Friday, June 20, 2008

Trip to Idaho 1935 -Karl W. Jansen

Dad had been dropping little hints about going to Idaho, maybe move there in the spring. I was all ears and hoping. A young boy and his dad had stopped in Scandia to visit some relatives for a few days. Our front yard was a pretty popular place for kids fun. Seems like we had kids of our own to fit any age bracket. This kid liked Martha so we got to see a lot of him for a few days. He and his dad were on their way to Idaho where his uncle lived in Challis, Idaho. Hunting, fishing, trapping and gold panning. Still Indians around there, too. I was ready.
I wanted to have some money to spend along the way so I intensified my find a way to make money efforts. I hit all the dumps and alleys looking for anything made of brass, copper, aluminum, and even iron. It took a lot of iron to bring in a penny. It was winter and my sled was the hauler. The biggest addition to my hoard was when I found a fifty-cent piece in the dirt at a blacksmith shop. I made the mistake of telling Jack about it and he thought he should have half of it. Looking back I can’t believe I said, "okay if you will go with me to the Soda Fountain and drink a crème soda with me". Being in a good mood he agreed. That was my first soda pop. I think I sipped on it till it got warm. Sitting in the Fountain having a soda pop really felt big time. One time I almost found some big money, not quite. I was down at the end of main street and I saw that Walt Prebels business was doing a little construction work. He had the ice cutting monopoly to fill the ice house with big squares of ice from the river to cool the townspeople's ice boxes. I noticed a wheelbarrow filled with liquid concrete in front of a mixer. There were a couple of planks leading to some forms. If they could see what a good worker I was they might give me a job. So far so good, no one was looking so I lifted the handles on the barrow and started down the planks. For some reason the concrete started moving from side to side and in a short while I could not slow it down. About ten feet short of the forms it tipped over. No one hollered so I righted the wheelbarrow, backed it to the mixer and fled the scene. I scratched heavy construction off my resume.
The middle of March in Scandia in 1935 is a little hazy for me. Seems like all of a sudden we have a car. I’m sure its not the Baby Overland dad put together because this one has a cab. Dad cut the top off right behind the front seat and built a large box there. It’s hard for me to believe that my memory didn’t think this was important enough to properly etch in my brain.. That box had to be pretty big. All of our belongings and including mom's Dexter Speedex washing machine and room for seven of us. Dad and Jack shared the front seat with a friend, Elmer Crider.
It seems odd to me now that Jack, Martha, and I never talked about this period in our lives. I kinda feel bad because I enjoyed it so much. It was a wild adventure. Well, we are set to go to Idaho. It’s March and clear and cold. I’ve got three dollars and eighty-four cents in my pocket and enough tobacco to last at least a week for my pipe.
The last night in Scandia. We are leaving in the morning. I don’t think I will miss the every year floods of the Republican river or the dust storms, cyclones, the intense cold in the winter and the blazing sun in the summer. I still have a lot of animosity towards June Freed for getting our dog shot. Looking ahead is better than looking back. Dad and mom visited some of their card playing friends down the street a couple of blocks. The electricity had been turned off so for light we had a Coleman lantern. At bedtime I called dad on the phone and ask how to turn off the lantern. He said just turn the little knob till it stops. I did that and the brightness went down but little flames were coming out around the top. I called dad again, I must have been in charge I don’t remember Jack or Martha being there, dad says just set it outside. The flames coming out the top where the handle was were hot on my hand so I calmly panicked and threw it out the living room window which was not open. The lantern bounced out into the yard, probably snow. The hero had saved the house and kids and then went to bed. I wonder if I slept that night
The next morning we all got aboard and left Scandia. Dad, Jack, and Elmer in the cab and the other seven of us in the box - the thrill of anticipation has reached the climax. I wish I could get a glimpse of that box, the size of it, seating, windows anything. I guess that wasn’t important to an eleven year old. Just actually being on the way was the big thing. I don’t recall seeing anything out of a window as we drove along. I do recall stopping and repairing a flat tire occasionally. The roads were pretty bumpy. Snow along the road. I do remember stopping at the Platte River bridge and getting out to look at the river. I recall thinking it odd that the river didn’t seem to have any banks. Dad said the Platte had a reputation of being a mile wide and an inch deep. On the road somewhere, probably in Wyoming, we had a flat tire. We got out and probably Mom made something to eat. We were on a gentle hill fairly flat except the way we were going. No trees, just grass and sagebrush. It was my job to gather fire stuff to keep the tire fixers warm and to be outside the box in a little comfort. It was the first time I had smelled sagebrush burning. I really liked it and I still do. We must have been able to see through the cab and out the windshield a little. I remember no other cars on the road. We must have driven straight through to Cheyenne. Where would we have slept? We had no camping gear, we did have at least two drivers. Must have drove day and night for two days to reach Cheyenne. I think Elmer had relatives there. We stayed at their place for a couple of days. We were out of money. I got acquainted with the neighborhood kids and enjoyed myself playing different games till late at night. One of the things I remember was a big ‘my guess’ a big artesian fountain in the middle of a large area, possibly a square block. As the water flowed out and up it froze and created a very big icicle. It seems that a lot of people had frozen water pipes because every time we went to get water by holding a pail against the icicle to fill, there were other people doing the same thing. That upside down icicle must have been twenty feet high. A hollow chute up the middle where the water shot up to fall on the outside. I would like to go back to Cheyenne and see if I could find a reference or a picture of it taken in 35.
Fun and games over, we needed money for gas to get to Idaho. The folks sold anything they could to get money for including mother’s prized possession, the Dexter Speedex washing machine. The figure I remember was five dollars. No one had any money. Gas was around fifteen cents a gallon, so five dollars worth was quite a lot. No one ever ask me for any of my hoard. When we chanced to stop at a store I would buy candy. It must have been the sixteenth of March we stopped at a little town, being Mary B’s birthday I gave her five pennies. Imagine a five year old in 1935 with five coins, life doesn’t get much better than that. The next place we stopped was Pocatello. I guess we were broke flat. Dad went to the Salvation Army and had to leave mother’s wedding ring to get enough money to get to Paul, Idaho. She did get her ring out of hock later. The house we moved into had been a place where a guy had been using it to skin rabbits. Wild rabbits were plentiful and he probably got a nickle or so for a dried hide. The place didn’t seem too bad after mom and company did a cleaning job on it. Anyway here we are, things are looking up.
These are my memories of our trip to Idaho. Want to hear mother’s story? I can hear her now if someone would ask her about the trip she would just say “it was okay, we just coasted along” what it was like for her must have been a nightmare. She had probably been feeling fairly content in Scandia. Thing weren’t easy but some enjoyable times. Then put in a box. A moving box with seven kids and adults. How do you feed them, when do you have time to cook anything, with what, what do you have to fix to eat. No heat, no facilities like a bathroom, maybe a little pot. No privacy. What to do ,sitting in a jarring box on board seats starring at the walls for hours on end, trying to get a little sleep or rest sitting up. Trying to keep the little ones as comfortable as possible. Yeah, she just coasted along. Losing her washing machine when she had seven kids and a husband and then to possibly lose her wedding ring. I can’t even imagine the sadness she must have felt. I don’t remember seeing any sign of this in her outlook, just do the best you can with what you have. She did get her ring back. I don’t know how long it took to get another washing machine. Maybe two kids later.


