April 2, 2015

Last night I had a dream. . . . .about the Esterbrooks, and about the house they lived in on South Pearl  in Denver. The  dream image was SOUTH EMERSON; SOUTH EMERSON??
Our family spent many hours in that house and in that vicinity.   Downing Street is a beautiful thoro-fare that runs along side Washington Park.   In those days Washington Park Lake was a swimming hole in the summer and an ice rink in the winter.  South Pearl St. was at the bottom of a long incline that ran from Downing St. to South Broadway.  I remember roller skating at the speed of light down this long hill.
The Esterbrook house was the gathering place for our families and the ravenously hungry teenagers after a skating or swimming party.  The basement of the house was spacious enough to house a pool table and it could contain the raucous voices and boisterous antics of a gang of teens.
The Esterbooks loved to host these parties—usually with endless waffles and scrambled eggs!
The Sanderson/Esterbrook connection was long standing…it stemmed from the war-time bond that my dad and Estie had  after WW 1, when my parents moved to Fort Collins, Colorado during my dad’s student days at Colorado Aggies, and Forestry School.  Flo and Estie lived in Fort Collins and they became acquainted.

They had two adopted kids—George, who was a spoiled brat when he was small, but morphed into a beloved brother as he matured.  JoAnne came along later.  The Esties indulged and  spoiled their children terribly but they were family to us.
     My dream was mostly about the house.   My recollections are vivid.   When I graduated from high-school I got a job at Montgomery Ward which was on South Broadway, within walking distance of the Esterbrook house.
I worked in the mail-opening department and had to be at work at 5 am.   Kids in those days did not own cars, and from my parents house in east Denver there were no street-cars that ran that early, so it was decided that I would board at the Esterbrook house during the week, walk to work, and ride the streetcar back home on weekends.   Even at that, I had to set my alarm for 3 am to make my schedule.  I had a bed in the basement, and a vivid memory of awaking to the loud chirpings of the robins in the trees out in the yard, and the lonely walk to work in the dawns early light.
Montgomery Ward sat next to Gates Rubber Company and at that early hour, Gates fired up their furnaces and began cooking their tires.  The fumes and the smoke drifted into the open windows of the mail room where I sat.   It was nasty, and made me nauseous.  The mail girls worked under the iron hand of a grim, stony faced young woman who ruled with an imaginary whip.   It was not a fun job.
      In my dream I was revisiting the area and knocked on the door of the house, introduced myself as a former resident and asked if we could look around.   We were invited inside.
I awoke and began trying to revive my memories of the house I thought I remembered so well. . . .

Mrs. Esterbrook was an enigma.   She had a perverse personality.   Her heart was made of pure gold, and she was generous to a fault, but she took a certain satisfaction and delight in making people uncomfortable.  I often discussed this with my mother, who was her best friend.  We were aware that Mrs. E was a wounded soul.   She and Estie had two natural children, Jimmy and Glennis at the time my parents mMroved to Fort Collins.   Within a very short time both these children died, one of pneumonia, and one of meningitis, I believe.
 Mrs. E. never recovered, and seemed to be at war with herself and God forever after.   This, I suppose, could account for her strange behavior.  After I was married she and Estie often came to visit us when we lived in California.  They would usually rent an apartment near the sea, and then spend the days with us and always find ways to help and assist us.  They visited us in Florida, and it was while they were there that Flo passed away.     She had congestive heart failure, and had arrived at my door ill and running a fever.  This was very traumatic for me.  I had never dealt with a death before and I really needed my mother.
Estie was devastated and we were all overwhelmed.  Estie left all the details of her effects to me, but he arranged for a cremation.  We took her ashes to the seashore and let the wind carry them away.

