May 23, 2007; interviewed by Cheri (Stadler) Ryan
[Note: Speech fillers, such as “um,” have been omitted.]
Cheri Ryan, Alderwood Manor Heritage Association: [tape begins mid-sentence] – May 23rd, 2007, this is Cheri Ryan doing an oral interview with Rod Neff at the Alderwood Manor Heritage Association. Rod, if you could give me your full name, your address, and your age, please.
Rod Neff: Yeah, my name is Rodney Lee Neff, age 71, born in May 6th of 1935, presently live—and have lived there for almost, I think, 50 years—it’s [edited for web publication] and that’s in Lynnwood, and—
CR: Well, tell me, when did you start living in Alderwood Manor?
RN: My folks moved up here from Burbank, California—that’s where I was born, by the way—in 1943. And that was during the war—World War II. And at that time, if you were—had a job, you were sort of frozen to your job. You had to get permission to quit your job and go somewhere else. So that was kind of interesting thing when we moved up.
CR: And so, when you moved to Alderwood Manor, where did you come to?
RN: Well, okay, my folks had some friends that they were acquainted with in California, that lived, that moved to Seattle and they lived on Haller Lake—that’s in north Seattle; small lake near Northgate. And they stayed there—We stayed there for a while, while my folks looked for a place to live. And I can remember my dad built this—the people’s name was Cross—he built them a boat for their lake. They didn’t—They lived on Haller Lake but they didn’t have a boat. But anyway, he built a boat there for them, and in the meantime he went to a real estate company in Lake City and—for looking for a house—and they found one here in Alderwood Manor, and it was on Meadow Road and at that time, all the roads were dirt. So anyway, that’s where we moved when we came up from California.
I can remember we had a map from the California Automobile Club and it was in a little booklet form, and it showed every little bend in the road, and I can remember watching, you know, tracking ourselves up the road. We passed a number of military convoys that was on the road at that time.
CR: So when your dad, when he moved the family up here, did he have a house he’d already bought?
RN: No, he didn’t have a house. We went to the—My folks went to the [inaudible] real estate—Parks was the name, I remember that, Parks Realty in Lake City—and it was—then—they showed them several houses, and this one out here on Meadow Road is what they thought that they wanted, and we decided to, they decided to buy that. So that’s where we were.
CR: Where on Meadow Road was it?
RN: Well it was on the north end of Meadow Road. Meadow Road dead-ended out there: a little passed us, it was the end of the road. I don’t remember the address, but it had a lot of, quite a few fruit trees on it, and a bunch of pine trees—fir trees—right out near the road. And I can remember my dad, first thing he did was bought some lime, and my brother Ted and I, we had to whitewash those trees, and we didn’t really enjoy that too much.
CR: So, you were living, staying with the friends at Haller Lake; how long between the time that you got up here to Washington and that you moved into the house on Meadow Road?
RN: Oh, I’d estimate probably a month, maybe two months, because Dad did build a boat for this fella down there while we were staying there. As a matter of fact, we stayed in a small house next-door to them. There was a lady that lived in a very small house and she was away on vacation, so we stayed in this smaller house, right next to the Cross’ house.
CR: And who was in your family? Who moved up here with you?
RN: Okay, my oldest brother, Parnell, he was in the service. He had just got out of high school and he was in a pilot’s training program in Springfield, Missouri. And so the next of my siblings is my sister, Nilah, and she moved up with us. And then my brother, Ted, and then myself, and then my younger brother, Mike. So there was four of us that—
CR: Four kids.
RN: —that came up.
CR: And how big was the house on Meadow Road? Tell us about it.
RN: Well, it was a two-story house. The top story was sort of small. The bedrooms, I know, had slanted ceilings in them and it had a very steep stairway in it. And the people that we bought it from were—ancestors—they were Welsh people. They worked for Pope and Talbot, or some company like that. And anyway, the house, it had indoor plumbing, and it had a smokehouse on it, and there was some old hams and bacon hanging in that thing that they tried to cure themselves and it didn’t work, so they were half-cured and rancid. I remember my dad took them down to the Schroners [Schoners] Meat Market in Alderwood and turned it in on their fat drive, or whatever it is they were collecting, you know—
RN: —recycling, stuff like that at that time. Probably ended up making Spam out of it. [laughs]
CR: [laughs] So the people just left that meat hanging in there, and—?
RN: I’m glad you said “left.” [laughs] When we went to take possession of the house, it was on a particular morning, maybe Saturday morning, or something. When we got out there, they were at the breakfast table, just a man and a wife, and they were fairly elderly people, and—passed middle age, let’s put it that way. And anyway, they got up from the breakfast table, and then they had their suitcases packed, and they got up and took their suitcases out to their car and drove away, and that was the end of that. That’s the way we had furniture: everything was just left. And that was quite strange. All the stuff in the cupboards, and stuff like that.
