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The Northside Kid

In 1942, my family lived on Nampa’s North Side, near my paternal and maternal grandparents. The friends I made all came from a core area of several blocks. We knew other kids on the fringes of that area, but they were really not a part of our group. I hesitate to call the North Side Kids a gang, because we weren’t, although we did get up to mischief sometimes.

I suppose during my early years I didn’t register a social difference between the North Side and the South Side of town, divided by the railroad tracks. As I grew older, I began to realize that the houses in the south were nicer and the cars newer, but it didn’t really matter to me. Looking back, I guess my North Side friends did think we were tougher than kids from the South Side. But none of that mattered much to me, at least not until our family moved to the South Side.

World War II sparked many jobs associated with national defense and my dad traveled to get the work. In 1942, he went to Salt Lake City, while my mom, sister, brother, and I lived with her parents on N. 14th Street. I was about five or six, and I remember all the lights being turned off during air raids, when the sound of sirens filled the night. I trembled in fear that the bombs would come any minute. After Dad returned from Utah, our family had our own place on the North Side for a while. I started first grade at Lakeview Grade School, but we were only there for half of the school year. We moved to Bend, Oregon, and then moved back to Nampa in the fall, and then my folks decided to go to Spokane while Dad worked at Farragut Naval Training Station on Lake Pend Oreille in northern Idaho.

The constant moving was not good for my schooling, so my parents decided it was better for me to live with my paternal grandparents. This was 1943 and the war was going full blast.

My grandparents’ house was small, maybe four hundred square feet. It contained a kitchen with a wood stove, a front room that also served as a dining area, and a non-partitioned bedroom. There was no indoor plumbing. Water was carried in a pail to the house. The outhouse was a couple hundred feet from the house. The exterior of the home was tarpaper and shingles. A dirt basement was for storage of canned goods and non-perishable food items. The door was heavy to lift and there were black widow spiders and other scary things, so I never ventured down there. Two large maple trees and a willow tree grew in the yard. The old house stood for many years and after my grandparents died, we took to calling it “the old tarpaper shack.” Continue reading

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Know Thy Neighbor

As a field representative for the U.S. Census Bureau, part of my daily work routine is to speak with members of the public. The addresses of such people are randomly selected and I often must make repeated attempts at contact with them, only to find nobody home. I then get the pleasure of talking to the neighbors, whom I have discovered are usually very poor sources of information. I’m a born-and-bred Idahoan, so I know well that this state’s population tends toward independence or even isolationism. Depending on the day and situation, talking to someone’s neighbors can make me laugh or cry. I’ll give you a few examples of situations I’ve encountered recently. Names and places have been omitted to protect the privacy of people I’ve met, but I can say they were all in Idaho. Continue reading

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Messing Around

“Why do you have the bucket in the house?”

For fifteen minutes or so, my wife had been home from work here in Caldwell and was checking the TV to make sure her favorite soap had been taped.

Since I was in the family room and out of her sight, she hadn’t paid any attention to what I was doing until I kicked that darned metal bucket.

“Just messing around,” I replied, impressed that she’d recognized the sound.

She hit the mute button on the remote. “Why are you always ‘messing around’?” she asked. “Don’t you ever have anything constructive to do?”

“I did all the things you had on the list,” I responded.

“My goodness,” she said. “Do you mean to tell me that you finally put both of those boxes up in the attic and carried out the trash? And it only took you six hours? That may be something of a record.”

“I do my best,” I replied modestly.

“Did you empty the dishwasher?”

“It wasn’t on the list.”

“Why do I have to put things like that on a list?” she asked.

“I’ve got other things on my mind,” I replied. “I don’t know what I’m supposed to do unless it’s on a list.”

“What ‘other things’ did you have on your mind today that were so important?”

“Squirrels,” I said. Continue reading

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