November 27, 2015

The Good Smells Of Childhood


I was always a “noticing” kind of person. Good smells always put me in a certain frame of mind. Some were cozy, some exciting, some, downright appetite provoking.

This is just a sort of reminiscence of the ones I remember, in no particular order.

The smell of the people around me was most likely some of my first memories. Mom always smelled of cigarettes, coffee and on special occasions when I was very young there was the fragrance of Tweed perfume. I imagine she had it from before she was married and it always made me think of her life in Seattle where she lived with her parents before she married my dad. In later years she wore violet perfume on special occasions because we had found a source for it when we lived in Iowa and she would wear it when she knew we would be seeing each other. She also wore Charlie, which I didn’t especially like, but she did.

My grandma Yates always had the fragrance of face powder and toilet water. A sweet, older lady smell that was light and not overpowering. I don’t remember a particular fragrance my grandma Moline wore. I know she used Oil of Olay though because I remember seeing it on her dressing table.

My dad was fond of Mennen after shave, and his dad liked to wear the simple smell of “I just shaved”, as in the lingering odor of the shave cream he wiped off.

Where we lived, at the end of Dennis Street in Tumwater, Washington, was a seasonal mix of spring, summer and fall smells. I guess winter had a smell too, if you count the Christmas tree (a real one, cut in our back field) in the house. Spring seemed to erupt in our front yard with everything at once. The people who had lived in our house prior to us had planted bulbs and shrubs that were well-established by the time we moved in during the early 1950’s. I probably visit these memories of my childhood yard more often than I should, but this was part of “my world” and I cherish them.

It was the bulbs that came up first in the yard. Old ones like muscari and snow drops. Then, the irises would peek their pointy leaves up from the cold ground and signal the advent of more to come. All of this was followed quite closely by the buds on the quince bush, the sweet smell of the lilacs and the apple and cherry trees bursting into bloom.

Mom was never one to stifle our creativity, so she willingly let us raid her sewing cabinet for thread and needle to string leis of quince flowers as our own tribute to celebrating the spring equinox. The poor visitors to our house in spring were always gifted with sprigs of lilacs to put in makeshift vases until they could carry them home.

Summer brought the seasonal smells of dry grass, or the lovely aroma of wet dry grass after a summer shower. Although I’m writing about smells, I remember those summer mornings when I’d wake up and hear through the early morning summer stillness birds like the ubiquitous robins, the sparrows and chickadees.

I didn’t get much chance to go camping when I was younger, but I did get to sleep outside in the front yard in a sleeping bag with a comfy air mattress for cushion. Waking up in the early, early misty morning air was almost intoxicating. So close to the earth you can almost feel it breathe. I would just lay there and drink in the quiet.

Other smells come to mind too. That wonderful new baby doll plastic smell, the minty fragrance of Doublemint gum when grandma would open her purse when we were sitting in the pew at church on Sundays. How did she know I needed something to stave off ‘starvation’? I suspect she might have been treated to the same thing herself when she was growing up.

Is there nothing more warm and inviting than going through the door of someone’s house whose been cooking a turkey since the wee hours of the day? The sage smell of the dressing; the crispy skin done to perfection by a veteran cook; and all the other smells like candles burning, fresh homemade yeast biscuits coming out of the oven, a recently ironed white damask table cloth, and the blackberry cobbler tempting us to skip the main course and dive right into it.

My life has been constantly assailed by food smells, environmental smells like the brewery, a pulp mill, the smell of my dad when he would come home from working with wood all day and there was a mixture of good honest sweat along with sawdust. One facet of life, the smells, but oh so memorable.

© Carol Yates Wilkerson 2015 – All Rights Reserved

Happy Pi Day Birthday Will Knox Yates

Cerilda, Myra & Jim Yates

One hundred and twenty-three years ago today, a second baby boy was born to Jim and Cerilda Breedlove Yates in Oregon County, Missouri. His name was William Knox Yates and he was my grandfather. (Cerilda and Jim Yates are seated; Jim’s sister Myra is standing).

I don’t have any pictures of my grandpa Yates as a small boy. I think the earliest one I have is the hunting photo I posted (see link below), and I think Grandpa was around 20 years old. Two years later Grandpa would be inducted into the Army artillery at Ft. Dodge, Iowa and sent off to France for WWI service. I don’t have any pictures of him in uniform.

