bits and pieces


bits and pieces
Frandsen Humanities Press
This book was created as part of Lifescapes,
a senior life writing program sponsored by the
Washoe County Library System, the University
of Nevada English Department, and the
Nevada Humanities Committee.
Copyright © 2003
Ellen Guerricagoitia
Frandsen Humanities Press
Department of English/098
University of Nevada
Reno, Nevada 89557-0031
This is a first attempt to get some information about me and my family
written down. It is just a look at some events and experiences of our life.
SVENSKA FLICKA .................................................................................................... 1
SVENSKA POJKE ..................................................................................................... 4
RESPONSIBILITY...................................................................................................... 10
COLLEGE DANCE................................................................................................. 12
BREAD .................................................................................................................... 14
RING SIDE SEATS ................................................................................................... 18
TRAVEL – HAWAII.................................................................................................. 20
guess that just about everyone
in the world believes that their
Mother was, or is a very special
person. I really wish that I knew
more of my mom’s early life. I
feel an urgency to get on paper
as much as I can recall from
things she and others have told
me of her 97 years on this earth.
My Mother, Freda, was born in
Dala Husby, Sweden in the year
1896. Her ranking in the family
was third from the eldest of
twelve children. One might
wonder how a Swedish farm girl
at age 29 would venture out into
the world, and ultimately end up
in Reno, Nevada for the balance
of her life.
It was in the early 1920’s,
probably 1923, when they began
building a railroad station in
Litchfield, California. My mother’s
Aunt Hulda and Uncle Andrew
Johnson lived in this tiny town,
which is near Honey Lake. It is
also not too far from Susanville, a
not quite so small town, near the
Lassen National Forest.
Uncle Andrew was my mother’s
uncle. He and his wife Hulda had
moved from Sweden to the
United States some years before.
Andrew was the Postmaster of
Litchfield and had the “post
My Mother, Freda, in 1965 when she was
70 years old with my son Frank.
office” in an area at the front of
their house. It appeared to have
been a large enclosed porch at
one time. It had been set up with
a counter, locking mail boxes,
drawers containing the many
necessary rubber stamps, ink
pads, pens, pencils, forms and
items needed to service a post
office and handle people’s mail
and packages. Great Uncle
Andrew was a mechanic and
owned a large garage where he
also ran his business of being the
local dealer of John Deere farm
To get back on track, Great
Aunt Hulda suddenly found
herself the designated resident
responsible for feeding the
railroad crew. She realized that
she needed help to feed this
gang of hard working men. She
wrote to relatives in Sweden to
inquire if there was a young lady
who would like to come to
America to help her with this
chore. My mother and her
brother Emil decided to pull up
their roots and face the
challenge and opportunity of life
in America.
There was so much to do to
prepare for this extensive journey:
passports to get, employers to
notify, money to amass, sewing to
do (Mom was an extremely
talented seamstress and, of
course, wanted to make herself
some new clothes for her journey
and “new life”), and passage to
book on a steam ship.
Everything was finally in place;
they said their “good-byes” and
embarked on the ship to
America. I have little knowledge
of this part of the journey. I know
it took quite awhile and the
sailing was not always smooth.
They arrived in New York and
disembarked to Ellis Island as did
all foreign people immigrating to
this country at that time. The year
was 1925.
The next leg of their journey
would be a train trip from New
York to Reno, Nevada. This too
was probably not a very pleasant
period of time spent in their
travels. I am sure it took longer
and was not as pleasant as my
trip much later, in 1953, from Reno
to Pennsylvania on the then
brand new Streamliner train. The
only thing I know about this part
of the trip was they had some
difficulty with the different money
and the American weight system.
They were used to the metric
system as were all Europeans.
The train had stopped for a
period of time that allowed them
to get off and obtain some food.
They encountered a man selling
fruit and the bananas looked
appealing. They requested 50
cents worth of the yellow
delicacies. The vendor handed
them a very large sack which
contained ten pounds of
bananas. They didn’t want to
appear as if they had limited
knowledge, so they just paid for
and accepted this gigantic bag
of bananas. Needless to say, it
was a long time before either of
them could look a banana in the
face. At any rate they did arrive
safely in Reno. They were met by
their Aunt and Uncle, the
Johnsons, and traveled the last 80
miles to Litchfield in Great Uncle
Andrew’s Ford.
My Uncle Emil was able to
immediately begin work as an
assistant mechanic for his Uncle
Andrew. My mom however was
rather at loose ends, because the
railroad crew had finished their
work in that area and departed.
The whole process of getting
there had just taken too much
There was no work for her in
that little town and Auntie Hulda
told her that she would never
learn to speak English if she
stayed there with them. She got
mom a position in Reno with a
family named Doyle as nanny for
their children and to help with the
cleaning and cooking. This suited
her just fine as she had worked in
an orphanage in Sweden and
loved children, loved cooking
and sewing. This family did not
speak Swedish so it was necessary
for her to begin learning and
speaking English. She liked
America from the beginning of
her time here. She saw that
people could work hard and
have a good life.
