Category Archives: Kidhood

Car Camping #4: The Cadillac #4, Engine Switch

The reason for buying the 1952 Cadillac was the car’s big V-8 engine. 

Our family had grown to five and our camping supplies were early 1950 technologies. Heavy canvas tents. Coleman stoves. Canned food and iron skillets. Supplies that once fit in the trunk now required a densely packed trailer. 

Cadillac V-8 engines were big, powerful and reliable. Just what we needed to get over the high summits of Idaho’s rugged Forest Service roads. Roads that still remain surfaced with the dirt and rocks the landscape provides. 

The greatest disappointment of the Caddie turned out to be that big engine.

After a few trips to the shop Dad mentioned how he was surprised at how unreliable the engine was. Sure, it was more reliable than the Model A Ford he had kept running for his folks through the 1930s and 40s. But it sure needed more fussing over than he had expected from a Caddie V-8.

The shop fessed up that the Cadillac motor factory had burned down shortly before our car was manufactured so General Motors had installed Buick motors. They had equal motor-mounts so were handy to toss in but they did not have the horsepower the car was designed for. 

Dad never agan bought a  GM product. 

(But I think the switch was his fondness for Mercurys — the first car he bought on his own.)

Car Camping #2: The Cadillac #2, Fantastic Features

For several days Dad delighted in reading the manual for our new 1952 Cadillac and discovering all the new features of this luxury “automobile” — versus all the “puddle jumpers” out there. 

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The first night the Caddy was home we kids were rousted out of our warm beds and led to the cold garage where he sat us in the front seat and pushed in the radio’s tuning knob. A motor’s rather loud whir had us discover the radio antenna rising out of the right side front fender. Pulling the knob out caused the same whir to make the antenna disappear back into the fender!

Dad’s excuse for buying the Cadillac was for its big V-8 engine, but an equally important feature was the heater. The heater blew out from under the front seat. The Manhattan had a heater unit hanging down under the dash on the front passenger’s side. All three of we kids would crowd on the front bench seat after a day sledding in the snow, usually crowding Mom onto  the back seat. Having the heat come out from under the front seat meant both the front and back of the car had warm air blowing on our feet, so Mom no longer had to sacrifice so we kids could warm up.

Come to think of it, it was probably also a safety feature since Dad no longer had to drive on icy roads while being squashed against his door by three squirming kids.

Car Camping #1: The Cadillac #1

As soon as World War II was over the manufacturing might of the United States turned its attention to consumer items — items that were sorely needed thanks to limited or no production during the war. 

My folks were early customers of the new production lines. In 1948 they gave their Ford Model A to my aunt and uncle on the family farm and bought a brand new 1947-48 Frazer Manhattan.

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I was three at the time so the Manhattan was the first car I remember being ours. It had very cool push-button latches on the inside of the doors. Fortunately they were so stiff my very curious little fingers I weren’t able to open the doors with while the car was moving. But I sure tried!

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Alas, the Manhattan was outdone by our growing family’s need to go camping in the mountains and canyons of Idaho. By 1952 it was too small for the five of us and all our gear. When Dad hitched on a trailer to carry our heavy, primitive camping supplies the Manhattan barely made it out of town. We often stopped to refill the radiator from a stream using the “dipper” (a sauce pan) we always carried under the back window. 

There was a line of cars known to have big motors – which was Dad’s excuse to buy a 1952 Cadillac. 

Interesting innovations of the Frazer Manhattan

History of the Frazer Manhattan

Sawtooth Kidhood 1960: Greylock Mountain

My dad Merrill, my sister Vicky and I went hiking to the top of Greylock Mountain, which dominates the entire vista north of Atlanta, Idaho. It was summer, 1960. Dad was 56, Vicky was 17, and I was 15. 

Atlanta 1952 INT

We had often camped in Atlanta, where Dad had spent his kid-hood, and he had mentioned having been to the top of Greylock Mountain. He said there is a stack of rocks on the top of Greylock Mountain with a jar in it. The jar contains scraps of paper with people’s names and comments. 

We could always tell Dad wanted to get up there again. By 1960 he decided it was time.

We started from Riverside Campground to the north and east of Atlanta, crossed Boise River on a wooden bridge, and headed to one of the creeks that ran down the face of Greylock. I’m sure Dad knew which creek but I have no idea. I do remember when we got to the creek there was only the creek bed, there was no trail to follow.

We had left the campground with empty canteens, planning on filling them with water from the creek. Dad pointed out there is no need to carry water further than necessary (which I thought was genius). But when we got to the creek and left the road there was no water in the creek! I figured we’d turn back and fill the canteens, but Dad said not to worry, there would be running water in the creek higher up the hill (I thought he was nuts). For some time we walked up that dry creek, the sun getting higher and hotter and me getting more convinced we’d be retracing our steps for water. But low and behold, as the hill got steeper the creek bed got damp and then wet and then running with water! (He lucked out.)

We continued up the creek until the water started to peter out, where we filled the canteens while the water was still running freely. (I found out water is heavy!)

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We followed the gully of that creek until it ended at the ridge running west from Greylock Peak. We turned right and headed up the ridge until, at 9,363 feet, there was no more up. We had gained over 4,000 feet.

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Sure enough, the stack of rocks was there, along with two jars of comments left by past climbers. Dad added a slip of paper he had prepared with the comment, “My second and last time.” When we found his previous slip of paper it had his and a woman’s name on it. I asked about that and Dad said she was his first wife — the very first time any of we kids knew that bit of history!

Dad had his good Kodak camera for slides and his trusty light meter and he composed some photographs. I had my Kodak Brownie Hawkeye and snapped off some shots.

We started down Greylock by meandering, losing altitude as we cut across the face of the mountain, headed generally west until we found the gully we had hiked up. We were back in camp by dinner.

3 top Atlanta from top

4 top dad's two lakes

5 down V&I decending

6 down Dad and I

7 down outcrop

8 down outcrop closeup

9 brownie scrapbook

10 brownie top V&Dad lunch

11 brownie resting

12 brownie looking north

13 brownie looking west

 

Sawtooth Kidhood 1957: The Trots

By 1957 my sisters were ten and fourteen and I was twelve.

For three years our parents had been packing two horses with camping supplies to support a family of five for a week in the backcountry of the Sawtooth Mountains of Idaho.

It seems our parents had had enough. This time they pitched a tent at a dude ranch in Stanley Basin. The next day we left the tent all set up while riding five saddle horses, one for each of us, and accompanied by a ranch hand to take care of them. We were back in our tent that night without having to unpack or repack a darn thing!

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Mom and Dad’s notes say we went from Hell Roaring Lake to Imogene Lake. About all I remember was the horse ride on the way back to the ranch.

I had gotten used to being on a horse from our previous trips, when one saddle horse had joined the two pack horses. Its job was to carry tired kids. I had made my peace with knowing these animals are much bigger, much stronger, and much smarter than I am. But always before the horse had moved at the pace of Mom and Dad walking the trail, leading the way.

2 Hell Roaring Lake INT

3 snags INT4 mounted up INT

5 summit INT

This time the horse under me was fine with going away from the ranch at the pace set by the buckaroo. It also joined the string of walking horses when we started back. But as we got closer to the ranch the string of horses started stretching out.

Just a bit at first. They knew not to just bust out and get home. But soon the plodding along was getting darned close to an eager walk.

Soon my sisters and I were being carried along at a comfortable clip, it being obvious there would be no more stopping for sightseeing.

Then it became obvious the critters were beginning to dare one another to be the first to up the ante, snorting and bunching up until simultaneously the three horses broke into trots.

I had never been on a trotting horse before and instantly I was atop a frighteningly uncomfortable ride! My butt was being pounded up and down on a hard saddle once a second or so. With each bounce I worked to come back square in the saddle and not be thrown off to the side. Every time I landed back in the saddle it was a different angle and I discovered again and again just how little padding there was on my butt bones. As a twelve year old guy I was having serious visions of the consequences of landing too far forward and catching the saddle horn instead of the saddle. All this while being way too far off the ground and the ground being full of rocks and the horse not giving one twit about my frantic, serious yanks on the reigns and my demanding whoas being delivered in a voice just short of screaming.

Actually, I think she was enjoying getting me riled up.

Then the most amazing thing happened. Our three horses let loose into full gallops.

The jarring butt beatings from the saddle stopped. In their place were smooth rocking shifts from the front to the back of the saddle and then back the other way. There was no danger of being bounced off!

The ground was flying by but it was sure-footed and secure. I let the reigns hang loose and enjoyed that horse knowing what it was doing! And I could tell she was enjoying stretching out and being a horse.

That was the first and last time I rode a galloping horse. I remember it fondly.

If I ever do get back on a horse I’m going to let it know walking and galloping are fine with me. But NO TROTTING AND I MEAN IT!

It won’t care.

Writing this up, I was told you stand in the stirrups when a horse trots. Sure makes sense to me and my gonads!

Sawtooth Kidhood 1955: Snowyside Mountain #4

When we returned to the horses after our jaunt to the top of Snowyside Peak we stopped for a snack and then pointed the horses toward the northwest, heading toward Pettit Lake. It wasn’t long before we passed Twin Lakes and then came to a large flat area beside Alice Lake. We were a half mile lower in altitude than we had been when on top of Snowyside Peak and the winds were passing over us from the other side of the mountains. It was late afternoon on a sunny August day. Time to pitch camp.

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We kids gathered wood from the ground and dead snags hanging from the trees. Mom got dinner going. Dad laid out the tarp on which we blew up air mattresses and made our beds from the blankets that had been piled on the saddle bags atop the horses.

Yep, we carried blankets, not sleeping bags. But we did not carry pillows — a rolled up coat served just fine and it kept the coat warm for getting up on cold August mornings above 8,000 feet. Another trick we learned early in our Sawtooth hikes was to stuff the next morning’s clothes under the covers with us. It sure beat having to pull on freezing pants and shirts in the morning!

Alice Lake INT.jpg

Once we were settled in Dad pulled the second tarp up over our beds to under our chins to keep off the dew. I remember falling asleep to the oily smell of that 1950s canvas tarp mixed with the fresh pine and cold and purity of mountain air. Bright silver stars filled the blackest of black sky.

The next thing I knew was waking to the smell of that tarp completely over my head. I pulled back the tarp to find two inches of snow blanketing every feature of a bright, sunny summer morning.

Recommendations —

  • Sasa Milo has an excellent post of his 2014 walk around the Alice – Toxaway Loop Trail, from which we accessed Snowyside Peak. His photos are way beyond what my dad was able to capture on the Kodachrome slides I have scanned for these posts. And he’s done a great job of capturing the little delights of the mountain trail as well as the majestic grandeur of the Sawtooth Mountains. His topographical map can’t be beat. CLICK HERE

• Here’s more on Fredlyfish4 who contributed the photo of Alice Lake.

Sawtooth Kidhood 1955: Snowyside Mountain #3

Dad had spent months harping about the the fifty-two lakes that can be counted from Snowyside Mountain. He also had spent months harping about this bit of wisdom from experienced mountain climbers:

People don’t die going up mountains. 

They die coming down. 

This wisdom was a variation of our parents’ instructions that we kids were free to run up all the hills we want, but don’t let them catch us running down!

Whether it be a hill or a mountain, going down is when people are tired. Gravity is making it ease to get going too fast. And if you fall you do not fall a few degrees into the ground and rocks in front of you, you fall well over ninety degrees, through space, picking up speed until you hit the ground and rocks sloping away, where you keep sliding, scraping off skin and perhaps hitting your head on a rock to stop you.

Climbing Snowyside Mountain there were saddles between the smaller peaks before we reached the final summit of the mountain. One of these saddles was very narrow, with loose shale rock sloping steeply away from a path that was only a foot wide. The shale on both sides formed long slopes of scree that would not stop sliding out from under us should we slip onto it.

I remember this narrow path as some six to ten feet long but it might have been four.

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Dad paused when he first saw this dangerous path, but his determination to get to the top of Snowyside let him judge Vicky and I as old enough to understand the danger. We three sat down and, legs dangling on both sides of the path for stability, inched our butts along until the danger had passed.

After reaching the summit and counting fifty-two lakes we headed down and again came to this narrow path.

Not one of us hesitated. We walked right across it!

Need I say more about how mountain climbers perish?