Happy Diamond Jubilee
Longtime Washingtonians Clarence and Doris Roedell celebrate their 75th Wedding Anniversary
Dear Readers: Northwest Prime Time does not typically publish articles noting anniversaries and other life events, but we hope you will enjoy the folksy story of the early life and courtship of Clarence and Doris Roedell, the editor’s parents, who celebrate their 75th wedding anniversary this month.
It was the eve of Christmas Eve, 1944, long, dark months before the end of WWII.
A young G.I. and his even younger bride walked the aisle of the chapel at Central Lutheran Church on Seattle’s Capitol Hill. Some believed the impromptu wedding to be a triumph, considering the obstacles along the way.
But first, let’s roll the story back a few years...
“Come on out, it’s the Garden of Eden”
So goes Roedell family lore when Clarence’s great-grandmother implored her Dust Bowl stricken relatives to follow after moving during the Great Depression from Iowa to the Nooksack area, a farming hamlet in the far northern reaches of Washington State.
Follow they did. Three Roedell brothers had married three Parker sisters—uniting two families with 26 siblings between them. Those families proceeded to have a ton of kids of their own, including Clarence. The Parker- Roedells, along with the rest of the Parker clan, loaded up their cars and trucks and caravanned across the country.
The sheer numbers of the Parkers and Roedells made quite an impact on sleepy Nooksack Valley. Clarence’s extended family in the area included dozens of cousins, 17 of which were “double-cousins,” related on both sides since their fathers were Roedells and mothers Parkers, just like Clarence. (Sadly, Clarence’s double-cousins became motherless when two of his Parker aunts died before the epic move to Washington.)
Clarence was 12 when he arrived in Nooksack on the 4th of July 1937. He, along with his parents, two sisters, baby brother and their dog Terry made the trip in a fifty-dollar Essex and $25 in cash. They camped along the way (once experiencing the luxury of a motel while dealing with the broken-down Essex in Wyoming), eventually arriving in the verdant valley they came to call home.
The transition wasn’t easy for any of the Roedells or Parkers, but Clarence’s grandmother, Addie, had come to Nooksack earlier, following her own mother. Her humble home at the edge of town became known among locals as “Ma Parker’s Hotel” (Judge Harden’s old place); Addie’s myriad of relatives had a landing place at “the hotel” when they arrived. Bunks were built into the walls of the dining room to accommodate all those kids.
Like most during the Depression, Clarence’s father struggled to find work, taking odd jobs here and there. Clarence pitched in, arising each morning at 6am in the unfinished attic that was his bedroom to their Swedish landlord, who pounded on the ceiling below with a broomstick, calling: “Yunior, time to get up and milk the cows.” Before they found refuge at that dairy farm, their house had burned to the ground, along with all they owned. The kids were temporarily shipped out to stay with relatives. Luckily, there was no shortage right in the neighborhood.