Tuesday, February 18, 2014

JB and Olga West, Some Random Memories

            I remember my grandfather as quite the character. I know him very well because I was so young but he seemed sort of stern to me, with a no nonsense personality.  He wasn’t mean, just distant. I learned more about him after he died from reading his book “Growing Up in the Palouse”. 
            A few childhood memories stand out.  On some occasions when my parents went out, usually on Saturday nights, my siblings and I went to Grandma and Grandpa West’s house to spend the night and watch Lawrence Welk on their color television. Breakfast on Sunday morning was poached eggs on toast. 
My grandparents were into flowers and gardening.  Their yard was beautiful, with big trees and a trellis. The front part of the lawn was gently sloped down to the street.  Rolling down the hill was great fun. We also helped with yard work. My grandfather had this weeding tool for digging up chickweed.  It was a great job for kids.We had snack breaks in the shade of the trees.
A large part of my memories about Grandpa West was West’s Food Store. He and my grandmother ran the store.  My dad worked there as well and local people were hired to help. Grandpa let me go into the back room and watch him candle eggs to make sure the eggs bought to sell at the store were in good shape. At the end of the year the whole family helped with the inventory and we counted and recorded it the old fashioned way.
            We kids had a running tab at the store.  As part of our summer routine we stopped at the store on our way home for snacks. Our friends thought it was neat that we didn’t need money.
            Grandpa was a photographer.  He loved taking pictures at our family gatherings. It seemed to me that we took a long time posing for these but of course I was just a little kid.  He also had a slide projector so we were treated to family slide shows at family gatherings.  He had a pair of binoculars that he used for bird watching and he taught me the names of birds.  Sometimes birds flew into the big picture window of his house, breaking their little necks.  This was always so sad to me.
            Tekoah wrote to Grandpa when she was a little girl.  He was so moved that he wrote her back and also sent us gift certificates each year at Christmas time from JC Penny’s which made Christmas for us for several years, as we lived at the Israel Family ranch and didn’t have much money. We’d go shopping and get an outfit each for the kids and then get the money that was left over.  I don’t think that stores allow that anymore but at the time it was most helpful.
            I still have some of my grandfather’s letters.  He had trouble with his eyesight but he wrote anyway on a typewriter.  He listened to books on tape. He also could recite all the names of the presidents of the United States.  He believed in keeping his mind active and thinking positive.
            At one point in his life Grandfather had a spirit guide that spoke to him through an Ouija board.  This fascinated when I discovered this, as I am very interested in the metaphysical as well.  His guide’s name was Lena.
            When grandpa was a young man his sister committed suicide at the age of  l7.  Her name was Bessie, She shot herself and from what I understand no one really knew the reason why.  She left a note that said “what’s the use”.  She had been staying in town and going to school, as the family at that time lived out in the country.  Six months later his brother died from a gunshot wound.  Some say it was an accident but my grandfather claimed it was a suicide.  This tragedy was not talked about much.  I have always wondered about Great Aunt Bessie.  I guess we will never know what drove her to take her own life.
            Grandpa’s heart was broken when Grandma Olga died and it took him years to adjust.  For awhile he still lived in the apartment above the store and came up to have dinners with Mom and Dad. Dad would take him for his doctor’s check ups. During the winter he went to Santa Barbara to be with my Aunt Doris.

            My dad likes to tell about what Grandpa said right before he died.  “I ran out of positive thoughts”.

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