Ward’s Oral Interview
La Center Historical Museum
Clark County Stories
Interviewer: Suzi Terrell
Narrator Name: WARD PAYNE
Interview date and time: 7/06/18 10:00am
Interview Address: 410 W 5th St, La Center, WA
Transcriber: Sharron Sunny Cathcart February 2021
Suzi: Okay, I am Suzi Terrell, I’m here at the La Center Historical Museum with Ward Payne. And we will be chatting about his time here in La Center. Welcome. I am so glad that you agreed to do this.
Ward: It will be fun for me.
Suzi: Can you tell me round about how long you have lived in Clark County?
Ward: About 60 years altogether.
Suzi: Were you born here in Clark County?
Ward: I was born in South Dakota, and when I was five years old, we moved here in 1938. That’s when we moved to the March place up in the Highland district, it’s no longer called Grange road.
Suzi: All those roads are now numbers, it’s kind of crazy.
Ward: They messed it all up.
Suzi: What brought your folks to this area?
Ward: I really do not know. They had a farm back in South Dakota, there was a partnership with my granddad, my dad’s father. They lived on a farm, and then when they moved, we went to Burns, Oregon and we stayed there about a year. I hated that place. Back then you were afraid of the Rocky Mountain spotted fever that you could get from ticks and I had to take a tick shot and for a five-year-old kid it was a very traumatic situation. I did not care for that. And I was really glad we moved to La Center.
Suzi: What was the partnership that your folks were in?
Ward: With my granddad. My grandmother died when my dad was 19 years old. And he never remarried. He stayed single. He was in the Army during the first world war. He got the flu that was going around that killed so many people. And he almost died from that. After he got over that they finally let him out. The war was over by then.
Suzi: He was right here in this area?
Ward: He was originally from Bloomington, Indiana and moved to Vale, South Dakota. It was a very nice community.
Suzi: When you came here to La Center it had to be pretty small?
Ward: It was, they had had a fire. My understanding was that originally most of the buildings were down on the river or close to the river. And they had an old steamboat, that was only way that you could get here. You had to get across the Lewis River and there was no bridge. It was either a steamboat or horse and buggy – that was the only way you got across.
Ward: Dr. Lasater was the town doctor for many years, and I hated going to him. He didn’t believe in Novocain, we would get sick, and he would come anytime of the day or night, you just call him and he would show up. Not always sober. He spent a lot of time at the La Center Tavern.
Suzi: Was it the house that eventually grew into the library here in town?
Ward: That was a guy by the name of Bird that owned that house. He was one of the occupants of that house. That might’ve been a hospital at one time.
Suzi: Yes, it was a medical facility, I just didn’t know if the doctor had lived in that place?
Ward: He did live down the street here a little ways. His office was there. I don’t really think he had hospital privileges. He would send you to another doctor if you needed surgery. He could do emergency surgeries right here in La Center. But it had to be like appendicitis or something like that. An emergency that had to be dealt with right away. He did not do a whole lot of surgeries; he did push the pills big-time.
Suzi: Did you start school here in La Center?
Ward: No kindergarten back then, everyone started in first grade. I tell people that I started in first grade and in three steps I was in high school. Because the high school and the grade school were the same building with one long hallway. And there were three steps that you had to go up to go into the high school.
Suzi: That was a big deal.
Ward: Yes, you changed classes you didn’t stay in the same room.
Suzi: Did you have a good experience at school?
Ward: Pretty much. My classmates were more like brothers and sisters. I’m not sure if Kenny was with us in first grade, he may have gone to Battle Ground.
Suzi: Are you talking about Ken Viles?
Ward: Yes, I think it was second grade when he started going to school in La Center, from then on we were buddies. We just lived a short distance from each other when we moved here. He had three younger brothers. They were all in the military and probably killed more Japanese and Germans than anyone else.
Suzi: How many brothers did you have?
Ward: None, I was an only child. I did have a foster sister in 1946. I was in the sixth grade and she was in the fifth grade, she stayed with us and graduated from high school here. Her name is Joanne Rice. My folks wanted to adopt her, but her dad would never sign off, he had lost his two daughters to the welfare system. He was an alcoholic. Any way she grew up in Bagley Downs and was the toughest meanest kid you had ever seen. But my folks straightened her out, and she became quite a young lady by the time she graduated from high school.
