Boom town times

Continuing with Gerald Nathan Hodgson’s Northwest family narrative, with thanks to Michael Howard Hodgson:

In the early days that Dad was here, Orient was a roaring boom town. The railroad had intended for the town to be at Dulwich, this side of there, and installed their water tank there. Dulwich would have been a good townsite — a quite large reasonably flat area above the tracks and enough slope to give it natural drainage. However, it got no development other than the Railway Section House — the loading and unloading corrals for cattle and sheep and a large area for decking out logs, cedar telephone poles and hewed railroad ties. All of those things are gone now. The water tank disappeared with the steam locomotive — timber products are largely hauled by truck, and so far as I know, there is no longer any market for hewed ties. The Section House was bought by a farmer and moved above the highway and lived in for a while; it still, stands. The corrals rotted down as they ceased to be used and are also gone.

Dulwich is noteworthy in that for a number of years it was Dad’s destination each morning, six days a week, to work at least ten hours — at the beginning I think it was twelve — as a railway section hand. The crew pumped their way up or down the tracks on lever-driven handcars. After walking between three and four miles each way and putting in a long day, he rarely saw his home by daylight except on Sunday. He and Mom got up by the light of a dim kerosene lamp. He ate the meal of pancakes, eggs and salty bacon that Mom prepared him, grabbed the ten pound lard bucket that held his lunch and went off — sometimes at a run — to reach the section house before the official workday started. The eight-hour day did not come in till World War 1. The government took over the railroads at that time. Many times in winter, he must have had to wade deep snow most of the way and high top rubber boots were not available then, even if he had considered them cheap enough to wear. I don’t know what he wore at that time, though I know that in later life he sometimes wrapped his legs in thick layers of gunnysacks.

During World War I and after, Dad and my brothers wore Oxford high rubber slippers and felt boots which usually cracked around the ankle, or heavy ‘German socks’, pulled up to the knee and more or less held in place by a tape garter at the top. Dad prided himself on being tough. He seldom wore gloves to work with — they were always wet. He said gloves were all right for walking or riding. He would seldom button a coat if he was moving around — it was too restrictive — and he kept warm by moving and with a specific job before him, he moved fast. Very impatient by nature, as a father he tended to interfere too quickly if one of his children seemed too inept at a job. And as far as I was concerned, he was like his Dad, a little too much inclined to worry about what someone else might think.

Downtown Orient, back when

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