recently read a paperback by Barbara Michaels, Wait For What Will Come. I picked it up because the back cover proclaimed, "She was the last of an ancient Cornish clan, and Carla Tregellas had inherited the pride of her family name....". Michaels had obviously researched her material and I'm impressed by the Cornish preoccupation with mermaids, mermen, and the lost, sunken kingdom of Lyonesse. This intrigued me because of a picture in the book, "Creatures From Elsewhere" of a carving on the end of a pew in the church at Zennor, Cornwall, depicting the mermaid who abducted Mathy Trewhella.
"The carving is 600 years old and is associated with the legend of Mathy Trewhella, the son of a churchwarden, who one day inexplicably disappeared. Years later, a sea captain arrived at St. Ives and told how he had anchored off Pendower Cave where a mermaid swam up and said to him: 'Your anchor is blocking our cave and Mathy and our children are trapped inside.' For the people of Zennor, the mystery of Mathy's disappearance was explained."
One little thing keeps me from believing the story.. If I'm descended from a mermaid, how come I could
never learn how to swim?
Butte had two large department stores which were in competition with each other in those early days:
Hennessy's and Symon's, My mother, Ethel, worked at Symon's and always came home for lunch,
often to encounter a young mailman, Harry Paull, when she went to the little grocery store run by
Mrs. Murphy in the front room of her house next to the Bolithos' at 928 Hornet Street. Harry Paull finally
got bold enough to offer her little treats, like those old Velvet Kisses.
Before long, Harry was presented to my grandfather, William Christopher Trewhella. I never knew him, but
he must have been a remarkable, intimidating person. On his own since sixteen years of age, making the
trans-Atlantic voyage alone, working on his way up to shift-boss in the copper mines of Butte, and the
proud father of five children. From the stories Ma and Auntie Patch, I have a mental picture of him as a
stern Victorian patriarch. Ma and Patch always referred to him as "Papa" and I think they were...if not
afraid... at least in awe of him. But Harry must have passed muster with Ethel's father because they got
married only a few months later.
I often heard about the fights Ethel and Pearl used to have about who had the most kitchen floor to mop.
There was a seam in the linoleum down the middle of the kitchen floor and each girl had to clean her half.
Pearl complained because Ethel's side had the kitchen stove on it and Ethel didn't have to mop under that
section. Ma has laughingly told me that there was always a rather dingy narrow stripe of dirty linoleum
down the middle of the kitchen. Each girl was being very careful not to clean too close to the seam, lest
they would inadvertently clean part of their sister's section.
They also talked about pinching Uncle Will, their baby brother, in his cradle so he would cry and
then they could run down the street to where their mother, Mary Emma, was having a gossipy cuppa' tea
with a neighbor. They could complain that the baby was crying and she should come home. It didn't take
Grandma Trewhella very long to catch on to that caper and straighten out her daughters who were seven
and eight years old. Pearl always claimed that when it was her turn to wash the dishes, Ethel would go into
the pantry and gather up old, moldy, stuff in there to bring out for Pearl to wash. One time, Ethel was
triumphantly marching into the kitchen with a big pail of milk that had soured and the bucket slipped out of
her hand, hit the floor and splattered over the kitchen....even onto the ceiling... and it dripped down onto
Papa, who was sitting at the kitchen table. Both girls were terrified, expecting a terrible retribution..... They
were relieved when their father started to laugh and helped them clean up the mess. Both Ma and Patch have told me this story many times and I'm a bit sad to feel that this episode was so memorable for them......their father was being non-scary for a change.
When my Grandfather died, there were no pensions, and there was no Social Security in those days, so my
parents, Ethel and Harry Oliver Paull, moved into the little house on Hornet Street to provide support for
Grandma Trewhella and her three young sons.
This household included great-grandmother Bolitho, who had been living with her since my great
grandfather, T.J., died a year before. It was great to grow up in a home with these two remarkable women.
I grew up with my three uncles, Will, Bert, and Howard. Looking back now, it seems incredible that eight
people, ages from one to eighty, could live together so peacefully in a small five-room house.
"Home!" In our family, it wasn't just a house....it was a state of mind. It was the warm haven where
you were accepted without question and tenderly nursed when life bruised you and abused you.
When your wounds were healed, there were no restraining strings attached and you were sent off
to fly on your own again with smiles, best wishes, and prayers.
We lugged water from a nearby spring in a big wash boiler, towed in a rusty old wagon. We were the envy
of the neighborhood when my Dad and uncles dug a well and installed a pump, the first in that area. A few
years ago, my mother was marveling about the technological changes during her lifetime: electric lights,
indoor plumbing, automobiles, paved roads, radio, television, microwave ovens, moonwalks... She
remarked, "You were potty trained in an outhouse." It makes me feel like a grizzled old pioneer.
I have a faint memory of that old privy. It wasn't a separate little shed but was built into a big old barn on
the back of the lot and located next to the coal bin. Everyone was expected to return from the outhouse with
a bucket of coal. It was a system that worked very well.
Dad was a tinkerer. I remember the excitement in our house when the radio finally worked. He had taken a correspondence course in 'Electricity and Radio', bought a kit and assembled a radio receiver. To my
mother's dismay, since radio reception was better after dark, --he'd sit up all night, twirl the dials, and holler
in excitement when he'd get a garbled transmission all the way from Minnesota! He strung aerial wires
around the eaves of the house and even plugged into the metal clothes lines. Neighbors came each evening
and stood outside our kitchen window listening to this new marvel. Dad would set the fan-shaped speaker in
a big wash tub to amplify the volume. It did magnify the sound but it didn't do much for tonal quality. As I
recall, it was a real triumph to understand an occasional word or sentence, and music wasn't much better;
everything sounded scratchy and nasal but Yes, We Have No Bananas could be recognized over the
I had read and loved a book by Albert Payson Terhune, Lad, a Dog. I pestered my parents until
they finally drove to Livingston and bought a collie puppy. Naturally I named him "Lad" but it got translated into "Laddie." The little puppy developed a skin disease and big patches of hair would fall out. He looked like a Mexican Hairless at one time. But he recovered and was the best pet I ever had.
I had a great childhood. I never knew, or felt, that we were poor.