Sunday, December 30, 2012

Pop Friddle's Lonely Childhood

The first New Year that I saw as meaningful was that of 1980.  I had lived through the entire decade of the 1970’s, but was young enough that I don’t remember that new year.  I was twelve years old in 1980 and remembered thinking that there were a lot of exciting things to come that year and that decade.  When I woke up on New Year’s Day, I opened up the newspaper and looked at the Garfield comic strip.  There was Garfield sitting in his bed with his eyes half open.  He put his paw out and touched the ground in front of him and thought “Nope, it doesn’t feel any different!”  When 2000 dawned, I pretty much felt the same way.  Despite all the doom and gloom that was forecasted, the world didn’t stop and life continued on.  I’ve often thought of the dawning of the 20th century and my ancestors who were alive then.  For the most part, they led pretty standard lives with their families and their secure homes – all but one of my ancestors – my great grandfather, David Carl Friddle.

David Carl Friddle was my great grandfather.  I never knew him personally, but my mother told me a great deal about him.  I know that he was a loving, doting grandfather who lavished attention and affection on my mother.  My mother told me that when the circus came to town, they would often draft him to be the strong man because he could straighten a horse shoe with his bare hands.  By the time my mother remembered him; he had suffered several strokes and was probably a shadow of his former self.  Mom could remember vividly listening to him and my great grandmother telling tall tales about each other and both of them nodding as if it was the absolute truth. ..and she remembered that the two of them gazed at each other with love and devotion.   There was a lot she didn’t know about the gentle giant who gave her bare hugs and comforted her when she was crying her eyes out.  Much of this, Mom and I found out together as even she didn’t know what his young life was like.
David Carl Friddle or “Pop” as he was referred to in our family was born on 1 May 1889 to Moses Friddles and Martha “Mattie” Brown.  His father, Moses was 63 years old when Pop was born and his mother was 27.  Pop was the youngest of the six children that Moses and Mattie had…however, Moses also had at least four other children from his first marriage.  When Pop was about 10 months old, his father died.  I have no real idea as to what happened in the intervening years between 1890 and 1900 except a few stories that I have heard.  I believe that Mattie worked as a maid in the household of Judge Vaught and that the old Judge taught Pop how to read and write.  By the time 1900 came around, Pop’s entire family had splintered and none of them were together.  Pop’s oldest brother, Albert, who was born in 1854 had left Tennessee before Pop had been born and went to Oregon with his family.  His sister, Julia, was married and living in Caldwell County, North Carolina with children of her own.  Pop’s older brother, Roby was in the military and stationed in the Philippines and his brother Jesse was most likely also in the military.  It is unknown where his older brother James was – because I’ve been unable to located in him the census for 1900, however it is likely that he was a servant in another household.  Pop is listed as a 10 year old “Carlie” in the household of Richard Wilson. Pop’s sister, Calia, is also listed several households away as a servant in the household of Nathaniel Ward and his wife Lily.  Pop’s mother, Martha “Mattie” is listed in the same area with her new husband, John M. Tester.

As 1900 dawned – I can’t help thinking about the situation that my great grandfather was in.  His father  who he never really knew died when he was one – and by the time he is 10 years old, his mother has remarried and seemingly abandoned her youngest child.  This ten year old boy had to work to have a place to stay.  I don’t think his situation improved much over the next ten years.  I know that his teen years were spent working so he had a place to sleep and food to eat.  When I contrast my situation with his, it is difficult to ever feel sorry for myself.  I had parents who loved me and provided everything that I could want or need including affection.  I had siblings and a large external family who care about me and what happened in my life.  Pop had a mother who seemed to have abandoned him and no close family to look out for him.

Pop married Mom Friddle (Sophia Dollar) on 22 Dec 1908. When the 1910 census is taken, he is most likely living in the home that his wife grew up in (Laurel Bloomery, TN)  At 21 year old, he had a wife and son to care for and probably saw no potential for a good living in Tennessee.  I’m not sure, but I believe that his brother, Albert came back to Tennessee for a visit and encouraged his much younger brother to come out west as there was land and opportunity.  When Pop Friddle left Tennessee in late 1910, he left behind a life that he never returned to.  His mother had died the previous year as had his sister, Calia.  His brother Jesse had died while in the military in Ohio and it is unclear where his brother Roby lived.  His brother, James was married and living a county away.  There was nothing for him in Tennessee and so he left for a new life.
Mom Friddle went back to North Carolina and Tennessee to visit family, but Pop never did.  By the time 1928 had arrived, his two brothers back in Tennessee had both died.  James was most likely murdered before he, too could leave.  In fact, Pop Friddle lost Albert to old age on 5 October 1928 and his brother James was found along side of a road with a gunshot in his head on 1 October 1928.  In 1932, his last living sibling, Julia, died of old age in Walla Walla, WA.  From what I know of Pop Friddle, he took loving care of his wife, children and grandchildren.  They were precious to him and perhaps he probably understood the importance of family more than most.  

