Madge Cook Wylie

My cousin, Corinne, was a big kid reading books all the time, when I first remembered her. I was a little grade school kid. Her brother, Manny, and I were nearer the same age. Her folks, my Aunt Olea and Uncle Melvin, had moved their family from Filer to Boise when we first hung out with them. Her mother and my dad were sister and brother among seven siblings.

They would come to Melba in their old Willis with the built-in tool box on the back end. My uncle fished in the Snake River and then at four o’clock they would load up and go home so he could go to a union meeting. He was a typesetter on the Idaho Daily Statesman and was a faithful union member.

When we went to their place in Boise, we would likewise have to go home at four o’clock, but we had to milk cows.

When Corinne graduated from high school, her dad promptly signed her up for classes at a Boise business school. The next day after graduation she promptly went out and rode her bike around town and her dad had to remind her he had signed her up for more schooling. That wasn’t lost on her.

She completed a course in shorthand and typing. When she was about 20 she went to Washington D.C. and became a “G-Girl,” or Government Girl. That was at the height of WWII and every girl in the country who could type went to Washington D.C. to work.

When I graduated from high school, I promptly went to Boise and got a job working at Gowen Field. I lived with my Aunt Olea most of the time. Corinne had worked at several places and by then she had a job at Mountain Home Air Force Base.

She and I had finally caught up with each other in the age-wise status. We would go to dances at the Mirimar one night a week and on Saturday nights we went to the Riverside Ballroom downtown Boise. On occasion we rode a bus to Mountain Home Air Force Base to dance and then we would have to ride the bus back home, which in those days took a couple of hours.

Our love lives were pretty much at a stand still, so we embarked on the first of one of our jaunts we made together. We got on a Greyhound Bus and headed for California.

She had extreme talent in the office work business, so she would get a job anywhere because there was always a need for office workers. I would apply at a five-and dime store because they, likewise, were always looking for helpers. I made Easter baskets at a store on one occasion. We would stay long enough to get paid once or twice and then get on a bus and go on down the road. We stopped in Phoenix for a while, then headed for Idaho stopping in Salt Lake City.

We thought it was a hoot because we couldn’t find a room in Salt Lake, so we went to the jail to see if they had any empty rooms. It was a Saturday night and they were loaded with “floozy” looking girls who were mostly teenagers. They put us into a cell with two cots and a thin cotton blanket on each one. We nearly froze to death.

From that time on we did things together. She was extremely talented in painting pictures but her real expertise came out when she decided to do a book on all the schools in Canyon County. We were actually doing it together. All I could do was research. We were going to borrow pictures or photograph them ourselves. It turned out that some would be in the wintertime with bare trees and some would be in the summertime, covered with leaves. So, it struck Corinne that to make them uniform she would take it onto herself to draw them in a basic format. So, with that, we produced the book called, ”Old Country Schools of Canyon County” in which she drew about 80 school houses. When the time came to produce the book I declared that I didn’t think I could pay my half, so I said, “Take my name off.” So, being the Scotch McClure that she was, she did.

We continued to work together. We took a slideshow of the school houses and showed the program to the Canyon County Historical Society and other groups. I showed that slideshow to the Melba fourth graders each year when it was Idaho History Month in the schools for about 15 years. That book could very well be considered a reference book, because Corinne was a tireless researcher with a penchant for accuracy.

We were both charter members of the Canyon County Historical Society for which we were proud. On Arts In The Park days in August each year, we often rented a booth. She sold her paintings and drawings of all the buildings in Nampa and I offered books I had written, such as “Melba, Our Home Town” and “The Melba Community Auction, 50 Years of Caring and Sharing.”

There were a few years when we would eat together once a month, she and I and Manny. We would take turns choosing a place to meet and eat. When Manny was forgetting his way, we went to Caldwell to meet him one day. She drove him home and that was the end of that. We would then visit him each month and then go do our thing.

Although she was five-and-a-half years older than I, her head was screwed on much better than mine. In her last five years she wrote little stories for Idaho Senior News Paper on occasion for which she got paid a pittance.

Her phone calling to me in later days was involved in her starting out with a question about something in history that posed a problem. We could trace our ancestry to the Revolutionary War for which she was very proud and joined one of their organizations. Then she would take an active part, such as being a secretary or at least taking notes.

I continued to write stuff which she kept track of and the week before she passed in December she called and asked if I had written anything about our travels together. I said, “No, but I will.”

We’ll see. But I won’t have her to check with. I’ll really miss her input and support.

Alx George is the reporter for Kuna Melba News. Contact her at 208-922-3008 or editor@kunamelba.com.

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