The Doyle family owned a store
in downtown Reno called a silk
shop. They had all manner of
cloth and materials and the local
ladies could make their choices
of goods and the shop’s
seamstress would make custom
clothes for them. After a while
mom was doing quite well with
her English and told the Doyles
that sewing was her first love. She
wanted them to hire her in their
dress shop as a seamstress. They
refused because their children
adored her and they valued her
greatly as their nanny. Well, it
seems that the family went on a
vacation, but mom didn’t go with
them. She was walking
downtown and passed their dress
shop. In the window was a sign
saying “seamstress wanted”. The
manager of the store did not
know my mother or that she was
the Doyle’s nanny. She applied
for the position, proved her
prowess with a needle and was
hired. The Family returned from
their trip to find my Mother
working in their dress shop, and
accepted that fate. She did
excellent work for them there as
My Mother was acquainted
with Frans Gustav Piel in Sweden,
before she had left there. She
was corresponding with him for
some time. She wanted him to
know that America was a land of
opportunity and a very good
place to be located. At this time,
things in Europe were rather
unsettled. Freda Wikman
convinced Frans to take the big
step and join her in this land of
plenty. He packed up his small
sea chest and his violin and
made the journey to America in
the year 1928.
He and Mom were married in
Sparks, Nevada soon after he
arrived. They both went to school
to learn English and became
citizens of the United States of
America. When they were
naturalized they changed my
father’s name to Frank Gustav
By the way, Svenska Flicka
means “Swedish girl.”
oday my focus is landing on
my father. I guess in
retrospect I got a great many
of my dad’s genes. He was 5’5”
tall and had blond hair. His hair
was very fine, but there was a lot
of it. When he passed away, at
the age of 75 , he still had a full
head of wonderful wavy hair. His
hair was one of those traits which
I inherited. My mother’s hair was
dark black and wavy. She did
not have a gray hair until she was
almost 60 years old. When she
left us she was 97 years old and
had a full head of salt and
pepper hair. I was a complete
“towhead” with actually white
hair until I was about ten years
My father possessed a godgiven talent for music along with
some of his other noteworthy
traits. He had a great singing
voice, played the violin, the
clarinet, guitar, and most musical
instruments to which he came
into contact. I recall singing with
him and my sister in the church
choir. I guess my ability for singing
and music came from another of
those dad genes. My father used
to say about my mother, “She
had a great voice, but it wasn’t fit
for song.” Our church, the
Lutheran Church of the Good
Shepherd, was a big part of our
lives as I was growing up. We
were charter members of this
church when it began and first
My father, Frank, singing to my son,
Frank, in 1965.
met in a large room in the
Masonic temple at First and
Virginia Street which still stands
today. Will it soon be the next
Reno “parking lot”?
One of my fondest memories of
this period emerges for a very
special reason. We had a strong
choir and were very fortunate to
have the guidance of a few
wonderful directors. One of them
was Ernest Ford, Yes, that’s
correct – “Tennessee Ernie Ford”.
He lived in Reno for about a year,
was a disc jockey on KOH radio
and our choir director. Everyone
enjoyed his radio show. He
presided early each morning, was
very witty, and would harmonize
along with his records in his great
resounding voice. He was a
talented choir director and we
especially enjoyed his
methodology of having us sing
our hymns a cappella. Some
important people from LA were
visiting Reno and heard him on
the radio. They were so
impressed that they made him an
offer he couldn’t refuse; to move
to LA and work for them. The rest
is history. Rollen Knellor was also
one of our directors. For years
another director was Steve
Maytan whose very talented and
musical family still own Maytan
Music. It was a wonderful
experience to perform under his
As my life progressed the
singing was still a big part of it. I
was in the a cappella choir in
high school as well as the chorus.
In high school I was also in
productions of The Red Mill and
Brigadoon. In college I was a
soprano in the University Singers.
We joined with the Reno
Community Choir to sing the
Messiah each Christmas season. I
did that for 4 years. Of course,
the Church Choir participation
was ongoing.
My father was not a very tall
man, but he was what I would
call sinewy muscular and strong.
He had done gymnastics in
Sweden and was quite
coordinated, agile, and all-in-all
an accomplished athlete. One
of his outstanding physical
accomplishments in Sweden was
his excellent mastering of trapeze
work. My sister and I had to take
his word about that as we were
unable to locate a trapeze for
him to demonstrate his prowess in
the endeavor. My early years are
filled with memories of Dad and I
out on the front lawn of our home
doing summersaults, hand stands,
head stands, cart wheels, etc. He
would also do some tricks with me
– like, I would stand on his hands
as he laid on the ground with his
arms stretched overhead. He
would slowly raise me up until I
was standing on his outstretched
arms, balanced above his chest.
I loved doing these gymnastics
with him. I guess that was the
ground work for my love of sports
and exercise and my eventual
bachelor’s degree in Physical
Education. My sister did not seem
to have much interest in these
activities. I was told that when
she was young, say 3 – 5 years
old, my family lived in the
mountain towns of Gray Eagle,
Hobart Mills (near Truckee,
California) and Westwood. My
father would take her skiing, not
on her own skis, but on his
shoulders. I was born in
Westwood and we later moved
back to Reno. I actually learned
to ski when I was attending
By the way, Svenska Pojke
means “Swedish boy.”
t seems that the 2nd grade time
period holds many memories
for me and not many of them
very pleasant.
My sister Anna (she is 6 years
older than me and in the 8th
grade) had taken my best friend
Marilyn and me to the movies on
Sunday after church. We took
the city bus up to the stop
nearest our house which was in
front of the Manzanita dormitory
for women at UNR on Virginia
Street. This dorm was where Jot
Travis Student Union is now
located. We walked up the rise,
passed the old gym (which was
then the new gym!) and the
Agricultural Experiment Station
building. This building was in the
same architectural style as Morrill
Hall, but without the left and right
wings. It, of course, was covered
with the Virginia Creeper vines. It
was October and the leaves
were turning their flaming red
color, which would adorn the
building until the wintry winds
would blow them away leaving
the twisted cords of branches
waiting to once again pop forth
with the green foliage in the
I felt very unenergetic. There
was a chill in the air, but it wasn’t
cold. We arrived home and I
immediately went to the sofa to
lay down. My mother checked
me out and said that I had a
fever and that she would call the
doctor in the morning. In those
days, the doctors made house
My sister went to school the
next day, but I stayed home. The
doctor came and diagnosed that
I had scarlet fever. He also
placed our house under six weeks
quarantine. This meant that
anyone in the household must
remain there during this time
period. When my sister came
home from school, she was
greeted by these huge red signs
and she had to decide what to
do. She came in because, after
all, does an eighth grader really
have a choice? Where would
she go?
My father had been deer
hunting and got the same big red
sign greeting when he arrived
home. It would have been
devastating if my dad wouldn’t
have been able to go to work for
6 weeks. Fortunately, he was
invited to stay with the elderly
couple who lived next door to us.
He would come to say “hi” at my
bedroom window every day, but
it just wasn’t the same as his warm
The things that I remember of
those six weeks are quite vivid. I
guess that being forced into one
environment for a period of time
causes special attention to any
events. Foremost in my mind was
the semi-darkness of my room.
There was a danger that my
eyesight would be affected by
too much bright light. Of course,
my skin had a blotchy rash, which
was a discomfort; but worst of all
were the earaches. The doctor
prescribed the new “wonder
drug” sulphur tablets. Mom
would dissolve these in warm
water and irrigate my ear with a
small syringe. I looked forward to
this because it seemed that this
was the only time that my ear felt
any relief from the pain. When
we had to order medicine the
drug store would deliver it to our
house. In order to pay for the
prescription, my mother had to
put the money in a pan
containing Lysol solution. The
delivery person would retrieve the
money from its germ-killing bath.
The only dollars that existed in
general circulation in Nevada at
his time were the silver dollars.
This helped simplify things since
the payment had to be in coins.
My eyes were not affected, but
at a later date, my eardrum
ruptured and I had to have my
tonsils and adenoids removed.
It was fall and my mom
allowed me to get out of bed
and go to our front room to
watch the Home Coming bonfire.
It was directly across the street
from our house in a big empty lot
of the UNR campus. I wanted to
go out on the porch so that I
could hear the singing and
yelling, but it was too cold outside
for me to do that.
Then it was Nevada Day. Our
family did make the trek to
Carson City for the parade many
times but this year was not one of
them. The same day being
Halloween, my neighborhood
friends came to my window to
show me their costumes. It just
made me sad that I couldn’t be
with them to go “trick or
treating”, but things greatly
improved when my mom
presented me with a small bag of
candy that they had left at the
door for me to share.
Finally the day came when the
big red quarantine sign was
removed from our door. I was still
quite weak and could not gain
any weight. I did, however, return
to school as did my sister. My ear
infection was still a problem and
seemed not to want to clear up.
The doctor insisted that my
mother bring me to his office
once a week until it got better.
He would not be able to remove
my tonsils and adenoids until the
infection was gone.
My mother carefully entered
into her little black book each of
those visits and the amount of
$5.00. I did not see her black
book until many years later and
realized what a sacrifice my
family had made on my behalf to
get me well. In those years, one
could buy more than a weeks
worth of groceries for a family of
four for around $5.00.
I remember vividly two things
on these trips to the doctor’s
office. First, was the fact that he
would weigh me first thing. He
would announce, “Good girl
Ellen, you gained a pound this
week.” Most likely the next week I
would have lost two pounds and
he was disappointed. My mom
tried so hard to get me to gain
some weight. She would make
milk shakes or egg nogs for me
almost every day. She always
had good nutritious food on our
table, but I guess that my
appetite just wasn’t there. I also
remember the small box of small,
round, transparent, brownish pills
that looked like mini puree
marbles. They were cod liver oil
capsules. Yum! One-a-day! The
second thing I recall was the
examining room at the doctor’s
office. This was actually the front
part of his residence. It was a
large room with a leather
examining table in its center. The
doctor was engaged in some
experimental medicine and I
guess I was one of his “guinea
pigs”. I would lay down on this
big, cold table and he would
place a leather strap that was
about 1 inch wide and had little
metal knobs imbedded at certain
intervals around my head at the
forehead. He would then
connect some wires that were
attached to a machine at the
end of the table to the metal
knobs of my headdress. He
would push the “on” button to
start the electrical current. To
me, it was as if the “on” button
was to start the table spinning.
This was my sensation from the
current although the table did, in
fact, remain stable. This
continued for about one or two
minutes and when he turned off
the machine I still felt a bit dizzy. I
hated each and every visit, but at
last this too ended and I was able
to have my surgery.
I also recall that when my
tonsils and adenoids were
removed, I was promised a bowl
of ice cream when I woke up
from the, yes, ether. I awoke and
the nurse delivered my treat as
promised. It was, however, warm
and was more like a thick soup. I
told her that I guess the ice
cream melted because I had
slept too long. She explained
that, “No, really cold things would
be bad for my delicate throat.”
After my surgery I did gradually
begin to feel better and stronger.
My body was still ridding itself of
the infections and poisons that
built up during this period.
