Thursday, May 25, 2006


My wife's maternal Grandmother, Palma Hoover, is a truly amazing person. She was born in Norway, one of a bunch of brothers and sisters born to a rural farmers. She's 97 now, so was born in 1909. There aren't a lot of her peers left; in fact, she's the last one left in her family from that generation. Her father and his brothers actually went to Alaska for the gold rush in the late 19th century. One of the brothers wrote an account of their exploits, which was translated to English from the original Norwegian, and it's pretty amazing. They did the whole deed, hiked up chalked Pass, portaged and floated and walked to the gold country, found and hit claims, and actually struck it rich. They were farm boys from Norway, so hard work in nasty conditions was just par for the course to them... After this escapade, they went back to Norway, and bought the family farm.

The brothers then returned to the U.S. to homestead in Washington State. They each took a chunk in the area of what today is the Carnation area. One of the houses they built is still there.

That's where Palma was raised, on her dad's 640 acre homestead claim, in the virgin forest at the dawn of the 20th century. She remembers her dad and his brothers felling huge trees with axe and hand saw, and then digging up and sometimes blasting the stumps, turning forest to pasture slowly but steadily. There was no power, no light, no plumbing, no modern convenience of any kind. Everybody had chores, even the tiny ones, and everyone did them, period. A trip to Seattle was a multi-day affair, with parts on foot or horse and buggy, a ferry across Lake Washington, and the a street car into the big city.

In the 1920's she went to college and earned a teaching degree. She would teach school around Washington State well into her 70's. She says she liked the little girls, because they were generally business-like and got their work done, while little boys were generally hellions. She taught at several one room school houses, teaching every subject and every grade.

During the Great Depression, she met her husband Joe. In 1936, they bought a house with a decent little patch of land in Centralia, and had their first child, my wife's mom. Gramma lives in that house to this day.

She doesn't garden any more, which is a shame, because touring her garden each year was a real treat. Monica's cousin Mike has planted a small patch for her and comes down every weekend to tend it with her direction. There are huge, gnarled grape arbors, plum trees, apples of several varieties, and Gramma remembers each one; when they planted it, what the variety is, and the myriad of things they made with them. Joe made wine with the grapes for many years. He was a Centralia cop, and passed away several years ago.

Talking with Gramma is like living the history of her part for the world through the 20th Century; she remembers the minute details of being a little girl before the industrial revolution hit, and has lived life fully ever since. She's a smart, opinionated, very observant, wonderful person. I am blessed to have met her, and to be a part of her family.

No comments: