Dale Frank Bryant
December 3, 1915 - March 4, 1996
As I try to put some of my early
life down on paper, I hope to show the extreme change in life style and living
conditions. There will be no tales of walking five miles to school in the snow.
I believe my generation was very lucky to live in the era of the change from
Model T automobiles, airplanes, radio, television and all the electronic games,
computers, VCRs and putting man on the moon.
As I try to put some of my early life down on paper, I hope to show the extreme change in life style and living conditions. There will be no tales of walking five miles to school in the snow. I believe my generation was very lucky to live in the era of the change from Model T automobiles, airplanes, radio, television and all the electronic games, computers, VCRs and putting man on the moon.
I do not have a very good recollection of my early years but will try to put down what I have been told and what I remember. I was born Dec. 3, 1915 at the Curlew Mine (where my dad was working) near Victor, Ravalli County, Montana. The name Curlew came from a bird of the area. A ground bird of the snipe type. I will give a short history of the Bitter Root Valley. Victor, Montana was named after Chief Victor of the Flathead Indian tribe who’s home was the Bitter Root Valley. In July 1855 the government made a treaty with the different tribes to move to a new reservation near the St. Ignatius Mission on the Flathead River, an area of 1,500,000 acres of land. But left the Indians above Lolo in the Bitter Root Valley to be further studied and no white settlers to be allowed. Chief Victor fought to keep this area as a permanent reservation. In a few years the government forgot all about the 1855 treaty. Settlers began to come in and take up land in the valley. Victor died and was succeeded by his son Charlot. In 1871 President Grant ordered all Indians from the Bitter Root Valley to the Jocko reservation above St. Ignatius. The Indians resisted, citing the 1855 treaty. But in 1872 the government opened the land to settlement to whites at $1.25 an acre. It wasn’t until 1890 that the Indian controversy was settled without force after 35 years. The government paid the Indians $97,931,330 for their lands and most of them went to the Jocko reservation.
Ravalli County was named after a priest, Father Anthony Ravalli who came to St. Mary’s Mission near the present town of Stevensville in 1845.
I believe we stayed at the Curlew Mine and Victor until late 1917 or early 1918. During our stay there we were living in an area that was bad for a wood tick that was famous for carrying the dreaded “Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever”. Not all the ticks were carriers of this, but many were. There was no known cure for this at that time. Later a large government laboratory was built in Hamilton and now it is under control. I will cover this later on when I lived in Hamilton 1931 to 1932. My mother’s small cousin, her Uncle George Read and her grandmother Minerva Ferguson Read all died of this in just a span of a few years. So you can imagine my mother’s concern when she found a tick embedded on the back of my neck while bathing me. I have been told a person ran an extremely high fever when infected with this. After a short time dark spots would appear on the skin hence the name spotted fever. These ticks burrow into your skin to get at a place they can get blood to feed on. My mother first tried to remove the tick by lighting a wooden match letting it burn a few seconds then blowing it out and applying the glowing end to the ticks posterior. This sometimes caused them to back out. This didn’t work and of course in pulling on the tick she eventually pulled the body away leaving the head still embedded. She got my Dad’s straight razor that all men shaved with then, as this was before the safety razors that came some 10 to 15 years later. She cut a small piece out of my neck. This was before band aids or adhesive tape. She put some water in a small clean pan, added a few drops of iodine to make a disinfectant. It healed nicely and after a few days and no fever developed everything returned to normal.
I am not sure just when we left Victor and moved to St. Ignatius, about 80 or 90 miles away but I know we were there before my sister Beulah was born Aug 23, 1918. An item of interest that I should have entered in the short history I gave earlier. My mother’s family came to the Bitter Root Valley in 1887 or 1888. This was Charles and Rocksy Shadduck. Their children and dates and places of birth follow;
|Vernon William||September 15, 1885||Wright Co., Minn.|
|Lottie Lelia||August 1, 1887||Glendale, Beaverhead Co., Montana Territory|
|Mabel Adelia||July 20, 1890||Carlton, Missoula Co., Montana|
|Iva Electa||March 4, 1893||Hamilton, Ravalli Co., Montana|
|Henry Tuller||May 18, 1896||Riverside, Ravalli Co., Montana|
|Ruth Valentine||Feb 14, 1900||Florence, Ravalli Co., Montana|
Montana became a state (41st) Feb 22, 1889, so it was Montana territory when Lottie was born, and Ravalli County was formed in 1893, the year my mother was born, from a part of Missoula County.
My father’s family came to Stevensville, Ravalli Co., about 1900 or 1901 all were born in Bourbon Co., Kansas. Part of the Withers family came there about the same time. Jesse Withers was also born in Bourbon Co., Kansas in a town named Bronson only about 15 miles from where my father Frank Bryant was born at Uniontown. Both were born in 1886. Both came to the Bitter Root Valley about the same time. Lottie and Jesse were married in 1908. My mother was staying with them in about 1913 or 1914 when she started going with my father. Only then did Jesse and my Dad meet for the first time.
Now back to St. Ignatius in Aug. 1918. My dad had a farm, I don’t know whether he owned or rented. The Withers family was there also and Bill and Ruth Bessette. I am not sure what year my Dad went to work on McDonald Lake Dam for Frank Crowe. I have heard him tell about the good team of workhorses he had and a good heavy wagon. He hauled some freight up to this job and that is when he became acquainted with Frank Crowe. He later quit farming and went to work there. I remember one summer we were living in a tent house close to the construction site. A tent house is a wooden floor with regular 2x4 framework studs and rafters. The walls are covered with siding up about two feet. A large tent then placed over this frame. They were quite comfortable. Because of the built up walls it increased the headroom to compare with a house. It even had a roof jack placed between two rafters. We had a wood stove that served both as a cook stove and heater. When it was warm the lower sides of the canvas tent could be rolled up to let air come through. We had screen over the portion where the sides could be rolled up. This place was next to a ditch or small creek where we got our water. There was a family that lived down below us a ways. They had a boy about my age. One day I went down to play with him. He couldn’t play until he chopped some kindling wood. This is small pieces to start a fire with as we had wood stoves. Some of the kindling had to be quite small as in those times we had very little paper. Most people used a little coal oil (kerosene) or whittled shavings to start the fire. He was having trouble hitting the pieces he was trying to chop as they kept falling over before he could come down with the ax. So to speed things up so we could play I begun holding the pieces upright until the ax got close then jerked my hand back. This worked good for a while then he either chopped quicker or I was slower jerking my hand back and the ax caught my right thumb. The blood spurted and a very panic stricken small boy ran screaming for home.
