My Uncle Edward J. Blanton died on 2 April 2013 in Nevada. He had been in a Rehab facility for a few weeks, having been diagnosed with congenital heart disease. He had just celebrated his 95th birthday on Valentine’s Day. Ed was my mother’s only brother. I have a hunch his two sisters were on hand to welcome him with open arms on the other side.
Ed was born in Henryetta, Okmulgee, Oklahoma, where his dad, Joshua Blanton, was a coal miner and his mother, Lily Mackey Blanton, ran a boarding house. About 1925, when Ed was 7 years old, they moved to Colorado, stopping first in Canon City and then by 1926 they settled in Nederland, a small mountain community in Boulder County just west of Boulder. In addition to Joshua’s work as a coal miner, the family also ran the local movie theater. Joshua was projectionist, Lily played the piano during the silent movies, Ed’s two sisters Evelyn and Connie ran the concession stand, and Ed, watched the movies from the front row where his mother could keep her eye on him.
By 1928, the family left Nederland and moved to Longmont, Boulder County, Colorado and Joshua took a mining job in nearby Superior. They rented a house at 614 Gay Street, and all the children attended Longmont schools. But Joshua wasn’t satisfied with the job in Superior and wanted to move his family again. However, this time Lily put her foot down. He could leave, but the family would stay. And that is what happened.
Times were tough and Lily worked very hard to keep food on the table and a roof over their heads by working as a practical nurse and being a seamstress. Evelyn graduated from high school in 1928 and immediately married my father, Harry Sherman, leaving only two children at home. By 1932, Lily, Connie and Ed had moved to Boulder and were living at 1140 Pearl Street. About 1934, Connie married Bud Plunkett. Now Ed was the only one left at home.
Ed married his high school sweetheart, Maxine Lamb, in 1937 in Boulder. I recall a time in June 1938 when my mother had just given birth to my youngest brother and I was staying in Boulder with my grandma Lily and Ed and Maxine were also living with her and Maxine was expecting their first child, a daughter. By 1943 when their second child, a boy, was born they were living in Cheyenne, Wyoming, and their other two children (another girl and boy) were born there as well.
At Christmas in 1948, Ed and Maxine and their three children drove to Denver to spend the holidays with family. Maxine was pregnant with their fourth child. Either on New Year’s Day or the day after they started driving home to Cheyenne. Snow was predicted, but they had no way of knowing just how severe the storm was going to become north of Denver. They stalled out somewhere south of the Wyoming-Colorado border and I think they spent at least one night at a small roadside cafe. In those days, we had no TV’s, no cell phones, and no instant communication. All we knew in Denver knew was that they weren’t answering their home phone in Cheyenne and we had to assume they were caught in the midst of the storm. So all we could do was worry. Fortunately, all turned out well for them. More information about this storm is available on the internet. Maxine was returned to Denver by bus so she could be examined by a doctor to make certain that she and the baby were okay. They were and he was born in February.
It was in the early 1950s when they returned to Colorado and lived in the Denver area. In 1953 when I gave birth to my son, Ed and Maxine graciously kept our daughter during my weeklong hospital stay. During those days, Ed always seemed to have a camera in his hand, taking photos at all of the family gatherings.
I have one keen memory of Ed that involved his willingness to teach me how to pull and park a 29 foot travel trailer I was planning to take to Southern California in 1978. Ed and Maxine had enjoyed traveling about the country either pulling a trailer or driving a motor home. The trailer I now owned belonged to my parents after they retired. I had visited them a few times when they were wintering in the south and had this notion that it would be great fun to live in the trailer on my own . . . before retirement. My dad had died, so I asked Ed to teach me the basics. He very patiently taught me how to securely attach the trailer to the car, how to hook up to the utilities at an RV park and how to empty the holding tank when necessary. Then one Sunday he had me pull the trailer to a nearby shopping center (in those days stores were not open on Sunday) and he did his best to teach me how to park the trailer, an act that required more coordination than I could handle. Every time I wanted to go one direction, the trailer went the opposite. Finally, he suggested that I always ask for a pull-through space when staying at an RV park. Our final lesson involved me renting a space at an RV park just west of Denver to “practice” all I had learned. One evening the winds became so intense that I spent the night fully clothed in case I had to evacuate. But, all in all, Ed assured me I had passed the final exam and was ready to head west to California.
