The story starts with three C. brothers meeting and marrying three S. sisters. Pearl married Boyd, Ava Jane married Willard, and Ruby married Ike; leading to cousins Quinten, Babe, and Elsie Rea, and many interesting days ahead. The sister’s mother was born in Varberg, Sweden and came alone on the boat to the U.S. at age 16 to fulfill a contract her older sister declined.
Velma was born in Green on August 2, 1936 to Pearl and Boyd. They lived on a rented farm along the river near Green. Boyd said she was the only thing he raised that year – typical for a Kansas farm where sometimes he sat on the porch waiting to see if the cyclone or other weather would take everything. Crops were raised using a team of work horses. Boyd sheared sheep and did contract work for Granny Symms and other neighbors. They raised sheep, chickens, cows, and pigs, and their farm products provided most of the food for the table.
There was no electricity or phone, and the toilet was an outhouse out back. Wood stoves and kerosene lamps were the norm. TVs and microwaves had not been invented yet. Laundry was done in a tub and hung on a clothesline to dry. Boyd trapped coyotes for bounty. Copperheads and other snakes were plentiful. Memories include reaching in the nest for an egg and touching a snake instead.
She attended Pleasant Hill, a one-room school with 11 students, and remembers crying in class about letters her mom got from Uncle Herbert who was serving in World War II, the scrap drives for the war, wartime rationing, walking to the river at night with friend Marge from the free picture show, visits with Elmer and Nina Nelson. Nina was Boyd’s sister, and her grandson is Jordy Nelson – star wide-receiver for Green Bay Packers and later Oakland Raiders. Velma remembers one Christmas when the only present was an orange (and the orange was bad), having only two dolls for her whole life, and many other mostly good things about her early life.
Tuttle Creek, KS
At this time her parents bought a farm near Tuttle Creek. No comforts or utilities again, and in addition Boyd had to bring water in a horse-drawn wagon until a well was drilled and windmill installed to pump the water. Velma remembers brother, Dallas, falling on the windmill anchor bolts at age three and injuring his eye. She also remembers climbing the windmill to hide from her mom. When spotted she refused to come down for a spanking, but mom stood at the bottom of the ladder and advised she could wait longer than Velma. Toward the end of their time here the REA brought in electricity and a telephone system was installed. Boyd was known to listen in on the eight party line in order to get on.
Farm problems and crops were similar to those at Green, using horses for power until later when they bought a Farmall tractor. The story was that John Deere tractors were green so they could hide in the weeds. Snake problems included rattlesnakes in the nest. Times were tough then – Grandpa C. worked wherever he could find work – and Velma remembers one Christmas when he came home with yellowed eyes from working in the mines. Boyd and his brothers had earlier worked in the oil fields and had been left unpaid for their work. There were no close kids until neighbor Art and Minnie adopted Irene from a home in Kansas City. She became best friends with Velma and they attended Cliburn High School together. Velma’s class had five students.
She played guard on the basketball team, in the days when guards like her could not cross the centerline. She remembers being criticized for holding hands with the opposition while waiting for the ball to come back down.
Velma did well in school except for math. Mr. Boosenbark suggested she keep classmate Bob Netson close by if she got into bookkeeping – Bob later ended up with a good job at Boise Cascade in Boise so that was good advice. Her first job was caring for age three to ten boys at Mariadal Lutheran Children’s Home, where she was known as Lima Bean, not Velma Jean.
Velma’s mom loved to dance and wanted to play the piano. Velma hated the piano, and when the government purchased the farm for construction of Tuttle Creek dam and reservoir the family moved to the Boise area, where all the brothers and sisters had already relocated, and the piano came with them. The piano ended up in a small bunkhouse, and eventually disappeared. The Children’s Home requested that Velma stay with them, but Boyd said NO or the rest of the story would be on a different path.
The family bought a 40-acre one-man dairy farm on Amity Road south of Meridian. Boyd milked cows at 4:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m., raised alfalfa hay, irrigated the 40-acres, fished in his spare time, raised another daughter Bonnie and a third daughter Lita, born on Velma’s 18th birthday, and built a new house to replace the small original home.
Velma attended Meridian High School for her senior year, graduating in 1954. At school she played the clarinet (never did like it). On graduation Velma and a friend agreed to move to Portland, OR, or Salt Lake City, UT, whichever was the least expensive bus fare.
Salt Lake City, UT
At Salt Lake City she took a job at O.C. Tanner Company, which specialized in jewelry and small gifts. She made hand-painted awards pins and remembers the good old days when almost all the women on staff would have a cigarette at break. Velma married Bill Critenden, but alcohol-related problems caused divorce, and she moved back to Boise in 1959.
Returning to Boise, Velma moved into an apartment with friend Lolita, and worked the canteen at the Veterans Administration Hospital. She enjoyed working there – serving coffee and food to veterans. Lolita was a good chaperone and we eventually got her married to another friend Ted Gwin, who worked for the Highway Department.
Velma and LeRoy “Roy) met at the regular Saturday night gathering at friend David Schwarze’s place on North 19th Street in Boise and were married in 1960 – starting 57 years together as of 2018. Their first date was at a drive-in movie, followed by many good times with the N. 19th St. gang, trips to Lucky Peak and McCall for water-skiing and other good times. They were married in St. Paul’s Lutheran Church on August 19, 1960 and took a honeymoon trip to California.
There were many good times at their place on Hillway Drive, with kids growing up, adopting two cats, starting school at the Highlands and going on to Boise High. One of their first adventures as a family was a trip to Port of Spain, Trinidad to do design work for WASA on the island water distribution system.
Velma developed ovarian cancer in the 70s. It was a tough battle for the whole family but she fought it off with chemotherapy and operations at St. Alphonses and MSTI over the next 14 months and came back as leader of the pack again. She was an active bridge player, hosting weekly games, including cousins Elsie Ray and Babe, and was able to compete with the professionals on cruises. Velma served as camp cook at Lutheran Camp Perkins in the Sawtooth Mountains each year, and volunteered one day a week at the Food Bank of Boise run by Central Assembly Church for many years. Velma also did catering for clients, one being Esther Simplot at her hilltop home, and was a full-time homemaker in the process.
They traveled quite often for vacations. One of their favorite trips was to Roy’s parents in Corvallis, OR and then on with them to the Oregon Coast – places like Driftwood Shores south of Toledo where they camped right on the ocean. Other favorite travels were to Hana Ranch, Maui, Puerto Vallarta, a whirlwind seven day tour of Europe, Costa Rica, and a week in February for cross-country skiing at their McCall timeshare with all the family and many of the C. family. Frequent visitors included Velma’s brother, Dallas, wife, Julie, and daughters, Melody and Melissa.
After retiring they spent several winters in Arizona in their Mobil Traveler, camping at Mesa Regal RV Park. In 1999, they sold their MT and home in Boise and moved to Mesa, Arizona. There was a lot of bridge, shuffleboard, and pinochle play, hiking the Superstition Mountains, and touring Arizona. They volunteered for baseball Spring training, a Super Bowl, and were Trash Trackers twice on a houseboat at Glen Canyon NRA. Travels during this time included their favorite Costa Rica where Velma rode the zip lines; Egypt for a houseboat trip up the Nile, a dip in the Red Sea, Velma rode a camel next to the pyramids at Giza; China to climb the Great Wall, see the Terra Cotta Soldiers and houseboat down the Yangtze; and a trip around the Horn – not even a whitecap that day but rough water in the Falklands and along the coast of Chile.
Mission Builders International
The journey stared in 1985 as part of a group of volunteers from their church in Boise. The first job was at the University of the Nations in Kona, Hawaii. After that they went every year or two until 1991. Work included building construction, water studies and design, and teaching fish farming for the School of Aquaculture for Roy. Velma did cooking for the University, costumes, and hospitality. They served on the board of directors for many years. Some of the YWAM bases they worked for at the MBI are: Harpenden, England (1994); Grenada, West Indies (1995); Chiang Rai, Thailand (1998); Pokhara, Nepal (1998); Cimarron, Colorado (1998); Barbados, West Indies (2000); Nang Rong, Thailand; Riggins, Idaho; Kathmandu, Nepal; and Lakeside, Montana.
In 2010, the couple started feeling the effects of the years. Velma needed a cane to complete their 50th anniversary trip to Alaska – start of a long story about arthritis. They had a battle with PTSD, and a few other age-related challenges, leading to the sale of the place at Overgaard. After a few hot summers they did some research and agreed on Salmon Creek, an independent living place in Boise, then put the Mesa place up for sale – sold the next day – and made the trip back to Boise on the first of June 2017.
Salmon Creek, Boise, ID
Gracious Retirement Living it says in the brochure. Salmon creek is not yet home, as of July 2018, but is a good place – nice architecture, good food and good management – and it is good to be able to visit with all the family.
If you’ve gotten this far, you are an avid reader. Most life stories are boring, except to those who lived them. Velma and Roy started out as farm kids from the Midwest, covered a lot of ground and had 50 years of the good life – could not have wished for better – and eight or ten of the not so good times due to health problems. They trust that they have left a little mark on the world, and left behind some people and projects that will do some good for this old world.
Click here to view a webcast of the service on 1/12/2019 at 02:55 PM