Suzi: You told me earlier that your dad was on the school board?
Ward: Yes, he was a carpenter and he worked for Jim Larson. You’ve probably heard of Dwight Larson. He later on took over the business and my dad was getting up in his 60s, he had a heart attack when he was 68 years old. And did not work anymore. He worked in Cougar and other parts of the county. He helped build houses in Woodland, Richfield, La Center, and Amboy. All over the county.
Suzi: While he was on the school board you had to walk the straight and narrow?
Ward: You didn’t want to get in trouble. I was legally skipping school to do errands for the assistant principal. Clark Holcomb, that little guy right there he would go with me. I had an old 1944. It was always low on gas and the assistant principal would say go round to the gas pump that the school bus uses and fill up. Go ahead and fill it up at the gas pump. I loved to run errands because then I got a full tank of gas. You could get five gallons of gas for one dollar back then.
Suzi: What other type of errands, La Center didn’t have that much around?
Ward: One thing was I sold ads for the yearbook. That was one thing that Clark and I went and did. We would go and sell ads. And some of the girls would go with us from time to time. Because I was a carpenter’s son, I had some carpenter skills. I had worked between my junior and senior year at a lumber company. There used to be a big mill in Longview. I was a brakeman on the yard, I was old enough that I could work on the equipment like that. The other guys that went with me up there, there were five of us altogether. They couldn’t work on the whole locomotives; they were not old enough. I was getting ready to graduate and I had been held back a year I was 19 years old. So Mr. Gary wanted to build some tables and he wanted to know where he could get some cheap lumber. And I said I worked at the mill in Longview. I went up there and went to personnel and they said we cannot sell it to you out of the mill that is illegal. But we have a lumber yard here in Longview, and you can get a good discount so they had to get a truck and get the lumber. And Clark and I started building the tables. I was skipping school all the time really, but it was legal.
Suzi: That is fun. Did you had favorite teachers there that helped shape you?
Ward: One teacher was Mrs. Gables. I wanted her for a teacher. She was so nice. There was something about her, that you just loved. You couldn’t do anything but like her. I never actually had her for a teacher. But I always wanted to have her. Mrs. Dahl would go to our class reunions. I had a big basement in Vancouver with a party room. A big house there in Vancouver. I had two or three class reunions right there. And she came to all of them. And there were a number after that that she missed when she finally passed away.
Suzi: What grade did she teach?
Ward: First grade. She had us all in first grade. She had pictures and all kinds of stuff, she had followed us kids all the way through. It was unbelievable. Every once a while Carolyn Gola will dig around and find a picture and copy it and send it to me.
Suzi: It is fun having those old pictures pop up every now and then. It brings back lots of memories.
Ward: In high school Mr. Gary was our principal. I thought a lot of him. And Les Metzer was our agriculture teacher. I have a pretty good idea that I would be less of a person without having Les. I heard he had Alzheimer’s. He used to come to Kelso, and all the classes would meet up there, every one of us that was still alive. He and Emmett Smith would come there, he was the football coach. Baseball football and the whole thing, but Les was the track coach and I shined more in track. Like in football I got my front teeth knocked out, hurt one knee and one thumb. I wasn’t good at football. I got hurt more than anything.
Suzi: Did they have a track team back then?
Ward: Yes, they had a track team.
Suzi: I know that some of the small town schools are big for football, and some of the other sports got left behind.
Ward: I would run the mile and do the low hurdles, and the broad jump. I would run relays. I was more of a runner than anything. It was a lot of fun.
Suzi: Do have any other high school memories that you want to share?
Ward: The senior sneak was great. We would gather up the money we had left, and we decided we were going to go on a senior sneak. So, we all pooled our money together and got enough to get on the Princess line to Victoria, on Vancouver Island. You had to have a chaperone … my mother was one of the chaperones. Mr. Briggs was the high school principal. Mr. Gary was the high school Superintendent. Anyway, one of the things I remember, we rode to Seattle with Mr. Briggs. He stopped off at the Capitol building, and here was this old guy out messing with the flowers. Right in front of the Governor’s mansion there. He just started talking to this guy, he had a little pair of overalls on. He said do you want to show these kids the Capitol building? He took us in, we saw where all the state senators meet and all that stuff, and there was a big organ in there. We thought Mr. Briggs knew this guy because he played the organ. Just before we left he said I should introduce you this is Governor Langley. We didn’t know who it was, just an old guy in overalls that was out planting flowers.