In 1979 after enduring an unusually severe winter in Denver, Ed and Maxine, Evelyn (my mother) and Maxine’s mother decided to leave Colorado and head to a warmer climate. After visiting several locations, they decided on Boulder City, Nevada, a short distance from Las Vegas. They purchased mobile homes near each other. Ed loved to play craps at the Las Vegas casinos. However, Maxine and Evelyn were more eager to play the slot machines and bingo. At first Ed wasn’t interested in playing bingo, but over the years that changed. Another favorite activity was dining at the local all-you-can-eat-buffets.
People usually love to visit Las Vegas, so over the years, Ed and Maxine had many friends and family who stopped by to visit and to gamble. They were always gracious hosts. Theirs was a good life, lived to the very fullest. Ed and Maxine celebrated their 75th wedding anniversary in 2012.
My great grandfather, James William Sherman, was born on 8 Sept. 1852 in Sinclair County, Illinois to Horace A. Sherman and Martha A. Leach Sherman. Horace and Martha already had two children (Lyman, born about 1848 and Emma born in 1850).
In 1855 the family moved to Bonaparte, Van Buren, Iowa. It was there that J. W.’s father Horace died 3 Nov 1856. He is buried in the Bonaparte Cemetery. At the time of Horace’s death, Martha was pregnant with her fourth child, John H., who was born in 1857 while the family still resided in Bonaparte.
According to an obituary for John Besecker, he married J. W.’s mother, Martha, a widow with three children (James, John and Emma), in 1859 in Van Buren County, Iowa. No information has been uncovered regarding the death of Lyman. John was about 16 years older than Martha. Approximately June 1860 Martha gave birth to Adele Besecker in Van Buren County, Iowa. The 1860 census shows them living in Farmington, Van Buren County, IA and lists John at age 48 (a miller by trade) and Martha (age 32) as having been married within the last year. Emma is 10, James W. 8, John H. 3, and Adele is 1 mo. Later that year, Emma died at age 10 (cause of death unknown) and is buried in the Bonaparte Cemetery (possibly next to other members of her family).
The 1870 census shows J.W. 17, J.H. 13, and Adele 10 living with John Besecker (age 61) in Van Buren County, IA. Sometime in the late 1860s Martha died and is buried in the Bonaparte Cemetery according to a photo of her gravesite at http://iowagravestones.org /gs_view.php?id=8883. Unfortunately, the photo doesn’t clearly show the death date.
According to their marriage certificate, on19 Feb 1874 in Farmington, Iowa, J.W. married Jennie A. Brooker. She was born 13 June 1856 to Joseph and Maria Stewart Brooker, in Farmington, Van Buren, Iowa. She had eight siblings. On 10 Mar 1875 J. W. and Jennie’s first son Joseph A. was born, possibly in Bonaparte, IA. According to the Biographical and Historical Record of Clarke County, Iowa, that same year J.W. and his brother J. H. purchased an interest in the Leon, Iowa Reporter in partnership with G. N. Udell. In the spring of 1876, J. W. and J. H. sold their interest to Udell and bought an interest in the Democratic newspaper in Newton, Jasper County, Iowa. In 1877 they sold this interest and established The Journal in Bonaparte, Iowa. By this time, both brothers were living in Bonaparte and this is where Leonard Farr Sherman, my grandfather, was born on 1 Dec1878 to J. W. and Jennie.
In 1879 they moved to Osceola, Clarke County, Iowa and purchased The Osceola Democrat. At that time the Democratic vote of Clarke County was only about 400, and the paper was scarcely known outside the office of publication. By hard and diligent work the party vote was increased to about 1,000 by 1886 and the paper given standing and reputation among leading democrats of the State and County, and placed on a paying basis.
