The Young Bill

I’ve been thinking about writing my story for a long time. Since having started, I realized that there is so much that I could get caught up writing and it would take up a whole lot of space and time. I am going to hit some of the highlights that have been important to me. And when it comes right down to it, my mind and memory isn’t what it used to be.  I plan to tell my story concentrating on my immediate family.  For very short periods in my early years I had little contact with the Town side.  And the Dailey side would be better told through others.  There were good times, but most of what I remember are the times together that always seemed to end up in drunken arguments.  Or, my Uncle Alva, Mom’s brother, twisting my arm up behind my back to get me to say, “Uncle”.  I recently learned he did this to my sons, too.

I was born July 26, 1940, in Bremerton, Washington, and was supposed to have been named Forrest Evans Towne Jr., or maybe the III.  It was overruled by my Grandpa, Archie Dailey, and I was named William Forrest Towne, after a sheriff in Whitman County, Washington, by the name of William Dailey.  At least that is the story I was always told.  I could always tell when Mom was upset with me.  She usually called me Billy but when angry it was, “WILLIAM FORREST!!”.

My first memories start when I was about two or three.  We lived in, what I assume was, a farm on Bainbridge Island.  I remember a glassed-in kitchen that looked out at a barn.  Parked alongside the barn my folks had a long, about 25 foot, black speedboat.  One of the things Pop liked to do was race the Washington State Ferries, especially the Kalakala, that ran between Seattle and Bainbridge.  Before leaving the dock they always had me wearing a life vest, like the cork ones you see in old movies.  One day it happened to be kicked off the dock and sank.  I never had to wear a life vest again.

We moved from the farm to a little cottage.  There was a Marine and his family living in a house behind us. He used to bring us boxes of Snickers and other chocolate candy bars, things he was able to get at the Navy exchange that weren’t readily available in town.  He had a young daughter about my age and we decided to cut each others hair, which got us in big trouble.  Playing around the house one day, I found a Pepsi bottle with what I thought was pop and drank it.  It turned out to be turpentine.  The only thing that I could eat for a while was Jell-O.  With everything being rationed it was hard to come by until Mom told the grocer the situation.  We got all the Jell-O we needed.  Pop and a friend of his, Roy Jimenez, bought “ME” an electric train set for Christmas.  I was only allowed to sit and watch them play with it.  One time they set it up in the living room and decided to take the cab off the motor.  I don’t know which, but one of them thought they could sharpen their penknife on the wheel of the engine as it was going around.  The blade broke and went flying, breaking the bay window in the living room.  One Halloween, Mom and a friend of hers decided to go out trick-or-treating, mostly tricking.  Mom had an empty thread spool that she notched around the edges and would wrap a string around it and put a pencil through the hole.  They would go up to someone’s window, lay the spool against it and pull the string.  It made quite a racket as it ratcheted against the window.  Then they would grab me and we would run into the woods and hide.  Sitting here, thinking about that time, I was not aware of a War going on.  Or that there was not a lot available because of it.  We always had what we needed and seemed to have fun.  Pop taught me how to wolf whistle and I remember riding around, standing on the back seat of his Hudson convertible, whistling at girls on the street.  Pop got some really dirty looks.

About age four or five, after the war, we moved out to Grandpa Town’s farm in Altmar, New York.  He had a couple of Belgian Draft Horses.  They were the biggest things I had ever seen.  When we sat down for dinner, I remember, Grandpa had a big bowl at his place and he would put everything in the bowl.  He said he figured it was all going to the same place.  There was a pond on the property where I could go fishing, using worms that Grandpa told me to just carry in my pocket.  My Mom didn’t appreciate that when she checked pockets before doing wash.  Later we moved closer to Pop’s brothers.  They had bought a truck and trailer that Pop drove into New York City hauling goods.  I remember the kitchen in the house that Mom and Dad were renting.  One time we were sitting, eating dinner during a lightening storm.  All of a sudden, a bolt of lightening came slamming into the kitchen and bounced between the water and gas pipes.  Mom and Dad got pretty excited.  The trucking company didn’t work out. Pop was doing all the work and the brothers were taking all the money.

