Saturday, December 17, 2011

Happy 100th Birthday Grandma Cappy!


Today would have been my grandmother’s 100th birthday.  Capitola Ester Friddle was born to David Carl Friddle and Sophie Vestelle Dollar on December 17th, 1911 up on Grouse Flats, Wallowa Co., OR.  She was delivered by her uncle, Albert Friddles, who was the local midwife in a cabin.  At the time of her birth, her parents were 22 and 17 years old and already the parents of a 2 year old boy. 

Capitola's high school graduation picture.
Grandma Cappy was not an easy person.  She was a loving mother and grandmother but didn’t have what one might call the most developed maternal instincts.  Grandma grew up in serious times and therefore was not someone all that frivolous about anything.  My mother used to say that “work” was her God.    When something bothered her – she worked, when she was happy – she worked, when she was challenged by something – she worked.  Playing hooky was not part of Grandma’s makeup.  My nieces and nephews have both enjoyed “fun” grandmothers who did fun activities with them and actually were great fun to be around.  My grandmother grew up during the depression and her parents had little money for most of her childhood.  They learned to work to survive and make do with what they had.  This isn’t to say that I didn’t love my grandmother – I did.  As a child, I found her interesting to talk to and always tried to please her.  I’m sure I drove a lot of people nuts with my constant questioning, but my grandmother was patient and encouraged my intellect.  She died the day I went to college in 1985.  Her health had been failing for some time – but I know that her last thoughts were of her family because they were always the most important and driving force in her life.

When Grandma Cappy was a little girl living on the old homestead on Grouse Flats, she went to a one room school with all of the other children in the area.  She and her brothers always thought of the old home place with a lot of fondness….certainly a lot more fondness than their mother.  They moved to Pomeroy in the early 1920’s so Grandma’s brother, Jack could go to high school.  After Jack graduated from high school, they moved to Lewiston.  Grandma became the first class to go through Lewiston High School in their new building.  It is the same building that her daughters went to and my siblings and myself…as well as one of her great granddaughters.  We are all graduates of LHS.  Cappy went to college at the Lewiston Normal School and got a degree teaching.  At that point she met her boyfriend and later first husband, Richard Tannahill.  They eloped in Vancouver, WA on Dec 28, 1938.  Cappy’s mother, brothers and sister –in-law were present.  They married far away from Lewiston so they could keep her marriage secret and she could finish teaching the year. 

They waited four years for their first daughter and when my mother was born in 1941, my grandmother decided that would be the last child.  After all, her husband was off hunting and it was her brother who took her to the hospital to have the baby.  If Richard couldn’t for the birth…then there wasn’t going to be any more babies.  It must have been hard work to maintain a big home, take care of two babies and help her parents especially in the early 1940’s when her brothers were off fighting in two fronts in World War II.  Cappy and her brothers were very close and it had to tear Grandma up to know her beloved brother were in harm’s way.  Jack was her buddy…he probably knew her best because they were so close in age.  Claude was a beloved baby brother who she helped raise.  Claude used to tell me that Cappy swatted his backside more often than his mother. 

Richard died in 1947 as the result of a hunting accident.  She married Gwen Shearer about a year later.  At this point, Cappy ran a lumber lot at her home and was a sharp businesswoman.  Mom said that she could calculate lumber quicker than anyone she knew.  In 1956, Gwen Shearer’s mill burned down in Orofino, ID and they were in the process of building a new mill in Elk City, ID.  This took a serious financial toll…and Grandma decided to go back to school and get recertified to teach.  Cappy did what was necessary and started substitute teaching by 1959.  By the next year, she was teaching at Elk City’s grade school.  Grandma loved teaching and was very good at it.  She was tough but fair and from all accounts, her students loved her.  Grandma also adored animals and for most of her life, she had a pet as part of it.  When Grandma was teaching, her dog came to school with her.  She would spend most of the day on Grandma’s purse and the kids knew to stay away. 

Cleaning up after opening presents - Abt 1974
Grandma got her dream house in 1972 with a huge kitchen and a huge living room.  The fireplace was a masterpiece of rock that she and Grandpa Gwen had chosen.  All of her grandchildren have vivid memories of some of the best Christmas’s that a child could experience.  Most of the time, we would decorate the Christmas tree when we got up there.  Cappy would have put up the nativity set that my mother painted for her.  What was so wonderful about Christmas at Grandma’s house was the snow.  We would play on our sleds and the toboggan that they gave us for hours.  Only coming in for brief times to change socks and mittens and maybe eat something then we would go back out and play.  There wasn’t just a few inches of snow out there…but rather feet.  Many times Grandpa Gwen and Dad would come out and drag us up from the bottom of the hill with the snowmobiles, great memories and great fun.
My grandmother Cappy’s favorite flower was the poinsettia.  Every year she bought one for her mother, mother-in-law, herself and for her daughters.  Whenever I see poinsettia’s I think of her and my mother.  Mom loved them because of their color but also because of her mother.  As I put up the nativity set that my mother so lovingly painted for her mother – I place a large poinsettia behind.  You might say that this is a tribute to both women.  I never look at it without thinking of them.  So Grandma – wherever you are – Happy 100th birthday.  We love you and miss you!