Occasionally I would become
aware of this cleansing process in
the form of a skin boil that would
appear. I did get several and the
one I remember most distinctly
was on my knee. These
outbreaks again warranted visits
to the doctor. He would test
them for the appropriate degree
of readiness for lancing. On this
particular trip to his office we
entered the examining room and
in came the doctor. He was in is
usual suit pants, shirt and tie
which was covered by his to-theknee smock coat. I was seated
on the ominous leather table with
my legs dangling over the edge.
He commenced to poke and
probe around this lump of
infected and protruding flesh to
evaluate its current state. A
rather firm push sent a nasty
looking globule of greenish-yellow
material straight to his shirt collar.
I sat expressionless, but inside I
was rejoicing, “Yes! Yes! I finally
got YOU!” At this point in my life I
was not aware of the word
revenge” or the expression
“poetic justice”, but this event
somehow seemed to give me a
feeling of payback to the doctor
for all the trauma that I had been
through that past year as his
guinea pig.
was 7 years old and in the 2nd
grade. My house was on
Virginia Street and the school
that I attended was Orvis Ring
Elementary School on Evans
Avenue. It was located about ½
to ¾ miles from my home. The
best route to reach the school
was to cross Virginia Street and
walk through the University
campus and the two remaining
blocks. It was a pleasant walk
passing the old classic buildings
covered with their Virginia
creeper vines. Fantastic pansy
beds and many varieties of
bushes and trees (including a
huge crabapple tree near the
bridge over the ditch) were
always kept beautiful by the
campus grounds crew. The walk
was always pleasant, especially
when shared with a
neighborhood classmate. We
would frequently walk to and
from school, but our parents
would drive us in inclement
The classes of the school would
get out in fifteen minute intervals.
The first graders were dismissed at
2:00 p.m., the second graders at
2:15 p.m., the third graders at 2:30
p.m. and so on. When we left our
classroom at the end of the
school day and as we passed
through the “cloak room”, we
would have to look the teacher in
the eye and say, “I am going
straight home.” This was a daily
ritual. One day my very best
friend in my class that I usually
walked home with was ill. I said
my words to the teacher and left
the building. I made a decision
to sit on the front steps and wait
for another neighbor who was in
the third grade. A short wait for
her to get out for the day seemed
OK to me. Well, about 5 minutes
before the bell was to ring for
their dismissal, yes, who should
emerge from the building but MY
TEACHER. She didn’t ask me
what I was doing there. She
merely asked me, “What did you
say to me when you left the
classroom?” I repeated this and
she said, ”Come back to the
room with me.”
For not doing what I had said
that I would do, my punishment
was to write, “I will go straight
home” 100 times. Of course, by
the time I finished this task, the 3rd
grade students (including my
friend) were long gone. Believe
me; I went home as fast as my
little legs would carry me. That
night and every night that week, I
had a dream, or perhaps I should
say “nightmare”. After school,
waiting for a friend, caught by
the teacher, same punishment,
but the ending was different!
I finished my punishment task,
went outside (it was dark),
headed for home, saw a large
strange person coming up behind
me, tried to run, but couldn’t. At
this point I woke up in a cold
sweat with my legs churning back
and forth trying to run. After this
experience I, needless to say, did
go straight home, companion or
not. The dream reoccurred a few
more times later that year.
Before this event, the ritual at
the door was a rote statement
with no powerful meaning. After,
believe me, those words had
deep meaning even if I was not
sure why they were so important.
I did find out much later, that in
those days, the teacher was
responsible for each student in
her class until they reached their
home. That clarified it all for me.
Perhaps, if I had had that
knowledge at the time, I could
have bonded with that teacher
instead of harboring a strong
dislike for her.
hen I am thinking about
a story related to dance,
my mind goes wild!
Dance has been a very
memorable part of my life.
Where to go with this? Early
years tap dance lessons, preteen
social dance classes at a dance
academy (not school), school
dances from junior high school
through college, in a class to
teach dance in college, teaching
dance in a college freshman
dance class as part of the
teaching-to-dance class lab,
teaching dance every Friday as
part of my High School student
teaching, dancing at Reno’s
western band night spots, workrelated dinner dances, social
organization dinner dances,
holiday related dinner dances,
dancing on a cruise ship, dancing
in Sweden, dancing in Spain,
dancing at weddings, private
party dances, or just putting on a
few good dance records at
home. For the most part, they
conjure up happy and comical
memories. I might just turn this
dance topic into my own whole
I’ve come to a decision! I will
unfold the saga of the Delta
Delta Delta costume dance
which always had a theme of
“ship wreck”. The costume was
what you might be wearing at
the time you had to abandon a
sinking ship.
The first order of business was to
decide who I was going to invite
to escort me. Of course, to a
Sorority dance the woman did
the asking. I had no steady at this
point, because I had informed
the men that I had dated, “I am
a career woman and don’t want
any serious relationships at this
time.” There was one guy that I
had gone to coffee with after
class and he sort of intrigued me.
So I gave it a go. He accepted
the invitation and I gave him all of
the particulars. (From this point
on I will refer to him as “Bob”- that
would be because that was his
name). I told him where and
what time to pick me up and to
wear a costume. I said that I
would be wearing a navy blue
skirt with a sailor blouse (with the
square collar) and an authentic
sailor cap that I had gotten from
a friend of the family who had
been in the Navy.
The big day arrives. The time is
here. Bob pulls up to my house in
his car. He comes to the door.
He looks great, but he is in “stand
go-to-the-movies clothes”. He
has on nice slacks and a buttondown collar shirt. I say, “That’s
alright with me, as long as you
feel comfortable.”
