A Memorial for Edna Agnes (Wilson) Thorleifson

Memoirs

SUMMER BEFORE COLLEGE
1938

August was coming and then it would soon be time to start to College in Ellensburg. I did not have any money; I did not expect pay for working on the farm and I would not ask my parents for money as I knew they needed it for many essential things. I had helped with the baling of the hay and that was done. Now I decided that I would seek a job away from home for the rest of the summer. I could not apply to be a sales clerk or waitress as I had no way to get to and from the job. I wouldn’t make enough to rent a room Baby sitting jobs weren’t full time, so I looked in the classified section of the Ellensburg Newspaper. There was an ad asking for a cook’s helper at the county poor farm. They offered board and room and $20.00 a month. That sounded great. I would be able to make enough to pay the first quarter’s tuition and maybe even buy some books.

But where was the poor farm and what was it? I had never heard of it before. I found out that it was an 80 acre dairy farm northwest of Ellensburg. In addition to the regular house, barn and other farm buildings, there was a big building or dormitory that had rooms for old penniless men to live. It was a self supporting way for the county to take care of the old men. Hence the name “Poor Farm”.

The main house that was adjacent to the dorm had a kitchen, front room, three bedrooms, small dining room for the farm helpers and a big dining for the men and a big covered porch that went all across the front of the house. The farm workers included a man and wife who were in charge, a man who was the milker, a cook, and me as cook’s helper.

I applied for the job on Saturday and started to work the following Monday. My job was really pretty simple. I could have easily been the cook, but was hired as the helper. I did whatever the cook asked me to do which was mostly peeling vegetables, making salads and being in charge of the men who set their table. The cook and I both did the dishes. The green beans in the garden were just right for eating while I was there, so I helped the cook can them. The old men who could came to the covered porch to snap the beans getting them ready to can. We canned many jars of beans. I never had to do any cleaning except in the kitchen and the helper’s dining room. I never had to make or change any of the men’s beds.

The cook and I each had a room upstairs. The couple in charge had a bedroom upstairs also. I thought that it was very funny, and inconvenient, to have to go through the couple’s bedroom to go to the bathroom. It was O.K. during the day, but when we all went to bed about the same time and often the couple were in bed before we got to use the bathroom. The cook told me that she had a can with a lid that she kept under her bed. She used that at night or in the morning instead of going to the bathroom. So the first time that I went home for a visit, I got an empty coffee can with a lid. I used it before I went to bed or when I got up in the morning as I did not want to go through the couple’s bedroom while they were there.

This was a very different kind of job and six weeks went by quickly. I had earned $30.00. Now I could go to college.