February 9th…”DID YOUR MOTHER EVER SAY OR DO SOMETHING THAT MADE THE WHOLE FAMILY LAUGH?”
Friday afternoon’s last bell rang at Battle Ground Junior High School and freedom was ours for another weekend. Freedom from school, that is, but it was the night our family (Mom, sister Candi, and myself) rallied to the aide of our father at Glenwood Heights Elementary School where he was the new Head Custodian. When us kids arrived at the house from school, we changed into our work clothes and jumped into our new 1967 Dodge Coronet 500, with Mom at the wheel.
Life, here in the Pacific Northwest, was still new to us after having left our farming culture back in Minnesota. Therefore, not only was it a way of showing family unity in helping our Dad, but it was also just plain fun to be part of his new career as a school custodian. Like all schools of the late 1960’s, Glenwood Heights Elementary School had the classic chalkboards on the classroom walls. And, yes, they used actual chalk to write on those boards as the teachers educated the youngsters about readin’, writin’ and ‘rithmetic. As a result, at the end of each week, those chalkboards, erasers and chalkboard trays were messy from white chalk residue.
Someone had created a large cardboard box, out of an empty egg case, that was divided in two by a wooden centerpiece that also had a carrying handle built in. One side of the box held clean erasers and the other side was empty, waiting for dirty ones. Sister Candi and I went through all 20 classrooms and cleaned all those chalkboards, wiped out the chalk trays and replaced clean erasers for the upcoming school week on Monday.
After the 20 classrooms had clean chalkboards for the coming week, it was now time to have some “fun”……well, at least I thought it was fun, in cleaning all those dirty erasers. We’d plug in and turn on a special machine that had a spinning brush and powerful vacuum motor. As you slid the eraser across the blur of the brush, the vacuum would suck off the chalk dust and shoot it into a heavy cloth bag that inflated to a balloon from the power of that vacuum motor. When finished, there’d be a clean batch of erasers for the next week’s chalkboard job.
As a “payment” for working each Friday night, Dad would treat Candi and I to a delicious ice cream bar called a “Double Delight” that had a fudge center surrounded by vanilla ice cream and the customary hard shell chocolate coating; all of which was on the handy wooden stick. Our job completed, we’d cherish some teen fun in the school gymnasium while Dad and Mom finished up the last of the custodial chores at that wonderful school.
Now the Pacific Northwest is well known for its very wet Fall and Winters. Along with that wetness is the tendency for heavy fog to accumulate, especially in the evening hours. Matter of fact, it is SO WET in the Northwest, that there’s even bumper stickers that say, “We Don’t Suntan, We Rust!”. On this particular Friday night, as we climbed into our handsome Dodge for the ride home, the fog was so thick “you could cut it with a knife”. Dad took the driver’s seat while the rest of us climbed in for the ride home. The going was slow, in the darkness and thick fog, as we wound our way northward towards our new hometown of Battle Ground, Washington. We had just come up out of the Salmon Creek valley from the village of Brush Prairie and were engaged in small talk/chit chat when all of a sudden………..
………Mom hollers out, “COW, COW, COW, COW!!!!” Dad slams on those new car brakes without a second to lose as the car screeches to a halt within just a few feet of that bovine who acts completely oblivious the fact that she was almost made into hamburger there on the spot. The cow was completely hidden in the deep thickness of that nights’ fog until we were “right on top of her”. Dad laid on the horn to get the lazy beast off that highway. She just looked at us as if WE were bothering her as she slowly lumbered off the highway and into the ditch.
After our hearts settled back into our chests from that high adrenaline rush, we all began laughing out loud at Mom’s explosive burst to warn Dad!! For years, as a family, we would get in a silly mood and someone would bring up this funny incident and remind Mom about “COW, COW, COW, COW!!!”
We could sure “chalk” one up for fun that night for this Norwegian Farmer’s Son.