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A Conversation with Addie Scott Irwin nee Brock

Conversations of Old: Addie Scott Irwin

A Conversation with Addie Scott Irwin nee Brock

I interviewed Addie at the Extended Care Center of North Valley Hospital in December 1993. She was there as the result of a broken hip which had put her down, but, certainly not out. She was expecting me and I was flattered by the fact that she had obviously taken the time to be impeccably dressed and made-up. Her silver hair was flawlessly coiffured and her rouge lent a healthy vibrant glow to her face. Her eyes sparkled and it was clear to me that she was still very much present in life. She began talking to me as I was arranging myself and my tape recorder, complimenting me and telling me how much she was enjoying The Tobacco Plains Journal. We pick up the conversation in mid-stride.

Addie: “I enjoy it because I’ve been here so long, you see, and know practically everybody. At one time I had a store where Dr. Ivy’s place is now. I had my store for 12 years and I knew everybody in town. I took the census in 1970 and there wasn’t anybody I didn’t know and it made it very nice. Now, I know very few because practically all the ones my age are in the cemetery.”

TPJ: “Howard Helms mentioned that very same thing when I talked to him.”

Addie: “Have you found anyone that came before 1905?”

TPJ: “No, and I doubt if I will.” (Isabella Dicken, now 98, moved to Fernie in 1905 at the age of 10.)

Addie: “I was born in Aiken, Minnesota. My folks went from Manistee, Michigan to Aiken in a covered wagon. That was before I was born. Well, then I lost my sister. She died of typhoid fever when she was eight years old in Aiken and that’s where my sister and I were born. Then my folks went back to Michigan and we went from there out here because my dad had typhoid and he wasn’t very well. The doctors’ thought he should come west for his health. We came out here and he was well from then on. But I was pretty small. I can remember coming on the train when I was five years old. Especially in St. Paul. To us kids it was something wonderful. It was such a big building, all these steps up and down and we had so much fun running up and down until my mother put a stop to it. ‘Oh no, you’re not going to play in here,’ she said. We’d never seen such a big building before. “I was only five when we came out here. No, I was six. I had my sixth birthday on the train coming out. When we lived in Michigan my dad was a fisherman on the Great Lakes. He fished all the Great Lakes except Superior. He used to mend all his own nets and he showed us how to do it.”

TPJ: “Why did he pick Eureka?”

Addie: “Well, we had some double cousins (the Butts family). And my aunt and uncle came out here and they went to Canada. Then they came down here. And so when we came out we came to Whitefish. We just stayed there oh... possibly a year. And then my dad home¬steaded up here south of Eureka six miles. Well, it was too far for us to go to school so we didn’t live there very long till he built a home in Eureka and then we moved into town so we could go to school.”

TPJ: “And then how did he work his homestead?”

Addie: “Well he didn’t work it. He sold the relin¬quishment then so that we didn’t have it anymore. But when we lived up there it was summertime. We had a lake in front of the place and we had ducks on the lake. It was always my job to go out in the boat and round up the ducks at night so the mink wouldn’t get them.

“We kids had lots of fun. You know, kids in those days, they had to make their own entertain¬ment. And so, I had two sisters, my brothers were all older, but we made little farms - out of sticks. When dad would go to town in the team and wagon - it was the only way we had, there were no cars in those days - if he saw a bottle, he wasn’t a drinker, he’d pick it up just for us kids to play with. So we had the flasks (pints) for the cows and the bigger bottles were the horses and the pine cones were the pigs. The little pine cones were the little pigs and the feath¬ers were the chickens and the duck feathers were the ducks. We could play by the hour there. But I can remember. Kids don’t seem to have that kind of fun anymore.”

TPJ: “It seems fun comes to them canned anymore. You know, you buy little farm sets with all the animals.”

Addie: “Well, they have cars that they chase around with as soon as they’re old enough. I can remember when I was first old enough…

At this point a nurse came into Addie’s room and I left for a few minutes and she never did finish that thought as she began on another subject after I came back.

Addie: “We were a very affectionate family. The whole family. And you know, with four brothers…somebody asked me one time, said, ‘Four brothers! How do you get along?’ and I said, ‘If they were all the same as my brothers I’d just as soon have four more.’ We always got along wonderfully well. Never any quarrels or fighting in the family. There was Albert and Arthur and Roy and Guy. And they’re all gone.”

There’d been a photograph of Addie’s brother, Roy Brock, driving a horse and buggy in a previous issue and I asked her if she’d seen it.

