Saturday, October 8, 2011

Stories from the life of Walt Lorig, part 1

Walt, Harry and Clara Lorig, early 1900s

I talked with and interviewed Walt Lorig several times during the last few years of his life when he was in his late 80s and early 90s. I used a tape recorder so most of what is included in this post is in his own words. He was always a delight to visit and had many stories to tell about his life and growing up in the early 1900s. Once I asked where he went to school and what sort of chores they had to do when they were kids.

“We went to the Adams school when it was built. Now they’ve torn it down. We walked to school. There were laws in Seattle at that time, that you couldn’t live any place where you couldn’t walk to school. And you had to go to that particular school, too. I even came home from Adams school there for lunch. My mother always had lunch for us. If she was going to do something, why she’d give us ten cents to go up to the store and get something.

“We didn’t go to high school. None of the three of us, well, I take that back, I don’t know if Clara went one year or not. She decided she had to go help out or something. I think that was it. But Harry and I never went to high school. I went to night school for a while. I worked for Waterhouse. The first job I ever had my neighbor was down in the postal telegraph office, so he asked me “What are you going to do now that you’re out of school?” I wanted to go to work right away and my dad said no. He said you kids have your vacation then if you want to go to school or work you can. So he [the neighbor] asked me if I wanted a job in the postal telegraph. There were lots of jobs at that time because most of the kids working for postal telegraph wanted to go back to school. I worked there for two years. Then one day when I came back to the office a fellow stopped me there and asked me “You know who I am?” “Yeah, I remember you, I don’t remember where.” He said “I’m up in Waterhouse’s office, up in the central building.” He said, “How about a job as an office boy up there?” Anything was better than that messenger boy, so I went up and worked for Frank Waterhouse for 2 ½ years. $25 a month.

Walt Lorig when he was an office boy, ca 1915

“When I went to work I was 14 and I got to the point where I thought I should try typing. So I went to night school. When we first started in, we wasn’t half girls and half boys, but there was enough in there so I felt not out of place. I don’t like too many women around at one time . . . But anyway, the boys, they started dropping out and finally I was the only one there. So, I had to drop out too, that was a good excuse too, I guess.

"The only thing we had to do [in the way of chores] was at night, Clara, my sister, had to do the washing—the dishes, and my brother and I had to change off drying or sweeping the floor. We had the wood to take care of. My dad bought, oh, at least 20 loads of wood in the summertime. We had to wheel it in and pile it up to dry. After it was dry we had to put it in the shed. And a certain amount of the shingle bolts we had to split up in the other part of the shed for kindling. Then we had to see that my mother had wood in the house all the time. And that’s about all we had to do.

“We had a wood burning stove in the kitchen and a wood heater in the dining room. We used a lot of wood. Oh, boy! In those days we didn’t have alleys there or anything. We had to load it in from the street and pile it up. And he [his father, Edd] gave us a certain amount to do every day. And no playing until that job was done. Otherwise we wouldn’t do it. Sometimes when the other kids wanted to go play football or something they would help us with the wood so we could get done sooner.”

Walt mentioned that even though he was a year or so younger than his brother, Harry, he was a little bigger. Harry didn’t start growing until he got out of grammar school then he started picking up but he was little huskier than Walt. Harry, however, liked to pick fights and since their dad had told them both that brothers had to stand up for one another, Walt ended up fighting Harry’s battles for him most of the time.

Maggie Lorig with her children, Harry, Walt and Clara in front of their home 409 Post in Ballard [now 24th Avenue NW and NW 62nd Street], ca 1903

The house is no longer there. I think a QFC grocery store and other shops and condominiums are now where this house used to be. Notice the boardwalk in front of the house, the wood chopping block in the yard and the chickens.

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