Grant Keltner



My grandfather, given the name of Anthony Joseph Furio, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on March 22, 1904.  His parents migrated over to this country, sailed over from southern Italy around 1898 from what I’ve been told.  They spoke Italian and English; he was raised in Philadelphia, grew up in what is known as the “Little Italy” section of the city, it was a tough neighborhood; kids went without food or clothing, and the streets were jammed with wagons, horses, and people selling their produce.

My great grandparents had a little two-bedroom home back then, a bit worn down, weathered; the roof needed patching; it was cold and drafty; it was located in an older section of the city of “Brotherly Love”; his parents were hard-working folks, rarely rested.  They were Catholic and proud of it; they were cruel at times with their children, always yelling and nagging at my grandfather and his two sisters when he was a small boy, keeping a watchful eye on their children; my grandfather was twelve years old when he ran away from home, running away from the abuse he suffered while he was growing up as a child.

My grandfather was a good-looking boy; he had dark hair, brown eyes, and a larger nose, he looked like Al Pacino in a way.  He was proud in being an Italian, faced prejudice, and was neglected.  He was smaller, wiry, an inquisitive child that wasn’t afraid to work hard peddling fruit or working for his parents doing assorted odd jobs and chores; his  parents made his life a living hell when he was a growing up.

He was beaten as a child, punishment started when he was a small boy, he received terrible beatings; he came from a family that was extremely strict with their kids, and if he did anything wrong in his parent’s eyes they’d bring out the leather belts.  He had photographs of his parents passing through Ellis Island; his folks were so thankful in being capable to come to America, being able to settle in a new country with more opportunities.  The fights with his parents started when he was four or five, if he disobeyed his parents, his father and mother would tie him up and give him his punishment; they tied him up by his wrists’ down in the dark basement of their house; he  screamed, and struggled to escape the abuse.

His parents wore dark clothes, had dark hair, and dark-brown eyes; they spoke to him in Italian, while my grandfather was tied down in the cold cement corners of the wet basement he was given his lashes; they would take his shirt off and whip him on his back, screaming at every beating that he was given, when he disobeyed his parents, they used the leather belts; his back was bruised and cut.  He cried through the beatings, yelped through the pain, often he was left in the lonely basement after receiving his punishment, left in the dark, often going without dinner, he would faint at times.  It was how his parents raised him; the neighbors knew of the abuse; they could hear it late at night; they could hear the yelling and screaming; other children in the neighborhood knew about his problems.

The beatings continued through the years, he had told himself several times that he would run away, that someday he’d flee his parents, he had thought of several ideas in how to get out of his hell, finally after suffering another harsh night with beatings when he was twelve or so, he decided he’d indeed run away from home, he had often thought of how he’d escape from the torture, he wouldn’t come back, wouldn’t even think of coming back, he hated his parents.

One dark snowy winter night, after receiving another famous lashing he noticed in the local papers that the circus was in town, had heard through friends about the big top, he had talked with them about the circus, heard about the excitement, had seen photographs of the clowns and wild tigers and lions.  He sat down that night and decided he would indeed run away and join the circus, in his mind it was the best way for him to escape the cruelty he faced at home, and he’d jump on that train that carried the circus through the countryside, out of Philadelphia, far, far away from his torture.

He had packed a small suit case, brought his rosary beads and a few photographs.  He didn’t tell anybody of his plans, it was a secret.  It was dark outside; the  streets were quiet; it  was cold when he looked out to make sure the coast was clear; it  seemed to get colder as he ran away, while his folks were fast asleep he slipped out the cellar door as quietly as he could, he ran, he  kept running, finally running out into an old alley that was located off the back yard; he  ran across the hard brick covered streets, ran through the old warehouse district of Philadelphia, running through the smoky, gray, murky train yards in trying to catch the rattler taking the circus out of town, he skipped over the tracks of rail; he had read in the paper the circus was packing up, knew he might have a chance in escaping; dogs barked as he fled through the busy train yards.

It was a huge circus, the Barnum and Bailey circus to be exact; they had just finished up the last show in the city that day; they had been traveling up and down the east coast sea board; it was grueling to unpack and set up, tear down and pack up time and again;   Philadelphia was one of the latest stops on the tour before the large show headed back to the company’s headquarters located in Memphis, Tennessee.  Big bulky men loaded up the train with supplies before it went back out on the road for its next scheduled stop.  People screamed and yelled as they packed the tents, animals, and cargo.

The circus had giraffes, tigers, lions, elephants, chimpanzees, horses, mules, dogs, trapeze artists, clowns; it had side shows and food carts.  It was famous as a circus goes, a little boy could easily get lost in the shuffle of the huge act.  He hid behind a wooden crate; he ate some scraps of food that he stuck in his pocket, he had wrapped up small pieces of cheese and an apple up in a napkin that he had snuck out of his parent’s kitchen that night.

He ran over to one of the old worn down warehouses located by one of the circus tents, over to where he could get a better view, close near tracks that led the busy trains and their cargo down south out of town, he ran and jumped on board a box car that belonged to the circus, looking over his shoulder making sure nobody saw him hoping the train, scared, he boarded the box car taking the circus back to Memphis.  He threw his belongings in the box car; hay covered the floor, there were crates and costumes, animals, people yelling and scurrying and hurrying to pack everything up.  He was left homeless.