We are off to a private cocktail
party at a friend’s house. We
arrive, go in, and say, “Hi.” Bob
peruses the other people at the
party and sees: her in tops and he
in bottoms of the same pajama
set; a lady in a merry widow bra
with can-can skirts and he in
boxers and tee shirt; she in a
formal gown and he in a tuxedo;
she in a towel and he in a towel
(with bathing suits underneath, of
course); she and he just in
bathing suits; he and she in sweat
suits, etc., etc., etc. Bob says,
“Wait here; I’ll only be gone a few
minutes.” I say, “OK.”
Meanwhile, my friend’s parents
offer me a drink, which I accept.
This is rather a new experience for
I sip and wait for Bob to return.
I sip and wait for Bob to return. I
sip and wait for Bob to return. At
(2nd drink) last Bob appears in a
rather long flannel night shirt.
Hurrah, he is getting with the spirit
of the occasion! Then it was time
for Bob to have a cocktail or two.
No more for me! Finally we head
out the door to proceed to the
dance location.
He starts walking in one
direction and I say, “That is not
the way to the car.” (I just knew
that he was trying to confuse me
because he thought that I had
too much to drink.) I said, “You
can’t fool me!” He, of course,
brought me back to earth by
muttering, “Maybe the same
place that we parked when we
arrived was not still available
when I got back from my little
side trip.” I agreed!
At this moment he noticed the
fine hedge that was growing
around the property of the
“cocktail party” house. It was
about 3 ½ feet high. I guess that
he wanted to prove that he, too,
possessed all of his faculties after
the drinks and vowed that he
could hurdle said hedge.
He also probably wanted to
exhibit his athletic prowess to me
because he knew that I was a
Physical Education Major. He
took a flying leap across the yard
and landed flat on his “tushie”
(we would have used another
word in the fifties) because the
lead leg, of course, pulled the
back leg up with the stress of the
nightgowns limited opening. Talk
about embarrassed, but
thankfully all that was hurt was his
We did proceed to the dance
and had a wonderful time. We
did the Swing, the Waltz, the
Polka, the Tango, and those
“animal” dances: the Fox Trot,
and the Bunny Hop. The only
frustrating part of the evening
was that Bob had to stop
dancing occasionally to roll up
the pant legs under his flannel
gown when they fell below the
gown’s hemline.
Bob and I did go out again,
but not to a dance!
et me propose the question,
“Is bread an important
element to every meal that
we eat?”
My experience leads me to
believe that this question is
determined by a person’s early
family life and their traditions and
customs of eating as presented
by the culture that they
experienced as they were
growing up. We must also be
aware that there are many
varieties of bread and focus on
the fact that the sort preferred is,
no doubt, a learned behavior.
My parents were immigrants
from Sweden, which, of course,
was the total influence of my
mother’s cooking and
presentation. The bread of
tradition served with our dinner
was called “knackebrod”, which
is a hard, flat, unleavened bread
made of rye flour. It is made in
rounds that are approximately 12
inches in diameter and about ¼
inch thick after being baked. My
mother, however, did not bake
this at home as it was readily
available in the local stores. She
preferred to be creative by
baking butter horns, pastries,
cakes and cookies. Needless to
say her preference suited my
family just fine. Many of her
friends tried to encourage her to
open a bakery, which she did not
do, because she had too many
other interests to be confined to
this one activity. The bread
rounds were broken into 3 inch or
4 inch pieces and placed in the
ever-present basket on our
kitchen table. I liked the taste
and texture of this bread, but
rarely ate any of it with dinner.
For me it was more appealing as
a bedtime snack with a piece of
cheese on it and a cup of hot
chocolate. My basic bread
eating included sliced soft,
toasted bread in the morning or
soft bread used to create a
sandwich for lunch. My Mom
always had a variety of breads at
home that she had baked or
brought from the store that
included pumpernickel, wheat,
white, rye, Swedish rye, or other
favorites. At this point, I must
confess that I have never baked
a loaf of regular bread in my
entire life. Oh! Yes! I have baked
banana, zucchini, pumpkin, corn
and even cranberry bread, and
very much enjoyed doing it.
Before we leave this topic of the
Knackebrod I must interject with a
bold fact. We in the West are so
aware of the cowboys and the
trail drives of not too many years
ago. I would like to point out that
these cowboys had for bread on
the trail what they called
“hardtack”. That and the
Swedish knackebrod were oneand-the-same. It was the obvious
choice for the long periods of
time on the trail. It was a long
lasting, good tasting, substantial
bread to accompany their stews
and beans while driving the
cattle to their destination.
Now, let us look at things
concerning bread through the
eyes of my husband, Jose. He is
from the Basque country of Spain
and came to this country as a
sheepherder contracted by Pete
Cenerosa, the Secretary of State
of the State of Idaho. He grew up
in Spain at the time of the war in
the 1930s. His family was
comfortable as land owners, but
those times were difficult for
everyone. His home was
relatively near to Gernika, and
most of us are aware of its fate.
Believe it or not, one of the
important luxuries of this period
was to be able to feed your
family with white loaves of bread
with meals. The pure white flour
was, of course, the product of
much refining and was therefore
the most expensive kind that
could be bought having gone
through the extensive refining
processes. The less refined, and
by the way, the healthier of the
two, resulted in what was referred
to as “black bread”. Serving that
in your home was a sure sign of
being poor. Jose’s mother always
had the white bread which she
baked once a week at home
and shared with many relatives.
