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History

Working at a Coal Mine

My senior year of college was as different as night and day.  It wasn’t my original plan. By day, I inhabited the rarified air of life at a university where young men and women, often preening boys and girls, proffered great thoughts fueled by a steady diet of pot and booze.  At night, I worked in a coal mine with gray-haired men at jobs they’d performed their entire lives.

I was bemused by the attitudes and mindsets of the two cultures.  For me, it was the best and worst of times – the most wonderful and dreadful of any span of my then young life.  I was fully exhilarated and completely exhausted – a caterpillar in search of a butterfly to escape from a cocoon of his own making.  For years I’ve struggled to reconcile the feelings and emotions within those discordant worlds I simultaneously ingested.

I’d grown increasingly bored with college phonies fretting over which grad school to attend.  I was steadily drawn to the stoic lives of coal miners.  My fellow undergrads bemoaned petty stresses of their own making.  Each day the miners completed the tasks set before them.  The grad school gang imagined chic careers with grand salaries.  The coal miners were content with life and their position in it.

In early September 1974, I prepared to return for my last year of college.  Over three summers past, I worked for Palmer Coking Coal, a family-owned company.  My jobs were common laboring at the Black Diamond yard and Rogers #3 mine.  That mine was a succession of Rogers #1 and #2, started in 1958 and 1959 respectively.  Located in Ravensdale, Rogers #3 was slated to close in less than a year.  It would be the last underground coal mine in the State of Washington.

End of the shift
That’s me at shift’s end I was covered with coal dust on one of my rare day shifts. The Rogers #3 hoist room and mine tipple are up the hill behind me.  Photo by Barry Kombol, April 1975

My uncle, Jack Morris was President of Palmer.  He was navigating the company’s exit from the coal business, as gracefully as possible.  It was a tough time for the firm.  Jack was drinking heavily, and Palmer’s fortunes were not promising.  There were sharp disagreements between three uncles, Jack, Evan Morris, and Charlie Falk, who collectively led the firm.  I was thankfully unaware of building tensions and unresolved rivalries. I just turned 21.  Little did I know that leadership of this company would one day fall to me.

Evan Morris, Sr. on the platform beside the portal into the Rogers #3 mine.  The sloped tunnel descender 800 feet underground.  December 1974.

Federal coal inspectors were bearing down on small mines like Palmer’s.  Our operation didn’t fit the template for a subsurface coal mine.  The Rogers coal seam stood nearly vertical, while most coal mines operate on horizontal planes, the way sedimentary formations containing coal seams are naturally deposited.  The plate tectonic which uplifted the Cascade Mountains altered the local Ravensdale geology to a rare condition – a vein of coal tilted to more than 80º.  Underground mine regulations hadn’t been written for that kind of operation.

Coal seams in this area of Ravensdale stood nearly vertical as seen in this geologic cross section. – Golder Associates.

Most men who worked at Rogers #3 were lifelong coal miners.  All were in their late 50s and early 60s, except for a cousin, Bob Morris; my brother, Barry Kombol, and me.  Two dozen miners had retired over the previous eight years, but enough experienced men remained allowing Palmer to finish its underground mine while honoring contracts supplying coal to State prisons.  Palmer’s management was mindful of the decades those miners had worked in the industry and sensitive to union pensions that hung in the balance.  A few more years would strengthen each miner’s retirement payout.

One day in early September, Jack pulled me aside and asked if I’d work the afternoon shift while attending college.  It was my senior year where an easy slide towards graduation was a natural expectation.  Jack explained I’d earn the wage rate under the United Mine Workers contract to which Palmer was bound.  A Grade 2, Tipple Attendant made $45.93 per day.  That UMW day rate was the equivalent of $32 per hour in today’s currency.  To a money-hungry lad like me, that sounded awfully enticing.  I talked it over with my folks and a decision was made.

Surface facilities at Rogers #3. The tipple to the left and load out bunkers to the right.  Photo by Don Mason, early 1970s.

The afternoon shift was from 3 – 11 pm, so it made sense to live at home.  My first three years of college were spent at Pi Kappa Phi, where I enjoyed the camaraderie of fraternity brothers plus the assorted characters who boarded in spare rooms.  Ours was a frat house with a classical facade, good cooks, and two hot meals a day.  Staying at home would make me a “townie,” so I’d only pay fraternity dues plus the meal rate for lunch, a significant saving over full room and board.  I drove my parent’s 1968 Renault, an unusual car in those days – basically a Volkswagen Bug for cheapskates.  The no-frills Renault got good mileage, had a stick shift on the floor, with an A.M. radio.  What else could I possibly need?

My schedule was grueling.  Monday through Friday, I was up at 6 am, fixing breakfast while Mom packed my evening dinner in a metal lunch bucket.  I loved yogurt and back then little was sold in stores, so Mom cultured her own which I ate from a squat thermos.  She, Pauline (Morris) Kombol was herself, a coal miner’s daughter.

I left Enumclaw every morning at 7 am.  Traffic was light with far less congestion than today’s clogged freeways.  Interstate 5 was a breeze with only occasionally slowdowns.  I arrived at the University of Washington campus about 8 am, parked at the fraternity, then walked to my 8:30 class.  My first break came at 9:30, so for an hour I studied at the Husky Union Building, and then sped off to my 10:30 and 11:30 classes.  By 12:30 pm, I rambled back to the fraternity for lunch, studied for an hour, and left Seattle at 1:45 arriving at the Ravensdale mine by 2:45 pm.

Joe Ozbolt, left and James ‘Bo’ Williams, right inside the Rogers #3 washhouse. Photo by Charlie Falk, February 1975.

In the washhouse, I joined other miners where we changed from street clothes to working gear.  There were only six miners per shift, but I was exclusively night shift so worked with alternating crews each week.  We walked up a slight hill to the hoist room and met the day crew coming from the mine.  Our counterparts were greeted and a light banter exchanged.  The afternoon shift started at 3 pm, lasting eight hours including a dinner break.  My job involved standing at a waist-high metal platform, where coal was separated from rock.  It was called the picking table and I was its operator.  The picking table was located in the belly of a triangular wooden structure called the tipple.

A loaded coal car is being dumped from the top of tipple into the chute below. The picking table was behind the silver-colored sheet metal above the dumptruck where waste material was collected before being hauled to the rock dump.  Photo by Bill Kombol, April 1975.

The job was simple – push coal to the right and rock to the left.  There was one primary goal: don’t let rocks smash your fingers, lest you wind up with a throbbing fingernail rapidly turning purple.  Still, it happened, and no matter how long you sucked that pulsing finger, the pain lingered.  Sometimes it hurt so much, you had to heat a sewing needle red hot then drill down through the nail to release the pounding pressure caused when blood rushed to repair the wound.

The picking table was six feet wide and about two feet deep.  The left third featured a hinged trap-door balanced by a pulley and weight.  When 100 pounds or more of rock accumulated on that side, a trap door released the waste material that fell into a dump truck below.  The large chunks of coal which landed on the table were pushed right into a crusher and broken into small pieces.

Barry Kombol, ready at the picking table – notice how clean he is at the start of a shift.  Photo by Bill Kombol, April 1975.  
A Moulden & Sons dumptruck filling up with coal to be hauled to Palmer’s Mine #11 yard in Black Diamond for further processing.  Photo by Bill Kombol, April 1975.

Above me was a chute regularly filled with coal and rock brought from the mine and dumped from the tipple above.  A slanted door of thick steel, opened and closed by an electric motor, regulated how much coal came through that chute.  After falling down, the coal mix vibrated over a sloped screen with square openings.  The smaller-sized pieces (less than 4” in diameter) dropped onto a conveyor belt and were carried to the loadout bunker.

The slanted door on the chute had to be set to just the right level.  Opened too much and excessive coal crashed down, blinding the screen, and left the picking table a cluttered mess.  If the avalanche was too large you couldn’t separate the rock from coal fast enough and both ended up discarded.  But when not opened enough, the screening process slowed, and the next coal car to dump was stalled, disrupting the entire operation.  Getting it right was fairly easy when coal was uniform, and rocks were small.  But sometimes large chunks of sharp-angled sandstone and sedimentary rock jammed between the chute door and vibrating screen.  The rocks wedged together at such awkward angles that none could break through the hatchway.  The bind got so nasty that rocks were stuck even with a fully opened door.

When that happened, I rushed to the hoist room and told the operator to stop pulling cars from the mine.  The hoist-man operated a large spool, six feet across upon which was wound 1,000 feet of 1” thick steel cable.  It resembled a gigantic fishing reel.  The cable spun through a bull-wheel atop the tipple providing leverage needed for pulling five-ton coal cars up from the bottom of the mine.  After the car was dumped, the hoist operator braked against gravity, allowing the car to free-wheel down rails tracks along the 48º slope, through a mine opening called the portal.

A closeup of Bill McLoughry operating the hoist. The drum and steel cable are in the background.  Photo by Barry Kombol, April 1974.

With coal cars stopped, I ran back to the picking table and turned off the vibrating screen.  I climbed up and with a long metal pry bar tried dislodging rocks to coax them through the door.  If that didn’t work, I’d pound repeatedly with a sledgehammer to break the burly rocks into smaller pieces that could fit through.  Sometimes the clog was so bad, the hoist man joined me as we tried to get things moving.  Some nights the work was so grueling my body was drained in sweat.

Hoist operators: Roy Darby, top left; Frank Manowski, top right; and Bob Morris, below.

Other nights the coal was so perfectly sized that 95% of the mix cruised through the screen.  The few melon-sized chunks which dropped to the picking table were easy to handle and my job was a breeze.  After screening five tons, I had plenty of idle time awaiting the next coal car’s arrival at the top of the tipple.

A bucket seat salvaged from an old sports car had been set up in the picking table chamber.  Trips arrived every six to eight minutes, and I usually screened a carload in two to three minutes giving me several minutes between loads.  In between, I read my textbooks perhaps a page or two, until the next car arrived.  Its approach was signaled by the pitch of the whirring cable and sway of the tipple.  When coal and rock crashed into the hopper above, that meant another five tons to screen.

The rail tracks lead to the portal opening, seen mid-photo as a darkened area. This photo of the portal opening into the mine was taken from atop the tipple looking down.  Photo by Bill Kombol, April 1975.

From time to time, I emptied the dump truck parked below.  After 10 to 12 tons of rock dropped through the trap door to the waiting dump box, I scurried down, jumped in the truck, drove to the rock dump, and emptied the load.  The truck was dumped five or six times a night depending on the percentage of rock to coal.  I needed to be fast, as coal cars kept emerging from the mine.

On nights when coal wasn’t hoisted, I rode a coal car 800 feet underground to work with the miners.  There I performed laboring tasks – sometimes drilling coal and loading dynamite.  Other nights I helped set timber props that held up the roof of the mine.  Or cleaned coal spilled on rail tracks.

Bill Kombol handing John Costanich a stick of dynamite ready for loading into a drill hole.  Photo by Barry Kombol, April 1974.
With a long plastic pole Bill Kombol helps John Costanich (on platform above) push the dynamite to the top of the drill hole.  Dummy bags were put in last to plug the hole and ensure a successful blast.  Photo by Barry Kombol, April 1974.

The most mindless job was filling dummy bags with loose clay used for stemming plugs.  After loading a drill hole with a dozen sticks of dynamite, the sausage-sized, clay-filled, paper bags were punched into the end of the hole.  This focused the energy of the explosive force to blast intact coal into thousands of smaller pieces.   Otherwise, the explosion would blow out the bottom of the drill hole, like a firecracker dud.  Dummy bags were in constant use during mining, so I spent hours bagging up a week’s supply or more.

Bill Kombol filling dummy bags and placing the finished sausage-sized bags into an empty dynamite box.  A “dummy bag” was a paper sack filled with clay or shale and used to stem drill holes. The dummy bag was about the same size as a dynamite stick.  After the drill hole was filled with dynamite, several dummy bags were tamped tightly as stemming, so that the dynamite blast would break and loosen the coal rather than simply blow out the end of the hole. “Stemming” means to tamp, plug, or make tight, to ensure a successful shot.  Photo by Barry Kombol, April 1974.

One shift, bored and alone in the crosscut, I turned off my miner’s lamp to see if my eyes could fully adjust to the dark.  It was an experiment.  After 10 minutes, I slowly drew my hand towards my eyes guessing ambient light would illuminate the outline of the appendage, but there was nothing – complete and total darkness.  There was no sound beyond my breathing.  The lack of sight and sound that far below the earth’s surface conjured feelings I’ve never forgotten.

People often asked what it was like working underground.  The best part was a constant temperature somewhere around 50º. There was little air movement except for a slight breeze from fans that ventilated the mine.  We didn’t have to worry about rain, as it was dry except for a stream of underground water that accumulated in a ditch next to the hanging wall.  It flowed to a sump and was pumped outside.  The mine tunnels were supported by a three-piece timber set, consisting of two uprights supporting a cross beam log all tied together by an overhead roof of rugged boards, called lagging.  It was a comfortable working environment, save for the fact everything you touched was black.

At 7 pm, work stopped for our dinner break.  I moseyed down to the hoist room where a pot-bellied coal stove kept the tin shack warm.  On rare occasions, the miners came up from below to warm themselves and join us.  But most nights it was just me and the hoist man, either Roy Darby, Bill McLoughry, my cousin, Bob Morris, or sometimes Frank ManowskiPee Wee, the dirty black mine dog hung out in the hoist room.

George Savicke, right eats his lunch while Tony Basselli toasts his sandwich on the pot-bellied coal stove in the hoist room. That night the two miners came out from below for their dinner break.  November 1974.

Dinner break was a time to relax, chat, and eat the meal Mom prepared 12 hours earlier.  Sometimes she packed homemade soup in a thermos, but more often a meat and cheese sandwich, which I toasted atop the hot stove.  I was talkative and conversations with the old coal miners took curious turns.  Almost to a man, they told me to get an education and stay out of the mines.

Following our half-hour pause, it was back to work until 11 pm when our shift ended.  Then I dragged my tired body, covered with sweat and coal dust, down to the wash house where we showered on concrete floors, under three side-by-side spigots.  It was like traveling back to a shoddy version of a junior high locker room.  The hot showers felt good, as did donning clean clothes you’d changed from eight hours earlier.

Pee Wee, the hoist room mine dog carrying a miner’s lunch box ,then seeking attention and perhaps a snack from the miners. Photo by Barry Kombol, April 1974.

Each night, your work clothes were hung from hooks on a wire basket, with gloves and hard hat placed inside.  A chain and pulley hauled the gear to the eve of the wash house where heat naturally accumulated.  If your clothes were wet, they’d be warm and toasty by the following day.  Each Friday, I brought my dirty garments home for Mom to wash.

I was in my car by 11:20 pm for the 20-minute drive back to Enumclaw.  I brushed my teeth and plopped into the same bed I’d slept in since sixth grade.  Falling to sleep each night was the easiest part of my day.  Six hours later, it started all over again – up for breakfast, in my car, and driving to the U.W.

On weekends, I’d sleep till 11 or noon.  I had no life outside of school and work.  All my friends were away so largely I kept to myself.  Some Saturday nights, I walked to the Chalet Theater to see a movie.  But mostly I studied, typed papers, and prepared to face Monday.

After two college quarters and more than seven months of this routine, I was burned out.  Fortunately, the underground coal mine was preparing to shut down.  My night-shift job on the picking table phased out shortly after the start of the spring quarter.  I completed my senior year living in Enumclaw but no longer working at the mine.

When the Rogers #3 mine finally closed, a retirement party was held featuring a cake with all Palmer personnel, who were part of the last underground coal mine in Washington State written in the frosting. 1975.

In addition to my regular Econ classes, I took a one-credit P.E. in tennis and a two-credit course on nutrition.  But my favorite class spring quarter was a three-credit course entitled the Living Theater.  We studied drama, went to plays, and wrote reviews of those we saw.  It was my favorite college class and fittingly my last.

During those days of school and nights of work, my dreams were filled with fears – of papers not completed and exams I didn’t understand.  Remarkably, I scored all A’s, and only one B that year.  Slowly my life recovered as I took pride in a fat bank account.  It’s easy saving money when living at home with no time to spend it.

For more than a year prior, I’d suffered an emotionally embarrassing case of facial acne.  I felt ugly.  But nothing Dr. Homer Harris, a noted dermatologist prescribed seemed to work.  I stopped getting haircuts and grew my hair out.  To hide my pimpled face, I quit shaving.  Perhaps it was the release from stress or maybe shaving irritated my skin.  But the acne lessened and within a few months disappeared.  I began to feel human again.

I graduated that June, with a B.A. in Economics.  I was tired of college.  My attachment to fraternity brothers dwindled and I abandoned the academic scene.  I had no interest in attending commencement.  My sister graduated from high school that same year, so the folks wanted to throw a party for the both of us.  I declined their offer and also pointedly skipped graduation ceremonies.  My diploma arrived in the mail four months later.

