Once Upon a (Life)time
Post Depression & A New Direction
Post Depression & A New Direction

Mildred and Allen Caffin are married and start a new life.

I had known Allen Chaffin and his family for at least half of his life. He worked on my house with the other carpenters and I guess he felt sorry for me and my brood. He tried to help me and I suspect that I leaned on him. He liked the kids and we went from there. In 1937 we were married and since there still wasn't much work or money in the country hard times kept a'knockin' at our door.

Allen took care of his father's horses for the use of them and hauled wood seven miles and sold it for five dollars a cord. He worked at the Arlee Fish Hatchery for two dollars a day when there was an opening there. We tried raising peas commercially and things went well until harvest time when a sudden wind and rain storm come up rolling the shocks across the field like waves on an ocean, leaving most of our crop hanging on the fences or piled in the irrigation ditches. Out of three tries we finally got enough of a crop for the down payment on a school bus that he bid on and got. The job paid $175 a month and we had to pay for the bus out of it.

Allen's school bus was somewhat like the farmer's mule. In severe weather he had to build a fire under it and if that didn't work he would hitch up a team of horses and drag it up and down the road until it loosened up enough to start. In winter there was snow to battle and in spring it was stuck in the mud.

Meanwhile we acquired and milked a few cows and raised a few chickens, grew and canned a cellar full of food. With butterfat at about fourteen cents a pound and eggs at ten to fifteen cents a dozen, our cows and hens brought in more than lots of people had. We added two babies to the brood and since neither of us were strangers to hard work, I took the job of cooking at the school lunchroom at fifty dollars a month when the youngest one was two years old, pulling him in the "little red wagon" when the weather wasn't too cold. I paid their Grandmother Chaffin twenty dollars a month for keeping the two of them through the day, which left me thirty dollars to help with expenses at home.

The old school building was pretty ramshackle and equipment was on the primitive side. World War II had come and there was rationing to reckon with. There were a hundred and seventy people to feed and the work was done the hard way. By the time I had taken care of my job and my work at home, I knew that I  had put in a day. My kids knew how to work at home and were good about helping before and after school.

I worked for two years at the school lunchroom, took one year off, then went back for two years more after which I rented a little building with an old Majestic wood stove. Allen put in a counter and five kitchen stools for customers and we went into the baking and lunch counter business. Everything went along fine, but as one customer said, I didn't have room to "cuss the cat" so I gave up and went across the road to work at DeMers Mercantile. Allen had gone to work as a packer for the Forest Service and was gone ten days at a stretch with four days off at home.

"Meanwhile, back at the ranch..."there were two small hay fiends and a big garden to irrigate, weeding and canning to do, but with the kids to help we managed it. The Forest Service job was seasonal so Allen decided to go into packing "dudes" and get rich! The war had ended and although supplies were still scarce we were able to round up an outfit. I begged time off from the store for the two and a half months that we had to be away each fall and plunged into the business with him for eighteen years of commercial packing in the (now) Bob Marshall Wilderness.