My Mother held some clean cloths tightly around it till the bleeding let up. Then she made some strip bandages by ripping some white cloth into strips. She then fixed a pan of water with some iodine added to make an antiseptic. She carefully cleaned it and then wrapped it with these strips. She changed the bandages every day. She would soak my hand in the pan of antiseptic until the bandage would loosen enough so she could remove it. It would be stuck every day for quite some time. She wrapped it quite tight until it began healing. I still have the scar. If this happened today there would have been a shot to deaden the thumb while several stitches were taken and tetanus shot.
It shows what people do when they have to. We were many miles from a doctor. No transportation and no telephones in those days.
That same summer my mother and my sister and I were crossing a creek on a narrow footbridge, it may have just been a log I don’t remember. Mother was holding Beulah hand and I was ahead. Beulah slipped off and mother held her hand until she took the few steps to the bank, it was a real short footbridge. Beulah was real fat at that time and only about 1 ½ or 2 years old. Her shoulder was dislocated and she was screaming bloody murder. I helped hold her while my mother pulled on her arm and got her shoulder to snap back in. She ripped some strips off her petticoat and wrapped and bandaged her arm across her chest.
I was having a lot of sore throat trouble so we went to Victor to see Dr. King and visit grandma. He examined my throat and we went out to Grandmas. He made an appointment to come out to grandmas a day or two later. They lived about 3 miles from Victor. The doctor came out and brought a lady that helped him, a nurse I suppose. They moved the dining room table out to the middle of the room put a blanket and covered it with a sheet. They had two kerosene lamps burning. They put me on the table the nurse put some kind of a mask over my face and gave me an ether antiseptic and the Doctor removed my tonsils.
A couple of other experiences I had when I was in the 4 to 6 year old bracket that stand out happened at grandmas. I believe I had better explain about my Grandma. She and my Grandpa, Charles Shadduck were divorced in Spokane, Washington in Feb. 1909. She moved back to Victor and married Joe Miner a few years later. Joe had a son Walter who lived in another house about ¼ mile from grandmas and Joe’s. One time we were there when I was about 5 years old. Walter came riding in on his horse “Babe” She was a beautiful saddle horse. There was a fence around the yard. On the other side was a large barn yard where the barn, grainary, equipment shed and chicken coop was. There was a stock watering trough right next to the fence on the barn yard side. Inside the yard about 8 ft from the fence was the well with a hand water pump on it a small wooden trough about 6 inches square carried water out to the watering trough.
Walter brought “Babe” to the trough for a drink. I was pumping water in the trough and admiring the horse. He picked me up and took me out the gate and sat me in the saddle. I was really pleased and began to feel quite big about it. I yelled to my mother and sister to come out and see me. Babe got spooked and began bucking and spinning. I was holding on the saddle horn and screaming to Walter I wanted off. It took a little time for him to catch “Babe” and calm her down. I was afraid to get near a horse for quite a few years.
One other time when we were out to the ranch, I went out to the outhouse. There was no plumbing or electricity there until the late 1930’s. It was quite a ways from the house. You went out through a gate into the lane going from the barn yard to the fields. You walked alongside the milkhouse on a narrow footbridge over the ditch that came under the milk house. The horses, cattle etc. crossed by walking through the water so it was quite wide, probably about 12 feet and partially dammed to create a fresh water pond for the ducks and geese. There was a large gander goose there and when I came back from the outhouse he opened his mouth and hissed while flapping his large wings. I jumped at him and tried to shoo him away like grandma did, but it didn’t work, he flapped his wings and came right at me. I ran but he caught me and I fell down, He was on my back flapping his big wings and biting and pecking at the back of my head and neck pulling my hair. I was screaming bloody murder. Everyone in the house came running to my rescue. No harm done but I didn’t go to the outhouse alone anymore when he was at the pond.
I didn’t like to get dressed up to go anywhere when I was real small because my dress shoes were fastened with buttons. I had fat feet when I was small and when my mother ran the button hood through the button hole and hooked the button and pulled the button through the hole with a prying action it always pinched me.
When I would go out to play in the snow it seemed like I had so many clothes on I could hardly move. My mother would put a pair of my dads old wool socks on over my shoes and up my legs as far as they would reach. This worked good most of the time as the snow seemed a lot dryer than the kind we have in California. My grandmother used to knit us kids a pair of mittens every year for Christmas for many years. They were red color and she would knit a cord that fastened the two mittens together, This cord was long enough to go up your sleeves and across your shoulder inside your coat. That way we never lost our mittens. If you needed to remove them they would just hang suspended by the cord.
My mother often told me about the time when my sister was just a baby and of course demanded most of her time. So I used to sulk or get into mischief to get her attention. One time I got a bunch of dry beans and had stuffed them up my nose. Of course the moisture environment caused them to swell and hurt. When she finally found out what was causing my discomfort she tried to get the beans out of my nose, she said she had the best luck with small buttonhook.
Frank Crowe, who my dad and Uncle Chalmer were working for at McDonald lake, went to Washington State to build a dam for the United States Reclamation Services (U.S.R.S.). This later became the United States Bureau of Reclamation (U.S.B.R.). This is the Rimrock Dam on the Tieton River about 50 miles West of Yakima Washington. He sent for my dad and Chalmer to come work for him there.
1922 Dad went out first. We came later when living conditions were better. We traveled by train. We were in the chair section couldn’t afford the Pullman or sleeping car. The backs on the seat would tip either way so you could ride either forward or backward. We had two seats facing each other so by getting a couple of pillows from the porter for about 25 cents a night, we slept OK. We ate in the dining car. This was quite an experience for me. I believe this was the summer of 1922 when I was six years old. We got in Yakima then took a bus to Rimrock. The buses were just getting popular about this time.
The Withers family soon came also, so I had Stan and Bob to play with. Our houses weren’t very far apart. But we moved up on the hill into a better house the next year. This one had plumbing and a bathroom. A first for us.
I started school the fall we got there while still in the first house.