Now let us be seated at the
Spanish Basque dinner table and
observe the importance of the
soft, delicious, white bread. At
each person’s place, a few
pieces of bread are arrayed near
their plate. Many entrée dishes of
the basic meals feature broths
and sauces. Because of this your
bread becomes an intricate
element of your eating utensils.
Your fork and your bread work
together as your bread soaks up
the juices and assists the food
onto your fork. You can, no
doubt, picture the difficulty of this
union of fork and bread using
“hardtack”. It is extremely
difficult for Jose to eat a meal
without bread. Because of my
non-interest of bread with dinner,
early in our marriage, I, at times,
neglected to place that sacred
loaf on the table. The dear man
would somehow make it through
the entire dinner without his
beloved bread, and at the end,
just say that it all would have
been better if he had had a
piece of bread. I would feel very
bad about it, but also resent, just
a little bit, his stubbornness
displayed by not telling me or
getting it himself.
My husband has made many
loaves of bread at home in the
oven and also baked it
underground when we were out
camping. It always seems to turn
out to perfection. He tells me
that the difference between the
sweet and the sourdough bread
is strictly relative to the amount of
salt used in your dough. The
more salt, the more sour it
becomes. Gee, I always thought
that sourdough was made from
some very exotic, secret,
fermented, concoction
developed only during the full
Before I give up on this bread
topic, I must relate a camping
experience when Jose provided
our hungry group with a loaf of
the sheepherder bread made in
the cast iron Dutch oven and
baked under the ground. One
summer my sister, her husband
and five children, Jose, me and
our son went to Eastern Oregon
for a vacation of camping in our
RV trailers. I must interject here
that this had been a very dry
season and the fire danger was
extreme. When we go camping,
my husband just can not contain
himself, and magically becomes
“Jose the shepherd”. He loves to
re-live his first four years in
America as a sheepherder
whenever possible. He delights in
providing the food when we are
in the out-of-doors. Us slaves to
the boundless conveniences of
our home kitchen facilities do not
have a problem with this. He is
always prepared with his white
flour, salt, yeast, large aluminum
basin pan, and, of course, the
Dutch oven. To get the ball
rolling, he begins his preparation
of ingredient mixing and sends
the rest of the group to clear a
ten foot area and gather dry
twigs and sagebrush. By the way,
if you are unfamiliar with this area
of Oregon, it is much akin to parts
of Nevada with its rolling hills, lots
of sagebrush, and few trees. We
comply and amass a huge pile of
dry fuel. After his dough has risen
and been punched down a
number of times the time has
arrived to prepare the cooking
hole. This hole is about 2 to 2 ½
feet in depth and 2 ½ feet in
diameter. The area around it has
at this point been totally cleared
of vegetation and like in Nevada
finding a large clean area is not
very difficult. The dough, being
properly aerated, has been
placed in the big black pot and
covered. A fire is started in the
hole and soon it is blazing away
with all of our great fodder
offerings. The result from this
massive inferno is a wonderful
bed of glowing embers just
Fire hole where the bread was baked.
waiting for the introduction of
that black pot and contents with
its tightly fitting lid. This is skillfully
executed and our pot becomes
one with the bright orange glow
and is covered carefully with dirt.
This accomplished, all we need to
do is “whatever” for the next hour
or better still until it is time to eat.
About 15 minutes after our bread
was “in progress” we noticed a
Forestry Service vehicle
approaching our camping area.
They pulled into a clear spot and
the Rangers descended from
their truck. They had come to tell
us that from a distance away,
they thought that they had seen
an enormous fire burning in or
about our camp ground. They
asked if we knew anything about
this. Our husbands said, “No,”
and said that they might want to
look around to see if they found
any evidence of a fire. They
checked and found nothing.
Then Jose produced his fire
permit, explained the breadmaking process and suggested
Jose and Frank with the finished product.
that they might wish to move their
vehicle as it was parked directly
over our “oven”.
They wanted to stay and
sample the bread, but regretted
not having time to stick around.
y sister and I have a
great many memories to
share. My personal
favorites are the years that we
have spent watching the Reno
Balloon Races together, but
never from the park.
I remember the first time, about
15 years ago, we ventured to 720
Arius Court to see the Dawn
Patrol at 5:30 a.m. It was my
husband’s and my empty lot with
a retaining wall being the site of
our future home. We each arose
at 4:30 from our respective beds
and homes to meet for the event
armed with sweatshirts, blankets,
thermoses of hot chocolate or
coffee, bags of donuts, and lawn
chairs. We had a ball, along with
the rest of the family, but didn’t
linger too long because of the
lack of “facilities”.
A year or two later we saw
some upgrading when we had
the basement wall to sit on and
the “ever-loving” Sani-Hut.
(Building one’s own custom home
can be very time consuming.)
This was certainly a vast
improvement, resulting in a longer
stay on that hill just north-east of
Rancho San Rafael Park, where
the balloons set out on their
journey across Reno. The breeze
was usually just right to send those
beautiful multi-colored, multi-
shaped objects right over our
heads. Often we could also talk
to the pilots and crew as they
Back row:Denise, Dedra, Gail, and
Debbie; front row: Anna and Ellen in
custom made balloon shirts ~ 1997.
floated past. We were often
mystified by what had to be
precise engineering of the many
diverse shapes to get them
airborne and balanced. The
Panda head, Noah’s Ark, the
Korbel champagne bottle, Jesus
on a cloud, the United van, the
birthday cake, the Energizer
bunny, the cow, the pigs, the hot
dog, the ice cream cone, and
the Jack Daniels bottle are some
of the outstanding examples. The
normal balloon shaped ones
were a delight to the eye as they
displayed their beautiful designs
and colors.
