Our Grandma Ollie was one of five daughters of a wheat farmer in the Palouse south of Spokane. Though she was married to a giant in the food distribution industry, she never shed the mischievous tricks that she and her sisters came up with, including the time she showed us a bloody finger she had retrieved from a car wreck on Cove Road, when it was her own finger that was sticking up from a white jewelry box in a bed of cotton and ketchup. She had cut a hole in the bottom of the box for her finger, just to fool us.
It was about 1952 and just before Halloween when she called us into her house where she had a large empty thread spool, a piece of string and a pencil. “Now, pay attention, while I build a Halloween noisemaker,” she said. And with that, she took a sharp knife and cut deep notches in both ends of the spool and wound the string around it. Shoving the pencil through the middle of the spool, she walked up to her big glass window and pushed the spool tightly against the glass while she pulled the string “sharply.” RATA-TAT-TAT! Echoed through the house, causing her little Chihuahua, Carmelita to bark like mad and we three kids broke out in hysteria at the wonder of Grandma Ollie’s Halloween trick-noisemaker.
We couldn’t wait for it to get dark so we could mask up and set out in great hopes of “booty” between our house and Grandma’s at Cove. Molly said she saw a bush of purple flowers waving in the field right above the road when it was just Mrs. Anderson bending over in her flowery dress to weed her garden in the oncoming dark. Kit Bradley was with Molly and Mike and I and we rattled some windows at the Wilske’s just because they weren’t home and snuck into Secor’s haunted house where the first thing we saw was a huge drum in a sink that had six-inch black-rubber pegs sticking out of it and was used to pluck chickens. It was running now and making a great noise as we approached the “Curtain of Death”where you poked your hands through holes in the black cloth to feel a bowl full of the eyes of “dead pigs” (boiled eggs) and with the other hand you felt the brains of a dead cow, (a bowl of wet spaghetti), it was enough to scare the “you-know-what” out of superman! Ed Secor was a little older than we were and was up on the chicken house roof in a black witches outfit, screeching arias from the underworld. We knew it was Ed because he was always practicing his opera-singing and could be heard a half mile away when the wind was just right.
Dean Miller was a Native American from the Ozarks and lived at the top of the Heights Hill with his wife Dorothea and their adopted daughters. They were very sophisticated children from the camps of WWII in Austria or Germany. One daughter told my Sister Molly that while they were imprisoned, her brother had painted a board with black and white keys, so that she could practice her piano. Their adopted father, Dean was well liked all over Vashon and had built their beautiful house out of the lumber from our Great-grandfather Mattson’s house on the hill above Portage.
Dave Church talks about pulling an outhouse out of the berry fields west of town and setting it right in the middle of Bank Road. That same year, a group of tricksters moved a buggy to the top of the wooden awning over the front of the Hardware Store, right beside the WWII fire siren.