Pop died on 4 Jan 1955 in Lewiston, ID.  He was the last remaining member of his own family.  As he lay in that bed after suffering another debilitating stroke, he must have known he was near the end.  My mother told me that she sat by his bedside that last hour.  Mom Friddle and my Grandma Cappy sat on the other side of the bed quietly talking.  My mother remembered him looking at her and trying smile as he briefly squeezed her hand and then he looked over at Mom Friddle, smiled and closed his eyes and died.   Pop lived his life trying to be the best husband, father and grandfather that he could.  In many ways it is amazing that that little boy who saw the new century in 1900 grew up to be such a beloved husband, father, and grandfather.     

Monday, December 24, 2012

An Elk City Christmas

Every year as I’ve grown older, I seem to reminisce back to Christmas celebrations of my youth.  My mother always made a “great” Christmas, but there were a few Christmas celebrations that really stuck out in my head.  I don’t remember any presents that I received (although don’t mention the robot to my brother) nor do I really remember anything specific that happened.  For a child, Christmas in Elk City at my grandparents’ house was special.  Elk City is located about and hour and half south of Grangeville, ID and is located on the South Fork of the Clearwater river.  It is just on the edge of being in the wilderness and is at about 4000 feet.
The preparations for my mother had to be intense and enormous.  Not only did she have to do the normal shopping, wrapping as well as the candy making and cookie baking…she had to prepare her whole family to enter into a winter wonderland.  I’ve no idea how long it took to pack the station wagon for our journey to Elk City which on a good day was 2 ½ hours but mostly around three hours.  In went the presents, the cookies and candy and the clothes.  The last bit had to take a good bit of planning.  All of us would probably spend the majority of our time playing out in the snow so extra clothes, mittens and hats were in order as well as our sleds.  After that was all packed, four kids and a dog were added to the mix with two probably weary adults.  I think that I must have sat in the front with my parents, being the youngest one, because three kids and a dog took up more than enough room in the back.  As soon as we were at the bottom of Mt. Idaho and a little bit down the road, the questions of “When will we get there” would start.  Mom being a musician would start us off singing Christmas carols to pass the time.    My father would listen to our caroling and concentrate on the driving.  This wasn’t an easy drive – it was usually packed with snow and there seemed to obstacles in the road quite often.
Soon we would arrive and climb the hill up to my grandparents’ house.   I don’t remember unloading the car of the presents or anything else – all I remember is playing in that wonderful snow.  Mom told me that we only did this a few years – and I suppose because I was so young that the years probably mesh in my mind.  I can remember the snow being so deep that I wasn’t allowed out by myself…it was taller than I was.  I can remember playing out in the snow for so long that your eyelashes became icicles and it seemed like every part of your body was frozen.  We would then run inside, take off our wet mittens and socks, lay them on the fireplace – probably warm up with some hot cocoa and then put on some dry mittens, hats and socks and head back out into the snowy paradise.  The logistics of collecting enough winter clothes to keep four children and two adults warm during our snow play was carefully managed by my mother.

