Growing up in Greybull

by marlys good

Connie Tweddle Collingwood’s roots go back to her maternal grandparents, Will and Delia DeSomber. Her mother, Ruth, was the oldest of the couple’s six children that included Ray, Neva, Dorothy Knittle), Marion (Hankins/Leavitt) and Murrin. The DeSombers lived on Sixth Avenue North in a house that was moved off the lot years ago and currently sits, old and forlorn, just east of Railroad Avenue where it crosses the tracks to the Donald J. Ruhl Memorial Cemetery.

Ruth, a GHS graduate, was working on the Holm Ranch above Cody when she met British-born Jack Tweddle, a dude-wrangler working for Buffalo Bill. Tweddle (his last name is a combination of the River “Tweed,” and a nearby “dale.”) was born and educated in England. After graduating from high school, his parents gave him and his brother a trip to America. The two landed in New York, made their way through Canada, down through Washington state and as far as Cody. They went no further.

Connie was born Sept. 4, 1931, on the ‘91’ Ranch above Meeteetse. When his wife went into labor, Tweddle sent the hired man into Cody to get the doctor. “I guess he got thirsty,” Connie laughed. By the time the hired hand returned with the doctor, her father had served as mid-wife and his infant daughter was three days old. (She has two brothers, Bob a year older, and Bill, three years older.)

The Tweddle family moved to Greybull in the summer of 1937 and give or take the year spent in Powell, and the short time spent “up the creek” on Trapper, Greybull is where Connie remained.

Living on Trapper Creek and riding a horse to school when the school bus couldn’t get up the snow-covered, rutted dirt road; proudly coiling a newly-killed bull snake on the nature shelf in the one-room schoolhouse in Shell, said snake continually slithering off and having to be recoiled by the more than willing young students, then being told at the end of the day by longtime, much-loved teacher Lorna Patterson, that while it was nice of Connie to bring something so unique, “The next time maybe you could bring a bird nest, or a rock, or…” are memories that still bring a smile to Connie’s face.

Connie started school in the little brick school that stood on the lot by the now-demolished Greybull elementary school. Her teacher was Beatta Jacobson, who resigned two years later, through no fault of Connie’s we were assured.

Recesses were spent playing “jacks,” jumping rope or roller skating. “Summers were great when we had the swimming pool,” she recalls. “I think maybe the swimming instructor was Mrs. Hurlbut.”

There were bikes to ride, friends to play with, and often the game of choice was “kick-the-can” which usually lasted until dark, or the 9 o’clock whistle blew, whichever came first.

Connie described it as a “happy, normal childhood.”

Connie’s fifth-grade teacher was “Miss Edith Scott,” who taught Ruth DeSomber, when she was in high school, then Connie in 1941 and “then my daughter Lynn Collingwood Blackburn when she was in fifth grade in 1964.”

You don’t have to be an old-timer to remember “Miss Scott,” who began teaching in 1912 and spent the last 39 years of her storied career teaching fifth grade in Greybull.

The Tweddle children rode bikes to and from school. When Connie broke her leg, one of her brothers had to double-up with “Con,” and the other took the crutches, put them across the handlebars of his bike and led the way. “He could really clear a wide swath for us,” Connie chuckled.

In September, 1944, the family moved to Powell where her carpenter, construction worker, jack-of-all-trades father, had a job with the Carter Oil company.

Those were war years and the Heart Mountain Relocation Camp was booming. Until it began closing down in January of 1945, “Little Tokyo” as it was called, was the third largest town in Wyoming with a population of over 10,000.

Connie recalls seeing the long lines of Japanese children, all dressed identically in dark skirts/trousers, white blouses/shirts, the official uniform at the camp. A long line of youngsters but Connie said as she recalls just two Japanese girls were in her eighth-grade class. “They were a lot of fun.”

The world came tumbling down for the Tweddles in December 1945, when Jack was killed in a tragic accident at work.

Ruth, Bill, Bob and Connie returned to Greybull. When she was 14 Connie went to work as a “‘soda jerk” at Big Horn Drug, owned by pharmacist Carroll Durkee. It was a popular stop for high school students on their way home from school, and a “drop-in” place on Saturdays. You could usually find some of your friends there, drinking cherry-cokes, green rivers, eating tournament queens, or sipping a malt or shake.

When she was 16, she moved just down the street where she went to work as a clerk at J.C. Penney.

It wasn’t all work and no play. She and her friends had a lot of fun in high school.

She talks abut the 1931 Model A Ford owned by Bert Leonard. “He was dating Delores (Stengl, whom he married in 1950) and if we were lucky we got to ride in the rumble seat. It was awful to get into,” she laughed, “and you couldn’t do it if you were wearing a skirt and it was crowded if there were more than a couple of us. But it was fun; we had a lot of laughs.”

She has memories of policemen Ben Birdsell and Harold Blakesley; Dr. Barker, a chiropodist, and her brown and tan Renault (the late Dee Perkins recalled one time he and some buddies picked up the car and set it on the step in front of First National Bank. We guess it was a typical Halloween prank.); the A housing just south of the St. Luke’s Hospital in the south end of town, and classmate Richard Baker and how he lost his arm when he touched a downed electrical wire on the Big Horn River Bridge.

When Connie was 18 (She graduated with the class of ’49) Connie went to work as a bookkeeper at First National Bank. She married Shell Creek native and fellow GHS grad Riley “Bud” Collingwood in 1951, jut before he shipped overseas.)

She recalls there were few houses in the north end of Greybull, but “Dale Foe had some horse corrals where Paul (the late Paul and LaRena Collingwood lived) about a block west of the highway.”

Is it the wide-open spaces? The Big Horn Mountains? Th hunting, fishing? The comfort of living in a small town where everyone knows you and you know everyone?

Whatever it was, growing up in Greybull, graduating from GHS and putting down roots, seems to be the family tradition handed down from Ruth to Connie, to her children, Scott and Rod, and to Scott’s sons, Clay and JT, who are in turn handing it down to a sixth generation.