A Goddess and the Commies

Growing Up in Kellogg, Part One

By John Vivian

This is the first installment in an occasional series about John Vivian’s childhood experiences in Kellogg in the 1950s-‘60s. Roughly a decade ago, he emailed his reminiscences to friends and former classmates who gathered for reunions. In 2020, one of his contemporaries, Steve Moe, forwarded the unpublished collection to us, which we are pleased to excerpt with John’s permission.

My Goddess up the Block

I must have been eight years old. It was a Saturday morning, and I had twenty tickets to sell to the Cub Scouts Gymkhana the next Friday at the junior high gym. Peddling tickets was not my favorite activity. I began thinking about the quickest way to meet my quota and then get on with the day. I decided to start at a walk-up hotel halfway up the street on Railroad Avenue at Division Street. So I headed off to the Miners Rooms, upstairs from Tony Mittaka’s Miners Club, where the old Italian gents in the neighborhood gathered for friendly cards every afternoon. Tony would be closed, this being 8 a.m. or so, but surely the people who lived upstairs would be up and about. I climbed the long steps.

The door seemed odd, sheathed in metal. High up was a small window screened with cyclone fencing. The pane itself looked like the one-way mirror games glued onto Wheaties boxes at the time. Not what I expected. Was this indeed a hotel? Maybe apartments? I rang. Not a stir. I rang again. Wouldn’t decent people be up by now? Gosh, it was after 8. There was a rustle. I felt someone checking me out through the one-way mirror, although most likely I was too short at maybe four-foot-eight to be seen. I heard a deadbolt being turned and pulled back. The door opened heavily, slowly. There stood an old scrub lady.

I asked, “Would you like to buy a ticket to the Boy Scout Gymkhana?“

I couldn’t figure out why she was puzzled. Mop in hand, she stood in a loose, near- threadbare frock and a messy apron. She scratched her head. She was old, very old. I didn’t recognize her at all, even though I lived only twenty houses down the block.

“Wait there,“ she told me, not exactly friendly but not inhospitable either. She clanked the metal door shut in my face.

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