My mother’s younger sister Ruthie and husband Bill Bessette and daughter Velma came soon after. Bill was a large man and into physical culture as they called it then. He had a punching bag on their back porch. I used to like to watch him work out with it. He could really make it go with his fists and elbows. He was also quite a cartoonist, One day he drew a Maggie and Jigs cartoon for us and painted it. It was really good. This was a popular cartoon then and later became "Bringing Up Father", there were many more through the years. "Happy Hooligan", "Barney Googlle", "Mutt and Jeff" for a few.
My Grandpa Shadduck came to visit us there, all four of his daughters were there and us seven grandchildren. This is the only time I ever seen him. He seemed kind of gruff and most of us kids were a little scared of him. About all I can remember about him was he wore a black leather cap and had a mustache. He used to carry a few spring type clothespins in his pocket and whenever he caught Stan, Bob or me with our fly not buttoned he would clip a pin on it. He usually got some skin in the process. But he did teach us to take time to button our pants every time we went to the toilet.
While we were in this house there was a boy at school that began picking on me. He had me bluffed and used to chase me home from school. My mother would baby me and say he was a bad boy and to stay away from him. One day my dad happened to be home when I came running home. He grabbed me and swatted me on the seat and lifted me over the fence and said get out there and fight that kid and chase him home. It turned out I did just that. It was a good lesson for me.
My Mother had real long hair, which she let down every night and brushed it before going to bed. Most all women had long hair in 1923. One day I came home from school and she had her hair bobbed as they called it. She looked so much different. I kept begging her to let it grow back, but that was the style and I finally got used to it.
My dad began having boils on the back of his neck that winter. They got large and would come to a head and drain. He was in much pain from them, couldn’t turn his head. But I don’t remember him ever staying home from work because of them. My mother would clean them when he came home from work and apply hot flaxseed poultices. These would cause them to come to a head and draw the pus out. It wasn’t to long until they cleared up.
After we moved up in the other house I was playing with some other kids over at the commissary (store) and post office building. There was a porch all along the front of this building and the porch floor was several steps up from the ground. There was a hand railing all along this porch about 3 ft. high. It was made of 2x4 lumber. Just right for seven-year-olds to swing and play on. I was seeing how far I could walk on the top of the rail only 3 feet above the porch but about six feet on the ground side. We did this all the time but always managed to land on our feet on whichever side we went off on. I got to going too fast and tripped and fell off on the six-foot side and landed on my arm breaking it in two places. The storekeeper picked me up and carried me to the hospital, which wasn’t far away. The doctor set the bones and put it in a cast. Dad came by and carried me home. It healed quickly and never no trouble with it.
Soon after this my dad had an accident at work. He was trying to open a large water gate valve it was stuck and he couldn’t turn it. He got a bar of steel down through the round circular handle. The bar was behind a spoke of the wheel handle when it finally came loose all at once the bar came out and he lost his balance and fell over into a form that was built for a concrete pour. There were some re-informing steel bars protruding and he was hurt quite bad. I can’t remember if he broke any bones but remember he hit his temple on one of the steel rods. He was in the hospital for over a week I believe. (Probably a concussion)
That Christmas I got a steam shovel. It was about 12 inches high and built out of good heavy metal. My dad made a box and placed it in one corner of my room. Then he brought home some sand and put in it. I spent many hours playing there.
Mabel and Chalmer, (my aunt and uncle) lived not far from us. They were always very good to me. They never had any children of their own. For Christmas Chalmer made me a toolbox out of pine boards, burnt with a blowtorch and stained with a mixture of tar in the wood making a nice light stain. They put tools in the box too. There was a level, saw, hammer, square brace and bit and more. I still have this box and a few of the tools (1983). (Ron has)
The next Christmas when I was in the third grade I got an erector set and a small steam engine. This engine really worked. It was an upright boiler, probably about 12 inches high. It had an opening underneath that a can of canned head (alcohol) would fit into. You put water in the boiler then lit the alcohol. In a little while the water became hot and developed the steam. There was a safety pop off valve so it couldn’t blow up. There was a pulley on the side of the boiler. You made a belt out of a piece of heavy string or cord placed it on the front on the pulley and then on the pulley on the erector set model. I remember mostly making a windmill. Of course I could only run the steam engine when my dad was there because of the chance of getting a burn. He also had to light the alcohol. Looking back on it now I believe he had as much enjoyment from it as I did.
We went to Yakima to see the Ringling Brother Circus. There were about the biggest attraction there was at that time.
We also seen our first moving picture there. I used to have fun in the snow in the winter. There was a hill a short distance from our house a bob sled that is a long sled that held from 4 to 6 people the front runners could be turned to steer it. The person in front did the steering everyone sat close and put your arms around the person in front of you. And your legs also around their hips and your feet rested on their legs. This was an adults sled but us kids go to ride as passengers some times.
Someone knocked an old wooden barrel apart and we would nail a strap across a couple of the barrel staves and use them as skis didn’t work very well unless the hill was real slick or frozen.
One day as I was walking along the path to the store I passed by this large rock pile. A swarm of bees attacked me. They stung me quite a few times all over the back of my neck and head and my hands too, as I was trying to cover my neck and head as I ran toward home. I was quite sick from this. Perhaps that is the reason I am allergic to bee stings now.
Not long after Christmas when I was in the third grade I got the chicken pox. I had just got over them and got measles. I really had them bad. I was out of my head at times. Had a lot of nightmares etc. They kept my room darkened. The light seemed to hurt my eyes. I was out of school for a long time. My mother took me to Yakima to a doctor. She told me later I was awfully yellow colored. Sounds now like jaundice or Hepatitis. I got real thin and stayed that way most of my younger life. What worried me was that I wasn’t able to go back to school and I was afraid I wouldn’t pass the third grade.
About this time the Dam was completed and Mr. Crowe had another one to build at Guernsey Wyoming and he wanted my dad to be there when the weather got good. So we took off I am not sure just when, but probably April 1925.
We had an Overland touring car. It was a two-seated car with removable side curtains. My dad had bought this car the fall of 1924.
We headed to Montana to visit grandma. On the way we stopped to see my dads older brother Fred and his wife Fannie. I don’t know just where it was but Fred was working in a sawmill somewhere in Western Washington. He got my dad a job there in the sawmill and we stayed for a few weeks. My Uncle Fred took me down to the sawmill pond and fixed me a willow fishing pole and showed me how to use worms and catch perch. That was my fishing experience. I was nine years old.
