction in the Pacific northwest. The picture is, I believe, from the time when we lived in a part of Vancouver, Washington
called MacLaughlin Heights (I may have gotten the spelling
wrong). Tootie and I have tried to find the house, but I
suspect that it is long gone. It was a small house, very cosy,
though it seemed large enough for me. One memory I have
of this house is that mom would put us to sleep at night (T and I slept in the same bed) by reading poetry to us. I can still hear her reading The Highwayman and The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. She put a lot of drama into the poetry. I kept wanting the highwayman to get away, but he always got killed in the end. Judging from the photos, I was somewhere around four, and T was 2 1/2. On the back of the photo mom had written "Lou, Jimmie, Ronnie, and Elizabeth Ann." So, why does T get two names?

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Mom in her Parka

When we lived in Alaska, we didn't have a lot of spare change, although mom and dad worked hard to make sure that Tootie and I weren't aware we were poor. One winter, we hunted snowshoe rabbits. We tanned the skins and made mittens; we ate the meat. I thought it was a neat adventure in living off the land. Mom and dad probably thought it was a chore but one way to get by. Mom was handy with a sewing machine, and she made clothing for us, including winter clothing. I got a warm coat and mom made a fur-lined hood for me. She also made a parka for herself, the one in the picture. I think the body of the coat was an old fox fur, and she added the hood and the trim. She insisted that the proper pronunciation was "parky," though I never did hear anyone else call it that. Mom had a good sense of style and liked to look nice. She could look better on a shoestring than most people could with a handfull of cash.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Dad's hats

One thing I remember about my dad is that he always wore hats. Later on, when my hairstyle came to be more and more like his (gone), I realized why he did it.

My earliest memories of dad's hats were of the fabric fedora work hats he always wore. The picture of him under the tree shows one. They were cotton, I think, stiff and rugged. I wish I could find one like it today.

Later, he switched to caps. But, and you can see this from the photos, he always wore them, hats or caps, cocked over one eye. Never straight. I don't think he favored one eye above the other, but always that slight tilt to the cap.

I've tried to wear hats and caps the way he did, but, frankly, it drives me crazy.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Swimming in a glacier lake

When we lived in Alaska, we would swim in the summer at a place called Falk's Lake. It was on the farm of the Falk family, and I guess they let everyone swim there. Mom would usually load up the Hudson with a bunch of kids from Eklutna, the tiny community where we lived, and lug us there. She was the only mom who did this, by the way. The water was always very cold, very cold, but Tootie would dive right in. She was first in, last out. I took a lot longer to get in, but once in, was fine. I remember one time a friend of ours came out of the lake with a headache. The next day, he was paralyzed. In those days, summer was polio season, and everybody worried about it.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Jimmy's tombstone

Here's a story I remember about Dom and Dad's firstborn, James Walk Shook, who died before I was ever born. Mom and Dad were living way somewhere in the outback and she went into labor with Jimmy. They drove 35 miles over bad roads into Seligman, Arizona, with Mom in the back seat of a Ford Model A. When they reached the hospital, the doctor tried birthed the baby with forceps and the baby died after sixteen hours. They buried Jimmy in the Seligman cemetary, but Mom and Dad were so poor they couldn't afford a marker. So, Dad noted that Jimmy's grave was near a stump-shaped marker. What he didn't know was that the keeper of the cemetary tied his mule to that marker, and the mule dragged it all over the cemetary. So, Jimmy's grave was lost. I was reminded of this the other day when I saw a stump-shaped marker in the Hyrum, Utah cemetary (pic).