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The Memoirs of Clara Bowe

 

 

 

 


The Memoirs of Clara Bowe (Not the movie star!)

CHAPTER 1 THE EARLY YEARS


The Mansur Family, Grandpa, Grandma, four sons, four daughters,
and one son-in-law, migrated by train to Sedro Woolley,
Washington from Eau Claire, Wisconsin in 1905. Gladys, my mother, born in 1891, being small for her age, was instructed
by her father, at that time a poor man, to scrunch
down in her seat when the conductor came by, to
avoid his having to pay a higher fare.

Grandma had filled a huge laundry basket with
enough food to last until they had arrived at their destination.

A house was located large enough for the entire family when they arrived in Sedro Woolley. Food
staples were purchased and work begun. Doing the
laundry by hand, they hung it in the sun and air
to dry. ( The first and best solar invention was
the clothesline!)

Eventually, Grandma went to work cooking for logging camp crews. Needless
to say, she knew how to please the palates and large
appetites of the hardworking men on the logging crews as well as those of her large family!

As the children grew up and found their mates,
the number of mouths to feed increased also. The
older sister and one of her children got very
sick and died. Then Grandpa died.

Much later, Grandma and her deceased daughter's husband got married.
This was such a scandalous occasion to some people that a
Seattle newspaper even picked it up and made it into a big story.

Meanwhile, my father, Guy, who was born in 1887, had just moved from No. Dakota with his mother, Jennie Olive Barker Senff, and younger brother to
Bellingham, WA. They had separated from their father, William Sherman Senff,
and they may or may not have had their Grandma with them too.

My father's name was Guy Everett Senff. Senff is
an old name that means "mustard" in German. My mother's maiden name,
Mansur, meant "one who made hafts for knives" and
probably dates back to at least the guilds of the Middle Ages. I enclose a picture of the family crest with "a naturally colored pelican in her piety, a gold nest."

My father learned to saw shingles and, after the birth of my older sister, Jennie Gay, myself,
Clara Olive, and my younger brother, Lester Leroy, in 1913, we
all moved to Anacortes in 1915 where the local shingle mills employed him for many years. He was known as the best shingle weaver around.
I was about four years old. My birthday is March 26, 1911.

The one incident that still stands out after all these years is my memory of the time I climbed up on the piano stool and drank from a bottle of chloroform used to clean the piano keys in our new home.
I vaguely remember the doctor saying
"Keep pinching her to keep her awake or she may never wake up."
Another incident stands out in my memory of my early years.
That was helping with the war effort.
In my class we were given cloth and scissors
and shown how to trim thread from the cloth that could be used for stuffing pillows.
When the end of WWI finally came,
all the mills and factories started blowing their whistles.
It could be heard all over town!
All over the US people celebrated and hoped their boys would come home soon!
Then along came the flu epidemic.
People died in great numbers.
We were all forced to wear gauze masks.
Luckily, our family was spared.
After having worked in shingle mills for many years, my father developed tuberculosis
and was confined to a sanitorium in Seattle. My mother took in boarders and was given a job nailing
bands on the finished shingles in the cooperative mill
in which my father was still a part owner.
My sister Jennie graduated high school and was able to land a job at Beck's Bakery.
My brother Les and I were allowed to leave school early
to help my mom at the mill with the job of nailing bands. We made extra money by shoveling sawdust and unloading bundles of bandsticks from box cars.
In those days, Anacortes was a railroad stop for the mills and fishing industries.
We also picked strawberries and did other odd jobs.

