Relative Something

*this* John W. Hays' take on things and experiences

Recalling Stories

with 8 comments

“Betty on way to Apgar Lookout. 6-18-47” [that was in ink, then there is this in pencil] “Pictures lie. In spite of how she looks she was so exhausted she could hardly breathe”.

Even I don’t recall all the details of stories I’ve gathered over the years, despite having actually written many of them out. Yesterday, I was hunting for a picture in my personal digital archives that I wanted to include in a record for my mother’s profile on WikiTree. I located it near a chronicle I’d written from stories my mom was telling me about their days in Glacier National Park in Montana in the 1940s.

I enjoyed re-reading the details of my parents’ story so much I decided to share it here. I was writing it back in the summer of 2002 and a cursory search through Previous Somethings didn’t reveal any indication I’ve already shared it on this blog before now.

This segment is served well by a little of their backstory of that time, prior to getting married…

Mom & Dad, late 1940s

In the later years of WWII my father, Ralph, was working in Detroit for Minnesota Mining as their Personnel Manager. He had been denied entry into the armed forces due to a combination of hayfever, allergies, and a paralyzed soft palate from polio that made it difficult for him to swallow. The Detroit position had opened up as a result of the employee exodus to the military.

During the summers of his college years, Ralph had worked for the Great Northern railroad as a 3rd cook. Mom points out that that is primarily a dishwasher, but that he did learn to cook some things, including making pies. He told her that when the trains went through Glacier Park in Montana he used to hang out the door to look at the mountains and experience the great relief of being able to breathe, enjoying air free of his allergens.

During the war, my mother, Betty, was serving under the Navy in the WAVES as a yeoman, 3rd class petty officer doing office work. She says she started at that rating because she had gone to business school and had worked for 3 years. Before long that advanced to 1st class, but she claims it happened faster than usual because of the activity of the war. She was stationed in Miami.

In September 1945 my parents both returned to Minneapolis to attend the funeral of her father who had died during a fire in the home. Her sister was in the hospital with a broken back and a broken arm. At that time they discussed plans for marriage. They looked around for places to live. Ralph had been looking some while in Detroit. There seemed to be nothing available. They looked at what was available in the seedier parts of Minneapolis but found nothing they considered livable. They were NOT going to live with my father’s parents, and my mother’s family was now confined to a small apartment.

When Betty returned to her post in Miami, she found it had been decommissioned. Her office was gone! They struggled with what to do with her. She had just two months left before the prescribed time for her discharge. She talked them into moving it up, and they gave her the two months.

Meanwhile, with all the personnel returning from overseas, my father saw that he was not long for his present position and headed home to Minneapolis. They were both back in Minneapolis before Christmas, 1945. Ralph found a position selling insurance, but never really settled into the role.

On a day when he was suffering from his hayfever in downtown St. Paul, he went past the Great Northern building and decided, “I oughtta go in and see if I can get a job in Glacier Park.”

The hotels out there were run by the railroad and they would hire kids for the seasonal summer work. There was one job open: Purser on a tourist launch. He did that all summer in ’46, staying in the main hotel. While he was out there he met all the park service people. At the end of the season, he stayed on, using the spare beds near one of the Glacier Park ranger stations, and he worked helping stock snowshoe cabins used by the rangers when they went out into the park to check things through the winter. Eventually, he ended up living with ranger Dave Stimson and his wife Kay. By the time I was born, over a decade later, they would be known to us as “uncle” Dave and “auntie” Kay.

During the next winter, he worked for their highway dept driving snowplow across the mountain passes. When the park department started talking about plans for the next summer, Dad learned they were thinking about hiring married couples to staff the fire watch lookout towers. This set the stage for my parents’ unique start as husband and wife.

Betty and Ralph were married in Minneapolis, Minnesota in April of 1947. They stayed overnight in St. Cloud at a family friend’s place (due to the friend’s insistence at the wedding) and then went on to Brainerd to a cottage owned by the Elliott family. Everything was done on a shoestring. After a couple of days, they came back and packed everything they owned, including wedding presents, and prepared to drive west.

Apgar Lookout Tower was the one at the headquarters of Glacier Park where the “lookouts” were taught what to do in case they spot fire. Waterton lookout, where Betty and Ralph would be stationed, was on Porcupine Ridge. Back then, the man was paid through the week, and over the weekend they paid the wife. That was how the plan devised to use married couples was able to get 2 pairs of eyes for the price of one.

Mom and Dad didn’t go up to their tower until after the 4th of July and they were only on the lookout for about 6 weeks, but this was how they kicked off life together. They lived day and night on this fire lookout tower on a mountain in Glacier National Park in Montana.

.

.

Written by johnwhays

March 2, 2020 at 7:00 am

8 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. I’m so glad you are posting These memories–some I don’t think I’ve heard/seen before. ♥️ Thank you.

    Liz Shatek

    March 3, 2020 at 10:01 am

    • You are welcome! I’m so glad you are able to experience their adventures anew!

      johnwhays

      March 3, 2020 at 10:26 am

  2. I totally echo Mary’s sentiment ~ more than ever I appreciate having my memories on paper! Will be sharing this with my grandchildren. Keep the history coming ♥️Thanks so much

    Judy

    March 2, 2020 at 8:59 am

    • You are welcome! There’s more ahead that I know you will enjoy. I’m so glad I finally wrote down some of Mom’s story details back then.

      johnwhays

      March 2, 2020 at 10:50 am

  3. Great story!

    frisshop

    March 2, 2020 at 8:16 am

    • Thanks! It’s an honor to be able to write about their interesting lives.

      johnwhays

      March 2, 2020 at 10:48 am

  4. I know I’ve read and heard this story all my life, but am so glad to see it in writing, because I sure never remember the details! What cool parents we had!
    Thank you so much for sharing this story again!

    Mary

    March 2, 2020 at 7:13 am

    • You are welcome. As I wrote, even I find the details escape me, so reading it all again is wonderfully rewarding. Thank you for letting me know you saw it.

      johnwhays

      March 2, 2020 at 10:47 am


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: