January 26, 2015

I Remember Mama On Her Birthday


I read a saying today that essentially said that it matters not who your ancestors were but what you leave behind.  As a family genealogist, I might slightly dispute that first part, but as this is the anniversary of my mom’s 89th birthday today, I prefer to remember what she left behind.

From earliest days I remember my mother as affectionate and kind without being too smothering. She forgave many who wronged her and we learned through her to be more tolerant of others.

Mom lost her own mother when she was almost six years old. I don’t think she really remembered her mother other than through feelings and not memories. In doing our family research I wonder just what was going on with my Grandma Helen Moline. She and my grandpa Elvin (Al) married when they were quite young, but didn’t have their first child (my aunt Jeane) until 1920. That was around six years they were together without any children.

Was Helen working and not willing to give up her job (she was sometimes employed as a vocalist for funerals), or they just waited to have children until Al’s income was more steady? From 1929 until 1933 my mother and her sisters didn’t have a female roll model in their lives. In 1933 grandpa married his second wife Lillian (Eppy) Epstein and at that point she became the person who would mold my mother into a lady.

Eppy was a stickler for manners and etiquette because she was raised that way, or so I assume. My mother relaxed a bit around home, but out in public we had to have our public manners on display at all times. Nothing wrong with that! No talking with your mouth full; no elbows on the table; no reaching across the table or chewing with your mouth open. She always said it sounded like a cow pulling it’s foot out of the mud.

Mom was a Girl Scout and so when we were living in rural Tumwater she taught us how to light a campfire and keep it going. We roasted potatoes in the fire and snatched branches from the apple trees to roast marshmallows. We would go for walks and she would show us where the hazelnut bushes were in the woods so we could bring home those prickly covered delicacies to dry and have later as a snack. We picked wild blackberries (the small ones, not the Himalayan kind) and sometimes the small red huckleberries for pie or just to munch.

Mom loved to play cards and games, and almost every winter we had a jigsaw puzzle going on the kitchen table. That was great because then we could eat in the living room! The trouble with that was that sometimes my dad would stroll through the kitchen and grab one of the pieces so that at the end we were looking all over the floor for the missing piece. He would finally own up to the theft and we all would have a good laugh at his legerdemain.

We would all read books, and some of my favorites were the Reader’s Digest condensed books. That was where my world was expanded beyond the walls of the house. Mom and I both read Mrs. Mike, a story of a young woman who married a Canadian Mountie and lived in the wilds of Canada.

So many memories of Mom….learning to cook from her, learning how to iron correctly, being curious about the world we lived in. She and dad both taught us about economics and what drove the economy. Dad was a carpenter and his work was quite often seasonal. We had lean times and those of plenty. We appreciated it all and learned life lessons that would stay with us always.

Mom was not only my mother but we were friends. She would reprimand me when I was being intolerant, and praise me when I tried my best to succeed. She was always on my side, but not afraid to tell me when I was being a toad. In fact, that was her nickname for me…”Toad”.

I’ve written 700+ words about Mom and it just barely describes the woman she was. I miss her every day and hope that I too have passed along her lessons to my son, and in turn, he might pass some along to our grandkids.

Sentimental Sunday: Joan Moline Yates 1923- 2001

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun – Remember When?

1) Remember when you were 12 years old? On a summer day out of school? What memory do you have of fun activities?

2) Tell us about that memory (just one – you can do more later if you want to) in a blog post, in a comment to this post, or in a comment on Facebook.

Here’s my memory:

We lived out in the country, so when I would wake up on a summer morning the sunlight would be streaming in my window.  I could hear the sounds outside of birds like robins, crows and sometimes even a pheasant. If I heard a whistle blow in the distance, I’d know it was 8 AM because that was the starting time at the Olympia Brewery up on Capitol Boulevard some three or four miles away.

As I lay there I could hear my mom in the kitchen and I would visualize what she was doing just by listening: making coffee, turning on the radio,  running water in the sink, and then she’d sit down to have a cigarette and read the paper. Mom always liked to lay the paper out on the table. 

In the “good old days” I was always ready to get out of bed, set and ready for the day’s adventure, whatever it might be.  Some days in summer we would ride our bikes down to Palermo Valley to pick strawberries; other days we’d hang around the house and complain about how hot it was.  I think I probably ate more strawberries than I picked.  A big “no-no” if you got caught by the row boss!  No straddling the rows either. You might stomp on a good pickin’ berry.

My friend Mary and I might have the day planned to ride down to Falls Park by the old Olympia Brewery. We’d walk the whole trail, and I remember one time we got all daring and actually went out on the huge flat rocks in the middle of the Deshutes River.  It was like a whole other world sitting on the sun-warmed rock listening to the river roaring by and craning our necks to see if we could see any fish.

On our way home, if we had any money with us, we’d stop at Ted’s Grocery in Tumwater to get a Pepsi or some ice cream.  Our time was set by the brewery whistle:  the morning whistle I mentioned; the noon whistle so we knew to get our behinds home for lunch if we wanted any; and the 5 o’clock whistle that told us to get on our bikes and get home because Dad got off work at five and we needed to get home and cleaned up for dinner.

Thanks to Randy Seaver at Genea-Musings for this fun Saturday night post idea.  Why not click on the link and go see what he wrote about?

WA State History – The Fire Lookout Builders


“Where there’s smoke, there’s fire”, so they say. Roadside signs here in Washington state give the forest fire danger level each summer and fall. They say it rains here in Washington all the time, and the locals let you believe that so we don’t have more people moving here, but the truth is, it gets pretty dry by late July and lasts into August and September at times. Forest fires have always been a part of life here in the Pacific Northwest, and always will be.

My first memory of my dad working for the State Forestry Service was when I was about 5 or 6. Of course, I took it more personally because when Dad was away on a job Mom would let us have cool things like pancakes for supper. Looking at it as an adult, I imagine that Dad probably hated those jobs building fire lookouts for the State. It was darn hard work, even for a young guy in his 30’s. One of his recollections says when he worked at the fire lookout in Raymond, “It rained every day!”.

The reason this topic is even on my family history radar is because I am transcribing a list of jobs my dad worked on throughout his life as a carpenter. In that list he mentions several of the lookouts he helped build, and I was just astounded at the sheer number of them. Some had been built decades before and were being upgraded in the mid-1950’s when he was involved, but some might have been new construction.

Somewhere, I think we might have a picture or two of some lookouts he worked on, but I found a really nifty site today that lists some of the lookouts with pictures of them when they were still in service. The website is: 

The photos on the page are indexed and I would like to show some of them here, but they are private and only viewable on the pages.

Here is a link to some of the WA state lookout towers by region. A few that Dad (W. G. Yates) worked on are: Squally Jim at Pe Ell; Entwhistle (Dad’s first job for the Forestry); Coyote Mountain; Crawford Mountain; Deep Creek, Ladd Mountain, Raymond, Capitol Peak (gone now; Dad said you could see the Pacific Ocean on a clear day!); Elk Rock – near Mt. St. Helens; and even one here in Port Orchard. The logo above is from Rex’s site and I have made it a link to his main page if you would like to give him a visit.

This is just tiny glimpse into one man’s work accomplishments and contributions. Dad was of the G.I. Generation since he was born in 1920 and a WWII veteran. I miss him every day.

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