Grandma and Grandpa

March 19, 2020

Grandma and Grandpa lived in a very humble house on South Johnson in Pocatelo.  As you entered their home, you entered the living room.  Grandpa's desk was to your right, and the door to their bedroom on the left.

The couch was next to Grandpa's desk, and across from it an old console hi-fi (short for High Fidelity - that was the big word for a record player).  On top of it, a small black and white TV.

Next to their bedroom was a bathroom that also joined the living room and a second bedroom.  (Yes, there were 3 doors to the small bathroom.)  It had a claw-foot tube, sink and toilet.  No vanity, just a medicine cabinet above the sink.f

The 2nd bedroom had a door that went to the "sewing room".  It was really the mudroom off the back porch.  The back porch was converted in to a small bedroom on the left, and a screened-in porch on the right.

The floor of the back porch opened to expose the cellar stairs.  Downstairs was a makeshift closet that was Uncle Allen's "club house".  Under the stairs was Grandpa's tool bench.  The rest of the basement had the coal bin, coal burning furnace and a few shelves where Grandma kept food she preserved.

The coal bin seemed HUGE to me and I always wished I could go in and play in the mountain of coal.  Of course, Grandma wouldn't appreciate a coal-black little boy getting everything dirty, so I didn't.

Their backyard sloped downward to the alley.  About 1/3rd was grass and fruit trees, another 1/3rd Grandpa's garden, and the final part an old garage that sat boarded up for years.  It was a mystery to me for many years.

The front yard was small, and when weather permitted, we'd spend time on the porch in old metal clam-shell chairs.  Everyone would stop and talk to Grandpa.  It seemed like everyone knew him, and he knew everyone, and everyone loved him.  Even years after his death, people remembered "Old Joe Knowles" in Pocatello.

About Them as People

Grandpa was 77 years old when I was born, so he was already over 80 in my recollections of him.   He was a loving, gentle giant.  He could be stern when he wanted to, and he didn't take guff from anyone, yet, I never saw him act aggressive towards anyone.  Even when the Jehovah's Witnesses would annoy him, he'd stand there and quote scripture after scripture to them without ever having to crack open his Bible.

Grandma was 21 years his younger.  She as short 5'2" compared to Grandpa's 6'1".  She had a good sense of humor, better than Grandpa's.  She made the best bread in the world, as well as the best jams and jellies.  But when it came to the meat, Grandpa was boss because he was a butcher in his younger days (he and his brother owned a butcher shop).

Grandpa worked as a butcher, and then went to work as an engineer with Union Pacific.  Divorced from his first wife, he married Grandma who had two daughters from her first marriage.  Grandpa had a daughter who lived with his exwife and her parents down in Utah.  Together they had three more children:  Shirley, Joyce (my mom) and Allen.

After retiring from Union Pacific, they ran a small grocery store out of the house they had before the South Johnson home.  My earliest recollections of Grandpa was that he liked his garden, his apricot tree, taking walks, visiting with people along the way, and volunteering at the Bishop's Storehouse.

Grandma liked baking bread, preserving fruit (goosberries, chokecherries, apricots, strawberries, raspberries are the ones I remember vividly), knitting, crocheting, and embroidery.  I don't think there were any linens in the house that didn't have her beautiful embroidery work.  All the dressers were topped with crocheted doilies. All the chairs and couches covered with her quilts and/or afghans. 

Both of them read a lot.  When I was a teen it cracked me up that Grandma would read romance novels.  Grandpa, on the other hand, seemed to read more for learning about things.  

What I enjoyed to do most with Grandpa is going on walks.  We'd walk to get our haircut.  Sometimes we would go to Woolworth's to buy hot cashews which would be devoured on our walk back home.  Other walks were to check on his friends, most of whom ended up dying before he did.  (This acquainted me with death at a young age.)  

My time with Grandma was playing with bread dough or pie dough as she'd bake.  She'd let me make stuff with the pie dough and she'd sprinkle sugar and cinnamon on them and bake them for me.  She had a magic touch with it came to pie crust, bread, jams and jellies.

I remember when we left Idaho for California.  I don't think I ever saw Grandpa so sad. With tears in his eyes, he handed mom a package wrapped in newspapers and told her she couldn't open it until we got to California.

The package was his butcher's knife and cleaver.  He died a couple of months after we moved. 

Grandma lived in the house for many years until her children convinced her to move in to a smaller apartment.  She moved around the corner in to a house that had been converted in to apartments.

She'd visit us each year, and in between visits we'd call her.  Back then long distance calls were costly so mom timed the amount of time we got to speak with grandma.  I looked forward to those calls so much.

The last time I saw Grandma was when Mom, Dad, Mark and Grandma dropped me off at the Salt Lake Missionary Home in August, 1976.

While on my mission Grandma would write me every week.  When I had been out about 6 months she mentioned she was having pain in her abdomen.  About a year later, they discovered she had cancer.  She passed away in July of 1978 -- a month before my mission was over.

The mission present gave me a choice of staying on my mission or leaving early so I could attend her funeral.  With tears in my eyes, I said, "No, I'm going to stay.  It's what my Grandma would want me to do."

They were among the most honorable people I ever knew.  Both of them were spiritual giants.

I'll talk more about them as I write about my childhood experiences.

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