In 1942, the country was at war and the West Coast shipyards were building war ships as fast as they could. The plea for machinists and metal workers went out everywhere. Dad decided we should move to Seattle, so he could work in the shipyards.
It was decided that I would go on ahead by train and find a place for us to live. Dad and Eleanor would follow in the car. I had never been on a train before. I didn't even realize I could ask for a pillow to help me get some sleep. A very nice young couple with a little girl occupied the seats across the aisle. They must have figured me out. I can't remember the details, but at one point they invited me to use two of their seats and got me comfortable, so I could get some sleep. When we parted at the Seattle train station, I never suspected that I would be seeing them again.
I don't know what Dad was thinking when he sent a na´ve, inexperienced nineteen year-old kid, who had never even seen a city of any size on such a mission. I couldn't even find my way out of the train station. I walked into the station and found a phone. We had gotten in touch with a girl from Plentywood that had invited me to come to her house when I arrived. She told me what bus to take and where to get off.
Then I looked around. There seemed to be no way out to the street. There was a big stairway, but I wasn't interested in going upstairs. I needed the street. However, a lot of folks were going up those stairs, so I decided to follow. Lo and behold! There was the street! This kid who had always lived where the land was as flat as a table top, was about to learn that in Seattle, one is going either up or down hill most of the time.
Finding a place to live was not an easy thing. Seattle was experience-ing a tremendous influx of people, including service men and workers for the seaports and aircraft plants. Many people had built apartments in their homes, and larger houses were divided into apartments for rent. I made many trips back and forth between the housing office and
various areas by bus. I had never before ever been on a bus. I had a city map and, somehow, I found my way around. We needed something near the University, where I was planning to attend classes.
I finally found a place. It was a room in a big, old house, with three beds, a hot plate and a bathroom down the hall. It was terrible, but it was a place we could stay until we found something better. Soon after Dad and Eleanor arrived, we found a somewhat better place - a basement apartment in a private home.
So we settled in. Dad went to work, Eleanor got registered at high school, and I started at the university. It was a tough adjustment for all of us. For one thing, I have never been so cold in my life as I was that first winter in Seattle. We had come from Montana, where winter temperatures regularly plunged well below zero, to the temperate West Coast; but, Montana air is dry, West Coast air is damp - so the cold went right through us. A basement apartment is no place to be in that kind of climate. We finally found a tiny (but warm) upstairs apartment where we could thaw our bones, within walking distance of the university.
* * *