I recently heard a story from longtime Winthrop resident Jackie Iddings. She told it with such a gleam in her eye and a ready laugh. The tale reminded me of my own childhood memory of a moment in time that taught a lesson that sticks with me, as if it were yesterday.
Back in the day (when does one start using that expression?), the best store to a kid in a small town was the five and dime. Whether it was Ben Franklin or Woolworths, the counters were eye-level for an 8- year-old and filled to the brim with items of interest. I loved walking into Ben Franklin, smelling the 1950s’ department store scent, hearing the creaking wood floors, as customers bustled up and down the aisles, and eyeballing the next Barbie doll outfit I coveted.
The clerks were the same two or three ladies, dressed properly with perfectly coiffed hairdos. At least one always wore bright red lipstick in contrast to her raven black hair. My Aunt Margaret worked there. Mr. Nugent, the owner, frequently could be seen as he headed to the office upstairs in the back of the store. He was somewhat of a scary guy to a little girl.
One day my friend Leanne and I were in the store. Whether we were partners in crime, I don’t exactly remember, but given the consequences, we must have been. After I looked up and down the aisle, I quickly snatched a little box of gold stars — the kind your teacher pasted on your work assignments — and tucked it into my pocket. A thief in the making — until one of the clerks notified Mr. Nugent.
He seemed so big when he caught Leanne and I red-handed and scurried us upstairs to his office. I will always remember what he said, “First, it’s gold stars and before you know it, you’ll be stealing a piano.” Shaking in my boots, I couldn’t quite picture how a little girl like me could steal a piano. I certainly wasn’t going to get a gold star for this behavior when my mom found out.
Then came the threat: You girls call your parents and, if they don’t come to get you, I’ll send you to Reform School. That was such a frightening outcome, I prayed my mom would answer the phone (she didn’t). Fortunately, Leanne’s dad was home, and he — Mr. McConnell — was a pretty nice guy. He came downtown and rescued us from a stint in Reform School. Needless to say, Mr. Nugent scared the bejesus out of us, and our lives of thievery came to a halt.
Jackie’s story has a modern-day twist. J.J. Riley, her grandson, came to the Methow to visit his parents and grandmother. Back home in Bellingham, he had just purchased a shiny new-fangled barbeque grill and set it up in its outdoor spot, eager to start grilling steaks and burgers. Upon arrival home, J.J. immediately noticed the empty spot where the new grill sat. Gone!
He notified authorities, but did not have much hope that it would be found — until not long after the BBQ went missing, his phone chimed to tell him that the grill was heated, ready to use, and its location. Ha! A few doors away, a cluster of college guys were about ready to enjoy their first burgers and brats on their newly absconded grill.
Caught, the authorities arrived and threatened the young men with the possibility of going to jail, paying a big fine, and having a criminal record of burglary. However, there was a way out of this life of crime. The rightful grill owner has a fence that needs to be built, including digging postholes. Perhaps these big strapping young men would prefer that consequence — their life-saving Mr. McConnell. Great story, Jackie, one the boys will no doubt tell their grandchildren about how they were saved from a life of crime by a “smart” barbeque grill.
Meanwhile, back in Mazama: the ski trails are open— the earliest opening in the history of the trail system. With plenty of groomed corduroy and bright blue skies, enthusiasts have hit the trails.
After the big dump, the North Cascade Highway called it quits for the season, even though the plan at first was just a temporary closure. Many a carload of snow seekers found the closed road a great place to stop and jump out for a walk, ski or snowshoe around the sparkling blanket of pristine snow.
Oops! Debbie “Red” Schrock’s husband’s name is John (not Tom!). Duh! JD Outfitters. My apologies to John and Deb.