1920s The Bedell/Hunter family: Granddad, Roger Bedell, Great-Aunt-Vera Hunter, Dora Bedell (my mother at 4), Grandma Mabel, and her mother Great-Grandma-Hunter
Mabel Bedell, my maternal grandmother, was a gentle person who was born in 1892 in Breckenridge, Colorado, the daughter of a miner. She completed the third grade. She had four children and owned, with Granddad Roger, an apple orchard on the outskirts of Canon City, Colorado. During The Great Depression, most of the family came to live with them because they had a house and food.
For some reason my first memory of hair comes from remembering Grandma Mabel when I was about four years old. I don’t know where we were that day, but I’m sure I was busy. Grandma Hunter asked if she could comb my hair. Perhaps Mother had told her what a wild-child I could be and how hard it was to get me to slow me down for any kind of grooming. I approached Grandma warily because I didn’t believe she could comb my tangled hair without hurting me. Grandma Mabel, however, took her time working through the tangles in my naturally curly hair while I managed to sit still until she finished. I can recall the love I felt as Grandma Mabel gave me a hug and allowed me to get up and go play. It is the only memory I have of her. She died when I was seven.
My other Grandmother, Marie Bowers, born in 1893 in Point Pleasant, Illinois was the first of thirteen children whom she helped rear. After graduation from the country school’s eighth grade, Marie became the teacher for all eight grades. When she and Grandad Ira moved to Canon City Colorado they started up a “Beauty Shop,” in their house on Main Street. Later they moved to a bigger house that had room for apartments and a beauty shop. While constructing the space for the shop Granddad went to work at the Colorado State Penitentiary as a guard.
Grandmother Marie liked to help my mother take care of my hair. When I was small she would wrap and smooth strands around her finger to form what she called long curls. I enjoyed the curls bouncing around my face and neck and asked for them often.
When I was six years old, Dad returned from the trenches of World War 2. He bought a restaurant in a small valley town with the help of the G. I. Bill, and the Bowers family was off to a new life.
My parents, Dora and Ivan were so busy with the restaurant that there was little time for family life. Dab and I ran wild, but our favorite place was at the restaurant where Mother and Dad were. We had jobs for which we received twenty-five cents an hour. We washed piles of dishes when the tourists filled the place. David took cases of empty soda-pop bottles into the garage next door to be picked up by the soda-pop delivery truck. If the café was busy enough I got to try my hand at frying hamburgers and cleaning the grill. There’s a certain way to clean a grill and I learned it.
Most of the time, since no child in town or out of it, ever took more than one bath a week, my clothes and hair smelled like restaurant kitchen. I didn’t notice and I don’t think anyone else did either.
One day, however, after school, I told my mother this was the night for the yearly operetta and she was caught unaware. Oh, she had cut down a beautiful blue chiffon dress with sequins for me to wear in my role of the lisping girl, but we hadn’t done a thing with my hair. She scrubbed it in the kitchen sink, cleaned out the sink, and towel dried my hair. Ther was no time to do anything else so she combed it and let me go. I liked it the best I had since the long curls. I was off to the high school auditorium to sing: “I love to hear a melody, I love to hear a symphony, but best of all I love to hear, my doggy say bow-wow.” They probably gave me the role because I wasn’t shy and because everyone knew my dog Brownie. In fact he was probably waiting outside the school to walk me home.