He watched the big rusty box cars getting loaded up with all the   animals, horses; elephants and camels fought their trainers as they climbed into their cages, my grandfather crept through stacked cargo, hid behind old boxes containing costumes; he hid in a dark corner, deep down in one of the box cars, soon the cargo door was shut on him; he sat in the dark and wound up spending the night traveling west through the Pennsylvania countryside, not knowing where the next stop would be.  He was getting out of Philadelphia that was for sure; away from the cruelty he suffered most of his life.  He hadn’t told anybody that he was running away, didn’t leave a note telling his folks where he went.  He cried that night, not knowing his fate.  The box cars banged and rattled through the night.  He covered himself with his jacket in keeping warm.  The train moved along; it started blowing its whistle as it moved down the cold steel tracks, through huge dusty meadows and bristling streams, taking the well-known circus act out of Philadelphia, out of the hustle and bustle of the large city, pulling its cargo through rivers’ hills and valleys through dense dark forests, the train was heading back to its headquarters, back to its home.  Barnum and Bailey had set up their corporate offices in Tennessee, it’s where they managed their business, it would take a day or so in getting to the famous city, there were at least forty box cars carrying the circus back that night.  My grandfather didn’t know where he was going, didn’t know where he was heading that winter night.  His wounds from his beatings kept throbbing; he was cold and scared, didn’t know what the future held for him.  I don’t think he slept a wink that night.

The next day, early in the morning he woke up with a large man standing over him, towering over him, his shadow covered my grandfather’s face; he had been discovered by the head foremen working for the circus; he had been found while this mountain of a man was helping in unloading the big-box car, my grandfather was found hiding under an old wooden crate; he was afraid; the big man looked down on the small boy, chuckled; my grandfather started to weep, he told the big foreman of his troubles, cried, tired and trembling, pleading with him, he couldn’t go back to his family; he  begged the foreman of the circus to let him stay, pulling on his baggy pants.

“I’ll do anything you ask!” cried my grandfather.

He kept pleading with him, hoping he would help him to escape the hell he was going through; he hoped he would help him escape from the beatings that he was running away from.  The Forman looked down on the small boy; he had seen other boys that had run away through the years; he thought it over and decided that he would keep him; he had a place for him.  The kind man needed someone in helping with the circus chores; he decided my grandfather would help tear down the large tents, make sure the animals were taken care of and help pack and unpack up all the supplies.  My grandfather was given a chance to escape his troubles.  He’d get his meals provided for him, and he would get a place to sleep; his bed was a bed of hay located in one of the box cars.

“Don’t worry son, well watch over you,” the large man looked down over him and smiled.

The train pulled into Memphis late that next day; people unloaded the animals; supplies were ordered; food and tools were loaded on the train, within a few days the train started back out on the road; my grandfather had found a new home.  He didn’t have time to see his new home town; they were back on the road.

Within a week or so he got accustomed to his new surroundings.  There were other kids in the circus, families with children his age; the kids ran around the big top, and caused mischief.  My grandfather was given chores cleaning up after the animal stalls, shown how to feed the animals, he was given orders in how to set up the props, instructed in helping the circus foreman and his hired hands with almost anything they needed, usually loading and unloading the circus.

Soon he was given a cot to sleep on, received some clothes, and traveled around through the country with his new family.  He got to see the landscape by riding on the train, mountains, hillsides; farms and tiny towns rushed buy as the circus made its appointed rounds.  He had no family other than the circus; he hadn’t heard from his parents, hadn’t talked with them for months he figured.  He slept in horse-drawn wagons, or maybe a cot tucked up under a tent or maybe find a makeshift bed in some soft hay in a box car; he didn’t attend school, and he worked and traveled getting accustomed to his new family life, getting to know the clowns, the vendors, and the roadies that helped set up the circus.  He loved his new home and his new family.

He was proud of being Italian, listened to Italian operas on the radio.  He tried to attend mass if he could.  He had a close affiliation with the Catholic Church through most of his life.  He was nearly thirteen, and he was on his own.  He hadn’t heard from his family for almost a year by now.  He watched the performers practice tricks and moves, learned how to do flips and summer saults; he learned how to tumble.  He worked into the early morning at times; he learned how to tie knots, how to work with rope, how to set up the shows, how to set up poles that held up the huge tents; he learned all types of skills in unpacking and tearing things down, how to load supplies, within a year he had become a valued roadie with the circus.

He worked hard, following instructions that were barked his way.  He scrubbed and cleaned; he shined performer’s shoes, washed clothes.  Made sure that people knew when the train was leaving for the next town.  He got to watch the crowds during performances, got to watch the shows; he even got to dress as a clown at times.  He worked hard, made friends with all kinds of folks that worked under the big top.  He explored the new cities that the circus stopped in.  He ran with the toughs that also worked with the circus; he got a chance to see several cities and towns that booked the famous traveling show.

In the circus, there were acts with certain performers who were billed and better known as being what was called in being “Freaks,” they traveled with the circus, and they entertained the crowds.  There was a bearded lady, a two-headed woman, a thin man and a sword swallower.  They were kind to my grandfather, and in many ways were kinder to him than most of the other performers on the show.  Gypsies traveled with the show, helping set up and tear down the circus and their acts.  The gypsies became friends with my grandfather; they taught him how to watch after himself.  They taught him how to throw a knife and how to pick pockets.

He learned to love the circus, the costumes, the animals, the excitement of the crowds, the children screaming, the sound of the orchestra, all the animals amazed him; the high-wire acts and gymnasts fascinated him, the smell of the popcorn and the balloons excited him, the loud voice of the lion tamer roared through the large crowds that gathered; he wouldn’t get beaten by the people that looked after him.  He escaped the abuse in his life; he earned his employers trust.

He had very few things in life back then, didn’t have many clothes, didn’t have more than one pair of shoes; he collected books and magazines and photographs from his travels; he bought a good knife in protecting himself.  He shared with other children who had escaped to the circus as well.  Some had run away from their families; some were from poor families looking for a way to make it through the day.  He fought with other kids at times, maybe fight for a spot to sleep or fight over a small scrap of food.

He learned about makeup in watching the clowns painting their faces, heard the clowns laughing; he watched as seamstresses sewed lavish costumes for the high-wire acts.  He traveled with the circus for a few years, traveling two years or so with the big top, meeting and talking to all walks of life, traveling through Chicago, New Orleans, Milwaukie, and Columbus.  He traveled to the headquarters of the circus located in Baraboo, Wisconsin.

He cried at night, thought of his family; he knew he couldn’t go back, he’d never go back to the cruelty.  He woke up early in the morning to start his day; he ate with the other hired hands.  He rode on the elephants and camels that were included in the circus.  He worked hard and received a small salary, enough money in buying food and maybe some clothes.  The life was hard, the trains carrying the circus from town to town passed along the cities, darting through and passing small towns like Des Moines, Akron, Rockford, and Bloomington; he watched the world while riding the train.  People waved as the locomotive whistled through each town, kids chased the train, dogs barked.  The nights were cold; they plowed through snow, wind, and rain.  He became tough, learning to watch after himself, knowing not to trust certain people, to keep valuables hidden, or they would be gone in a blink of an eye.  He learned how to steal things, how to trade for things.  He watched the fields roll by as the train hauled the circus to the next scheduled event.  People came and went with the circus; some hired hands would jump the train at the following town.  He watched friends, and families move on to other jobs or opportunities in their lives.  He saw workers fight, get drunk, heard them swear and cuss; he saw knife fights, and beatings.

Huge celebrations were performed greeting the circus as it approached a new town.  Bands would gather along the train stations, normally the mayor of each town would greet the performers.  Usually the circus would take a good day or two in setting up the tents, most of the time they’d set up near a local meadow or vacant city park.  Local dignitaries welcomed them.

One of the kids whom my grandfather had befriended had a father who was the head roadie in the circus, he watched over my grandfather, spent time with my grandfather in teaching him how to write and read; the family tried to care for him the best they could, fed him from time to time, made sure he received some love the best way they knew how.

Some of the kids showed my grandfather how to drink and smoke how to gamble.  He learned how to fight and defend himself, and they showed him how to hold his own with other kids.  He saw warehouse workers and steel workers fight, saw some gruesome sights, saw animals get sick and die; it was the life of the circus.  By the time he was fifteen he had learned about life through the circus and the streets with each town he visited, it was the way he got his education, they usually would set up not staying more than a week or so and then off they’d go, into the night heading to the next city.  He lived half his life on the train and the other half camping in the cities they visited.  He saw the harder side of life.  He lifted ladders, made sure stakes and posts were set up and fastened.  Cables were stretched out and tightened.

While in Memphis, Tennessee, while he was working with the circus, after working a hard long day cleaning up after one of the animals, he decided he had enough of the circus life, had seen most of the country by then and figured it was time to move on to something else in his life.  He had talked with friends about a new job opportunity that had come his way; plans were made.  He jumped ship with the circus in Memphis around 1919 or so.  He left the circus slipping out in the night, not telling anybody.  He left as quickly as he came.  For the last two years, he had been with the circus.

A few days later, following the tip with the new job, he was urged to talk to the owners of a famous well-known local cat house located in Memphis, not more than a mile or two from the big top; he had a good friend who had told him that this particular brothel was looking for young hired hands, that he might be able to get a job working at the busy house.  He didn’t have any home in his life back then; he had known about the cathouse; he was around fifteen or so when he walked up the steps to the large old Victorian house in asking the Madame for work.  He explained to the owner of the brothel that he was a good worker, would help her with anything needed in the house.  He told her of his work experience in the circus, how he was a handyman and could do almost any repair that might be needed.  She looked at him and thought it over and finally agreed in letting him live and work in her establishment.

“You look like you can handle most chores, your job will be in making sure the girls are taken care of, you’ll clean and pick up the place, you’ll work hard here, that will be your job Toni,” ordered the Madame.

He grabbed his suitcase and some clothes and a few belongings and within a day or so he started working at the cathouse, worked there for a year or so, he helped serve the working girls, making sure they got a meal, helping them with chores, local politicians in the Memphis area kept the girls’ busy and noted dignitaries visited from time to time, rich college students were entertained by the girls.  My grandfather made sure the ladies were taken care of, protected them, keeping an eye on some of the rougher clients in making sure the girls weren’t beaten up.  Local police kept the business running and from time to time if the ladies needed help my grandfather would contact one of the obliging officers working the night beat.

He lived in a spare bedroom located up on the third floor in that big old weathered Victorian home located in the Southaven section of Memphis.  The girls had loyal clientele; it was a popular house; music was played; he was exposed to the seeder side of life in Memphis; he started to listen to the blues and jazz, traveling through dark alleys with friends who led him to music halls and bars, running through streets exploring what the town had to offer.  He’d stayed out until the early-morning hours, creeping in quietly, snatching something to eat from the kitchen.

He discovered dancing and the big musical dance halls; he watched movies of Valentino at some of the local movie theaters and soon took dancing lessons from the girls when they had time to show him the latest steps, he was taught how to dance the tango, the Argentine tango; my grandfather was soon one of the best dancers in Memphis.  He loved dancing to the music of the roaring twenties.

He learned how to work all hours while in the cathouse, he made sure clients had their glasses full, answered the phones with appointments, answered the door to let valued customers come in, sat them in the parlor, he learned how to keep the books, did washing and ironing, and made beds.  He could hear the girls doing their business through the thin walls of the busy brothel.  The owners of the house tried to teach him how to read and write while he worked in the establishment.  By the time he was sixteen, or so he had a sixth-grade education he figured.  He got to know Memphis, lived in the house for about a year or so.  He cooked for the girls, watched over them.  If a patron got out of hand, he usually would help escort them out the front door.  He learned about woman back then, watched the girls make their appointed rounds during the day and well into the early morning.  Within a year or so he had decided to leave the house, he was urged to join the U.S. Army; he visited his local recruiting office and signed up.

He joined the service when he was sixteen, he enlisted and was shown were too sign up and get to basic training, the First World War had ended, and he was soon sent on a train heading to Charleston, South Carolina.  Out of basic training, he went through a grueling schedule, learned about discipline, taking orders, learned about keeping things clean, learned about respect.  The army made my grandfather march; they marched through basic training and while he was in his platoon, he braced at attention, a matter of fact   he was involved in one of the largest marches recorded in the U.S. Army; it went on for almost 20 miles.  It’s one of the longest marches recorded to this day with marching!  He became a sergeant after a year or so.  The army gave him a salary; he had proper medical care, and he had found a home in the service.

He continued to dance, following all the shows; he liked Charleston, liked the south and its old world charm.  He traveled to the coast, tried to continue to read and teach himself basic things.  He bought books and wrote.  He liked the weather in South Carolina; there was so much history in the area.  He lived there for about a year.  The weather was nice, cool, and sweet.  He visited the sea shore when on leave.

He made it through basic training.  Around 1922 he was transferred and stationed to Vancouver, Washington, up to the great Pacific Northwest; he would serve a hitch at Fort Vancouver; the Grant house was located on the grounds of the fort; there was a port in Vancouver, it had a railroad, shipping and lumber.  It was close to Portland; he played taps, played the bugle, played at night, played during the long summers in Vancouver.  He loved Vancouver; it was a small town, nothing like Memphis or Philadelphia.

During his granted leaves given to him, he traveled through the Columbia River Gorge, went to the coast, down to Long beach or Astoria, traveled to Seattle and San Francisco.  He learned how to fish; he fished out on the Lewis River, out of the Columbia River, and he traveled to Eugene and Salem.  He liked the northwest, liked the weather and the people.  The harvest was bountiful.

He kept dancing, loved Fred Astaire; he danced at some of the best ballrooms located in Portland, Oregon during the 1920’s and 1930’s, during the depression, he danced to win prizes, knew of other dancers that he paired up with.  He danced over at the old Jantzen Beach ballroom.  They had contests in seeing which dancers could dance the longest, sometimes they danced for ten or twelve hours.

He met my grandmother while playing taps one night, she drifted over to the barracks out of Fort Vancouver and listened while he played one summer night, they dated, and soon they married and bought their first home on West Columbia, near Carter’s park, located not more than a few minutes from downtown Vancouver.

He finished his hitch in the service around 1926; he would have been around twenty two or so.  He worked odd jobs for a while, worked in warehouses, and did long shore man work for a year or so.  He got work with the W.P.A. in surveying and laying roads.  He learned how to watch for landslides and floods.  He worked hard hours back then.  He went through small towns; they’d have work camps set up, places to sleep and take a shower.

He camped in the outback while working with crews in the 1920s and early 1930s.  He traveled through Eastern Washington, through Spokane and Walla Walla, went through Boise, Idaho.  He loved the Columbia River Gorge, traveled in and visited friends in Pendleton, Hermiston, The Dallas, Hood River, Camas, and Longview; he helped establish roads and helped bring people closer to the larger towns.  He learned how to hunt and fish back then.  I have photographs of him fishing on the Columbia River.

He married my grandmother and had three daughters, Shirley, Mary, and Toni Jo, raised them with the help of my loving grandmother.  He helped provide for his family, my great grandmother Harris (My grandmother’s grandmother helped my grandfather in lending them money in buying their first home); she was a great woman and helped watch after them through the years, helped my grandmother in raising the kids.  My mother loved her great grandma Harris.