Four years of study and 195 college credits produced this Bachelor of Arts in Economics, mailed to me several months later, as I had no interest in attending graduation ceremonies.

A few relatives and two high school teachers sent congratulatory cards. My Grandma Kombol, a school teacher for 44 years gave me Webster’s Third International, a 13-pound dictionary I still cherish.  I loafed all summer.  I bought a motorcycle in August and moved to Lincoln City that fall.  There I collected unemployment checks, read books, and walked on the beach.

Working at a coal mine my senior year of college was an experience I’ll never forget.  It was a lonely existence within a beehive of perpetual motion.  My life was a rolling slog in squirrel-cage.  That choice shaped my life, unlike anything before or since.  Perhaps the Stoic philosopher, Seneca said it best, “Things that were hard to bear are sweet to remember.”

The mine and the old miners are now all gone.  All that remains of Rogers #3 is the weather-beaten washhouse.  Still to these memories I remain eternally grateful – the miners with whom I worked, the hours spent driving to and fro, the classes attended, and college papers written.  Textbook pages studied, the picking table, cement-floor showers, and the sense of freedom that spring when released from the whirlwind into a world of plays and theater.

Of those days long-ago, this memory I shall never forget – dinnertime in the hoist room, standing beside a hot coal stove, and tasting the melted cheese on the sandwich Mom lovingly packed for me.

* * *

After loafing all summer, bumming that fall in Lincoln City and cashing unemployment checks, seven months later, I came back to work for Palmer. Bill Kombol in Enumclaw helping the company relocate the Stergeon cement  bins to Black Diamond for use at the coal mine wash plant. Photo by Charlie Falk, January 1976.

 

 

 

Categories
History

Cal Bashaw: A Life Well Lived

The day he graduated from Kent High School, his mom took him to lunch.  There she announced, “From now on, you’re on your own.”  He spent that night in the basement of Mrs. Shaffer’s home, the mother of the man, Marie Bashaw would soon divorce.  The next day, Calvin Frank Bashaw started a journey that ended on Sept. 29, 2021, several months past his 101st birthday.

Cal Bashaw at Kent High School.

Cal Bashaw was born June 19, 1920, in Edmonton, Alberta to a French-Canadian father, Reuben Bashaw (formerly Beauchesne) and Scandinavian mother, Marie Caroline Peterson.  He died in Enumclaw, his adopted hometown since 1966.  Cal’s early years were spent in Renton at the Sartori School, then Hillman City where he attended Columbia Grade School.  Cal was 13 when his father died in 1933.  His older brother, Ed had already left home.

When he and his mother moved to Kent in 1935, Cal was a scrawny boy of 15 who barely made the football team, and was quickly ignored as undersized.  The following summer, he labored at his uncle’s sawmill on the Frazier River, 60 miles east of Prince George.  His job was “dogging the carriage” where he worked 10-hour shifts alongside stout mill hands, ate hearty meals in the mess hall, and slept in the camp barracks.  Cal’s summer labors earned him $45, of which $16 purchased his first car, a Model A Ford coupe.  Kent’s legendary coach, Claude French took note of the now brawny Bashaw boy and he became starting tackle on the football team.

Cal and his Model A Ford, purchased  for $18 with summer wages from working at his uncle’s sawmill on the Frazier River.

A few days after that graduation day lunch, Cal turned 18 and started work at the National Bank of Washington in Kent.  Banking was not his calling, so he next labored in a cold storage plant earning enough to start school that fall at Willamette University in Salem.  He secured room and board through a job set up by the college and the following summer worked at J.C. Penney in Port Angeles.  But in those late years of the Great Depression money was short, so he left college with plans to reenter after earning enough to pay his way.

Next came jobs cleaning and remodeling kitchens, which led to a position with Boyles Bros. Diamond Drilling at the Holden copper and gold mine in Stehekin.  Deep underground, he and a partner drilled exploratory holes allowing mine engineers to chart the course of mining. He earned $.75 per hour plus room and board in the remote mining camp located at the upper end of Lake Chelan.  As war against Germany and Japan approached, work becoming more plentiful so Cal hired out to Siems Drake to help build a Naval Station in Sitka, Alaska.  He learned to run a P & H shovel and became the youngest man to earn his union card in the Operator’s Engineers, Local 302.  At $1.75 per hour, Cal was earning so much money he had to open a bank account.

Cal and Varian in Sitka, Alaska, shortly after Cal earned his union card in 1942.