Mrs. E.  had a neighbor named Mrs. Roup.  They lived in a big two story house across the alley.   The Roup household  consisted of Mr. & Mrs. Roup, her adult brother, and 6 children of various ages.  Mrs. Roup was looking for household help—mainly someone to help with ironing.
Mrs. E.  volunteered me.   I was a timid soul and was easily intimidated.   Mrs Roup ran her household with an iron fist and you can imagine the laundry she had with two adult men, and 4 little girls plus 2 boys.   I was hired, and I was treated like a slave.   I was given a garret room in the attic with a little cot, no pillow and a narrow window out of which I could look down upon the Esterbrooks back yard.
I was shown the ironing board, and given instructions on what was expected.  At my feet were two bushel baskets of rolled up ironing;  1000 dress shirts, ruffled dresses, pillow cases and long linen table cloths---Mrs. Roup set a formal table every day.
Everything in those days had to be starched, sprinkled and rolled. Fabrics were stiff, no perma press at that time.
I ironed and ironed until the sun went down.  I was fed and banished to my attic garret room, and told to be on duty the next morning early. 
I felt like Rumplestiltskin with his room full of straw!!

 At the end of this weekend of work I was given $2.  
 I quit. 
 I was timid, but I was not stupid.

All these things flooded my mind this morning as I awoke with the remnants of the dream running through my head.
I thought of George—he was one of the most handsome boys I have ever known.  He became a policeman, and he married a woman named Connie.   Her name eluded me at first, and I ran my brain through the alphabet trying to recall……
 Connie, ah yes!
My dad was a smoker for many years.   He became a nonsmoker after a health scare, and one of the most adamant non smoking advocates in the history of man.   
George’s Connie was a heavy smoker and did not abide by anybody’s rules. 
The family had gathered at my parents place in Alma.  George and Connie often came to visit my folks. 
Connie lit up, and my dad asked her to please not smoke in the house.   She glared at him, and said she would smoke when and where she pleased. 
 World War 3 ensued.  Dad won.
Connie departed and never set foot on the Sanderson Territory again.
This is how it was told to me.  I was not there.

 It was made of brick, painted white, with a deep, wide front porch, bungalow style, common to Denver neighborhoods at the time.  I see it now in my mind, as familiar as the house on Garfield St.   Memory eludes me, however, and details fade in my mind.  I see the kitchen best, and the little bulldog, Fritz, sitting beside the kitchen chair begging for tidbits.
I see Flo, standing beside Estie’s chair, with a bowl in her hand.   She says to Estie,  “Dost crave a prune?”   Estie
answers with a straight face, “Dost”  !
 The two of them could be hilarious together.
We often speak of him.  He was a self made, self educated man who never went to college but who was one of the most well read men of my acquaintance.  He had been an explorer of sorts in Alaska and told stories of dogsleds and of wild experiences as a government agent.  His rugged looks and mobile face was fascinating to watch as he told his stories or recited the verses of Robert Service.  He was our family character and beloved of us all.  We were much blessed to have him in our world.  Estie and my dad played cribbage.  They would greet each other with a hand shake and a “Jim!”, and a “Sandy!”. The evening would pass with cribbage talk, and an occasional thump on the table.  Their friendship was built on a mutual war experience that went beyond our understanding
But it was beautiful to watch.

My brother Dale reminds me that the address was not South Emerson….but 924 South Pearl.    I KNEW THIS!!   The dream kept screaming South Emerson, for some unknown reason. . . . .???  (I made corrections in my story)
“last I heard Connie lived in that house after George died. 
She had at least one daughter that lived close to where Faye and I lived, but other than a sympathy card when Mom died I never heard from her again.  I remember Dad telling her, “I don’t care what it is, don’t smoke it in here!”
Dale adds:  Oh yeah, the cribbage games.. they would never really talk—15-2  -4 –and a pair is 8!  Or they would grunt or tap their fingers on the table and say, ‘that’s a go!’
ME:   I was fascinated by their relationship and pondered on it.  Their conversation was on a deeper level and spoke of a unique and precious bonding.  It was beautiful to watch.
“The most vivid memory is the ice skating pond that Estie and George would make on the north side of the house.  Many hours of playing hockey and skating around the pond.  I remember Flo thinking that a longhorn steer-head replica that I made was really good!!!  It wasn’t, and I knew it, but she was excited that I made that with my own two hands and a jig saw.  I remember the Sunday dinners nearly always involved gravy and smashed potatoes.  I remember George and his boxing gear, and his motorcycle.  Estie’s laugh—just like Elmer Fudd! “  Me:  I remember the skating rink, too


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