Addie: “Well now, wasn’t it a horse and buggy? Well that buggy was mine. It was a rubber tired buggy. And I had a five-gaited saddle horse that my husband (then Merlin Scott) had gaited himself for me. And then he went away to the service, oh, he just went three days before we were to be married so we didn’t get married. We waited till he got back. In those days a married woman couldn’t find work at all. Nobody would give her any work. And I wanted to work all the while he was gone. So that was why. But then, I had this horse and buggy and mine was a standard bred. Beautiful saddle horse. Five-gaited. And I could ride him all day.”

TPJ: “Did you used to ride a lot?”

Addie: “Oh..., I was purtinear raised on a horse. Yeah, I love horses. One time I had a very narrow escape. I was just a girl and mother wanted me to take her to town. We had a team and buggy and one of the horses was a ‘switcher’. Do you know what a ‘switcher’ is?”

TPJ: “No.”

Addie: “It’s a horse that its tail will go in a circle, round and round until it catches the line and it just clamps down and you don’t have any control then. You can’t pull it out, it’s just like a vise. And so, I wasn’t on my toes and she got ahold of my line and she clamped down on it. We had to go across the place, up a slight hill, across a little flat, cross the railroad track and a sharp turn on the other side to go to town. What I was thinking of was when she came to the sharp turn up there she’d probably turn the buggy over. My mother was a heavy lady and I was so afraid she was going to get killed. So I handed mother the lines and she took them. I climbed over the dash board. I walked the little tongue between the horses that were running away till I got up to where the lines were and jerked them down. Then I could hardly get back to the buggy. I don’t know how I got out there - but, I did.”

TPJ: “Wow! That sounds like something out of a John Wayne movie.”

Addie: “We tied her tail down from then on. And at one time my husband and I, we had this ranch in Eureka there that borders the city limits. It was the old Billy Forsyth place. I was only the second owner because he homesteaded it and then he never married and when he passed away he was a really old man and it went into estate. I bidded in and I got high bid. That’s how I got it.”

TPJ: “It’s right there on the river?”

Addie: “Well it’s up above. The water tank is on my hill. There’s 160 acres in there. And I owned that for quite awhile and I sold it a couple years ago because I couldn’t handle it after I lost my husband (Cliff Irwin). I was married to Merlin Scott for 52 years before he passed away with a heart attack. He had a very good life. He was a wonderful man. And then I married - because I was living on the place - I just couldn’t stay alone. I was scared to death. In fact, I slept with a gun under my pillow till I married again. (She laughs) Every time the house squeaked I thought it was somebody trying to get in. And before, my grandchildren said, I didn’t think grandma was afraid of anything. But, that’s one thing I was afraid of. But, anyway, I married again. He was a boyhood friend of my husband. They chummed together all the time. Cliff had lost his wife seven years before. Neither one of my husbands smoked, drank or chased around or even used bad language. I was very fortunate.”

TPJ: “You said you didn’t get married when Merlin Scott went off of war because you wanted to work. Did you work?”

Addie: “I worked at the telephone office quite awhile. We had these plug-ins that had to have an operator all the time. I worked in the telephone office and I worked in the jewelry store and Mr. McCaulder had the confectionery store there and they went on vacation so they left me in charge of it. I loved that kind of work.”

TPJ: “When did you give up horseback riding?”

Addie: “Well, after my husband died. We used to ride in all the parades and everything and at one time we had 20 horses and we had Arabians and they were the nicest horses to raise. They didn’t know how to buck. You know, when they got old enough you just got on them and rode. We loved horses. But I like cattle and I made a lot more money on the cattle than we ever did on the horses. If you have a horse that you didn’t sell you can’t eat it.”

TPJ: “How many cattle would you have at any given time?”

Addie: “I think when I sold them I had about - I didn’t have a large place - About 20 head of cattle, I guess. And I started with one cow. I always loved cattle. I like to milk, butter everything that pertained to it I loved to do it But he (Merlin Scott) didn’t like cattle, so...You know, all my life I’ve loved to work. And this is the hardest thing I could do - sit without having something to do. Now I’m making quilts for all my grandchildren and great-grandchildren.”

TPJ: “What was it like dating in 1915 -1916? Where would you go? That must have been when you were dating Mr. Scott.”

Addie: “Well, he had this five-gaited saddle horse and this buggy. And we lived across the Kootenai at that time and they lived in the foothills over on the other side (of the valley) and he’d drive clear across.”

TPJ: “How long would it take for him to get there?”

Addie: “Well, most of the day. Yes, he was a very fine man.”

