Blanchie Baxter

Blanchie Baxter BORN: APR 8 1918 - Park Rapids, Minn.
DIED: SEP 10 1993 - Clackamas, Ore.
AGE AT DEATH: 75 years, 5 months, 2 days
MARRIED: Henry Phillip Knosalla, NOV 25 1937 - Staples, Minn.
BURIAL: Portland, Ore.

Blanchie's father was full-blooded Scot Irish and her mother Bohemian. One of Blanchie's earliest memories is visiting her father at work on the railroad in Park Rapids, Minn., and riding up and down the tracks on his handcart. She and her family moved to Staples, Minn., when she was four, and she lived there until marrying her husband, Henry Knosalla, at age 19.

Blanchie had three siblings: sister Viola (b. 1919), sister Valerie (b. 1923, died of cancer 1976), and brother Leo (b. 1915, died 1973). The siblings got along okay. She remembers being tied to trees by Leo, who liked leaving her that way, and dressing up with a lot of jewelry to play strip poker, so that they would never get naked. They hunted rabbits with snares, Viola liked fishing (even through the ice), and Blanchie liked dancing, hiking and playing softball (she played on several teams as the pitcher).

Henry and Blanchie Knosalla
Henry Knosalla and Blanchie Baxter, married November 25, 1937
She grew up in an average, middle class family, and doesn't remember much about the Great Depression. She does remember how her Uncle Ernie (mother's youngest brother) stayed with them during the Depression while going to high school and working in her Grandfather Jahoda's theater as a projectionist. He put his earnings into a bank savings account, but could only get ten cents on the dollar when the market crashed. Blanchie liked going to her grandfather's theater in Staples, where movies cost ten cents and her favorite actor was Clare Bole.

During the summer months, at age 13, Blanchie did some house cleaning on a farm for a woman who was having her second child. For $3 a week she was a nanny to the woman's first child. Blanchie liked it so much, that, when the next summer came, she wanted to return. However, the woman really didn't need her help, but let her work half-time for $1.50 per week. Blanchie enjoyed organizing ice cream socials with the neighbors out in the country. The next summer, when Blanchie was 15, the woman gave her a train ticket to travel out to the West Coast to help out her sister, who was also having a baby. Blanchie's mother wouldn't let her go alone, so, with brother Leo and $7, she made the journey. During the trip, Leo's hair oil spilled over in their lunch, and got the eggs all oily. They spent 10 days in Washington, during which time Blanchie visited a sawmill and climbed Mt. Rainer in three-inch spike heels, which she lost while coming down. It was her first trip to the West Coast.

Blanchie was an average student, and left school, Staples' large and well-regarded public high school, halfway through the 10th Grade. At age 16, Blanchie worked briefly in Chicago, and liked riding the bus everywhere and going to dances, in spite of the activities and Elliot Ness and his mob of gangsters.

Blanchie met her husband, Henry, at a barn dance. She was attracted to him because he was calm, quiet, a gentleman and a fair dancer. They were engaged a year or two before breaking up, because she still liked going out on dates with other boys. Staples, in the early 1940s, had three good streets, but was a popular town because of its taverns, restaurants and filling stations. During her courting days, Blanchie loved going out with boys, but didn't consider herself "easy." One boyfriend, a bandleader, tried to get fresh with her, even promising to marry her if she got pregnant, but she didn't believe him and broke it off.

Blanchie wasn't raised Catholic, but went to both Catholic and Protestant churches, and decided at age 18 to become a Catholic, which she remained all her life.

Blanchie left home and began working in St. Paul, Minn., as a nurse's aide in a nursing home. Henry followed her, working briefly in St. Paul, before leaving for Wisconsin as a manager of a magazine sales crew. Henry kept writing to Blanchie, describing how much she would like it where he was. They married a few months later, on Thanksgiving Day, 1937, in Staples, Minn.

Blanchie followed Henry back to Wisconsin, but returned to Staples to have their first child, Elaine Frances, on 3/5/1939, in her parent's home. When Elaine was old enough, about six weeks old, they traveled by train to rejoin Henry. Blanchie carried Elaine in a laundry basket, where she cried the whole trip.

A son, Robert Charles, was born 9/10/1940, and, when Elaine was about a year old, Henry quit the magazine business and opened his first meat market in Staples. It was burned down, and a second one failed, before Blanchie's young family went to stay briefly in Mason City, Ia., where her brother Leo had a music store.

When World War II broke out, Blanchie, Henry and Leo traveled to the West Coast in 1943 to find work (Blanchie left Elaine and Bob with her mother until she and Henry could get established). The trio began the trip by car, but, when they got to Staples, it was repossessed, and they had to finish the trip by train. They arrived in Washington, where Blanchie's sister Viola lived, and Henry and Leo continued on to Portland, Ore. Blanchie stayed behind briefly to work in Ft. Lewis' post exchange, where she enjoyed working with the good-looking soldiers, but, because she had everyone's luggage, she soon left to rejoin Henry and Leo in their apartment in Vanport, Ore. Blanchie's youngest sister Valerie brought the children to Vanport and the family was reunited.

During the war, Blanchie worked check-out in a grocery store. She remembered how the beer joints would be periodically closed down whenever they ran out of beer. Everything was rationed. When the war ended, she remembered the cars driving down Broadway Ave. in Portland, honking their horns and everyone "raising Cain." A neighbor of hers was hanging on to a car when another car came by too close and cut off a foot.

Blanchie had never seen a black person before coming out to the West Coast. There weren't any in Minnesota. When she saw a black woman with red hair, she became "worried because she couldn't figure that one out."

The family began a pattern they were to repeat many times. Henry was constantly trying to find a better home and a better job. During their first 18 years in the Portland area, they moved 12 times. Henry either worked for or operated several meat market operations, often borrowing money to finance his first inventory stock, and Blanchie often worked as his side wrapping meat.

Blanchie was a passionate card player, and was good at several games, including Canasta when it was invented in 1952. She was always involved throughout her life with a card game somewhere.

Henry was also Catholic, and they decided to raise their children Catholic as well. The family went to church every Sunday, and Elaine and Bob went to Catholic schools. Their children were also raised with strict discipline, and had inform their parents of their whereabouts at all times. The family also liked to go camping, and on picnics, and were frequent visitors of the Northwest's numerous state parks. Henry was an accomplished chef, and the family ate mainly meat and potatoes.

During this time, their marriage began having trouble. Blanchie wanted a little more excitement, while Henry was the quiet, responsible, stay at home type. Blanchie's problem with drinking worsened. During the war, she started drinking at social functions, which were numerous because many people were new to the area and wanted to meet others. Blanchie used to take her children to the movies or an ice cream parlor, leave them and go by bus to get a beer. She told them to say nothing about it to Henry. For a short time, Blanchie had her eye on another man, and went to her priest for counseling. He recommended sticking it out for another six months, which she did. She says she never had an affair. Blanchie viewed her drinking as a sickness, and didn't pay attention to her family when they scolded her about it.

Blanchie's drinking problem reached a crisis when she was diagnosed on New Year's Day 1955 with cirrhosis of liver and given 24 hours by her doctor to live. Instead, she went into a coma for 42 days before waking up. She was very grateful to God, went to communion almost every day, and didn't drink for one year afterward. However, late one night Henry and Blanchie were driving home from Longview, Wash., where they were working at another meat market, and Henry had been drinking. Since she had been clean for a year, Blanchie thought she was completely healed and could handle just a little drink. She went on a binge, found she couldn't handle it, and became sick once again. Finally, she became serious about quitting permanently. She didn't like herself, hated drinking, but needed it to feel good. She prepared to commit herself to the state hospital, but an ad from Alcoholics Anonymous caught her eye, and she became involved. She liked the excitement of the social interaction, and the support enabled her to quit drinking permanently. Her drinking sickness had finally run its course after 10 years.

After Henry's death in 1969, Blanchie went a year to college, studying alcoholism, and considered becoming a counselor. She worked as housekeeper and cook for two millionaire families: Harold and Arlene Schnitzer and the Pope lumber family. She took whatever work she could to survive. She managed to keep her neck above water, even managing to save some. When Elaine's family came to live in Milwaukie, Ore., Blanchie stayed with them for nine years. She moved out when she got an opportunity to live with and take care of an elderly man named Floyd Day. She kept house and served as a companion for him, on the understanding that if anything were to happen to him, she could live in his house until her death. She received his house when he died a year later.

During the last 12 years of her life, she also served as companion to other housebound elderly individuals, and built close ties with the Milwaukie Senior Center, where she played cards regularly. Blanchie died of cancer on Sept. 10, 1993 in a foster care home in Clackamas, Ore. She was ill for eight months.


James Henry Baxter ------\
               Charles Emery Baxter -----------------\
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                         |                           |
Elizabeth Jane Huss -----/                           |
                        Charles LeVern Baxter -------------\
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                                                     |     |
                   Susan Taylor ---------------------/     |
                                          Blanchie Helen Baxter
                   Albert V. Jahoda -----------------\     |
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                         Albina Adeline Jahoda ------------/
                   Frances Harnicka -----------------/


  Elaine Frances Knosalla                    Born:   MAR 5 1939
    | Terry John White                       Born:  JUL 28 1957
    | Charles Henry Powers                   Born:  AUG 29 1961
    |   | Benjamin Patrick Powers            Born:  MAR 26 1989
    |   | Suzanne Elaine Powers              Born:   MAY 3 1992
    |   |   | Johnathan Charles Powers       Born:  SEP 21 2010 Clackamas, Ore.
    | Kevin James Powers                     Born:  JAN 20 1963
    |   | Patrick Daniel Powers              Born:  NOV 21 1985
    |   | Jennifer Carmen Powers             Born:   JUN 3 1988
    |   | Melissa Stephanie Powers           Born:  JAN 26 1991
    |   | Natasha Powers                     Born:  SEP 30 1996
    | Dorine Jeanette Powers                 Born:   FEB 8 1965
    |   | Rachael Cherie Powers              Born:  NOV 24 1994
    | Benita Lynn Powers                     Born:  MAR 27 1966
    | Cynthia Rae Powers                     Born:   OCT 6 1968
    | Elena Rose Marie Powers                Born:   SEP 6 1970
    | Paul Benjamin Powers, Jr.              Born:  OCT 17 1972
  Robert Charles Knosalla                    Born:  SEP 10 1940
    | Lawrence Knosalla                      Born:  MAR 22 1967
    |   |   |

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