Kombol, Lulu Mildred (1885-1977): Growing up on the Cowlitz River

  • By Lulu Shircliff Kombol
  • Posted 12/31/2011
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 9984
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Lulu Mildred (Shircliff) Kombol was born on August 27, 1885, in Walla Walla. She wrote her autobiography at age 89 while living in Seattle with a daughter. Her original account has been slightly expanded to include additional material and has been provided to HistoryLink.org by her grandson, William Kombol, manager of Palmer Coking Coal Company in Black Diamond (King County), Washington. Lulu Mildred Kombol vividly details life growing up on Holcomb Farm on the Cowlitz River and later, her life as a miner's wife and a teacher. She died on January 17, 1977, at age 91.

To My Family

My children have asked me to write an account of my life throughout the time from my early childhood up to the present date, April 1975. I have already finished one book about my life on the farm. I hope I can finish this since it is an attempt to cover my whole life step-by-step. The Lord willing I hope to complete it.

I was born in Walla Walla, Washington, on August 27, 1885. My mother, Jennie Alice Brown, was from Illinois. My father's name was William Shircliff, and he was from Ohio. They were very young -- mother was 18, father in his mid-20s. At the time they married he was a paymaster-general at Fort Walla Walla where the government maintained a cavalry, often exercising their black horses in parades to the tune of the cavalry band. What a beautiful sight! Later he was transferred to the treasury department in Washington D.C. There he was promoted several times and upon his death he was given a citation and buried in Arlington National Cemetery. I have a map of the cemetery on which there are numbers that mark the plots. I was in Washington D.C. for only 24 hours so had not the time. I visited an uncle in Kansas and he gave me the information. He also reminded me that I was a Shircliff and that the name had always been above reproach.

As I passed through Kansas I looked up my cousin. She heard a great deal of this from her father, but neglected to save his papers verifying the family record. Now she is very sorry, as it seems the Shircliff ancestors were very intellectual and were very prominent in political affairs and government. At one point I thought of having the family history verified by people who trace family history and give one papers verifying information. I found out who and where my ancestors on the Shircliff side were, where they were living, and other information. It is interesting because it goes back four or five generations. Well enough of that -- and now on to my life history.

When I was about 4 years old, my mother remarried, this time to Ransom Holcomb. He was a building architect and designer of buildings. At that time he was remodeling and adding an addition to the Washington State penitentiary. When that job finished he purchased a 350-acre farm on the Cowlitz River, a branch of the Columbia River about 100 miles upstream from Portland, Oregon, near a place called Toledo. A stern-wheel steamer stopped at a number of farms which had suitable landings. The whistle was blown a mile or so downstream to announce their arrival, if you had produce or they had produce for you. If it was dark they would tie up until daybreak.

When my parents purchased the farm on the Cowlitz, they thought I was too young for the rough life of settlers. A house had to be built, barns for the cattle, fences erected, and besides, the only suitable site for a house was on the bank of the river, which took time. It was too dangerous for a youngster and no place for a 4- or 5-year-old child, so they left me in Walla Walla in the care of my Grandmother Brown. Her youngest son, James was just five years older than I was. He was my Uncle Jim.

Mother's sister, Aunt Tennie, and Uncle Charley Nye, a prominent businessman, kept a watchful eye over us. Grandpa Brown staked a gold claim in the Okanogan section around Oroville. I remember seeing him only a couple of times. There were no roads. If he came out he must either ride a mule or walk, and while away, someone might jump his claim. When he was in his mid-eighties he became ill and was taken to Butte by my Uncle George, who was superintendent of the copper mines. In the last stages of illness my mother took care of him in Billings, Montana until his death. That was around the time I had come to Mother's to stay until my husband, Anton, left for Alaska.

I made a couple of train trips to the farm under the care of the conductors. They were as watchful over me as a father, often bringing me fruit and other delicacies. I traveled by Pullman coach. Only once was there a problem. On the way back to Walla Walla, at Pasco, one had to change trains. There had been a change in time of connecting trains and there would be a layover until the next day. The conductor was in a jitter -- what to do with the child? He assured me I should not fret -- he would take me to his home. After much discussion, pro and con, he decided to put me aboard a freight train, and I rode in the caboose with the train hands. He also telegraphed my aunt and assured her I was in safe hands and that he himself would deliver me safely. Imagine how distraught my aunt must have been when the scheduled passenger train arrived with no Lulu. I made two or three trips on different school vacations in the same manner.

Now to my life with Grandmother Brown. She was very strict with us. We were taught to be honest and to never tell a lie; to respect our elders; to never take anything that did not belong to us. One time I came home with an ordinary pin from a neighbor. I got a sound spanking and had to return the pin. She was puritanical in all ways.

In those days there were dug-out cellars under the houses where the canned fruit and jellies, pickles, and such were kept. Pickles and relishes were kept in large crocks. There were quantities of everything -- mincemeat, quart jars of all kinds of fruit -- Walla Walla was noted for its luscious fruits. Holiday time was a regular feast -- mincemeat pie, fruit cake, plum pudding wrapped in cheese cloth, and wine was often poured over them. On wash days our delicacy was steamed-apple dumplings with lemon sauce, and they were good! Her bean soup was delicious. No one could beat her on fruitcake and pudding. On special hot days she made ice cream. She had a large wooden bucket. Into this went a special bucket containing the ingredients. She put layers of ice and salt all around this and then turned it the around in the wooden bucket, stirring the special bucket occasionally. Jim and I got to lick the spoon after each stirring.

All the bedding was home-made, log-cabin quilts. They were made of pieces of velvet satin, men's silk neck ties, silk, scraps from women's dresses; much silk and satin were used at that time. The log-cabin quilts were the thing at that time. For ordinary quilts, colorful, washable calico was used and layers of cotton were put between the two coverings and then tied at spaces with colorful yarn.

My Aunt Tennie came every day or so to see if anything was needed. She also managed my grandmother's finances and looked after her business affairs. Uncle Charley was a well-to-do and prominent businessman. He owned a leather goods and harness shop. The surrounding countryside was great wheat land and a farmer would need hundreds of acres. They used hundreds of horses to pull their machinery. Uncle Charley and his helper made all their leather harnesses, saddles, and bridles, and also other leather goods such as fancy riding saddles. The distant farmers drove light buggies or else rode into town on beautiful horses equipped with handsome bridles and harnesses. Walla Walla was the home of many wealthy families and a beautiful city, with many trees and flowers of all kinds. Many of the streets were named after the trees that bordered them. There were flowers galore, such as lilacs, roses, pansies, and daisies everywhere.

Mill Creek ran through the city from one end to the other. It must have emptied into the Columbia or another tributary of the Columbia. I remember we crossed a bridge to reach Whitman College. The college had a wonderful clock which chimed the hour. At the other end of town, quite a distance, was the penitentiary, which had a steam whistle that shrieked the hour at nine. They told me it meant lights out. My uncle was one of the trustees of the "pen" and often made inspection tours. On one occasion he took me along. We toured the blocks of cells, seeing behind those bars the criminals who were confined to their quarters.

The  workmen in parts of the grounds were always under guard. We were in their dining room when they were eating. There were the high outside walls where there were guards on duty. You may not believe it but we saw the death trap door where the switch was sprung and the criminal fell to be hung. Why my uncle took me along I do not know. Perhaps he thought I was too young to understand or wanted to impress me about what happened to you if you did wrong, or just to see something that may happen to wrong-doers. However, I was too young to understand and it didn't sink in. The only part that did sink in was the ball and chains fastened to the legs of those who worked outside the walls.

After a time my grandmother moved up closer to my Aunt Tennie in the business section of town. I still went to the Baker School, the same one my mother and other relatives had attended in their young days. It was under Miss West, a pioneer school teacher who had taught my mother, aunts, and uncles. I believe there is a book in the Seattle library about her. I keep thinking I will get in touch with the library and get some information, but have neglected doing so.

I must tell you a little bit more about Miss West. I know this much about her pioneer days. She rode horseback some 20 miles to the only school in eastern Washington. There were two public schools in Walla Walla: Baker and Sharpstein, named after early settlers. Also, a Catholic convent. In my days I attended Baker School from the first grade through the fifth grade.

All my teachers had been my mother's schoolmates. I am afraid they favored me a bit. They had all gone to school supervised by Miss West. Every morning shortly after school convened, she made the rounds of the class rooms. She was a very imposing personage -- a large buxom lady. She wore her hair parted in the middle, pulled back in a knot. She wore a white apron tied around the waist. She was the only one who dealt out the punishment. Every morning shortly after she visited each room, if there was punishment to be given, she pulled up a chair, turned the offender over her lap and swatted the culprit with the largest rubber shoe I ever saw. She embarrassed me terribly because she asked my teacher about her "granddaughter." At recess or noon if we met in the hall she took me around to other teachers and introduced me as her "granddaughter" and made a few praising remarks about me. It was embarrassing to me. I finished the fifth grade there.

Around 1901 my Grandma Brown had given up housekeeping and was living with either Jim or Aunt Tennie. Jim had finished high school and was married at an early age to Frances Munson, whose mother was a seamstress and the mother of five girls. Her father was in the delivery or trucking business. Grandmother did a lot of traveling here and there to see her children -- George in Montana and Oliver in Missoula -- however she stayed mostly with Jim. She always kept her large trunk packed and would give a day's notice that she would like to go see George, Ollie, or other members of her family. Aunt Tennie managed her money so she would hurry to the bank for a ticket and spending money and off grandma would go. She never wore out her welcome and followed the same plan to the next home of one of her children.

In Walla Walla she walked every day, either down to the business district or to the cemetery where members of the family were interred. She always wore black and a crepe bonnet. When flowers were plentiful as they always are in the spring and summer seasons, she put flowers on all the graves. Whenever I was there it was my duty to walk with her. She was never forgetful and did not have a long illness. I was in Arizona at the time of her death. She passed on at the age of 85 in September 1916 in Walla Walla.

I then went to the farm on the Cowlitz. From that time on, everything was new and exciting to me. The farm doings were a marvel to me. There were animals and fowl I had never seen before -- I doubt I had ever seen cows, pigs, calves, geese, ducks, or goats, and a few rare ones like peacock and hens or guinea hens. My father brought these rare ones from Portland. I was truly a city child, a city girl.

There were only four large farms on the Cowlitz, with the exception of two large hop fields several miles down the river. The hops were used in making beer. As far as I know they were the only hop fields in Western Washington. A number of families made their spending money in this way. I went along with several older young people. It was several miles to and from the farm. Picking couldn't start until the sun was up and it was somewhat hot, else the hops would mildew.

The Holcomb Farm was well-equipped with machinery: the potato digger (the only one on the river farms), plows, grain cutters, mowing machines, harrows, and many hand tools such as scythes and grain cradles. There were four teams of magnificent black horses. My favorites were Jen and Ten, who were named after my mother and aunt. Jen, who was black all over, was also a riding horse if you could catch and saddle her. Mother hitched Ten, who had a white star on her forehead, to a two-wheeled cart. In the summer when the river was low, she and I would visit friends on the opposite side. There were gravel bars in certain places and, given their heads, the horses would ford at the low spots. There was one fording bar upstream to Toledo, another downstream to Little Falls (now called Vader and Olequah). These gravel bars could be used only when the river was low and there was no current at that point.