Suzi: Wasn’t that interesting. Impressive to see him out doing that.
Ward: It was a lot of fun up in Victoria, a lot of it was not legal.
Suzi: Was this just one night?
Ward: We left on a Thursday and we went on the ferry on Friday morning, and I’d already had a fifth of whiskey at that point and it wasn’t supposed to go across the border. One of the girls got seasick and I had an overcoat with a deep inside pocket. I knew I couldn’t put in a suitcase because they would search the suitcase. So, we stuffed that in there and put that overcoat around her, and Dan and I walked her off the ferry when we got to where the Canadian officials were and said she’s really seasick and they said go on, so we just walked that whiskey across the border. Of course, we had a drink that right away. The people involved, Dusty Shattic, Dan Freer, myself and Clark. And a couple of gals Catherine Beasley and Myrtle found out that we had it, then they showed up to join the party.
Suzi: What did you guys do when you were in Victoria?
Ward: We went to the Butchart Gardens, we went to the big museum, and we stayed at a hotel up there, this was back in 1952. When we went out to eat we ate at the Empress Hotel. And they gave us finger bowls, and this guy says what is this, and I said John that is soup, and then you see him trying to drink it and somebody said you wash your hands in that. (laughs)
Suzi: That’s a nice senior sneak. The ones I knew about were just an overnight quick trip.
Ward: This lasted from Thursday and I think we stayed till Sunday and came back home on Monday if I remember right. It went quite well. It just wasn’t overnight. And then I found out when I got up there that I was of age to buy liquor.
Suzi: And how did the chaperones feel about this?
Ward: They were pretty much in the dark, except for one guy Harry Gordon who had graduated years before we had, and he was one of the chaperones. He had married one of the teachers. She was one of the chaperones and he went along, and Dusty got sick and Harry got involved and he knew about it but he kept his mouth shut.
Suzi: And your mom never knew?
Ward: She had a pretty good idea that I wasn’t totally sober. She was very good at keeping it to herself so that I could have this little fun.
Ward: Howard Haskins became a doctor for one of the casinos, it was a garage and a Pontiac dealership years ago. And Haskins was the guy that owned that and ran that right here in La Center. That’s when the Pacific Highway ran through here. This was the route to Seattle. They had a big hotel there and the lower building became the skating rink later on.
Suzi: That was a big deal in town.
Ward: Everybody had trouble with the skating rink. Running into walls and such. I was playing crack the whip and I went sailing through the door, I stopped before I went where the cars were parked, but I went right out through the front door. The man who ran the skating rink came running after me and said you cannot leave with the skates on and I said I didn’t do it on purpose.
Suzi: Back to high school you hinted at a story about some skunks?
Ward: That was many years ago, before I started school, maybe before I was born. I think it was a grade school not the high school. I think Billy went up to the eighth grade and if they wanted to go to high school, they had to go someplace else. The high school was around the corner. I would guess that was built in the early twenties. The kids got a hold of skunks, they dropped the skunks into the fireplace. I think they didn’t have school for while because they had to do a serious clean.
Suzi: I can only imagine that smell would stay with you for a long time.
Ward: I had a friend that they called Butch Soehl, he always bragged he graduated third in his class. If you go through this book and go back to 1926 there were only three kids that graduated and that’s why he was third in his class. He was always telling us he graduated third in his class.
Ward: They started out with a butcher shop that became a restaurant. And then another family owned the store, the Bradleys. You used to be able to buy jeans there at Soehl’s market.
Suzi: They also had a barbershop there?
Ward: That was Hank Soehl.
Suzi: Did you get your hair cut there?
Ward: We have the barber chair in there that you probably sat in back then.
Ward: Yes, in fact , my dad when he would come to get a haircut he would get a shave at the same time. When I was just a little kid I would joke and he’d say what’ll you have? And I would say a haircut and a shave, and he would turn that straight razor backwards to give me a shave, he would soap up my face.