My grandfather started his janitorial business when he was around twenty-eight years old that would have been right around 1932.  He started working out of his home, soon his business grew; he  hired more employees, then got an accountant, took ads out in the Columbian newspaper, acquired more and more business; he bought a few commercial buildings and leased them out to small businesses in the Vancouver area.  He bought five or six commercial buildings in Vancouver by the mid-1930s.  He soon was well-known in   Vancouver.  He bought a small farm up north out of Hazel Dell.  He ate breakfast at the Holland restaurant; most people knew who my grandfather was back then.

By the late 1930’s my grandfather’s business became the largest janitorial service in Vancouver, Washington.  He handled the local P.U.D., various government buildings, received contracts in handling Clark College; he soon was under contract in taking care of the local phone company.  He had three or four panel trucks with “Vancouver Janitorial Service’ painted on each side of the dark-green Ford panel trucks.  He set up an office in his home and garage; his basement was full with supplies; workers would come by and collect checks.  He bought another farm located in Woodland, Washington; he owned two farms by the 1950s.  He became involved in the local rotary and did business in smaller towns outside of Vancouver.  He took out newspaper ads about his business.  He was well known, well-liked and had a reputation as a hard worker and a good provider for his family.  By 1940, he was voted by the Columbian newspapers “Businessman of the Year.”

He had some great workers who stayed loyal with my grandfather through the years; some stayed over forty years with his company.  Leslie was my grandfather’s right-hand man, was hired as his foreman.  I loved Leslie, he and his family lived down of Columbia Boulevard.  He worked late at night, often stopping in the early morning to have a cup of coffee with my grandfather before he started his day.  If my grandfather needed help, he was his go-to guy.  Leslie helped order and buy supplies, loaded up trucks, made sure other hired hands got proper training and knew addresses with work.

My grandfather had his three girls, truly wanted a boy in the family, and never got his wish; it was something that bothered him through the years; he wanted an heir, wanted a boy to pass on his name.  He was strict with his daughters, demanded the best from them, and watched over them; at times, they were denied things.  My grandmother was the house wife, involved with her church, and other social organizations.  The kids grew.

During the war years, my grandfather’s business continued to prosper; he soon was doing business in Portland; he continued to invest in commercial properties, by the mid-1940s he owned eight or nine commercial buildings located in Vancouver.  He worked late at night early into the morning.  He did work with the Port of Vancouver, with banks located in town.

He started to drift from my grandmother back in the 1940s, still dancing at night and entertaining a certain woman back then; my mother knew her as the woman in the black dress.  My grandmother caught wind of what was going on; they talked and tried to forgive and move forward.  I don’t know why my grandfather allowed another woman in his life, most likely he was lonely; maybe he needed affection from somebody else.  My mother knew of his infidelity; my grandmother kept it hidden.  From time to time,   my grandmother and mother spoke about the woman in the black dress.  She continued to stay in my grandfather’s life for the next twenty years or so.  She’d drift in and out of his life, sometimes it would be months before they’d get together.  He’d work late at times, maybe meet with his friend.  My grandmother kept it quiet; she wanted to keep her family together.

In the early 1950’s my grandparents bought a new home located up on1109 West 43rd and Lavina, a nice sized yellow brick ranch on a large lot; it  had a nice back yard, had a great basement.  They packed up and moved up in the heights; it had new appliances and carpeting.  It was located just a few blocks away from Lincoln grade school.  It had a big two-car garage a Japanese maple was planted in the S.W. corner of the lot.  It was a great three-bedroom home.  By the late 1940s, my mother had graduated from high school, and my aunt Mary was on schedule to graduate shortly thereafter.  Mom went to the University of Washington, and Mary went to the University of Portland.

My grandfather started to slap around my mother back when she was small, back when she was eight or so, my mother stood up to him; he  slapped her and took out his anger out on her.  The abuse he had suffered as a kid had gotten the best of him at times; he couldn’t stop the circle of abuse from continuing in his life.  It must have been sad; it happened once in a blue moon; he’d slap her face or maybe slap her arms, she’d cry, run, and hide.  The abuse continued through her teen years.  My grandmother intervened, pleaded with him to take it easy on his oldest daughter.  He slapped her and knocked her around; the abuse continued; it continued up until she graduated from high school and attended college at the University of Washington in the late 1940’s.  She knew about my grandfather’s affair with the woman in the black dress.  I’m sure my mother stood up for her mother.  I figure he took out his frustrations out on herm my mother is a strong willed woman.  I’m sure my mother fought over the way he treated my grandmother back then.

He bought the land that is now known as Day Break Park back in the early 1950s, up north near what is called Dollars Corner just outside of Battleground, Washington.  He traveled through the countryside collecting rent money and visiting the families that leased his property.  He loved the countryside in Southwest Washington.  The farm at Daybreak was big, maybe forty acres or so; followed along the Lewis River, a couple of  years later he sold the farm, sold it to avoid the new assessed taxes upon the property.  The man who bought his farm eventually sold it to the state of Washington; the state turned around and made it a park a few years afterward.  It’s a beautiful piece of land.  I’ve fished its banks in the past, fished for winter steelhead there.

My grandmother raised her kids; they all were involved in school and other activities; they sang in a choir, active in church.  The kids were given nice clothes and toys, got to go to movies and ride bikes; they had friends over and played after school.

My grandfather’s temper was bad at times; he created a lot of his own problems.  His company kept growing; he bought oil wells in Oklahoma traveled to see his wells.  He bought into mineral mines in Idaho.  He traveled to Boise from time to time.  He traveled through the west, buying mementos and bringing them home to his girls.