There were three barns on the farm, including one on the hill above the house and one close to the river's edge. It was called Holcomb's Landing. Here the steamer I mentioned before landed, took on cargo, and put off supplies from Portland. Within 20 or 30 feet, the river cut in and formed a curved eddy (evidently it could not cut further as it ran into a deep rock formation). At this point the ground began to rise gradually towards the house. At one spot were large flat rocks where we had a stove, washtubs, and other equipment needed to do the family washing. A few feet from there, the main current took over and this flowed along our orchard. Here the river curved again and became deeper as it neared Castle Rock.

A trestle platform was built out over the eddy with a hand pump to furnish water for the milk house, which was built 20 feet or more from the edge. The milk house was on the ground floor and the upper part was the root house for potatoes, carrots, turnips, pumpkins, squash, and cabbage. They were covered with straw to keep through the winter. The house, grainery, and woodshed were built close to it. Of course the bank was high at this point.

From the house, the land began elevating gradually until it reached the hill road, which joined the main road leading to Toledo. People tell me there is a road from there to the farms I have mentioned that joins the hill road above the farm and is called Holcomb Road.

Members of the Cowlitz tribe worked on the Holcomb Farm in the late 1800s. The tribe at one time had occupied Cowlitz Prairie several miles north of Toledo, but by then they possessed only a small area across the river, which was spanned by a bridge. The prairie was rich grainland and Toledo was at the head of the Cowlitz River, thus furnishing transportation. The French voyagers had either come up the river by boat or down the streams from Canada, then overland to homestead the land. We found arrows and other signs when digging in the orchards.

The Indians included Chief Atkins. It was said that he was 100 years old. Only Indian Kitty was said to be older. No one knew their ages, since they did not calculate time as we did, but rather by seasons. The one who interested me most was a woman who carried her [baby] strapped to a board on her back. When working, she would set the board against a rock. We usually had a hired man all year to help with the many chores.

A double-decked stern wheel steamer brought all our necessities and delivered our products (eggs, cream, cheese, milk, hay) to Portland merchants. The upper deck had several staterooms to accommodate passengers, the captain, purser, and deck hands. It had no exact schedule, but stopped at each landing if the signal was out. One judged its whereabouts from its whistle. At night it tied to the closest landing.

At daybreak the men (my stepfather, uncle, and a hired man) rounded up the cows and drove them into the milking shed, where they were fed and milked while they were eating. Usually, there were about 20 milk cows. After turning the cows out to pasture, the milk was brought to the milk house and strained through cheesecloth into crocks while still warm. Later is was put into stoneware crocks and large tin pans and placed on slotted shelves to cool. We ate breakfast around 7:30, a hearty, sumptuous meal of hot rolled oats or cornmeal mush, potatoes, bacon or other meat, hot biscuits, and honey, fresh baked corn bread, or occasionally hot cakes (or waffles), fruit, coffee or milk. After breakfast, my mother and I put in an hour skimming the milk off for the thick cream, which would be made into butter when ripe. The men fed warm skimmed milk to the calves, usually around 10 in number. Any clabber milk went to the pigs.

When enough cream had reached the desired stage, we skimmed it off and let it set until it was ready for churning. We had a barrel churn set on a rack with a handle to turn it. Sometimes that would take an hour or more, depending on the ripeness of the cream and the temperature -- a tedious job which fell to me. Imagine, a youngster sitting an hour turning the handle! Occasionally, mother would add a little hot water which would hasten the process (too much would fade the color of the butter). How happy I was when I heard the slosh, slosh of the buttermilk which indicated the butter was ready for the next process, which was to turn slowly until the butter nodules gathered into a lump. Buttermilk was then drained off and cold, cold water put in to wash the butter.

The next process was rolling the butter on a homemade V-shaped device. This was shaped like a long, sloped rolling pin caught into a staple at the pointed end. There were long grooves which caught the liquid as you rolled and carried it to the stapled end where the liquid ran into a utensil. One rolled and rolled until all the liquid was drained off, then sprinkled a small amount of salt on the surface and rolled it in.

The next step was to mold the butter in an oblong, hinged one-pound or bowl-shaped mold with a fancy design. The butter and cream were shipped to Portland. Mother also made cheese, but I won't go into that as it was a long process. Then we washed the crocks and milk pails meticulously in hot soapy water, rinsed them in cold water, and placed them on the slotted shelves to await the next use. The milk house was concrete and scrubbed out every day. Nothing else but canned fruit, jelly, and pickles in two-, three-, and four-gallon crocks were kept there.

After that one or two hour process, you hied yourself to the house to prepare the noon meal, bake the bread, cakes, or pie. The noon meal was a heavy one, while supper consisted of leftovers with a few extras thrown in, and perhaps an addition of desert. In between, one did the ironing, darning, sewing, bedmaking, and cleaning. The floors were made of a hardwood that retained its whiteness, and the housewives vied in the cleanliness of their floors. There was no linoleum at that time.

Another pride was the cast iron range, which was always kept shining black. One tested the temperature of the oven by the back of the hand, or how a few drops of water spattered. My chores included washing dishes and setting the table for noon meal. The chores I hated most of all was filling the lamps with kerosene, trimming the wicks, and washing the lamp globes. The remainder of the day was spent in baking bread, canning fruits and vegetables, and making cheese.

Many of the cooking utensils used were cast iron, including  the tea kettle, frying pans, muffin tins, and some pots which had little legs and could be set in an open space when the lid was removed. We were dependent upon staples brought by steamer from Portland in large quantities: 25-pound sacks of coffee beans (green) which we had to roast carefully in small amounts, then grind in a coffee mill as we needed it; 100-pound sacks of sugar; a barrels of flour (4 sacks); rice, tea, dry beans, salt, pepper, and syrup.