Secure in his potential to support a wife, Cal reached out to the girl he left behind in Washington.  Her name was Varian Graham of Kent, and in early 1942, he sent a telegram asking her for her hand in marriage.  No response came for Varian had another boyfriend in Seattle.  Cal booked passage on a southbound boat to help make up her mind.  Varian’s mother advised her 20-year-old daughter, “You can’t get along with him and you can’t get along without him, so give it a try –you can always come home.”  They were married on April 12, 1942, Varian’s 21st birthday, and remained so for 58 years until her death on November 10, 2000 at age 79.

After a short honeymoon in San Francisco, the newlyweds moved to Juneau where Varian worked for the territorial treasurer, while Cal operated a shovel for Guy F. Atkinson on the Al-Can Highway.  A few months later, Cal received his draft notice so joined the Air Force to become a pilot.  He never got through flight training as World War II wound down and Cal was honorably discharged at the rank of 2nd Lieutenant.  Back in Washington, Cal began selling heavy construction machinery for Clyde Equipment, then joined Northern Commercial (now NC Machinery) at their Caterpillar department in Anchorage.  Now with two children, Jill and Win, Cal turned his attention to building his family a three-bedroom home of his own design, at night and on weekends.

The Bashaw family: Win, Cal, Varian, and Jill in Anchorage, circa 1954.

Cal then took the biggest risk of his still young life – he mortgaged his home to start a business repairing and selling heavy equipment.  The family lived frugally, while Cal worked long hours.  Bashaw Equipment Company established a consignment sales relationship with Morrison-Knudsen, a civil engineering and construction company based in Boise, Idaho, who had large contracts in Alaska.  It was during this period he met Dwight Garrett, an entrepreneurial inventor prowling through Alaska seeking used cranes and shovels to remanufacture into logging equipment back in Enumclaw.

Cal at the Bashaw Equipment Co.’s Anchorage yard  during the early 1960s.

Cal’s company prospered and the family moved to a home in a new development on Telequana Drive in Anchorage.  Bashaw Artic Machinery was next founded to sell Snow Trac vehicles manufactured in Sweden.  On Good Friday, March 27 1964 at 5:36 pm, all hell broke loose as did the Bashaw house.  The Great Alaska Earthquake, measuring 9.2 on the Richter scale left their home hanging from a cliff and Cal’s businesses hanging in the balance.  The home was condemned but the family was safe.  Cal related the family’s experiences through first-hand reports, one of which was published in the Kent News Journal.  One of Cal’s maxims came from this experience, “You can never really appreciate a gain until you have suffered a loss.”

A year later, Cal was diagnosed with colon cancer, which previously cursed other members of the Bashaw family.  His businesses were sold, and the family moved to Enumclaw in 1966.  There he reconnected with Dwight Garrett, the owner of Garrett Tree Farmers, whose articulated skidders revolutionized the logging industry.  The two formed a handshake business relationship investing in land, which lasted the rest of Garrett’s remarkable life.

Cal Bashaw in front of one of Dwight Garrett’s Tree Farmers, the skidder that revolutionized logging in the 1960s.

Cal joined Dwight on the Board of Directors at Cascade Security Bank, which Garrett founded in 1964 to compete with First National Bank of Enumclaw, because he didn’t like how the old guard operated the town’s only financial institution.  There Cal met a widow, Pauline Kombol with whom he forged a union in 2001, a year after Varian passed away.  Their relationship lasted a decade and ended with Pauline’s death in January 2011, the same day Cal attended the funeral of his daughter, Jill Alverson.

Pauline Kombol & Cal at her 80th birthday celebration in Arizona, March 2007.

When Garrett decided that Cascade Security Bank needed a new home, it was Cal whom Dwight selected to choose a new design for the building after the original architect’s plans were found too grandiose and expensive.  Cal threw himself into the project and in 1980 had it built for one-third the projected cost of the abandoned design.  That building stands at the corner of Griffin and Porter in Enumclaw and since 1996 has been a branch of Green River Community College.

On his deathbed in Aug. 2005, Dwight called Cal into his room asking him to be Executor of his estate, likely the largest the small town of Enumclaw has ever seen.  Dwight’s last words to Cal, “You are someone I know I can trust.”  Cal was 85 years old and it took him till 2017 to complete the undertaking Garrett assigned.  By then Cal was 97, yet still living on his own, driving to the store, and enjoying days out and evenings with friends.  One of his great joys of life was eating strawberry shortcake with whipped cream on his birthday, each June 19th when local strawberries ripen.