There was an old chicken house on the place, and—besides the smokehouse—and I think it was about two acres of property that my dad bought, and it— Anyway, there was an old chicken house that had chickens in it, and they were so fat, they couldn’t lay any eggs. And there was more rats in that chicken house than there was chickens. And I know we had war on rats: we knew after a few slamming of the doors, know where the rats were running, and we’d stand by with hammers and whatever-whatever, and smash these critters as they went flying around. And they had chewed runways in the rafters in this chicken house so they could run from— [phone rings]
RN: —and, anyway, these guys would be chewing these rafters on what they call the sill-plate—that’s the plate that runs along the wall—so they could run from one end to the other without getting down on the floor. And it amazed me that, you know, all this wood chewed up. But we disposed of the rats, and the chickens. I think we might have ate them. I remember my mom saying when we butchered the chickens they were so fat they couldn’t lay any eggs. There was eggs in them but they couldn’t lay these eggs. So, that was—
There was a small garage on the place; but these people just left everything. They were just, like I said, got up from the table, and walked away, and that was the last we ever seen of them. They commuted on the [Seattle-Everett] Interurban prior to ’43. The Interurban was gone by then, but up until that, when the Interurban was running, they did commute to work in Seattle.
CR: So they had lived in that house for a while.
RN: Yeah, I want to look that up, and see if I can find out. Their name was Blaire [sp?] [Henry and Vesta], I remember that. And I remember the neighbors’ names, too.
CR: What were the neighbors’ names?
RN: Well, one of them was Jean Holt. She lived down there at the very end of the road. Then there was a Mrs. McCullen [?]. She was a piano teacher. And—I’m trying to think of—There was Buckinghams lived right next-door to us, people named Buckinghams. And then there were Olsons [sp?] across the street. They sold their home to the Jesmers. The Jesmers had a vegetable-delivering service out of Seattle, and they had a truck or two, and one of them they called “Pawnee brand potatoes”; it was written on the back of their truck. And they had a girl that was the same age as my sister, Nilah, and then they had three boys, and the three boys were all in the military, all three being pilots for the fighter planes. Of course, they were away, so when the Jesmers moved out, it was just their daughter, Rita, and Mr. and Mrs. Jesmer.
CR: So once you got up here, and you got the house and stuff, what kind of work did your dad do then?
RN: Well, he was a cabinetmaker from a long, long time ago, and he got employment out at Paine Field. He worked at Paine Field.
CR: Doing military stuff, or—?
RN: Yeah, working on the base.
CR: The base.
RN: Yeah, I think he was in cabinet shop or construction or… [trails off]
CR: Did you raise any animals on the, your place, once you got rid of the rats and the chickens?
RN: Yeah, we did. My dad was from a farm, and so we—The first thing we got was a milk cow, and she was a black Swiss cow. [inaudible] was a black Swiss. She had horns. And we bought her in the Richmond Highlands area, and—Mr. Cross, the friends at Haller Lake—had a pickup truck, and I remember it was a 1940 Chev pickup truck. Anyway, he hauled the cow out, and delivered it, and as soon as the cow got out there and looked at us kids, and shook its head, and we all went running fifty different directions, and boy, from then on, she had us buffaloed. She’d just shake her head and wow, we were gone. But my dad handled her without any problems. Of course, she was a milk cow, and then—so he milked the cow, and they bought a separator, a cream separator, and we separated cream. I can remember my mom, she made cottage cheese. And we got a churn and we made butter, and then we had excess skim milk, so then we bought—my dad bought some pigs, wiener pigs. So we raised wiener pigs. And I can remember my brother and I having to get up in the morning, in the winter, when it was dark, and we’d light the kerosene lantern, and we’d go out and slop the hogs. And dad bought the feed down at a place called Levelton Feed. It’s on Highway 99, and it was a, I think, a registered bus stop for the Coast—North Coast busline, or something. There’s an area where there was called Levelton. It’s, right now, where that motorcycle company is. It’s—I can’t remember the name of it now—I can remember the old one, but I can’t remember this. Right where the driver’s license office is [18023 Highway 99], it was across the street and just a little bit north. It was on the west side of the street. This guy, he sold coal, gunnysacks full of coal and feed, and his last name was Wilcox, and he lived on Tutmark Hill, right close to where the [inaudible] lived. I remember my dad did some work for him.
CR: Did you ever have chickens, then, after getting rid of all those ones that were left for you?
RN: Yeah, we got chickens and raised some chickens, and had some laying hens and we’d get the eggs.
CR: Did your folks have a garden?
RN: Yep, we had a garden. And—Of course, when we got there, there was all kinds of fruit trees on this place. There was a Bing Cherry, and there was a Royal Anne Cherry, and there was another one, a yellow cherry, that I don’t remember the name of that cherry tree, but it was a very, very good tree, and I liked it, and as a matter of fact, when I bought my house—on 176th—I chased down a yellow cherry tree and planted it. I planted that tree in 1975, and I still have it there on the property, and it’s quite large, and it’s called a Yellow Glass, and it’s all yellow with just a hint of pink when they get real, real ripe. And birds don’t bother it too much, because of the color, I guess. They like red. And anyway, it—and then they had several plum trees and a couple of apple trees.
CR: Did your mom can, and—?