One year – perhaps that first year, my grandparents bought us kids a toboggan.    My grandparents lived at the top of a hill – there was a fine road that wound around the hill that provided a great sledding course – but the toboggan…that was special.  All of us kids would pile in and start down the side of the hill, picking up speed constantly.  We would come to a snow berm (from my grandpa plowing the road) and we would sail over the top of the road and land on the other side.  We probably hit three of these snow berms on that trip down the hill.  At the bottom, my dad and grandfather would tow us back up to the top with the snow mobiles.  Mom thought this looked like a great deal of fun…until she took a ride with us.  I’m still surprised that she let me ride that toboggan.  Mom also had to try the sled on road and wore down the toes of her boots trying to slow down. 
Soon enough, it would be Christmas Eve and my sister and I were dragged in from our snowy paradise to get our hair done.  Mom always dressed us up on Christmas Eve, usually in matching outfits.  Neither one of us was all that thrilled to be dragged into the house…but night would soon fall and the boys would have to come in as well.  My grandparents had a huge living room with a gigantic fireplace that stretched to basement.    It was in the basement where Grandma’s Christmas tree waited with the presents under the tree.  Usually Mom would gather us around the piano to sing Christmas music and usually we would get so excited that we didn’t pay the proper attention.  I can remember running to the window and sing a red light blinking across the sky and thinking that perhaps Rudolph had just flown by.  Perhaps we would hear a kerthunk downstairs or some sort of noise and usually my mother would exclaim that Santa must have arrived.  All of us would head downstairs and dive into the presents.  It was traditional in my family to open our presents on Christmas Eve.  Then on Christmas day, we would have a big dinner. 

After the excitement of opening the presents and perhaps playing with them, all of us kids would bunk down in our sleeping bags – usually with a favorite toy nearby.  I know that on some of these Christmas’s my cousins would be there to enjoy the play and the presents with us.  The seven of us kids all within eight years had a wonderful time playing in the snow and being together. Each one of us holds these Elk City Christmas’s in our memories.  My grandparents have been gone for many years as well as my mother and her sister now.  The house has been out of the family a long time and the hill side that we used use the toboggan on has far too many trees to provide a safe path down the hill.  I don’t know if those Christmas’s were so perfect – but they sure seemed so to us kids.   I can still picture all of us in our mittens, scarves, hats with our red noses getting ready to pile back on that toboggan for another ride down the hill. 
It is my hope that everyone has treasured memories of Christmas past and hope that they can make new and wonderful Christmas memories this year.  Merry Christmas to everyone!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

A Special Delivery - Revisited

This is my father's favorite Christmas story.  Christmas at his house was a slim affair.  Dad's story reminds me that Christmas presents can be something other than prettily wrapped gifts.  It can be the generosity and kindness of a postman who went wall beyond any expected effort to make sure that a family was able to celebrate Christmas.

This photo shows the farm back in 1957.  You can see the road going towards the house.  By Christmas of that year, that road was impassible and the closest passable road was over a mile away.

So please read - A Special Delivery - if you are of a certain age and lived far off the beaten path, you may have a similar story!

Have a Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Happy Birthday - Grandma Cappy

Gwen & Capitola Shearer - about 1965 in Clarkston, WA near Wasems.
Today would have been my grandmother's birthday.  Ironically, it was also her first mother-in-law's birthday as well.  Sarah Kelley Tannahill was not one of her favorite people, so it was a bit funny that they had the same birthday.

I don't really remember celebrating her birthday much when she was alive.  For one thing...they lived in Elk City for a lot of my childhood and I was in school and unaware of such dates.  When she passed away in 1985, I was on the brink of adulthood and since she died on the day I went to college, I probably took her death a little harder.  As I got older, I appreciated the person that she was more and more.  Mom and I would often talk about her mother.  I also got a chance to read some of her diaries.  I read about the excitement of new grandchildren, the day to day details of her normal life and the heartbreak at the loss of her husband and later her father.  Through those diaries, Grandma became a real person to me.  Through those diaries, I got to know my grandmother as an adult.

In 2005, it was 20 years since she had passed.  Mom was particularly sentimental about her mother that year.  Perhaps she realized that we wouldn't have her much longer.  Mom asked me to put an artificial poinsettia on Grandma's grave in time for her birthday and Christmas.  I had no idea that I would be back there before the end of the year burying my mother after her death from lung cancer on December 26th.  That poinsettia was still there - there was comfort to me that my mother was with her momma again.

Today, both of their graves have poinsettia's on them - which is a flower that I associate with both of them.  They don't make me sad but they are instead a celebration these two women.  So...Grandma, Happy Birthday!

If you would like to read a bit more about my Grandma Cappy - Take a look at the blog I wrote last year for her 100th birthday!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

December 12

If Mom was still alive, then Mom & Dad would have been married for 53 years today.  As I look around in the house, I notice lots of things that I bought Mom & Dad for their anniversary...especially the big clock in the sun room.

