Dorothea Nordstrand Remembers Daddy's Way With Words

  • By Dorothea Nordstrand
  • Posted 6/06/2001
  • Essay 3338
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Part 1 of this reminiscence was originally published in North Seattle Press. In it Greenlake resident Dorothea Nordstrand (1916-2011) recalls the exciting occasion when her father first took her salmon fishing in the Puget Sound waters off Ballard in 1930. Part 2 of "Daddy's Way with Words" concerns the childhood diseases of dolls and others. Nordstrand's "kind, affectionate, and funny" father was Joseph A. Pfister (1883-1947). In 2009 Dorothea Nordstrand was awarded AKCHO's (Association of King County Historical Organizations) Willard Jue Memorial Award for a Volunteer, for contributing these vivid reminiscences to various venues in our community, including's People's History library.

Daddy's Way with Words, Part 1

In the early 1930s, the waters off Ballard Beach teemed with salmon and Dad fished there as often as he could. I begged to go with him, but he put me off, saying I should be older before he took me out onto the deep waters of the Sound. One wonderful Friday, when I was 13, he decided the time had come.

He had made himself a brand-new, bamboo salmon pole and gave me his old reliable. I watched as he pounded out some new "spoons" from shiny metal, forming the material into shallow "S" shapes against a hand-carved wooden block. Each end was pierced; one for the triple hooks, the other to thread the spoon onto the leader. Towed along behind the boat, the odd shape caused the spoon to twist and flash, tricking the hungry salmon into believing it was a small fish. When the salmon struck, there were those triple hooks to catch him fast. This was called "trolling."

Four a.m. came early, but we were ready. I wore woolen pants and Dad's woolly shirt over my own warm sweater, heavy socks inside my galoshes, woolen gloves without fingers (like the ones Dad always wore fishing), and a red stocking-cap pulled over my ears. Dad carried the precious poles, large reels of cuddyhunk line, a few yards of leader, and the rest of the tackle. I was entrusted with the lunch and the gunnysack in which to carry home our catch. My heart almost burst with pride. We were going FISHING AT BALLARD!

From the end of the Ballard streetcar line, we walked along a rickety, wooden trestle and climbed down a steep wooden stairway to beach level. Half-a-dollar rented a small rowboat and oars from a boathouse near the old ferry dock, where Ray's Boathouse Restaurant stands today (2001). I rowed to begin with, while Dad assembled the poles and fitted the reels and tackle. My rowing was uneven, to say the least. Dad wryly commented on the "snake trail" I was leaving for a wake. When the poles were ready, I was glad to relinquish the oars.

Strong, experienced arms sent the boat boiling along, straight as an arrow, until we were out into "the Channel," far from shore. We cast our lines and watched as they slid away behind us, seeing that the spoons did resemble fish in their action. We began to get nibbles, each tug putting my heart right into my throat. I took the oars again so Dad could change the action of my spoon, leaving his pole stuck into a bracket on the back end of the boat. Suddenly, it dipped dramatically and line streamed out through the guides so fast it fairly sang! He dropped my tackle and grabbed his pole, lifting its tip to slow the line. A hundred yards away, the water was split by the leap of a gleaming, silver fish as it tried to shake off the hook.

"Fifty pounds, if it's an ounce!" Dad breathed in awe, bracing himself for a monumental tussle. Leaping and diving, the salmon fought to get away, while Dad alternately released and reeled in line.

Now, I KNEW better, but in my excitement I stood up and clung to Daddy's heaving shoulder. Poor Dad! There he was with many pounds of fighting salmon at the end of his line and 100 pounds of mesmerized girl glued to his shoulder! Careful not to let the tip of his pole down, he turned his head and glared at me, gritting through his teeth, "YOU! GET OFF MY SHOULDER or GET OUT OF THE BOAT!"

I sat. Daddy had a way with words.

P.S. It weighed out at 51 pounds.

Daddy's Way with Words, Part 2

I think I was 4  or 5 years old when I first heard the phrase "bogus diagnosis."  I was playing with my doll near Daddy's rocking chair and I decided she was sick and needed nursing.  I carried her over to Dad and asked what he thought was wrong with her.  In his kind, affectionate, and funny way he said, " Looks to me as though she has malpeus  of  the pooey-wooey."

I remember hearing Mom say,"Joe?," in the tone that said his humor was getting awfully close to the line.

Dad replied, with a slightly guilty grin, " Don't worry, Marion, it doesn't mean anything.  I made it up."

Mom still thought it sounded awful  and said so.

Of course, in the way of children, the phrase stuck in my mind, and I crooned it to my "babies" whenever I made believe they were ill.  Mom would give Dad "that look,"   although accompanied by a tolerant smile and a "what can you do?" shake of her head.  Dad would shrug, grin that half-guilty grin, and reaffirm, "Honestly, Marion, it doesn't mean anything. I  made it up."

When I was a teen, I thought it sounded vaguely naughty, and would snicker when I said it ... although it was still my favorite way of saying I didn't feel well.  Then, for many years,  during which time I married and, in due course, nursed our four children through bouts of flu, chicken pox, mumps, measles, and uncountable common colds,  I learned the real names for illnesses as they came to us and forgot about Daddy's bogus phrase.

Now, in my 90s, I have many mornings in which I feel less than perfect. I have taken to saying, "Oh, it's just  malpeus  of  the  pooey-wooey -- and I made it up" --  seeing Daddy's half-guilty grin, as I do.  I smile at the remembrance, and almost always feel better.


Dorothea Nordstrand, "Daddy's Way with Words" was first published in North Seattle Press, January 1992.

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