Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Passing on . . .
One day this week I went to town for numerous errands, which included a stop at Yoke's grocery store. By the time, I was walking out of the store with my purchases, I felt a tinge of loneliness.
Except for a few checkers, I had not seen a familiar face in the whole store, which was bustling at the time with shoppers. It dawned on me that this seems to be happening with more frequency, and when I do see folks I know, it's almost reason for celebration.
I got to thinking that part of the reason this phenomenon is affecting me more frequently these days is that people are dying.
Yes, that happens every day, but when the demographics include folks you've known your entire life---one or two this week, three or four another week, it all adds up. Of course, that could explain why the familiar-face-at-the-grocery store numbers are dwindling for me.
I've mentioned in past postings that this realization is the downside of living in your hometown forever. I'm reminded of it all too often, it seems. This morning I read in the paper that another major figure of Sandpoint's colorful history has passed on.
It wasn't so much Edith Jennestad that created the legend, but she was a vital part of the longtime clothing store at 317 North First Avenue called Jennestad's which so epitomized the good ol' days in downtown Sandpoint. Edith was just shy of 95 when she died in Kirkland, Wash.
As I had done with Hazel Hall, who died at 96 years old just a few weeks ago, I once interviewed Edith for a Sandpoint Magazine story about Farragut Naval Training Station. Hard to believe that was 14 years ago.
After teaching both elementary and high school students, Edith went to work for her father Ole in the family store. That was 1945. The store had been going for 37 years by that time. Edith worked there for another 38 years before selling the store in the early 1980s. It featured men's and women's clothing and accessories.
"Farragut really boosted business," she told me in that interview. "We were on the corner and had three doors. Father wouldn’t get home 'til one in the morning. He always kept a good supply of stock and was always reordering.
"People came from all over to buy suits at the end of the war," she added. "We had a good supply. Somebody from Portland had been in the store, bought a suit and told friends. They came to Sandpoint to buy suits."
Edith shared one specific memory of the wartime boon for their business.
"During the war Commodore Frank H. Kelley, commander of Farragut, called Father and asked if would he come out to Farragut and measure the commodore for uniforms and order them," she recalled.
"Our job was half done. We were running around getting boots and socks for German prisoners of war [Many were 'incarcerated' at Farragut]. We even waited on them," she added. "We rang them up separately and turned it in and got one check for everything. We didn’t always get paid by other people."
"My father never complained; he always said 'yes.' When the commodore's uniform eventually arrived from Chicago," he was so pleased that other officers wanted Dad to do the same. They [Farragut] had 20 of their own tailors and a huge area to work in, but he heard that my dad fit people well. He never had any problems except one time when a guy put on weight."
Edith's dad also did a good business with the loggers who made up most of the work force in the area in those days.
"He would go to the logging camps; he would measure them. He took no money down sent the orders into Ed. D. Price and every man would come and pick up his suit and pay for it," she told me. "They wore suits; they didn’t wear sport coats. He didn’t have a dollar from any of them; all of it was on trust. Most of them paid the $38 dollar suit . . . fairly expensive."
"[To do the measuring], he had to travel on the [logging] trains, sometimes walk and sometimes rode a horse," Edith said. "He would even stay over at the camps."
After her retirement, as a firm believer in education, Edith eventually set up a Jennestad scholarship at Sandpoint High School, which provides funds to help a business-oriented student to go on to college. I read in the obituary that she had moved a few years ago over to Western Washington to be with her sister.
She may have left town and has most recently left for a better place, but Edith and her family left a permanent and colorful mark on Sandpoint's early history.
Another vital part of our past has passed on. One more familiar face gone, but there's a happy side of this story. The great aspect of living in one's hometown forever is the permanent and lasting connections with the past.
News of Edith's passing was complemented this morning by a wonderful note from former student Francie Rogers. She had heard that Willie was now teaching at the high school where Bulldog gym is named after her father Les, one of Sandpoint's most generous citizens. Many wonderful connections exist with Francie's story.
I taught her for three years as an English student, drill team member and yearbook staff member. Francie has never forgotten the day when she, Diane Bush and Jacque Meneely held a private meeting with me in the school darkroom. I was not feeling up to snuff, and I wanted the girls to know why.
Outside my family, they were the first to know that in a few months I would become a mother for the first time. And when that few months passed, young William Love III would become the surrogate baby for 30-plus adoring drill team girls. At five weeks old, he accompanied us all on the bus to the Wenatchee Apple Blossom Festival where the Ponderettes marched in the parade.
Francie, in her note, could not believe that so much time had passed since that day of disclosure in the darkroom. Well, it has, and that young man is now contributing to the history that continues to march on both at the high school and in this community.
And, one more note. That Yoke's grocery store where I was feeling sad about the lack of familiar faces the other day----it was originally started by Francie's dad, Les Rogers. So, even without visible familiarity, the past lives on in wonderful ways.