Archive for the ‘Dale Espy Little’ Category

“I’s not a leetle boy. I’s a leetle geel!”

Thursday, January 19th, 2023

Someone in my past — my mother? my grandmother? — used to give a deep sigh about whatever was annoying her and say, “This will be the bane of my existence!”  I do believe it was often my wretched curly hair which one or the other of them was trying to subdue into “proper” Shirley Temple style corkscrew curls.  One or two portraits of me at age five or six demonstrate their success, but mostly my hair has continued to be “the bane” right up to present days.

Not that I’m longing for corkscrew curls, mind you!  In fact, I sometimes wonder if my life (and my mother’s)might have been greatly simplified if she hadn’t been so intent on those curls.

Helen-Dale, Edwin, Willard c. 1914

Perhaps it all hearkened back to her own childhood when her curls were cut short and, at least before she started school, she wore rompers similar to her brothers’ and they all hung out together — Edwin three years older and Willard eleven months older than she.  In fact, the family all remembered that Dale (my mom) was the only girl among thirteen boys in town of a similar age.  She said that she was often the “tag-along” that the rest of them were trying to lose as they raced through the woods or along the bayshore on their many adventures.

Dale at 16, 1927

When adults mistook her for another one of the boys,  three-year-old Dale’s indignant response was:  “I’s not a leetle boy.  I’s a leetle geel!”  Apparently, the census-taker in 1920 didn’t ask.  Instead of listing her as “Helen-Dale, a girl” she went into the public record as “Allen-Dale, a boy.”  I wonder if she ever knew about that listing.  I don’t think I ran across that bit of misinformation until after she had died.  But, I must say, I was indignant on her behalf!

By the time she was sweet sixteen, though, her hair behaved as her mother had always hoped.  Sorry, mom. that I didn’t follow in your footstepsl  It would have saved us all a lot of angst!

 

 

A century ago and more in this very house…

Friday, December 9th, 2022

Willard and Dale, 1914

Every once in a while, when I am all about getting organized for the here and now, I wonder what was going on in these very rooms a hundred years or so ago.  How lucky I am that I can sometimes find out.

A few days ago, I looked up “December 7” in Dear Medora and found a short letter written on that date in 1911 from eleven-year-old Medora to her mother:

Thursday 8:10 P.M. December 7, 1911
Dearest Mama,
Papa went to Olympia this morning so I guess you will get more news from him than me…
          Willard will be a year old Monday, the eleventh, and Dale a month old the 13th, that’s Wednesday.
          We are all well but oh so lonesome,  Medora

Helen Richardson Espy, Medora Espy, Ruth Richardson, 1907

“Mama” was in Olympia recuperating after the birth of her seventh child, Helen-Dale (my mother) and Medora, the oldest of her children, was in Oysterville with the rest of the family.  Mama’s younger sister, Ruth, was  overseeing the household and Medora was the primary correspondent, keeping Mama informed about her “flock” at home.  Papa was dividing his time between his dairy farm here and his attendance at Mama’s side.

 Mama wrote back to Medora a few days later:
Saturday, December 9, 1911
Medora dear,
          I am so happy to have Papa.  Am feeling better.  Will surely be home Xmas unless something new happens.
                                                            Hastily,  Mama

Willard, Edwin, Dale – 1916

My infant mother (and her parents) did make it back to Oysterville in time for her first Christmas — 111 years ago in this very house!  Though I have no letters to attest to that, I have the memories of the many family stories that were shared over the years about that and dozens of other Christmases in this old house.  Yes!  How lucky I am!

Navy Blue Eyebrows and the S. of O. A.

Sunday, December 4th, 2022

I

Mom at Sweet Sixteen

It’s with that first glance of myself in the mirror each morning that I often hear my mother’s sighing whisper — “Oh, the Secrets of Old Age.”  Though she never revealed exactly what those were, I find that I am, by now, discovering a few for myself.

Take the time, years ago, that Jan Erikson was doing nails… My mother was leaving as I was arriving for my appointment and Jan said quietly, “Did you notice?”

“What???” I was gormless, as usual.

“Your mom’s eyebrows were navy blue!”

Mom at 86

We discussed whether I should mention it to her and I finally decided not to in the “This too shall pass” frame of mind.  It did and she was soon back to her usual (and not so unusual) fashion statements.  She was always dressed to the  nines and I can still here my dad saying to her when she readied herself for a special occasion, “You look like a million bucks!”

It wasn’t until I was in my late sixties and mom, though deep into her own world of dementia, was still making fashion statements at the Nursing Home, that I discovered my very first “S. of O. A.”  I could no longer distinguish between my navy blue socks and my black ones.  Cataracts were the culprit — and I was so sorry I hadn’t spoken to her about those eyebrows.  She did in fact, have cataract surgery later which helped for a while.

Mom at 92

All that also put me in mind of a boyfriend I once had (we might have even been engaged for a minute) who told me with great self-confidence (he was an artist) that my mother wore too much makeup.  And by the way, he told me, “so do you.”  Well, all I can say is that with those statements he revealed some of his own secrets.  I didn’t stick around long enough to see how he would weather into his own old age…

On the other hand, I do very much admire women of my own age who have never worn makeup at all.  They look fabulous — great skin tones, everything in sync, and they probably don’t have S. of O. A. thoughts with that first glimpse in the mirror each morning.  Hindsight.  (Maybe that’s another one…)

My mother set the bar really really high!

