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Running for the Ferry

We were Dad’s rear view mirror coming down Fauntleroy Avenue.  On our knees, in the back seat of our 1949 Oldsmobile Super 88, only the 98 had a bigger engine.  Our Olds had a “whirl-a- way” gear that was triggered by a hidden button under the gas pedal.  When Dad tromped it, to pass or run a yellow light, our heads would snap back from the power of “whirl-a-way.”

We watched for cops out the rear window as Dad sped to catch the ferry.  It seemed that we were always late and when we reached the bottom of Lincoln Park, Dad would start honking his horn so the purser wouldn’t drop the gate and leave us behind.  

Dad never got a ticket while we were on duty in the back seat, that I can remember.  We would see the police car hiding up a side street, waiting for the commuters running for the ferry, and call out as Dad braked to the speed limit. You had to be quick in the eye to see them leave the curb and if you saw them turn on their flashing red light, it was too late for Herpicide.  Herpicide was an early treatment for baldness, whose advertising read: “If it’s too late for Herbicide, it’s too late.”  If we drove onto the dock and the gate was down, “it was too late for Herpicide.”

 I think Grandma Ollie kept a bottle of it for her thinning grey hair, some of which was due to us kids.  Grandma Ollie lived in a small white house at Cove and Mr. Paulson was her gardener.  She often commented on the amount of time Mr. Paulson spent, leaning on his shovel and told us kids that Herpicide was a cough medicine, but then, we didn’t always believe Grandma.

We often got off the school bus at Cove to visit Grandma, and walk the half mile home after.   “Come in kids, I have something terrible to tell you,” Grandma said.  She had a little white box in her hand and her little Chihuahua, Carmelita on her lap.  A gentle tug on the hem of Grandma’s dress would bring her charging with her teeth bared and a warning growl, making us kids laugh.

 “Oh, kids, there has been a terrible accident up by Mackey’s store,look what I found in the ditch.”
With that she lifted the lid of the box and sister Molly screamed at the sight of a bloody finger lying on a bed of cotton.  I was dumbfounded until I saw where Grandma Ollie had cut a hole in the bottom of the box and poured ketchup on her finger lying on the cotton.

Grandma Ollie had grown up on a farm in Palouse country south of Spokane and had four sisters, all of them capable of pulling pranks.  Aunt Florence had a cat, named Missy, who was so mean, she hid behind the curtains and jumped out to rake the nylons of any stranger.  “Oh, you nasty cat,” Aunt Florence would say.  

My grandmother’s other sister, Aunt Estelle married a moonshiner,named Ed Riley and they lived in the town of Rock Cut on the Kettle River.  Mom called it “rotgut”, possibly in reference to the quality of Ed’s liquor.  Ed was known as the “pole king” and made his money selling poles and boot legging liquor down from Canada, hidden in hollow logs. The train conductor was paid to drop the railroad car with the hidden liquor on a siding for later distribution.

I’ve met the man on Boulder Pass who pounded the bungs to seal the liquor in Uncle Ed’s hollow logs.

Ed was to bring liquor down to a party in Seattle and stopped at a coffee shop in Linden on his way.  He had a “great coat” that reached to his ankles and the booze bottles were hung on strings under his coat, when the feds came into the cafe and asked if he was Ed Riley. He said he was; so they asked Ed to stand up and they beat him with their billy clubs, until all the bottles were broken.

Every morning Dad drove lickety-split past Grandma’s house, running for the ferry so us kids could go to school in Seattle, Mike and Molly to Holy Rosary and me to Seattle Prep.  When we got to the series of s-curves on the main highway, Dad would drive straight thru them on both sides of the road to keep his speed up.  When we complained, he said: “Just straightening out the curves.”