logo

An American Family History

Bryan Sewell Smith

Maryon White's Memories of her Uncle Bryan,
February 14, 1992, Spokane, Washington
Children of Josiah Smith, Jr.
and Eliza Fox
  • Mary Grace Smith White Hanley
  • John Elmer Smith
  • Bertha Edna Smith Kimsey
  • Harry William Smith
  • Ethel Edith Smith Taylor
  • Bryan Sewell Smith
  • Augusta Lena Smith Larson
  • Andrew Jack Smith
  • Twyla May Smith White
  • Red Oak is the county seat of Montgomery County, Iowa.

    Wyoming was admitted into the Union as the 44th state on July 10, 1890.

    The Thomas D. Murphy Company operated in Red Oak, Iowa for over 100 years.It was the birthplace of the art calendar.

    Thomas D. Murphy Company Red Oak

    Bryan Sewell Smith was the sixth child of Josiah and Eliza Smith and must have been born about 1896. This would be about the time W. J. Bryan was running for president the first time. Eliza told me that was where she got the name Bryan. I don't know about the middle name. My guess is that that may have been the name of their current minister or some other local person they admired. I couldn't find any record of a celebrity by that name in this time period.

    I had always thought that Harry was Eliza's favorite, but Ethel says "no." Eliza nearly beat Harry to death for his various pranks, and Eliza really favored Bryan over all her children. I believe I told you that the first story I ever heard about Bryan was that he was much offended when he was not allowed to hold baby sister Twyla when she was newly born. Ethel was considered old enough, strong enough and dependable enough, but not Bryan. 

    The next story was how Harry tormented Bryan at the supper table.  I can't imagine Eliza letting that happen, but if she had 7 or 8 kids to look after, perhaps she couldn't handle everything.

    Then came the incident of being forced to leave home when he couldn't have been more than 14 years old. And then being asked to help support his younger brothers and sisters shortly thereafter. I've told you, too, that Bryan, at about age 16 had to explain the facts of life to his little sister Twyla.

    I don't know what kind of jobs Bryan had before the war, but I know that after World War I, he worked for awhile for Walt White, but soon returned to Red Oak. He either started to work at Keller Poultry and Hide Co, or returned to that job. One of his responsibilities was to escort train car loads of live chickens to market. I had thought he just went to Chicago, but Ethel says he frequently went clear to New York or Boston. Not a very pleasant job, but let's hope he enjoyed the return trip free of responsibility.

    Vivian Young was a classmate of Gus's and so may have known some or all of the Smith family even before World War I. During the war or shortly after, Vivian and Ethel were living at the same rooming house. Perhaps this is when the romance developed. I think Bryan and Vivian went together for quite a long time before they married, and I have often thought that the reason Vivian disliked my mother so heartily was that she was resentful, perhaps even jealous of the time, money and affection Bryan showered on his little sister. Twyla told me many times that Bryan always bought her meal ticket from the time she returned from Wyoming until she married. For the uninformed, in those days, some restaurants had cards printed which could be purchased at the beginning of each week. Each card was good for a certain number of meals, usually 21.  (I don't suppose they had much choice in menu selection). In any event, Bryan and Vivian were married just weeks after my parents married. Apparently Bryan felt he had fulfilled his obligation, though not many brothers would have been that conscientious. Of course, we all know that he was not through looking after his younger sister.

    I'm getting ahead of my story here, but want to interject that in later years, whenever Joan did something that Vivian didn't like, the explanation was that Joan was "just like Twyla"  don't know who Joan was like when she did something right!

    It is interesting that a little burg like Red Oak could produce two nationally known businesses. The Thomas Murphy Calendar Co. is still thriving, but the Keller Co. went belly-up in what Ethel calls the first depression. I don't know just when this happened, but when the White family moved to Sioux City in 1930, both Jack and Bryan and his family were living there. The Bryan Smith family must have moved to Wyoming shortly after we got to Sioux City, because I have no memories of them at this time. I did have a few snap shots of Twyla Mae, Maryon and Donald and Jack and Bill playing together in Sioux City, but I don't remember any of that.


    dresses
    1930
    The Great Depression was world wide and originated in the U.S. with the stock market crash of October 29, 1929. Income, revenue, profits, prices, and trade plunged.. Unemployment in the U.S. rose to 25%. The negative effects of the Great Depression lasted until the end of World War II.
    Note by Bill Smith Whites must have lived in Sioux City in 1928-29 because I remember visiting them twice then, and I could not have been more than 3 going on 4 years old. I was born Nov. 27, 1925.
    Back to Maryon

    I don't know what kind of work Bryan did in Sioux City, but somewhere along the line he was offered a chance to go to Wyoming and work for Eil Taylor. Again, I don't know exactly what the job was or what the arrangements were, but I don't think it lasted very long. By 1932 when Twyla and Donald and Maryon were left with Josiah and Eliza, Bryan and his family had moved to the Smith place. That was when he built a house for his family out of "green lumber, $15.00 worth of nails and window sashes" (direct quote from Bryan). But he must have bought some kind of tarpaper or something for the roof.

    During their time on the ranch, Bryan cut firewood and delivered it clear to Moorcroft for some infinitesimal amount. He worked on road construction and anything he could do to keep food on the table.

    A big highlight for me in the summer of 1932 was getting to go to town with Bryan to deliver a load of wood. He was so patient and kind to a gabby little 8 year old. I remember I had a dime-he must have given it to me- and I stood drooling in front of the candy counter in Gorman's store until Mrs. G asked if I would like a piece of candy. I finally produced my dime and came out with one BIG sack of candy. I suppose she felt sorry for me. On the way home, I kept asking Bryan if he didn't want a piece and he always said no. I'm sure he was as hungry for candy as I was, but I saved it and shared it with my brother.

    When it came time for school to start we were informed that we could not go to the school where Jack and Bill went, so we moved up to [the] Taylor's and went to school with Doris and John. I have lots of memories from that period to time: little Marjorie sitting in her high chair yelling for "beans," Ethel preparing for a party and making homemade potato chips!!!  Twyla making fudge for all the children at the party, the Christmas tree (without lights seemed so strange to me), and Eil drilling John on his poem for the Christmas party at school etc. etc.

    But something happened shortly after Christmas and I don't suppose I'll ever know what. Anyway Twyla sent word to Bryan to come get her and he came with a team (mules??) and a sled. That was one cold ride from the Taylor ranch to the Smith ranch (8 miles I think) and it was double for Bryan.

    Donald and I didn't go to school at all for a couple of months and one day after Donald and I ran away and went to the school house, Dorothy Kimsey sent a note to Twyla telling her to send us to school in spite of the school board's decision! Bryan had blazed a trail through the timber so we wouldn't get lost on the way to school. I wonder if any of those trees are still standing? Also there was a little stream between the edge of the timber and the schoolhouse. Most of the year you could just hop across it, but in the spring it was so full of water that Bryan came with some kind of animal  (again it seems to me it was a mule) and carried us across the stream-one at a time-every morning and afternoon for a week or more.

    World War I was a between the Entente and Central Powers alliances in Europe. On June 28, 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria was assassinated by a Bosnian-Serb and this activated alliances between all major European powers. The United States became involved in 1918 and the war ended on November 11, 1918.

    Note by Bill Smith 4/13/93 Dad blazed that trail about 1930. The last time I was there, summer, 1990, I could still find some of the old blaze marks on the trees. They are nearly overgrown and difficult to find, even if you knew where the trail was.
    Back to Maryon It is odd that when I remember Marjorie so clearly, I have no memory of Joan who was about the same age. Maybe Aunt Vivian was still mad at Twyla and at us kids too.
    Note by Bill Smith I never realized that Mom was not on good terms with Aunt Twyla until now. She didn't talk about things like that.
    Back to Maryon
    Bryan

    I remember making pine needle houses with Jack and Bill, riding stick horses all over the place, making mud pies by myself and how hard I cried when Billy told me they had road apple pie at their house and I couldn't have any!  You city slickers may not know that "road apples" are horse manure.

    Joan tells me that they stayed on the Smith place until she was ready to start school, maybe 1936 or thereabouts.  When they moved to town Bryan again did any kind of work he could get, mainly in the carpenter line. I remember howling about his stories of some of his experiences. I think it was in these early days that he suffered recurring problems with a girl named Annette Hegler (?). She always had some kind of project she wanted done, and if he were desperate enough for work, he would take on the job. But she insisted on bossing every tiny detail. Finally one day he prepared a bathroom exactly to her specifications and only when it was all done, he informed her that there was no way in ______ that she could get a tub in that room! That probably ended their relationship

    .One time we were there when Bryan and Bill were putting a roof on a big, big building on Main Street. It scared me to watch them, but both were moving around as causally as could be. I'm glad Bill waited until fairly recently to fall off a roof!

    When World War II came along, Bryan and Vivian and Joan went to the coast to work in the shipyards. (Not Joan, she was still in school!). I think they went direct to Portland and I think [Bryan's] brother Jack and his family were already there. Bryan, at least, did not like city life nor Oregon dew and after a few years returned to Wyoming. Son Jack was stationed in Denver for awhile during the war, and Twyla kept him busy painting or fixing things every time he ventured out to see us. (Remember that battleship gray kitchen, Jack?)  I believe that Bill Smith and John Taylor also worked in Portland for a while, but both soon enlisted in the Navy. John was stationed at the Navy Pier in Chicago for a while. We were living in Milwaukee by then and he sometimes came up to see us. The main thing he wanted to do was sit by the fireplace and get warm! He didn't like rain and cold winds wither and the pier was one miserable place to be stationed.

    But I digress, again! I now have Bryan and Vivian back in Moorcroft. This is probably the place to state that I don't think Bryan ever did really appreciate Vivian's potential.  Vivian managed to get a library started in that little town and it required a lot of determination, hours and hours and hours of volunteer time, physical labor and, I suspect, considerable personal sacrifice to provide finances to make this thing float. The library grew and grew and still survives and I sure Vivian was actively involved in it for at least 25 or 30 years.

    Vivian was always very, very nice to me, and I liked her very much. We had many of the same interests, and I really enjoyed visiting with her. We really had a good time when she came home to Spokane with us one year. We came via Yellowstone, and, since we both liked to stop and look at things, it took us more than a week to travel 800 miles.  When we got to Spokane, she went on over to Seattle to spend some time with Bill and Hazel. I think it is too bad that Vivian could not have been a happier or more contented person. She impressed me as being a real worrier over things that really weren't very important.

    World War II was a global conflict that lasted from 1939 to 1945. The Allies (United States, British Commonwealth countries, and the Soviet Union) fought against the Axis (Germany, Japan and Italy).

    Note from Bill Smith Maryon seems to be consistently correct in her impressions of people; Mom was a real worrier.
    Back to Maryon

    Soon after Bryan and Vivian returned to Moorcroft, he went to work for True Oil Company. Bryan had to be one of their first, most loyal and longest lasting employees. He enjoyed a personal friendship with Dave True (one of the-or-maybe the big chief) and when he retired he was honored by a dinner in Cheyenne (I think). They gave him a gold watch and he really prized that watch. They should have given him a solid gold Cadillac or a trip around the world. I can remember the terrible cracks or sores on Bryan's hands from working in the oilfields. He must have been allergic to something. Those cracks looked as if they went clear to the bone. I know Elmer and Hazel were sure Kip Ointment would cure anything, and sent many jars of it to Bryan.  Twyla was always sending something new that she had heard of, and I know others did the same. Nothing helped, but still that man kept on working.

    When he retired from True, he worked at a filling station in Moorcroft for several years. In the early 70s when he realized that neither he nor Vivian could survive another year on their own, he wisely moved to the Wyoming Soldiers and Sailor's Home in Buffalo, Wyoming. Elmer Kimsey had lived there for several years, and both Mina and Dorothy lived in Buffalo. Bryan had many other friends in the home, and it was a nice place for him. I think both Bryan and Vivian were quite content in Buffalo.

    No one every told me this, but I am convinced that Aunt Vivian was the first person I ever knew to develop Alzheimer's disease. Now it is widely recognized as a very common condition among the elderly. Back then, people did not understand. When it was decided that Vivian needed more care than she could get in Buffalo, Bryan went with her to the home in Basin Wyoming. He wanted to be with Vivian and look after her as long as he could.  It really was a pretty bad place for him.  He was alert and he knew what was going on, but very few others in that place did. I think he was very, very lonely there in Basin. Bryan always tried to remain cheerful, but hated so much to see people leave when they came to visit. I think those were the only times I saw tears in his eyes. Unfortunately, Bryan died before Vivian, but I don't think she ever realized it by this time. I don't know the dates, but both are buried in the Moorcroft Cemetery right next to our family plot.

    When I tried to find one word to describe my Uncle Bryan, the only one that even half way fits is chivalrous. The dictionary says that a chivalrous person has characteristics of courage, honor, readiness to help the weak, and a feeling of responsibility to protect women.  If you add to that, hardworking, loyal, intelligent and loving, that about covers it.  Unfortunately, Twyla, who apparently had a very short memory or a lack of appreciation or understanding labeled him a male chauvinist (never a pig). She said he thought he was King of the Castle; maybe Head of the Household would be more apt. He felt a responsibility for the members of his household, but never a feeling of superiority or dominance over his family. I think both of his sons have inherited his standards.  Bryan's concern for Vivian until the very end of his days proves this point.I'm, ashamed to admit that at times I have joked about Bryan (and others!!!) who perhaps underestimate women's abilities.  Actually, I thank God that I had Uncle Bryan and will always be so grateful for his many kindnesses to me and to the ones I care about.

    Bill Yes, Dad had a bit of male chauvinism in him all right!
    Maryon

    From 1949 until 1969, Twyla and I visited Moorcroft at least once a year, every year. Sometimes we stayed with Kimseys, sometimes with Smiths, sometimes with Ethel (when she was in Moorcroft). When [the] Larsons managed to be there at the same time, we usually rented adjoining motel units where we could do some of our own cooking. These visits were always a week or longer, and you know the story about dead fish and company-and what happens by the end of three days. It seemed an imposition to stay a week with any of our relatives. Of course, I recently stayed 3 weeks with Twill and Bob!

    I have some really wonderful memories from these visits, but perhaps the one which best illustrates my story was the time Bryan decided to cook breakfast for all of us. I never dreamed he could cook, but, when we got out to Keyhole Reservoir, Bryan had a little gasoline stove, several skillets, a big coffee pot, picnic dishes and cutlery-the whole enchilada. I still don't know how he managed it all on a two burner stove, but we had bacon and eggs and hash browns, lots of coffee and he seemed offended that we didn't want to finish up with hot cakes. After breakfast, we all sauntered down to a viewpoint above the reservoir and sat there and visited all morning.  It was an incredibly beautiful day and a wonderful time was had by all.

    I remember also that for a lot of years Bryan had an afternoon date down at the pool hall. I think it was nearly every afternoon, but I don't remember for sure and I don't know what card game they played. I never played cards with him, but I remember he could beat everyone at checkers.

    Bill Dad was pretty good at checkers except that Uncle Bill could often beat him and I suspect that Uncle Elmer (Smith) could also.

    Bill Smith's Summary of his interview with his father Bryan Wyoming State Sanitarium at Basin Wyoming , March 22-23, 1980

    The Chicago Portrait Company (1893-1940) was headquarted in Chicago, but traveling salesmen operated throughout the country. They sold portraits for two or three dollars, but really made their money by delivering them in fancy burled wood frames with curved glass at an additional cost. The frames were not solid wood at all, but painted plaster. The Chicago Portrait Company made a fortune off rural families who had little access to "big city" studios.

    white
    Chicago Portrait Crew

    Bryan was 12 when they first went to Red Oak. Bryan went to school part of one year in Red Oak (what grade?)

    Dad was then an office flunky at the Thomas Murphy Company before going to Minnesota. Grandma just kept house when Grandpa was in Minnesota. Then when Dad was about 16, all the family except Aunt Ethel went to Minnesota. Ethel stayed and worked for the Thomas Murphy Co.  Grandpa (Josiah) was miffed that Ethel stayed alone in Red Oak, then inferring that it was indecent. The family stayed about 2-3 years in Minnesota before they went back to Red Oak. Dad went back to Red Oak and worked on the Earl Resh farm for 1-2 years, then he went to work for the Adams Express Company and he worked for them for 5 years until he was 22. Then he went into the army at Camp Dodge at Des Moines, Iowa for three months. After leaving the Army, he went to Omaha and did odd jobs; he lived with Elmer, then Grandma (Eliza) and a lot of the kids were at Red Oak. Grandpa and Harry were still in Minnesota. Elmer was in Omaha then. Next Dad drove cars for Chicago Portrait [Company] one summer working for Walk White. Then he worked for Keller and Keller for 8 years. Dad got married after two years with Keller. Dad was a foreman at Keller's and had about 8 men under him.

    When working for the Adams Express Co. He lived in a house with Aunt Twyla, Aunt Ethel and Jack. The hose was right next to the church on the west side of the church and on Read Street.  Gus was in Sioux City with Grandma then. Dad lived with Kerry Hand? for 2 years when he started with Keller. He ate in restaurants then. Then he and Mom lived in the Dixon Apartments for 1-2 years where Jack was born. Then they moved to Grimes Street where I (Bill) was born and they lived there quite a while. Then they moved to the north end at Red Oak and Prospect Street where they lived a year or so. After Keller went broke, they stayed there about 6 more weeks.

    Then Dad went out in a concrete gang where he worked for Wilson Concrete for 4-5 months.  Then he went to Sioux City taking the family with him. Dad went to Sioux City in his early 30's He worked for Perry Hanley on the Igo express truck all the time he was in Sioux city. They were in Sioux city about 22 years. The family went to Wyoming in June. 1929 (Wall St. had crashed in 1928.)

    The folks stayed at Kimseys for a week or so when they arrived in Moorcroft.  Then they went to out to Taylor's ranch where they lived for part of a summer. Then we (Dad, Mom, Jack and I) moved to the Summer's place down on Arch Creek and the Sundance County Road.  The Summer's place become known as the Jim Shoemaker and then the Woodrow Peterson place. Dad and Eil Taylor planted 4 acres of flax on the Summer's place. This crop more or less failed. We lived on the Summer's place about a year. 

    Then we moved to the Josiah Smith place where Grandpa (Josiah) and Grandma (Eliza) were living. Dad had half in forest and wheat planted up at Eil Taylor's ranch, but wheat was only 19 cents a bushel.  They had told him that wheat wouldn't make it when he planted it, but it did make a good crop and he was one of the few to have any wheat.  They planted the wheat before going to Grandpa's place, but harvested it when we were at Grandpa's. We moved to Granddad's place about March, 1931.  Dad finally sold some of the wheat for seed for 50 cents a bushel to pay Dr. Earl for delivering Joan. Grandpa bawled Dad out for charging so much.  He fed the rest of the wheat to the cattle.  He had to sell the hindquarters of this beef for $.10 a lb.  Dad had 25% interest in the sawmill operation between him and Grand ad and Ray Thompsen.  Dad wound up with some ties and 8 ft. lumber.  He traded some of the 8 ft. lumber for 16 ft lumber and spent $20.00 for nails and building paper to build the next house that we were to live for the next 6 years. This new house was just finished when Mom returned from giving birth to Joan at the Walker Hotel. Joan was born March 23, 1931.

    Dad tried to farm Granddad's place. He sold 7 head of the cows (most of the cows) for $57.00 to the government which destroyed the cows.  But the money was held in Sundance until he paid a poll tax of about $5-7.00. Dad worked at [the] Marches' one summer for $1.00 a day.

    He worked on the Moorcroft Bridge in 1935 for a summer. I remember he had a little rheumatism then and put horse liniment on it at night.  Dad went to work for Matt Cubinsen in the early 40's. He only worked for Matt for about a year because Matt wouldn't pay him.  He worked as a carpenter in Moorcroft until World War II when in about 1943 he went to work in Bremerton, Washington as a carpenter. He worked in Bremerton and then he went to Vanport, Oregon where he and Mom worked in the shipyards.  Dad worked as a chipper then and Mom as a sweeper.  I also worked in the Oregon Shipyard as a welder until I went into the Navy in Portland, Oregon. After the war, Dad and Mom returned with Joan to Moorcroft where he worked as a carpenter until 1952. Dad worked for True Oil Co as a pumper for 1954 to 1964 when he retired at the age of 68.  His legs were giving out at that time.

    Bryan at Keller
    Bryan and Jack with their
    Keller and Keller Coworkers

     

    The Thomas D. Murphy Company operated in Red Oak, Iowa for over 100 years.It was the birthplace of the art calendar.

    Thomas D. Murphy Company Red Oak

    In the 1830s settlers began arriving in Iowa from Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Indiana, Kentucky, and Virginia. Iowa became a state in 1846.

    Bill Smith's Memories of his father Bryan,
    Vashon Washington, April 28, 1993

    It appears that Maryon, Jack and Joan have about covered the waterfront about Dad.  I have 5 pages of testimony notes that I took when Dad and Mom were at the Wyoming Old Folks Home at Basin Wyoming on March 23-23, 1980. The whole of these notes was taken then, but I just signed them today.  I will also append a copy of one of Dad's favorite songs and its history, "When you and I were Young, Maggie," his obituary, and some photos.

    Dad sang at night a lot, by himself at home, often late at night.  He had a fair voice and knew a lot of old songs. I think he mainly sang because he liked to do so, and because it helped keep the bad spirits away.

    Dad also knew a great many poems by heart which he learned in school, 1-7 grades; he never finished the 8th grade.  In addition, Dad knew an infinite number of jokes and little stories that he told often and sometimes repetitively. And he knew a great many people by name.  He had a very, very good memory and a pretty fair mind for reasoning.  He had his biases and prejudices, but most were caused by not having the opportunity when he was young to exploit his very good talents.

    Dad was not overtly religious and at times he was overtly anti-religious. I think he had personal, very good, undisclosed reasons for this.  I suspect that these reasons had something to do with his mother giving a  preacher money when his Dad was desperate to earn enough money to feed the family. Dad was as deeply contemplative and appreciative of valid religious values as anyone that I knew. I will say that I have never known anyone who in their heart of hearts had more sincere good will for people than Dad.

    Bryan A. Smith's Memories of his Grandfather Bryan, April 25, 1992

    My earliest memories of Grandpa Smith were at Christmas in Moorcroft. He would sing "The Old Rugged Cross" and tell us little kids tall tales. I remember him flexing his sinewy arms and telling us to feel his muscles. "These arms have steel in them" he'd say "that's why they are so hard."

    We would go visit during the summer and he would give us all a dime and let us go to the little store to buy comic books or toys.  We sometimes got to go to the infamous pool hall and he would introduce us to his card playing buddies, then buy us a pop.  There were large sandstone rocks stacked in front of their porch we kids would play on, and a big cottonwood tree he would help us climb up.

    One summer when I was 9 or 10, he came to Rawlings to visit us and built a clubhouse for me. As a testimony to his carpentry skills, that clubhouse stood up through a lot of Wyoming winters much to my sister's dismay. They used to tease me and say it looked like an outhouse.

    As I grew up I worked on the Bundy Ranch during the summers.  The ranch was 20 miles south of Gillette, but Grandpa Smith would come and get me for a weeks stay in Moorcroft. We would go fishing at Keyhole and play cribbage. He loved to play cribbage and would cut me no slack, he'd peg every point I forgot or missed, and by the end of the week, I didn't miss many.

    As he got older, they moved to the retirement home in Buffalo.  We would go pick them up for Christmas and take them back to Rawlings for the holidays. It was always a big event and he would want us to eat lunch in the cafeteria so he could introduce us to his friends.

    I can remember that he used to smoke cigarettes like there was no tomorrow.  When he was in the retirement home in Basin, the staff wouldn't let him smoke in his room.  It was one of his last few pleasures.  We would visit him and immediately go to the lobby to smoke.  Sometimes he would have two or three cigarettes going at the same time.  We used to say "Grandpa, you shouldn't smoke those things, they will shorten your life and kill you!"  And he would always respond "I've been smoking since I was 10 years old and they haven't done a damn thing to me yet".  He was 80+ years old, so no doubt knew what he was talking about.

    Ethel Taylor's Memories of her brother, Bryan

    I can't begin to write about Bryan like his kids have, but one thing I do remember was what a temper he had.  Mother always favored him and took his word for everything.