RN: Yep, she, she canned. She made me home [homemade] applesauce and then canned them with the cherries, and applesauce, and stuff like that.
CR: Where did she buy her groceries?
RN: The grocery shopping was done mostly down at, as I remember it, Wickers Mercantile.
CR: Did you ever go with her?
RN: Yeah, I did, yeah. Of course, that was a big deal: go to the city.
CR: What do you remember about Wickers?
RN: Yeah, well, I remember that it was kind of a general-purpose store. It had a gas pump there, and I remember the floors were oiled-type wood. I remember him; he always had a cigar in his mouth, out the corner of his mouth.
CR: And that was who?
RN: Herman Wickers, that was his name, yeah.
CR: And so that’s mainly where they shopped, she didn’t—Was there any other place in Alderwood you remember going?
RN: Well, there was a Red and White store, but we—That was Dahlin’s Red and White Store. We didn’t, she didn’t shop there. And the closest Safeway was down in Edmonds.
CR: But you said coming to Alderwood Manor was going to town; what else would you do when you came?
RN: Well, we didn’t do an awful lot, other than went to school, of course, there.
CR: Well, tell—Tell me about that. Tell me where you went to school and about that.
RN: Okay, well, we went to this, Alderwood Grade School, I think they called it, the Alderwood Grade School. And we rode a bus, and at that time, the school district had three buses, and they were old Macks [Mack Trucks]. And two of them were 1934 Macks, and one was a 1937 Mack. I remember the big bulldog out on the front end of it. And they had a large door that swung open; it doesn’t have, didn’t have these kind of bi-folding doors on it [like] the more modern buses. And there was a big steel rod attached to the door to a lever by the driver, and he would grasp it, and swing on it and it would open the door. Well, this rod would break and I can remember that that thing had been brazed about twenty times; there was more braze on that thing than there was rod. And I think that what happened was, with the rough roads, and the twisting and turning of that, it put stress on that rod, and the door was snapped closed, that it would break, so they were continually repairing that door, and they would do it by brazing. Brazing is melting of brass onto steel. A weld is a melting of steel to steel, and why they didn’t weld it, I don’t know. But…
CR: Who, who was the bus driver, do you remember?
RN: Yeah, our bus driver was Sandy. Samuelson, I think; Samuelson was his last name. He would drive [the] school bus night—morning and then he’d work for Echelbarger on their fuel truck. It was an old Model A fuel truck, and it had no muffler, and [laughs] it was loud. But anyway, yeah, his name was Sandy Samuelson.
CR: And where’d you catch the bus at?
RN: Well, we caught the bus at [the] corner of Motor Place and Meadow Road. That—Motor Place—Not Motor Place, excuse me. It was—I think it’s King’s Way up there. Yeah, King’s Way. Connects Larch Way and Meadow Road; and that’s where we caught the bus. I remember there was only two other bus drivers, and one of them was Mr. Keeler—Frank Keeler, I think it was, or anyway Mr. Keeler. And—golly sakes, the other guy’s name slips my mind right now. But anyway…
CR: So, what grade were you when you started Alderwood Grade School?
RN: I believe I was in third grade. Third or fourth grade when we started there.
CR: And did you move up here in the summertime, or did you—
CR: So you started school in the beginning of the year.
RN: We, we—Yep. We moved up here during the summer—
CR: And did all your siblings go to school?
CR: Were you all in school at the same time, at Alderwood?
RN: My sister was down at Edmonds, went to Edmonds for a very short time. She quit school and went to some, some business college of some sort; she didn’t go to school. But Ted and I went through Alderwood Elementary.
I can remember, I think our first day of school we were quite frightened, and we didn’t want to go to school. So we hung out and after we got out of the bus, we didn’t go up to the school, and pretty soon, we—I guess we thought we maybe better go in, and we were walking around, or something, and Mr. Allen come out, he was the principal, and he ushered us into school and says, “You better go to class.” I remember that.
CR: Do you remember who your teacher was in third grade?
RN: No, I don’t think I remember. Yeah, I guess so—Mrs. Fulkerson, I think, was there. I remember the first grade teacher: her name was Mrs. Bird. She was the teacher; been there for quite a while. But I think I had Mrs. Fulkerson. That was maybe one of our first teachers.
CR: And did your younger brother Mike, did he go—Was he—How far behind was he in school from you?
RN: I think he was—He was about four years behind me, I think.
CR: So just you and Ted went to, started at Alderwood—
RN: Yeah, he—
CR: —when you moved here.
RN: Yeah, then he went to Alderwood as well. And then he was the—Mike was the first class to get into the Lynnwood Junior High, so—I can remember him talking about he and his friend Bill North was on locker duty, putting pad—combination padlocks on the lockers or something.
CR: What kind of things do you remember about Alderwood Grade School?
