I was born in Dorris, California close to the Oregon border. We lived in Macdool, California, a few miles from Dorris. When I was fifty years old I took Melissa and Kevin to show them where I was born and lived. Fifty years later Macdool was still a small farming community of 450 people. Dorris is also very tiny. The hospital I was delivered in is now a Bed and Breakfast Inn. My mother gave birth to my two older brothers and I in this small hospital. The doctor who delivered us and his nurse wife lived in the hospital too. His medical license is still hanging over the front door. I stood in the surgery room where I was born. It was an overwhelming experience for me. I walked up the steep steps that my mother, and the rest of the women who was in labor or had just given birth, had to walk up. There were only two small rooms with a tiny window nursery between them, just big enough for two bassinets. I stood in the nursery area and in each room. I am not sure which room my mother stayed in when I came into this earth, but one of them for sure. Again, it was such an overwhelming experience to go back to my humble beginning.
We were dirt poor. My parents worked in the fields and my mother occasionally in the seasonal cannery to support our family. My oldest brother, who was only 13 when I was born, was also working at a local grocery store to help pay for our grocery bill. My birth cost $50.00. My mother didn’t even have the $50.00 to pay for the doctor or hospital bill. She didn’t have money for baby clothes or baby powder. She had used cloth diapers and clothing, but nothing new to give to me. I was her ninth child with 4 brothers and 4 sisters older than me. I was her last girl with 5 boys younger. The doctor’s wife was a nerves type of person and was frightened that my mother would bleed to death after I was born so she asked her to delivery at their hospital again. Then I was born. I was my parent’s first baby to have a fair complexion. I was red, rolling fat, and had a little white peach fuzz on the top of my head that was called hair. My father took one look at me and asked my mother why they had to have such an ugly baby. He was used to darker babies, but I took after my mother’s side of the family. Once I was delivered my mother just covered her head and cried. It was a very depressing time in her life. I was the only baby my mother delivered that she did not breast feed and she always regretted that. Instead, she left me with my grandmother and she went to work at the cannery to help pay off our bills, a decision she always regretted. Hindsight is always better than foresight.
I came into this world on April 13, 1954. My father never attended school and could not read or write beyond basic signs or his name, although he had beautiful penmanship with the words he could spell. He learned to read blue prints later in life when he became a welder. When I was in high school I offered to teach him to read and write but he was too embarrassed to accept my offer. My mother went through part of the fourth grade, but she could read and write. Except for school books I don’t remember books in our house except the Bible and a Bible storybook that she read us at night. I loved that storybook. When I was born they were working in the potato crops. Potatoes is still one of my favorite foods.
I was three years old when we moved to Southern Oregon and my father began working in a sawmill. We lived in a tiny two bedroom house in the country. We struggled there but we survived. I have a lot of happy and sad memories of the three years we lived in Grants Pass. Oregon did not have kindergarten so I started first grade when I was six. The summer before I started school we moved. My father had seen a very old and large 2-1/2 story house in the historical town of Jacksonville, Oregon. It was for sale by owner and he stopped to inquire the price. It was an old and beautiful home. The old maids who lived there were sisters. They were elderly and asked God to send them a family to fill every room in that house. My father could not afford the $8,000. 00 price tag to buy this house, but that did not sway these two maids. Standing on their porch was the answer to their prayers and they were not going to let him get away. They agreed to take our tiny two bedroom house as down payment. For my father moving them they gave us the antique master bedroom furniture that was too tall for their new house. It had came to Jacksonville by wagon and mule 150 years before when this house was brand new. My family took a load of their stuff to our old house and brought a load of our stuff to this new house. We thought we had died and went to heaven to have so much room. The ground floor had a laundry room, a master bedroom with 12 foot ceilings, a narrow hallway, a living room, a large kitchen, a pantry, a large dining room, and the only bathroom in the entire house. The bathroom was once the other half of the pantry, but when indoor plumbing arrived, it was made into one very small bathroom with only enough room for a shower, toilet, and small sink. The basement was below the staircase and at the end of the pantry. The staircase and banister curved as it went up to the first landing, a half-story high that had one extremely large bedroom. This was the little boys room because there were so many of them to share it. It took up the entire floor space of this landing. The staircase continued upward to end at the top landing where the french doors opened onto the balcony. The balcony was small but pretty and I loved going out on it. On each side of this landing was a bedroom door. The one to the left was the bedroom directly over my parent’s master suite. The door to the right went into three different rooms, each behind the other. There was first a large bedroom with a fireplace in it. Once entered another door at the far end of the room was visible where another smaller bedroom was at. From this small bedroom there was another room on the side wall that was an attic. We did not use the attic except to dry the English and Black Walnuts that came off of the trees in our one acre yard. The attic was over the dining room area. God had answered these maid’s prayer and sent our family to fill every room in that old house to overflowing.
