Posts Tagged ‘Dale Melrose’

My Great Grandmother saved more of Dale’s 1917 letters than in previous years – there are 19 letters that follow this one. There’s a war raging in Europe, but the United States will not enter that until April. Dale is struggling to put himself through college (and he will pull it off for one more semester). The Draft will catch up with him in July. Finally, Scarlet Fever will do her work. I know these things, but Dale did not. He wrote his letters, absorbed only with the now of living, and his current woes.

Eugene, Ore. Dec. 31, ’16

Dear Folks,

       Well, how are things now? I am still humming along as usual. Everybody else is getting La Grippe, but I cant get it. Too tough, I guess.

      See my Xmas present. I got a big box of stationery and some candy too. That will help some.

      I heard that Andy is back in the U.S. again, but I haven’t heard from him yet. I suppose Brown is back too. I expect to see them down this way before long. Andy always talked of coming down to see Brown’s place.

      I had a letter from Mr. Kopp the other day saying, that while he would be glad to lend money on life insurance, he had lent all he could spare, just two weeks before to his brother in the east who was buying a place. That prevents me from getting money there. I don’t know any one in this town who has any loose money to lend. Maybe I can get it from a bank, but they seldom loan except on real estate for purposes of development of the country.

     I dont know what to do but I am going to see the president of the University as soon as he is here and find out about things. I may be able to make it stick, but if I don’t, I will have to give up the idea of school this year.

      Kopp said in his letter that if I couldn’t get a loan I had better work a year or two than to go to school hampered by lack of funds. That was my idea anyway.

      I would hit Aunt Jane for a loan but if she is going to build a barn next spring, she will have no money to spare.

      There is no logging at all now on account of deep snow in the mountains. We have had no snow to speak of but it can be seen on all the hills around here.

      Your letter hasn’t come yet. I guess the snow in the Rockies must be holding up the mail. I heard that the trains were 36 hours late.

      There is nothing more to write so I will close

Your son

Dale D.

postmarked Jan 1-17 5PM


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Dale is in a fine mood when he write this letter. He has a soap box, and he’s going to stand on it. He’s maturing and standing up for what he believes in. (I have a hard time thinking of him as “Great Uncle Dale” given that he was barely 21 when he wrote this letter. A kid.)

One other note: Dale uses an ethnic slur here. Such idioms were common in the early 1900’s and reflected on the populace as a whole (we were horridly segregated!). If you are like me, you will cringe when you read the first paragraph. I can’t help it. It’s an awful thing to say and I wish I could erase it from the letter, but – alas! – my job here is to act as a transcriber and preserve the history as it was written.

Dale’s letter reminds me that public education was not always like it has been throughout my life, starting with Kindergarten at age 5 and ending with graduation from a four-year high school around the age of 17 or 18. All that was mandatory in 1916 was an 8th grade certificate, which one earned by the age of 15 or 16. My grandfather – John – was just 16 years old in 1916.

Newberg, Ore. July 29, ’16

Dear Folks,

     Your letter came yesterday and I was glad to hear that you were getting along so well. It is to bad that the weather is so hot. I cant write like a white person this afternoon it seems.

     Today is a hot day for us, and this morning I got hit on the head with a rock while I was shoveling and Hanson was picking.* This afternoon we were short of men and I worked too hard in the heat and got a headache. I quit for the day and perhaps for good. I don’t like this rock shoveling anyway. When Hanson is in the pit, it is too dangerous. Work is plentiful now, and I will hit something else, I guess.

    Andy has poison oak all over himself, but he is out working this afternoon just the same. Andy is a lot easier to get along with than Brown was, and he has lots of grit too.

    I don’t think we will go to Eastern Ore. mow. It is too late in the season.

    I would like to see John in High School for a year or so, at least. He is not old enough to know what he wants to study yet. It is a fact that High School couldn’t hurt him any. I wouldn’t take $3,000** for the three years I spent in High school. Not only for what I learned in the books, but what I learned about people and their ways, that little time I spent there has been of immense value to me. Even if a fellow has to work at common labor after he gets out, he has lost no time that could have been better invested. Practically all one learns in the grades, is how to “read, write, and cipher”*** a little. In High School one learns to reason and depend upon his own head rather than some one else’s. Incidentally he learns something about mathematics, and the language that he uses, a multitude of other things from the books make him see that he is living in no two-by-four world and that he has some responsibility.

    And in college — I don’t know all about that yet, but I think I can say that if one takes the value of one school course and multiplies it by 10 he will have the value of the High School course, and the High School course multiplied 10×10 is the value of college. I mean this, of course, if the student works in school and doesn’t go just for the fun of it.