Mom always believed in giving the gift of "time!"  Probably because there was nothing that she loved more than having a clock in every room...which we still do.  In fact, in a few rooms we have multiple clocks.  I was always in cahoots with Mom when it came time for their anniversary.  Sometimes I would buy some Christmas decoration that she wanted.  Some of those items are still among my favorite Christmas decorations.  I think that perhaps her favorite anniversary gift that I ever gave her was the huge clock that I spied at Costco one year.  It looked nice and was about two feet wide.  We could put that clock up three rooms away and she could still see it.

Mom always said that their wedding might have been full of lots of missteps -(See )  but Mom & Dad's marriage was a happy and fulfilling one.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Christmas Flair

My mother never thought that she had much artistic talent.  I think that she always loved looking at those who could paint something and make it beautiful.  I would argue that she had a great deal of artistic talent…just not the traditional kind. 

Christmas Decorations 2012 - Living Room
When I was about six years old, Mom really got into ceramics.  Mom never did anything part way – she always dove in and immersed herself with whatever skill she was attempting to learn.  That Christmas, Mom decided that we kids were going to make our grandmother Christmas presents.  So, each one of us chose something and we painted it with a glaze it was fired and Grandma Cappy got several gifts including an ugly shaker shaped like a mushroom that was about 8 inches tall.  I don’t know what my sibling made – but that was the masterpiece that I made.  I still have it, hiding in a shelf in my bedroom.  Mom decided that she too was going to make a present for her mother as well as a few decorations for our tree.

Mom began assembling a fairly large nativity set.  She painted each one with the appropriate colors.  As it was, I’m sure it was painted beautifully – but here is where Mom’s artistic talent came in.  Instead of making it look like a normal painted nativity scene, she washed everything in gold.  The colors were still there, but she made it look special with gold tint.  Dad made a stable for the nativity set and when it was presented to Grandma at Christmas that year, she was absolutely thrilled.  She didn't do much decorating, but every Christmas that followed during her lifetime, she lovingly unpacked her beautiful nativity set and placed each piece in the appropriate spot.  When Grandma died in 1985, Mom took the nativity set back and I remember us putting it up near the fireplace.  Over the stable, Mom would place green boughs and some of Grandma Cappy’s artificial poinsettias.  I think Mom thought of it as a wonderful way to honor her own mother at Christmas.  The stable has long since fallen apart and now I am the one who puts it out each year in honor of both my mother and grandmother.  I place it on the electronic baby grand piano that Mom so loved and place a large poinsettia in the background.  As you walk in the room, it still draws the eye.  I've had my nieces help me set it up in some years and I show them the marks under the pieces that say when the nativity pieces were painted and by whom and then I tell them the story. 
Mom's Nativity Scene
There are also Christmas ornaments that Mom made that same year.  There are probably close to ten of these ornaments.  I’m probably most fond of the Santa ornaments myself…but there are a few angels and holly hobby pieces as well.
Some favorite ornaments
  No matter how small the Christmas tree that I have, those ornaments will always be on the Christmas tree.  I don’t know if it was the same year, but Mom also made a wonderful Santa who is holding his sack open to provide a place to put Christmas cards.  As I look around the house decorated for Christmas – there are so many memories and beautiful pieces that my Mom lovingly created with her own unique artistic flair.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

The Old Stereo

Most of the year, the stereo was dormant.  Occasionally you would hear a record being played, but for the most part it was a silent piece of furniture in our living room.  However, at Christmas time, it seemed like it was always playing.

I can remember the pile of records that my mother had in the side cubby hole in that old stereo.  There were probably twenty or thirty records.   Mom wasn't one to listen to music all of the time…she always said that she found it too distracting.  For me, it helps me concentrate – but Mom said that she concentrated on the music rather than was she was trying to do.  When it was time to decorate the house for Christmas, those records would be brought out and thumbed through to find something that suited her mood.  There are only a few records that I remember specifically – but the music is something that I remember well. 

Years ago, they used to see records at the Firestone tire store.  Not year round, but at Christmas time.  Dad said that they would make a special trip down to get the record every year.  These records would have singers like Perry Como, Dean Martin, Peggy Lee and Bing Crosby.  We must have had about 10 of those records.  It was almost like listening to your iPod today.  There was a terrific mix of music from people you liked to hear sing.  Mom was a music snob and so all of the music was classical in nature or from the crooners that Mom enjoyed listening to.  With the mix of music that she had in that stereo, it was almost shocking to find a Chipmunks Christmas album in the stack.  At Christmas time, we were even allowed to play that one a few times.