RN: Well, I remember that the custodian, the first one, was Mr. Plennevaux. His wife was a piano teacher, and she was known as Madame Plennevaux, and they lived over just off of Beech. It might have been Alder Way, or something. But anyway, they were related to the Wilcoxes, I believe, somehow, someway. She might have married—But anyway, I think his name was Plennevaux. He was the custodian. And after that, there was Mr. Mossman [?]. He lived over on Scriber Lake. There was only one cottage there. He lived on Scriber Lake. The school at that time, the gymnasium was in the center and they had downstairs in the back—Now, there was no basement, except in the back end, and there was a boys’ and girls’ locker room on opposite sides, and then there was a cafeteria in the middle. And then there was a music room above the kitchen, and the boys’ restroom was on the east side and the girls’ was over on the west.
The playground area was on the other side of the Interurban. The Interurban ran right behind the school and there was a small play area there, but there was a larger play area on the south side of the Interurban, and you’d get there by going over this wooden trestle. It was—Originally, cars ran across this trestle, but they’d done some roadwork and eliminated that. It was right next to the Alderwood Water District’s water tower. It was a huge, big, wooden water tower set back there, and it was very big. You could see it from Martha Lake and it supplied water for the whole area so you know it had to be, you know, high, in heighth [sic]. But back there on this playground, there was a small bleachers, wood bleachers, covered bleachers, and it was an old clay field, and then they also had some tennis courts. And they were on a lower area that you had to walk down some stairs to get to the tennis courts down there. And then of course, in the front of the school, there was quite a large playfield, which is now mostly 196th St. [SW]. Then there was a—The bus repair garage was right next to the school site, there; it sat very, right next to the Water District water tower and their office. They had—The district’s office was there. They had a wood, a wood building that they repaired their buses in. And I can remember the bus mechanic, his name was Bill Dahlheimer [?], and my dad would eventually become a bus driver after the [school] district got larger.
CR: Who became your friends, once you finally decided to go into school? [laughs]
RN: Yeah, well, [laughs] there was up in that area was Bill Banner, he lived over on what we called Federal Way, but it was north of I think the first street coming off of 196th. Of course, that was, 196th was all gravel, it was Martha Lake Road. It was Federal Way, and then it turned into Ash Way, then it—there was a street jutted off of that, I think it was Jefferson, or something like that. And there was Madison Road up in there. These are all [old logging?] roads. Anyway, Bill Banner was one of my friends. And then, I don’t know, there was other guys that I was chummy with at school. There was Charlie Dick, and there was Willis Williams, and most of the guys… There was Bud Hoggins, that’s Dale Hoggins’ younger brother. And Bill Van Dyke and Bob Coniff [sp?] and… Oh, there’s others, but they didn’t live real close.
CR: Did you ever get in trouble at school?
RN: I got in some trouble on the bus.
CR: What’d you do?
RN: Well, I got kicked off—and that’s when my dad was driving! That was a few years later, when the bus—The district then had about six or seven buses, and I don’t know, some little gal bopped me on the head with a book, and I turned around and bopped her back, and about that time, Sandy looked up in the mirror and saw me beating this girl in the head with a book, and stopped the bus. “Alright, Skip,”—I was known as Skip—“get off. Get off the bus.” So I got kicked off the bus. And of course he told my dad about that before I even got home, so when I got home, he was, “Well, I hear you got kicked off the bus today.” Yep. So that was one moment—little episode when I got in trouble.
CR: So you just got kicked off for the day, or— ?
RN: Oh, just kicked off for the day.
RN: And then there was a time that—I didn’t really get in trouble for this, but geez, I really felt bad this happened. It was—We were exiting the gym and the gym doors swung out into the hallway. And my teacher at that time, she was an eighth-grade teacher, Mrs. Stallings. And she was walking down the hall, and I popped that door; it was one of those crash bar doors, and I hit that thing full bore and that door flew open and caught her toe and tore her toenail off. And oh man! That poor lady. God, I felt so bad about that. And you know, I just running—which, oh, you don’t run out on school. So anyway, that was an unhappy day.
CR: Did you play any sports when you were at Alderwood Grade School?
RN: Yeah, I played sports. There was only—The only organized sport that we really had was basketball, and I was on the basketball team. We got a big picture of that, of the team; I was on the second-string. But anyway, we played Bothell, and I think we played Edmonds, and I forget if we got to Snohomish or not. Anyway, we played at several other schools. We did fairly well. We had a tall guy, Bill Thompson [sp?]; he lived down by Halls Lake. He was our center. Then Charlie Miller, and Bill Banner, and Dale Noah and—I’m trying to think of some of the others. Willis Williams was our, kind of our team manager. And, but—Then we played a little football with—just touch football—with Edmonds Elementary down there.
CR: Did you have a favorite teacher?