We strained the honey made by the bees in the orchard. All other products were produced on the farm: vegetables such as potatoes, carrots, squash, pumpkins, turnips -- they were placed in the upper story of the milk house to keep them from freezing. The upper part of the wood shed had bins filled with wheat and oats for the fowl. We buried apples and pears deep under the grain. They kept firm and juicy throughout the winter. What fun it was to climb the ladder and dig out firm, juicy apples.

The evening hours were short, and one hied to bed at an early hour to be ready for the next day. Occasionally a card game, singing (mother played the guitar), or reading if books were available. Once a week we had the Sunday Oregonian, a Portland newspaper which was delivered by boat the first trip after the paper was printed. Nine o'clock and to bed to be fit for the morrow!

We had a wonderful helper, an old Irish lady. She and her Scottish husband lived on a scrubby acre of land and tried to exist. She came every day to help mother wash, iron, and do the many other chores. In return, mother gave her food and other essentials. Often I walked to their house with a 10-pound bucket of food for Grandpa Neil, who called me his "bonnie lassie." We kept them supplied with all their needs. At one time, they were in such dire necessity that the neighboring farmers filled a wagon with food of all kinds: sacks of flour, sugar, coffee, and tea, canned fruit, cheese, meat, etc. and took it to them. I was permitted to ride with my father and the neighbors (the only child aboard) to deliver the food. There were tears and tears when the old couple blessed us. Right there was a lesson in sharing and humility I shall always remember.

We had many chickens, ducks, and geese running loose. When we heard the cackle of the hens we began hunting their nests, which were under tall grass, stumps, or the outside of buildings. Many times we couldn't find the nests. After laying their eggs they went some distance before cackling. Sometimes the nests were so well hidden we did not find them until Mother hen brought the baby chicks proudly to eat with the other chickens. The ducks and geese also did this and went to the river eddy, because they could not be away from water for long. The wobbly little ducks were yellow, the goslings green. Believe me; you better not go near them. Mother goose would make a hissing sound, flapping her wings to come after you, and if you were cornered, she could give you a real beating. My mother rescued me many times.

Plucking the feathers was a ticklish job. You interlocked the wings of the goose, put a stocking over its head, tucked it under your arm and began. The procedure was the same for the ducks, whose feathers were softer and used in pillows.

Once, the flock of geese swam off down the river keeping close to shore. Grandma Neil and I took after them and with sticks, stones, and food turned them back. Then she told me how her flock did the same before, and the terrible time she had turning them back, ending with one of her Irish slogans: "And you know, they never axed to go since." At that "axed to go since," I was weak with laughter. Her response was "I'll tell your mither on ye," but she never did.

A few more things about the farm. Our orchard was bounteous. Beginning at the house, the land sloped gradually toward the hill road, about the length and width of a city block, encompassing land on both sides. The river flowed on the side, protecting it from the frost (perhaps being the reason for delicious fruit). There were fruit trees of every kind except for peaches and apricots. Beginning close to the house were two cherry trees, a Royal Anne and a Black Republican (similar to the Bing of today). Those two big trees provided shade. Other kinds followed: pie cherry, plum, pear, prune, and apple (including Spitzenberg, Northern Spys, Gravenstein, Greening, Crab, and Newton and many others). We made cider from certain kinds. There were also strawberries, blackberries, goose berries, and currants.

In this orchard, close to the river, was a row of beehives, possibly eight or more. My uncle was the knowledgeable one about bees, and was immune to their stings. Occasionally, when a young queen was taking over, the old queen and her followers would swarm and settle on the limb of a tree. One had to get them in a short time or they would take off. To prevent this, we would drum on a tin pan or focus a mirror on them, and summon my uncle from the field by blowing the oxtail horn or ringing the bell. When he arrived, he put a white sheet on the ground, cut off the limb, and raked the bees onto the sheet until he found the queen. Then he would either destroy the queen, or put her with the bees into a new hive. A small piece of honey crust gave them a start on a new supply in the new hive. This was a touchy operation. Of course he wore close fitting gloves, and a special net with a veil that fit closely around his neck. He also had a hand-smoker similar to an accordion, with which he deadened the bees. When the men were in the fields and there was an emergency, we rang the bell which was up high on wood shed. This was seldom -- only for a meal or an emergency.

Many times, people had a meal with us and slept in the hayloft. In those days, there being no trains or buses, people would walk from Toledo to the places on the lower Cowlitz: Castle Rock, Kalama, Kelso, and even to Portland. It was not unusual for these people to call to us from the opposite side of the river; one of the family would row over and bring them across. If it was early in the day, they would go on to the next family. If the distance was too great, they would bed down in the hayloft and have a meal or two with us.

At this point, I can explain there were no farms on the other side of the river. Our place was known as Holcomb's Landing, the Holcomb Farm, or the Holcomb Ranch. Close to the dining room were sliding windows. We often placed a trestle covered with wide boards just outside the window so the food could be passed out and onto a sawhorse and plank table when the threshing and hay bailing crews came. The bailing and threshing machines were so very expensive that they were owned by a few men from Toledo and Cowlitz Prairie in grain country. They harvested areas, each at a certain time. Then the farmers and their sons from downstream came to help. They usually finished in one day and moved on to the adjoining farm. Then you and yours went to help. The wives also came to help and you in turn went to help them. I imagine there would be 20 or 30 people all told. Beginning with the Holcomb farm and on downstream were the Fosters, Meikles, Rogers, and two or three farms in between.

Once or twice a year, the log rollers came. In the forest, perhaps a mile above Toledo, the logs were dragged by horses and grapple chains to the skid road. Here was an inclined chute, well greased with tar, which skidded them down-chute to the river. There a group of men with long grapple poles started them on their journey down to the nearest sawmills, which were located in Castle Rock, Kalama, and Kelso. Another group of loggers followed them downstream by boat. If the logs piled up in a quiet spot in the river or jammed, their duty was to loosen them so they'd go into the current again.

