Sunday, October 24, 2010

Raymond E. Bennight History 1920-1929

I don't remember just when we got into Washington, but my sister, Barbara, was born on January 31, 1920 in Mendota, near Yakima, Washington. We eventually settled in Morton, Washington with another coal mine. This was a big operation and was mined on the hillside rather than on flat ground as in Missouri. The coal layers in this area were on a 15-degree slant. Dad and crew built a narrow gauge railroad up to the mine to haul the coal down to the bunkers to load into the mainline cars. The first time they tried out the new train, it ran away (the brakes failed) and everyone jumped off and let it crash. Then it was a big job to get things straightened out again. We had a good time there that spring and summer, but when school time came, we, the family, moved into Tacoma to live and go to school. I still remember the house and its number (712 South J St., Tacoma). I started school again in the first grade after several starts and moves. I was nine (9) years old by now and still in the first grade, but before long I was promoted to the third grade and to a grade more in keeping with my age. In Tacoma I began to do things around stores. I used my wagon to deliver groceries at 10 cents a delivery. In those days people didn't go to the store much, but would phone their order to a trusted merchant and have it delivered to the house. In those days all businesses delivered. I delivered papers here, too, and didn't care much for it so didn't get started again in other areas, but stuck more to store deliveries when possible. A brother, Parker, was born in Tacoma in 1922.

By 1923 our mine was pretty well worked out so we headed south to California and gold mining. Dad did hydraulic mining in the San Gabriel Canyon near Azusa, California. We lived in town. My sister, Constance, was born here on June 10, 1924. We pumped the gravel from the bottom of the river and ___separated the gold from the gravel in sluice boxes. This wasn't our greatest mine so we moved down to Rialto and started a grocery store. It was fun being here and playing in the orange groves. Our house was too small so Ogden and I got to sleep in a tent behind the house. We didn't get much sleep, but had a lot of fun. They had a row of eucalyptus trees around the orange groves to serve as a windbreak. Us boys tied a cable up in the eucalyptus trees and tied it to a small tree near the ground, then we would climb the tree and ride down on a pulley – a fast ride and a crashing stop in the dirt near the end of the cable. We got in trouble here when we built a small cabin to play in. That was ok, but then we dug a cave under the cabin and made a hole up through the dirt for a smoke stack and built a fire. The owner of the place saw smoke coming out of the ground and wasn't too happy about the 'hole' thing. So we got the job of tearing down the shack and filling the hole. By this time I am about 13 and we moved back to Oregon and a quicksilver mine at Yoncalla, Oregon, in 1925 and 1926. I'll always remember the old grapevine road from Los Angeles to Bakersfield. It was named The Grapevine because it was as crooked as a grapevine. It was more than a one-day trip in those days. It was narrow and steep. With boiling radiators and flat tires, it was some trip.

In Yoncalla I had a good time in the summer swimming in the old swimming hole near town. Seems like everyone went and had a swim and a picnic. I joined the Boy Scouts here for a while, the only chance I had in my boyhood. We soon moved out to the mine site and set up a furnace to ___roast the rock. Mercury in the rock was in the form of mercuric oxide or cinnabar and to get it out of the rock and in the form of quicksilver takes 8 or 9 hundred degrees of heat. So we built a big furnaceo this job and then, of course, the vapor had to be cooled quickly to condense it back to a liquid. Many problems with this operation and dangerous, too. Very, very poisonous.

My little brother, Parker, got diphtheria at the mine and died at only four years old.

From this mine we moved to Roseburg, Oregon and dad opened the Chrysler-Plymouth auto agency there when Plymouth first came out. The mining bug soon struck again, though, and we moved on to a platinum mine on “Jump off Joe” Creek near Grants Pass, Oregon. When it was time for school to start again, we moved into Grants Pass and I was a freshman in high school by now and 15 years old. When I was acquainted some I got a job downtown in a really large fountain, candy & sandwich shop. It was known as “Horning's Shack” and was far from being a “shack,” but was very nice and modern for its time (1928). I was bothering my dad to let me drive the car by now, but dad always said when you are old enough to drive, get a drivers license; that is, and have money to buy a car, then you can drive your own. When I was 16 I had saved up $165 and went to town and bought a 1923 Ford Coupe for $50, being too scotch to spend $90 for a really nice 1924 Dodge Roadster. But I had soon spent the $90.00 anyway, as the Ford developed a $40 ailment in the differential and I still had a Ford. I still to this day (1976) have the problem of buying someone else's troubles at a low price and fixing them up instead of getting the nice car and paying the price. But of course as the years passed I developed skills and know how in buying and repairing cars so I didn't get the worst of deals now.

January 9, 1929 my youngest brother was born, named James Donald Bennight. I am now 16 and the next youngest to Don was Connie, born in 1924. I worked for a couple of years at the fountain, where I was taught to make ice cream and candy and ____ mixed all the syrups for use in the fountain. Also I scrubbed the floors, washed the windows and changed window displays and waited on the customers. I used to take pride in taking as many as 8 orders in my head and get them all to the right person. When I first used ice cream we used a big wooden barrel looking freezer which would make five gallons at a time. It was powered by a water wheel, the water coming from the town water system and on into the drain. It did a good job, but the belts needed lots of repairing and someone always had to ____ram ice through the crusher and ice and salt the machine then take the finished ice creams out and put in another container and “set” on froze and a new batch started. In those days we used fresh fruit flavors and real 20 test cream. Really fattening. I also made the candy – peanut brittle, fudges, and all sorts of chocolate dips. In these days people ordered all kinds of strange names of drinks like a “___Green River” or a “Van Dyke,” so all kinds of cokes, cherry coke was very popular and milk chocolate, too. Of course, milkshakes, but sodas also, strawberry ice cream, soda extra good!

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