My grandmother, Gladys Corinne Walker, was born in 1897 and grew up on a farm in Argyle, Michigan. She moved to Seattle in about 1915 to join her two older sisters, Lou and Alice, with a vow from her beau that he would join her there and they would marry. He did not. The previous posts tells how she and her sister Lou worked in a lumber mill during her first years in Seattle.
Sometimes I have left some of the background paper showing from the photo albums, as it helps me place which they came from, the one with blue paper or the one with black paper. I wish I had asked even more questions when my grandmother, mother, and uncle were alive.
To the best of my ability, based on stories Gram told me about her life (which were many as she was my weekday caregiver from the time I was 6 weeks old), I’ve arranged these photos to chronicle her life in the 1920s and 1930s.. I have no skill at placing the year by the fashions worn, so if some of her friends look like they should have been in the earlier, pre-20s albums, they probably should be. I like to give everyone who appeared in the albums a chance to be remembered. Sometimes photos of mystery will just be placed in the order they were found in the albums. I also have face blindness, which does not help in the least. although I can count on recognizing my grandmother and my mother at any age. Most of the home photos are in the Ballard and Greenwood neighborhoods in Seattle. She lived in North Ballard in the 20s and in Greenwood in the 30s.
Information provided my uncle Al comes from this interview on Tinplate Times.
In 1919, Gladys married Landon Allison Cox, later nicknamed “Papa” Cox, an older man. They had two children, my uncle Alison and my mother, Virginia Margaret (Ginger).
Interesting that the town was Everett, not Seattle, as I know that by 1920, they were living in the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle.. It seems she was no longer working at the lumberyard, as her occupation is listed as “housework”. Even though he was 18 years older, it was his first marriage.
Seeing that he was a stationary engineer by profession, I wonder if this photo had something to do with his job:
A picture of perfect happiness, with kittens…
I was thinking the following photos were an antique car show….Of course not, as they were not antique cars then!
Allison Monroe Cox was their first child, a son born probably in 1920. In Al’s words: “I was born June 7, 1920 in Seattle, Washington. I was born at home, not in the hospital. The doctor came to the house. Mom said house calls were $2.50 and $20 for a delivery. Our home was about one mile from the Hiram Chittenden Government locks – Puget Sound to Lake Union – and across the locks was a Bascule Bridge like a Lionel 313 that led into the Seattle terminals.”
Gladys said she did not want a redhead, and ended up with two redheaded children.
The house with the river rock appears in many photos so at some point may have been the house Papa Cox and Gladys lived in, or maybe the inlaws’ house.
On April 16, 1924, my mother, Virginia Margaret (“Ginger”) Cox, was born. Many times I heard the story of how she was a blue baby, born with the umbilical cord wrapped around her neck. The home birth was attended by a doctor who grabbed the little blue baby and dashed to the kitchen sink, where he ran the cold and then the hot water over the infant. It took a few frightening moments till my mother took a breath and then screamed. Both my mother and grandmother told me that Ginger’s neck was “weak and wobbly” when she was a child. Mom described herself as a little kid who wanted to tag along behind her impatient, teasing older brother.
By then, Lou had married Jack Plisko and was living with him on a farm on Plisko Lane in Port Orchard.
Al’s words about his childhood:
This throws a new light on where Papa Cox lived after the divorce. Apparently it was in Snohomish County, north of Seattle.
At some time when Ginger was still young, Papa Cox and Gladys divorced. My grandmother told me that she wanted to still go out dancing and have fun, and Papa Cox, 18 years older than her, wanted her to settle down lead a quiet life as a wife and mother. My mother once told me that he accused my grandmother of “running around”. Whatever happened, he managed to get custody of both children and she only had them part time, and definitely not even half of the time.
My mother had unhappy memories of living with her father. I heard very little about him; he had died before I was born. His sister, Aunt Maude, lived with him, and many times my mother told me that “Aunt Maude chased me around the house trying to beat me with a whalebone girdle.” By then (perhaps after the divorce he retired at about age 50?) he had a small truck farm (“a farm that produces vegetables for the market”). Apparently, from Al’s autobiography, the farm was in Snohomish. Later, he lived north of Ballard in a small house that my uncle still rented out as late as the 1970s.
Mom resented coming home from school to work on the farm picking peas, and swore she would never ever do any gardening once she grew up. And yet, when she and Al went to their mother’s house for the weekend, she would complain that all Gladys had to serve them was hot dogs for dinner. She did not understand at the time that that was all her mom could afford.
I think these photos of Al and Ginger show ever so clearly their difference in self confidence.
Gladys went to work as an elevator operator at Standard Furniture company.
The photo below shows Gladys with her beau, Verle, after her divorce.
Verle was loads of fun. They went out dancing a lot and had a jolly social life.
Verle and Gladys were planning get married, until he went on a trip to eastern Washington. As Gladys told me (and I remember it well because I was taking notes about her life back in the early 70s), “I found out he had danced with another girl. So I broke up with him. He begged me on his knees to take him back, but I was too proud and I said no. He moved away from Seattle and later I heard he had married a Catholic girl and had six children.” I got the strong impression that she always regretted not forgiving Verle for that dance (and I always wondered if it was more than just a dance).
In 1931, she received a financial settlement from Landon “Papa” Cox. It looks to me as if she had sued him for this settlement.
$936 was a substantial sum of money when you consider that a very few years later, she bought a nice little Crafstman bungalow for $1500.
In 1935, she married Harry Walker, a fisherman.She was 39 years old.
1937 seems to be the year that she bought her small 1911 Craftsman Bungalow at 537 N 66th in Seattle, based on a quit claim deed that gave her the house from her husband, Harry Walker. It was two blocks uphill from the west side Green Lake.
I have no idea why this arrangement happened. She told me she bought the house for $1500, so she must have assumed a mortgage from him. This may have had something to do with him being a fisherman who was gone much of the year. Perhaps it was for tax reasons that she took on the mortgage. Her house payment was $15.00 a month, and at one time she lost her job (probably the job of elevator operator at Standard Furniture) and went to the bank and asked for mercy, and the mortgage payment was lowered to $10.00 a month. She made about 25 cents per hour. I found this old photo of the house at the time; never mind the date, as from the plantings I can tell it was a photo from well before I was born in ’55:
The timeline of buying it in ’31 fits in well with the fact that I remember her celebrating 40 years of ownership in the early 70s.
A lovely dog begins to appear in the photos after she bought the Green Lake house. (My grandma told me that she was thrilled to get back her maiden name by marrying Harry.)
Somewhere during this job, she and her neighbour, Emma West, fell into a 40 year feud. Emma said to Gladys that while Gladys was working, she “let her kids and dogs run wild in the street.” (So there must have been a time when Al and Ginger were with her on weekdays.) By the time I was old enough to be aware, in the late 50s, the feud was ongoing, and the two had not spoken for decades. They made up when Emma’s husband died and Emma humbly asked to be friends again. My grandmother’s first reponse: “I’ll think about it!” but then she softened.
Based on the age of my mother, this had to have been taken in the early 30s, so I think my grandmother was quite fashion forward to be wearing pants.
I remember Jack as a quiet, pleasant old man loading firewood into the woodstove at the farm on a November evening in the early 1960s. I know he was beloved of the family.
Gladys’ life in the 20s can’t have been easy, and in later years (after a second divorce) she would often say “I’m just too damned stubborn and independent to live with a man”. I think her photos show that despite her travails, she had a happy life. When she was my grandma, she was the happiest person, with the largest number of good close friends of anyone I’ve ever known..