Often, the eddy on the river just below our milk house would be jammed, some logs on top of the others. The loggers wore special spiked shoes and had long poles with spikes on the end. It was amazing how they could jump from one pile to another, loosen the logs, and get them out into the current without getting a dunking. When all were headed downstream, they took off to the next curve in the river. Sometimes, these men also stayed overnight in the hayloft. Their own cook prepared their meals.

We had one very critical time I shall never forget. We awoke one morning to find the river had flooded its bank and covered all of the bottom land and the farm up to the milk house. The fields and fences were covered with water, and we feared that all the horses and cattle were drowned. The men took the row boats and found the pigs, cattle, and horses huddled together on a knoll. Three men to a boat, two rowing and one holding the animal's head, they rowed over the fences to the high land. The horses and cows would swim, but the pigs just lay on their backs, feet in the air, and refused to move. What a catastrophe that would have been. The loss would have been devastating -- four teams of work horses, 20 cows, and a number of pigs. We would have been wiped out. The flood continued all of the following day. All kinds of things came down stream – outhouses, a chicken coop with chickens on the roost, logs, you name it! We carried most of our belongings to the barn on the hill and slept in our clothes that night.

My uncle and father took turns during the night measuring the height of the water. At last it subsided, and we were safe, but a lot of damage was done, especially in Toledo and above, close to the headwaters. No one explained the cause to me. Later I figured it out -- there must have been an avalanche from Mt. Rainer where the river had its source. The damage along the length of the river was great.

Another event I shall remember, although I did not understand it at the time, was the day it remained dark as pitch all day. Ashes were falling over us. The chickens stayed on their roosts and crowed, the cows bellowed, and the horses neighed. A religious group climbed to the top of the highest hill and spent the day in prayer, certain the end of the world had come. Ashes were falling over us. We learned afterwards that it was caused by a forest fire in the vicinity of the mountain. Not long ago, I read an article about this fire, the Yacolt Burn, which was the greatest in the history of the State of Washington.

There were few social events. I recall the fun there was. When strawberries were ripe, the farmers and the people of the community gathered at the schoolhouse for a strawberry social. Again, in the hottest part of the summer, a cake and ice cream social (the ice cream being shipped in from Portland in 10- or 20-gallon kegs). These were happy events, one of the few times when all the families gathered together. The young people chose partners and treated them to dainties. This was quite an occasion for the young gals and boys, as it meant you were special to them. The money derived was spent on the school, church, or some other worthy cause.

Once or twice a year a minister would spend a week holding services -- the main object being to convert the sinners or those who had never been saved and renew the faith of the chosen few. It was quite an honor if he chose your home as his quarters. I suppose he was called a "circuit rider." The services were called a "revival," and at the last service, he asked people to come forward, repent, and have their sins forgiven.

I remember one in particular involving a very religious family. They had a number of children, among them a young man named Tom who was about 21 years old. All the children called their father Pappy and their mother Mammy. Mammy was a very large, robust woman, and Pappy a pint-sized man. When their son Tom went forward to be saved, Mammy grabbed Pappy and danced up and down the aisle shouting "Glory, Glory, Hallelujah." I became so convulsed with laughter that my mother hustled me outside. Then, the following Sunday, Tom was baptized. The minister and Tom went out on the river bar where the water was deep enough, and the minister literally doused him under the water while the congregation sang "Glory, Glory, Hallelujah" and repeated the Lord's Prayer.

I had two brothers, Ransom and Wyman. Ransom was born in 1895 and Wyman in 1897.  I adored them as I had never been around very young children (being in Walla Walla when Ransom was born). Ransom was in the crawling stage when I came home. Wyman was born a twin; the pair, weighing around four pounds, was delivered by an Indian midwife. The heavier one did not survive and was buried in our orchard with only my father and myself present. I made a little round floral piece of blue and white hyacinths and placed it on the grave. The bigger of the two might have lived if they had not been delivered by a midwife.

Wyman weighed less than two pounds. He was all wrinkled like a mummy and so small that he had to be swaddled from head to foot in a cotton blanket. He wore a doll's cap which his wife has to this day. We carried him on a pillow and fed him from a liquid dropper. This was at a time when baby specialists were at a premium, however mother took him to one in Tacoma (the only one on the West Coast). He worked out a formula (something like a malted milk) and gave instructions that he was to be kept at a certain warmth. There were no hot water bottles at that time, so he was kept warm by placing hot bricks and hot water in glass jars around him. He grew to be a very healthy, jovial, and active adult. It wasn't due to food, however, as there were only a few things he would eat. No vegetables or fruit. His specialties as he became older were bean soup, devils-food cake, eggs, and meat. Believe it or not, he lived up into the late 60s, and was never ill until a couple of years before his death.

I came to the farm when entering the sixth grade and went to the country school for two years. The schoolhouse was built about half way from our farm to the Meikle farm, between the farms so that the pupils had an equal distance to walk (approximately three miles). I walked alone (possibly a mile) between forest land and close to the river. The road lay down the river side -- a very lonely walk.

There was only one house between the hill and the river. There were only four students from our end. I was joined a short distance down the road by a boy named Clarence Neal. Between the school and down-river trek were children from other farms, possibly 16 to 20, of all ages and sizes. I believe there were only five or six my age. We walked rain or shine, and I can't remember any of us were absent except for illness. We were often soaked to our skin before we reached school. There were no rain clothes like today. Our clothes were dried by hanging them around a large pot-bellied stove -- a motley array I must say. Two other children from our section also attended the school. They never joined us in the morning. But at dismissal on the way home they tantalized us by calling us names and pulling my long braids of hair and throwing stones at us. Why we did not tell our parents or the teacher, I do not know, unless we were afraid of their revenge. 