When I was about six we moved back to Washington.  We returned to Washington on a Greyhound bus.  Pop, having been a bus driver for Washington Motor Coach during the war, would sit up by the driver and share bus driver stories.  Traveling by bus was a lot different back then.  Buses didn’t have restrooms on them.  And there weren’t rest stops like today.  For men, and boys (me), the driver would pull off on the side of the road and wait while I went behind a bush.  When we got back to Bremerton, Pop went out looking for work while Mom and I stayed home.  I remember, we lived in a small, mother-in-law, house.  The landlord and his family lived in the main house on the property.  What I remember most about our house was all the inside walls and cupboards were knotty pine.  At this time Uncle Gene, Dad’s brother, and his family also lived in Bremerton.  Pop eventually found a job as a mechanic for Reed Priest Logging Company in Sequim and Mom and I moved there.  We lived in a little one room cabin across the street from the Presbyterian church in Sequim.  We didn’t have a car but the company let Pop use their WWII jeep and a Command Car for transportation.

I remember one trip, Sequim to Sumner, we took in the Command Car.  It was Thanksgiving 1946 and really cold.  I sat in back with Mom and Pee Wee Secor under a pile of blankets because there was no heat and just a cloth top with no side curtains.  Actually it is the only trip that I can ever remember taking in the Command Car.  For the jeep, Pop built a half cab over the front seat out of plywood.  It was fine for the three of us but got pretty crowded when others rode with us.  That Christmas Pop made me a wagon out of 2X4’s.  It was pretty elaborate, with a steering wheel and mechanism.  The wheels could be removed and replaced by sled runners Dad had made.  One outing, Pop let Mom pull him on one of the back roads heading to one of their friends, George Easterly.  She was driving the jeep and Pop was on a line about 25 feet behind.  She came to a stop but Pop didn’t, he went flying by to the end of the line and whipped around. Luckily he didn’t turn over or get thrown off.  It was also that Christmas that he and Tiny Secor bought “Bill” his first gas engine model airplane, a ‘Fire Ball’.  I wasn’t allowed to fly it but Dad had a great time, until he got dizzy going around in circles and crashed it.  It was that spring that there was a meteor shower.  I remember setting on my wagon, looking up, as the meteor shot across the sky.  It almost looked like rain.  Sequim is where I started the first grade.  We were having a play, “Little Red Riding Hood”, and I ended up being the “Big Bad Wolf”.  I had a lisp and sounded like Elmer Fudd, ” I will eat you all up Wittle Wed Widing hood.”  We had three performances; one for the school, one for the PTA and one for the town.

When I was seven, we moved down to Pacific Grove California.  Roy Jimenez, Dad’s friend from Bainbridge Island, had called with a job.  Together they did brick and stone work on a number of homes in Carmel.  While Mom and Dad looked for a house, we lived with Roy and his family.  One day, while Dad was working on a Model A coupe he was planning on turning into a hot rod, I was playing with some of the neighbor kids across the street.  We were rough housing around playing Superman when one of the kids got down behind me on his hands and knees and another pushed me and I went over backwards, breaking my right wrist.  Mom and dad rushed me to the hospital where I was put to sleep to reset my wrist.  I later found out that to pay the doctor and hospital, Pop sold the Model A and got a grant from the Masons.  A couple of weeks later the kid that had bought the Model A stopped by and showed us what he had done.  It was the hot rod that Pop had planned to build.  Around this time, we moved to a house in Pacific Grove, across the street from the ocean.  Up behind the house there was a telephone pole yard that all the kids in the neighborhood used to play on; sword fights, pretend rafting, all kinds of games.  It was while we lived there that Pop and Roy bought an old Stutz and made a race car out of it.  I remember Pop doing brodies out in the field by our house.  And Mom racing down along the ocean toward Carmel.  The car never won a race and Pop blew up the engine after it’s last race – racing Mom, driving an Auburn, back from the track one day.  The Stutz was a car that Pop always remembered for the rest of his life as being the one he should have kept and restored.