    We were usually in the same room at school as the teachers always had two grades in a room.  Bryan was in the 4th and I in the 5th.  He embarrassed me so much disputing the teacher.  So I got up courage to ask Mother to please talk to Bryan about it.  Her answer was, "if he is in the right, he should correct her."  But that wasn't always the case. 

    After they moved to Minnesota, I wasn't in contact with Bryan till Mother left us five younger ones alone.  We kept house as best we could with Bryan and I both working until he was called into service.  After he returned from service, we were all rooming and boarding out, but we did attend church and went to the same dances and had a real good time.  The five of us got married the same year and had homes of our own.

    Joan Grace Smith Irwin's Memories of her Father,
    Bryan Seattle, Washington, May 18, 1992

    I find it difficult to put my father down on paper.  It would take a thick book to do it properly.  I'm going to share some of my memories with you.  My life started with my father in March, 1931 in the slab house, on the ranch about a mile form the county road.  Grandma and Grandpa Smith lived across the draw.

    As a small child, I remember the excitement of my brothers and my mother looking forward to Daddy's coming home.  He was away working on WPU (I don't remember what that stood for). My memories of his rocking me and singing to me leave me with warm fuzzies.  I can remember most of words of the songs he sang, "Love's Old Sweet Song," "In the Gloaming," "Juanita," "Baby After My work is Done." After a rendition of these, he would get a twinkle in his eye, look at my mother and begin "Casey Jones," knowing Mother would stop him as it had some strong language in it. He did curse, especially under stress, never at any of the family. I was given to understand I was not to use that kind of language.

    We moved to town about 1937 so Jack could go to high school and I started first grade. 

    Sitting on the steps of the front porch in the evening was quality time with my Dad.  His sense of humor was spread throughout his comments on daily living and petty life.  He had a talent for making people laugh and seeing the funny side of life.  The humor went along with his positive thinking.

    Wyoming, wide open spaces, friendly people (low population) small towns were all positives to my father [as were] being greeted by name, questions about the family, knowing everybody in town as you walked the street were a pleasure to him.

    After supper in the summer, we would go set on the steps.  As the sun got low, he would call to my mother to come and see the sunset.  They would comment on the colors and agree on how beautiful it was, then my mother would comment dryly  "Too bad we can't live on sunsets." My parents had very different needs.  Mother was a city girl and loved the beauty of Iowa.  She craved lovely things and all that went with them. Dad was content with much less and while a very hard worker, didn't care about power or a lot of money.  They did have moral values in common and respected one another in many ways. They finished their lives together at Basin Wyoming nursing home.

    Reading was an ever-present activity for our whole family. We all read in bed. Dad was partial to O' Henry, Mark Twain, Ogden Nash, The Saturday Evening Post and Colliers. His curiosity about the world in general gave him a wide reading interest. He enjoyed sharing ideas with others and never knew a stranger.

    Bryan enjoyed games: checkers and cribbage were probably his favorites.  He was generally short on patience and when tired or under stress would throw a temper tantrum, become irrational, and yell a lot  (his dark side).  However, when it came to games and small children, he was remarkable.  I have warm memories of sitting in his lap or standing beside him while he was playing cards or checkers.  He kept up a humorous and interesting commentary all during the game.  When Dad felt I was old enough, he taught me to play.  He would comment on my mistakes, but never "let me win." We played throughout our lives.  I could rarely beat him and cribbage and never at checkers.

    In the small town of Moorcroft, gossip was a social control. My dad played cards at the pool hall regularly where a lot of gossip went on. He would share this with mother in my presence at the dinner table. If a serious incident occurred, he would question me like a lawyer. As a teenager I never knew when or where he might turn up or hear about my behavior. This was deliberate on his part. He seldom forbid my associations, but when he did, he meant it and I knew it.

    Some of the lessons for life he passed on to me that I can recall:

    On a cold blustery dusky evening, my mother sent me out to the coal house for a bucket of coal.  As I walked in, the sight and sounds of George Harper climbing out the coal shoot window with a sack of coal on his back sent me running to the house.  After my jumbled excited explanation, my dad took my shoulder, bent down to my 8 year old level and said, "That man has 3 kids and a new baby and hasn't been able to find work.  You are not to tell anyone about this.  Do you understand me?"  Then aside to my mother "Vivian, don't we have some potatoes, onions and some canned tomatoes we could put out there tomorrow afternoon?"  [This was] my lesson in helping those less fortunate than I.