TPJ: “And then what would you do when he got there?”

Addie: “Well, we’d just visit and hold hands (she laughs). Sometimes he’d stay over night ‘cause I had brothers there and my folks always liked to have people come in. We had a big house with lots of room. And then he’d stay and go home the next day. One time he came over with the horse and cutter. And the horse had to break the snow. There was a crust on it. And it got almost all in before he got there. Because we lived across the Kootenai he had to go around by the bridge, see, and it was a long way. So my brothers knew he was coming and they hitched the team up to the sleigh. They broke the road out till they met him and then when they turned around the road was broken.”

TPJ: “How did they know he was coming?”

Addie: “Well, he used to write letters. And we’d get our mail up at Gateway. Gateway was a little town that was right on the border line. When we moved there, there was a big place where they had a dance hall and of course, a beer parlor I guess. And my uncle had a store there, the depot and probably a dozen families, but, that’s about all.”

TPJ: “Did you ever go to dances?”

Addie: “Oh yes, we had dances in this big hall. And every year we had this big mulligan. The grownups would all get together and they’d peel vegetables, take them all day. Maybe my brothers would go out and get a deer and then maybe they’d have some chickens and we’d put it all in this mulligan, see. And then everybody that came, they came up from Eureka which was 12 miles, but, they had to bring their cup and their spoon. Well, they’d fasten that on and they’d dance around ... And then there was the fella ... uh ... Harvey Young owned the store and he was always overseeing the dances. He’d fine them if they had a white shirt on and he’d fine them if they had a tie. He’d fine them if they didn’t have a tie. And you know, it was just all fun.”

TPJ: “What did he do with the money?”

Addie: “Well, they usually paid the ones that played. We didn’t expect them to play all night for nothing, which they would have done anyway. And then it went in with a lot of stuff they had to put into the mulligan because they didn’t have to pay for that, see. And I can remember a young fellow there by the name of Harvey Young and he taught us girls -younger girls - how to dance. We just thought that was great because he was a good dancer.”

TPJ: “How old would you have been at the time?”

Addie: “Oh ... probably 14 or 15.”

TPJ: “So Harvey Young is responsible for teaching a number of the women from around here how to dance.”

Addie: “No, not Harvey Young. It was this ... a ... Harvey Young had the store. But, this was ...what did I say his name was?”

TPJ: “I thought you said Harvey Young.”

Addie: “No ... well, maybe I did, but, his last name was Harvey. Deb, Deb Harvey. He was the one that taught us to dance. And then they’d have a prize for the best dancers. And they’d have the whole bunch getup and dance and then somebody would go on the floor and tap them and then they’d have to leave the floor, then they’d tap somebody else till they got down to a couple of us then the ones left were the prize dancers.”

TPJ: “Did you ever win?”

Addie: “Oh yes, a couple of times. I loved to dance. But, we’d go there and start dancing and I danced without missing a single dance until 5 o’clock in the morning. Boy, I remember I got so tired sometimes so I wasn’t much good the next day.”

TPJ: “Were your parents worried about you?”

Addie: “No, they went with us. Oh yes. They always went with us to the dance. My dad was one of these fellows that jigs. They call it step dancing now, but, in those days they called it jigs. And he used to do that and they’d always get him and his sister to dance together. And he was a whistler too. He could whistle like ‘Patty on the Turnpike’ and all these old songs. You never hear them anymore. I remember as a little girl he’d sit down on a chair and he’d put me on one knee and my younger sister on the other. And then he’d whistle and his legs would go up and down like this. (She demonstrates using her hands.) We enjoyed that so much.”

TPJ: “He sounds like he was a very attentive father.”

Addie: “He was!”

TPJ: “You know you hear so many stories of long ago the fathers were too busy working to pay much attention to the kids.”

Addie: “We were a very close family. Even the double cousins from the other side of the family. Never any divorces. Both families always got along. I wish there was more of that. You know, so many divorces. In fact, sometimes I think there’s more than there are marriages.”

TPJ: “It seems that way sometimes.”

Addie: “It’s awful. It just scares you.”

TPJ: “What scares you about it?”

Addie: “Well, I just wonder how long the Lord’s going to put up with it. The way the world’s going. In fact, sometimes from what I hear on T.V. it’s worse than Sodom and Gomorrah. They couldn’t even find ten people in that town. It was pretty bad. So...but, there’s so much of this. I mean living together and there’s illegitimate children. So many of them - and they think nothing of it. It’s the thing to do, I guess. But, in my day, I’ll tell you, if a girl did anything like that she was a disgrace to the whole town.”

