The Greatest Generation: Jean Conquest

By Claire Bacon, ACN, CNC

Today we’re continuing on with our feature on Lessons from the Greatest Generation.  And we’re so excited to introduce you to Mrs. Jean Conquest, Dr. Bob’s dear Grandma. At age 98, she’s still going strong.  She’s living her best life and is showing us all the rewards of staying so healthy.  Grandma Jean is truly the epitome of longevity.

Grandma Jean and Margo Bacon

What kinds of things did you do all your life to stay healthy?

Jean: (Laughing) It just happened, Claire!  Good genes!

I grew up on a farm, you know.  So we pretty much had the basics:  potatoes, gravy and meat, and salad. (laughing).  That seemed to be it. We had chickens at our house, and cows, calves, and occasionally a pig that they butchered.  And – I know we had freezers, but I don’t remember having a big one at that time.  We had a vegetable garden, we grew potatoes, carrots… I don’t remember how they preserved it. We had a basement – like a root cellar. It was just kind of like, life on the farm.

I was born May 27, 1924 in Eatonville, WA, which was about 25 miles SE of Tacoma.  It was on the way to Mt. Rainier. We’d drive to the mountain, and there was the park entrance called Paradise on our side (the west coast side) and there was another park entrance called Sunrise that you would go around the mountain and come up from Yakima (the other way). You would go through the entrance gate of the park all the way up to the foot of the mountain, where there were huge buildings with all the park information and of course, shops! From there, you could take more trails up the mountain.

What was going to school like?

Jean: We had a two-room schoolhouse.  The first four grades were in one room, and the 5th-8th were in the other room. And we would walk or ride our bikes, it was about 2 miles, I guess. Or we could ride with the Cream Man if we got up early enough (laughing). We would milk the cows and separate the milk, and we had cream cans.  They were just old-fashioned cream cans, and we would sell them to him.

He would take the cream cans into Tacoma, and that’s where they made butter and cottage cheese and all that good stuff (laughing). The Cream Man would come up our little country road, we’d put the cream cans out and he’d pick them up, and if we were ready to go to school he’d leave us off at Grandfather’s store and we’d walk the rest of the way. 

Young Jean on the Farm

There were always lots of things to do on the farm.  That was something you just did, and didn’t get paid. That was just part of growing up. I didn’t get an allowance or anything.  I did some babysitting. We lived on the farm, we went to the movies, maybe we went to town with Grandma. We didn’t need much money.  There were lots of things to do without it.  It wasn’t like now, not at all like today.  There was nothing… We had radio. We just played… 

I remember I used to dress the cats and the dogs up in doll clothes. (laughing) My cats – they weren’t house cats. They stayed outside; they were barn cats.  The kids would bring them up to the house and play with them. And I would put doll clothes on them. They would be my babies. (laughing) We were young!  And they didn’t care.  Until they got tired of it and would run away and hide.

We had an old working horse – his name was King.  I’d put the saddle on him because I was the oldest. I had a cousin Max and my brother, they were about the same age.  We’d get the saddle out and put it on old King. And when he’d get tired, he’d stand there and move from one foot to the other. That meant he was getting tired and I had to get the saddle off of him, because he would lay down and roll.  So we’d play like that.  And we’d sleep in the hay. A bunch of us kids would sleep in the hay in the barn – that was one of our fun things that we did.

Jean During Her Teen Years

As far as I can remember, I was milking cows until I graduated from high school. At one point, my brother and I would milk 18 cows before we went to school, day and night.  Then when I left, my brother Joe went in the Navy. And my parents got a milking machine (laughing).  I was living with Grandma and Granddad then, so I don’t remember what Dad did other than get a milking machine.

I stayed with Grandma and Granddad when I was in 7th grade and part of my 8th grade and then I wanted to go back and graduate with the 4 kids I started school with. So I went back and lived at home until I graduated. I took a bus to school, maybe a 45-minute ride by the time they picked up all the kids and got to school.

In the meantime, my Granddad sold the store to my Uncle Wyeth and they lived in Tacoma on 5228 S. Park Avenue and it was a big old house with 4 bedrooms upstairs. Downstairs there were French doors that went into the living room, and French doors that went into another room straight ahead and it had an outdoor entrance, so he made that into an apartment and rented that out during the War. 

So Granddad had 3 rooms upstairs he rented, and I had one for a while. Because housing was a problem at that time, because people worked at the shipyards and they also worked out at the Airforce Base.