1912 Washington State Gun Fanatics


When Grandpa came back from service overseas, everyone in the family was worried that he might have brought home the Spanish Flu (he didn’t). He and my grandma Minnie Smith married 29 June 1917, most likely when Will came home from the war.

William Knox and Minnie Caroline Smith Yates_0

Their first child, William Gale Yates (my dad) was born 16 March 1920 in Howell County, Missouri. Most likely, it was a home birth as my maternal grandmother’s mother Mary Elizabeth Pentecost Smith Yates (Will’s father Jim and Minnie’s mother Mary were married) was a midwife of sorts for the family. The photo below is my dad William G. Yates, age about 4 months.



1912 Washington State Gun Fanatics

Gun Fanaticism Or Just Practicality?

Admittedly, I don’t really know what these men really felt about their guns and how ‘fanatical’ they might have been about using them. Anything I say here about them comes from my own views of how my family used their rifles, how they talked about them, and our family history with guns.

First, a little background on the people in this picture and where it was taken. From left to right is George Martin, obviously older than the other men in the picture. Next is William K Yates (my paternal grandfather, age 20), unknown man, and far right is Will Yates’ older brother Lemuel W Yates (age 25). On the back of this picture postcard is the postmark of “July 6, 1912 Union Mills, Washington.” I suppose it’s possible that the picture was taken somewhere else and then made into a postcard sent from Washington.

George Martin, Will Yates, , Lem Yates

All that said, I do believe it was taken near Union Mills, WA. I’m not showing the back of the postcard here, but I do have the original and it has been clipped along the edges, and the original message on the postcard was written in pencil and is now so light after 115 years I’m unable to read it. Union Mills, Washington was located in Thurston County near what is now the town of Lacey and was base for the Union Lumber Company.

Union Lumber Co. History

Source: Encyclopedia of Western Railroad History: Oregon, Washington

 By Donald B. Robertson

So, were they fanatics about their guns? I think they were in the sense that they felt they were a invaluable tool which they could always use to hunt game to feed their families. Or, at least supplement the larder at home. Considering there were no freezers of size at the time I assume they would dress their game in the woods if it was large like a deer, perhaps cutting it in smaller sections to be shared as they saw fit, and much of it eaten immediately. In this picture, I don’t think the men were actively hunting, but rather ‘posing’ for the photographer to make it look like an interesting tableau. The reason I say that is because it was probably taken and sent in July as the postmark indicates, and hunting season wasn’t until much later in the fall.

One thing I do know from my family history with my dad, “Never touch my gun” was law in our house and neither my brother nor I ever considered going against that edict. The men in my family (none of the women hunted, as far as I know) were fanatics about gun safety. I don’t think any of the hunters in the family ever used pistols because it just wouldn’t have been practical for their needs. I do know that when my dad hunted in he used a .30-06. I wonder what happened to that rifle. I bet my brother has it.


Google Books: A Surprising Source For Genealogical Documentation


My budget is pretty tight when it comes to genealogical research, so when I found I could add documentation to my family tree using (mostly) free Google Books, you can imagine my elation.


Most recently,

I found a book

about Archibald Glasscock Register written by one of his descendants (G. W. Register Jones) and originally compiled by two of his daughters from letters he had sent to family members back in Greene County, Tennessee.

The title of this article is somewhat misleading in that the results of a search in Google Books doesn’t just bring back links to books, but any sort of written documentation that has been added to Google. It could be old newspaper articles, snippets from books, biographies, or even lists from surname newsletters. So far, I’ve just scratched the surface of what’s available.

My Book List On Google

My current preferred method of adding books to my book list on Google is on my PC, but you can also add them to your device using Google Play and read them on your tablet, e-reader or phone. Depending on the amount of storage you might have on each device, you’ll be able to start reading on one, stop, and then continue on another. For more detailed information please visit Google’s Supported reading device (“best for”) page.

Surnames I’m researching in Greene County, Tennessee are: REGISTER, CHANCE, YATES, KELSEY, ROBERTSON, HACKER and GLASSCOCK.