I REMEMBER BATES (1932 - 1947)

 

    By: Beverly Coulter Reynolds

 

I actually lived in Bates for only three years.  However, I spent some time there each summer through 1947. 

 

On my bookshelf I have a brick.  It came from the fireplace in the Bates Hotel.  In 1932, when I was three and a half, my mother and two sisters came to Bates to live.  I lived with my grandmother and grandfather, Anne and Sherm Coulter, in the Bates Hotel while waiting to move into the "big house" on the hill next to the hotel and directly across from the mill.  I took their name and grew up as Beverly Coulter.

 

We lived in a small apartment in the Hotel.  While it was a boardinghouse for the mill workers, the annex had not yet been added, nor the upper front porch boarded to make more rooms.  Rooms were still "let" to people who arrived on the Sumpter Valley and departed track side at the hotel.  Most memorable in my mind is a Catholic priest who came periodically.  He wore cowboy boots under his vestments.  My grandmother found this to be somewhat out of keeping with her idea of appropriate clergy dress.

 

The kitchen sink in our apartment had a cloth skirt around it as sinks often did in the 30's.  I hid under the sink when men would come to see my grandfather.  At the reunions I have had some say, "I worked for Sherm," and I wonder if they knew I hid from them.

 

I especially remember the large dining hall and kitchen in the hotel and the wonderful smells.  It was there I began my love affair with the donut.  Donuts were given to me fresh from the pot of hot lard and liberally drenched with sugar.  While I do not remember the names of those working in the kitchen and dining room, I do remember their faces.  One young girl who remains in my memory was hard of hearing.  She read lips.  I always thought it amazing that she could be deaf and drive a car.  I don't know what I thought one had to do with the other. 

 

When I lived in Bates you entered the town, turned left between two of the little houses and curved around to the center of town.  There were two or maybe three houses n one side, (car) garages on the others, gas pumps and the store and post office.  A road went around the (car) garages, up the hill in back of the Hall, the hotel and ended in our back yard.  The garages and store burned and were rebuilt more than once.

 

There was a (board) sidewalk up around the Hall, the hotel and ending just past our house.  Train track went around the mill pond and next to the sidewalk past our house.  (I've had arguments with my sister as to where the sidewalk and track were).  There was at least one family who lived up around the bend.  I do not recall their names.  Sometimes I walked home from school with a daughter. 

 

Box car houses were across the tracks just past our house.  Rokui's lived across from us on the other side of the mill in one of them.  I used to play with Uki out in the skunk cabbage.  Georgie and Jackie were always teasing us - partly because of the stupid huge bow my grandmother insisted on putting in my hair.  Some times Fermi was my sitter.

 

There was no upper pond.  Houses had not been built where they nurse's house was eventually built.  There were no truck or train shops.  Houses had not been planted out in the meadow behind the big houses.  There was no church and the only school was a mile down the railroad track (or road - Whoever too the road?).  I attended first grade at the Bates-Austin school (1935-36).  I finally figured out I was sick when the school picture was taken and that's why I don't have one.  Zenith Flynn was my teacher.

 

I remember the big wood stove in the class room and the smell of wet mittens, snowsuits, coats and scarves as they dried in the winter.  The galvanized bucket with a dipper sat on the shelf across from my desk.  I remember the taste of the water from the pump.  I have been told there was iron in the water.  To this day I think of that taste as "well water."  I remember the buttercups growing beside the road and being held under our chins to see if we liked butter.

 

One sunny day we were eating our lunches outside.  I had tomato soup in my thermos.  I did not want it, so when I though no one was looking I poured it through the knothole in the floor of the porch.  I do not remember which boy was doused with the tomato soup.  I just know they weren't supposed to be under the porch anyway.

 

Once I had to stand in the corner for hiding in the girl's restroom when the boys were chasing the girls and kissing them (Ugh!).  My sin was not in the hiding, but in telling a lie about having done it.  Word of my misfortune was back to my grandmother before I could get home.  I had intended to tell her.  At least I never had to wear the dunce cap.  There was a dunce cap! 

 

The Christmas program was held in the Hall.  It was sort of a mix of "A Christmas Carol" and "The Nutcracker."  There was a toy shop and the toys came to life.  I was a doll.  Had a blue georgette dress and got to wear anklets with my patent leather maryjanes.  (Only if you have been a girl in Bates at winter and had to wear long stockings, long underwear and a panywaist can you appreciate anklets in December).  I did fine in rehearsal, but never managed my one line, "Ma-Ma," at the performance.  It came out more of a wail ... "Maaaamaaaa!"  So much for my acting debut.

 

There were a lot of special events held in the Hall.  I remember a magician performing spectacular feats.  I could not pull his three rings apart.  Sometimes movies were shown.  Sometimes someone came from John Day and had Sunday School on Sunday afternoons and we would get scripture cards to take home.  And, of course there were dances.  I remember being put on a pile of coasts to sleep during the music and dancing.  There was more than one fight that took place in the tall grass under the sidewalk.  (Now it would be called "wetlands" and building would not be allowed.)

 

The first Halloween I remember was living there on the hill in Bates.  There was a large front window which usually was not covered at night.  I look out and there was an enormous horrible grinning face!  Needless to say I bellowed! My grandmother came running and asked me what was wrong.  I said, "Nothing."  She left the room and I again saw this horrible apparition.  When she asked this time I told her and she was immediately out the door muttering things like Combs and Averett.  That jack-o-lantern was huge.  

 

My sister, mother and step-father were living in Sumpter when I rode the train from Bates to visit.  That narrow-gage is fast becoming a favorite among model train enthusiasts.  My sister, Barbara and I were at a train show and mentioned to one of the vendors that we had ridden the Sumpter Valley.  He said, "Oh, you've been up to Sumpter!"  We assured him that yes, we had been to Sumpter recently, but we meant we had ridden the REAL Sumpter Valley.  It's sort of like saying we just struck gold.  When we are asked what we remember best, we agree - being scared to death when we raised the lid on the toilet and saw railroad ties flashing by.

 

After I moved to Baker I came back each summer to spend a couple of weeks with my sisters and mother.  They were adventurous summers - some of which I can't tell, having taken the equivalent of a blood oath.

 

When still quite young we baked mud pies in Mrs. Kranenburg's oven, drank homemade root beer and played hide and seek in tall grass.  You could lie down in the grass and someone walking by would never see you. ''

 

I won't mention the name of the boy we hung by hands and feet in the Sam Kranenburg woodshed, and left.  We were playing Cowboys and Indians.  The girls were the Indians.  Indians 1 - Cowboys 0.

 

Of course it was most exciting to pull the mains switches on the houses and watch them go dark in those summer evenings, especially if you could manage to have three or four houses go dark at the same time ...

 

My last summer at Bates was in 1947.  Barbara and Joanne were in Alaska.  My adventure that years was riding to the "Y" with three of my sister's friends, drinking my first beer and learning to play pinochle. 

 

The last time I was in Bates most of the houses had been moved.  The mill pond was drained - such a small shallow basin.  My house was gone.  Leslie Green's play house remained and you could tell where the Arch Kranenburg's had lived because the trees our mother planted were still there.  The hotel was mostly down and a man sat cleaning bricks.  I explained to my husband that I had lived over there and the Hall was there, and a board sidewalk went past it all to my house and the train tracks were right by the sidewalk.  Of course my sister said, "No, it was ....."

 

The man stopped his work and said, "She's right.  We found evidence of an old sidewalk here and the train track were right beside it."  I asked for a brick and he gave me one from the fireplace.  It sits on a bookcase, my piece of Bates from the first place I lived.