As he turns 100 years old this Saturday, Carl Walden strives to maintain as much independence as possible for a centenarian. Although he struggles with degenerating eyesight and feeble legs, Carl lives in his own house, hosts visits from friends, and makes weekly treks to the casino on Wednesdays.
Carl was born in Spokane on April 14, 1912, the son of Olaf Pete Walden and Anna Anderson.
“Dad was a railroad man,” explained Carl. “He worked for the Northern Pacific Railroad, and he helped D.C. Corbin build the Spokane Falls and Northern Railroad. Corbin wanted dad to go help him build another railroad, but dad decided to stay in Spokane.
Around 1900, while he was working on the railroad being built through the Colville Valley by the SF&N, Carl’s dad decided to homestead some land west of Addy.
“When dad got the deed to that property in 1905, it was signed by Teddy Roosevelt,” Carl recalled.
Three years later, Pete married Anna and they began to raise a family in Spokane rather than on the homestead.
“They lived in a house along the river in Peaceful Valley,” said Carl. “The house is still there, underneath the Maple Street Bridge. They had three children, and my mother died giving birth to the youngest, an unnamed girl.
“That left dad, my older brother Harold, and I. Dad continued working for the Spokane Falls and Northern Railroad. He would work one day and then he’d be off one day. He was paid $90.00 a month. During this time, Harold and I were cared for by relatives until dad remarried in 1915. Then, we all moved into another house in Peaceful Valley.
“I never knew my birth mother. She died when I was only two years old. My father then married my second mom, Tillie Linsford, who had come to the United States from Finland. She was the only mom I knew.”
One story about his dad that Carl continues to enjoy telling is about a train wreck near Springdale.
“One time, around 1900, on a run back to Spokane, the bridge at Springdale had collapsed. A freight car full of Canadian whiskey fell into the water. People from miles around came to get the bottles of whiskey that were not broken, and to dip the flavored creek water.”
Although they lived in Spokane, the family spent a lot of time at the homestead.
“I remember when our neighbor, Frank Schmid bought a Model T Ford in 1913,” recalled Carl. He wanted to drive us back to Spokane on the old Cottonwood Road. As it turned out, we had to push the car up every hill. My dad told Frank that he ‘would never want one of those contraptions’.”
Carl began demonstrating his independent spirit when he quit school at the age of 16.
“I wanted a nice car like the rich kids had,” he said, “so I lived on my father’s homestead and ran the barber shop in Addy for a few years. But, I didn’t make any money, because no one wanted to pay for a hair cut during the Depression.”
Carl married Hazel Beatrice Egland in 1933. It was the worst year of the Depression. We nearly starved to death. We came back home from Wenatchee to the homestead that year with a whopping $50.00.”
It was about this time when Carl got a job working for the Northwest Magnesite Company in Chewelah.
“I worked on the winter crew at the Finch Quarry for several years until 1939. I did several jobs there. I drove a dumpster, and then I went to work in the garage.
“In the summers, Hazel and I went to Wenatchee to work in the fruit harvest.”
Carl worked for the Rural Electrification Association from 1939 to 1941.
“They were building electric lines all over the area,” he said. “I worked on the one being built between Addy and Kettle Falls.
“I was working back at the Magnesite plant in 1941 when the war broke out. I was classified 1-A, so I knew I was going to get drafted. I wanted to enlist in the Navy, because my dad had been in the Navy. What I really wanted was to get into the Sea Bees, because I had experience as a mechanic and as a heavy equipment operator.
“I didn’t pass the physical because of high blood pressure. So, instead, I joined the Washington State Guard.”
Carl and Hazel bought the old Pearson place at the corner where Grimm Road runs into the Addy-Gifford Road in 1944. Together, they farmed it for 11 years.
“There was a pond on the farm,” remembered Carl. “One day, while I was at the pond working on a pump, a deer ran into the pond and walked right out to the middle of it. She was done-in tired. I soon realized why, because it was being chased by a coyote. I threw sticks at the coyote and chased it away, but the deer stood out in the pond for a long time before it finally left.
While living on the farm, Carl and Hazel adopted their two children, Karen in 1946, and Carl in 1949.
He quit working for the Northwest Magnesite Company in 1947 and then sold the farm in 1955. A year later, Carl began working for the Washington Water Power Company—now Avista—and the family moved to a new home closer to town on Cozy Nook Road.
While living up Cozy Nook, Carl and Hazel took their family on vacations to the Seattle World’s Fair, California, the Southwest, Montana, and British Columbia.
With their children raised, the Waldens moved to Chewelah in 1972.
“We moved next to an older lady named Lucy Williams,” said Carl. “She had been a friend of ours for many years prior. I told her to ‘just give me a buzz if you need any help’.”
Carl started out with Washington Water Power as a meter reader. Then, he worked for several years with Cal Fletcher.
“Cal climbed the poles, and I was his ground man,” said Carl.
There are many comical and unusual stories Carl could tell about working for the WWP, but he refuses to repeat any of them.
“I’m not going to tell them because I don’t want to embarrass the people I worked with or their families,” he said.
“However, there is one story I’ll tell you. I once drove a 1963 pickup, and a pack rat built its home in a hole right underneath the radiator. It would scare people at the gas station when they checked the oil. It lived there a long time. It was like his own motor home. But, one day when I was working west of Bluecreek, it came down out of its home, and I drove off without him.”
Over the years, Carl has been involved in many community organizations. Among them are the Masonic Lodge, the American Legion, the Shriners, the Addy and Gifford granges, and the Congregational Church.
“I’m still a member of some of those organizations,” said Carl, “but I don’t get to all the meetings anymore.
“I helped build the new United Church of Christ, and I also helped build the Addy New Life Center.”
After 20 years of service, Carl retired from Washington Water Power in 1975.
“Hazel and I decided to go to Europe for three months in 1980 so we could visit relatives in the Scandinavian countries,” he explained. “Hazel’s relatives were from Norway, and mine were from Sweden. We also visited some other countries.
“We took a voyage on the Baltic Sea on a big cruise ship with eight decks. It was supposed to be famous for its dinners. I ordered steak and Hazel ordered trout. Hazel’s fish was cooked perfectly, but the steak came to the table as tough as the sole of my shoe, so I complained to the waiter. He told me that the cooks did not know much about cooking steak.”
After retiring, Carl needed something productive to occupy his spare time, so worked for Habitat for Humanity until he lost his sight.
“I did the wiring in six houses,” he said. “I hooked up one house for overhead wiring, only to find out later that the wiring was going to come in underground.”
Following Hazel’s death in 1993, Carl has lived by himself.
“My wife died in 1993, and I have been lonely ever since,” he lamented. “I have now spent nearly 20 years without her, and I miss her terribly.”
Carl used to be a fanatic reader, but now, because of his diminishing sight, he can no longer read. Instead, he listens to audio books and to the television. He no longer drives and he struggles to walk with a cane.
Still, He enjoys every tidbit of independence that remains in his life, including his two children and his eight grandchildren.
His two children, Karen and Carl, will host a centennial birthday party for their father this Saturday, April 14 at the Civic Center, from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m.
By Geno Ludwig, The Independent Staff