Cal on his 100th birthday with a giant strawberry short cake, June 19, 2020.

Cal Bashaw completed his assignment on earth in a manner that exemplified his life.  Sensing time was growing short, Cal accepted his fate with a Stoic resolve and a cheerful heart.  Friends and relatives came to say their final goodbyes, while he remained alert and communicative to the end.  In his last days, Cal spoke mostly of thankfulness, of a life well-lived, and for the family and friends he’d served, as they served him at his passing.  He left behind a written account of his life from which this obituary was drawn.  It’s a detailed story of hard work, dedication, and love of family.

Cal Bashaw departed from this life grateful, content, and fulfilled.  He carried no regrets.  Nearing death, he held hands with those who visited and thanked each for their kindness, while thanking God for the good life he lived.

Cal, happy, content, and with a smile on his face, days before saying goodbye for the last time.

Cal was preceded in death by his wife, Varian and his beloved daughter, Jill Alverson. He is survived by a son, Win Bashaw of Texas, his faithful son-in-law, Bruce Alverson of Enumclaw; granddaughters, Brynn Dawson (Dean) of Klickitat, Tess Heck (Brian) of Lake Tapps, Kalyn Gustafson (Jake) of Seattle, and Katie Smith of Arizona; great-grandchildren, Hunter Dawson, Beau Dawson, Max Hollern, Olivia Hollern, Elle Gustafson, and Emmett Gustafson.

 

Categories
Musings

A Tribute to My Mother: Pauline Lucile Kombol

“Our being in this world is not accidental.  We all have a mission to do some special work, and it is work that will honor Him and bless those around us.  If we do not find that work and do it, our life is a failure; the true end of living is not realized.   We may not learn in a moment; but step-by-step, day by day, as we go on things will be made clearer.  Those who do the smallest things well because they are God’s plan, are to be honored far above those who do great things for the world’s praise.”  – Nancy Matilda Hembree (1837-1922)

Nancy Matilda (Hembree) Snow (1837-1922)

Thus spoke Pauline’s great-grandmother, Nancy Matilda (Hembree) Snow decades before my Mother was conceived.  Pauline Lucile Morris was born to John Henry and Nina Marie, both had the last name Morris.  She was as Welsh as one could be.  Her father was a coal miner and her mother a school teacher.  Both her grandfathers and great-grandfathers worked in the coal industry.  Her great-grandmother, Nancy was a pioneer of the 1843 Oregon Trail. 

Pauline grew up in the coal mining town of Durham surrounded by an extended family of aunts, uncles, and cousins most of whom worked in or around the mines.  Her family moved to Enumclaw when she was six, first to a hop farm in Osceola and later a home above Newaukum Creek.  At school she made life-long friends many of whom are here today.  She edited the school newspaper and annual, graduating from Enumclaw in 1945, just as World War II ended.  Her obituary claims she briefly attended the University of Washington.  The truth . . . for about 15 minutes

Pauline Morris, left with Shirley Stergion in front of Enumclaw High School, circa 1944.

After a short stint in Seattle, she landed back home working at the Palmer Coking Coal mine office at Four Corners.  There she pumped gas and helped with bookkeeping.  In 1950, she and Jack Kombol eloped to California and married.  Eventually the couple made their way back to Selleck, where Barry, Jeannie and I first lived, and then to Elk Coal where Dana was born, just a quarter mile from the Durham of Mom’s childhood.

Mom had six life-changing experiences: Barry, Billy, Jeannie and Dana; but two others I’d like to tell you about.  Her second baby, a daughter Paula Jean died two days after birth.  Mom used to say that after the loss of that baby, she loved the rest of us so very much, so that she would never lose another child.  One day years later, Jeannie and I rambunctiously raced around the living room, and Mother’s prized china cup collection crashed to the floor shattering every piece.  Despite her initial sadness, Mom decided then and there that she would never value any possession more than the people in her life.

Pauline holding her second son, who 58 years later read this eulogy at her funeral, Sept. 1953.

Our family moved to Enumclaw in 1958.  There Pauline joined civic life as a den mother, Camp Fire leader, election-day poll worker, raising money for the March of Dimes, helping elderly aunts, and later caring for her own mother.  There she ran the home – baking cookies, canning homemade jam, making pies – always from scratch and never with a recipe or measured ingredients.  Menus were traditional and set: Friday – fish or tuna noodle casserole; Saturday – hamburgers; Sunday – fried chicken or pot roast; Monday – meat loaf, and so on.  We never had soda pop or potato chips, but did enjoy Kool-aid and homemade frozen popsicles.  Each summer we took vacations with the Cerne’s to Grayland and Hoods Canal – I later learned that we stayed at the same Beacon Point cabins where her family vacationed when she was young.

One of the big events of our lives was the family trip to Europe in 1968.  Mom researched and found our Welsh and Croatian relatives and planned our journey through ten countries in six weeks.  Using her dog-eared copy of Europe on $10 a Day, Mom found cheap pensions and small family-run hotels to fit her tight budget.  Jack drove us across Europe in a small station-wagon jammed with six people and 13 suitcases.  We played Hearts in the backseat and listened to Radio Luxemburg with Danica stuffed back amongst the luggage.

The Kombol family portrait, 1967.

In later years we spent our summers at Lake Sawyer where Dad built a cabin.  During one particularly inebriated summer party, Mom earned the nickname ‘Carrie Nation’ when she raced around the cabin pouring out booze and opening the tap of the keg refrigerator watching cold beer spill to the ground. 

In early 1979 Jack was diagnosed with cancer and passed away within 3 weeks.  A night before he died, he called me to his bedside and said, “I want you to take care of your mother.”  Since the girls were away and Barry was married with a growing family, the primary duty of caring for Mom fell to me.  So, I frequented her home where she cooked me delicious dinners.  And, made sure I brought my laundry so she could wash it.  And, she hemmed my pants and sewed buttons on my shirts; and, always sent me home with casseroles, lentil soup, and blackberry pies.  It seemed the more I tried taking care of Mom, the more she took care of me.  And who could ever forget the summer Keith Timm Jr. moved in with Mom and me.  Then there were two of us . . . “to take care” of Mom.

Pauline and her three siblings, Evan Morris, Betty Falk, and Jack Morris, June 18, 1977.

During the early years after Dad’s death, she kept herself busy on the Enumclaw School Board and as a Director of Cascade Security Bank.  But like a caterpillar, she spun her cocoon waiting to find the wings of the butterfly she became.  And that she did.  I can’t claim credit for pushing her out of the nest – I was too busy “taking care of her.”  But off she flew – first to Seattle where she bought a condo and found friends through extension classes and her beloved movie group.  More grandchildren were born and off she went to care for them.  She enjoyed traveling and over the years took trips to Russia, China, Hungary, Italy and elsewhere.  She loved her time in Lincoln City, and eventually spent her winters, first in Palm Springs and later Scottsdale. 

Coal Miners’ Daughters: with Loretta Lynn at Sesame Street studios, circa 1983.

Around the turn of the century, a wonderful gentleman entered into Mom’s life.  His name was Cal Bashaw.  He was a widower born the same year as my Dad.  Mom and Cal had known each other from their days as bank directors.  Well, I have to admit that Cal and I have radically different styles.  When he started to “take care of” Mom; he did things like always helping her with her coat; opening doors; helping with her chair, fixing things around the house, running errands, taking her out to dinner, and always being there to care for her needs.  It seemed the more we were around Cal, the more my own lovely wife began pointing out all of Cal’s far-too-many good traits.  I started hearing things like, “Why can’t you be more like Cal?”  Basically, Cal’s caring manner made my previous efforts to “take care of” Mom look fairly absurd.

Cal Bashaw, Pauline, and grandson Henry, Christmas 2004.

But truly, Mom and Cal had a wonderful ten years together.  And if only more people were like Cal, and like Mom, the world would be a far better place. 

So, I come to the end, but also the beginning: the beginning of our lives without Pauline, without her sunshine.

Still, her light still shines – a small, bright star to guide me – to guide me through the darkness and back to life.  So until that day when my light joins hers, I will rest easily, knowing that Pauline led a good life; a life worth living; a life which blessed those around her; a life of small things done well – done not for the world’s praise; but done through an honored existence, dedicated to her friends and to her family, and lived according to God’s plan.

Pauline Morris, graduation photo – Enumclaw Class of 1945.

And, if she were here today  . . . I’ll let you complete the thought.