I started first grade at Jacksonville Little School. I went on to attend Jacksonville Big School on the hill. When I started junior high I had to take the bus into Medford to McLaughlin Junior High and then to Medford Mid High. We moved from this house when I was 14 and in my Freshman year of high school. Many of my childhood memories happened while living in this house and growing up in Jacksonville, Oregon. We were the Holden Family and we loved exploring all the treasures such an historical town offered. A picture of this house still hangs in the Jacksonville Museum that my brothers worked at. They were the stage coach robbers during the summer months when people would take a tour of Jacksonville inside an authentic stage coach and get robbed by these teen bandits during their final ride back to the museum. Of course, it was all staged and no one actually got robbed, but many people did throw out their purses to these teens who gladly returned them to their proper owner once the ride was over. It was the real wild west and we were apart of its culture and adventure! Jacksonville and the Applegate Valley were two of the destinations of the Oregon Wagon Trail coming from east to west. The television series, The Wagon Train, was filmed outside of Jacksonville on the Applegate River. I loved living in Jacksonville, Oregon. So many precious memories of the wonderful years I lived there and the wonderful friendships I made and still treasure today. Unfortunately, progress hit Jacksonville too and a developer bought our home for the big price of $16,000.00 to develop the acre of land we owned in town, along with the acreage and homes surrounding us. This is why we ended up selling and moving. I did not want to move, but we moved anyway.
My father had learned a new trade while working at the sawmill. He had become a welder and opened up his own welding shop. We moved to Talent, Oregon, another small Southern Oregon community town near Jacksonville. It was in Talent that I finished my childhood years. I graduated in 1972 from Phoenix High School in Phoenix, Oregon where our high school was located. Talent had the junior high and Phoenix had the high school. Both were small towns just a few miles apart from each other. I have friends and family still all over the Southern Oregon Rogue Valley area.
As children my siblings and I played together, but my sisters were several years old than me so I mostly grew up with the boys. I always wanted a little sister but never got one. The two boys just older than me, and the five boys younger than me, were the closest siblings I had. The boys gave me a bad time, but I gave them a run for their money too. They were mischievous, but so was I. I grew up fast in a large family. I was very outgoing and made friends easily. I was very responsible and a natural leader. I was extremely independent. When I was twelve years old I went on my first date with my 16 year old boyfriend. Our church and family did not believe in going to movies, but I went to a walk-in movie with him in Medford where I was attending junior high. Looking back he acted like a typical 16 year old teenager, but his behavior embarrassed me while standing in line with him so I refused to sit with him during the movie. That was my first date. I always had a boyfriend while growing up. Many of these boys where friends with my brothers too so they hung out at our house after school and on weekends. My first kiss was when I was in second grade. I thought my second grade boyfriend was the cutest little blond guy I had ever met. He moved in the middle of the school year. We stayed after school on his last day and helped the teacher so we could walk home alone. When we got to the corner where our paths separated he put his arm around me and gave me a big kiss on the lips twice. There was a “big” kid passing on a bicycle who said very loudly, “ah, isn’t that cute!” I wanted to die. I was so embarrassed that I broke away from him and ran all the way home. Looking back it was probably a junior high or high school student who witnessed our kiss. In high school my boyfriend and I were planning our future together, but it never happened. We broke up and he moved away to attend college. I was very involved in my church and met my husband through our church. Jerry lived in Fresno, California and I lived in Medford, Oregon.
I moved from Talent to Medford right after I graduated from high school. I moved into The Girl’s Club. It was a place that girls could live for 18 months, first time away from home and going to college or working. I wasn’t going to college but it was very similar to a college dorm. I loved living there with all of these girls my age. It was a fun time for me. The rent was only $35.00 per month and laundry 10 cents a load. We had to share a room with someone, but for the most part my roommates were good. We also shared a kitchen and bathroom with all the other girls living there. I think there were twenty-two girls living there at any given time with a house mother and secretary to keep a watch on us. Despite that, we broke the rules non-stop and had a lot of fun.
My childhood years were fun years for me. I always had a lot of friends, involved in school and church functions, and always had a boyfriend to hangout with. My brother, Clifford, was 22 months older than me. He had been held back in school in second grade. He was one year ahead of me and my brother Stephen was one year behind me throughout our schooling years. Steve was 15 months younger than me. Clifford, Steve, and I were very close growing up and spent a lot of time together. In high school Steve started getting into drugs, drinking, and gambling that Clifford and I wanted nothing to do with, so he drifted away from us to hang out with people who were doing the same things he was. Steve was very active in wrestling and football. He was the Oregon State Champion in wrestling for two years in a row in his weight class. He was the star football player in high school too. It took 15 years for someone to finally break his yardage record. He had so much going for him but he threw it away on having fun. Colleges offered him full scholarships just to wrestle and play football for them, but he never went to college. Instead he got married and had a son. Later his wife and him adopted a girl. Much later they divorced and his life went downhill from there. At the age of 42 Steve committed suicide. It was a great loss for our family and his children.
Clifford was my best friend during my childhood and teen years. I don’t know exactly when we got so close, but there was nothing I kept from him and nothing he kept from me. Steve, Clifford, and I traveled together and hung out all the time until Steve started hanging out with his buddies. Clifford and I continued to do things together. I loved Clifford with my entire heart. A lot of people who didn’t know us thought we were boyfriend and girlfriend. We would just laugh at them. Clifford was my cowboy, my sweetheart, and my pride and joy. I was so proud of him and proud to be his sister. He married a classmate of mine but divorced later. He then married again. The year after Steve died Clifford took his wife of over 20 years to dinner to celebrate their anniversary. He came home, had a massive heart attack, and died. He was only 47 years old. I was devastated. The two siblings that I was the closest to during my childhood years were gone. Losing Steve was hard on me, but losing Clifford was beyond grief for me. I miss him so much. I will always miss him.
One time when I was an adult and going through a very hard time in my life I had a dream about Clifford. He always liked to dress up in his cowboy outfits and wine and dine the girls when he was young. Life had worn him down before his death and I seldom saw him dressed up like he did during his younger years. He had been gone about 5 years when I had this dream about him. I dreamed we were back in my bedroom in Talent, Oregon where we spent so much time talking and laughing as teenagers. I was laying on the bed and a knock came on my door. I got up and opened the door. There stood Clifford, dressed up like he had as a teenager with eyes sparkling and full of life. He looked at me and put his arms around me and said, “I think you need a hug. I came to give you a hug.” The tears are rolling down my cheek as I type this. I cannot think of that dream without crying. He was absolutely right. What I needed at that moment was nothing more than his hug. That dream seemed so real. Forever will he remain alive and loved within my heart and soul. There was nobody like my Clifford! I miss and love him so much. He was such a sweet person, a wonderful brother, a devoted husband, and loving father, and my best friend. Nobody knew me like Clifford knew me. We could talk about anything. We laughed about everything. We were so blessed to have each other during and after those childhood and adolescent years we shared. I am close to all my family, but Clifford was the closest and the exception. He was more than my brother, a friend, or a family member. I have no words to describe how special he was to me. I have no words to describe what a loss I feel in my heart since his death. Sometime before his death Clifford and I met at our sister’s house over a weekend. After everyone went to bed we stayed up the entire night just laughing and talking like we had as teenagers. We had the best time that night. It was like we were young again and our entire lives were still in front of us. We were not sleepy at all. We were two grown adults with a lot of responsibility, but we were kids again just opening up our hearts to each other. Our passions and secrets were all alive again to share with each other like old times. It was a very special night and visit that I will always cherish.
My father worked hard to support us, but he was not a faithful husband and was not involved in his children’s lives. He was emotionally needy himself and looked for love in all the wrong places. Every Father’s Day I wrote about him for the Sanger Herald Newspaper in hopes of touching other father’s hearts. I loved my father very much. I think true love is when you can see the good and bad about a person and still love them regardless. That is my type of love for my father. He had 14 children, was married over 41 years to a very sweet, loving, faithful, and devoted woman, and still that was not enough for him. He died the day after his 60th birthday. He told my mother a few days before he died that, “He had lived a very lonely life.” My heart hurts at these words, not because of what he said, but because he was telling the truth. He had lived a very lonely life when he had so much happiness he could have surrounded himself with. He was there to financially support us, but he didn’t know how to support us in any other way. He didn’t know how to encourage us, make us feel secure and loved unconditionally, or praise us. He would compliment us to other people, but he didn’t know how to compliment us to our faces. He looked for love and his own self esteem in other women, his work, his achievements, but not in his family and our work or achievements. If he could have just stopped to look around and realized what he already had he would have been a very blessed and content man, but he did not know how to do that. He was a good man in many ways, but lost so much in other ways. I love my father very much but I wish he would have had a happy life, not a lonely one. I wish he could have counted his blessings instead of trying to find blessings where they don’t exist.
My mother was just the opposite of my father. She was a very loving woman who put her children first. Her unconditional love was something all of us children had. She gave us everything she had. She did not have much, but what she had went to her children. She never ask for anything for herself. She never thought of herself. She had a heart of gold. She had faith in God to take care of her family and her. She didn’t have money but she was rich with love and faith. She knew about my father’s many affairs, but she stood by him and raised us children to love and respect him. She was always defending us to him. She was a very simple woman with very simple needs. When I was a teenager she got into coupons so she would have money to give her children when they needed something at school. My father controlled the money in our house. This was her only way of having some money to give us too. She got so good at coupons that we actually became a pro at them. It was amazing to how far she could stretch a penny. I never remember her ever asking for anything for herself from my father or anyone else. It was always for us children. When I learned how to sew I started making my own clothes for school and church. I was working and buying my own material. I didn’t think about buying material and sewing for my mother at that time. I wish I had. I had one Vogue Pattern that I wanted to try. I made a pink dress. It was a disaster. No matter what I did to that dress it just hung on me. I finally walked up to my mother and showed her my pink dress. Her eyes just lit up. She told me to take it off and let her try it on. Sure enough, it fit her. It was her first pink dress and she was delighted. I cut the pattern down and made a green one, but it too just hung on me. She ended up with both the pink and green dresses. They were polyester double knit and she actually wore those dresses out. I wish I would have realized back then what my sewing skills could have meant for my mother, but I was blinded to her needs. All of us children grew up to love our mother dearly. After our father died she was given the job of handling money and it was hard on my mother to say no to some of her children. She never managed a budget before except for buying food from money my father had given her, so she was an easy target for people to take advantage of her, and they did. It was easy for my father to say no, but not my mother. “No” was the hardest word my mother ever spoke to anyone, especially her children. She passed away when she was almost 85 years old. She never remarried after my father’s death. I have nothing but sweet memories of my mother and great respect for her. Few woman would have put up with what she did during her lifetime and stayed sweet and loving, but she was the exception.
My parents married when they were very young. My mother was 16 and my father was 19. My father was the only man my mother ever kissed in a romantic way. They hardly knew each other when they married. They had no money and life was hard for them. They did the best they could with what they had to work with. My father said many times that he never knew love until he met my mother. His family was negative and critical of him and he was always trying to prove himself. My mother had love that was unconditional. She was the minister’s daughter, but her parents had little education back then and worked hard and lived poor. For a wedding gift her mother and father gave her a basket full of kitchen utensils. I have the biscuit cutter and rolling pin today that was in that basket. My mother used those items everyday of her married life cooking for her family. The basket, and its entire contents, cost only $1.00 in 1937 when they married.
My oldest sister, Mevaline, died at 4 hours old. My mother was scared to death to have another child after losing her. She was only 17 years old. My oldest brother, James Crafton (JC) came two years later. By the time I arrived my mother was 31 years old and already had Novella, Marcella, Richard, Linda, Allen, and Clifford. When I was 31 I gave birth to my first child, Melissa Pamela. In some ways my life was similar to my mothers. In other ways my life was very different from hers. I feel a very close bond with my mother and family. I believe that is where love begins, at home, and if we can’t treat our own family right, how can we treat others right. I think God only looks at how we treat our own before he looks at anything else. I love my family. I am so thankful I was born into the family I was born into. They have made me who I am today. Even my little brothers that came after me was a blessing in my life. I didn’t always think so while growing up, but they were. Stephen was born 15 months after me, then came Johnny Mark, Kelly, Halden, and Rodney Lee. My last brother died 17 hours after he was born. His lungs collapsed. I was only 10 years old when he died but I remember the sorrow his death brought to my family. My mother never got pregnant again after Rodney Lee’s death. She lost her oldest and youngest and raised her 12 children between them. Out of the twelve of us children, only 8 are still living. Allen died of alcohol abuse and complications the year before our mother died. Stephen and Clifford died several years before that. Linda died in 2012 from Congestive Heart Failure and complications from smoking. Hopefully the rest of us have a few more years on this earth to enjoy God’s great creation and each other. We are blessed to have each other. I have lost the three siblings just older than me and the one just younger than me. The older and younger children are doing fine. I am the only middle child still living. As adults I especially want to stay close to my siblings. I enjoy the two sisters I have left and my five brothers who are still alive. I could not ask for more than what I have. I am very blessed.
My childhood friends are very dear to my heart. Benna Anderson (Linker) was killed in a car accident several years ago. She left me with my two wonderful God-daughters who I am very proud of: Natosha and Tiffany. I met Benna in first grade and we stayed friends until her death. Daphne Parsley (Torrey) was my childhood church friend. I was 8 and she was 5 when we first met. We grew up together and have stayed close all these years. Her daughter was born just a week before Melissa was born. She also has a son from her first marriage. Sandi Hinkle (DePaz) came into my life in grade school. She came from a poor background similar to mine. Her father was the town drunk for many years in Jacksonville. Her mother was a lot like my mother, church going Christian women who raised their children to serve God. There were 13 children in Sandi’s family. Her older and younger siblings grew up with my older and younger siblings. When we moved to Talent they moved there too. Her father quit drinking and they moved down the road from where we lived, so our friendship continued. Her sister, Helen Marie, was my age and also close to me. Sandi’s twin sister, Sylvia, was close too until she went to live with a family in their church. I grew up with Sandi’s family and became close to most of her siblings during the time we were growing up. As adults we have all went our separate ways but Sandi and my friendship has endured the years and remained very close and strong. Debi Trainor (Sutton) is another childhood friend that I cherish. I did not meet her until I went to live at The Girl’s Club, but our friendship grew and has been a foundation in my life. Benna is now gone, but I enjoy her daughters. Benna, Daphne, Sandi, and Debi will always be my childhood sisters I wanted so badly. I have adult friends who have became my family too.
When I was 19 I started writing to a young man in our Fresno, California church that I had met through fellowship meetings that our churches attended. His name is Jerry Alton Lee. We married on November 2, 1973. That is when I moved from Oregon to California and my childhood years officially came to an end.
If I had it all to do over again, and know everything I know today, there are a few things that I would change about my childhood, but not a lot. These molding years made me who I am today. Without them I would not understand or appreciate things like I do today. I would do more for my mother and father than I did as a child. I would not take the abuse I experienced as a child from the hands of people who took advantage of my innocence and trust. I would have written more about my childhood years while they were happening and everything was fresh in my mind. I would have been kinder to my little brothers who I thought were pests. I would still keep my poverty past because it taught me to appreciate everything I have. I would keep my family because they taught me about love. I would not change much, just a few things here and there.