The 1880 census shows James W. (printer, age 27) living in Osceola, Clarke County, IA with Jennie, 24, Joseph A. 5, Leonard F. 1, and J.W.’s brother John H. 24.
On 28 Feb1885, daughter Laura M. was born in Osceola. In June of that year J. W. received the appointment of postmaster at Osceola, taking possession of the office 11 July1885. At that time J. H. was at Kansas City, Missouri, assisting in the management of a wealthy corporation, but a few weeks later he returned home and assumed control of The Democrat so J. W. could give his full attention to the duties of postmaster. Politically the Sherman brothers were always staunch Democrats–always ready and willing to do any honorable service for the party, and to contribute of their means to its success.
According to a warranty deed on file in the Osceola courthouse, on 5 Dec 1887 Jennie and J. W. purchased property for $1,050 from Henry and Lucy Stivers in the City of Osceola, known as 205 S. Jackson in 2002. They sold this property five years later on 25 Feb 1892 and purchased another home at 613 S. Fillmore.
On 7 June1890, J. W. and Jennie’s last child was born at Osceola, Iowa–a son, Harry B.
The 1895 Iowa census for Clarke County lists the family in Osceola: JW 44, Post Master subject to military duty and entitled to vote in general election; Jennie 40; Joe 19, printer subject to military duty and entitled to vote, Leonard 19; Laura 10; Harry 4. All were Baptists. John 38, Publisher, who had not yet married, was listed with the Boylen family (Chapin, Phebe and Julie).
Between 1896 and 1898 there were a few more real estate transactions for both J. W. and Jenny and Joseph. Then in 1898 Joseph enlisted in the 51st Iowa Infantry and served in the Philippines until Nov 1899. He saw active service in clearing the rebel strongholds, making the first inroads into the interior along the Dagupan railway. Unfortunately, he absorbed a malarial poison while serving there.
Sometime before 1900, Leonard F. met Dora Leona Householder, who lived in adjoining Lucas County in the town of Chariton. Dora was about two years younger than Leonard.
By 1900 J.W.’s brother John (age 43) had married Nellie A. Delk (age 24) and they moved to Shelby County, Nebraska where they were both listed as photographers in the 1900 census. About the same time J. W. and family headed for Colorado because of the poor health of Joseph and other members of the family. For some reason they stopped off in Kansas City, Mo according to the 1900 census that shows J. W. (49), Jennie (42), Joseph (25), Leonard (21), Laura (15), and Harry B. (9) in Kansas City, MO where they rented a house. J.W. was foreman of a printing office, Joseph was doing composition work (possibly at the same newspaper), and Leonard was a day laborer. Jennie was at home and Laura and Harry were students.
According to an obituary for Joseph A., (25-1/2) he and his mother were on their way to Colorado from Kansas City, Missouri (not sure why they weren’t with the rest of the family), when Joseph became too ill to continue. They stopped in Hutchinson, Reno County, Kansas at the home of Jennie’s brother, W. H. Brooker where Joseph died. He was a Knight of Pythias and they handled the funeral. He is buried at Maple Hill Cemetery in Osceola, Iowa per his obituary.
Sometime between 1900 and 1903 J. W. and Jennie and their remaining three children moved to Rocky Ford, Otero County, Colorado. They most likely traveled to Colorado by train.
Evidently, Dora and Leonard carried on their romance long distance between Iowa, Missouri and Colorado, by mail, until Dora traveled to Colorado (most likely by train) and they were married at Rocky Ford, Otero, Colorado on 4 Nov1903. Their marriage certificate lists his place of residence as Rocky Ford and hers as Chariton, Iowa, indicating she did not live in Colorado prior to their marriage.
Leonard and Dora’s first child, a son William, was born on 31 Oct 1904 and he died in Rocky Ford on 26 Feb1905. Obituary says he died Friday night, aged 3 months and 24 days, of spinal meningitis. The funeral was held from the Sherman home on South 5th Street most likely in Rocky Ford, Sunday afternoon at 2 o’clock.