TPJ: “Were there any?”

Addie: “No. She pauses then adds. There was only one. She was an older woman - uh girl - but, she worked in the store and then she was pregnant. She was packing to leave. I was just a young kid then, maybe 12 years old, and my brother was in the store at that time and he said a young fellow came in and this woman was getting a rope to tie up her trunk. In those days everybody had trunks, you know, instead of suitcases. He says, ‘What are you going to do with the rope?’ She says, ‘Oh’, she says, ‘I don’t know. I may hang myself with it.’ And do you know what he said? ‘If all reports are true, maybe that’s the best thing you could do.’ But she was a nice person.

“There could have been a lot that I didn’t know anything about because we were in a small town and because there was no smoking or drinking in our family and all these children that lived in town we kept so many games when it got dark they’d all come up to our place because mother didn’t care how many came there. She didn’t want us going out anyplace. She’d fix a big roaster full of sandwiches, popcorn or cookies and then make a big pot of cocoa. Then she and dad would go to bed. Well, we’d play games just like little kids. We’d have ‘ring on the string’ and all that stuff, you know.”

TPJ: “Your parents slept through the noise?”

Addie: “Well they had another bedroom. And we had an old organ. Two of my brothers played the violin. One played the accordion and one played the Jew’s harp. And we just had fun. We could roll up the carpet and dance and we had pillow fights, but, it was all just good clean fun. At twelve o’clock we’d give them their lunch and they had to go home.”

TPJ: “How often did that happen?”

Addie: “Oh, once a week, if there wasn’t a dance downtown.”

TPJ: “Were there a lot of dances for the kids in those days?”

Addie: “Oh yes, now they don’t have the dances that we used to have. You know, I can remember we used to go to a place called ‘the Lost Hall.’ It was down in a place…we had to go down a canyon and of course only horses, no cars. But, I can remember real well, there was this fellow, his name was Carpenter, and he was in charge of the dances. And you know, they’d have the two-steps, the waltz, Velita, ping pong two-step and all these dances that we knew. You know, they were kind of fancy dances. But, they started the one-step where they’d just get a little closer together and one would go backwards for awhile and then turn around. I couldn’t see anything wrong with it but, he’d tap them on the shoulder and they’d have to get off the dance floor if they couldn’t dance decent. I mean, this was done a lot of times!”

TPJ: “You’ve seen some amazing changes in your lifetime, haven’t you.”

Addie: “Oh, I’ll say. At that time (in Eureka) there was absolutely no cement anyplace. Down the main street was all dirt roads. And then in the walks on the sides where the stores were there’d be walk and then steps up and then another one, you see. It was that way until they put in cement. I can’t remember when that cement was put in. I remember it being put in. And then we had a big tree at the top of the hill that we always used for the big Christmas tree. And it was even there when my husband and I were married and that was 1919. And he used to harness that tree for Christmas.”

TPJ: “Harness it?”

Addie: “Well, they called it a harness. The electric company at Christmas time would put all these lights all over it.” Merlin Scott worked for the electric company. I worked at everything. I worked at Christmas trees for about 18 years after I sold the store. I just love to be outdoors. And of course, this yard that we had, he would leave me all the time. He’d say, ‘We’re going to Kalispell, Addie. You take over.’ (For the uninitiated, a yard in November in this part of the country is a place to bale and load Christmas trees.) Well, I had charge of the yard, loading out the trees, getting the cars for the loads. I did everything there was to be done in trees. But that was good money in those days. My husband and I had 40 acres and we went down cutting and in a week’s time made a couple of thousand dollars.

“I have loved Eureka and this country around and I guess that’s why I live here. I’ve traveled a lot all over, but, I’ve never found a place I’d rather be. So why move?”

Addie Scott Irwin nee Brock died in 2002. She was 102 years old.

Gary Montgomery

About the Author: Gary Montgomery, a resident to the Tobacco Valley for over four decades, has worked in a variety of vocations common to the area including logging, saw mills, Christmas trees, public education, U. S. Forest Service, ranching and operating his own photo processing and printing business. For the last 23 years he has largely written and published a quarterly historical magazine called The Trail and formerly the Tobacco Plains Journal. Along with articles reprinted from historical newspapers, vintage photographs, personal diaries and other remembrances, he has interviewed over 115 oldtimers, each one with his or her unique view of history, both local and international. Montgomery can be contacted via his website: www.thetrailmag.com.

Tags: history Gary Montgomery

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