    He never drank that I can recall as a child or a teenager.  As an adult, I walked in the kitchen and he was sitting with a drink.  He explained "I can take one drink and not feel the need for another.  There is a sickness in some people.  When they take one, they can't stop until they are drunk.  If I go to the bar and buy a round, then I'm ready to go home, but what about those who can't?  I may have bought the one that got them started, so I take a drink at home now."

    His expectations toward women and children were much different than toward men.  Women and children were to be taken care of by the men in the family.  Which meant little decision making practice for the women and children.

    The biggest trauma to our relationship was when I came home with my two daughters and got divorced.  I had finally matured enough to realize I had to learn to make decisions and take responsibility for our three lives.  I saw it as a struggle for control and he saw it as his right and duty.  Through it all, I knew he loved me and my children.  He was a wonderful grandfather to my children. He was generous with his time and patience (otherwise these were in short supply). Financially he made the difference of our living instead of existing.  My family has been exceedingly generous through the years.

    One of the values he passed on to many of his descendents in the importance of family.  If the experts were to study the Josiah and Eliza Smith family, I'm sure they would be the exception to all the rules of the experts. I'm very fortunate to belong to the Smith tribe who have such a feeling of family. The family letter and the memory books go way beyond an interest in genealogy. Thank you Maryon for getting them organized. I'll contribute more to this after I retire in 1996 and I have more time.

    Samuel L. Clemens (1835 – 1910), was known by his pen name, Mark Twain. He grew up in Hannibal, Missouri which is in Ralls and Marion Counties.
    Lillian Smith's Memories of her Brother-in-law, Bryan,
    Portland, Oregon , March 15, 1992

    I first met Bryan and Vivian when we were living in Vanport. Jack came out as the war was starting and worked at Oregon Shipyards.  I don't recall if Bryan came directly from Wyoming, but he also worked at the shipyard.  He lived at one end of Lake Street and we at the other.

    When Jack got hurt, Bryan would come up every day and play cribbage, drink coffee and eat cookies.  At that time everything, or sugar and butter, mostly were rationed.  We got more than we used so shared with Bryan.

    One time Bryan told me he didn't like oleo.  Those days you had to color it.  So I had gotten some, made them into squares.  Bryan's were up for dinner and he said "That's the best butter I ever tasted."  Didn't dare tell him what it was!

    Vivian didn't come up much as both of us worked graveyard.  Joan wasn't very old and would come up after school.  Bill and John were in the service then.  Don't remember if they worked at the shipyard.  Have one picture when they came to Vanport.

    When the shipyards finished up with ships, Bryan said "I'm going back to Wyoming, stand on my porch and holler as loud as I can."  In Vanport with so many different shifts, people were always sleeping or trying to. Next thing we heard, he was working on the oil wells testing something.

    We went through Wyoming on the way to Sioux City.  Bryan had a new car and we noticed where he had hit something.  The story is they just put in the post not far from his house and he hit it.

    Note from Maryon I think this was the time Bryan backed into the light post of flagpole in the middle of the street down by the old post office.
    Back to Vivian

    Another time, which must have been an experience, they went somewhere and Bryan was in one line of traffic and Vivian wanted to stop at a fruit stand.  Bryan said "Now you tell me.  No way to get there".  I guess they drove many miles before they could turn around.

    He visited us several times at Chautauqua Street.   After he went to the nursing home we heard from him at least once a month.  I'm not sure, but I think Jack called him "Carbo."  There is supposed to be a story about how it came about.

    Wanda Smith's Memories of Bryan I only met Bryan Smith a couple times after Bryan and I were married, but the one thing that I will always remember him saying to me was "What this world needs is more Bryan Smiths!  I can't remember what it was that he was trying to tell us, but that one little statement will always stick in my mind.
     
     

    divider

     

     

    Bauman & Dreisbach
     
     
     

    ©Roberta Tuller 2017
    tuller.roberta@gmail.com