Laura died in Rocky Ford on 28 March 1905 of pulmonary tuberculosis contracted while still in Iowa (probably from her brother). Family was living at 327 So. 6th, Rocky Ford and she is buried in Osceola.
About this time Leonard and Dora moved to Lamar, Colorado, where their daughter Dorothy was born on 17 June 1907. Dora’s parents, John and Margaret Householder, had just moved from Iowa to Lamar to be closer to Dora and Leonard. On 5 Sept 1907 Jennie died of a gastric ulcer that hemorrhaged. She too is buried in Osceola, Iowa. At the time of her death, she and J. W. were still living at 327 So. 6th in Rocky Ford. The death certificate indicates she had been living at this address for five years prior to her death, which most likely means this was their first home after moving to Rocky Ford.
As I write this, I wonder if all these deaths prompted Leonard and Dora to leave southeastern Colorado and move north to Longmont where my father, Harry K. Sherman was born on 5 Jan 1908. Or were they trying to put some distance between them and their parents.
According to J. W.’s obituary published in an Osceola, Iowa newspaper, he was living in Calhan, El Paso, Colorado in 1909 where he purchased a Calhan newspaper. The 1920 census shows J. W. living with a Sarah, his second wife, in Calhan where he was editor of a newspaper.
In 1926 J. W. was again a widower (though no proof of Sarah’s death), his health was failing and he was totally deaf according to his granddaughter Katherine Burch. He moved to Longmont to live near Leonard and Dora and family. J. W. died on 25 Nov1927 from uremia, nephritis and arterial sclerosis. His death certificate and obituary indicate he was living at 229 Alta Street in Longmont at the time of his death. However, there does not seem to be any record of this address existing. He too is buried in Osceola, Iowa.
Most genealogists live for the moment when they can find information of an ancestor that is noteworthy. This story has been that moment for me. I first heard of this story from my mother’s cousin and have done my best to confirm its authenticity.
My great, great, great, great grandfather Charles Mackey fought in the Revolutionary War under General Francis Marion. This is supposedly a true story about an incident that took place in 1781 during the War. Online accounts of Marion’s battles track with this information although there is no record of this particular incident or any mention of Charles Mackey. My great, great, great, great grandmother Lydia Isom Mackey used to tell this story to her grandchildren, one of whom was James Marion Sims, the father of modern gynecology. He later published Lydia’s story in his memoirs, and this is my interpretation. It is written as if Lydia is telling the story.
Back in 1781 Charlie and me and our two boys lived in South Carolina up near the North Carolina border. We had a good life there until the British troops moved into the area. Then Charlie had to decide whether to pledge his allegiance to England or to America. If he chose America, he would become a traitor to the crown of England and if caught could be sentenced to death. But the Mackeys were Scots-Irish immigrants and they came to America to be free so Charlie pledged his allegiance to America.
My Charlie is not a big man, but he’s very strong. And back then he was very active and energetic. He was a fine horseman and a splendid shot. And he had been bustin’ his britches so to speak to get in the thick of the fighting, just as soon as the British moved into South Carolina. He sure didn’t want the British killing his family and destroying our property. So Charlie and the other Scots Irish who lived in the area joined up as patriots under General Francis Marion, also known as “The Swamp Fox.” They didn’t get paid for fightin’. They didn’t even have uniforms, and they had to furnish their own horses and weapons. And sometimes the only food they could find to eat was sweet potatoes. The patriots occupied and held the southern portion of Lancaster County until the summer of ‘81 when British troops arrived, led by Sir Banastre Tarleton. Tarleton was an evil person. Americans called him “The Butcher” because he usually massacred our troops rather than take prisoners. With Tarleton’s arrival, our rebel troops were driven back across the Pee Dee River.
My Charlie is a good husband and a wonderful father, but the man can be hotheaded and impulsive. He used to drive me crazy worrying about him because of his daredevil deeds and the foolish risks he took. You see, I’ve always been the levelheaded one in the family. I had to be or we would never survive. I have always been the one to stay calm and think things through. If I’d let Charlie have his way, no tellin’ what trouble we’d be in.