    A letter came to me today from a lawyer in Spokane saying that he was about to begin suit against D me for the Standard Laundry Co. of Walla Walla. the amount for which he is suing is $.75. **** I paid that Laundry all I owed them before I left there over a year ago, and I told that Collection Agency that when they wrote to me last June. The Laundry says I haven’t paid, and I say, I have. They may get a judgement against me, but not six bits.

    You say, Dad, that you want me to come back there two years from now. I thought you saw that I couldn’t do that a year ago. Chances may be better back there for some people who can take deep breaths but not for me. My chances back there are all for the next world. I want you folks to come out here as soon as you can. There are other things in this world beside money. When I get out of school I am not going to make money the main driving power. “Greed for Gain” is against my religion.

    This is a poor letter and poorly written, but take into account my aching head, and make allowance for that.

Your son


*picking – Hanson was using a pick axe to break up the rock in the rock pit. A chunk came off and hit Dale in the head. No hard hats in 1916.

**$3,000. Doesn’t sound like a lot to us in 2015, but it was equivalent to $1,000,000 in Dale’s analogy. Think: “I wouldn’t take a million dollars for…”

***cipherverb. Archaic form – to do arithmetic.

**** Seriously!!?? Collections for six bits???? But if you figure a man might make $2.50 to $3.00 per day… Dale should have kept the receipt.


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Dale’s summer jobs seem to dry up quickly in the summer of 1916, an unfortunate situation as he’s trying to earn enough to stay in school!

Newberg, Ore. July 16, ’16

Dear Folks,

      Well, we have moved and are nearly ready to run the rack through, but a rain came up yesterday and stopped us. That kind of business eats up the profit but it cannot be helped, I guess.

     I haven’t had a letter from you for a long time, but there must be one in Eugene for me. I hope you are all well in this hot weather that I read about back there.

     I am thinking of going to eastern Oregon, because I have only about fifteen dollars to my credit since school is out and I have only a month and a half more to make my pill pile.

    Oswald Best is going east in a week or so to a job which will pay $2.50 and $3.00 and board for common labor. He wants Andy and I to go with him but I am afraid that we cannot get any money from Hanson before the first of next month. Of course, it is not what one makes, but what one saves that counts. However when we are laid off a day now and then for breakage, or moving, and still have to eat, it eats up the savings.

     If Andy and I were not college studes (sic), we would go up where he was last fall in Canada when he got $3.50 and board for three or four months. I heard through Andy that Buster is going up there this fall. He is still sore at me, by the way.

     The rain seems to be over, so I guess we will work to-morrow. There is not much of interest to write so I will close hoping that you folks are as well as the hot weather will allow.

  Your son


I am curious as to what he meant by “ready to run the rack through”.  He is apparently working for Hanson, he of the missed pay-checks and much griping about in 1915. Hanson was a contractor for the State or County, and was dependent on being paid by them first (or so he said). In 1915, paving employed something called a sack bundling rack (I don’t know if the link will work or not; it’s an item in an online 1915 Engineering book I found by googling: “1915 rack road construction”) That’s definitely something for an engineering type to research!


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Dale’s travels have taken him from Newberg, Oregon; to Walla Walla, Washington; back home to Caryville, Wisconsin; back to Newberg, and now south to Eugene, where the University of Oregon awaits him. He’s held off jobs, scrimped and saved, begged for help, and now his fortunes have changed.









Eugene, Ore. Sept. 10, 1915

Dear Folks,

    I have been fortunate enough to find work. In fact I have more than I can do. First I found a place to work for meals in a boarding house run by two old maids. I have to clean up the yard and put in their wood for them, and after that is done I must wash the dishes. Then I got a job at a rooming house on a commission basis. When I take a man up there I get 20% of all they get out of him. Then I got a job for meals at a place near the U. washing dishes and waiting on table.

   Then I got a job for room, for working at the yard and wood for a while this fall. Of course the room stays mine even when I have no work to do. I must give away one of the jobs for meals, but I don’t know which one yet. I will have to flip a coin to find out, I guess. Did I say that those jobs were all I had to do? Perish the thought! I have a contract to put six cords of oak wood in Prof. Sheldon’s cellar. The consideration is $3.00. Do you think I can make wages at it? I have to wheel the wood about 75 feet and pile part of it.

    I haven’t seen Mildred yet. I asked about her at the library to-day, and they said that she had not yet returned. I suppose she went to Medford.

    I won’t be the only representative of Newberg this year as I was last. There are going to be several here, Dale Butt, two George boys, the Leavitt boys, a Jones that went to high school when I did, and some others too.

    I believe I shall get along better this year than I did last. They don’t heave the bull here like they do at Whitman. The school is bigger and better equipped than Whitman was, and there is a greater variety in courses.