Todd Shipyard

Jean on Going to College

I moved down there [to Tacoma] after high school.  And I went to college at UPS for a year and started another half year.  And I was working at a little fruit/vegetable market down at 9th and Commerce in Tacoma.  It was run by… I think he was a Greek man.  I graduated in ’42, this must have been in ’43.  And my friend Jenny Rothlisberger came by and said, “Jeannie, I can get you a job at the shipyards if you come with me right now.” So I went with her, and got hired as a timekeeper.  And that was good money.  So even though [at my current job] I had just gotten a raise, I told him “I’ve got to quit, I’m quitting today.” (laughing)

I was a sophomore in college, about 19 years old, I guess. And so I would work swing shift at the shipyards, and I continued with school for a while. I was going to be a Nurse.  So I was dissecting frogs and all that. And working until midnight and then I had class at 8 and I had to take a bus. I decided college was more than I could handle – it got to be too much.  And so I quit school and just worked at the shipyard. 

Going to Beauty School

After that, I had all this time on my hands. And they were advertising for Beauty School.  They would give us a small portion of what we earned when we got to the point where we did the customers’ hair. 

I finished Beauty School after the war was over and graduated from that.  Back then, I worked until Margo was born [Dr. Bob’s Mom]. I worked from the time I graduated until, let’s see… Margo was born in June of ’49 and I wasn’t working full time – I was just working part time until Margo came and then I quit.  I was married in ’48.  So I probably worked for maybe 2 years.

CB:  You probably cut your kids’ hair as they grew up?

Jean:  Oh no – I gave them permanents, but I didn’t cut their hair.  I wasn’t into cutting hair. (laughing) I would take them back to Lee and Bev.  I worked for this young couple and they were really cute.  He was a little Frenchman and she was Norwegian.  They were about the same size, they were a really cute couple.  And they had two little boys. And they owned this Shamrock beauty shop, which was just about a block from where Sid and I had our first apartment. So it was really handy.

Meeting Sid Conquest

Jean: I was going to Beauty School when we met.  My friend Virginia and I had gone with her cousins to the Eagle’s Club.  Sid had been on a bowling team sponsored by the Eagles.  And he came back to the Eagle’s after bowling that night – I think it was a Saturday night. It was the Century Ballroom out on the highway going towards Seattle.  And he asked if I would like to go to the Century Ballroom with him. And I said, “well I’m here with Virginia and I won’t leave her.”  “Well, she can come with us.” So we dropped off the cousins and went with Sid to the Century Ballroom (laughing).

And she was from Pe Ell – a little podunk town. There was some guy from Pe Ell that she met.  And we all went out. It was out on Highway 99 going to Olympia – there were several restaurants going out that way.  It was kind of a roadhouse at that time. I had a chicken dinner and we danced some more.  And then we came back and of course it was too late to get in the Y so we sat up and talked all night.  And we just went out every night from then on. 

Life at the YWCA

Back then, I was living at the Y. You get in by midnight or you have to wait – it’s closed until 6 o’clock in the morning. Or, there’s a girl upstairs with the key but when you come in at 2 or 3 o’clock (laughing) so we sat out front until the lady came and opened the Y.  We always tried to get in before time. You couldn’t have too many demerits. (laughing) You’re living at the Y for crying out loud!

The YWCA in 1946

It was the weekend before Thanksgiving. My Mom picked me up and we went to Seattle to my Great-Aunt’s – my mother’s aunt. And then they brought me back to the Y. The gal at the Y said someone had been calling and that they would probably call back. And he called back and said if he’d come down and get me would I come out to his house?  I said yes, of course. 

He was living with his Mom and Dad.  And we went out there.  They had a big round table in his dining room. He sat me down at the table and introduced me to everybody.  There were his sister and about 3 aunts and his cousin Connie – a whole bunch of people.  And then he went in the living room with the men. And I thought, I’ll never in the world remember all these people’s names! Because he had a big family.  There were four aunts and they all had lots of children; they all had families.

It’s a Small World

Oh, this was a funny story… When I first got out of high school, I went to work over in Seattle in the basement of the Bon Marche – well, it had a little coffee shop down there so I went to work in the coffee shop. I was 18 and I was just greener than grass from off the farm. And there was this woman – she never smiled.  She scared me to death. So I went and told her – I didn’t want to say I quit – I just told her I had to have an appendicitis operation. She said, “Is it acute or chronic?  I said, “I don’t know, he just told me I have to have it right away!” (laughing)

Years and years later, I meet Sid.  Here sits this lady across the table from me – it’s Sid’s Aunt!  She didn’t remember me, but I remembered her! She had been through so many girls at the shop and this was 6-7 years later.  And she had a totally different personality away from the shop. And that was funny.  Then we became family.

Young Sid Conquest

Dating Sid

And Sid and I did something every day from then on.  He’d pick me up from Beauty school. We’d go have a drink – I’d have a glass of wine, he’d have a beer, then he’d go home and have dinner.  We’d stop usually at the Poodle-Dog, or a restaurant at the end of the road by Stadium High School – Scottie’s.  We knew the bartender in there.

Sid was quite romantic and he knew a lot of people.  He went to Stadium for the first two years and then, because he wanted to take something Stadium didn’t offer, he went to Lincoln.  So he knew everybody in town. We had a good time. That was fun, especially for a little girl from the farm. (laughing)

My brother was in the service – the Navy, and my cousins.  I didn’t meet Sid until after he was out of the service.  He was 27 and I was 25 when we got married.  He was 25 when we met.  We met in November ’46 and didn’t get married until June of ’48. That was a long time ago. (laughing)

What was Sid doing before you met, during the War?

Jean: He was a gunner on a plane that flew off an aircraft carrier.  I don’t know how long he was gone because I didn’t know him until he was out of the Navy, and he never talked about it. There was a time when he got sent off the ship and went back to work at the Seattle office.  And just a couple months later that ship got sunk. That ship didn’t make it back.  So you can imagine he had some buddies on there.  He didn’t talk about the War.  But he was a great shot when he would go shoot with the boys.  He didn’t do much unless he was good at it.

CB: You and Sid traveled a good bit.  Were you able to keep up with farming?

Jean: No, after we got married, we didn’t keep chickens.  We mainly bought our stuff at Granddad’s store.  Grandma had a little garden, but she had mostly flowers. And I followed her around.  Because Granddad had the store, we just ate out of the store. The vegetables would come from the local farmers around there.  We didn’t have to worry about food.

How Did You Become Such a Good Cook?

Who me, a good cook?  (laughing) I don’t know, I just started out and did it!  I guess from magazines?  I’d find recipes in Good Housekeeping and Ladies’ Home Journal. I took all those magazines and we did have television (laughing) so that helped.  I remember, Julia Child had a show.  But I didn’t watch her.  She was… I don’t know… she just wasn’t one of my favorite people (laughing). How did I learn to cook?  I just dove in. 

The Principal of my high school gave me a Better Homes and Gardens cookbook. A looseleaf one. I just followed that.  You know, it had pictures; it was step-by-step. Anyway, it was from Mr. and Mrs. McMillan. (laughing) So anyhow, you just started out and did it.  And fortunately, Sid was very good about it.  He helped; he liked to cook, too. When we were married, if we did steaks or chops other than if I cooked them on the stove with gravy or soup, he would barbeque it. 

When we first got married, Sid was working for CIT – he was an adjuster.  And that means if you see cars that are past due, you chase them.  So, I’ve chased cars that were past due! (laughing) Yeah, you know, you recognize the license plate and I’ve been more than once when we turned around and chased a car. He was a pretty big guy to go and chase a car. 

Life in Tacoma

And then he managed the Tacoma CIT office for a while. And I was pregnant with Margo when the earthquake happened.  That was scary.  He was on the 13th floor of the Washington Building and the building just went like this – [motioning sideways] and it stayed together.  It must have been ’49 because I was pregnant with Margo. He didn’t call me when it happened and I was really upset.

But I had a little dog – Blondie – Mom gave me a cocker spaniel my first Christmas after Sid and I were married.  He started barking right before the earthquake came. I sat down in a chair and he got up in the chair and got behind me. And then the earthquake came and it was really a hard one. Of course you couldn’t call – everybody was on the phone and he couldn’t reach me. And I was just really upset – “I’m here and I’m pregnant and just, nobody cares!” (laughing) That was the worst earthquake I’ve ever been through.  It was bad.

The 1949 Tacoma Earthquake

In Tacoma, we had Bill and he was a year old, and we moved to Salt Lake City for a year. Sid got a promotion with CIT. [whispering – I hated SLC]. Here I am, I was still a little farm girl, you understand.  I had two babies and a dog.  I didn’t know many people there, and they weren’t friendly.  Unless you were a Catholic or a Mormon, you were out of it.  (laughing) So anyhow, we had friends but they were company friends, like Ford Motor Company and CIT. We were there a year or so. 