We left there and drove to Spokane and stayed all night and visited with my uncle Vernie - my mother’s older brother, Vernon Shadduck. That was the only time I ever seen him. Then on to the Bitter Root Valley to see grandma. We didn’t stay long there, as Mr. Crowe wanted my dad to come to Guernsey Wyoming to help build a Dam there on the Platte River.
We left for Wyoming. My Uncle Bill my dad’s younger brother went with us. We were well equipped, two spare tires, tire pump and patches. The tires then were mounted on a steel rim that came apart in one place so you could pull it to a smaller circumference to get the tire off and remove the tube to patch it. Whenever we made a day without a flat tire it was so seldom that it was a thing to talk about. The roads were all dirt and gravel. Some pavement or brick through larger towns. The tires were removed with tire irons that came with the car along with a jack crank for starting the engine and usually a couple of wrenches. Most people would get an old spring leaf and use the ends for tire irons. They tapered to a thin end and were real good steel that wouldn’t bend. They worked very well to put the tire on the rim. This rim was fastened to the wheel with lugs and nuts, which went on the threaded bolt attached to the wheel. The wheels had wooden spokes.
We carried a canvas water bag for drinking and radiator water. On the running board on the right side was a fold up rack about 12” high. It was on the right side because that was the side that was the cleanest. The left side got mud, water, etc. splattered if you meet other cars. In this rack was a tent and grocery box, can of kerosene for the lantern, ax and shovel. The floor in the back was filled with suit cases and bedding. That leveled the back seat so we had room to lay down. But with 3 adults and two kids there wasn’t any too much room.
We were planning on staying at tourist camps at night. This usually was a small park at the edge of towns for travelers to camp in. Many of them didn’t charge anything and most had wood for fire pits
We had trouble the first night out. It started raining in the afternoon and when we camped at Whitehall Montana that night it rained awfully hard. Everything got wet trying to get the tent set up. The tent leaked quite bad, so dad took mother, sister and me into a hotel for the night. He and my Uncle Bill stayed at the camp all night.
The next day it rained but not so bad. We only made 60 some miles that day. The road was a mess. Our car had side curtains with ising-glass windows in them. These curtains fastened in with a turn type fastener so they could be removed and stored under the seat in good weather. The issing glass got brittle after a while and cracked very easy, so then you tried to pin or tie something over the hole. There were no heaters in these cars.
I remember the ruts were quite deep but the car would slide back into them. Whenever dad was fortunate enough to get on the high ground in a rocky area he would try to straddle one of the ruts. We would come up on a car or sometimes a group of cars stopped. The front car would be stuck. Dad and Bill would take the shovel and ax and go up to the stuck car. Everyone would push until they got the car out. When this car got on good ground he would pull ahead enough to leave room for the rest and would get out and come back to help the next car through and so and on. There was a group of five or six cars that traveled together all that day. Sometimes they would cut small limbs or boughs from trees alongside the road to put in the deepest ruts and of course lots of shoveling.
After that storm we had good going the rest of the way. We entered Wyoming the day after the one where we had so much trouble.
When we got to Thermopolies we had a new experience. Between the hot sulfur springs and the oil wells it was an odor that my sister and I couldn’t stand very well much gagging and complaining.
GUERNSEY, WYOMING. May 1925-Aug. 1927.
We rented a house in Guernsey; it was a nice house, close to the school and stores. Guernsey was a small town less than 1,000 population I believe.
My dad and Uncle Bill went to work as soon as we got settled. I soon got acquainted with some boys my age in the neighborhood. We hadn’t been there long when a traveling show called “Chantauguua” came to town. It was a large tent with a few animals, trapeze acts, trained animals, magic shows etc. I don’t know how it happened but I was appointed junior mayor of Chantauqua, had a red felt ribbon and a pin on button that said “Mayor” I really thought I was somebody. Of course this working with the kids was a promotion to get the parents to come to the show.
When school started I went to the 3rd grade again, as I hadn’t passed to the 4th in Rimrock. After a few days the teacher kept me after school and gave me a test. The next day she told me I was capable of 4th grade work and put me in that class. That made me happy as Stanley Withers my cousin came to Guernsey about this time and we were in the same grade again.
I got my suit of clothes that year. A light gray suit with long pants. The only long pants I had ever worn until that time were bib overalls, all the others were knee pants, that buttoned around your leg just below the knee and bloused down over the band that buttoned.
Guernsey had a movie theater. It used to seem quite large to me then, but when I was there in 1979 it was still there although not used now. It is very small. The theater was upstairs. We used to go to the silent black and white movies of that time. They were mostly western and each of us boys who played together soon picked who he was going to be in our cowboy and Indian play. I was Ken Maynard; Howard Wirth was Hoot Gibson. I don’t remember who Stan was.
The movies didn’t have any sound then, so after a scene where someone had spoken the words would come on the screen. My sister would sit next to me if my folks weren’t there and I would have to read to her what was printed on the screen. You could hear people all over the theater reading out load. They used to have drawings on Saturday nights for prizes, usually dishes and other small prizes. I won a small rug one night.
When we moved out to the camp as we all called it, we had somewhat of a letdown to the way we had been living the last few years. The houses they built were rectangular in shape and not very large. I would guess them to be 14 or 16 feet wide and probably 20 feet long. They had what we called a boxcar roof, as they resembled the railroad boxcars. After the walls were stood up and a partition across to separate the rooms the roof beams or stringers were installed from the end walls across and spliced at the partition wall then to the other end wall. A 2”x12” stringer in the center, then a 2”x10” stringer over 24”. Then a 2”x8” another 24” over, then a 2x6. This was sheeted over and the entire building was covered with a product called rubberoid. This was a heavy roofing paper, but no granules on it. Not very attractive to say the least. Very hot in the summer but seemed to seal pretty good from wind. The inside walls were not lined.
We had electricity and a water line. The electric lights consisted of a light in the center of each room. A green colored twisted cord hung from a porcelain terminal on the ceiling down to about six feet from the floor. The switch was on the bulb socket so us kids couldn’t reach it without standing on a chair or box.
The toilet was a separate “little house” about fifty feet behind the house. It was one of best though, being known as a two-holer.