Sondi said...

Thank you, Uncle Karl, for sharing this story with us. I can not imagine what that trip must have been like. I have read where people took advantage of families like ours that were trying to make a better life for themselves during the depression. I'm glad that the Jansen's made it to Idaho without too many people doing that to you. It sounds like people were pretty helpful to you along the way.

Were the roads paved that you traveled on or were they gravel? It must have been very cold since the ice was freezing into upside down icicles. How did you stay warm in the box? I know there must not have been a heater in the box you were riding in.

I remember my dad making a "camper" for the back of the pickup and when we were in it there would be moisture dropping from the ceiling from our breath. The ventilation was not too good!! Did you have that problem? I think Uncle Kenny took that camper home with him to make a playhouse for his girls. Does anyone remember that?

In my records Aunt Jacquie was about 18 mos old and Uncle Bobby was just about 4 mos old when this trip took place. Does that sound right to you? You were 11, Aunt Martha 14 and then there was Aunt Shirley and Mary B between you. Grandma must have been pulling her hair out by the time you got to Paul, Idaho. And then when you got there, you had to find a way to feed a family of 9 people without any money. Did they ever borrow any of your money to help pay for anything?

This is an incredible story. I'm glad you wrote it.
Lots of love, Sondi

K & N said...

Karl said he has no idea about the roads, they were snowy, and they couldn't see them, anyway. They sat in the box and couldn't see out that he can remember. Martha said she was sure there were no windows.. He thinks they kept warm wrapped in blankets.
Karl was eleven when they made the trip, and turned 12 the following Nov. born in 1923. Martha was born in '22 so she was 12 during the journey, turning 13 in April. When they reached Idaho he was enrolled in the 7th grade, he had started school before he turned 6. Shirley was next, then Beryl, Jacquie, Bob, Charlene and Pete. That I am sure of. ~Flo

Lisa Anne said...

Wow! What a cool story. Its amazing the things you all had to go through. I'll definitely be reading all your stories to my kids someday. Thank you for writing more!!