I remember, Sid got a new promotion. Sid’s boss, MacIlhenny called me and said “How would you like to come back to Seattle, Jean?”  I said, “The first airplane, bus or train I can take out of here!”  And he said, “OK, you’re coming home.”  They convinced us if we left our furniture in the house, it would be easier to sell. And then we found out, they were having parties in the house. And we weren’t invited!  So, we packed up the furniture and moved it to the West Coast!

So then we moved around Seattle a bit, and had Sheri during that time.  And then we moved to Bellevue.

Moving to Bellevue

In Bellevue, we had a house that had a fireplace in the family room.  It was a back-to-back fireplace – one side was in the front room and the other side was the family room fireplace.  So we put a barbeque in the family room fireplace – a charcoal grill.  And he would do chops and steaks in the wintertime there, inside in the fireplace pit. Because that was just off the kitchen – it was sort of an L shaped kitchen.  It worked well.  We had been married 7 years by the time we moved there.  Margo was 6 years old and had just started school.

Family Dinners

We generally didn’t buy frozen meals; we always cooked dinner.  But if we were going out, the kids had a lot of chicken pot pies. (laughing) We didn’t do TV dinners. Pretty much we always cooked meals – we had a lot of hamburger, meatloaf, pot roast, pork chops in mushroom gravy. And we ate out a lot.  I didn’t do TV dinners until I was alone.

Traditional dinners were the norm

And we barbequed on the deck in Sun City. If it was nice, we barbequed outside. Ham, roasted turkey legs, sweet potatoes.  That’s what Sheri liked – candied sweet potatoes.  I never made it with marshmallows – only butter and brown sugar. And always applesauce with pork, I remember that.

Hunting

In Washington, sometimes we had wild elk and we had deer.  But only when Sid went hunting. That wasn’t something you had unless you killed it yourself and had it butchered.  And when we would go bird hunting in Eastern Washington – the little lady whose farm we hunted on – she had lambs.  We’d always get a Spring lamb and have that… and you could certainly taste the difference (from the store lamb chops). All the difference in the world, the Spring lamb was sooo much better.

CB:  So you went bird hunting, too?

Jean:  Yes, until (my son) Bill got old enough to go with him.  I only got two birds.  One was a hen that the dog brought back, that I didn’t realize I had shot, and the other one I got in the cornfield and he was a rooster. That’s all I got.  I was not a good hunter. I was more of a bird dog (go and get it).

Grandma Jean, Bill, and Margo

Traveling with Sid

The farthest place I’ve ever been to is Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. We went on a cruise and went to Rio.  That was the furthest distance, I think. I haven’t been to Europe.

We did a lot of cruises. It was our favorite thing at that time.  We were fortunate to have Sid’s Mom and my Mom.  Sid’s Mom would always take Bill and my Mom would take Sheri and Margo. When Sheri was a baby there was a high school girl that would come and help Mom.  We would kind of hire her to help Mom (laughing).  That was a good thing.

Surprise Trip!

The first time we left them was on our tenth anniversary. We went to Hawaii with our friends Henry and Ann Stotsenberg – they lived in Yakima. He was one of Sid’s RV dealers.  Henry called me on the phone he says “you’ve got your bag packed?”  And I said “no, where are we going?” And he says “Hawaii.”  I said, “I can be packed real soon!” (laughing) He called me before he called Sid and Sid hadn’t mentioned to him but he said if you get a good deal we’ll go with you… He was a dealer so he got deals for advertising and things like that.  So we went with them to Hawaii, and that was our tenth anniversary.  That was fun. We had a really good time.

Growing Up with Horses

Sheri loved horses, too. When we moved from Bellevue to Puyallup, Sid thought he would leave CIT and would go into business with another man in Puyallup and sell RVs.  And Sheri was young.  She was in grade school and Bill was in junior high and Margo was in high school.  It was alright, when we moved.  She didn’t make a big complaint about it.  Bill didn’t care, he was happy to move on to the farm – or out in the farming country. And Sheri wanted a horse.  And a poodle. (laughing)

I bought a Horse!