When we lived in Guernsey we had a nice icebox. It had a compartment that held ice to keep the entire box cool. An iceman came around on certain days of the week and delivered the ice and put it in the box. But out at camp we had what we called a cooler. There was a group of small trees not far from our house. My dad found two of them about three feet apart. He nailed a couple of boards between them about four feet from the ground and mounted an orange crate on them. These crates were quite sturdy. It was mounted on the side; it had two sections, with the opening to the front. This was covered with burlap, several thicknesses over the top and single over the ends and sides. The front was loose so you could raise it for access to the box. Dad got a large can at work and punched small holes in the bottom of it. He then built some steps so I could get to the top of it handily. He then carried a bucket of water from the house and filled the can. The water dripped slowly through the small holes and soon the burlap was damp, he informed me that after school and during summer it would be my job to keep water in the drip can. This cooler did a fair job except in real hot weather. Of course we only needed it for about 4 or 5 months, as the winters were real cold there, and spring and fall not bad. We kept milk, butter, meat etc. in this box. This was before oleomargarine so the butter would become rancid if not cool.
A farmer from up the river used to deliver milk to us. We got it in fruit jars; of course it was raw milk, not even pasteurized. In the spring when his cows would feed of some kind of weed we couldn’t even drink it because of the taste. We used a lot of canned condensed milk. I believe my mother deluted it half water and half canned milk.
They ran a school bus to Guernsey. On the road to town we went under a railroad bridge where it crossed the Platte River. The bridge was high enough so there was room for a narrow road under it next to the river. This road was so narrow and on a curve that the bus would stop and one of the older boys would walk around the curve and stop any traffic so the bus could come around safely. I drove over this road when on a trip to South Dakota in 1979. The road is wider now but isn’t traveled as there is a nice oiled road turning off from the main U.S. Highway 26 to the Guernsey State Park, which includes the Dam and lake and a nice museum. Nice camping sites around the lake.
This was all built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (C.C.C.) in the early 1930’s when the Roosevelt administration created the C.C.C. for young men who couldn’t find work during those depression years.
One of the interesting things that we would take a picnic lunch and go to see on a Sunday was the Register cliff near Guernsey. This was on the Oregon Trail that the pioneers traveled coming west. This cliff was about a day’s journey from Fort Laramie. It is a soft limestone cliff that the people from wagon trains would carve their names on. My dad was very interested in this. We would see who could find the oldest date. There were a lot of them in the 1850’s. Some were scratched real deep and still show very plain.
Just a short distance from the cliff is a place called the Oregon Trail ruts. This is a formation of the same kind of rock. This formation went from the cliffs on one side to the Platte River close by. The trail followed the river and would have been difficult traveling above the cliffs because of the uneven ground. There was an upgrade to cross this formation the wheels from the wagons cut ruts in the stone. It is unbelievable how they ever got so deep (see picture).
We used to have a lot of fun on our sleds there in the winter. Down where the Withers family lived there was quite a long wide road; it had a good slope to it. The water line was buried in the center of the road with a riser pipe with faucet on it about every hundred yards. In the winter after the snow got on the hill and it got packed down, some of the men would turn the water on one side of the road and it would freeze. You could go a long ways on a sled and quite fast too.
I used to go to the commissary and get wooden boxes, the orange and banana crates were the best. Bananas used to come in large clumps like they grew on the trees. They put the clumps in hexagon shaped crates about 30 inches long. The ends were hexagon shaped boards with the slats nailed on each flat leaving a wide space between each slat. These slats were quite thin and about three inches wide. I would take these boards to my Uncle Chalmer, he would help me make a kite. It was quite open country there and not many overhead wires, and usually a breeze. He and I would spend hours at this, splitting the slates with a pocketknife, then tying and gluing the frame together. Next we would stretch a string around the perimeter and cover it with wrapping paper from the store. We would fold the paper over the string and glue it, then we would experiment on different kinds of tails to see which worked best.
The store, mess hall and a couple of bunkhouses for the single men were quite a distance from where our house was, probably the equivalent of 5 or 6 city blocks. There was one bunkhouse though just below us, probably about 200 yards. My Uncle Bill lived in this one so he was at our house quite a lot.
These times were during prohibition. Of course the single men looked for a good times on payday and Saturday night. There was much bootlegging going on at that time, and one never knew for sure if he was getting good whiskey or not. Many of the men went to a town called Sunrise. It was a town site at the Sunrise mine, which is still operating to this day. We were there in 1979. It is the largest under ground iron ore mine west of the Missouri River. This is about ten miles from our camp. The whisky flowed quite freely there and no one seemed to object to it. One day when I was outside I heard a lot of yelling going on. It was three of the men that lived in the buck house below us. They were quite drunk and returning home from a night of celebrating. A short time later I heard screaming and yelling going on down there. So I decided to investigate. I went down behind and looked in a window, It was one long room with bunks on each side. This man was screaming and fighting while several were trying to hold him. He broke away and tried to climb up the wall. My Uncle Bill spotted me and took me home. He told my mother to keep me home that this fellow had got some bad whiskey and was having the DTs (delirium Tremens).
When I needed a haircut mother would give me a quarter and I would go to the bunkhouse where Jim Griffith lived. He was my uncle Bills best friend. I believe they were in the army together in World War I. Jim was a good barber. He would sit me on a box placed on a chair and cut my hair. He cut the hair of most of the men in camp and also worked on the Dam every day. He later ran the barbershop in the Boulder recreation hall during the construction of Boulder (Hoover) Dam.
Chalmer and Mabel bought a radio in the summer of 1926. It was the only one in camp as far as I know. I had seen a few in stores. I helped him put up an aerial by climbing up two different trees and fastening the insulators and putting the wire through them. He ran the wire into their house from the aerial.
I remember the radio was an Eveready. It had a row of knobs across the front. It was probably 24 inches or more long about 9” high and the sound came out of a horn that sat on top of the set. I don’t remember what stations he got but I would guess it to be Scotts Bluff, Nebraska that was about 60 or 70 miles from camp.
When the first Dempsy Tunney heavy weight championship fight came on in September, Chalmer set the radio outside on a table. I believe over half the men in camp were there to hear it. I remember my Uncle Bill and all the World War I Vets were against Dempsy because of his war record, but don’t remember the particulars of it.