RN: Well, I don’t know that really I could say that I had a favorite. Mrs. Stallings was a really, really good teacher. And then—She was a seventh-grade teacher. And then eighth-grade was Mr. Hines [sp?], and he was a, he was a good teacher. Had a little fun with him one day. He wanted me to go get some sports equipment out of his car. His car was parked over at the school; we were out on that back playfield across the Interurban. And he gave me the keys to his car. And so I went over and got this bag of equipment and brought it back, and set it down, and then he came for his keys. And I said, “Well, here’s your keys,” and I dangled them out, kind of teasing him with them, and backing up as he’s walking and reaching for them. And he kept that up for a couple of steps, and all of a sudden I knew he was going to tear after me, so I turned around and zam! And I was running. And all of a sudden I decided, “Well, maybe I better take a quick turn,” and I did. Well about that time, he was in the air, going to jump down on me. Well, when he came down, I was gone. He rolled into a big cloud of dust and got up, and he’d ripped his pants, his dress pants. So I, very nicely, give him his keys back and got away.
CR: Got away. [laughs]
RN: He never held that against me. It was just a… [trails off]
CR: And any teacher you didn’t like?
RN: Oh, I can’t say that there was anybody that I didn’t like. I didn’t, I did not have Mr. Mudge, which I was maybe glad for. He was a very strict teacher. He was ex-Army, he was a Major, I think, in the Army, and he came out and you didn’t mess around with him. I remember one kid was doing something in class and he and Mr. Mudge—
[end of side A]
[beginning of side B]
CR: Okay, go ahead.
RN: Yeah, well, this kid was messing around in class, and Mr. Mudge just quietly got up and he walked down the aisle, and as soon as he got to where this kid was, his arm went Wham out sideways and knocked the kid clear out of the bench, this chair, the desk there. In those days, you could get away with that. But anyway, that was those desks that had those seats that would flop up and cast-iron frames and stuff like that. So anyway, I—that’s one of the things that I remember about school.
CR: Was there school activities, like, on the weekends, or in the evenings, for people to do?
RN: Yeah, they had activities. They had us some dances that they had. And then they would have people come in and show movies. And that was all in the gym area, I remember that. Of course then there was, they had scouts. I didn’t join the scouts, but they had an active scout group there that—I think that they were kind of instrumental in building that first Youth Club over there on that back playground. They somehow scrounged up materials and stuff like that. I’m not really sure, but I thought that they were, the scouts sort of spearheaded that.
CR: After Alderwood Grade School, then where did you go?
RN: Yeah, after grade school, we went down to Edmonds High, downtown, just off of Third, and we were bused down there. And I remember I signed up for the FFA, or Ag class, and I was particularly interested in the metal shop, and in those days, you had to be in Agriculture to take metal shop, and if you were in the Ag shop you had to, you were in FFA—that was Future Farmers of America—and you had to have a project, an animal, and I chose rabbits. We had, we had moved from the north end of Meadow Road in about 1945 to the house that was closer to Martha Lake Road, just about, oh, two or three blocks off of Martha Lake Road, and we had an area there that we could raise some animals. We raised some pigs there—
CR: You were still on Meadow Road, though?
CR: Oh, okay.
RN: —still Meadow Road and was on the west side of Meadow Road, right, right close to Walmart up there [1400 164th St SW, as of 2009], but Walmart’s on the south end of Meadow Road, and I was on the north end there. Anyway, I did rabbits as a project, and that was, that was interesting.
CR: Why did your folks move houses after—? You were only there, like, two, two years?
RN: Yeah, we only lived up there on the Blaire place, oh, for maybe two to three years. Then we became acquainted with these people with the name of Smith, and they didn’t live there on Meadow Road too awfully long, but it, my folks got acquainted with them, and they were going to sell and move, and it looked like it was a better opportunity, and so this was right now—by now, it was, the war was just over—World War II just was over—and so [we] decided to move down there to that house. And this property ran from Meadow Road clear down to Motor Place; Motor Place was a very short little road that comes off of [inaudible] the Martha Lake Road, and at that time, that’s where the Martha Lake Community Club is. Originally there was a Martha Lake Community Club house. It was a building; it was, I think, built by Pope & Talbot, or something. But anyways, a little community club there. The road runs north a little ways and then jogs back over to, back on to Meadow Road. This property they bought ran from Meadow Road back down to Motor Place and it had a huge chicken house on it and it had a feed room, a two-story feed room on one end of this chicken house. You might say that most the chicken houses in the Alderwood Manor area never had a chicken in them. A lot of them did, but there was a lot of them didn’t. The chicken egg business went bust before, I guess, these people could get chickens in them. And anyway, this chicken house was one that never had any chickens in it and my dad and my oldest brother, Parnell—he had gotten married right after the war and decided to move to Washington, and so they took a section of this chicken house out, removed it, and remodeled this two-story feed room into a living quarters. And so that’s where my brother lived, and my folks and I lived up there in this—on Meadow Road. It was a little two bedroom house and, that had a little attic room up there; I can remember I would stay up in there and sleep up there, so—. It was an airy place. Walls weren’t finished, it was just prepared for stucco, and this fellow, this Smith that had lived there, was a plasterer, and he had put on this lath, it was paper and metal, but he had never got plaster on it, so it was just like living in a breezy attic up there, I can remember that.
CR: Did you share the attic with your siblings, or were you up there by yourself, or—?
RN: As I remember, I was up there by myself. I think, yeah, Des [brother Desmond] and Ted had a separate bedroom, and then my folks, they had their bedroom. And Nilah was, she—and Mike was, maybe Mike was up there with me, too, I can’t remember for sure. But my sister, she had, she had left the house by then.