I think you’ll understand better when I tell you about the time during that summer of ‘81 when Charlie just outdid himself with foolishness.
Charlie and his troops had to retreat and it wasn’t easy to stay in touch with me and the youngins. He was especially worried because of my condition see’in as how I was goin to have another youngin in another month or so. He knew it was foolhardy for him to sneak home because Tarleton’s camp was just two and a half miles from our house, but Charlie never let a little thing like that stop him when he set his mind to something.
We lived in a double log cabin, with cultivated patches of corn and potatoes on either side of a lane leading to the front, but Charlie never approached the house from the front. Our kitchen was on the ground level at the back of our house, surrounded by a half-acre or so of garden extending back to a large huckleberry swamp. Now it was mighty difficult for man or beast to get through this swamp. It was surrounded by water from ten to thirty feet wide, making it almost like an island. But Charlie had figured out a way to come and go through this swamp by jumping from tussock to tussock of moss-covered clumps of mold, a foot or two in diameter and rising six or eight inches above the black jelly-like mire, which shook in every direction when he passed over it. He had a plank that served as a temporary drawbridge. After he set foot in our garden, he pulled the drawbridge back into the swamp so no one could see it. As additional protection, we had two large watchdogs that Charlie had trained to bark whenever someone approached our house.
It was early June and Charlie had been coming and going from our house for about a week. He’d spend the days in the swamp or spying on the British, and then sneak home late at night. Although I was worried about his safety, it was nice having him home at night. He was on the eve of leaving with some valuable information for the rebel generals, gained by his prowlings in and about the headquarters of Colonel Tarleton.
Early the next morning, an hour or two before daylight, our usually faithful watchdogs failed to give warning of the approach of strangers. The first notice we had was when we heard someone shout “Hallo!” in front of the house. I jumped out of bed, threw open the window shutters, and saw the silhouettes of six horsemen near our front gate. As I think back on that day, I am amazed at how calm I was, as I shouted back, “Who’s there?” The leader answered, “We’re looking for Charles Mackey. Is he home?” Without hesitation, I answered back “No.” In the meantime Charlie had raised the loose plank in the floor and was ready to make for the swamp in the rear. Just then, one of the horsemen said, “Well, we are very sorry indeed, for there was a big fight yesterday on Lynch’s Creek, between General Marion and the British, and we routed the damned redcoats completely. We’ve been sent to General Davie at Lansford, with orders to unite with Marion at Flat Rock as soon as possible, so we can attack Tarleton. Since we don’t know the way to Lansford, we came by for Charlie to pilot us.”
In the past, the British had used many ploys to try to capture Charlie, and I was determined to stick with my story . . . just in case this was another one of those ploys. So, I said, “I’m very sorry, but Charles is not at home.”
But this sudden news of victory, after so many reverses, was more than my sweet, impetuous husband could stand. He rushed past me out the front door of the house into the midst of the horsemen, shouting hurrahs for Marion and Davie, and shouting vengeance on the redcoats and Tories. Then he began to shake hands enthusiastically with the boys, and to ask particulars about the fight, when the ring-leader of the gang coolly said: “Well Charlie, old fellow, we have set a good many traps for you, but never baited ‘em right till now. You are our prisoner.” And they marched him off just as he was, without hat or coat, and without even allowing him to say goodbye to me and the youngins.
I was frantic all that day and night. I didn’t know if Charlie was alive or dead. The next morning, I decided I had to find out for myself, so I gathered some fruit and eggs, put them in a basket, and headed for Colonel Tarleton’s camp. The British always welcomed the food brought by the local folks, and I was readily admitted to the camp. I asked where I might find Colonel Tarleton, and was told he was on parade. A nice young officer paid me for the eggs and fruit, and I confided that my basket of food was merely a pretext to get to Colonel Tarleton’s headquarters. I explained that my husband Charles had been captured, and I didn’t even know if he was still alive. My greatest fear was that the men who captured him had hung him from the nearest tree.
