Archive for March, 2012

Well, his picture anyway!

I got an email from a Joel Tobman, an designer/engineer in Calgary, Alberta, concerning a photograph of Jack (C.E.) Wright (father of Curly and Rae Wright and Louise Wright Goff) that he’d found on this blog– click here to see the original. Joel wanted to use this picture of Jack in a photocollage for a movie they were making, and for which he is the Assistant Art Director. The photo was from the Mary Rackliff Etter collection, so after asking Mary’s daughters Helen and Jeannie about it, i went ahead and told him to use it.

After working with the other elements of the collage, Mr. Tobman said it looked like the photo would work– “Mr. Wright is definitely going to be in the movie, I bet he never would have imagined that!”

The movie, based on a true story of a family and community pulling together to rescue a pair of abandoned and snowbound horses (and just happening to contain the name of a Bear River family), has gotten a lot of press coverage, as you can see if you google its title. It will star Aidan Quinn. Here is the top article on the google list, from the Calgary Herald. The Horses of McBride looks like something i, for one, would love to see.

Some of the elements were “a photoshopped cabin from the Glenbow Archives, a background photo from our set location, some furs and a woodpile, and of course Mr. Wright (or Grandpa, as we like to call him since he would be our main character’s grandfather…).” Here is Jack, transported to Canada:


The photo of Grandpa from The Horses of McBride, courtesy Joel Tobman

I asked Mr. Tobman how we might get to watch the movie. He said it was airing around Christmas time on CTV, and suggested we go to www.ctv.ca to find out if there’s information about watching it online as December approaches.

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Here is a continuation of Grace Hunter’s memoirs, which i first posted on September 5, 2011–click on this link to read the introduction. Grace, daughter of George Walker Hunter and Ida Ellingwood Hunter, was born in 1895, so would’ve begun school around 1900 or 1901. At the end of that first post, she had just been writing about starting classes at the old Petrolia School, located near the site of the recent (and soon to be again) Yellow Rose Restaurant.


In each classroom was seated about 60 pupils. The teachers were very efficient and helpful, but very strict when it came to behavior—they each had a large whip they were forced to crack at times, but I’ve never known them to have to use it because the parents in those days knew the teachers to be fair and they cooperated.

The exams at the end of the year came sealed from the Superintendent’s Office in Eureka, so we had to be thorough in all lessons or else it wouldn’t only look bad for the child but for the teacher as well. If a pupil needed help, it was generally demonstrated on the blackboard which ran the length of the room behind the teacher’s desk, either by a pupil or the teacher. I remember three of the older girls had taken a large shoe box and made a doll house with cardboard and colored tissue paper. We could each have a look inside for one straight pin or three looks for a safety pin.

There were children from the following families in attendance: The George, Elias, and Johnny Hunters; Lucian and Marshall Wrights; William Clarks; Charles Johnstons; Jacob Dudleys; Fayette Titus’s; Martin and Albert Boots; Patrick O’Learys; Weaver Denmans; Charles Goffs; William Rudolphs; Fidel Guglielmini’s; William Belloni’s; ____ Saunders; Henry Duffs; James Harts; Frank Gouthiers; Levant Cooks and nephew and niece—the Fruits—who made their home with the Cooks. The families were large, mostly ranging from 8 to 12 children.

What a wonderful time they all had to gather on Fourth of July picnics, dances, parties, and midnight suppers in the Petrolia Knights of Pythian Hall. Mothers stayed up to finish making pretty tucked and ruffled dresses the evening before these occasions sometimes until two o’clock a.m. Dress goods at that time ranged from 10 cents to 25 cents per yard, stockings from 5 cents to 15 cents per pair depending on the size, shoes from 25 cents to $1.50.  Dress shoes, if you could afford them, were slightly more, hats were from 15 cents to 50 cents. Children’s underwear for most families were home-made from bleached flour and sugar sacks as were some curtains and pillowcases.

Most of the furniture was homemade—the chair seats laced with rawhide strips that our fathers had tanned from hides. The mattresses were made of strong ticking and filled each year with fresh straw and laid on hand-split boards. Feathers were always saved for pillows.

Long benches were placed on each side of a long table with a chair at each end.

The women’s blouses had long sleeves and high collars and were worn inside the skirt band—the long flared skirts stirred dust on the bare floors as the women walked. Petticoats were heavily ruffled at the bottom—their shoes were high-laced.

Because of the food my father George Hunter raised and the wild game and fish, it cost but $100 per year for flour, sugar, kerosene, coffee, and a few other necessities. Meat and fish they smoked, dried, salted, and canned. Two-quart jars with old-fashioned lids and rubber rings held the winter supply of food including jelly, jam, preserves, and fruit butters.

The Mattole Valley was beautiful in those days with the large painted farm houses with locust trees, moss and tea roses—including many old-fashioned shrubs and climbing vines. The heavenly aromas that came from the kitchens tickled the noses of anyone who chanced to be around. And the large orchards were beautiful and enchanting as we watched the blossoms and the baby birds in their nests among the branches—with their mouths wide open waiting for a worm from their mother. The songs of the many different birds were enchanting especially the meadow larks with their loud distinctive warble.