In 1994, we were just finishing
the inside of the house, but
hadn’t moved in as yet. It was all
enclosed, had electricity, and the
plumbing was intact, this being a
major concern for our relaxation
and enjoyment for spending any
extended amount of time in the
vicinity. We decided that if we
took an air mattress, blankets, our
jammies, toothbrushes, and a little
extra food, we could sleep there
and not have to get up so early.
If we wanted to, we could also
just stay in our bathrobes.
Therefore, the very first time I slept
in my new house, it was just my
sister and me.
Starting in 1995 (the year Joe,
my husband and I moved in) we
have reserved one of the
bedrooms just for Anna May. She
stays with us from Friday through
Sunday. Although we all live in
Reno, this extended visit time is
very special to all of us. We look
forward to this time of sharing
with her and hope that it
continues for many a year to
I am sure that neither one of
use has the desire to actually
take a ride in one. Watching
from the terra firma is thrill enough
for these two sisters.
The weather
was also
set out on
vacation with
the thought of
seeing new
during our
places, things,
stay. That is
people, and
to say that
there was
lots of
that they never
and very
few of those
Vacation time
allows a person
(the name
to embark on
the people
a brand new
in the
adventure with
country give
anticipation of
to misty-like
discovering all
The Guerricagoitias in Hawaii.
new vistas, and
that seems
to appear
or revisiting those familiar
from nowhere). We, of course,
favorites. The varied climates,
did the really fun touristy things
vegetation, man-made
like luaus, visiting cultural centers,
structures, etc. makes travel here
museums, macadamia nut and
on our earth so very exciting.
candy factories, botanical
My husband, Jose, and I
gardens, monuments,
planned such a trip a few years
government buildings, and we
ago to Hawaii. It was over-all a
even went to a ranch for a
very fulfilling vacation. The
barbeque and hoe–down.
islands, with their waterfalls,
We had an interesting
beaches of white or black sand,
experience in a restaurant as
tropical flowers, bushes, trees,
well. The eating area was on the
and natural canyons were every
third floor which was round in
bit as beautiful as we had
shape and larger than the rest of
the building. It gave the place
the look of a mushroom. We had
made reservations and realized
that this place with its formally
dressed waiters and other staff
and its five star menu, was really
a special place. What we failed
to notice at first was that the
whole floor was actually rotating,
but so slowly that no movement
could be detected. From our
great view table by the huge
windows, I was the first to notice,
as we sipped cocktails, that there
was, at that point, a different
building in our immediate
eyeshot. Joe told me that one
cocktail would be quite enough
for me, until he started paying
attention and agreed that the
restaurant was indeed turning
very, very slowly.
Next, we ordered our dinner
and elected to begin with a
serving of escargot as an
appetizer. Before we had barely
had a change of scenery, one of
our “mini-tux, bow tie wearing”
waiters delivered a small round
loaf of bread to our table. We sat
and looked at it for quite some
time, but continued to wonder
when our escargot would arrive.
Finally, our hunger was getting
the best of us and we decided to
indulge in just a wee bite of
bread. Jose cut into the loaf and
low-and-behold, there encrusted
before us was the familiar six
section porcelain dish containing
YES! our escargot. We have
eaten escargot at many fine
restaurants, but never with such a
surprising and beautiful
presentation. We both felt really
silly, but those well-trained waiters
did not make the slightest
“notice” of our ignorance.
After dinner, which was as you
can guess, absolutely gourmet
number one, we strolled a bit
window shopping and observing
people as the hour was not very
late, and we wanted to digest
our dinner and burn a few
calories before retiring. We heard
music from a distance that
sounded energetic and inviting
(we love to dance) and soon
came upon a disco. It had a
walkway that sort of went
downward, so we followed it and
encountered a couple of macho
men at the entrance. They
smiled and told us that there was
a cover charge, but if we wanted
to go in they would waive the
charge for us. What an
opportunity, WOW! In we went!
The dim-lit cavern of this rocking
place was quite large, extremely
crowded, and resounding with
great music. We pushed our way
around a bit, couldn’t get
anywhere near the bar, danced
a few steps to the furious beat of
the pulsating music, having a
great time. Then Jose sort of
semi-whisper-shouted in my ear,
that perhaps it was time for us to
leave. It seemed that a couple
of the guys had “accidentally”
patted him on the bottom. We
left as quickly as we could muscle
our way through the crowd to the
entrance. The door guys just
grinned as we left and said,
“Have a good evening”, as we
only were in this lively, gay place
for about fifteen minutes. Chalk
up another world adventure for
us. How much entertainment
and excitement can two people
have in one evening?
Then there was the day that
we were just driving around
enjoying the beauty of the
tropical island and happened
upon Charo’s Restaurant. We all,
our course, know her as the
coochie, coochie blond who
married the band leader Xavior
Cougot. It was lunch time so we
decided to check it out. Joe is a
big Charo fan and was hoping
that he might see her there. Yeh!
Right! At any rate it was an
experiment to see what the menu
was like. Were the prices
outrageous? Was the food
good? We were not
disappointed. The food was well
presented and well in line with
“island” lunch prices and actually
very delicious. We didn’t find
Charo, but enjoyed eating in her
restaurant all the same. The main
door led to the huge parking lot
at the front of the restaurant.
There was also a back door that
led to the beach directly behind
the building. It really was not a
beach, but a water front with
rocky crags and pounding waves
that crashed against the rough
rocks creating a wild water show.
