Oral Histories

John William (Jack) West

b.1916

Jack West

We took off that Monday afternoon after three or four o’clock and we traveled all night and got into Prosser, Washington. Well, in Yakima Joe met us, but I had already arranged for an apartment in Prosser, an upstairs apartment where we could stay after we got married. And Joe met us and we went up to the apartment and cleaned up. That afternoon, oh I’d say 2 o’clock, we went down to the courthouse. This was Tuesday, July 6, and we got married. Joe was one witness and next door to the courthouse was a drugstore. The Justice of the Peace obviously had arranged this over the years because the guy that run the drugstore come over as the other witness. His name was Foizy. He come over and we got married. Then Foizy invited us over to the drugstore and bought us a pie ala mode and that was our reward. But he did that, and we went back to the apartment. Boy, we were tired because we had traveled all night. So we went up and slept for about 15 hours.

The next day we moved over to Yakima. Prosser was about 15 miles from Yakima. We went over to Yakima and we got one of these, what you’d call, tourist cabins, where they have the cooking facilities. But Mother didn’t have any clothes. She had a dress that she wore up there but I had ordered all the samples in her size. We got over there and she started immediately cooking. They had washing facilities and ironing and she took care of my shirts, but, oh, it was normal. It was what we were used to. It was nothing. And things went well with us because I would get out and sell stuff.

Our main customers were school teachers. Our best customers were school teachers and telephone operators. They all had a good steady job and a good steady income. But we immediately started rescuing a bunch of the damn guys that were there selling that weren’t doing worth a darn. They would come in and we would feed ‘em. But within a day or two after we had got into this cabin, tourist cabin on our own, they showed up with a bunch of dishes and odds and ends that they had swiped out of cabins they’d been staying in. And that was our start of our dishes and frying stuff like that. But we did take care of a bunch of ‘em. I had to loan some of them money to drive back to Ogden. They were failures. But it never turned into a loan, it was just a gift. But we had real good luck there and Walla Walla, all around; Joe still not doing anything.

And, let’s see, I’m not getting ahead of the story, I guess. We enjoyed it. We reported into Yakima and there were a lot of good towns around. Oh, I mentioned earlier about going to Mount Ranier National Park for the 24th celebration and Mom getting millionth. Eventually we ended Lip in Spokane.

Q: You didn’t talk about it on the tape.

Didn’t we talk about that millionth deal? Oh, well, while we were in Yakima (see, that was from the 7th to the 24th–from the time we were married until the 24th), we got acquainted with some of the Mormon missionaries. As soon as a car showed up with Utah plates, they would look up whoever they were, and Joe’s car had Utah plates. So we got in touch with them and they would contact us. We would go to services on Sunday where the missionaries worked. We found out that on the 24th of July they were gonna have a little ceremony up in Mount Ranier National Park. We went up there and had to listen to the services. Then when we came back down into Yakima, boy, it was hot. It was over a hundred degrees and humidity, that was all. But we went and had a malt, Helen and Joe and I. She got the millionth malt. I guess it was over the years or maybe it was that year, I don’t know. But, in any event, we got the malts free, probably 35 or 45 cent malts. But it was fun anyway that she got the millionth malt. Then we went over towards Walla Walla and finally ended up in Spokane.

At that point Joe decided he was gonna quit ‘cause he would go home and take his chances on the railroad. I shopped around and found a ‘35 standard Chev which was one of the small ones with a six cylinder and in good shape for $400. By then I had accumulated enough that they accepted maybe a hundred bucks for a down payment. They were willing to take a chance because we had a definite address in Ogden. They had some experience with these knit salesmen. It was a good business if you worked at it. So we bought that and Joe took off. Then we were on our own, of course.

We worked all over through Montana and Washington. We didn’t do very much in northern Idaho but went into Montana and worked over there. In the meantime, we were in touch with Monson a lot. He really liked me and I was the second best salesman he had. All that first summer they sent out a report and I turned in more. There was one other guy and I can’t remember who he was, that was ahead of me. Some months I’d be ahead but, in the long run, we were doing real good and we got to North Dakota. We worked North Dakota and then met Monson there at Williston, North Dakota. Then we were gonna work over into Minnesota, across North Dakota. We got to Minot, North Dakota and we always would check in through the Western Union Station. If anybody wanted to get in touch with us they could send a telegram and then Western Union would hold it until we got there. That was our contact with home. We got into Minot and he had a message waiting that his son, his second oldest son, Hans, had been shot in the stomach accidentally with a pistol. Just one of those typical kid deals. So I offered to drive him home and we left our car in a storage garage in Williston. He had one of these fancy old Hudsons, these little old Hudsons. Oh, I can’t remember, they had a special name, built low, and really a hot rod for those years. So I drove home with him. I drove most of the time because he would start out about the normal speed and get up to about sixty and within about ten miles he’d be down to about thirty. It’s just the way he drove. So I just had to drive. We drove all night that time and, of course, Mother went with me. We got back to Ogden. The kid survived but they had a real rough time.

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