Suzi: that’s great.
Ward: He was quite a guy old Hank Soehl. There was Johnny Soehl, and he lived out east of town, he had a farm out there . The old bachelor never married. And then Hank who also lived out east of town and had a home out there, just a small place. He didn’t have as much property as Johnny. And then I think he might have been the youngest. I can’t remember what his first name is anymore. And of course, Butch. Johnny was the oldest, then Butch. I think he was the Town Marshal at one time.
Suzi: Did you ever get in trouble with him?
Ward: No, they could never catch me, I was too fast. My car was too fast. My old ‘44. When I bought it, it had a 60-horse engine. And Merle’s brother was a mechanic, that engine didn’t last very long, and Earl said I’ve got ‘48 Merck engine with more horsepower. It made me faster with a whole lot more horsepower. We never really gotten in trouble here, we got in trouble in Richfield, we used to go to the show over in Richfield. And Deans younger brother said when you leave town that you need to get rubber on that corner out there and I said that Marshal is sitting right there, eating donuts. He said do what I tell you and he will not get you. What he had done, he had gone over and jacked the rear wheels up on his Studebaker pickup and put blocks underneath there. I did not know what was going on. I went around the corner and I wasn’t going super fast, but I heard that old pickup fire up and next thing I know there were lights shining up in here like that. And what had happened he wrapped it up in reverse and it came off the blocks and he rolled down over the hill towards the railroad tracks.
Suzi: Oh, my goodness.
Ward: We stayed away from Richfield for a long time after that. Never went back to Richfield after that.
Suzi: Well after high school did you go into the service? Or did you work for a while?
Ward: I joined the Naval reserve in 1951. Dusty and I both joined he joined just a little bit before I did and of course the Korean War was going strong, and I wanted to be in the sub service but I had knocked my two front teeth out but they said that I couldn’t hold an escape piece in my mouth that it would break the bridge, so I had to go in the service division. When I went on active duty in 1953, just before the armistice was signed. I was only in six months on active duty, Kenny came home they had repatriated all the prisoners. He came home and I got off active duty in February of 1955. And Eisenhower was going into office at that time. He gave all the reservists another four years. Dusty had been long enough before that he didn’t get the extra four, but I got the extra four.
Suzi: How did you feel about that?
Ward: I was unhappy, I was married by then, I’d been married eight months before that. And Dorothy came and lived with me in Bremerton. The last ship I was on was the Missouri. They brought it in as an accommodation vessel. I can say that I’m a Missouri sailor.
Suzi: I bet she wasn’t too happy with another four years.
Ward: After I had been on active duty I was adjusting to life as a civilian I went to work at the Iron Fireman Corporation in Portland as a machinist. And I stayed with it for 42 years. Iron Fireman became Electronic Specialties and I had worked my way up to foreman and the lay department. They had a bunch of women that they brought from the electronics division that I was in charge of. I had a lead man that was my go-between for these ladies. I left there in the aircraft industry was just falling apart in about 1968. And things got worse, the people he trained and everything. They laid them all off, and they made me as a special project person. I would work on set up jobs that they would bring into the shop. And finally, I decided that I want to work for the government. So, I got a job with Bonneville Power and I worked at the substation in Vancouver for 25 years altogether.
Suzi: What did you do for them?
Ward: I was a machinist. I did experimental work for them. They had a high voltage lab that had a five-million-volt capability with the big surge generators. And then they had a little lab, we are still friends. I see one person that lives down in Astoria. He’s a Chinese guy but his name is Brown. Cal Brown is his name. When he was born his name was Long. His father had passed away, and his mother remarried, and she married a guy by the name of Brown, the guy adopted him and she ended up being a Brown. A lot of the work I did when I was Electronic Specialties was making parts for the 747 aircraft, and all the critical parts on there had to have tests specialists made. And I used to make all of those, for a guy named Bruce Wong who was his cousin. He passed away a few years ago.
Suzi: So, were you living here in town?