Back in the mid-1950s he had looked at buying another home east of Vancouver, up along the bluffs looking over the Columbia River.  It was a beautiful home and location, up near the president of the Keizer ship yards home.  He was denied his right to buy the home.  He was denied buying in areas of Portland and Vancouver because of being Italian during the 1940’s and 1950’s, it was called red lining.  There were certain areas that were off the limits to Italians back then.

His business kept growing; my grandmother kept involved with church and social groups.  She was known by all the right families in the area, in 1952.  She was voted “Mother of the Year” for the state of Washington; she won the award one more time in the late 1950s.  She was very proud of her accomplishments.  She helped feed the homeless, lobbied the state capital in helping fund the Washington State hot lunch program.  She had articles written about her in the local papers.

My grandfather loved listening to Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, listened to the “Italian Hour” broadcasted on local radio over in Portland.  He was proud of being an American, hung a flag outside of his home.  He continued to work hard.  He loved his garden.

One day, back in the mid-1950s my grandfather was contacted and asked if he would testify with a federal investigation that was going to take place, he was asked if he had ever seen or been involved with any illegal activities carried out by any Italian families or Italian businesses in the Portland/Vancouver area.

My grandfather was summoned in testifying with the government investigation and organized crime in Portland and Vancouver.  Organized crime was present for years in the Portland/Vancouver area; prominent Italian businessmen were asked to testify during the government probe.  He arrived at the Multnomah County Courthouse; the courthouse was jammed with reporters and camera men; he was sworn in and asked the following question:

“Mr. Furio, have you known of any Italian businessmen or Italian businesses involved in organized crime in the Portland/Vancouver area?”  My grandfather scratched his head, looked perplexed, blinked and answered the question.

“Mr. Investigator, I’m an Italian who has lived in Vancouver for almost forty years, I have a family, work hard long hours; you  are asking me a very foolish question, why would I tell you of any wrong doing, especially with Italians?  I want to do business in Vancouver sir, I want to prosper and not be bothered by anybody.  I know nothing of any wrong doing sir.”

He looked over the court room, watched as people scribbled notes and took photographs.  He was asked to step down.

The next-day roses were delivered to my grandfathers and grandmothers’ home, a grand bouquet consisting of three dozen red roses were delivered to their door step.  A note was attached to the flowers.  My grandmother opened it.

“Mr. and Mrs. Furio I want to thank you in testifying.”

The note was signed by an owner of one of the largest warehouses located in Portland, a fellow Italian, who had testified in the investigation.  He was noted in having connections with the Port of Vancouver.  My grandfather didn’t want trouble; he kept his mouth shut, he had seen things through the years, things that would stay quiet.  The roses were put in the living room.

My grandfather decided to run for mayor of Vancouver back in the mid-1950s.  He ran on his background with doing business in the Vancouver area.  He was popular, had lots and lots of friends.  He donated time and money to local charitable organizations.  He helped the Catholic Church located in down town Vancouver in buying a new roof for their congregation; He helped with other philanthropic organizations.  He made buttons and placed ads in the Columbian newspaper; He had a campaign manager; he lost in a really close election, he lost to a doctor that had been on the Vancouver city council before the election.  He never got too involved with politics after that.

He always bought a new car every other year or so during the 50’s, he loved music and film, he loved to listen to the soundtrack with the movie “Days of Wine and Roses.”  He loved Nat King Cole, Lionel Hampton, and Duke Ellington.  He loved Jackie Gleason.

In 1956, my parents got married; my mother became pregnant with me in 1958.  My grandfather was so excited.  He was going to get a boy!  Plans were made; my father built their home, and they had the reception at Columbia Edgewater Country club.

Around 1958 or so my grandfather started to display his award-winning Christmas light extravaganza.  Through a local competition with the Columbian Newspaper and the Oregonian Newspaper, my grandfather bought over 3,000 midnight blue lights.  With the help of his hired workers, he placed decorations, shadow boxes and the lights over every nook and cranny of his home.  He had lights wrapped around bushes and trees; a big flocked noble was placed in the living room.  He won award after award with his display, people drove for miles in trying to catch a glimpse of this magnificent show.  Police cars helped direct traffic out on Lincoln and West 43rd.  It was an amazing site; he displayed his lights up to 1968 or so.  It was called the “House of blue lights.”

When I was born my grandfather was so thrilled, he had gotten a boy, the boy he never had.  He showered me with gifts when I was a child; I had the best clothes, given toys.  He was so proud of his new grandson.  He showed me off to his friends, co-workers and other prominent people.  He loved my father, got along with him just fine.  He helped them get started in life.

A few years passed; it would have been 1962 or so.  I came down with a terrible blood disease; I contracted a fever; my mother and father argued about what to do.  My temperature hovered at over 105 degrees, when I was five years old, they divorced.  My mother was awarded custody by the courts; I’d visit my father at Christmas and during the summer months.  They were married almost eight years or so.  Dad moved to San Francisco and remarried.  It was hard losing my father; I loved him and couldn’t understand why he had to leave.  I cried.

My grandfather hated to see my parents split; he made sure I was looked after, and given things that other kids got.  He made sure I was in boy scouts and little league, that I attended camps.  He was a great-grandfather and I knew he loved me.

