Memories by Alvina Roloff July 18, 1999
(This was sent to her son on typed paper plus handwritten notes. She asked her son to put it in a Word document. He added information, in italics. After she saw the additions she said that she didn’t like them and asked for them to be removed.)
I come from a large family of sixteen children. I was the second youngest. Our parents worked hard to raise us all. We never went hungry and were kept clothed. I never felt poor. We all worked when we were old enough.
One of my happiest memories as a child, living in Velva, North Dakota, roaming the hills looking for cactus berries and chokecherries, and learning to swim in a pond near the railroad tracks. Had to check for bloodsuckers on our bodies when we got out of the water. Finding tiny colorful turtles in the small streams.
We had no supervision, did pretty much what we wanted to do. We all survived.
We also climbed all over the stockyards and the men weight the calves couldn’t believe the weight until they found us on top of the scales.
We also loved ice-skating. My brother Alvin would skate with me on the river. I couldn’t have done it on my own.
My sister Marion and I were so close in age that we were almost like twins. At one of the places we lived there was an old shed. We lined it with cardboard and played house. We made our own paper dolls out of old pattern books and made dolls out of clothespins and made our own modeling clay out of mud. We didn’t have all the toys that children have today. We had to entertain ourselves.
I was in heaven when I discovered the public library and could read all the books I wanted to.
I have vague memories of going to a one-room school. One of my brothers would take us in a horse and sled.
Then we moved to Warden, Washington, a very small town. My sister Marion and I were the new girls in town and never lacked for dates.
Mrs. Helen Beck was a wonderful woman. She organized entertainment for the young people. One evening she took us all to Bertha Roloff’s home to sing while she played the piano. Her son Elmer was there. I ignored him. I was dating someone else at the time.
One evening Marion and I were out walking and who came cruising by — Helen’s son Tommy and Elmer Roloff. I wasn’t too sure about a relationship with him, but he won me over. We were married when I graduated from High School.
Elmer and his brother Robert were farming with their Mother. Their father, Ewald, left Bertha with the two boys and little girl, Bonnie to fend for herself.
There was a one-room shack behind the main house. That is where we lived with a sofa bed, a sink, a wood cook stove and closet. Had to go to the main house to use the bathroom.
Then Ewald came back and he and Bertha were re-united. They bought a fruit orchard in Milton-Freewater, Oregon.
I was pregnant with our first son, Gene. We spent too much time in Oregon. Elmer had to help his folks.
Then we had our second son, Neil. I got sick and was throwing up. The reason I got sick was I had a bad gall bladder and had surgery later. Without consulting me, Elmer had a vasectomy. We lost Neil before he was a year old to SIDS. I felt lost after losing Neil and couldn’t have any more children, so we started looking to adopt and found Marie, a sweet happy child.
We felt sorry for Elmer’s Mom and Dad and asked them to come back to the farm. We moved to Othello (about ten miles away) where Elmer was asked to be a deputy sheriff. (We moved into a brand new home on the outskirts of town. Elmer planted grass in the front and back. He also remodeled and expanded the kitchen and utility room. Later Elmer built a garage in back of the house. The garage had a guestroom complete with shower, sink and toilet. The garage also had a room for a freezer chest and a room dug into the ground where he set up his photography equipment and dark room. Elmer and his relatives mixed and poured a large concrete patio behind the house, between the garage and the house. He built a six-foot-high privacy fence around the back yard and a sun screen over the patio. It was made by thin wood strips with equal spacing between them so it blocked half of the sunlight. Elmer installed a one hundred foot tall tower for a television antenna so that we could get a decent television signal from Moses Lake about thirty miles away. It was in three telescoping sections and could be lowered by a hand winch for protection against wind. We were among the first families in Othello to get television. Elmer also added electric heaters in some of the walls in the house. We had a central oil stove for heating and it did not have any forced-air circulation. He also added shelves built in to some of the living room walls. Elmer built a sixteen foot cabin cruiser in his garage and named it the “Vina Marie” after me and Marie. He also built a trailer for the boat. We used the cabin cruiser for many enjoyable family outings on the Pot Holes lakes, not too many miles away. Later the State Trooper there got him into the State Patrol.
Our first post was Long Beach, Washington, a small town — no restaurant to get food. I can’t remember where we stayed when we got there — a Motel I suppose. We rented a two-story house next to the schoolhouse in Ilwaco for a short time until we found a house to buy. (The local people named the house “The Willows”. Nuns some time earlier had occupied it.)
It was a two-story charming run-down house, but we got it in shape. (Elmer’s mother, Bertha, came to the house and helped us clean everything when we moved in.) Elmer built cabinets and remodeled the upstairs bathroom. (He also added a third space for a car in the carport.)
Clam digging was a big thing. We had loads of company and everyone caught lots of salmon. (Elmer would take friends and relatives out on the Columbia River in our sixteen-foot cabin cruiser, the “Vina Marie”.)
Gene went to Portland, Oregon to attend college, and about that time we moved to the North Head Lighthouse for a couple of years. (Marie became rebellious and started acting crazy, so we decided to move away from the beach.) Elmer asked the State Patrol to transfer him, and we moved to Yakima, Washington. (Gene started his Junior year of college at the University of Washington in Ellensburg, Washington, and his new wife, Roberta moved there with him. Gene and Roberta came to visit us often on the weekends because Ellensburg was only about thirty miles north of Yakima. The next year Gene joined the Army under pressure from the draft board, and after six months of Army training, he was ordered to a tour of duty in Vietnam. Gene returned after a year in Vietnam, and he, Roberta, and their new daughter Lisa headed off to Chicago, Illinois, for the remainder of Gene’s Army duty. Michael was born in Chicago. Elmer and I moved to Milton-Freewater, Oregon, and bought a fruit farm. Marie followed us from Yakima, but Elmer refused to let her stay in our house. We had apples, cherries and plums. Elmer’s double-cousin Walter Roloff and his sons were successful fruit farmers there. We bought four snowmobiles and spent a lot of time in the Blue Mountains at the family cabin. That was a lot of fun. After Gene and family left Chicago, they lived with us for the summer in Milton-Freewater while Gene helped Elmer with orchard farming. Gene went back to college at the University of Washington in Ellensburg, Washington. After three years he graduated with a bachelor of science in mathematics. During that time Cynthia was born in Ellensburg. Gene got a job in Portland, Oregon in the computer programming field. Elmer improved the orchards and remodeled the house. He and Walter had a major disagreement over some kind of community issue involving water use in the County, and Walter gave him the cold shoulder. Neither Walter nor Elmer were willing to patch up things, and after eight years in Milton-Freewater, we decided to move again. We thought that we had enjoyed living at the beach, so we moved back to the beach and bought a cranberry farm.
We moved into the Bog House and raised cranberries. Elmer saw his old cabin cruiser, the “Vina Marie” parked in someone’s yard and bought it from him. It was a sentimental thing to do, but it was in very bad shape. Elmer worked on it for a couple of years, and gave up and gave it to Gene, who was living in Seattle, Washington, by that time. While we were at the Bog, Gene and Roberta got divorced. A few years later Gene married Yuhchyau Chen, a Chinese woman from Taiwan. About a year later, Gene moved to Seattle and started working for Weyerhaeuser Company so that he could live together with Yuhchyau while she was attending the University of Washington. Elmer and I had a new house built on the Bog. Not long after that, Elmer got sick with a brain tumor, and I lost my Elmer. Gene and Yuhchyau tried to get the best medical help for Elmer by getting him transferred to the University Hospital where Yuhchyau was working as a doctor. The tumor was deep at the base of the brain and was not operable. Gene was devastated by Elmer’s death but being a man, could not express his feelings, and withdrew from the situation. Dan and Marie were there for me and came for the harvest. Dan took care of selling the farm and all the insurance problems. Also investing my money. Gene and Yuhchyau offered me a place in their home in Seattle, but I declined. I lived with Dan and Marie in their little house in Vancouver, Washington until I bought some land near Battleground and had a house built for them and myself. Marie and Dan live in the big house and I live in an adjoining small house behind them. Gene was very unhappy with my arrangement with them.
Gene and Yuhchyau had a son, Gary, when they were living in Seattle in 1990. Yuhchyau graduated from medical school and moved to Boston, Massachusetts to work her internship in 1991. Gene decided to stay in Seattle, and about a year later they divorced. Gene stayed single for a few years, and in 1996 met a lady, Ine, from The Netherlands. They have stayed together and have moved residence a couple of times. In 1997 they moved to Portland, Oregon. In 1998 they moved to a small town near Dallas, Texas.