CR: So she wasn’t living there, so it didn’t—
RN: No, she wasn’t living there.
CR: It didn’t, the size didn’t—
CR: —didn’t matter. How long did your folks live in that house then?
RN: Oh, they lived in there for, oh, I’d say maybe eight to ten years, something like that. This is where he was driving [the] school bus, and he’d bring the school bus home, park it on the property there. Not the property, but he could park the bus on it there. Then they eventually moved to Seattle. He started building small cottages on wheels. There was this place called Central Trailer Exchange in Seattle. This guy that owned it came up with the idea of putting little tiny cottages on wheels, and so he had a little shop down at the south end of town, and he moved down there. This guy had a big old house that he said he [Rod’s father?] could use, live in. And so they moved; and I didn’t want to move, I didn’t want to change schools, and I’d have to be going to Foster High School, or something like that down there, so— Anyway, I convinced my older brother, Parnell, to let me live with him up here in the Edmonds area, the Alderwood Manor area. And so I stayed up here, they moved down there for a period of time.
CR: When did you graduate from Edmonds High School?
RN: Well, yeah, I graduated in 1953, and I was working while I was going to school. I decided that—I’d say I was about a Sophomore in school—I wanted a job to get, I wanted to buy a car. So one day I walked down to—I should say hitchhiked, ’cuz you’d hitchhike and get rides easily—hitchhiked down to Lynnwood and I stopped in at, I think it was Best Auto Parts, and they were right in the Y where there’s a tire repair shop now, right near Albertson’s [at 196th & Hwy 99?]. Albertson’s wasn’t there; it was a big gully down in that area. Anyway, hiked down there, stopped at the wrecking yard: no, they weren’t hiring. So I went across the highway, went into a little shop, it was a Marshall-Wells [Marshall-Wells Hardware] store, and—a little hardware store—and asked if they needed any help. Fellow by the name of Tom Chapman. And he says, “Well, not right now.” This was early fall. He said, “But I will need some help around Christmastime.” He says, “Come back in a couple of weeks.” So I did, and he says, “Okay, come on in on Saturday.” And so I went in there on Saturday, and he showed me what was what. It was the little store that they cut glass, we had glass. We had pipe, we cut pipe. We had paint. Next to paint we had [inaudible] hardware, nuts and bolts, and things like that.
The area was a kind of a growing area, so business was good and he wasn’t happy with Marshall-Wells, so he kicked those guys out. He maintained the store but it was no longer a Marshall-Wells, it was Tom Chapman Hardware. So I worked there during school, after school and on weekends. Then Chapman sold the store to some fellows from Everett, the Michelsons. Herman Michelson and Art Michelson; they were brothers. And they bought that. And I stayed on, working with them. And then—Oh, they had sporting goods, too, in Lynnwood Hardware.
I stayed there, and graduated in ’53, and then I stayed on for another year, just working in the hardware store during the day for one year and then I decided “Well, I want to get my military obligation over with,” so I volunteered for the draft and went in in ’54. Prior to that, when I was still in school, about a Junior, some of the guys down at school said, “Hey, you oughta join the Air Guard down in Seattle.” And so okay, I decided to do that. And so, went down to Boeing Field and joined the Air National Guard and it was a, what they call an Early Warning Squadron that, you had radar, and—radar units—and so I was in there for almost a year, maybe a year, and we were—Summer camp was coming up and we were going to have to go down to Camp Murray for our summer camp. This was the first part of June. Well, I had volunteered for the draft and I had to report to the draft on, say, a Monday. And so, our camp started on a Saturday, so I thought, “Well, I’ll go down to the headquarters and tell them that I’m going in to the service.” So I go in there and the First Sergeant was at the desk and I said, “Sergeant [Hoglund?],” I says, “I volunteered for the draft,” and I says, “I was supposed to report on Monday.” And so he said, “Well, I don’t know what to do,” or something. And in the meantime, there was the captain of this squadron in the office behind him and he heard what I was saying and he came out and he said, [in gruff voice:] “What’s going on out here?” And Sergeant [Hoglund?] says, [in gruff voice:] “Well, Airman Neff decided to volunteer for the draft,” and he hands him my draft notice. Captain looks at it and he says, “Well,” he says, “you pooped in your mess kit, you clean it up,” and flipped the paper back. And Sergeant [Hoglund? Holden?] clicked his heels and says, [in gruff voice:] “And that’s an order!” So, guess where I was at camp! I was on KP duty for two days, peeling potatoes down there at Camp Murray. And I called up the draft board and said, “Hey, they ain’t lettin’ me go down here,” and [they said] “Ah, we’ll take care of that.” So later that day, they told me, they says, “Get out of there”; I had to go report to the draft board. So that was my little story that— [laughs]
CR: [laughs] How long were you in the military then?
RN: Well, I was in for two years. I volunteered for the draft, and the draft was two years. [inaudible – Ray Varney?] was, I think he was three or four years, something like that. So I was in two years, got out in ’56, June of ’56.
