The Innocent Years

Our Overlandtouring car was a black beauty. It seated five or six people. Top up or top down. Side curtains on or off. Gleaming over-size headlights. Heavy front bumper. Full-length running boards. Mounted rear tire. A newly-designed six-cylinder engine. And a horn I thought was a kick. “Ah-oooga.. .Ah-oooga”

It was called a sporty touring car. And tour we did. Some Sundays we’d drive to Vancouver for a visit with Uncle Fred and Aunt Edna Martell. Other times we’d go off on our own—up the Columbia River gorge on what is still one of the world’s most beautiful drives Or, down to Cannon Beach. My dad loved the Oregon coast. So did I. Or, once in awhile, we’d go all the way to Mt. Hood on a spectacular, two-lane road—pride of the 1920s. Other times, we’d just tour around town, enjoying the sights in the City of Roses.

My grandparents were picking hops and working the apple harvest in the Willamette Valley about that time.

We visited them, too. I’d take a nap in an apple basket while the folks were talking it up.

We even made it up into the mountains for a visit with Aunt Phoebe and Uncle George, who were cooking at a Cascade logging camp. We almost got stuck in the muddy ruts going up. But we didn’t. And what I remember best about that trip were Aunt Phoebe’s incredible, fresh- baked, wild blackberry pies, topped with home-made ice cream. Remember the good times.

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I was about five-and-a-half years old when my mother enrolled me into the first grade. No kindergarten. I was registered as Byron W. Mayo.

All I remember about that first year in school is that we walked through a woods to get to the old wooden school building—my mother made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for my lunch—the kids were friendly—I got to be in a school play—starting to learn the alphabet seemed like a good game—and I was glad when summer vacation came at the end of the school year.

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Whenever my grandparents or any relatives came over for a visit, I recall that we’d always have an early dinner and lots of talk. Then, the grownups would invariably end up in an uproarious pinochle game accompanied by bootleg beer and lots of arguing. This could go on for hours. In the next room, I didn’t get much sleep.

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