In late 47 or early 1948, we moved back to Washington.  Pop got a job driving logging truck for Claude Bear.  We lived with Tiny and Pee Wee in a little shack, a ways out of Beaver Washington, guarding the entrance to Claude’s logging property.  We all lived in a small skid house, no running water or electricity.  Our refrigerator was the creek across the road.  The shack/cabin was pretty cramped, my bed was the kitchen chairs placed side by side every night.  Later we moved to a little town, Tyee, a wide spot on the highway between Port Angeles and Forks Washington.  It had a grocery store and a half dozen cabins on either side of the highway.  The store had a diesel generator that provided electricity between five and eight PM.  During that time, we did our reading and studying by gas lantern or candles.  I rode a school bus to a little two room school and the second grade in Beaver Washington, a little town on the way to Forks.  One day, on the way to school, the bus got stopped and a man told the driver that Truman had won the election for President.  The people that owned the store and rented out the cabins had a son my age and a daughter a couple of years older than us.  There were about a half dozen other kids that lived in the area and the daughter use to march them around.  Her brother and I refused to be marched.  She caught up to me out in the parking lot one day and we got into an argument that turned into a fist fight.  I blindly swung with tears running down my cheek and a bloody nose, but I wouldn’t stop.  Finally she stopped punching and started crying and stopped the fight.  From then on she left her brother and me alone.

It was while we were living there that a big black Buick with a couple of big guys in it pulled up to our house.  They were in suits and wearing Fedoras, looking for Pop.  He wasn’t home from work yet and they pulled over to the side of the parking lot.  When he finally drove up in his truck and got out, they arrested, handcuffed and put him in the back seat of their car and took off for Port Angeles.  Somehow Mom found out he was in jail in the courthouse but was not allowed to see him.  She tried breaking the windows into the basement where the jail was and almost got arrested.   He was being held and questioned by the FBI, incommunicado.  Reed Priest and Claude Bear tried to find out what he was in jail for and bail him out but couldn’t.  Grandpa Dailey tried to find out at the sheriff’s office in Port Orchard and almost got put in jail.  Pop’s friend Roy was being held and questioned in California at the same time.  It turned out that Roy’s crazy mother-in-law had accused Pop and Roy of robbing banks, jewelry stores and murder while working for the bus company during the second world war.  The FBI came to the conclusion the accusations had no merit and let them go.

From there, we moved to Phoenix, Arizona and I started school in Glendale.  My kids would attend the same school years later.  Pop soon got transferred to El Paso, Texas, by the trucking company he worked for.  We lived in a motel there and I continued school.  Mom and Dad decided to move back to Washington.  Another couple who lived in the motel decided to move back to California and asked to travel with us.  We had a big four door 32 Buick and the other couple had a 42 Buick.  The other guy was afraid that we would probably be breaking down a lot since ours was so much older.  It actually turned out his was the one that kept breaking down.  We had everything we owned packed in the back seat of our Buick with just enough room for me to slide in and lay on top.  We were going over a pass on the way to Angels Camp California and we came to one spot where a snowplow was broken down, leaving a very narrow lane to pass.  For safety, everyone but the drivers had to get out of the cars.  Pop went first and made it fine.  He told the other guy to be sure once he started just keep going once he got around the truck.  But as he got along side the plow he panicked and we had to push on the rear fender to keep him from sliding over.  We left him and his family in Angels Camp and continued on to Port Angeles.

We rented a house from George Easterly and I went to school, fourth grade, at Lincoln grade school.  Soon after, we moved out to the Hoh river and lived in a little cabin behind the gas station/grocery store that was a wide spot on the way to the Olympic National Forest.  Pop was driving logging truck and Mom was hanging with the daughter of the “Old Man of the Hoh”.  I was riding the bus every day to school in Forks.  Our driver was an elder lady. When the truck drivers saw her coming they pulled off the road.  She was known to have forced more than one off the road – always an exciting ride.  Pop got a job as a mechanic with Carmi Hanchet’s logging company and we moved across the river to his logging camp and lived in what one time had been the dining (chow) hall.  To get to the camp they fell two parallel logs, about 100-150 feet long, across the Hoh river, skimmed the tops flat and didn’t bother with guard rails.  Mom would drive me over the bridge to catch the bus for school in Forks.  Everyday, after school, the bus would let me off and Mom would be there to drive me back across the bridge to the camp.  One day she wasn’t there.  I waited for a while and finally decided to try walking across the bridge back to camp.  I got a few steps out on to the bridge, looked down, saw the river rushing past, and continued across on my hands and knees.  It was the only time I wasn’t picked up.