So Sid went hunting and he rode this horse. He and Hank went over and were hunting some kind of bird.  And this horse had been trained by this little gal and she wanted to sell it.  Sid came home and said “we’re going to get a horse” and it kind of went over my head.  And so he bargained with her. He bought the horse, and she kept him through the winter. And in the springtime, he says “well I got to go get the horse.”  I said “you what?” (laughing) He said, “I bought a horse!  Remember, I told you?” Yeah, but I had forgotten about it. Well, anyhow, he went and got Stormy. And Stormy, he was a half Morgan or something else I don’t know, but he was a pretty horse.

Keeping Sheri in Line

At that time we bought this house and it had a big lot next door.  So Sid put an electric fence around the vacant lot and we staked Stormy out.  We had him until Sheri got to be about 16.  Her grades were kind of dropping and I said “if your grades drop, the horse goes.” And her grades dropped.  So the guy behind us bought the horse and said “You can ride him!” (laughing) So he took it and by that time there was some building back there. So he took the horse back up on South Hill, where he boarded the horse. 

But they wouldn’t let her ride because their insurance didn’t cover it.  They said they were sorry, but their insurance wouldn’t cover her riding the horse. So that took care of that. But Stormy was a good horse and she loved riding him.  She had friends who had horses. So, they would come over and they would ride together.  It was a fun thing, and good for her.  She was the one who had to take care of the horse.  And she still loves and rides horses to this day.

Tell Me About the Conquest Holiday Traditions

We always had turkey on Thanksgiving, and we’d have both Sid’s parents and mine over for dinner.  And if his sisters were around, they came for dinner, too. And Sid always helped me. We’d wrap it in foil – that came out good. And Mac (Sheri’s husband) he was the first one to cook it in a turkey fryer – we never did that.  Pretty much we always had turkey or a roast. A lot of roasts. Roasts were a big thing when the family came.

When we lived in Bellevue, Sid’s Mother and Dad would come to Puyallup and my folks would pick them up and they’d come over together for dinner.  And they were there most of the day.  It was always family.

Holiday Sides

We’d have vegetables – it was always turkey, potatoes and gravy. And a salad that could be made ahead of time – not a fresh salad as such – but like a Jello salad or a fruit salad with whipping cream – that always went over big. That was what Bill always wanted.  You know, you made a dish for just about everybody.  You made the fruit salad for Bill and you made the broccoli casserole – I don’t even remember how I made it. And a corn casserole, and corn on the cob was always good. That was Sheri’s favorite.

The Kids and Veggies

After Sheri married Mac, she ate a lot better than when growing up.  He introduced her to a lot of different foods, so to speak.  She was a bit of a picky eater when she was little, and was chubby, but when she got to running around, she lost her weight. (laughing) But as a baby she was chubby. Margo wasn’t a picky eater, she was pretty easy to cook for. Margo and Bill were easy.  And I guess… I never had any trouble with the kids.  Margo hated beans – I remember that. String beans were not her favorite. And I would say “well just take a bite of them, they’re not bad.”  And she wouldn’t swallow them. She’d keep them in her mouth ‘til she would spit them out.  I said, “This is no good.  She don’t like beans!”

Mac, Margo, Jean, and Sheri

Grandma Jean and Her Favorite Foods

Hmm… what’s good?  I’ve always loved corn on the cob.  I wasn’t fond of chicken.  We had a lot of chicken. I like pork chops, I like steak.  [Currently in her independent living community] we don’t have that very often. We have chicken done a lot of ways.  Today is I think Tilapia, which is why I’m not going to have it.  They send out a menu from the office and it’s supposedly “diet ok”, you know what I mean, for old people.  And the meals are good. They have 3 things – the main deal and the second choice, and a sandwich you can choose from. They’re good about that. 

Like, for breakfast we had a croissant, meat and egg, which by the time you get your fruit and your juice – there’s always orange, cranberry, and prunes – there’s always three.  And you can get an egg any way you want it.  They’re very diversified, really. There’s a lot to choose from.  They may have a zucchini bread.  They have a bread drawer with cupcakes and cookies that’s available anytime.  So that’s a good thing.

Yams vs. Sweet Potatoes

Here [in Sacramento] we haven’t had a sweet potato yet – it’s always yams.  In the South, everybody calls them sweet potatoes. But they were always yams there. They’re a lot sweeter, and I don’t know, somehow I got the idea that sweet potatoes had more nutrients in them.  But I never would make yams, I always would make sweet potatoes. They don’t cook as fast as yams do – sweet potatoes take longer to cook.  They’re harder.

