There were times when I would live in Palouse. I think Roger and Darlene also spent time there. I don’t remember if either of them actually went to school there or not.
My aunt, Bert, had a piece of land in Palouse and at various times had chickens and milk cows and horses. It is there that I learned to ride horses.Bert had a Shetland pony at one point that was pretty ornery and I think even bucked me off one time but sometimes we would hitch the pony up to a cart Bert had and we would ride in the cart with the Shetland pony pulling it through town. There was very little car traffic in those days and so it was pretty safe to ride a horse and cart through main street.
I was in Palouse during the Cuban Missile Crisis and remember overhearing the adults talk about what was going on and hearing about bomb shelters. Along with my cousins, David and Alec, we began digging a hole for a bomb shelter but we didn’t get very far before we gave up and it rained and turned to a hole of mud.
Guy was my cousin but he was much older than I. He was in the same age group as my half-brother, Jim. My mom’s sisters Hank Moore and Flo Moore were older than my mom and her sister’s, Billie and Ole. Hank and Flo’s kids were probably teenagers when I was born as were Bert Emerson’s kids, Guy and Joe. Darlene, Roger and I didn’t really have much in common with Jim or the Moore kids or Bert’s kids. Bert’s grandkids, Guys children, (my second cousins), David and Alec were closer to the age of Darlene, Roger and I as well as Gail, Nola and Don.
David and Alec knew how to milk cows and they got up every morning to do so. It was my perception that Guy was having difficulties with alcohol and there were times that I felt he was horrible and cruel to his son David, (although I am not sure if David actually would have agreed with that assessment). I never had the opportunity to discuss any of that with David as an adult. I don’t remember Guy being quite as cruel to Alec but maybe he was at other times that I wasn’t present. I remember David having some problems not unusual for a child his age. Problems that kids have at that age can not be beat or harangued out of them. I suppose every parent gets frustrated at some point with every child. It is never an excuse to be abusive and from my perspective, I thought Guy was abusive to David at times.
Guy was married to Blazena, but she was his second marriage and she was not the mother of David and Alec. I’m not sure how she actually spelled her name and so I am spelling it phonetically. She was from Czechoslovakia and had lived in a concentration camp during World War 2. Her daughters were Toni and Mary and they had the last name Griffith. Mary would be the first girl in my life that I ever kissed and one of the few in my life that I actually made out with. She was a couple of years older than I and we always seemed to have fun together.
In my ancestry, my great grandmother on my mother’s side was a “Wear.” Her descendants, “the Wear brothers” also lived with Bert at various times. The Wear boys were always pretty well accepted by most in the Walling family. Bert had essentially taken them in and practically adopted them. Blashna’s daughter, Toni, would marry a Wear.
Palouse was otherwise an idyllic place for me. I loved riding horses. I loved the farm animals. I loved the little school that we went to at the time. I am sure they must have torn down the old schoolhouse by now, but when I went there, it was a two story building. High school was upstairs and elementary school was downstairs. I think that sometimes classrooms at Palouse would contain kids from more than one grade level. I learned to swim at the Palouse pool. I did the twist with my cousin Mary Griffin at the Sweetshop downtown.
Blazena’s daughter, Mary, was an important person in my childhood. I think she was really the first girl I ever had a crush on. She was a year or two older than me and we had some great times together. She introduced me to the music of Johnny Mathis. I remember her reading Edgar Allen Poe stories to us and was especially dramatic when reading Poe’s “The Tell Tale Heart.” She was the first girl I ever really kissed which I remember took place in the schoolyard in Palouse and I think David and Alec might have been at that event.
I don’t remember if Mary was in Palouse when I was in second grade. I think it was probably over a couple of other visits to Palouse a few years later that I developed a crush on
her. I know that I knew her by the time I went to live in Escondido a few years later when I was twelve or so and still wearing Brylcream in my hair. I still have the picture she sent to me to remember her by. It was definitely what they called “puppy love.”
I remember Mary in association with songs on the radio: Chubby Checker’s “The Twist” (1960) and then “Let’s Twist Again” (1961), I would have been about nine years old. I think I was also in Palouse about the time “Monster Mash” was released in 1962. I also remember listening to “Where the Boys Are” in Palouse and my aunt Bert feeling it was a little obscene.
That first year that I got to know Mary, we used to go to a little joint downtown that sold hamburgers and I think they called it “The Sweet Shop” but I could be wrong about that. People would play Chubby Checkers, “The Twist” or “Let’s Twist Again” or the Starliters’ “Peppermint Twist” and she and I would dance. There wasn’t a whole lot of entertainment in Palouse at the time so people were easily amused. I think we were even given a free burger or a dollar or something and were pretty excited by the attention.
Another year, marked by Sonny and Cher’s “I Got You Babe,” I was in Palouse again and my crush on Mary continued, even though I also had a girlfriend in Escondido by that time, named Kathy. It must have been 1965 by that time and Mary could drive. I am not sure whose car she was driving at the time but I do remember going with her to the drive-in and making out as kids did in those days. We both still loved to dance that year and I remember that Mary would pull the car over, wherever we were at the time, when a hit we both liked came on and we would just get out and dance right there by the car in the middle of nowhere.
I guess we lived in a bit of a kids fantasy world at the time and somewhere along the road in 1965, when I was visiting Palouse, Mary and I decided to go to Los Angeles to become the “next” Sonny and Cher. Apparently she didn’t really have her own car and we considered hopping freight trains but then settled on hitchhiking. I must have been about thirteen or fourteen at that time and Mary must have been sixteen. After getting several rides, we made it to Moscow, Idaho which is about 26 miles from Palouse. I’m sure we didn’t have any money at the time but we were not really concerned about such realities. We were going to be famous!
On the last leg of our journey to Moscow, we were picked up by an older, heavy-set man that took us into Moscow and offered to buy us dinner. We went with him to a little greasy spoon restaurant and it seems to me that he had a heart attack or something medical, and we left. Apparently someone at the restaurant called the police or the police just saw us walking along the street as dusk was approaching and we were picked up and brought to the city jail. Mary was put in one cell and I was put into another. We weren’t bothered by it at all. We were on an adventure and loving every minute as far as I can remember. We were singing Sonny and Cher’s “I Got You Babe” and other songs of the time. There was one other person in another cell nearby that called out to us, “Do you know “Far Away?” Neither of us knew of any song called “Far Away.” Then the stranger we never saw yelled out, “Sing Far Away… sing far, far away…” Which we got and laughed at the joke.
Meanwhile, the police had contacted my Aunt Bert and a little while later, Guy arrived to bring us back to Palouse. He was furious. He implied that something sexual might be going on but there wasn’t and we just thought he was crude and boorish. He was probably drunk at the time. My aunt Bert might have been in the car too, but I’m not sure about that. Regardless, that was the end of our Sonny and Cher fantasy and probably the last year that Mary was a part of my life.
I believe Mary passed away in the late 90’s or early 2000’s. I had not seen her since we were kids in Palouse. I have often wondered where her life took her and what kind of a life she had.
Nola and I visited years later and then Milton and I also visited. Here are a couple of pics of Bert’s property years after she had sold it and had moved to New Mexico and passed away:
The little theater downtown Palouse: