Name: Vivian Ruth Ayers (Hofto)
Your history in Issaquah/How long lived here, etc.:
If you moved to Issaquah, why did you choose it?
Father to work in the mine
Issaquah or area school(s) attended:
1st , 2nd, 3rd grades – started 1916
We moved to Issaquah from Black Diamond, WA. In 1914, a family of six. George D. Ayers and wife Jane Dunn Ayers and four children. Twins George and William, a daughter Vivian Ruth and a baby Arthur Clifford.
The house was located in town next to a brick building (telephone or electric) ? This house and the one next door were old and the wood was weathered and black and had a metal gate between them. The porch was right on the board walk and had a slat fence all along. I remember the gate because I used to try to get out to follow my father when he went off to work. We couldn’t get off the front porch either because of the slat fence a foot above the walk.
We hadn’t lived there very long before father found a four room house with a bath house at the top of the hill behind the mine. We were in the woods the last house on the hill before the houses were built down the hill on the left side. They were on a bank and had steps from the road to get up on the ground to the houses. We learned a lot there as there were so many wild animals, many bugs and bees.
One day I saw a skunk and her babies walking up the path that led to the “outhouse”. I started to run to pick up a “kitten”, but my father was putting wire up for a chicken yard, and he came and picked me up and said, “Those are skunks and we don’t want to bother them or we’ll get more of their “perfume”. We already had enough from them getting under the house where father had a small root cellar. He had to try to get rid of them.
Then the weasels discovered the chickens, we would find many on the chicken house floor all died a horrible death. But finally some of the weasels were caught in traps.
Father always loved a nice garden and beautiful flowers. So the path to the “out house”, which was always scrubbed thoroughly each week, had flowers both sides of the path.
The twins were always thinking of something to do, so one day I saw them cupping their hands over a flower then they would open their hands above their heads and a bee would fly out. Well, I thought that would be fun for me, so I finally got a bee on my palm but I clamped my other palm on top of the bee. So — I learned a bee can be mean. Mother put soda on it.
A huge patch of “stinger nettles” six foot high were growing in a space on the other side of the house. William found out that they sting and hurt, so he picked a branch and ran to the swing where neighbor children were playing with us. He stung all of us and I ran into the house crying, Mother came out picked a branch and stung William and he learned a lesson that day.
Our Father didn’t want more trouble with that patch so he dug the roots out and planted a nice vegetable garden there.
Father found a nice bungalow down the hill from the mine. There were about ten of them all painted tan. They had no porch, just three steps and you went right in the door. A fence was mailed to the board side walk with a gate for each house. I had a room, a small one between the two bedrooms. Today that room would be a bathroom. The bath house and outhouse were in the back. Ours was the second house coming up the hill on the left side. Joey Hinds or Hines lived in the first and the Buckholtz lived on the other side of us, the third house. Up next to the bungalow, there was a new family who moved in and their name was Goodwin , had a son and daughter.
On the other side of the street some of the houses were painted white or gray and some had steps that led up a little bank from the board walk to their houses. Names of some those people were – Tuttle – Darby – Parker, and Lee.
I was about five now and noticing everything and about ready to go in the first grade. This lady named Mrs. Lee had to go down to the store so she asked if I would stay with her baby and she would hurry back. I remember the baby, Annabelle cried the whole time her mother was gone. I made funny faces, patted her on the head, to no avail. So that was my first job, baby sitting.
One day Joey Hines, Clifford and I were playing out in the road, suddenly we heard a clopping sound and a lot of noise. Mother heard it too, so she ran out and brought us into the yard and fastened the gate. Then we saw two large horses coming over the top of the hill. They must have been frightened or broke loose from the coal wagon because they had the harness on. As they reached our area, one stumbled and the other screamed and screamed and fell on top of the other. All you could see was legs flying in the air and that awful screeching. I’ll never forget those poor horses. They had to shoot both of them. I know that that is why I’ve always been frightened of horses. I can only watch the races on T.V. I can’t stand to hear them neigh, but I love to paint horses by photographs or if they are far enough away and fenced.
Florence Parker who lived across the street from us, asked my mother if she could take me to school. So mother put my nice new velvet dress on me and a big hair ribbon to match and my new patent leather slippers. I was so happy to go to school – but I was a little disappointed because the desk was so high I couldn’t see sitting beside her, so I crunched down and peeked out underneath. We have her “graduation exercises” card 1919. Then they were moving away and she called me over to her house and gave me the cutest little German made doll that she had played with on the seashore in England. It had sand and seashells in the box and my mother let me play with it – but I had to always put it back in the box. I’m so glad our mother taught us to appreciate anything given to us as it is a fine antique about a hundred years old now.
William and George loved to fish in the creek and they brought some nice trout for mother to fry in the big cast iron fry pan. I have never liked the smell of fish and I would only eat the crispy tails.
Some of the neighbors would join us for a picnic at the creek. One lady had been to Seattle and had purchased some new cookies I had never seen. She asked me if I would like to have one. Of course, I was glad to say yes. They were large pink marshmallow with white coconut on top. The boys gobbled theirs up, but I just took tiny nibbles really enjoyed it.
Our father worked on one of the schools, but I don’t know which one.
George and William had already been in school before me, so I don’t know their first and second grade teachers names – I caught up to them when they were in third grade. They missed many classes, if one got sick – the other one did so they were home a lot.
I was so happy to go to school and I liked my teacher in first grade. Her name was Miss Mae Master. She always had a nice smile and a nice white blouse and dark skirt.
When I passed into second grade, the teacher seemed older, I think she wore a hair net on her head, but I liked her too. One day when we came in from recess, my hands were cold, so I put them up under my armpits and went to my seat and sat down. Soon I heard her tap a ruler on her desk and said, “Ruth stand up! Why do you have your hands like that? You look like a kangaroo!”
The third grade teacher’s name was Miss Sterling and she was very pretty and had such a nice disposition. She gave my brothers each a nice little book and me a nice etching of a deer in the woods. Mother had us keep them nice, so I just sent them to my niece and nephew for their grandchildren. The gifts are antiques now.
Those first three grades with such good teachers were the start of my art career, as I used to have some of my work put up on the board. I remember how they liked a bowl of pansies I painted. I think another girl used to draw, her name was Margaret McQuade.
The school piciures have many classmates I remember. Here they are – Agnes Hall, Doty Berry, Esther Garner, Ellen Bloomquist or Brumquist, Limpey ?, Margaret McQuade, Albert Jenson and there were three Muglot boys John – Frank and Ed.
The butcher was another one who really helped me in my art career. When my father would go grocery shopping he generally took me along. He would go to the butcher shop and the butcher always gave me a weiner and a large piece of butcher paper to draw on. I wish I knew his name. But I would draw lines across and others down the paper, so I had all squares. I would draw flowers or parts of animals or my own hand and etc., in each square. I always did this until my adult life.
We didn’t have buses to take us to school. We all had to walk, even through high school. There were two ways for us to walk to school. One was to walk down the mine road over a sort of bridge of logs with gravel on it. There must have been a small stream of water from the side hill and it made a soft spot there so they put that bridge like road in so the wagons or horses could go over it. They do that on all logging roads. Mr. Kettle, the mine boss lived on that hillside on the left. My father used to plant his vegetable garden and the potatoes. After passing his house we would go on down to the park and turn right to our school.
Sometimes we couldn’t go that way because the gypsies were camped in the park, so we were told to go the other way, which was to go up the mine hill past all the tan bungalows, turn left and go down a rocky steep path behind the houses.
One day William didn’t walk on the board walk, but ran out on the grassy field, all at once he was gone. We called and ran back, then we heard him calling for help, he had fallen through the grass into a mine shaft. We ran around trying to find someone. Luckily a man had just come out of his house, he soon found men who went into the mine and brought William out, all bruised and frightened. He was home for a week and we were all late for school that day.
We were always in plays and all of the students loved it. Our mother had to make all the costumes for me. I was to be in a Swedish part of a play, so my mother had to make a Swedish costume by a picture they had her copy. She took me with her to Mr. Coutts’ store to buy the material. I think my folks bought clothes there too. I think it was located further down the street on the left side.
When mother needed some small item she would ask me to go to the store. I was about six and a half or seven and my mother needed some butter and asked me to go for it. Clifford and I had been seeing things in her jewelry box and had our little fingers in a pearl ring when she called “get a wiggle on, I need butter”. So we went down the hill and over the trestle to the boardwalk about a foot off the walk so we had to climb up on the old boards, the ring fell off our fingers and fell through a big open crack. Some men standing there by a barber shop asked us what we were looking for, we were in tears – but they tore the boards off – but said they couldn’t find the ring. So we went on to the grocery store and by then Clifford said he was hungry. I saw big barrels all around the room and peeking into one I found crackers so I stood on tip toe and brought a cracker to give him. Soon I heard footsteps and a loud gruff voice said, “What are you doing stealing my crackers? I’m going to tell your dad.” I learned another lesson that day.
My father took me to a jewelry store to buy me a ring and the man’s name was Wilfong. He sold my dad a sapphire ring and when we got home – my mother said I was too young for a nice sapphire ring. That week we went to my grandparents in Black Diamond and over Tiger or Cougar Mountain I can’t remember, and we saw an animal jump up over a log. My father called out, “A timber wolf”. It was a beautiful big animal. But when we arrived at grandma’s house some of my cousins were there, so I started to move my hands across my grandfathers well trimmed boxwood hedge to show my ring, but it fell off into the hedge. Everyone came out to look for it, but we never found it. The hedge is still there, but almost as tall as the house. So mother was right I was too young to have a ring like that.
I remember our Mother mentioning a Mr. Hoover and about shortages of food, sugar especially because we didn’t have sugar to put on our rolled oat mush at breakfast.
Then Father was very ill and nearly died with that awful flu during the World War One. Many people died as it spread over the nation.
One day Father came home from the mine with his hands all burned, there had been a fire in the mine. The Doctor ordered “Oil of Salts”, and it did cure the burns, but it seemed oil of salts was used on everything after that. It was an oil, a pale yellow color. I never hear of it any more.
Now people are rejoicing because the war is over and they wanted to celebrate. Someone knew that Clifford had a soldier suit, so they bandaged his leg and arm, put a patch over a fake wound on his head, put him in a stretcher with four men carrying it down the street through some stores then back up to the park. They had already made a big bonfire ready to light when all the people finally circled the area as they had a man made of straw. It was Kaiser Wilhelm. They started the bonfire and that was the end of the Kaiser Wilhelm.
Father was a fire boss in the mine, so he must have had a job offer in Newcastle. We had a brand new Moore 30 car maroon red color and it could really climb the hills, everyone liked it.
Our house had five rooms plus a pantry, a wash house, outhouse, chicken coop, a garage and a barn. So we had chickens, pigeons, a cow and her calf. Some times the milk would have a skunk cabbage flavor so we had to go up in the field and chase them away from that wet area.
There were many Swedish and Norwegian, Italian and Irish near us. Some of the names were, Berg, Jakobson, Wickman, Anderson, Olson, Rask, Rounds, and Belmondo, Evans, Murphy, and others such as Niemi, Radman and Jensen and Isaccson. Many of these went to Seattle and became well known there. These were all on the hill above the mine. Others like the Fee’s, the Flick’s, etc. were on a street near town. A black boy who lived near town where Ida and Joe Biamo lived and there were others who came from that area, a nice looking black girl whose name was Nellie. Her mother kept her dressed so neat and nice in a white blouse and dark skirt. The boys name was Freddie Venetti.
Our fourth grade teacher’s name was Miss Pierce and the fifth grade teachers name was Mrs. Guillespi.
I really liked that school grounds they even had the girls baseball team – and we ran relay races. So many things outside.
Miss Pierce had me in a play at The Moore 30 in Seattle. It was Madame Butterfly. They had my hair all swirled Japanese style on top of my head, chopsticks in my hair. But I had big eyes so they took tape and pulled the lids back and put powder on to cover the tapes. I had a real pretty blue kimono. I sang Japanese Sandman. We had to be in a play at some place in Seattle a Metropolitan or some name like that. It was fun.
The Newcastle mine had a miner’s bathhouse. A long gray building with many stalls. There were some days they let the women and children go there to bathe. I was asked to go with a friend and her mother. I wasn’t used to bathing that way. We always had a large galvanized tub in the hot room and water from a boiler on the stove.
There was a large pond down by the mine and some of the boys would go there to swim. But when we moved to Uniontown we walked up the railroad track to a Lake Boren. We always called it Lost Lake. We heard a train had fallen in the lake years ago. When we were diving for cold cream jars, they were white, so we could see them, we saw a lot of iron things in the muddy bottom and a big bell like they had on old trains.
The mine was on strike so houses were built below Newcastle and the town was called Uniontown. That was the first time I had heard of commissary a place where food was doled out to the families. So we ate beans, I remember how to take the little rocks out of the beans. We had to eat many cans of salmon, sardines and etc. Luckily our father had a nice garden full of good vegetables and potatoes.
Our school wasn’t far from home there, and there were several grades in one big room with a tall pot bellied stove in the room. A long black board on one side. I can’t remember that teachers name, but she was a bit older than others we had. She had a hand bell she would ring to call us into the classroom.
That is where we had to hop over a tiny little sliver of water where a garter snake tried to bite at you. He never left that spot.
Matt Lux and wife Nellie and my folks used to go somewhere to purchase tomatoes by a big apple box full so they could can them. They had two children, a daughter Helen and son Bobbie. They moved to Renton and Bobbie became quite a fine bowler.
When there was nothing to do, a group of youngsters would walk all the way to the Coal Creek Road that went on down the hill into Renton. Where our road met the Coal Creek Road, there was always fresh washed gravel, put on our road to Newcastle, that is where we would find all kinds of agates – in just a few minutes. We were lucky there weren’t many people traveling at that time.
My Father used to take me with him to buy strawberries on a farm where Bellevue is now such a nice town. The Newcastle, Kirkland, Kennydale and etc. had a get together every so often. I was there once and they all remembered me, but also my father taught them baseball and they remembered Mom’s good cookies.
From Uniontown we went on to Mine Five between Roslyn and Cle Elum. We went to seventh and eighth grades there and only about three blocks to school. About three grades in a large room with a huge pot bellied stove in the middle of the room. We had to pass a state exam in order to go to high school in Cle Elum three or more miles away. We all passed and enjoyed that school, but it was hard when I was put into schools one-act plays etc. One of my brothers had to stay to walk home at night. It was generally dark at 4:30 during the winters and a lot of snow and coyotes howling around us. It was quite scary. I won many contests making posters for the town and some of the merchants had me draw a lily or something for their advertising pages. I got fifty cents each.
We would come over to Sumner to pick berries at my Uncle’s place by the river to buy our school clothes.