The schoolhouse was the typical one-room building with long bench seats accommodating two, three, or four pupils. It was heated by a large, pot-bellied stove -- the stack of wood furnished by our parents. We carried water from the river and drank from a large tin bucket and dipper. The front wall was covered with a blackboard, above which were large maps that could be rolled up and down. I believe we also had a dictionary. Our books, ink, pencils, pens, and paper were purchased by our parents. We were of all ages and sizes -- I believe there were only five or six my age, not more than 15 of us in all.

Our teacher, a man, was wonderful! He later became Lewis County Superintendent of Schools, and his encouragement led to my teaching career. I took my teacher's examination and secured my first position in a country school in a Swedish community, working  under him.

I shall also always remember Mr. Thompson, superintendent of Chehalis schools, when I was in high school. Whenever a teacher was absent (there seemed to be few since at that time married women as teachers seemed to be frowned upon), he would arrange for me to miss classes and substitute. Years later, when my husband was disabled, each of them offered me a position.

Fortunately, after two years in the country school, I went to Castle Rock for the 8th grade. My parents arranged for me to go along with two older pupils, Amos and Mary Foster, brother and sister who were to attend high school. We batched and brought our food from home.

The next school year (1900-1901), was spent in Walla Walla where I spent my freshman year in high school. I lived with Aunt Tennie (as my grandmother had given up housekeeping) and attended Sharpstein School. This school had also been attended by my aunt (I think). Then I went back to the farm. From that time on I went to Chehalis High School.

My sophomore year my parents boarded me out with two different families in Chehalis, as did the parents of Abe Foster, a farm boy. In my junior and senior years, Helen Hanson (a nearby farm girl), joined me in a rented apartment of one large room, containing beds and a cooking stove. Our parents furnished us with food, bedding, and such. My father also opened accounts in the stores which were to give me anything I needed. At that time we had to purchase our textbooks and other essentials. We were a small group of students, no more than six. All but myself and another farm girl were children of prominent people -- a doctor, lawyer, newspaper editor, banker, and retail store owner.

By my senior year my folks had leased the farm and moved to Castle Rock. I attended Chehalis High School for a total of three years and graduated in 1904. My mother made all my clothes: two beautiful outfits -- one for graduation and one for class day. She made two beautiful hats to match the dresses. I have a picture of the graduating class somewhere in my belongings. A gala dancing party was given in our honor.

During those Chehalis high school days I had been to many dances, where we danced until 10, after which came refreshment time served in the banquet hall. After that we had a short dancing session and then home. It was not considered proper to be on the streets long after midnight. My boyfriend was a Chehalis boy of close to six feet tall. Our school friends called us "the long and short of it." He was one year ahead of me in school. He later attended the U. of W. and took a lawyer's course. At that time that required five years study. After that year we went our separate ways. He did come back to Chehalis to practice law. His sister was my closest friend. However, that friendship died since we lived in different sections and saw little of each other. But, I still have fond thoughts of her. She passed on several years ago.

The following year I loafed, trying to decide what to do. Then all at once there was a teacher vacancy in the grade school and, there being no substitute, they asked me to fill in. I did so for a short time. Not having a teacher's certificate, I could only fill in until they found a certified teacher. That experience gave me the urge to take the teacher's examination. And lo and behold who was the county superintendent of schools, but a former teacher in our country school. He was so pleased.

I took my teacher's examination, given by him in his office and under his supervision, and was granted a second-grade certificate. I could teach only one year on that certificate, but he placed me in a country school in a Swedish farm district for a term of six months (1905-1906). It was his duty to make the round of the school at least once a year. He visited me only once.

Some of my pupils were large and strong and I was at a loss how to manage them. I was a tiny person and it had only been a year since my own high school graduation. When he visited I felt helpless. I remember I said, "What am I going to do with them?" He answered jokingly, "Just throw them out the window, Lulu." But, do you believe it -- not once did they cause any trouble or were disobedient. He encouraged me to go to the Teacher's College at Bellingham.

My first school was a one-room building located at Ethel, Washington, on Cowlitz Prairie. The furniture included a teacher's desk, students' desks of various sizes to accommodate children from ages 6 to 14, a large pot-belly stove, tin pail and dipper (from which we all drank), woodbox, blackboard, and a few maps. The older pupils did the janitor work, cleaned the floors, drew the water from the well, filled the water pail, built and stoked the fire in a big pot-bellied stove, chopped the wood and kindling, and replenished the woodbox. It was a great honor to walk to and from school with the teacher, so the children at my end of the district gathered at my boarding place and escorted me to and from school. And, no one sassed the teacher in those days!

This was a Swedish community with great respect for the teacher. On the day of my arrival, most of the children, parents, and grandparents were gathered at the home of Mary and Olaf Olson, a young Swedish couple (my designated boarding house) to greet me. The older people did not speak English. In fact, the grandmother neither spoke nor understood English. Their little girl, Clarabelle, about 4 years old, spoke both English and Swedish. Each, from grandfather to 2 year old, shook hands with me. All of this greeting was a new proceeding to me. In my raising we shook hands only with the very old people. Mary informed me I must partake of anything offered. Then we were served cookies and coffee and exchanged pleasantries before they departed. Again the handshaking.

To my amazement, the next day the lady with whom I boarded said we must now return the calls. We did. I never drank so much black coffee in my lifetime. By the time we had made the rounds I was coffee drunk if there is such a thing. I found out afterwards that they never threw out the grounds, just added more ground coffee and water.

There were few social events. Occasionally a minister, once a man who taught singing, a dance at a house that had split logs floors, and my first introduction to the square dance. I attended the dance with Olaf's brother. Mary Olson, the mother of the family with whom I boarded, was my guide and coached me in the social life and behavior. The rules -- it was proper to dance the first and last dance with your escort as well as the supper dance. One must also dance with everyone who asked.

