D. E. Larsen, DVM
There were several events that strung together in 1956 that had a significant impact on my life.
“If you are coming with me to Aunt Lila’s, you had better get in gear,” Mom said as I was finishing up my breakfast. Bacon was somewhat of a luxury for us, and I savored every bite.
I finished eating and took my plate to the kitchen. As was expected, it was clean as a whistle. I could always hear Dad’s voice in my head as I ate.
“You clean your plate! We don’t waste any food when there are kids in China who are starving.” Dad would always say.
I ran upstairs to get dressed. Today, Uncle Robert said we could go up the hill with him to watch the logging. Logging was a big part of our lives in western Oregon. Dad, and most of the other fathers in Broadbent, worked in the woods. We always heard stories but seldom had a chance to actually see the sites where they worked.
The drive to the Ochletrees was not far, and Robert was waiting at the jeep when we pulled into the driveway.
The jeep was crowded when everyone was loaded. Robert drove with a friend of his in the passenger seat. Mom and I shared one side seat, unpadded, and Aunt Lila and Phillip shared the other. We pulled out of the driveway and onto the logging road up Endicott Creek.
We drove several miles up the creek before coming to the logging site.
“We will have some extra money when this is done,” Robert said. “Stumpage is forty dollars a thousand, and there are several hundred thousand board feet on this hillside.”
A lot was going on, but it was all cat-logging. I had hoped to see a donkey working. That was what Dad did in the woods. He was a donkey puncher.
“You need to hurry, David. Our appointment is in a half hour,” Mom said. “We are meeting Grandma and Grandpa at the hospital, and you and Phillip are getting your polio shots.”
“I don’t know why I have to get a shot in the summer,” I said.
Uncle Ern’s son, Ross, died from polio,” Mom said. “Grandpa says that if you and Phillip are going on this big trip this summer, you will get this new vaccine.”
Mom and I jumped in the car and drove to the Mast Hospital in Myrtle Point. Aunt Lila, Phillip, Grandma, and Grandpa were waiting for us when we arrived in the waiting room.
The nurse took us back to a small room that smelled like alcohol. She had the needles laid out already.
“They had some problems with this vaccine last year. Have they fixed that now?” Mom asked the nurse.
“Yes, that was with one batch of vaccine from one manufacture,” the nurse said. “That has been fixed. This vaccine is fine. We have been using it for several months now.”
With that, I rolled up my sleeve and looked out the window as the nurse swabbed my arm and poked me with the needle.
“Now, that wasn’t so bad, David. You were pretty brave,” Grandma said.
“They will need a booster dose in three or four weeks,” the nurse said.
“That’s good. That way, they will have their booster a couple of weeks before our trip,” Aunt Lila said.
“What kind of a trip are you taking?” the nurse asked.
“We are going to go up to the Calgary Stampede and then on back to New York, down to Mississippi, and then home through our daughter’s homes in California,” Grandma said.
“Oh my! That is quite a trip,” the nurse said.
Departure day finally came on July 8, 1956. We all piled into Uncle Robert’s 1954 Cadillac. Robert is driving, Grandpa Davenport is in the passenger seat, and Aunt Lila and Grandma are in the back seat. It was decided that my cousin Phillip and I would trade off, riding in the middle, one day in the front, and then one day in the back. That was the seating for the entire trip.
The first day was a short trip to Cottage Grove to stay with Uncle Ernie and his family the first night. They lived next to the drive-in movie theater.
“You and Eric can climb over the fence and turn up the volume on some of those speakers so we can watch the movie tonight,” Ernie said.
Everyone sat in lawn chairs in the backyard and watched the movie that night. We were up pretty early and hit the road.
This was an entirely new adventure for me. At that time in my eleven years, I had rarely been out of Coos County, Oregon. Only a few trips to visit family from Fortuna, California, in the south to Cloverdale, Oregon, in the north. The largest towns I had been in were Eureka, California, and Coos Bay, Oregon.
We traveled over the McKenzie Pass and encountered red pavement where they were using volcanic rock in the pavement. After lunch in Madras, we settled into a motel at Boardman.
The motel was a series of small cabins in a gulch overlooking the Columbia River. To me, it looked like a worthless river, with no bank access and far too large fish with a willow pole. Phillip and I experienced our first night of sleeping on the floor. That was to be our typical situation for the entire trip. I can only remember a night or two when I had a bed.
From Boardman, we went to Sandpoint, Idaho, stopping at McNary dam along the way. And there was an eleven-mile trip down the hill into Lewiston, Idaho. The shingled cabin must have been only a few feet from the railroad track.
“That train kept us awake half the night,” Robert told the owner when we were loading the car.
“A lot of people complain about it, but you know, we have lived here since the war, and I never hear the train at night,” the owner said.
From Sandpoint, we went to Calgary with a stop in the mountains to visit Lake Louise. When we came out of the mountains, some thirty miles from Calgary, traffic came to a stop, and we finally pulled into a motel.
“You aren’t going to find any motels with a vacancy from here to Calgary,” the owner said. “I know of a hunting lodge back in the mountains, not too far from here. They probably have cabins this time of the year.”
So off we went to the hunting lodge. It was located at the end of a long road, and I don’t know the elevation, but in the second week of July, it was nearly freezing when we arrived. We had a nice cabin, and Phillip and I even had a bed, and Grandma and Grandpa had a separate room in the main house. The only downside was the bathroom was in a separate building, and it was just one notch above an outhouse. There was a long trough for a urinal, and on the trip before bedtime, there was ice in the urinal.
The good thing was the lodge was happy for the business in their slow time and served a late dinner of soup with bread, and the breakfast they put together was one of the best of the entire trip. All the pancakes you could eat.
We were on the road to Calgary early. The traffic was heavy but moving. We parked in a massive parking lot and walked to the stampede grounds. I was an old hand at the Coos County Fair. The carnival associated with the rodeo was larger than I had ever seen. I was limited in the money I had in my pocket, so I visited a couple of sideshows but never did any rides.
The stampede rodeo was larger than any rodeo I had seen before. The grandstands were packed. On one trip to the bathroom, I had some lemon-lime soda spilled on my back by some old guy with too many drinks in his hands.
When the rodeo was over, we toured the beef barns briefly. We stayed in Canada one more night and then headed for Montana.
We stopped at the first small town we encountered. We stayed at an old hotel with a knotted rope for a fire escape. That would be no problem for me, but I’m not sure Grandma could make it down the rope. Phillip and I were allowed to climb down the rope several times.
The other thing about this little town was soda in the water, and it was mostly undrinkable. I know because I drank a glass and I was sick all night.
Since we arrived late, the hotel served us soup and bread for dinner. We went to bed early so we could get up and on the road. It would take us a couple of days to make it to Minnesota. Robert had cousins in Minnesota that we were going to visit.
Aunt Lila gave me a dose of Pepto Bismol before bed. I hated the stuff. Dad always wanted me to take some when I complained of a stomach ache. But this time, I took it because that water had done a number on my stomach.
Photo by D. E. Larsen, DVM, Booklet from Amy Davenport.