He continued to see his friend, the woman in the black dress.  When I was six or seven, I asked my grandfather why he slept in a separate bedroom, why he didn’t sleep with my grandmother.  He looked at me.

“I work during the night Grant; sometimes I don’t get home until early in the morning, I don’t want to wake grandma or you.”

I only saw my grandfather get mad once in my life, once when my aunt Toni Jo didn’t sign his birthday card correctly, he blew up and threw her birthday cake up against the kitchen cabinet, smashing it to bits.  I was astounded at this act.  It’s something I’ll always remembered.  He never got mad at me.

My grandfather loved sports, loved the Green Bay Packers and the New York Giants, and loved the New York Yankees and all the Italians that played in professional sports back in the early 1960s, loved Rocky Marciano.  He loved going to local high school football games and attended the college football games that use to be played over at the old Civic stadium located in Portland, Oregon.  He loved watching Portland wrestling and actually went to some of the matches.  He took me to my first college football game back in 1966, took me to the Kingston Café located on S.W. Burnside; we  ate breakfast in the dining room; we  watched Oregon State and Stanford play that day, hopped in his dark-green  Ford panel truck and headed back over to Vancouver.  I remember watching wrestling with him in the basement, watching the Packers play with Bart Starr.  I remember him taking me fishing, up to Salmon Creek, down to the reservoir and catching trout and catfish.  Down the cool dark trails that started off the country roads that rambled down the rich Washington countryside.  He’d take me in meeting his renters, would take me visiting the farms he owned.  We followed fences that bordered the fields of his property; he had orchards, walnut, apple, and hazel nuts.  Big meadows whisked by as I watched out the car window.  My grandfather loved the land, kept a statue of St Francis in his back yard.

He helped my mother when she divorced my father, helped put me in the Montessori at Providence Hospital, located on NE 29th, I loved the Montessori.  I attended the Montessori for a couple of years; remember him picking me up after school, taking me to his house for a weekend, giving my mother a break.  He bought me Tonka toys, bought me tools to dig around in his garden.

While I was in the Montessori, one of the most memorable things in my life happened to me while attending the school.  I was in the restroom, washing my hands after eating lunch, suddenly one of the nuns came running in; it was Mrs. Walker; she  was crying and distraught.  All the kids were gathered in and circled in front of the television that was positioned in the middle of the big-play room.  Pictures of President Kennedy went flashing by the screen.  The president had been shot; the nuns wept, bowing in front of the television.  My grandmother and mother picked me up that day, they both cried.  I’ll never forget it.

We ate at the kitchen table at my grandparents’ house, had grand meals; he loved his family; he showered me with love; I was the son he never had.  He had a couple of cats, Herkimer and Ralph.  He had a work bench in the garage and had another one located down in the basement.  He liked to tinker with things, always liked to work with his hands.  He loved his garden, loved flowers, and planted tomatoes every year.  He had a sunflower out in the yard.  He loved Lawrence Welk, loved to watch Ed Sullivan.

At its zenith, my grandfather’s business employed twenty people or so, he now owned the largest janitorial business in S.W. Washington; he was a smart business man, and he usually borrowed from Peter to pay Paul.  I remember him working long hard hours; my grandmother was head of the music department of her church, playing piano at weddings and Sunday service.  She cooked and sewed, was a perfect mother to her children.  She had an organ upstairs in the dining room; she played in her spare time; she had an upright piano down in the basement, and I loved hearing her house full of music; she used to wake me by playing taps on the organ.

My grandmother was a debutant of Vancouver and for that matter,   the state of Washington; she traveled to Europe, went to London and Amsterdam, Vienna and France during the 1960’s.  She had her church groups and organizations that were so important to her; she held the family together, and looking back she was such a strong individual.

My grandfather watched over me, bought me kites and bicycles.  He taught me how to ride my first bicycle, bought me training wheels.  He held on to the bike as I rode along West 43rd.  He was so happy in watching me learning how to ride my bike.

He wore overalls; he wore Osh Gosh Be Gosh overalls, and they had tiny blue stripes.  He loved trains; we use to go down to the Vancouver train yards and look at the locomotives and Pony engines.  He loved “H” scale trains.  He bought seven or eight locomotives one day, bought at least fifty box cars; he bought switches and bought eight or nine buildings that you could lay out with the set.  He bought what seemed at least a mile of track.  He laid out the metal track in the basement; it sprawled out on the basement floor, winding around furniture and tables.  It was great; all the kids in the neighborhood came over to play with the gigantic train set.  The basement was huge, had a fireplace and the train set wound through all kinds of things, and you had to watch where you stepped.

He watched me play in my first little league game, over at Wallace Park.  He watched me score my first run.  He played catch with me; he took me to get ice cream.  He loved to sing, and his car radio was tuned into the local classical station.  He told me to tighten my shoe laces when I played ball.

He continued dancing during the 1960’s.  He danced in local competitions, dating his friend, the woman in the black dress.  My grandmother entertained and belonged to her church groups.  As a young child I enjoyed all of her friends, most of them had gone to high school with my grandmother.  There was Ethel and Margaret, Dorothy and Lu Ida, all friends of my grandmother.  He dressed to the nines, wore fine suits.  He had rings and jewelry that he always wore out at nights.  He was gone during the night at times.  I never knew where he was.  I often thought of my grandmother and how she felt in trying to hold things together.