The barn was large and boasted a blacksmith shop at one end where us kids at times would work the billows to liven up the fire for our Dad so it would soften the metal he wished to hammer out and shape. The barn was our playground during winter weather—the rest of the year, we did what was needed to be done whether it was pulling mustard from the large oat field, picking wild berries, or cutting and stacking wood.

I remember distinctly my mother tying a large wooden dry goods box to a sled that my brothers Ray and Ira had hitched to a gentle mule and horse, and with my younger brother Donald and the twins, Russell and Blanche—who were then around one year old—placed in the box with our lunch and a bundle of diapers; and we were off for the day, the boys to cut and stack willow wood up the north fork and I to care for Donald and the twins while Mother, Levina, and Dora—the eldest—baked and cleaned house at home.

We learned responsibility young in those days for the families were large and there was much to be done and money was hard to come by. If we had holes in our shoes and patches on our clothes, we knew that many of our school mates had the same problem. Most of the boys went barefoot and the soles of their feet were as tough as leather. Our fathers had what it took to half sole and mend shoes and our mothers taught us early in life to darn stockings and socks and mend our clothes. We were always grateful for what they taught us. It gave us self-reliance for we were an ambitious bunch—when my two older brothers and I weren’t helping with those younger than ourselves or doing chores of some sort, we were making stilts, bows and arrows, sling shots, toy wagons, sleds and boats. Having no sisters close to my age, I became a real tomboy—I even learned to whistle fluently—which my mother didn’t approve of and she told me that “whistling girls and crowing hens always come to some bad ends” which in plain words meant unladylike.

When I was eight years of age, I contracted typhoid fever and pneumonia at the same time. Our local doctor stayed beside my bed for three days and nights while my life hung at a balance. After I passed the crisis the two school teachers and neighbor ladies took turns with mother for a short time. My sisters gave me rag dolls they had made and dressed, my brothers—with eager and happy smiles—gave me a whistle they had made from a willow branch. They said “Now Tis (my brother just younger than me couldn’t say Grace so Tis became my nickname for many years)… if you want something just blow the whistle.”

It was nothing to see from twenty to forty deer in one place and quail, robins, and blackbirds were so plentiful all you had to do was aim the shotgun at a bunch and you had enough meat for a family meal. Many times Dad found baby wild animals on the range that had lost their mothers, perhaps to a hungry wild animal, which he brought home and we fed, cared for and loved until they were old enough to fend for themselves. Then Dad insisted that their rightful place was with the other animals and we let them go. It didn’t take long to catch thirty trout in those days either.

Then there came an epidemic of diphtheria and a few people died. Two were Charles Goff’s daughters, Grace and Agnes. [1902- ed.] We saw Halley’s Comet with its long tail a few evenings and we thought it was really something to see. [1910-ed.]

There were times when we would all go with Dad in the spring wagon. Mother would make a large potato salad and sandwiches, put in a fry pan for trout and a bowl for wild strawberries. The boys would fish and the girls pick berries and a tasty lunch was served at one o’clock which was the time when Dad rode back on his saddle horse which he always tied behind the wagon when he had to ride the range and see that all was well with the stock and fences, whether it was near the mouth of the Mattole River or at Davis Creek near the beach farther north. Always our black trained Shepherd stock dog followed him. It was a sad day for us all when the dog was missing for a while and then we saw him laboring hard—blood was staining the water from his hindquarters and floating downstream. He had not only been a stock and watch dog, but our staunch friend and protector. He had been shot with a shotgun so badly that our father had to kill him to stop his misery. We all felt bitter toward a person who could do that to a dog that would hurt no one unless they hurt him or one of us.

It wasn’t long from that time that we moved from the large stock ranch to a small place across from the church where we lived for a few months until Mother and Dad bought Grandma Ellingwood’s 160-acre parcel called Shenanigan, four miles southeast of Petrolia, for around one thousand dollars. [This is now the John and Glenda Short place—ed.] My youngest brother, Lewis, was born there April 5th, 1906. Five days later we experienced a very hard earthquake. [This must have been the great San Francisco quake, which occurred on April 18, 1906. –ed.] It was early morning and daylight was showing outside. Mother had left the kerosene lamp burning low all night so that she could see to care for the baby. It crashed to the floor breaking the chimney. Dad jumped out of bed and grabbed the lamp fearing it might start a fire. He cut his bare feet on the broken glass in the struggle to keep his footing. After he reached the outside door and threw the lamp outside, he looked up and saw the large fir trees swing and their tops hit the ground first on one side and then the other. The beds with casters rolled over the bare floor with us in them, which tickled us afterward at the thought of it. In the old-fashioned narrow pantry, there were broken dishes, sugar, butter, bread and other things that happened to be on the shelves, all on the floor with milk and cream from six pans spilled over them.

The Petrolia school and a few other buildings tipped backwards so we had classes in the church until a new school house was built. The earth shook so hard the dirt from a cliff slid down and made a dam across the river and there were slides the width of the road.


There is more to come from Grace.


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