The officer told me that Colonel Tarleton wouldn’t return from parade for two hours when he came in for his mid-day meal. I knew I had to find a way to stay in camp until then, so I started talking to this nice young officer. I told him all about my youngins at home and how my next one was going to be born any time now. I even added a few tears to gain his deepest sympathy. He told me Charlie was under guard nearby; that he had been tried and sentenced to death as a spy; and that he feared there was no hope of a reprieve because of all the evidence against him. Then he told me how cruel and unforgiving Colonel Tarleton was. “Mrs. Mackey,” he said, “Even if he agrees to talk with you, he will promise you anything just to get rid of you, but he will never fulfill his promise. However, just in case I’m wrong, I will prepare the necessary documents for your husband’s release, filling in the blanks, so all Colonel Tarleton has to do is sign. But, frankly ma’am, I think this is almost hopeless.”
At 12 noon, Colonel Tarleton rode up, dismounted, and entered the adjoining tent. As he passed along, the young officer said: “Wait until he dines. Another charger will then be brought, and when he comes up to mount, you can approach him, and not till then.”
At the expected time, Colonel Tarleton came out of his tent. It was hard to believe that someone so young and so handsome could be so cruel. I was scared to death, but I knew what I had to do. As Tarleton walked toward his charger, so did I. “Colonel Tarleton,” I called out. “I must talk with you!” Tarleton quickly answered that he was in a great hurry and could not stop to consider my cause. “Colonel Tarleton, my husband Charles Mackey has been sentenced to death and you alone have the power to save his life.” What happened next was just like the nice young officer had warned me about. Tarleton replied, “Very well, my good woman; when I return, later in the day, I will inquire into the matter.” Saying this, he placed his foot in the stirrup and sprang up. I knew I couldn’t let him leave, so before he could throw his right leg over the saddle, I caught him by the coat and jerked him down.
I’ll never forget his face – that horrible scowl. I again told him I needed his help NOW. I could tell by his eyes, he was getting angry, but I kept pleading with him. He again told me he would take up my case on his return. Then he again tried to mount and I again pulled him down. “Tut, tut, my good woman do you know what you are doing? Begone, I say, I will attend to this matter at my convenience.”
I knew he didn’t mean what he said, so as he prepared to mount a third time, I reached up and grabbed his sword’s scabbard and again pulled him to the ground. I fell to my knees and cried, “Draw your sword and slay me and my unborn babe, or give me the life of my husband for I will never let you go till you kill me or sign this document.” And I drew from my bosom the document the nice young officer had prepared for me and I waved it before his face. By now Tarleton was trembling with rage and was as pale as a ghost. He turned to the young officer, who stood close by intently watching, and said “Captain, where is this woman’s husband?” “Under guard in yonder tent” he replied. “Order him to be brought here.”
I couldn’t believe my eyes when in just a short time Charlie was standing before me. And was he ever surprised to see me. Tarleton said, “Sir, you have been convicted of bearing arms against his majesty’s government. Worse, you have been convicted of being a spy. You have dared enter my lines in disguise, as a spy, and you cannot deny it. But, for the sake of your wife, I will give you a full pardon on condition that you will take an oath never again to bear arms against the King’s government.”
Can you believe that? Tarleton was actually going to free my husband. Just as I was about to run into Charlie’s arms, I could hardly believe what I heard him say next. “Sir, I cannot accept pardon on these terms. It must be unconditional, or I must die.” What was Charlie doing? He knew the youngins and I couldn’t survive without him. Without even thinking, I cried out “I, too, must die” and on my knees I held onto Colonel Tarleton and pleaded with such fervor that he seemed lost for a moment and hesitated. Then turning to the young captain, he said “Captain for God’s sake sign my name to this paper, and let this woman go.” As Colonel Tarleton rode off, I sank to the ground totally exhausted, hoping with all my heart that he felt at least a little happy for having spared the life of my beloved husband Charles Mackey, so that he could live to fight another day for our freedom as Americans.
