Orofino, Idaho

Growing up, I knew one family vacation destination.....Orofino, Idaho.

Every summer our family would travel to Orofino to visit my Grandma West, and my aunts, uncles and cousins.

Mom graduating from Orofino High School
My mother grew up in Orofino.  And, since she was a teacher, she had the summers off, and Dad would take a week off from work, and we would pile in the car and drive the curvy road to Orofino.

Mom was the Queen of the Clearwater County Fair.

It was a ritual with our family.  That was our family vacation.

I have a memory of going to the site where Dworshak Dam now towers over the Clearwater River, before the dam was there.  If my memory serves me right, there was a visitor's center that showed you what the dam was going to look like, and where you were standing looking at this map under glass, it said on it that this site would be under water.  I remember seeing big machinery moving dirt.  I would have been pretty young to have this memory, but I do have a memory of this.

As I grew older, you always new you were getting close to Orofino because you saw the dam rising above the river up in the hills.

The majority of my time was spent at grandma's house.  One thing I love about being at grandma's house was she had a piano.  I would spend hours playing on the piano.  The piano was actually my mother's piano, but Grandma had the piano because Mom always said she kept it in Orofino because there was no where to put it at our house in Kellogg.  I learned to play Chopsticks with both hands on that piano, as well as Peter, Peter Pumpkin Eater, and various other tunes.  How I longed to have that piano at our house when I was growing up.  But, later in life I got my wish, because it now sits in my living room here in Kellogg.

One of my earliest photographs of me taken in Grandma West's house.

Grandma always had flowers and a vegetable garden.  I remember going out to her vegetable garden and her dirt always had a very distinctive smell.  It was very dark in color, and boy could she grow vegetables.  I'm fortunate that both my grandmothers loved gardening, and I know continue to carry on the tradition.

We knew the neighbors on either side of my grandma's house.  The Stanleys were one one side, and the Erbs were on the other side.  The Stanleys had a daughter close to my sister's age.  I remember tagging along with her sometimes to go visit at the Stanley house.  They had a big curved staircase in their house with big wooden bannisters.  One time in particular I remember being up in the bedroom with my sister and her friend, and they were playing the song "Sealed With A Kiss".  Funny the things that stick in your mind.

The Erbs on the other side were very nice people, too.  They had a son John who was older than my brother and sister, and it seemed like I remember he was always lifting weights.  Norm, the dad, was in a wheelchair because he was missing a leg.  He ran a bar downtown that my dad came and worked at one summer when the Bunker Hill was on strike.  Norm was always very friendly and kind.  Mrs. Erbs was always very nice, too.

One night when I was about nine or ten, I was standing out on the porch, because Mom was going to take me to someone else's house to sleep that night.  As I was standing on Grandma's porch, a bug flew in my ear.  They had to take me to the Emergency Room to get it flushed out.  It was not a pleasant experience, but I do remember the doctor being very nice.

My Uncle Bob and Auntie Ronnie owned a business in town called West's Gun and Tackle Shop.  Uncle Bob was my mom's brother.  One summer the let me work there during the week.  One of my main jobs was showing the fisherman the bait they were buying to make sure the worms and maggots were alive and squirming.  After working there for the week, I got to choose something out of the store as my payment.  I believe I chose swimming goggles.  I'm not sure how many days I actually worked there, but I look back on that time very fondly.

Auntie Ronnie and Auntie Lila
My mom's sister Lila also lived in Orofino.  We would often go down to her house for dinner while we were visiting.  We would eat in the side yard, and often partake of the delicious vegetables Lila grew in her garden.  She also had beautiful flowers in her yard.  Lila was married to Ted.  One thing I remember about Ted is he chewed Copenhagen, and was from Wisconsin and had an accent. 

Two of Lila's children lived in Orofino, my cousin Lura and my cousin John.  Lura and Lyle lived on Riverside, a part of town that was on the left side of the road as you headed out of town toward Lewiston.  They had two sons, Derrick and Mark, and they were a few years younger than me.  I remember once having a Slip and Slide at Lura and Lyle's house and playing on it with my cousins.  People always said Lura and I looked alike...which I always took as a big compliment!!

Grandma West surrounded by her grandchildren.  Front row, Christy, Grandma, Me.  Second Row, John, Judy, Bill Lura.  This is up at John's house.

My cousin John lived on the other end of town.  To get to his house, you had to drive past Auntie Lila's house, and through Konkolville.  Konkolville was an area where the Konkol Lumber Mill was located, and there was the Konkol's house that had a fountain in the front lawn with different colored lights shining on it.  There was also a motel in Konkolville.  John was married to Linda, and they had there kids, Paul, Matt and Summer.  When I was really young, I remember John was in the Army and I think he and Linda lived in Hawaii at one time, and they brought me back a little hula girl doll as a gift.  I still have that hula girl.  John was always so nice and always pleasant to be around.  His kids were younger than me, too.

The Clearwater River ran through the town of Orofino, and I remember almost every summer we would take a day and go to Zann's Beach.  It was a white sandy beach down past the turnoff to the golf course.  One summer, the summer I saw the movie "Jaws", I would not go into the water for fear a shark would attack me.

Lila also has a daughter Judy, who lives in Boise.  Her there daughters are all close to my age.  There was a few time, when I got older, more junior high age, that they would be visiting Orofino the same time we were there, so I got to hang out with them, too. 

There was a girl that lived on the street behind Grandma West's house that I did play with a few summers,  But then they moved to Lewiston.  When I was in junior high, she ended up being at one of our dances, because one of my classmates who had just moved to Kellogg from Lewiston, invited her to the dance.

Tonight as I sit in my backyard writing this, there is a smoky haze over our valley.  This also reminds me of Orofino.  It seemed like there was always a fire burning somewhere when we were there, and I remember the moon looking so big and red as it came up over the hills when we were driving home from someone's house in the evening. 

Growing up I think I grumbled a bit because we never got to go anywhere else for our vacation in the summer.  But now that I look back, what a wonderful ritual I got to be a part of by connecting with my mother's family at least once every year.  With the arrival of Facebook, my siblings and I have reconnected with most of our Orofino relatives and a couple of years ago had a family reunion in Orofino at my cousin Lura's house.  Many of the relatives were there, and it was nice to take the time to visit.

My Uncle Bob, my cousin Lura and her husband Lyle, and their son Mark are the only family that remains in Orofino.  Grandma West passed away the year Molly was born, then Uncle Ted, and Auntie Ronnie, then more recently my cousin John and my Auntie Lila. 

Hopefully there will be another Orofino reunion in the future (fondly named "Last Cousin Standing Hootenanny).  We all so enjoyed spending time with one another.

Even though I didn't grow up in Orofino, it has always been a part of me, because of those times we spent visiting Grandma West, our aunts, uncles, and cousins, and those times helped shape me into who I am today.

(I may have got some details wrong, so if any of my cousins or siblings want to clarify some things, please feel free!!)

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