    I have talked with Prof. Reddie. He wants me to enroll in his Dramatic Interpretation Course. He also told me to go get to the manager of the Eugene Theater and using his <Reddie’s> name, get a job as scene shifter. He said that that job would give me a chance to see all the theatricals that come through besides giving me a few cents.

    Now I believe I have told it all for this time. When you write tell all the news. You can just address your letters to Eugene and I will arrange to have them sent to me at whatever place I make my permanent lodging place.

Dale D. Melrose

I’d like to note that when Dale mentions “two old maids”, he means women who never married.

$3.00 in 1915 was quite a sum!

I will probably have to make a trip to Eugene to research some of Dale’s life… I wonder what I can bribe my OSU-loving (Beavers) husband to go on a field trip into “enemy” (Ducks) territory??

I’m not sure who Mildred is.

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Prentiss Hall, March 30, ’15

Dear Folks,

     I will answer this letter right away, because I know it takes a long time for mail to go back there. I had been looking for a letter for some time, and didn’t know what could ve the matter with you folks.

    My job at St Paul’s lasted about a week, but I will have another job next Monday at a boarding house near here. I don’t know how “hashing” will go with me, but I think I will soon break in. It will be a good thing, because a guy can get a job easier if he has had experience waiting on tables.

   Tomorrow is the last day of school for a weeks time. I wish I could get a job, but guess there is no chance. I will work on my story that is to go into the contest for the $15 or $19 prize.

March 31

I was out to Palmer’s* last Saturday for the afternoon. They like it very well here. The town has about 800 inhabitants and theirs is the only church besides the Adventist. I saw a Newberg paper out there, but I only saw that Mrs. H. Hanson has another daughter, and that the High School beat MacI.** in both basket-ball games.

    It seems funny to hear about storms, freezing water pipes, and snow because we are having the most ideal weather that I have ever lived in. The air has the smell of leaves, of grass, of flowers, and pine trees in it all at once. I never have seen anything like it.

    What is the matter with Aunt Jane? I wonder if she has forgotten that it is her turn to write.

Say Ma dont work too hard. Get along the best you can until I get home. You can bank on me for lots of help when I get back. Dont try to take the house apart because there is a little dust. Still I suppose you have already done most of it and my advice will not do anyo good.

    You tell John that if he learns German he will have to work on it, because I wont teach him if he dont want to do any work himself. I am doing reading outside of class, and handing in synopses of the works in German. I can probably raise my grade more that way than I can in class.

    Now I come to the worst part of the letter. I am broke. I have no excuse to offer. I believe I have lived as cheap as was possible, except for a little bit spent foolishly perhaps, but it was even then quite necessary. When the guys that you are with, spend money on you, a person feels like a crab is he doesn’t reciprocate a little, and I am no exception. Anyone would do it. I hate like everything to ask you folks for money when you are just getting settled, and need a lot, but I am at rock bottom. I think I will be able to do a lot of work for you folks, and I will surely return the first real money I make to you until I begin to make up a little of the debt I owe. If you people wonder where the money goes to, and you surely must, I will keep a cash account and turn it in every month.

    Well I guess I have told about all the news. Dont hold back so long from writing as you have been doing.

    Tell Dad that George Fox*** said that Dorwin**** had an operation last winter at Spokane, I think for appendicitis, and is not doing any work now.

     I meet lots of fellows that are from Wisconsin. Several of the professors are, and at least one of the students, a Ralph Potter is from the country around Eau Claire.

Dale Melrose

Firstly, I did not put (sic) in every single time Dale missed an apostrophe. This letter is a disaster of apostrophe abuse. I can’t even go there.

Secondly, I remember working that “I need money” paragraph into my letters home from college.

*Palmer’s. Pastor of the Congregational Church in Walla Walla in 1915. National Council of the Congregational Churches of the United States –

**MacI. McMinnville. Newberg and McMinnville are small towns in Oregon that are very close together.

***George Fox – George Fox College in Newberg, Oregon (presently George Fox University). A Quaker College.

****Dorwin. I HAVE NO CLUE. I read all of the issues of The Crescent (the George Fox school newspaper) issued between November 1914 and March 15, 1915. It is *not* Darwin as Charles Darwin was already quite deceased by the winter of 1914 (he died in 1882).

Outside of those notes, I love the little poke at sibling rivalry between my Great Uncle Dale and my grandfather, John.

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Tonight, as I transcribed Dale’s letter, I began to hear his voice: the Mid-west “twang” and his sense of humor seem to emanate from him. His folks are still in Portland at the time of this writing (my brother pointed out that they probably traveled by rail and so did not go through Walla Walla to visit Dale). The First World War is still five months away and a world removed from Walla Walla and Dale.