It seems so trite to say, “Where has the time gone?” And yet, I still can’t figure out how a little baby girl can now be graduating from college. It seems like only yesterday when I decided it was time to give up living in Hawaii and return to Colorado. After all, my granddaughter was celebrating her first birthday and I didn’t want to miss that. This was going to be my only chance to be a hands-on-grandma. That couldn’t have been 23 years ago. . . could it?
When she was growing up, we shared lots of mac and cheese, root beer floats and other healthy foods that grandmas love to share. We played games, read stories together, rode bikes along the trail, and enjoyed many sleepovers.
Now here she is graduating from the University of Colorado, all ready to start a new phase of her amazing life. She comes loaded with some strong creativity genes. Her maternal great grandmother was a talented quilter; her paternal great grandmother had her own business specializing in custom-made draperies, slipcovers and bedspreads; and her mother is a multi-talented innovator, crafting custom-designed jewelry, collages and wreaths.
Yes I have complete faith in my granddaughter Sara’s ability to become whatever she wants to be. With her passion for costume design, I have a clear vision of her receiving an academy award one day for costume design. Of course, that will no doubt happen after my departure, but I’ll be watching and applauding.
Much love and good fortune to you dear granddaughter on this very important day. . . and far into the future. Being a grandparent is a joy-filled experience.
It’s been awhile since I’ve posted any blogs. The biggest excuse is that I haven’t had much to say, and I haven’t taken the time to write about my family members.
However, in anticipation of an upcoming class I will be co-teaching — “Clips “Quotes” & Cameos” I’ve decided to get serious about writing about the 9 years I lived in Hawaii. I have written some stories previously, and I’m using this one about when I shared a house in Hawaii Kai to jumpstart my memories about that very precious time in my life.
It was 1983 and I had been in Hawaii for three years. First I shared a condo with a woman from Hungary and then I moved into a small furnished studio apartment by myself. I’d been attending the Religious Science Church for a short while and that’s where I met Ann Caston, another single woman about my age, who was also living in a small partly furnished apartment. We both indicated we wanted more space so we decided to pool our resources and find a place we can share.
Housing was expensive in Honolulu, and we set our limit at an amount equal to the sum of our individual rents, which was $750. We talked about what we wanted in a place and set about looking at various advertised rentals. After several weeks of looking, we started to get discouraged and were talking about staying where we were. Then on Sunday morning Ann called and told me there was a townhouse in Hawaii Kai advertised and we needed to be there by noon if we wanted to have a chance at it. Unfortunately, the ad didn’t give the rental amount, but we decided to take our chances.
Hawaii Kai is about a twenty minute drive Diamond Head direction from downtown Honolulu. The drive is beautiful along the coast. Just one block from the ocean we turned into the townhouse complex and started to have our doubts. It’s beautiful. An L-shaped group of buildings with four to five 2-story townhouse units in each, with a community building in the middle and a marina running behind the complex. Each unit has a small fenced privacy yard in the front.
As we walked into the unit, there was a small den, followed by a small living room, dining room and kitchen at the back of the house. From there we went out onto a covered lanai that looked out over the marina. Upstairs there were two bedrooms in the front with a bathroom, and a larger master bedroom at the back, with its own bathroom. This master bedroom had a small balcony from which to view the marina. The place had all the major appliances, including a washer and dryer. This seems like heaven to two women who have been using Laundromats for the last several years.
Wow! Could we be so lucky to get something like this for the price we are willing to pay? We quickly huddled with each other and agreed that this is just what we wanted and we would be willing to go as high as $800 per month. The actual rental price had not yet been revealed, but we signed our names to a list along with many others, talked briefly with the owners and expressed our interest in the unit, and headed back home to wait. If this doesn’t work out, we know it will be difficult to find another location that we both like as well.
Two days later we were amazed when the call comes telling us we have been approved and that the rent is, yes, $750 per month! How about that? We start packing and are ready to move in over the next weekend. The place looked as clean as a pin, so although friends suggested we bug bomb the place before we move in just in case there are cockroaches lurking around, we ignored the suggestion. Our first BIG mistake!