Entertainment on Friday or Saturday nights was a movie in Forks.  It was important to go, because you would see the week’s episode of whatever serial was playing.  My favorites were “Lassie” and “Rocket Man”.  I was the only kid living at the logging camp so I spent a lot of time playing by myself.  Just across the road from where we lived there was a creek and after crossing it you were in a magical, mystical wonder land.  Moss covered ground under tall trees and thick ferns.  I found I could catch trout in the creek using red berries off the bushes that looked like fish eggs.  It was a place I could let my imagination go anywhere.  During the summer I could hitch a ride on logging trucks heading for Port Angeles after they stopped at the camp to be scaled.  It was always a little frightening crossing the bridge, higher above the river, and looking down from the cab.  Other times Mom might take me across the river to the little store and community so I would be able to play with other kids.  When the loggers would finish a landing up on the mountain above the camp, they would have a party.  Next day, I would take the back seat out of our 42 Hudson and Mom would drive me up to the landing to pick up the empty cases of beer bottles that I could take back to the store for refund.  I made some pretty good spending money that way.

Pop got a job with Claude Bear in Gold Beach Oregon around 1950-51.  He picked Mom, me, my new puppy (a Chow I name General but Pop changed to Butch when he attacked his pant leg) and my aunt Joyce (my Mom’s sister who was only two years older than I) up in Port Angeles.  We met a couple Claude’s men at “The Head of the Bay”, between Bremerton and Port Orchard.  They were driving an overloaded 48 ton and a half Chevy flatbed and we were going to be their scout for weigh stations on the way down.  That Chevy was one of the first vehicles I ever drove.  Claude’s sons and I would take that truck out into a field near their house.  In Gold Beach, Pop had rented a trailer in a trailer park/motel.  It was down the hill from the main trailer park, close to the beach.  Some of the kids and I built a driftwood fort down on the beach.  One of the kids had brought a pack of Camels.  One day, when I had left the fort going home, one of the kids ran up to me wanting to know where the pack was.  Mom had overheard and it was the first time we had the conversation about not smoking “those funny cigarettes”.  Mom and Dad bought a 35 foot “Roll Away” trailer and we moved up into the main part of the park.  One of the things we brought to the new trailer from the old was a picture of a Black Panther, which we had for years.  I started the sixth grade and became manager of the basketball team for the next two years.  Later they moved the trailer to a park right across from the school.  Butch would walk me to school and sometimes, if it was raining, the teacher would let me bring him in and lay next to me in class.

With both Mom and Dad working, Mom in the local plywood plant and Pop driving logging truck, I started learning to cook.  I would fix dinner for us and if I had any problem, I would go next door, where Tiny and Pee Wee now lived, and get directions.  I became a pretty good cook learning this way.  On my 12th birthday we had a party at a swimming hole on the Pistol River, just out of town.  It was where I first really swam.  Mom told me that when I jumped in to come up paddling and kicking and not to stop until I reached the beach.  I tried turning out for a local wrestling club but couldn’t do somersaults.  But I did have a chance to wrestle a bear.  A traveling show came to town and parked at the trailer park where we lived.  They had a couple of small bears, about my size.  For fifty cents you could wrestle one and if you pinned it for ten seconds you won a dollar.  I got in the cage where the bear, declawed and toothless, was backed into a corner.  When I approached, it wrapped its front paws around my neck, gumming my face, and dug its back paws into my stomach.  I backed off, grabbed its back paws and drug it out into the middle of the cage and pinned it.  Won the dollar.

In the summer of 1953 we moved back to California. Pop got a job with Roy Jimenez at the Hudson dealer in Fullerton.  They found a trailer park in Orange County right next to a dairy farm.  On hot days during the summer the smell was pretty bad.  They found one closer to where I was going to start eighth grade.  I had to walk through an orange grove between the park and school.  A much better smell.  We purchased our first television in California. It was a used, round, ten inch console.  If I remember correctly the first program we saw on it was “Howdy Doody”.  The school didn’t have a gym so we played basketball on a blacktop court.   The eighth grade was kind of fun.  We had ballroom dancing in the school auditorium as one of our classes.  For my graduation prophesy the teacher said I was going to be a map maker.  For geography and history I was always drawing maps.  Our class was going to be the first graduating class in a new high school being built. I think it was in Glendale.  We got to name the school team, Highlanders, and pick our colors, Green Plaid.  We were given the opportunity to sign up for classes and sports.  Initially I signed up to play baseball, but the coach told me he wanted me to play basketball.  Having played with the teams in the sixth and seventh grade when I managed in Gold Beach, I had an advantage when we played on the blacktop courts.  But it didn’t work out, we didn’t stay in California.


Leave a Comment