Ward: No when I left in 1952, I would just come back for visits to La Center, I will tell you a story, they called it the wheel club card room. And I walked up to Mr. Gary was talking to him. I had been cleared for some top-secret things. I walked up to him and he shook my hand, and we were standing there talking and watching the parade go by. And he asked if I was in trouble with the FBI. And I said no, why would you think that? He said that Mr. Soehl and myself and Mr. Rhodes we were all visited by FBI agents asking questions about you. And I said I put you down on the form, I’m cleared for top-secret information and stuff. I’m working on top-secret stuff. That’s probably why they came and talked to you. Oh okay that takes a load off my mind. We thought you were in serious trouble.
Suzi: That’s funny.
Ward: For some reason Mr. Gary, whenever something happened that was unusual, he would always ask me. He would pull me out of class and say okay, who did this Ward? I said I’m not going tell you who did it. But I will take care of it. They got Mr. Soehl’s market, they had and an old Model T with no engine they used a logging device to get this up on the roof of Soehl’s Market and Mr. Gary came to me and said I don’t care who did it, I don’t want to know anything about it I just want it off of my roof. And I knew who had done it and I wasn’t in on the original deal. That following evening I said it would come off, so we pulled it off the roof and hauled it out of town.
Suzi: That would’ve been a great picture to remember.
Ward: Some of the kids riding the school bus saw it, and when they would come through town they would all be hollering about the car that was on the roof. Mr. Soehl wasn’t real happy. He never really knew that I was not connected with it. I had not been a party to getting that up there. I did help get help to get it down.
Suzi: So, the names were never told to the authorities and they got away with it? I will be darn.
Ward: Things were different back then.
Suzi: That’s no easy feat. There must’ve been quite a bit of work involved to get that up there?
Ward: Not with the big logging crane. No problem at all. This was done probably early morning hours. They didn’t want a lot of people around to see what was going on. So he just came to work the next day and he probably drove up and looked up coming through town and saw that. I think he went straight to the school. He didn’t even open up the market. He said just get it off my roof.
Ward: Back in your day they and didn’t call it “Our Days” they called it the “Wheel Club Event”. My dad was one of the founders of the Wheel Club here in La Center. That building out there, my dad built that, a portion of that at least. That is out there. they called it the Wheel Club there was Ellis Rhodes, my dad, and Ira Eagle’s dad was in on it, and Mr. Chin he lived up on Highland and then later on he retired completely from farming and bought a motel in Lincoln city. Right where you come down before you get to the river that goes through Lincoln City. We used to go down and stay with them when they moved down there. I used to date his daughter Hazel.
Suzi: I know that the “Our Days” committee just changed the name again. They wanted to reverted back to the “Steamboat Days”. So now I think they’re trying to combine the two and get back to the roots and it’s called “Our Days Steamboat Days” or something like that that they are working on. That old steamboat. I don’t know if you could find it anymore. But it’s sitting down there on the south side of the Lewis river. Just the remains of it. At low-water you can go down and see some of the remains of it.
Suzi: That is interesting. We used to swim around, this guy here, he would dive off that bridge into the river, I never had the guts to try that. He was a pretty good swimmer, I was little challenged at that time. I did get better later on. He would dive off that bridge headfirst into that water.
Suzi: That’s scary to think of.
Ward: One time Dean and I had built a boat in our freshman year of high school woodshop, we were in the boat and we were coming into the bridge and Paul dropped off that bridge, and just as luck would have it we were far enough the other way on the side that he didn’t go through the bottom of the boat. He didn’t know we were coming under the bridge.
Suzi: So were there bands involved with the parade?
Ward: They would bring the band in and have a street dance here. It was big time. And of course the Sherman brothers, Clyde and Paul Sherman. They were machinists, they had machine shops, Clydes was in Woodland and Paul one had one near the Pioneer area. Near the old Pacific Highway. And they would bring in their own steam tractors and stuff like that and show it off. They used to take it to the Clark County Fair, Clyde did, Paul was in on it a lot, but Clyde had more stuff I think. Paul had an old army tank and he’d run that around on his property out there in the Pioneer area.
Suzi: Oh, my.
