Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Belle -- the rest of her story


The picture above is one of several that have not yet been positively identified but the girl is the right age and bunched in with the right families so it may be Belle shortly after she arrived, ca 1911

After she arrived in this country Belle went to school to learn how to read and write English.  She was first cousins with the children of Karen and Peder Landaas even though she was the age of the next generation down.  She married three times and had one son.  I asked her about some of the people she knew and about her life in America.

"I knew Clara, Clara Lorig.  She was my age, you know.  Her birthday, I think, was the 7th of June and I was the 28th of September.  She was that much older than I was.  She was my age when I came over.  She lived with her folks [Edd and Maggie Lorig].  They lived on 59th at that time.  And so I knew her and I went up to see her the day I left for Alaska in 1918, 1919.  1919.  She just had a baby.  Yes, that’s when Marjorie was born.  And she had Lorraine.  Lorraine wasn’t quite a year old.  So I went up to see her before I left for Alaska.  I went at about 8 o’clock and I think she passed away that morning. 

"She died young, she was very young.  She must have been only about 20 years old, 19, 20.  She wasn’t very old.  We were surprised that she married Dick [Thompson].  But then, you know, that’s their choice and we have to marry who we want.  He wasn’t a policeman, I don’t think, when she married him.  That’s right, he worked for the railroad.  And Tryg and he always said, “Yes, there’s snow all over the mountains this morning.”  That’s when Dick came down there.  And he’d say, Ja, a lot of snow this morning.”  That’s right, he was on the train.

"Clara was a very nice girl.  A very, very beautiful girl.  A pretty girl.  And Lorraine looked an awful lot like her.  I think you all look very much like her.  She was a pretty girl.

"And Maggie, Clara’s mother, I knew Maggie.  Maggie was a character.  When Maggie and Petra got together, you know, they laughed all the time.  They had a lot of fun.  Then they talked about when they were working out in the house.  Maggie had got a house working job.  Oh boy, they laughed at all the little things that sounded so terrible in Norwegian, you know, and it was okay in English.  And they had a lot of fun with that.  Maggie had a lot of fun.  And we used to laugh with them.

"Petra was more, more a dainty type.  She was a very dainty person, very neat.  She had to, just like my mother, she had to always look dressed up pretty.  The two of them, they were very much alike, my stepmother.  Very prompt, very neat.  I’m not that way.  Of course, I am from a different family, we are not blood related.  So I just had a different disposition than my stepmother had." 

Why did she go to Alaska?

"Well, my husband [Elmer Waxham] that I married [they married in March 1917] he was a bookkeeper for a cannery.  So he stayed up there in Alaska in the summertime.  He worked there in the summer in Alaska for three years.  1918, 1919, and 1920.  Then he came down in 1920 in October worked in the office area.  Oh, he worked in the office in the Smith Tower, the 32nd floor in the Smith Tower as a bookkeeper.  After they came down here.  There were several of them in the office.  There was one, Mr. Prey, had a boy there.  And he had gotten word that they were suppose to lay off one of them, one in the office.  And he [Belle's husband] had said, “It’s easier for me to lay off to go and see if I can find another job than it is for him probably because he has a family.”  So he quit.  Because he knew one of them had to go.  And then he went up to, near Arlington, in a logging camp up there he got a job. 

Smith Tower, Seattle, Washington

"He knew this Griffin, either Griffin or Murphy, of the business college.  He knew one of them, I don’t know which it was.  So he was out there on his lunch hour and he met him after he came back from Alaska and he said “Well, anytime you need work, let me know.”  And he said, “I will see if I can help you.”  Well, the second time he met him, he told him he did, if he had anything in mind.  So, he found this job up there for him in the logging camp.  And he rented a room up there and he stayed.  But he worked awfully hard because that was work, working with lumber, you know something different.  So he, when he got through work it was late at night.  This night he had worked late and he was tired and he threw himself down on the bed to rest.  And left the window open and it rained.  It just poured down.  And he got all soaking wet and the bed was wet when he woke up during the night.  And he didn’t want to go into the people because they, that he rented the room from, because they were sound asleep.  So he just went to sleep the way it was and he caught a cold, a terrible cold.  A death of a cold that was what it was, that’s what he did.  He came home Saturday and I had just been to see my mother.  She had just had a goiter operation.  And I saw, we had a, we were not drinkers, but we had a bottle of whiskey, but it was just a little bit left in the bottle.  And when I came home I saw that bottle in the sink, you know, I was thinking, “Oh, what has he been up to?”  And it was broken.  And I went in to find out and I said “What did you do with the bottle?”  And he said, “I was trying to find a waterbottle because I was so cold and I was going to get some hot water.”  He thought he would put it in this bottle.  Put the hot water in the bottle and use that as a hot waterbottle to get warmed up.  And he said, “Then the bottle broke.”  Then he went to bed.  Because I got home after he did, I saw the car outside and I thought something must have happened that he would come home early because I didn’t expect him until that evening.  But he was sick for a week.  He had a doctor but he should have gone to the hospital.  Then he turned out to get appendicitis, it broke and peritonitis set in and he died.

"So that’s the way that happened.  That was only about 3 or 4 years after we were married.  That’s all the long time I married him.  And then I was single for a little while and met his brother [Frank Waxham].  He was in the war [World War I], a sailor.  So, he was in New York.  He got a job on the boats after the war ended.  But they had a strike at that time, an engineer’s strike, and he worked in the engine room.  But, so, he was not working, so we corresponded back and forth--his brother and him and I.  And so I told him, I said, “Your mother is awfully sick.”  And I said, “Now that she lost her youngest son I think it would be nice if you could come and visit her.”  So he came.  And then he stayed for a little while, and then he went back to New York.  And then he came back again.  After one year we got married.  Ha!  So I married two brothers.  Ja.  Then he lived until 1947.  We were married in 1922 the 17th of May.  Norwegian Day.  [Belle laughed.]  So it’s quite a story."

Belle and Frank had a son, also named Frank.  She worked in the cafeteria of the Naval Supply Depot, Pier 91 in Seattle from 1944 to 1970.  After Frank Sr. passed away in 1947 Belle was single again for about 18 years and then she married Jack Homsher who was ten years younger than she.  They married in 1965.  Jack died in 1993.  Belle passed away in 1997 in her 100th year.   

At the time that I visited with them they were living in a retirement home near North Seattle Community College.  She was a delight to visit.  Her long life was not without trials but she always remained cheerful.  Toward the end of her life with her eyesight failing she was still able to laugh at the situations she got into because she couldn't see--such as the talking clock that was one hour off because she couldn't see the numbers to set it for Daylight Savings time.  She also said cooking was difficult that she had tried using a magnifying glass but that didn't work too well either.  Nevertheless she thought they did fairly well remaining independent despite these difficulties.  They were able to use the Metro buses and could still walk and carry their own groceries.  I greatly admired her. 

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