Written in 1974
I was born and raised at Forks, one of a family of 10 children, 8 girls 2 boys. One of my sisters delights in telling this story, explaining her name. I am quite sure it is a fragment of her imagination, but she claims it is true. She says when born our Dad took one look at her and said: “Hell-Ma, it’s another girl!” And so her name is Helma.
My parents immigrated from Switzerland. Mother in 1865, Father 10 years later.
The two families first settled in Toledo, Ohio, then moved to Seattle. They lived there only a short while, having heard of land on the Quillayute Prairie being opened for homesteading.
They traveled from Seattle by steamer, landing at the La Push Indian Reservation. As there were no docks, the steamer was met by Indians in canoes who rowed them up the Quillayute River to the make-shift combination hotel, store and post-office, which was then called “Boston” now known as “Mora”.
Coming from the City to the wilderness was quite a contrast. I can recall my Mother saying that at this point she would have turned back, only, everything they owned in the world was in this venture. Even food was scarce, much of it having been ruined in transport from the steamer by open canoe.
There was a log cabin school, located in the center of the settlement, where Sunday School classes were taught by a man who lived nearby who also taught at the Indian Reservation.
All provisions were brought in by steamer. One winter heavy winds and rough seas prevented bringing supplies and the settlement was practically without food the rest of that winter. They survived on rancid bacon, beans, coffee and milk. The oldest son died from under-nourishment.
Circumstances became so acute, Father was forced to return to Seattle in order to earn funds, leaving Mother. and the children on the homestead. Making the trip to Seattle in those days required three days travel over a foot-trail, plus a day and night by steamer.
Later my parents sold the homestead and moved to Forks Prairie, where the rest of the children were born.
Our farm was situated in the west-end of the Prairie. There was only an old shack and a fallen-down hophouse, a sight which would have disheartened less brave people, although the children thought it was great fun.
My parents were ill-equipped for farming. They had a team of old plugs, and absolutely no knowledge of farming, but plenty of determination.
The entire Prairie had previously been in “hops” but the price had dropped and the owners turned to farming. The hops had depleted the soil and at first, nothing would grow, but by hard work my parents managed to eke out an existence.
There was little by way of entertainment. Reading material consisted of “The Youth’s Companion” and “Little Women Journal”, and of course, the Bible. But with this large family to raise, the growing and care of a large garden, tending livestock, and other farm chores, little time was left for reading. Mother, however, taught all of us to read, write and multiplication tables before we went to school.
We always had music of some kind in our home. Father had a harmonica and a violin.
He loved music and later we also had a piano, the older girls taking lessons and in turn teaching the younger ones.
We were Pioneer settlers on the prairie, there being only four other families there. Later, as the population grew, there were country dances, box socials, 4th of July celebrations, Christmas and Easter programs, which we all looked forward to.
Our school was two-and-a-half miles from home. We thought nothing of this walk mornings and nights. Wintertime it would be dark when we returned, and many times we would feel uneasy when we heard noises along the trail or imagined we saw “eyes shining in the dark.”
I was the first child born in our new home. It was a lovely farm home and still stands, substantial and comfortable looking. (Editor’s note: the home is now the Dahlgren Farm on Bogachiel Way)
Our parents sold the farm and moved to Port Angeles in 1921. I remained to complete the school year.
Their first business venture was the purchase of the “Pershing Hotel”, then considered quite “plush”. Later it was sold and they bought the “Holly Candy Kitchen”, where the “Family Shore Store” is now located
My two older sisters operated the store. Some of the candy was home-made. I recall the marble slab used for the cooling of the peanut-brittle. That would bring quite a price now, wouldn’t it?
This was during the years when, in the summers, the “Fleet” anchored in the harbor, creating considerable excitement. On one occasion, there was a disturbance in the hotel above which practically wrecked the place. Windows smashed, furniture broken a general old-time riot.
I wonder if anyone remembers the bar in our candy store. It was beautiful. When we sold the business, it was moved to McDonald’s “Blue Danube” dance-hall, east of town.
And those oval tables and wrought-iron chairs! They · would also be valuable now.
Do you remember your first real job? I do. It was in 1926 when I was employed at the Courthouse as a combination clerk in the Justice Court and Extension Office. Mr. Holland was then county agent. I worked in that capacity for almost 9 years, and under three Justices – Mr. Brumfield, Mr. Ritchie, and for a short period, Mr. Filion.
During that time, In the absence of Mrs. Severyns, I also served as substitute reporter in the Superior Court.
I resigned, other than for occasional reporting, in 1934, when I got married.
In 1952 I was appointed Clerk of the Local Board, the office was in the Federal Building. That was during the Korean War and later the Vietnam Conflict.
There was the young man from Forks, who really gave me a bad time. He finally moved to California, from where he wrote to us in German. This was no big problem for what we couldn’t translate, Mr. Quast, our next-door neighbor, was happy to oblige. This was too good an opportunity to overlook, so with the help of a neighhbor, we answered, thanking him for his letter – but in PHILIPPINE. We didn’t hear from him for quite some time, and actually I was beginning to wonder if perhaps we may have overplayed our sense of humor when he called. He seemed amused by the exchange of correspondence and said that was the only time he had ever received anything at all funny from his local board.
Later, we again heard from him, telling us he could now read “Taiwan”. This time, with the help of Mr. John Goneis, we again replied – in GREEK. That was our last contact with him.
And so now I am retired – and also somewhat tired, after better than 30 years of public service.
Ruby Linton, 1908-1997