As we decorated the house, music would be playing on that old stereo and Mom would be singing along to the familiar tunes.  I have a great memory for the lyrics of just about all of the famous Christmas songs, and I think I learned most of them listening to either those old records or to Mom singing at the piano. 

I started playing Christmas music about the second week of November in my office.  My coworkers know that is the music of choice for me this time of year.  There is some modern stuff but there is also a lot of Bing Crosby, Dean Martin or Frank Sinatra.  Now I play it from my iPod with my own Christmas mix – and when I go home at night and do some decorating, baking or wrapping – that Christmas music is still playing in the house.  They may not be those old records on the stereo in the living room – but I suspect that the same type of music is still playing.  Those old songs always make me love Christmas and fondly remember my childhood listening to that old stereo!

Monday, December 3, 2012

A Red Poinsettia

My mother grew up with a Poinsettia in the house every Christmas, and both of her grandmothers always had them in their homes…I suspect that they were purchased every year by my Grandma Cappy.  They were a favorite flower of hers and I never remember a Christmas without a Poinsettia in her home.  During her later years, my mother usually made brought the Poinsettia to her just as my grandmother had done for her mother in law and mother.  It seemed to be a tradition.  When my Grandma Cappy died in 1985, Mom would still buy the Poinsettia…but she would buy an artificial one and place on her grave.  When my Grandma Marian moved to Lewiston in 2001, one of the first things that my mother bought her that Christmas season was a beautiful Poinsettia for her home.  As Mom and I decorated her small apartment, Grandma Marian protested that she didn't really need such a fuss, but Mom and could tell that she was delighted with the decorations and especially enjoyed the Poinsettia. Grandma Marian spent most of her life watching practically every penny that she spent.  That came from a lifetime of trying to make sure she always had money in the bank.  She had grown up during the depression and had spent too many years with a growing family and not enough money to go around.  During those years, she rarely bought anything for herself…especially anything that might be thought of as a luxury. 

After my mother died in 2005, I continued to take a Poinsettia every year to my Grandma Marian as well as an Amaryllis…I always loved watching how quickly it grew and loved the beautiful blooms.  Last year, Grandma was slowing down…but I still brought her the Poinsettia and Amaryllis.  I think that it gave her a lot of joy to watch the Amaryllis grow quickly because it was placed where she could watch it every day.  Her Poinsettia was also where she could watch and enjoy it. 

Every time I stopped by or talked to her on the phone, she would ask how my Amaryllis was doing.  It didn't bloom nearly as soon as hers nor with nearly as many blooms.  During those last few weeks of her life, those flowers gave her a lot of pleasure.  In fact, her Amaryllis finished blooming just as she passed away on December 30th

Today, it is a Christmas tradition for me to have a Poinsettia in the house and an Amaryllis growing.  I've never had a Christmas without a Poinsettia.  When I look at the Poinsettia today – it symbolizes the women in my life who have had such an impact on me.  My mother who could never have enough Poinsettias – who loved the colors, twinkling lights and glitter of Christmas.  Her mother, Grandma Cappy who didn't go much for the decorating but always had the Poinsettia in a primary position in her home.  Granny Shearer who would keep the Poinsettia alive for many weeks and even months after Christmas.  Grandma Marian who never really bought things like Poinsettias for herself but loved receiving them.  In many ways, I think that Grandma Marian might have enjoyed them more than any of them.  She truly enjoyed their simple beauty and color. 

This nativity scene was painted by mother back in 1973 as a gift for her mother.
Now...I always display it with a Poinsettia in the background as they both loved Poinsettias.
A few weeks ago, Dad and I bought some artificial Poinsettias and placed them at my mother and Grandma Cappy’s grave.  Dad put a stake in them so they would stay put and not blow away in the wind or weather.   That morning, Dad and his sisters went up to Freeze cemetery and put a Poinsettia down on my Grandma Marian’s grave.  My mother and both of my grandmothers all impacted my life in so many ways – I think of them daily and especially at Christmas time.  The Poinsettia has become not just a symbol of the Christmas season…but also of these wonderful, smart, loving women.