Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Ron Magden Interview
Narrator: Ron Magden
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: June 15, 2004
Densho ID: denshovh-mron-01-0002

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TI: So let's talk a little bit about your mom. So her name again was...

RM: Zoe Catherine Magden. Z-O-E. She was born in Coos Bay, Oregon, she was, her father was a tinsmith, and her mother died when she was quite young, and her mother died at thirty. My mother was raised by her grandmother in, in Bend and Coos Bay, Oregon. And then came to Idaho with, to be with her father on a homestead when she was ready to go to high school.

TI: So, so going back to Coos Bay, what kind of a community was that? Was that more like logging at that point?

RM: Oh, yeah. It's a, at that time it was a log port, and tremendous amount of shipping of raw logs, and some finished lumber. She, she was there... she had a, later on she wrote a book called Sand, Sage, and Cement, and it was the three periods of her life. The sand, the years that she spent on the beaches of Oregon, and then the sage, Mountain Home was surrounded by sagebrush, and that era, and then cement for the floors of the restaurant she worked in later life. She worked fifty years as a waitress.

TI: How, when did she write this book?

RM: She wrote the book... actually, she started writing in the Great Depression, probably around 1930, '31, for True Story, and True Confessions, and Love Story, and she, she was getting seventy-five dollars an article, and she was exhilarated by that, that she was a published author, even though it was pulp magazines. And oh, later on, I found out that those were all on microfilm -- this was in the 1980s. And I said, "I'd really love to read those." She said, "Well, I'm never going to tell you my pseudonym. I'm never going to -- you're not ever going to get to read those," so I haven't. But the thought there. So she was writing pretty much all her life, and the capstone was the book Sand, Sage, and Cement, which told her life story. And I thought very well-done, and also told the story of a, her three children. And it received quite a lot of acclaim. She wrote it about 1989, and she would have been in her eighties at the time.

TI: I have to read that. We tried to actually check it out at the library, but we couldn't get our hands on it.

RM: Oh. Well, it's very, she, she's, wrote about particular incidents; pawning her wedding ring when things really got bad in the Depression. Her oldest son -- my brother Roy -- running off and joining the navy, forging my father's signature. My sisters falling in love with Silver Wings, the, he was an aviation cadet, and that kind, that story was quite great. And then coming to, one night in high school, I was working as a turret lathe operator in a machine shop. And it was wartime, and you could work as many hours as you wanted. And I came home from work about two in the morning, and my mother was there, and I had put on the desk merchant marine papers. I was going to enlist in the merchant marine when I finished high school. And she had placed on top of that the application to the University of Idaho.

TI: Right. And this was in her book, in her memoirs.

RM: This is in her book, this is in her memoirs. And I was very determined that I was going to see the world, travel, and get in the merchant marine, and she started to cry about an hour into the, maybe less than that. And I couldn't stand that, so I said, "Well, I'll go up and try the University of Idaho." And in the freshman English class --

TI: Yeah, before we get there, I'm going, I'm gonna pull you back in time to those early years. 'Cause I didn't know this, that your mother was writing back then. I mean, what influence did that have on you? When you saw your mother writing, I mean, what, what were you thinking?

RM: Well, I don't remember when I learned to read, but in our house, we always had lots of books everywhere, in every room, and some magazines, but mostly books. And, and I would read those, and I remember I tackled Gone With the Wind, I think, in the third grade and things like that. It was laying there and so I read it. I can't remember -- and there were some Socialist books like The Jungle, and I remember that one had great influence on me. So books were around the house, and there were conversations, but those were not particularly -- those were influences on me, I know that very much.

TI: And these were conversations with you and your mother, or with your...

RM: Yeah. My father worked twelve hours a day, seven days a week. He couldn't --

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 2004 Densho. All Rights Reserved.