We used to go to Torrington shopping and sometimes to a show. They had a city swimming pool there and even furnished suits so we went a few times.
There was quite a group of boys near my age. We kept ourselves quite busy. One day when we were in town a group of these boys were hiking out close to the Dam site. They found some blasting caps and someone had the bright idea to build a fire and throw them in it to see the flashing and popping or so they said later. When thrown on the fire the caps exploded and injured most of the boys. I don’t believe any were real serious, but I know Howard Wirth had scars on his face where he got hit. Stan was gone that day too. I believe if he and I had been there we would have known better. Most in that group were a little younger than we were.
When they would blast on the Dam they would blow the blasting whistle a long series of short blasts on the whistle. Then after a couple of minutes the toot, toot, toots would be repeated. Then within a minute the blast would go off. It would shake real hard at our house but don’t remember any rocks reaching near the houses. I vaguely remember blasting at McDonald Lake when we were near the work site and some rock lighting close to where we live.
My dad received a broken thigh in an accident that summer. The closest hospital of any size was at Scotts Bluff, Nebraska. When the accident happened I believe my Uncle Bill took mother to Scotts Bluff. When we came home from school Mable took Beulah and me to her house until mother got back. Bill took mother, Beulah and me to Scotts Bluff to visit dad on a weekend. He came home after a couple of weeks and was on crutches for quite a while.
In the spring of 1927 we got a telegram from my Aunt Ruth Bessette (my mothers sister) that their father Charles Shadduck had died at her place in Seattle, Washington. My mother fainted when Jesse Withers gave her the news. I was really scared. He had an awfully hard time bringing her out of it.
Early in 1927 Mabel and Chalmer bought a new Chevrolet (Picture) Glass window’s that rolled up and down, steel disc wheels, a luggage trunk on the back. Later that year my dad went to Scotts Bluff and came back with a brand new 1927 Star two door sedan, glass windows a jump seat on the right side folded up and tipped forward to make easy access to the back seat.
One day that summer (1927) we had a fire in camp. A house not far from Mabel and Chalmers place inhabited by the Wixon family. A gang of men from the Dam came over to put the fire out, but by the time they got there most of it was consumed in flames. Mr. Wixon had some home brew in the house. Quite a few of the bottles exploded, but some were still capped, after the men had watered it down and they had cooled a bit, the men began finding them, removing the caps the beer would shoot three feet in the air. They would put their mouths over it and catch what they could. This was prohibition times and I guess was a treat to some of them even when warm.
Victor, Montana, Aug 1927 - Dec 1928.
When we arrived in Victor we went to grandmas first. We stayed there a few days until we found a house to rent in Victor. It was a nice house and was still there in 1980 when we were back there. The house had electricity but no plumbing. The well with a hand pump was real close to the back door. Had a garage and large wood shed, This house is the 2nd house from the corner across from the church.
Dad left to go on a short job, that was the reason for leaving us there, so we wouldn’t be changing schools in mid term.
I started the 6th grade and Beulah the 3rd grade. Soon after we got settled. My mother’s cousin Elzada Cole was my teacher. His brother Alva was one year ahead of me in school. The Cole ranch was about a mile and a half north of town. I spent a lot of time out there with Alvy (as we always called him). There was another Cole boy named Clifford, he was in high school, and another one named Bill who ran a grocery stores there in Victor.
It was a small typical country store. There was no self-service then. You told the clerk what you wanted. He took it off the shelf and put it on the counter. The shelves were from the floor to the ceiling. The clerk would use a ladder or a pole with a clip on it to get the articles off the top shelves. We bought our meat at the butcher shop across the street. Mr. William Cole the father of the Coles mentioned earlier used to own that meat market but he died several years before this time. His wife Cecelia or Aunt Ceil as we called her as she was my mothers Aunt ran the small farm with the help of Elzada and the boys, they had no car so walked to town and to the school.
That Christmas 1927 I got a pair of ice skates and also a pair of high top leather boots. One of the boots had a knife pouch on the side of it with a good pocketknife in it. I had a lot of fun with those skates. I still have them (1983) The swampy areas in the fields at a friends place (Bob Hernong) were frozen all winter because they were so shallow, so there was no danger of getting in trouble if the ice broke through. These skates were the kind that clamped on the soles of your shoes. My new boots worked well and helped support my ankles. When Sweat House creek froze over where it ran through the Cole property we skated there.
Dad and my Uncle Bill came home that winter for Christmas. Bill stayed with their dad, Seth Bryant, who was my grandfather that lived there in Victor. Bill gave us a portable phonograph with quite a few records. It was the kind that had the flat records like we have now, but the one out at Grandma’s was an older model that played the round tube type, and a large horn that the sounds came out of. We really enjoyed that phonograph. It closed up and could be carried like a suitcase. It had a crank to wind the large spring that ran the turntable. We had a couple of Amos and Andy records that were popular then and some songs. We went out to the ranch Christmas Eve.
They had a large tree set up in the parlor. This room was seldom used. Just for special occassions and company. They had a stove in there and had a fire going Christmas Eve and Christmas day. The tree was pretty, the usual old-fashioned trimmings and candles. These candles were about four inches long and they had both red and green ones. The candle was spiraled and fit in a small cup on one end of a holder built just for them. The other end of the holder had three short finger like offsets that enabled you to clip it to the smaller branches. The candles were only lit on Christmas Eve, and someone was always in the room while they were burning.
My Grandfather Seth Bryant lived in Victor; he was past 70 years of age at that time. He did the janitor work at Safely’s Drug Store. He would sometimes tend the store when Mr. Safely would be gone for short times. There was some kind of hard feelings between him and my mother. She never explained it to me, just that he drank to much, but he never came to our house and I only recall going to his place with my dad a couple of times when I was real small.
One weekend that winter when we were out to the ranch. Joe, Walter, my dad and myself went down to the river to get a load of ice. They hitched a team of horses to a hayslip or sled took some saws and axes. There was a wide lagoon or backwater from the river that was frozen about 6 or 8 inches thick. They chopped a hole in the ice and started sawing blocks of ice about a foot wide and three feet long. When they got enough for a load we hauled it back up to the root house or cellar not far from the house. This cellar was built where the ground sloped toward the cow pasture. They had dug back into the slope and lined the walls with stone work mortared together. Timbers were laid across the walls then boards to make a floor placed on them. The walls above this floor was built up about two feet. That was at about ground level. Then a regular gable type roof put on. This upper deck was filled about two feet deep with sawdust. The ice was placed in this area in layers with sawdust between and a lot of sawdust on top. There was a drain pipe to carry off the water as the ice melted. But it lasted well up into the summer, as I shall tell about later. This cellar held a lot of food. There was a large potato bin, a carrot bin, lots of shelves for home canned fruit. Even a couple of large crocks that eggs were kept in. They were emersed in a water glass solution and kept well. Another week end when I was out there Joe decided we ought to go down toward the river and cut down a bee tree he had spotted during the summer. We hooked up the team to the slip again. Took the milk pails, saw and ax. He had a hood to wear to keep the bees off his face and also a smoke pot to use on them but said as cold as it was we shouldn’t have any trouble. I liked to go with him like this as I got to drive the team Nellie and Queen.
When we got to the tall tree he built a fire to keep warm and to keep the bees away. After unloading our stuff he had me take the team back away so they wouldn’t get stung by a bee and cause a problem.
All went well the tree was cut down then split to get at the honeycombs, I had the hood on and helped fill the buckets. We didn’t take all the honey, as he wanted to leave enough that some of the bees would survive the winter. When we got the honey back at the house it was heated and strained and put in jars.
My Dad didn’t have job that winter. He wasn’t one to lay around home very long. He decided to cut wood on shares. He got a saw from someone in exchange for some wood. It was called drag saw. A gasoline powered cross cut saw. I went out with him one Saturday. I was twelve years old and not much help, but did what I could. He cut down a pine tree. Limbed it and cut it into stove wood lengths with the power saw. He had Joe’s team and wagon then. He split the pieces, and I loaded them on the wagon. We only had to go a couple miles to the ranch. I was tired and rode all the way on the wagon although I know I should have gotten off and walked when my feet began getting numb. When I got off to open the gate at grandmas I could hardly walk. We had been in the snow all day and my boots weren’t greased good so my feet had got wet then while sitting they got frost bitten. They hurt a lot that night, but weren’t to bad. But I learned to keep my boots well greased or oiled when out in the snow all day.
Dad and Bill left that spring for a job Mr. Crowe had in California at a place called Clipper Gap near Auburn. This is known as the Vann Gieser Dam on the Bear River.
I did well in the sixth grade. I represented that grade for our school at a County wide school contest at Hamilton. The county seat. I competed in arithmetic and spelling. I was second in Arithmetic but didn’t place in the spelling.
Sometimes on Friday, Walter would bring grandma in to turn in her eggs at the store for groceries and they would take mother back out to the ranch. When school let out Beulah and I would ride out on the little school bus that went by the ranch. Walter would bring us home Sunday. Walter had a model T coupe that he kept immaculate, even had curtains on the small side windows.
When school was out that summer I would go down to the Coles to play with Alvie. We used to fish in Sweat House Creek that ran through their property. We would cut Willow poles near the creek, tie our line on the end and a hook. Then dig worms or catch grasshoppers or get hellgrammites from under the rocks in the creek. We would cut a forked piece from a willow bush to carry our fish with. They were small brook trout.
When we got through fishing I would cut about two or three inches off the end of the pole. Wrap my line around it and embed the hook in the end and put it in my pocket. I was always ready to go fishing that way.
Sometimes I would walk out west of town to where my Aunt & Uncle and two daughters lived. This was my dad’s sister Naomi, her husband Elmer (TOT) Cates and girl’s Helen and Marie. Helen was about three years old and Marie a small baby. Tot managed a ranch for the local banker Clay Graff. Their house was real close to Sweat House Creek. This would be about 3 miles up stream from Cole’s place. They made a lot of to-do about my coming out to visit them. They were real nice to me. I used to fish there near their house.
It was up to me to get the wood and water in when dad wasn’t home. We had a good stove that had a grate in it so we could also burn coal. Mother would buy a ton of coal we could bank the fire at night and it wouldn’t be cold in the mornings. I had to carry the water from the pump at the well near the back door. The kitchen stove had a water reservoir on one end. This was very handy if it was kept full as it got warm from the firebox. On wash days, mother would put the copper wash boiler on the stove and I would carry water in and fill it. She washed with a hand wash board in a tub.
The same process of heating water for bath nights applied. We would open the oven door and place the wash tub on the floor in front of the oven to take our baths.
That summer I spent a couple of weeks out at the ranch during haying time. I drove the derrick horse to hoist the hay up on the haystack. The horse (Queen) knew more about it that I did. When Walter would holler "hup" she would start ahead and when he hollered again she would stop, but I had to be there to lift the single tree up so she could back up with out it hitting her hocks. They paid me 50 cents a day and board and room. The other men got $1.50 a day and board and room. But I was a pretty proud 12-year-old on his first job.
I used to walk out to the ranch a lot during the summer. It was a little over 3 miles and usually took me about and hour. I would run part of the way.
That summer on a Sunday, probably in August, there was a regular family gathering at the ranch. Alvie and I caught the fryer-sized chickens and chopped their heads off and helped pick their feathers off. Then grandpa sent us out to dig some new potatoes in the garden. We went to the root house and got ice in a burlap bag. Took the flat side of an ax and broke the ice so we could place it in the hand cranked ice cream freezer with some rock salt. The ice cream was made with their own cream from the milk house. I would say 90% of the meal was all from their own garden, root house and home baked bread. (Which was done once every week.)
When the men dressed up in their good shirts most of them wore sleeve holders. These were necessary, as the shirtsleeves didn’t come in different lengths. So the short man with a neck size to fit him needed the sleeve holders. They were worn between the elbow & shoulder. They were elastic covered a material. The better ones I believe was silk. They came in various colors. The extra material of the sleeve blossomed down over the sleeve holder.
Another item men wore then for dress were garters. They were elastic. Worn just below the knee and a clever two piece hook fastened to the sock.
The fall of 1928 I started the seventh grade at Victor. Dad went to Ellensburg, Washington on a canal job for Frank Crowe. Mother was pregnant, expecting in November.