These dances were given in someone's home. The floors were made of layers of log slabs. There was no gliding, one just hopped up and down. Of course, the dances were mostly square dances and the two-step, and the circle dance where partners were changed. Square dancing was new to me, also the manner in which the other dances (the two-step and the circle dances) were performed. Some of them you might call "hoe downs" in which you stayed in one place and hopped up and down. I was convulsed with laughter, but found out afterwards my partner thought I was having a good time.

The girls brought lunches in boxes of fancy paper and ribbons that were raffled off. And goodness knows what rough and ready fellow chose one's box or basket. I was lucky, my date chose my basket. We danced until it was broad daylight and breakfast time before the party ended, and we drove home in the one-horse buggy. My thoughts, "if my Mother could see me now, getting home at breakfast time, what would she think of this?" Mary assured me it was proper.

The school term ended after six months. From there I went to Chehalis and Centralia to visit my friends, and then to Walla Walla to spend the summer with my aunts and uncles (Tennie and Charley Nye, Jim and Frances Brown). I was never on the farm again. My mother and brothers, Ransom and Wyman, went to Nebraska, and my stepfather to Alaska where he passed on a short time later.

My stepfather was always interested in my education and left me money for that purpose, so I attended Teachers' College in Bellingham during its first year in 1906 and 1907. This school had only two buildings at the time: Old Main which housed the equipment, class rooms, and library; and a girls' dormitory which housed about 10 women. I finished there and was given a choice of two positions, Olympia and Centralia. I chose the latter as I had many friends there and Chehalis was close by. I taught fourth grade in Centralia for one year (1907-1908). Only once after that did I return to the Cowlitz River community. My life there and the good people there will always bring fond memories.

I had a friend who was teaching in a farming community nearby. My friend and I decided our pay was not sufficient to our tastes, so we chose out-of-the-way places where the pay was good. Grace chose a country school in Lynden, north of Seattle, but ended up in Tacoma. I landed in the hinterlands in Ravensdale where the pay was tops, a coal mining town not far from Seattle. She was only an hour ride by train from Ravensdale so I often went to Tacoma to see Grace. We attended all the top plays and musicals that hit the larger cities. The public market was new and something great. We would buy all sorts of fruits and vegetables and have a big spread at her apartment. I would take home a large bag of produce to Grandma King at whose house I had lodging.

I taught in the Ravensdale School for nine years. In 1914, I was married to Anton Kombol, a nice-looking young man, older than I. We built a lovely bungalow home there and furnished it nicely. We thought we were established, but we were privileged to live in it for little more than one year. A great catastrophe happened in the mine -- an explosion killing all the shift of 31 miners but one, who walked out. Anton had been on that shift until the previous day. That was the end of the town as far as the mining industry was concerned. The Northern Pacific closed the mine. However, people still live there and work elsewhere.

In late December 1915 Anton and Charley Canonica went to Ray, Arizona, and were employed there. I shipped our household goods and followed several months later. My eldest son, Bernell, was born there. Ray, Arizona, was quite an experience. It was a copper-mining town. This was at the time of the world war.

The town was so near the border of Mexico that most of the miners were Mexicans, who had a colony near or across the border. In fact Ray had settlements in four different sections where only specific nationalities lived, such as the Spanish, who had their own school, church, stores, etc. Outsiders were not welcome. Another section was for the Italians. Also each section wore different styles of dressing.

We lived in the American section (or the one where the white people lived). They had shacks of every description. Some were made out of wooden boxes and tin roofs. Of course, these people were there only for the work and the top wages. In fact that is what attracted Tony and Charley Canonica there after the Ravensdale mine explosion. We were among the fortunate in having a friend in the American section who found us living quarters. Charley was of Italian descent (a single man) and Tony of Austrian. Of course, that helped us a great deal in getting living quarters, since the boss was of Italian descent and Austrian heritage, same as Tony.

We moved into a newly built house which was owned by people of Austrian descent. It was very plain but had water in the house -- also, a Frigidaire containing an ice section. And Lord knows that was a joy. We did not drink the water. Water was shipped in, in five-gallon glass containers from California. This house also had a large screened-in porch which we used as sleeping quarters. The temperature was 102 degrees plus constantly, day and night. Perhaps at four in the morning one could pull up the sheets. The electric fan was constantly in use.

The ground was so hard one could drive a spike into it. Besides, we had pipes driven into the ground and a wash tub fastened to them where we could do the washing. Help was hard to get. We had one woman who was faithful. But at one period I did it myself. .... 

The night of my son Bernell's birth was certainly dramatic. As far as I know there was only one nurse in town -- a practical nurse. That worried me because she was not a registered nurse. That meant she had never been trained as such. The hospital was strictly for the workers and Dr. Cooper usually did not care for anyone except the workers in the copper mine. However, we had engaged this practical nurse. When the symptoms of birth arrived we called the nurse. I don't remember all the details.

When she arrived it was early in the evening. For some reason she became frantic. Things were not under her control. She called the doctor and explained the situation and really demanded his help. He promptly did show, although I knew that was outside his company duties. He promptly called another nurse a -- a registered one. Then the pains began early in the evening and the birth did not happen until eight a.m. the next morning.

Dr. Cooper was so wonderful, he was a wonderful man. For some time after the birth he stayed and gave me all kinds of advice and explained the care a baby must have to exist in that climate. I followed his advice to the letter. He was to be kept cool and protected by screening. All he wore was a stomach band and diaper. An electric fan was to keep his room at a certain temperature. The nurse stayed with me for a week to be sure instructions were followed. Tony made a screened bed on wheels and sometimes cold cloths were placed on the sides. At that the pillow was often wet. The electric fan was turned on to keep the air circulating. I was scared stiff of all the things I must do to raise a baby in that climate.