Monday, September 19th, 2022

Dale’s Birthday Crown – 1998

I’m not talking about the beverage bar here — although mom had a fair hand at managing the little wet bar in this house after Dad (the main bartender) died.  I think she was making up for the years that she (and Dad, too) were pretty much teetotalers.  Those were the years before her own parents died and, though Mom and I never discussed it, I do believe she didn’t drink out of respect for their beliefs.  But, she made up for lost time in her own old age and liked nothing better than to entertain her friends with cocktails and her inventive appetizers.

Dale On Her Way To Vespers

But, the bar that this blog title refers to has to do with her fabulous wardrobe.  From hats to shoes, dresses to suits, jewelry to gloves, she could create an outfit for any occasion and loved every opportunity to do so.  Among her keepsakes are some great pictures of mom “dressed to the nines” sometimes on her way to a special function, but often for a “usual happening” like Vespers or a meeting of the Community Club at the schoolhouse.

My earliest memories include mom’s trips to her dressmaker.  No matter where we lived, she found someone who could whip up a new outfit or alter an old one for her.  She was never without something “new and fashionable” to wear.  By the time I was in fifth or sixth grade, I was included in these dressmaking sessions and how I hated them.  My fondest wish was to buy the perfectly fitting item off the rack, preferably without having to try it on.  That, of course, never happened, and as soon as levis became the rage, I was in them as often as I could manage.

Dale – A Symphony In Black and White

I think I was a great disappointment in that regard to Mom.  But she never gave up on me.  Periodically, when she could afford it, she would take me on a shopping spree and get me “outfitted” — usually for some specific occasion.  When Charlie and his Dad and I went to Europe for a year, Mom took me to I. Magnin’s and bought me several warm wool suits and a few dresses that stood me in good stead for years.  And again, when I accepted a teaching job up here in the Northwest some twenty years later, she took me to Portland to get me “properly outfitted.”

I think she finally realized that I was a hopeless prospect.  But she never chided or even mentioned any disappointment.  As I look at these picture of her now, I wonder if I did my part by telling her how beautiful she was and how proud I was to have such an elegant mother.  I hope so.

Coasters For The Cocktail Hour

Monday Evening, March 23, 1931

Sunday, September 18th, 2022

Bright Angel Trail

Letter from my dad, Bill Little, to my mom, Dale Espy, during Spring Break when they were both college students at the University of Redlands.  They would soon announce their engagement and would be married on September 22, 1934.

Bright Angel Camp
Grand Canyon National Park
Arizona
March 23, 1931

William “Bill” Woodworth Little, 1932

Dear Dale,
I am a total wreck – physically at least.  Bob and I went down the Bright Angel trail —  and if there were Angels on that trail, the Devil made ’em — to the river.  It’s a seven mile hike each way — 14 miles in all — and a drop of 7,000 feet in the 7 miles.
Well, it only took us 2 hrs 40 minutes to get down.  We rested for an hour and a half and started up.  We made the first half in 1½ hours and the 2nd half in 3 hours!  How we made that last mile of the trail — 2,000 feet up — I don’t know.  But we are here — loafing in front of the fire in the lodge room of the Bright Angel Camp.
We have a cabin here — all furnished for $1.50 each day.  Tomorrow we’re going to loaf and see the places around here where we don’t have to walk!
We are running out of money and we aren’t going to come back by Zion Park and Las Vegas — the roads are reported as terrible  —  but are either going to stay here until Thursday and get home Friday night — or come back starting next morning by way of Phoenix, Yuma, San Diego stopping for Friday night and part of Saturday with Dr. Love…   I’ll write you tomorrow night and let you know how we’re coming.
At any rate, we’ll land in Redlands on Sat. afternoon and I’ll see you Sat. night and I’ll be broke!
I miss you now — I was too tired this afternoon to miss you.  I didn’t miss anything except a comfortable chair.  There’s one thing wrong with this Canyon — there’s no elevator to the ground floor!
                                       Love    you, Bill
Bob sends his “stiffest” regards —

 

 

And up popped my mom again!

Monday, March 15th, 2021

My Mom, Dale Espy Little c. 1997

My mother was “quite a character.”  We all said so when she was living (1911-2009) and, probably, so did she.  She loved to dress up, almost always completed her costume with a hat (often one she, herself, had made), entertained frequently and in grand style, and had a gazillion friends from all walks of life.

She was social to the max — which might have been hard on my more reclusive dad.  But, whether or not he wanted to participate in whatever she was doing, he was always at her side, often with a bit of a bemused and admiring expression as he looked at her.  None of us were ever surprised to go to a restaurant or an opening or an intimate luncheon and find that she was there as well.

Mom and “The New Look” 1948

But, when Mom popped up unexpectedly the other day in my dining room,  I was surprised, indeed!  Not in the flesh, you understand, but in a photograph.  She turned up tucked into a stack of magazines lent to me by a friend.   She looked great — dressed to the nines in a tuxedo, of all things!  I am guessing it was after my dad passed away.  She looks to be 84 or 85 which would put it in the late 1990s.  But where?  Perhaps at the Ark…

Was she with someone?   Or with a group?  Probably.  In any case, she looks as though she was having a great time!  I’m so glad to have this reminder of her when she about was my age!  What a gal!