Margo, Jean, Bill, and Sheri in 2019.

Grandma Jean on Beauty and Skin Care

No, I didn’t go in the sun much.  Not like the kids did in Margo’s era.  And I never went in the suntan thing [tanning bed]. You know, I used Avon for years.  I worked for Avon when I went to Puyallup. Margo and I were looking for her a job (laughing) and we saw this Avon ad.  I said “Why don’t you be an Avon lady, Margo?” and she said “No Mom, why don’t you be an Avon lady?”  So they were giving you the whole kit, and I thought, well that’s a way to meet [people].  I had lived in that area, but I didn’t know anybody out there.  So, I ordered the kit and I was an Avon lady.  And I had a great time. 

I’ve met some really nice people. And it was fun! So I used Avon from the time I moved to Puyallup (which was in ’65).

Being An Avon Lady and Van de Kamp Girl

Through my Avon job I met a lady – and she was a really good customer – and she said they were looking for Van de Kamp girls. She said, “Just go down to Piggly Wiggly and see Mrs. Isley.” So I went in there and she hired me.  So that’s how I became a Van de Kamp girl. (laughing) But I still did Avon for a long time.  And I used – when I was first married I think I used Jergen’s face cream.  I didn’t do anything special.  Again – it’s good genes!

Avoiding the Sun

So, I also didn’t go in the sun and I didn’t get burned.  I got burned one time I met this gal in college and we went – her grandmother had a home on the canal, and we went to her house for a weekend. And I got really really burned, and I was never so sick. Oh it hurt and then it itched.  Just because you didn’t feel it, you were on the canal, it was cool – the breeze was going but the sun was out.  And you didn’t feel until that night. That’s the only time I got burned bad, and that was not pleasant.  I watched it from then on, trust me!

So nothing special besides Jergen’s or Avon.  I always put cream on before I went to bed.  My mother never used makeup.  So I didn’t use makeup hardly at all through high school.  It just wasn’t done. “This was Eatonville.” Makeup wasn’t a big thing.

Any Words of Advice for a New Mom?

Jean: It would be so much fun now to be a new Mom.  I go into the stores now and see everything that matches and think, wouldn’t that be so much fun to start all over and have everything match? (laughing) But when Sid and I got married he had lived in his area and his family had a big shower and the Ladies’ Aid had a shower for me.  And you’d be amazed at everything I got!  Because you know they knew me from the time I was “that high” because I was in the store from the time I was 6.

As we grew up, I never left that area until I graduated from high school.  And I kept going back ‘cause my parents lived there.  Every time they’d have a reunion or anything, we’d go. So when I got married, they practically set me up a housekeeping!  That was pretty nice.  Nothing matched, but that was OK.  (laughing)

Grandma Jean with the great-grandkids: Owen, Adele, and Carson

Favorite Kitchen Utensil?

Jean: Probably a MixMaster blender, that’s the one thing.  You know, we didn’t have microwaves, not for a long time.  Everything seemed to be done with the MixMaster.  It was like an egg beater, that tipped down and you had two bowls – a small bowl and a big bowl that came with it.  It made cakes, it did everything, you know. (laughing)

I can remember my Mother using a whip making an angel food cake.  The farmers would get together and have a lot of dances, and then they’d have meals. Her thing to bring was always an angel food cake. And she would beat that [by hand] and there no mixers in those days. She would take a whip and just beat those eggs up you know (laughing) well I did it with a Mix Master, but mine didn’t come out like hers. But anyhow that was her thing to take – Parker House rolls and angel food cake.

They would go to – I don’t know what they’d call them – Ladies’ Aid get togethers. Because that’s what ran the school in those days.  They’d maybe have card parties and that was how they made money. This was out in the country.

Ladies’ card party

Grandma Jean on Changes in Technology

At the store, Granddad had a gas station, too. I used to get a nickel or a penny or something… we’d have to pump the gas back up in the tanks for Granddad. You would measure the gallons – the top part was glass and had the measurements marked on it. As people would pump the gas, the levels would come down and we’d have to pump it back up. I don’t remember when that changed – when we didn’t have the men to pump your gas for you anymore.

Going with the Flow

And I don’t know… things just changed. We got new things as things came out. Sid brought (when he was with CIT, a finance company) they would bring stuff together. Like he got a set of pots and pans.  He needed an electric lawn mower.  And this pile of stuff came in that somebody had to turn back – somebody couldn’t make the payments on. And in it was a lawnmower, Kirby vacuum cleaner, and a set of really nice pots and pans. 