There were poisonous crawling creatures to beware of, such as centipedes and a rather large black one shaped like a spider -- I can't recall the name. I saw only one of those on a pillow in a neighbor's home -- and one or two others. We kept Bernell's bed screened tightly. One never put on a shoe or climbed into bed without inspecting it. I had one experience when I ran my hand into a dishpan to squeeze the dishrag. Instantly, I felt a sharp sting (like being cut by glass). Up came an ugly scorpion -- they are a greenish-yellowish color, thin as a tooth pick and a moving head shaped like a horse's head. They bring that head up over their body and give a sharp sting.

I had been cautioned about this pest. Not knowing what to do and having been cautioned about its fatal nature, I jumped a couple of fences and got to the home of the wife of Tony's boss. She had what they called snake medicine, which most people kept in their home. Within that short time my arm became swollen and that arm useless. She promptly game me the medicine and tied my arm tightly so that the poison could not reach my heart. I learned from that never to put my hand into newspapers, shoes, or bundles of clothing. We searched Bernell's bed (and ours) from top to bottom and never put Bernell to bed until we examined it thoroughly.

Shortly after this we had the chance to move into a house across the street, formerly owned by one of the bosses. So now we lived first class. This house had a screened front porch, which was a wonderful place for Bernell. We had one of those canvas swings in which he could put his legs through and a support for the back. We hung this on the porch. People used the path to come and go. They would stop and talk to him. In fact, his first complete phrase was "how-de-do."

Now we were living in style in the boss's section. We had a large front room, which served as living and dining room; two bedrooms; a shower and bathroom; a kitchen with cupboards; and a screened front porch off the kitchen where we kept our supplies and facilities for dishwashing. We also had a small back yard where we could do our washing, as explained before.

People did not sit outside unless they had a screened porch. For a short time, Mr. and Mrs. Tom Booth and her small daughter, Gladys, lived with us. They could not find suitable quarters. We had been close friends when living in Ravensdale. At the best it was never comfortable. If you took a shower you were perspiring by the time you were  clothed. I had a heavy head of hair so my head was always damp.

Very few people had any furniture, only bare necessities since they were only there for the money and short-timers. I had shipped our furniture so that it arrived ahead of me. In the middle of one day without any previous warning, Anton came home and said, "get packed, we are leaving." (I believe we were scheduled in a day or two.) The news of our leaving spread like wildfire, because our belongings were for sale. People came and purchased our belongings from us. By the time of our departure I had few things left -- my dishes, pots and pans, linens, a few things I cherished -- and in two days we were on our way to Phoenix, Arizona, then on to Los Angeles. After several days there we went by boat to San Francisco.

I'll never forget that journey. Anton made the arrangements. He bought our tickets and we waited the better part of a week to take the boat, which was scheduled to go to Aberdeen, Washington. We toured Los Angeles for about a week, bought new clothes, saw everything we liked, and at last the day arrived. We took off in some sort of vehicle to the port and lo and behold -- what did we see, but this lumber schooner off shore!

[William Kombol note: This particular story is curiously uncompleted. Whether they stopped in San Francisco or continued on to Aberdeen is unclear, though Anton did live around Aberdeen at some time in his life, according to his grandson, Dan Silvestri. Other family sources believe Anton also worked in the copper mines in Montana. At some point after this, Anton travels to Durham, Washington, while Lulu makes her way to Billings, Montana where she stays until late April or early May 1918.]

In a little over a year we planned to move back to Washington. Around 1917 Anton decided to go to Alaska where it was booming, to either make a small fortune or return. As it happened on his way he stopped over in Durham, Washington, to see a coal mining superintendent  of Northern Pacific Mines whom he had formerly known. This man persuaded him to go to work there. My son Bernell was 1 1/2  years old, and I had come to Mother's to stay. While Anton was on the go, I waited in Billings, Montana, until my second child, Dana Jean, was born. I remained in Billings for six weeks until she was old enough to travel safely. Then I went to Durham where we lived for a time. Nineteen months later my third child, Nola Beatrice, was born there, in 1919.

Mr. Reese, the mine superintendent, became very interested in us and found us a house there next to his, usually given only to officials. In a short time the mine closed, and this same friend, now the state mine Inspector, made it possible for us to buy the house from the Northern Pacific, and there we lived until this day. Jack, my second son, was born here. Later, the company needed the house, so Nadine was born in new quarters.

In 1922, we were able to move back, and eventually we also bought the house next door and had acres of grazing land. Mr. Reese moved to Seattle, where he remained until his death. They were very fond of Nola when she was a year-old baby. Whenever Mrs. Reese went to Enumclaw she would come over and dress her in one of her lovely dresses and take her along.

Nola was a very nervous, tense, and active child, so much so that she would develop a fever which would last possibly a week and she would be bedridden. Consequently, as soon as she was back in school she would be down again. I took her to a child specialist. His advice was that I take her away from children, as she wore herself out keeping up with them or excelling them. Mrs. Reese lived in Seattle at that time so she and "Daddy" Reese (who was so fond of her) persuaded me to let her stay with them. I did so. She was with them until "Daddy" Reese's death. She came home then. She was at the sixth-grade level. I was teaching at the same school. With the cooperation of the other teachers, we were able to control her activities.

In 1925 Anton was injured in a mine explosion that blinded him. After a number of years, Dr. Dowling performed an operation which restored his vision to the extent that he could read and perform all chores. The first year after the accident, through the influence of a friend, I was hired as a teacher in a school in Cumberland, a short distance away. I spent 17 years there; then was employed in the Selleck School for 19 years, making a total of 44 years of teaching. At that time, Selleck was a booming mill town employing 200 Japanese and an equal number of Americans. I was able to do this as I had a life certificate granted by the state after nine years of experience. We remained in the same home until Anton's death, and later my illness, which now leaves me with a daughter in Seattle.

I have five children, 11 grandchildren (six college graduates, three in college, and two in high school), and two great grandchildren.

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