Friday, October 21, 2011

Uncle Henry & Aunty Jones...

When my mother was a child - her family had neighbors who lived across the road from her house.   They were a childless couple who became very good friends of the family that they became my mother's godparents.

Glenthora Stranahan Jones or "Aunty Jones" as we always called her was a "character!"  She was a very poor driver who drove far longer than she should have.  Thain Rd was and still is an extremely busy street - when she was ready to pull out into traffic, she didn't ease into it - she gunned the car in the driveway and was already going a pretty good speed by the time she hit the road.  It is a miracle that she never hit anyone.  She wasn't the little old lady who drove too slow, she loved to drive fast.  Aunty Jones used to hide the newspaper and or glasses from her husband so he would see the traffic tickets listed.  Her family were among the earlier settlers of Lewiston, ID.  Her father was Clinton Terry Stranahan or CT as he was known.  He was one of the last Indian agents out in Lapwai, ID and owned a pretty large chunk of land.  He sold some of it to Potlatch Forests, later Clearwater Paper where the mill sits today.  He also had a rather large fruit farm in what is today known as the Lewiston Orchards.  May Louise Bostick was Aunty Jones mother.  She was the first white child born in Gallatin Co., MT.  Aunty Jones family had been in the Lewiston area since the mid 1880's, which considering the city of Lewiston is just now 150 years old (founded in 1861) was very early.  She became a nurse when she was a young woman and spent some time in Mexico working.  In addition, she also spent time with her husband in Europe after World War I where he was working as military officer.  She married Uncle Henry on Dec. 26, 1911.

I have very dim memories of sitting on Uncle Henry's lap.  I mostly remember a horse head cane that he used.  Strange what a child remembers :)  When he died in 1973, I was only about 6 years old...but I later heard many stories about him.  He was born in Springfield, IL and his family moved out west in 1887 to Oregon.  He left home when he was 14 to work in the logging camps.  Since he was big for his age, he signed up with the army and was sent to the Philippines during the Spanish-American War.  Uncle Henry moved to Lewiston in about 1907 according to obituary and married Aunty Jones in 1911.  He retired from the Idaho National Guard in 1919 as a Major.  I always heard the story growing up that Uncle Henry wanted to serve in World War II - they told him that he had a bad appendix and he couldn't serve.  He had the appendix removed and they still wouldn't serve.  However, my uncle told me (he lived nearby) that there were cars that pulled up to his driveway that had flags with stars on them.  Since my uncle had just finished serving in World War II, he knew that those were members of the military with the highest of ranks.  During his lifetime, Uncle Henry worked for the local utilities and for the road department.  He was the district maintenance engineer for the Idaho Department of Highways in 1931 until 1941.  Uncle Henry then spent the last years of his working life taking care of his fruit orchard on Thain Rd and helping to start the local television station.

It was only later in life that I learned that the kindly old couple of my early childhood were such remarkable people.  Aunty Jones was much more than that lady who always gave us each of us kids a dollar bill and bag of oranges at Christmas.  She was fun and interesting to talk to.  Aunty Jones had verve for life as long as I knew her.  She was never the quintessential old lady she defined her own status.  She died in 1988 at almost exactly 99 years old.  In my minds eye, I can still picture her sitting on our couch and discussing the trips on the stagecoach in her youth with Granny Shearer and Mom Friddle (both my great grandmothers.)  They helped me and my siblings develop a love for history.  Whenever I think of her and Uncle Henry - I smile...I was lucky to have known them!