It was a beautiful sunny day and
as we exited, I immediately
realized that I had forgotten my
sunglasses on the table inside. I
returned and looked around the
table, but did not find them. Just
then our waitress entered the
front door with glasses in hand,
saw me, and said that she could
not understand how we had
disappeared so fast from the
parking lot. I told her that we had
exited the rear door to enjoy the
scenery. I thanked her for my
glasses and again headed for the
back door. AS I passed a table
where two couples sat, one of
Is this Jose or Anthony Quinn?
the men asked, “Now what is
your husband’s name again?” I
am sure that I didn’t mask the
surprise on my face as I replied,
“Jose.” The man continued
“Well, didn’t he used to perform
on the Lawrence Welk Show?”
I said that either Jose was
keeping secrets from me or he
must have him confused with
someone else. They are now
doing reruns of this show on
Channel 5 and I watch faithfully
when I have a chance to see if I
can figure out who the man may
have been talking about. To
date I haven’t even come close
to a faint recognition. I love the
adventure of interacting with
people you’ve never met before
in places you’ve never been to as
No visit to Hawaii or other
tropical islands could be
complete without doing the
snorkeling experience. I have
always been a swimmer (Junior
Lifesaving), but had never been
in a place to attempt this aquatic
endeavor. I was really quite
excited about swimming with the
beautiful fish and seeing them up
close and personal in all of their
colorful splendor. Our destination
was Hanami Bay on Oahu. It is a
very large lagoon with water that
gradually deepens, has many
beautiful rock and coral
formations and is rimmed on the
edge to the ocean with large
rocks. It is forbidden to swim
passed this outer rock barrier
because the ocean beyond is
extremely dangerous due to
three or four ocean currents
intersecting in that area.
Jose and I parked on the bluff
where the parking lot was
located and descended to the
beach and prepared to give this
snorkeling thing a try. We were
given our gear and basic
instructions and off we paddled.
We both seemed to get the hang
of this snorkeling gear and
breathing technique like a duck
(or maybe a fish) takes to water.
What a wonderful, exhilarating
experience. We surfaced
occasionally to compare notes
on the varieties of fish of every
imaginable hue that we had
observed. Before too very long,
unfortunately, Jose’s knee had a
run-in with a sharp piece of jutting
coral. We got out of the water to
Hanami Bay on Oahu. Don’t
snorkel beyond the rock
inspect the damage. It was bad.
A chunk of Joe’s knee a little less
than dime size and about ¼ inch
deep was missing and bleeding
quite a lot. We found a First Aid
Station and he was “doctored”
and told, “Don’t go near the
water!” His snorkeling adventure
was over for the time being. He
said that he would be content to
get a “tall cool one” to sip and sit
under the palm trees and people
watch for awhile. He did not
want to stop me from getting my
fill of this newly discovered,
pleasurable experience in the
I happily submerged again
and paddled off to continued
ecstasy in that pristine
wonderland. It truly was a
fantastic, clear day and the sun
was illuminating the water down
to the lagoon’s sandy bottom.
This was definitely a perfect day
for this activity. I cruised around,
mesmerized by the different
tropical fish that greet me around
each corner of every rock or
coral formation. A new vision of
color exploded at every turn. I
came to the realization that I had
been under the water for quite
some time and should surface
and check my location; see if I
had developed gills and check
on Jose. I popped up my head
and was immediately smacked in
the face with a huge wave and
actually took in a little water.
Being in vertical position I was
also pushed against a large rock
which contacted my upper thigh
causing a large bruise a bit later.
Another wave smacked against
my face and nearly dislodged my
snorkel gear. I gasped, checked
around and discovered that I had
passed that ridge of rocks and
was now beyond the safety of
the lagoon, and in the forbidden
undertow area. My immediate
thought was that I did not realize
that I was in rough water until I
came to the surface. I knew that
I must use my snorkel gear and
again go under the water. I
quickly checked for the direction
of the beach, put my mouthpiece in place and went under.
Thank goodness, the snorkel tube
did its thing and I did mine. I
carefully made my way around a
number of large craggy rocks
and felt serenely positive that I
would soon be in the still, calm
waters of the lagoon. It turned
out as I had hoped. The next
Ellen on Oahu
time I raised my head above the
water I was very near the
beautiful beach. I congratulated
myself for not becoming panicky,
but thinking rationally when I
realized that I was in very serious
trouble. Maybe it’s just a built-in
instinct that we all possess when it
comes to survival.
I quietly joined Jose under the
palms with “a tall cool one” in
hand, and asked how his knee
was doing? It was still a bit
painful. He asked how my
snorkeling went and I told him
that it had been an extremely
eye-opening adventure and
much more exciting than I had
expected and let it go at that.
We left for Reno the next day,
and I was unable to tell him
about my brush with death,
which it really was, until we had
been safe at home for more than
a week. Jose remembered that
snorkeling day for quite some
time as well. It took a long time
for his knee to heal and there is
still a small scar in evidence. The
bruise on my thigh did not take
long to disappear.
Well, we have taken a glimpse
of our adventures and
misadventure on this Hawaiian
vacation. As always, returning
home is beyond compare. This
time was especially great
because we were again able to
enjoy the pleasure of seeing and
playing with our first grandchild,
Teresa, who was just 3 months old.
We love to travel and get away
when we can, but, when you get
right down to it, home is the most
satisfying place to be for
relaxation and comfort.
Safely home to enjoy my granddaughter
Teresa ( 1988).