Other than the usual childhood diseases, we were all blessed with good health,
except my father, whose years in the shingle mill breathing cedar dust probably contributed to his early death at 56 years old.
The latter part of his life, he worked as a guard in the State Hospital in Sedro Woolley,
a job he obtained with the help of a local politician after surviving an operation to collapse one lung.
He was a large man and looked strong enough to handle a job as a guard.
One of his duties also included being a barber to the patients.
My mom and he lived in an estranged relationship for the rest of his life.
Later, he moved to a better paying job in Pendelton, Oregon.
There his health failed him.
However, he kept in touch with my sister writing her many letters that she kept.
I read them finally after my sister's death at 90.
I cried many tears.
Another incident I can't forget is the time my sister and I were walking along the railroad tracks and the little black puppy that had followed us from home got run over and killed by a train.
One time my sister and I walked to Sedro Woolley to see relatives. That was almost 30 miles.
Fortunately, we were offered a ride on one of the repair platforms that ran by hand along the tracks. It sure shortened the trip and saved our blistered feet! Our relatives drove over from Anacortes and gave us a ride home.
In 1928, I graduated high school.
My sister obtained a better job at the Bank of Commerce located where Lori Gere now has her wonderful deli where I like to eat lunch sometimes.
Then I got a job with the other bakery in town called Frye's. My weight ballooned fifteen pounds
from all those little cream pies I got to sample!
Fortunately, the bank where my sister worked had another opening I was lucky to fill
and all those delectable cream pies could now be sampled by others.
After three years working at the bank, along came the Great Depression and a moratorium was declared.
However, Mr. Fred Cartwright, Sr., arranged with some of his fellows who were politicians
for me to be interviewed for a job opening at the H.O.L.C. Headquarters in Seattle.
I got the job and finally I would get to see the great,
wide world outside of Anacortes's small town life.
This happened in 1934.
I forgot to mention that my sister Jennie got married to her high school sweetheart, Clyde LeMaister, in 1932.
My brother, Lester, graduated high school in 1932.
He also married Viola (Scotty) Fayette and, in 1939, purchased a purse seine fishing boat.
He went to Alaska every summer and was able to make a good living for his family.
Later, he trolled. He had three children: Vikki, Bruce and Trudi Senff.
Bruce carried on the fishing tradition when his dad passed on. Lester was in the U.S. Coast Guard for one year.
He worked at a pulp and shingle mill in Anacortes for six years.
He was drafted into the US Navy in WWII and stationed at Oak Harbor in 1942.
He was a Boatswain's mate 1st class on the USS Pintail.
Later, he joined the Eagle's Lodge in Anacortes where we had great fun dancing when my husband was still alive.
He eventually retired from commercial fishing in 1975 and died of bone cancer at 70.
He owned his home on 5518 Sunset Drive, Anacortes, WA and his daughter Vicki moved there after Scotty's death.
It is out on the end of the island on the way to Loop Rd.
My sister's husband Clyde LeMaister is Samish Indian and French Canadian.
He raised hunting dogs, worked at the mill, fished, hunted,
grew gardens, made his own wine and smoked his own salmon.
His mother was Samish and he grew up on an island in the San Juans.
He said that his mom and sisters and he had to beat the pans sometimes
for their father who was out fishing to find his way home when there was fog.
While Jennie worked at various jobs as secretary and/or bookkeeper for two local attornies,
Clyde was employed at the new plywood mill.
They had invested in the mill. Then he was called to serve in the US Army.
He returned home after his tour of duty was over.
He and Jennie didn't have any children of their own but they adopted Tim LeMaister, who was related distantly.
My mom helped raise him while Jennie and Clyde were at work.
He was a great joy to everyone.
We all helped share the expenses that my mother had
until she was eventually granted her Social Security.
Our two story house with four bedrooms was condemned by the city's "urban renewal" project.
We got 10K. Clyde and Jennie also lost their house. They had restored the old Allan Bldg. , that used to have a big store in it. They converted it in the 1940's into an apartment bldg., where they lived until urban renewal took their project. Today, I am almost 93 years old and there is still nothing there in the old homesites but grass and abandoned bldgs. that have been for rent for Seattle prices and empty for 7 years, since Bunnies On the Bay moved on? That 10K helped to buy a house for my mom on
23rd and R. Ave., across the street from our old
house. We had to sell it for her when she went
into the San Juan Nursing Home. Jennie and Clyde
eventually bought a
new place out on W. 3rd where Clyde still lives
today. He had a small stroke in Nov. 2001. He is
95 now and I am writing this in the end of the
year, 2003. Soon it will be 2004. Christmas will
be here soon. We got him a beautiful big card with
a Christmas message of Peace and an original
painting on the front of a
white buffalo with a
woman emerging from her with the sacred pipe of
Peace (The White Buffalo
Calf woman). We pasted a
picture of the whole
family on it and
brought it over to him.

We had that house on 23rd for a long time. Jennie kept up the yard for my mom too.
After I moved to Seattle to work, I frequently made
bus trips home on the weekends. However, when my
mother threatened to kill herself by pouring a
bottle of iodine down her throat (most of it
poured down the side of her cheek) because of her
objection to a relationship I was having with an older man, I left home vowing never to return. She apologized later, however, realizing I needed to live my own life the way I wanted.
My story will continue in Chapter 2.

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