Dad came home late October. I remember because it was just before Halloween night. He was going to stay until the baby was born. On Halloween we had blizzard conditions but a friend of mine Buss Ownes came over and we went out to see how many out houses we could turn over. This was a regular Halloween prank. The next morning after Halloween they took the boys from the high school out of school and made them go all over town setting them back up. They didn’t have to do it that year though as there were very few if any turned over because of the weather. We weren’t out but a few minutes when we had to get back inside. My sister June was born Nov. 12, 1928. Dad left on the train as soon as he was sure everything was O.K. He took my sister Beulah with him. She stayed with our Aunt Mabel and Uncle Chalmer until we could come out there to Ellensburg.
It was sure cold there that year. We would bank both the kitchen range and the front room heater with coal so it would be warm when we got up. Mother would wash out June’s diapers and clothes and I would hang them out when I got home from school. They usually froze stiff in just a few minutes. Then we would hang them on a collapsible rack behind the stove. I usually got the wood and coal in as soon as I got home from school. I had to take warm water out to thaw the pump so I could pump some water to carry in.
Mother, June and myself went to Ellensburg on the train during Christmas vacation. Took the train from Victor to Missoula, changed there to the Great Northern.
Ellensburg, stayed at Mabel & Chalmers for a couple of weeks until we rented a house and our furniture which had been crated and shipped by freight train from Victor arrived.
I started school right away. It was quite a change from the little country school at Victor where the same teacher taught both the 7th & 8th grade all in one room. At Ellensburg the 7th grade had its own homeroom and rotated rooms and classes with different teachers. One of my teachers was a man, another 1st for me. On my 1st day he introduced me to the class and asked where I come from. I told him Victor, Montana. He wanted to know why it was named Victor. I told him about it being named after an Indian Chief Victor. So he began calling me Chief Victor, which the whole class got quite a kick from it.
We rented a nice house with a one bedroom upstairs, which was mine, and two down stairs, Nice bathroom, which was another nice change. Large icebox, the iceman delivered ice & placed it right in the box. Also had a milkman that delivered our milk every morning on the front porch. He came quite early and on cold mornings the milk would freeze and expand upward pushing the paper cap off and sometimes would be close to two inches stick up above the top of the milk bottle.
Nothing exciting happened that spring, summer camp and joined B.S.A. After school was out mother’s cousin Elzada Cole who taught me in the 6th grade come to Ellensburg to attend the Norman school there to further her credentials. So I lost my room. I then had a cot on the back porch. The Withers family arrived that summer. There was a large circus come to town, us kids helped them in getting set up and earned free passes.
Elzada left about the 1st of Sept. so I got my room back, but not for long as my mother’s brother Henry Shadduck and his 1st wife came to visit. I think they had been living in N.Y. State. He was looking for a job. Dad got him a job as a timekeeper. They stayed until the weather got bad and then went to Seattle, so I got my room back again.
I got a pair of roller skates for Christmas, these were the old - clamp on style. I really loved to skate. Whenever there was no snow I was out skating. I skated to and from school
We moved that spring when I was in the 8th grade. The house was a large Duplex with a coal-fired furnace in the basement. It was farther from school but with my skates I could make it home for lunch.
My dad left us soon as the weather would allow them to get into the Deadwood Dam Site near Cascade, Idaho. As soon as school was out he came and got us. Had the furniture and most kitchen ware & winter clothes all crated and shipped to Hamilton, Montana & stored. We then took off to Deadwood to camp out for the summer.
Mabel & Chalmer were there; they had been there the fall before & had a small company house. They went in by dog sled that spring to get things opened up. It was a steep high mountain road getting in there. It was only about 60 miles but took close to three hours to drive it.
When we got there they had put up a 16’x16’ tent house for us. Back to the old out house again. My Uncle Bill was also there. He was compressor man on swing shift and Dad was Swing Shift foreman (4:oo P.M. to midnight). Bill took me down to the Deadwood River fishing one day. He gave me his old 3-piece bamboo pole and a small hand crank reel. We were fishing with artificial flies but not catching much.
There was an older couple living next to us & their grandson, about 11 years old staying with them. They had friends in Cascade that would dig worms from their garden and send them up by one of the truck drivers that was hauling cement to the Dam. We couldn’t find any worms up there. This ladies husband wouldn’t let her & the grandson go unless I was with them. So we went fishing a lot. Furnished fish to lots of people in camp. Most of the fish were small brook trout and when they would strike I just yanked on the pole and they flew out on the bank behind me. One day I had a strike and reared back on the poles and broke the tip I had a large trout. My line was tangled in the broken tip and I was wading in the water pulling the line hand over hand. It was a large trout and had swallowed the hook deep. I showed it off to everyone in camp I guess. But I was lucky as most of those bamboo rods came with two tips. So that is when I learned to set the hook and play the fish.
My Uncle Bill had a Chevrolet Coupe car and some days he would take Beulah (my sister) and I for a ride. I would set real close to him and he would let me steer the car. Then one day when I was alone with him he let me drive. I was a pretty proud 14-year-old.
We stayed there until close to time to start school and then headed to the Bitter Root Valley & grandma’s place. I rode with Bill most of the way and he let me drive a little. We got too grandmas and my folks went to Hamilton and rented a house, got the furniture out of storage and we were all set up again.
It was a nice older type, 2-bedroom house, nice bathroom! Large wood shed & garage. Kitchen range that burned either coal or wood also a large heater in the Dining room.
Dad left to get back to Deadwood. School started a few days later. I hadn’t got acquainted with any kids yet but knew where the New High School was. I was walking to the school and was about a block from it when I seen about 5 or 6 boys about my age and older. When I got to them one of them asked me if I was a freshman. I said yes, expecting to get acquainted. Well I sure didn’t they all piled on me-threw me to the ground and held me while one of them took a pair of hand model hair clippers and clipped a streak from my forehead to the back of my neck and another crosswise from ear to ear. I still didn’t know what it was all about until I began looking around and seen some more boys getting the same treatment across the street. This was a school tradition that had been going on for quite a number of years. You had to attend school that 1st day before going to the barber. Mother went up town and bought a radio. Our first (1930) We were real proud. It was a nice piece of furniture and sat next to a chair and was about arm high to the chair with the dial and controls on the top. She also bought two matching chairs, one a rocker which I still have (1984).
Dale Frank Bryant - December 3, 1915 - March 4, 1996