BOOK REVIEW: A CHIP OFF THE OLD BLOCK by Ramona Hollenbeck

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Hollenbeck

Ms Hollenbeck centers her story on her father, Raymond Campbell, who spent much of his life in Pinehurst, Idaho, She connects him with a large number of his relatives who came before and after his generation. At various stages of his life, he was a cowboy, miner, farmer, and lumberjack. More importantly, he was a kindly father and husband, with a quirky sense of humor and a respect for God.

As a boy, Raymond and his brother Glen were raised in the dry country of Oklahoma and eastern New Mexico. They were on a camp-out with their Dad one day when a neighbor and two of his cow hands stopped by their campfire to visit. No one turned a neighbor away in that country without inviting them to share what’s on the fire, but water was scarce. Dad told his two boys to come and wash their hands and faces “but don’t get the water too dirty. We got to use it for gravy.” The neighbors suddenly remembered they had cattle to round up, and were on their way.

Raymond and Glen worked as cowboys in New Mexico and Oklahoma. When World War II started, the government needed beef to feed the soldiers, and kept the boys on their civilian jobs. But the work was hot, and Raymond dreamed of moving to Alaska. By the end of the war, he convinced his young wife, Inez, of the advantages of cool weather, and they decided to make the move. They got as far as north Idaho, and changed their minds. The silver mines were producing silver, zinc, and lead and good wages, with good farm land nearby. Raymond and Inez rented a house in Silver King, and he got a job at the zinc refinery, while saving money to buy a small farm. The farm had good timber on the hillsides that provided extra income. Later, Raymond worked underground at the Page Mine.

It would be eighteen years later that the family made a trip to Alaska. Inez wasn’t sure it would be safe; there had just been a 9.2 earthquake with a hundred deaths up there, but her husband pointed out that the damage had already been done, therefore Alaska must now be one of the safest places on earth. Their daughter Ramona (the author) had recently graduated from Kellogg High School, and she and her older brothers all had jobs, but two younger brothers went with their parents on the two thousand mile rough highway to Anchorage.

Ramona meanwhile had been seeing a young man just out of the army, Mel Richardson. A week before her parents returned from Alaska, Mel asked her to marry him, and she said yes.

The night after her parents got back, her dad was just dozing off after dinner when Mel said, “Ramona and I want get married.” That got Dad wide awake and off the couch in a shurry.

“We were married in September of 1964,” she writes, Daddy gave me away after taking his shot gun to the wedding. He’d planned a practical joke, but our minister’s wife shamed him into changing his mind. Thank God I never knew about his plan until after our wedding.”

These were the years when Daddy Raymond’s grandchildren multiplied. The author probably names them all, but with many having variations of the name ‘Ray’ it’s hard to keep track. The reader may want make a map of the family tree.

She and Mel worked at various jobs; He took a three-year Bible school course and became the youth pastor of the Church of Christ in Pinehurst. Granddad Raymond moved to Colorado for a while and he and son Jeff logged off a mountain at Telluride to clear it for the new ski slope. The family spent some time in Scottsdale, Arizona. They experiienced the Sunshine Mine Fire of 1962 in Idaho,where 91 miners died, and the fallout of volcanic ash when Mt. St. Helens blew in 1980.

In Summary the author paints a portrait of a family that grew up in friendship and mutual aid. At one point she quotes “Precepts for a Full Life” from sixty years of counseling by a minister named Bryan Crow of Anaheim, California: “Couples should be positive and supporting in public. They should be kind and respectful when they are alone.” Although he never knew Raymond and Inez Campbell, he describes them well.

About the author: Ramona Hollenbeck lost her first husband to cancer in 1990. She herself has worked chiefly as a baker for school districts and bakeries where she has lived. Her present husband, Gerald Hollenbeck did the art work in the book.

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