Ann had a few items of furniture; I had a TV and a sewing machine. So we made a visit to the local Salvation Army Store and came home with a couch and two chairs for the living room, a buffet for the dining room and a dresser for my bedroom. My sewing machine came in handy for making slip covers for the chairs. I purchased a new bed for me. With a few makeshift bookcases made from cinder blocks and lumber, we were ready to set up housekeeping.
We drew straws to assign the bedrooms, and I got the master bedroom overlooking the marina, with the private bath. Ann got the two front bedrooms and the bath off the hallway.
A year or so later, we switched so she too could enjoy the sounds and the beauty of the marina.
Our first challenge came when Ann started hanging her pictures on the walls throughout the house. I didn’t have any pictures to contribute to the project, but I was determined to have a say in what goes where. Most of Ann’s pictures had some sentimental value, rather than artistic value. “This oil was painted by my friend Joan or I brought this Chinese drawing back from my trip to China.” Most are reasonably acceptable to me except for a black and red oil painting of a Spanish building. This is something Ann’s former husband had painted when they lived in Spain. I could understand that it is meaningful to her, but that doesn’t make it any more beautiful to me. We finally agreed on a corner in the kitchen, out of immediate sight. On our first Christmas together, Ann gave me a Hawaiian print I had admired. I hung it in my bedroom. Now it felt more like home.
We were both working and usually arrived home around six o’clock in the evening, so we didn’t have too much time to enjoy our new home. When home, we spent a lot of our time on the lanai, watching the few small boats and the many ducks that would go by. There was a small boat loading dock down a few steps from our lanai, but little good it did us since we had no boat. We bought several potted plants for the lanai, and a friend gave us a nice table and chair set so we could eat our meals out there.
Ann loved to cook; not me. So without any formal discussion of the matter, she took on the job of cooking; my job was to clean up the kitchen afterwards. We shared the housecleaning and laundry tasks. I hadn’t had too much experience living with other people, except my family. Ann had quite a bit of experience. Fortunately Ann and I got along just great most of the time. Our habits, interests and lifestyles were quite similar, and our birthdays are just one day apart. Ann moved to Hawaii in the late 1970′s from Santa Barbara, California, after living in many different places around the country. I moved to Hawaii from Santa Barbara, California in 1980, having lived most of my life in Colorado. So we had another common interest to share — Santa Barbara.
We each had our individual friends and we both had mutual friends from church. Now that we had space to entertain, we often hosted holiday dinners at our house. Our guests were usually single women and men who were also living far away from their families. One of our dinners was especially memorable. Ann worked for a Chinese fellow who owned a taxi company. We invited her boss and his wife and several of the drivers for Christmas dinner. Ann also invited an attorney she was dating. Everyone offered to bring something. Lucky for us we prepared a complete meal, because most of the fellows brought wine, bread or candy. We were a little concerned that we might not have anything in common to talk about over dinner, but we had a delightful time. Interestingly enough, soon after the dinner, Ann’s attorney friend called and asked me to do some contract work for him.
After living in Hawaii for a few years, I realized that cockroaches are a common occurrence. You are more likely to have them in your house, than not. Soon after we moved in, we started finding small cockroaches lurking around the kitchen. We had some resident geckos that tried to keep the population low, and we set out roach traps for them. But they kept multiplying and growing until it became necessary to have a professional exterminator come in to set off bug bombs. By now we realized it would have been best to do this when we moved in because now we had to move everything out of the kitchen and start all over again.
Another minor problem we encountered was the mosquitoes. Living so close to the water, we were often bothered by these little pests. We put out bug zappers and mosquito repellent candles, and learned to live with these pests.
We lived together for about 3-1/2 years. During this time I had quit my law-firm job and was doing freelance office administration. I had an opportunity to move to the Pearl Harbor area to share a place with a Navy officer whose husband was being assigned to submarine duty for six months. I jumped at the opportunity since this was a rent-free arrangement. Ann found other housemates and we continued to be friends.
In 1988 I return to the mainland, Ann returned in 1991 and is living in Patagonia, Arizona. We still are good friends and stay in touch. Even though sharing a house with Ann was a pleasant experience, I still prefer to have my own living space.