CR: Where were you stationed?
RN: My first duty was at Fort Ord. That was, you know, boot camp. And then eight weeks down there, and I put on a few pounds. [laughs] Not a lot, but a couple of pounds. Hershey bars and Hi-Ho crackers. And soft ice cream raspberry sundaes. Yeah. [inaudible – Regular hours?] was probably it. But anyway, then the second eight was back at Fort Lee, Virginia. I was in Supply Quartermaster’s school, and went the eight weeks there. And then from there, I was stationed at Andrews Air Force base in Washington, D.C. They had a gun battalion there. Nikes were out, and were popular, and they had Nikes way out from city, and they kept some of these gun batteries functional, and they moved, they had them in closer to the city, and they figured that if there’s any enemy aircraft or something trying to come in and the Nikes missed them, we’d get the last shot at them with these 90-milimeter anti-aircraft guns. So we were in little batteries; we had, there were four batteries to a battalion and we were stationed all around Washington, D.C. Quite close to the city; it wasn’t way, way out, nor was it right downtown, but it was just out in the suburbs. So I was there, oh, I don’t know, maybe a year, something like that.
My dad had a heart attack and I thought, “Well, geez, it would be nice if I could get closer to home.” So I had—I worked on what they called a compassionate transfer and I had to get letters from the doctor and from friends and from the clergy and whatever and I got those letters and I submitted them. And they went all the way up the line through several big shot generals and ended up there in Colorado somewhere, at their big headquarters, and it was refused and sent back down the line and that was the end of that. And in the meantime, my dad got a little better, so I thought, “Well, I won’t fight it.” So, not long after that, he had another attack, so I kind of got tiffed off at it so I got these papers and wrapped them up that I had and sent them to Senator Jackson—Henry M. Jackson. And he was the guy on the Armed Forces Committee; he was the chairman of the Armed Forces Committee. He was the guy that appointed generals. Well, you didn’t want to get on his poop list. So he right away notified the military that I was going to get a compassionate transfer and to proceed again, and so then the heat came on the army and they came to me, [in gruff voice:] “Where’s your transfer?” And I said, “Well, I’ll get one.” And every day, they were on my back about the paperwork. And so the paperwork stunk, but I submitted it, and boom, it went through, flying colors. So I got out of there on Christmas Eve, and I remember flying home on Christmas Eve, out of D.C. and into [inaudible]. It was Northwest Airlines, and flew into Portland, and then out of Portland into Seattle. Got home on Christmas Eve, 1956, I guess it was. Yeah.
Then I was stationed—See, I still had some time left; that was from December, I had until June—and then I was assigned to Fort Lawton. Fort Lawton was the headquarters for a Nike outfit. I was swept into Nike, and I was assigned to the one that’s over on the peninsula, Olympic Peninsula over there. Their headquarters was in Manchester; battalion headquarters there. And I was, went down to Olalla, and they had a little, a site down there, and I finished off my last few months in Olalla. These Nikes have two sites; they have a launching site and they have a control site. And they’re a mile or so away from one another. And the fellows in the launching area have to come up to the control site to eat. They do sleep in their own quarters but they don’t have any food supplies, so they was always [inaudible] drive up to— It was hilly area over there. And that’s where I met my wife.
CR: Over there. Did you get married over there?
RN: No. We—Well, when I was stationed there—I was out of the service when we got married. I’d just got out of the service, and got married in July of ’56. We got married in Idaho. We eloped.
CR: Oh! So, then, in ’56, after you got married, did you come back to Alderwood, or—?