“Prentiss Hall, March 13, 1914

Dear Folks,

    I got your letter this morning and will answer right away. I hope the weather has warmed up some back there, because the cold is liable to bother you when you get home.

   We gave the German play last night and afterwards went to Kroesche’s house and had a feed. I had a fine time, because they all talked German and told stories about the old country. I got an invitation to come up to Kline’s this afternoon. I am going up you bet. I have a notion to get him to give me a little special work in German if I can arrange it reasonably.

    I have a job for a week or soagain (sic) at St Paul’s School again. I am pretty good at dishwashing now. I do not have to spend so long a time as I used to. The grub is not great stuff, but I manage to live on it somehow.

    I am getting along good in Greek, and German. I had right to get about 90% in each one. Math is going good this semester, and Physics is fine; I worked a problem the other day that no one had worked alone for three or four years.

    Psychology Class has not met for a week, but I think I got about 90% in the test we had at the last meeting. English is all right. I must make a speech next time on the subject: “The Freshman’s reading of poetry”. Bible is really better under the sub. professor than under Drexy(?) as far as facts go, but I guess Penrose does make it more interesting.

    I didn’t get any suit, and I am going to try and get along without one this spring, as money is no common thing around this neck of the woods. I don’t know how money gets away so fast, but everybody seems to have the same trouble. One guy from Boisey who lived her for a while spent close to $200.oo between the 1st of Jan and the 1st of March. I guess that is going some eh? He wasn’t a frightful sport either, but he had most of us outclassed.

    Well don’t work too hard when you get home. I will be back before long, and I will show you how to wash dishes. I hope you will write soon, and tell all the news. I must quit and go down to dinner at the school.

Dale D.”

I could not find a good list of professors at Whitman College* in 1914 (I’m sure there is such a thing) to verify the names Drexy and Penrose (there is a Penrose Library). Kline’s and Kroesche’s are also hard to track down. However, I was able to tie down what St. Paul’s was: St. Paul’s School for Girls.

*I have a friend whose husband works at Whitman College and I shall be emailing her to see if he has any insights on these names.

I wonder how it went over when Dale returned to the homestead and fulfilled his promise: “I will show you how to wash dishes.”

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The letters from 1911 and 1912 amount to four total. The bulk of Dale’s letters were written from 1915-1917. All I have from 1912 are a letter and a postcard and the postcard isn’t even from Dale. There’s nothing from 1913, and only one letter from 1914.

001002Newberg, Ore. Jan, 18, ’12

Dear Folks,

       I just got your letter this morning and will answer right away, though I suppose you have got my card long ago. I have got exempt from tests again so I get two half holidays. I bought a raincoat the other day from a fellow here, it is a good one and I got it cheap it only cost $(?).50 and he had to pay ten dollars in Portland for it about two months ago. The botany is all right but I cant use it in school for the state course is taken in an all together different books and of course you can’t use any other.

Say do you think that I had better drop Latin as it is not a required subject unless you intend to graduate and the only thing that it helps is to learn other languages such as French, Spanish, Italian and the like, which after you get Latin it is no trick at all to learn them.

Some of the guys around here have got the habit of coming up to my room when I am out nd getting in through a window or through the door with a pass key just everlastingly stack bedclothes and stuff around, they never break anything but, if I ever catch any of them up here I will teach them a lesson, maybe I will set the Marshal to watch it. It sounds funny to hear about 30 and 40 below when you can run around in your shirt sleeves and see green grass and vines, moss and stuff. I am coming good with my music I can play quite a few tunes on her already. Uncle Ern has a chance to trade his place here for a farm in Missouri and is thinking pretty strong of doing it if he can. Well I will have to quit for this time,

Dale Melrose

P.S. Write and tell me what you think about Latin. D.”

I do believe he really means botany in this letter, unlike the previous letter.

I think the cost of the raincoat was $5.50, but it’s hard to make out.

I especially love his comparison of winter in Newberg vs. winter on the Melrose homestead in western Wisconsin!




(Image was altered to go with the note on the back of the postcard, below


Postmarked: Mar. 14, 1912, Medford, Oregon & Mar. 18, 1912 in Caryville, Wis.

Mrs P.G. Melrose




“The little girl marked X is Vivian on her way to school~taken in Dec. We are looking forward to seeing you this summer. I have been working since Sept. but will probably be through by May. With best wishes (???)

I’m not sure who the postcard is from or why it is in this collection. A cousin? A friend? I did look up the “Road of a Thousand Wonders” and it was “the route of Union Pacific & Southern Pacific from Omaha to San Francisco.” overlandrouteto00compgoog_0003(Found in Internet Archives)

I do know that “Uncle Ern” was Mary Brown Melrose’s older brother, Ernest Linwood Brown.

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