Talking to My Grandmother
Muriel Jean Goucher McLauchlan -- my grandmother -- was born on March 10, 1935 in Bremerton, Washington to parents Muriel and Bill Goucher. She prefers to be called by her middle name, Jean. Jean is a woman of extraordinary fortitude, which she doubtless first gained from being raised with an older brother and three younger: Vyron, Arthur, Robert and Clyde, respectively.
Her childhood sounds appropriately idyllic for the time period, although she couldn't tell me much about it.
"It was just a normal childhood, you know with my brothers, and stuff so, that's about all I can tell you on that, dear. We had paper routes and we did stuff that kids did back then.
All of us kids learned to swim in the salt water. We swam in the bay at Traycton. When we were older we went out to the lakes but when we were young we walked down to the bay and went swimming out there. "
When asked if she got in trouble, or pulled any pranks, she laughed and said she must have, but couldn't recall.
Her early life was nearly completely spent in Tracyton, Washington where she attended grade school. Her Junior High and Highschool years were spent at Silverton, Washington where she graduated from in 1953. That year was also marked by her marriage to Ronnie Evans Stevens on February 2, 1953, and the birth of her first child on August 30, 1953. The baby was a stillborn boy.
"I'm not sure what we were going to name him, but I think we were going to name him Mike; Michael Stevens."
Six weeks after Michael's birth, she and Ronnie moved to Monterey, California. Daughter Terrie Ann Stevens was born in '54, shortly after Ronnie joined the Navy, and they moved to the Naval Base in Oakland, California.
In 1955, the little family moved to San Diego, California, where they lived until Ronnie had a motorcycle accident in a residential area in 1957 and died. She lived there for a few more years until 1960 when she moved to North Dakota and married Richard (Dickie) Hale Anderson. She had two sons with him; Michael Richard Anderson was born in 1961, and Timothy Brad Anderson was born in 1964.
In 1965, the family moved back to Bremerton, Washington. Dickie and Jean separated and remained thus until Dickie had an industrial accident and died in the early 1970's.
She raised the kids mostly by herself until her marriage on October 15, 1978 to to Robert (Bob) Allan McLauchlan.
Jean was always a stay at home mom while the kids were little, but once they were all in school she started working part time as a waitress. Later she was a bartender, and a cocktail waitress.
They lived all around Western Washington for the next couple of decades, but mostly in and around Port Orchard, Washington. Once Bob retired, they spent a great deal of time travelling. Arizona every winter, metal detecting, following the old wagon train routes and 'stuff like that.'
Her hobbies are simple ones:
"Birdwatching, I love my birds, my garden, my flowers, my vegetable garden. I love to read, I do a little embroidery. Bob and I both used to metal detect, I loved that."
She is also a very down to earth, no nonsense kind of person. Blue-collar, middle class, backbone of America style of life. Her beliefs are simple, and her preferred candidates Republican. "My politics is, I'm a Republican." she told me. "I was raised in the Methodist church. All the time I was growing up we went to the Methodist church."
Her opinons don't stop there, either.
Things are getting worse in the world "...boy, are they. I definitely think they are. It has become a much more vulgar type place. When Bob and I were hosting the campgrounds down in Oregon, young women had the filthiest mouth I ever heard. They were worse than the guys. They talked terrible. When I was young they never did that. Your mom would have washed your mouth out with soap so fast it'd make your head swim.
And people aren't as honest. We never locked doors when we went anywhere. Now you don't dare not lock them."
In late 1995, life had a huge surprise in store for Jean. A professional detective called her up out of the blue and told her that the son she had adopted out at birth wanted to contact her.
"When she first called me, the adoption gal first called me, first thing I got mad.
What a dirty trick to pull on somebody. My first baby died and now someone comes along and tries to make me think he's alive. I got mad. I went into absolute shock. It was just something I didn't expect, not after forty years. I was so shook up over all that, I even went up to the courthouse and got laughed right out of the courthouse. I went up there and said I wanted to look at the adoption papers. They said "you can't do that." So we went to the Bremerton records office and went through all the adoption and death papers for babies born six months before and six months after."
It was not until she noticed that there was no record of her son having died that she finally started to believe it. Bob told her she should call the detective back, so she finally did. Jean still isn't quite sure how it happened, or why for sure. She blames her deceased mother-in-law, Iris. She never disbelieved anyone when told her son was stillborn. Her labor took hours
"I was given a medicine to relax me that made every muscle in my body contract instead, so they gave me another medicine, next thing I remember they were telling me he was stillborn. The cord had been wrapped around his neck, but he didn't die like they said. They kept me so knocked out for so long that there is a lot I don't remember."
It never occured to her to question anything, after being doped up nearly constantly for a week after the birth. Ironically, her son was named Lawrence - Larry - which was the name two of her best friends picked for their own sons who were born the same year as her 'stillborn' son.
Her son Larry and his wife, Jean Ann, had six children: Joel, Elizabeth, Sarah, Hannah, Joshua and Jonathan. She never got to know her son very much, because in 2006 he died suddenly after a series of unexpected heart attacks. She says she doesn't know "which was a bigger shock. Hearing he was alive, or hearing that he was dead."
Jean doesn't hold any grudges against the people who took her son away from her; in her eyes, it was so long ago, and most of the people involved are dead, so there is no point in letting it ruin her life with anger and regret. She truly gives the best life advice. "Be true to yourself. Always. Don't try to please everyone else. Be true to yourself and how you feel."
References: Muriel Jean McLauchlan. Personal Interview
This is an interview I did for my college english class of my paternal grandmother. Lawrence (Larry) is my late father.