RN: Yep, came back to Alderwood, and lived just a week or so with my parents, and then we rented a house down on Martha Lake, and it was right next to the resort. As you’re looking at the resort from Martha Lake Road or 196th, it was just to the left. And that’s right next to [inaudible]. There was a—quote—“friend of the family” that owned this property and there was two little houses on it. Small ones, cottages-like. And this landlord—his name was Paul [inaudible]—he lived in one, which was far back from the lake, up against the bank of 196th-Martha Lake Road there, and the other house was about halfway down the lake. So, anyway, we rented this, and we was having some picnics and barbecues, and family over, and enjoying it. And every time we did that, he’d come out with his lawnmower and start mowing the lawn. And I didn’t catch on to it, I guess. But anyway, one day after we’d had all my wife’s relatives over, and at different times we had several different nice big picnics and parties, he comes to me and says, [in gruff voice:] “Neff,” he says, “this has got to stop.” And I said, “What are you talking about?” [in gruff voice:] “Oh, this partying around here and picnics and [inaudible]. We can’t have that. I don’t have insurance for it.” And I says, “Well, we’re not that kind of people.” I says, “We wouldn’t be suing you for anything.” [in gruff voice:] “Well,” he says, “Neff,” he says, “you stop it or I will.” The only way he could stop it was tell me to get out, and that’s what I interpreted it as: get out. So we looked and found another place to live, up on 164th—I think I called it 196th earlier, but we’re talking about 164th Street. Martha Lake Road and 164th St. And anyway, this is up on the other side of the hill, right close to Manor Way, where Manor Way and Glenn’s Welding is [16515 Alderwood Mall Pkwy, until 2013]. It was just a couple houses down from Glenn’s Welding there, on Martha Lake Road. People by the name of Dave Thomson: he was sister of Jean Holt. Anyway—Sister? Brother of Jean Holt, excuse me. [laughs] And anyway, they had a little garage; he and his wife had a garage there, that, concrete block that they had converted into a living quarters. And so they were renting that out and we approached them and said we’d like to rent it. By then, my wife was very pregnant, and—Matter of fact—No, she had the baby when we were down on Martha Lake. Anyway—
So anyway, we rented this place from Dave and Patty Thomson was the their name. And we lived there for maybe six, seven months. Through the winter, anyway. And then we decided that we would probably like to get our own place, so went down to Alderwood Realty and there was a guy named Mr. Deleon [sp?]. He was running Alderwood Realty at that time. And asked him about, you know, was there something we could rent, or maybe even buy, you know. “Well,” he says, “I think I got just the place, maybe, for you,” and he says, “to buy.” “Well, I don’t have enough money.” “Well, I don’t [inaudible]. This is a veteran’s repossession job. You don’t need much money.” So anyway, she [sic] took us over there on 176th and showed us the house we’re in now. Of course, you know, it was a crackerbox; we’ve added on to it. And I said, “Well, I don’t know.” And he says, “Well, it wouldn’t take very much to get down.” So, told us how much down it was. The whole price of the house was seven thousand bucks, something like that. And so we scraped up about three or four hundred bucks, whatever it was. And we did, made the down payment, and we moved in to there, and we’ve been there ever since.
CR: Ever since. Do you remember, when you were working at the hardware store, how much you got paid an hour?
RN: No, I really don’t remember what it was. And while it was—When I got out of the service, I went back to the hardware store and—But—I should rephrase that. I worked there part-time. I tried working in construction, being my oldest brother—he was a superintendent of a construction company and did a lot of, you know, construction—I thought, “Well, I could, you know, I’d be able to find work,” you know. Well, this was in the fall, and I was working down at the University of Washington for this [inaudible] [talks to self inaudibly]—But anyway, construction company. And they was getting ready to pour and all the grunt work was done, and so I got laid off. And I thought, “Oh, great. It isn’t even wintertime and I’m getting laid off now. That’s it for me.” So I looked in the paper and Boeing was hiring. They wanted inspectors, or something. So I went down there and applied. And I got on as an inspector of material at Boeing, and this was the raw material that came in. It was rivets, and small sub-assemblies, and things like that. So anyway, I went to work down there; I was working nights, no freeway. I was putting in eleven hours away from home to get eight hours work in. And then I worked the weekends at the hardware store. And then—I did that for about a year, maybe two years, and then the guys in the hardware store bought another one, up in the B&M shopping center, and they needed someone to help run that, and so they approached me about working for them. I don’t know what I was getting, I told them, I really don’t remember what it was then. And they offered me, “Oh, I can’t give you that much. We can go this.” And I said, “Well, let’s try it.” Anything so I didn’t have that drive. And so I took that on and started helping, help run that place. The store up there was called Claremont Hardware.
CR: That was in Everett?
RN: In the B&M shopping center, yeah.
CR: When you came back out of the service, did you notice changes in Alderwood? Had it—
RN: Yeah, I noticed some changes, but it—
RN: Yeah, it was—everything was growing then, you know. Oh, I couldn’t say exactly when. Even when I was in high school, they were building Lynnwood Junior High out there. I guess—I don’t know. I thought they called it Lynnwood; maybe it was originally Alderwood Junior, I don’t know. But always, to me, it was Lynnwood Junior High. And I remember Newland Construction Company was the company that was building it. They had come in to the hardware store, buying nuts and bolts to help build that school. And of course Ech’s [Echelbarger Oil] had their fuel tanks over there and… [trails off]
CR: And you mentioned you met your wife over on the peninsula; where was she— First, what was her name?
RN: Her name is Charlotte.
CR: And her maiden name?
CR: And where did she—
RN: She is from the Port Orchard area. She lived in Olalla with her aunt. Things were better living with her aunt than with her mother. Her mother was divorced about eight times, and I keep asking her, “Do you think she could find eight losers?” But, anyway, she lived with her aunt out in Olalla and went to South Kitsap High School. And, so, this Nike site was in Olalla and I met her there.
CR: That’s where you met her. And you’ve been married over fifty years?
RN: Yep, last year.
CR: And children?
RN: Yeah, we had three. We had a daughter, her name was Cindy. I can’t remember when she was born, but when we were at Martha Lake. And we have two boys: Byron, and then there’s Pat. Pat’s the oldest. Forty—forty-something. We lost Cindy in an accident. I don’t remember the year, but about twenty years ago. And Byron, he lives in Monroe and works for the Lake Washington School District, for about twenty years now, I think.
CR: I’m going to stop.
Transcribed by tv, February 2013