In those days, the salesman would come out and cook you a dinner. People would buy the pans and put them on contract and maybe eventually they couldn’t pay. Which, incidentally, Sheri and Mac are still using – I gave it to them.  And what else was in it? A sewing machine. I got a heavy old sewing machine – it wasn’t a Singer but it was portable and really heavy. And I just got rid of that not too long ago. So all these things came in and for the price of what was left on the contract.  And that’s how I got my… well, I got lots of stuff.

A Kirby vacuum in the 1960s

Did You Sew Clothes Growing Up?

Jean: Yes. The first thing I made on my sewing machine that I made for myself was a Gone With The Wind dress. For this party, I had to have a formal and so I sent to Sears and Roebuck and got this long material and I think I paid 29 cents a yard for it.  I think it was 10 yards of fabric and I got a pattern and made this dress. I thought it was beautiful – I don’t know – but Mother let me wear it so I guess it was alright. It was gathered – you know how they made them down the front like this with a yoke – and yards and yards of material were gathered to it. (laughing) Anyhow, that was probably one of the first things. 

I must have made an apron in high school or Home Ec.  Oh man – they don’t have Home Ec anymore, do they?  It was such a valuable class and you had to take it – girls had to take it. And some boys took it.  I remember the first thing we made – we had to make a white butter sauce.  And I had to make an apron.  And it was good!  It’s a shame they don’t do it now.  Young people don’t know how to cook.

A lot of differences now.  More emphasis is put on sports and extra-curricular activities other than home ec – things kids should know. That was part of home ec – you had to learn to do a checkbook, all kinds of helpful things, and you had to finish these things.  But that’s the way it was done.  It’s sure different now.

At 98 years, how does it feel, looking back at all the decades?

Jean: I’ve been blessed all my life, I really have.  I’ve been blessed with good friends and good people around me. And I still have many of them.

I just feel like I’ve lived in the best of times. It really can’t get any better than when we had it.  Except for the War. When they first bombed, we were on bicycles.  I had met Fran and Genevieve, and we were on bicycles down at the corner where the Sawyers lived, and we were talking about all the kids who were at the age – we knew that they would have to go and fight.  And then to see them go… it was really scary.  But… I only knew one person that I went to high school with, who they said didn’t come back.  Only one person.  You see, I’ve lived a blessed life.

And then when everybody came home, that was really special. What was that show we just watched that showed when they all came home – “New York, New York.”  When the War was over, oh, there was a lot of happiness.

Grandma Jean and Chiropractic

I’d like to tell you though, I think a lot of my health was started by me going to a chiropractor. I did that when I had a problem, I could not sit.  I could stand up, I could walk, I could lay flat on my back.  But when I sat, the pain down my legs was excruciating. I remember we started out to Mom’s one time and I said, “I can’t do this.  I can’t sit in the car this long.  We have to go back.”

Giving Chiropractic A try

I had been to several doctors – I had been to my doctor, I had been to an osteopathic doctor down the street – a lot of people.  My Mom was telling my Aunt in California about it.  And she knew this little Chiropractor who lived over in the University district.  And Sid would take me over there.  First I went 3 times a week and then 2 times a week and then once a week, then once every two weeks, and finally she let me go. 

Moving Around

And then I found a Chiropractor in Kirkland, WA. And my hip would go out – I’d go like this and it’d be sticking out.  I’d go see him and he’d put it back in. And then I moved and I had a Chiropractor in Puyallup.  Only when my back would go out – only when I could feel it.  Meaning, I didn’t do it all the time – I wasn’t a steady go-er. I didn’t have one in Yuma.  

However, I had one in Sun City and she was a doll. She was Puerto Rican. When my back would go out, I’d call her up and she’d work me in.  And I think when I went to that one when I went steady for 6 months, she cured me.  I never had that again. They [the doctors] tried everything, they tried lifting my heels, they tried to put this piece in my shoes, nothing could stop it, but the Chiropractor did.

So I think a lot of my health is due to having gone to the Chiropractor as much as I did. I wanted you to know that. I really think that has a lot to do with it. Because I’m still walking. (laughing) I guess for my age I’m doing good!

Yes you are!!  We love you so much, Grandma Jean!!

Dr. Bob and Claire with Grandma Jean pictured in front of Margo’s perfect Christmas tree

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