Ward: Yes, they used to live in La Center if you go up the steep hill right here and around the corner, when you hit that straight stretch on top, about midway before you break over the hill. And Nancy Bush, that lady right there, she lived right there just before he went over the hill, south of that was the old Sherman machine shop. And that was Claude Sherman, that was their father. The kids learn that trade from their father. And they did pretty well. I was on the committee for the machine shop at Clark College for 20 years, and I chaired it for 17 of those 20 years. Paul’s son Cal who was on the committee just before I retired from it. We had a guy – Smith was his name. He missed a meeting and I said I’m going to retire from Bonneville and move to the coast, I’m not going to live here. And he said you could come back for the meetings and I said no. I don’t know if I will be able to come back when you have them all the time. So, you need to elect a new Chairman. And I said I will entertain a motion for Smith. I think he would make a good chairman. Come to the next meeting and he walked in, and I was sitting where he generally sat. Sitting up at the head of the table. He said Ward you’re in my seat, and I said no, and he said your seats over there, and he said that’s where you supposed to sit and he said you were elected chairman and you weren’t here.
Suzi: How did he feel about that?
Ward: He was okay with it. He finally shaped up.
Suzi: That’ll teach him to be absent again. You never know what’s going to happen.
Ward: He never missed another meeting.
Suzi: You’ve had quite a career.
Ward: I’ve had a lot of fun.
Suzi: In your retirement have you been traveling?
Ward: Last year the wife and I went to Alaska, we drove with the fifth wheel. In fact we had a big fifth wheel, and I didn’t want to try to take that to Alaska because it had three slides and I heard about the frost heaves and all that going up there. So, we looked around and years ago we had a little 22 foot and then later we had a 30 foot, and those were well-built fifth wheel trailers. So my wife got online and looked and found around Wilsonville a 25 foot that fit perfectly. It’s 30 years old and had been stored for 29 years of its life, had never even been on the road. The interior was in perfect shape, the exterior was still in good shape, and the guy who bought it and used it for one year, he put all new tires on it, new wheel bearings, new wheels and repacked the wheels and everything. All I had to do was hook up to it and take it to Alaska. We drove 7433 miles to Alaska and back. As far as I’m concerned, it’s 130 miles closer to get to the Yukon than it is if you go up the Alcan. When we were going up it was the middle of Winter that meant everything was frozen, lakes and rivers are frozen. And the highways were in really good shape. Coming back they were in bad shape. In the summertime the frost heaves come up, they get frost underneath the asphalt, and when that frost thaws out the asphalt comes apart and you get frost heaves. I broke a spring, and a wheel bearing, and we were 700 miles from home, I’m trying to think of the name of the place in British Columbia, Ft. St. John’s. And we lucked out, we came into an area there and had quite a deal. I was limping on the highway with this trailer. And the Royal Mounted Police were seeing all the traffic stacking up. And they stopped me. He said do you realize that you’re running on three wheels on that trailer. I said no, my thought I better not say what I was going to say. Anyway, he told us that we couldn’t go any further. And it was a four-lane road and only a few blocks from where we needed to turn to get it fixed. And this young woman was a hotshot mechanic on the pilot crews, she did all the mechanical work on their vehicles. And she had all kinds of stuff in her truck. And she helped us, she got us to this place. And before the whole thing was over, the shop rate was $120 an hour. I had them go through all of the bearings on the fifth wheel and had them repacked, with new grease seals on them and I had them check everything out. When they got on the other side of the trailer where the bad bearing was there was a broken spring, and they had to put a new spring on it. When they were all done they had been working on this for six or seven hours. Of course, with parts and labor and everything, they charged me $400 and some dollars.
Suzi: That sounded pretty cheap.
Ward: And I said wait a minute I don’t know how your math works here, but $400, I said did the owner say the price was okay. And he said that he’s the one who told me and I said, but your shop rate is $120 an hour he said yes but we like you. And I said you do? That’s great.
Ward: I think all the things they did it would’ve been closer to $1000, I wasn’t going to argue with him about it.
Suzi: That’s good, that helped to make up for you limping in. and the Mountie not being too helpful.
Ward: There are two businesses set up in Ft. St. John’s, and that’s her whole livelihood. They do big trucks and everything. They have this guy, he took a front end off of a Kenworth truck that weighs almost 200 pounds and he was packing it around. And they said he says he is the only one in the shop that can pack it around. I wouldn’t even try. He said we have cranes, but the Samoan was faster to pick it up and carry it.