Around this time, my grandfather bought a new 1967 charcoal gray Oldsmobile, it was a great car, a convertible; my grandfather drove me to his appointed rounds; he would put the top-down and drive out to the country, out to his farm out near Hazel Dell; we traveled to down old gravel roads, muddy country roads; pheasant and deer dotted the landscape.  He had horses and cows on his farm; ducks and geese squawked.  He was well liked; people use to wave as he went through the neighborhood.

He sang in a barber shop quartet; he practiced in the dining room; my   grandmother would pound away on her piano as they sang songs, my cousin Becker, who lived in Los Angeles would stop and visit every year or so, he worked for Columbia records, in their jazz division.  He loved my grandmother and grandfather.  They’d sing through the night into the early morning.  They’d have breakfast and sing more tunes, my poor grandmother.  I’d sit and listen to them until I was too tired, go to bed and listen through the night to the wonderful music.

Around 1966 or so my grandfather was contacted by some of the more well to do businessmen that lived in Vancouver.  They wanted to build a motel down along the Columbia River.  They were going to call it the Red Lion Motel; they discussed financing with it, looked at permits required, did feasibility studies; they talked late in the night; business men in big fancy suits and cars stopped in at all hours of the night.  I could remember him talking with these important people.  My grandparents talked about the financing; they met with banks and looked at helping fund the motel.  They talked about the motel up until 1967; the project was put on hold once my grandfather started to get his famous headaches.

He started to complain of his headaches back around 1967 or so, violent headaches; he was soon diagnosed in having brain cancer.  It shocked everybody; he was sixty-four years old back then.  He went under treatment, went to the doctors; my grandmother watched over him, made sure he was O.K.; he worried about having cancer, met with his bankers and executed a will, making sure my grandmother would be taken care of through the years to follow.  I remember the first operation; they removed the tumor, and it was the size of a small walnut.  In late 1967, he knew he was dying.  I cried at night.

In the next few months, he spent all the time he could with me, spent so much of his time with me in his garden, he told me of things that he did as a child, tried to pass down stories and showed me his books and drove me to meet friends he did business with.  I remember him wearing a small white stocking cap around his head, protecting him after the first operation, the cancer kept growing.  We went down to the High School Pharmacy and got pills to help him with the cancer one night, I’ll never forget it.  We were parked in the parking lot of the pharmacy; my grandmother went in to get and order with his medication.  My grandfather started to cry; he looked at me and hugged me, crying, fighting through his tears.

“Don’t ever smoke Grant, I don’t want you to ever get cancer, please don’t smoke, I love you, I’m dying,” he tried to hold back his tears.  I was scared; I started to cry, I loved my grandfather so much.  He fought the cancer with dignity, asked my grandmother for forgiveness, asked that he be buried out east of Vancouver; he wanted to die a Catholic.  It was sad to see him go that winter.  We celebrated Christmas as a family.

In the early winter of 1968 on February 14, 1968 to be exact, my grandfather died at Emanuel hospital; I saw him the night before, hugged him, and said “Good Bye.”  He wept as I walked away.

The day he died, I was at my grandfather’s house; most of the    relatives were there; we  got the call around 6:00 P.M. or so, I was in the living room; a fire was roaring in the living room fireplace; I  was watching the 1968 Olympics, watching Peggy Fleming skating during one of her famous performances, I’ll never forget it; my aunts had gathered in the kitchen, they were on the phone with my grandmother who was at the hospital; I  could hear them start to weep; it  was eerie in a way; I knew he had died right away; my mother came into the living room and looked at me; she had tears in her eyes; my  grandfather had indeed died. I remember how lonely I felt.  I went and sat in his bedroom, shut the door, and felt so saddened in his passing.

He went quickly; I remember how lost I felt.  I walked through the house and looked at everything he left behind.  I walked through the garage and the basement; so many memories came rushing back my way.  I looked at where he showed me how to fly a kite, where he showed me how to ride my bike, passed by flowers we had planted in his garden.  We had planted rhododendrons, azaleas, miniature maples, tomatoes; a small fountain was placed in the yard, he had his prized roses planted in the side yard, all types of color were displayed with his flowers.  He loved his garden, I think it’s where he found peace of mind.

My grandmother plodded through his estate; she ran his business up to about 1980 or so then sold it.  My grandmother forgave him for his mistakes, forgave him for his infidelity.  She had the power of forgiveness.  Some of the properties were sold; my grandmother sold some of his things or gave them away to Good Will.

I loved my grandfather; he came from a hard background; he  worked for everything he had, was left homeless when he was twelve, worked in a circus, worked in a brothel, joined the Army when he was sixteen and started his own business, became a success in his field, raised three girls.  There was a memorable memorial service, it seemed like the entire city of Vancouver came out to give their respect.

In the years to follow flowers were placed on his grave; my mother always thought that the flowers were placed down by the lady in the black dress.  I miss my grandfather, will always miss him.  He had his issues; he was abused as a boy and abused people he loved.  He died too young, cancer is a terrible thing.  He gave back to the city he loved.  He accomplished so much in his life.  I’ll always miss him.  He couldn’t have treated me any kinder if he tried.

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