Suzi: Boy. Let me bring you back to La Center.
Ward: We got off the subject.
Suzi: That’s okay. It is all good. Do you have any stories about La Center that you can remember? That were interesting or anything special that comes to mind? If you do not that’s okay.
Ward: I have one. I got in trouble when I was eight or nine years old. Our neighbor who graduated in 1947 became the technical writer for the space shuttle program. Had a big office down in Los Angeles someplace. He was a success story. He talked my cousin Walter and I into going to the city dam and we were going go fishing. I wasn’t much of a swimmer, but my cousin was and I could dog paddle. So they went swimming while I stayed out of the water. In the process, Mr. Burress said as long as you are with me your mother won’t care. But my mother cared. We took off for the city dam and we were coming back, and he and my cousin were older than me. They were completely lost. And I had this old white dog named Bob. I looked up and I could see him running back and forth sniffing the ground up above us. And I whistled to him, I had a special whistle and I called him. And he came down and I said go home Bob. And grabbed a hold of him and he led us right out of there and out of the bottom of that canyon. I got right to the top of the hill and my granddad was waiting there and he said boy you are in trouble. And I said why am I in trouble and he said your mother is down in that canyon looking for you. And he asked if I was in the water and I said no I was fishing. And I said we caught some fish down there. I immediately got the leather strap, my cousin got off easy he had to stay home for week. My mother restricted me to my granddad’s place and our place, this was my granddad on my mother side he had a farm right next to us. I was restricted to those two farms I couldn’t go off either of them for a month. Had I told her I would never been able to go to the city dam. We had a number of things like that happen when I was a kid. They told me that I couldn’t go near water till I learned to swim, they didn’t realize I had learned how to swim in an old beaver pond.
Suzi: Just on your own?
Ward: Kenny was in on it, Kenny Viles and his two younger brothers. And Richard Thomas was another one, he was occasionally involved and my cousin Walter was from Burns, his dad worked for for Amos Sheldon in the garage there in the canyon for a couple of years. And then they all went back to Burns. And I think my Uncle Frank when they went back, they started building houses over there and he learned a little carpentry from my dad. He decided he would become a homebuilder. I know he built his own house over there. Walter and I could get into a lot of trouble, my cousin and I, constantly.
Suzi: And I imagine with Kenny and his brothers.
Ward: Kenny at that time, they had moved from Highland, down closer to town. When you come off Oakdale there is a straight stretch there, there’s a square a square corner where you go up the hill. And when you go up the hill the Kenny’s family lived on the south, they moved into that house. I would see him a lot, we were buddies and we hung out a lot. The I also hung out with my cousin a lot. I will tell you the story. My sister came to live with us in 1945 or 1946, she was a big girl. She weighed more than she ever did for the rest of her life. She weighed about 145 pounds and was only 11 years old. Fully developed. My cousin and I decided to build a tree house on my granddad’s place. We had three trees that we chipped out, and a neighbor had a fence that was a rail fence with boards. And the boards were about 6 inches long. We had out one horse and buggy where the top was no good anymore. And we were piling the lumber on that, and we had to push it and pull it to get it to where we were going to build the tree house. My sister wanted to get involved and we found some rope and said you can steer so we made a harness, and she was up there, all she had to do was steer it. She did help. My grandmother was looking out the window and she came running out of the house yelling you two boys get that girl out of that harness. We said she wanted to play with this and hang out and do this. But now she had to go home.
Suzi: That’s funny. So, in a way she was your workhorse?
Ward: I think my dad helped us get the lumber over there, we got the okay from Mr. Wilson to take the lumber he was glad to get rid of it. We were able to build that tree house, and then when we were getting to be teenagers when the neighbor moved him. And he had daughters and he said I don’t want my daughters in the tree house. So, he bought my granddad’s place. And the tree house was off-limits.
Suzi: That’s funny. I appreciate your time Ward and your willingness to stop by and chat about old memories, it’s been fun.
Ward: I had fun talking about the old times. A lot of them were good times. Some of them were kinda bad.
Suzi: Sure, that’s life.
Ward: But mostly good, I guess.
Suzi: That is good. That’s a good ending.