Traveling, Cooking, Reading, and Trains

Travel Dates: September 28-30, 2018

I love my Uncle Jake. Carla and I love traveling the west but one of the reasons we make semi-regular trips is to see Jacob and his wife Aunt Sally.

Sally and Jake 1986

Sally and Jake 1986

He’s the lone remaining person on my mom’s  side of the family. For health reasons my mom’s family moved from a small farm town in Illinois to Arizona sometime around the Great Depression. Jacob was the youngest of the family and the only one born outside of Illinois. He had four sisters who lived past childhood and three brothers who died in childhood in the early 1920’s. I knew my aunts fairly well. Lucinda was the oldest and was the closest  to my mom – who was the youngest until Jacob was born.

My mom and Lucinda moved from Arizona to Chicago then San Francisco. They remained close throughout their lives. When my dad and Lucinda’s husband died they bought houses next to each other in Sedona. They could walk out their back doors, cross a small open space and be in the other’s kitchen in a jiffy.

Lucinda, Ida May, Lois

Lucinda, Ida May (their aunt), and my mom

June was the next oldest. She was the most feistiest and funniest of the siblings. One summer between fifth and sixth grade my little sister and I spent the summer at her and Uncle Tony’s place next to Oak Creek between Sedona and Cottonwood. I wish I could have known her more when I was an adult – I didn’t get to appreciate her enough.


Barbara was the gentlest of the sisters. I spent part of one summer at her and Uncle Bill’s place in Albuquerque. My kids tease me when I ask if whatever it is we are doing is okay with them: “I hope you enjoying this” – not in a snide way but just hoping no one is disappointed . That is me channeling my Aunt Barbara and  Uncle Jake.

Aunt Barbara

Aunt Barbara

My mom was .. well, my mom; which is to say: awesome. It’s hard to get perspective. Life must have been hard on the  family with my grand parents health problems stacked on top of the depression. June had one child – Rebecca – the other siblings didn’t have kids.  My mom was brave and smart. She joined the Women Marines during World War II. She was the only one of the sisters to obtain a college degree.

Here is a big part of the family at a reunion.

Bill and Lucinda Greiner; Bill Gallamore, Sally and Jake Baker, Ruth Gallamore, Tony and June

Bill and Lucinda Greiner; Bill Gallamore, Sally and Jake Baker, Ruth Gallamore, Tony and June

But I digress; this post is about my Uncle Jake. He stayed in Winslow near my grand parents and was a big help to them. He was my hero. When we would visit – driving Route 66 – in the summers he would take me down to the drug store after he got off work to get a soda. This was the real deal: the little metal frame with a small conical paper cup – like you see for snow cones today – hand mixed Coca Cola syrup and soda water. One summer I was lusting for a toy rifle and was doing what I could to earn a little bit of money here and there. One evening he just went and bought it and gave it to me. I was over the moon.

Jacob was a school teacher in Winslow and then became principal of the school he taught in. He said it was a bit awkward at times as he was supervising some of the same teachers who taught him when he was a child. Years later he got a job of assistant superintendent in the Cottonwood and Sedona area.

He has always been a singer – in Winslow he sang in a number of groups. Here he’s singing Amazing Grace at an event.

Uncle Jake singing Amazing Grace

Uncle Jake singing Amazing Grace

There weren’t as many opportunities when he and my Aunt moved up to the Verde Valley. In true Baker fashion, he decided to organize a singing group – The Verde Valley Voices. It has been active for many  years and grew in size up to 120 people. It’s a rare treat when our visits coincide with one of his singing engagements. We got lucky on this trip as part of the VVV were singing in the town festival: Verde Valley Day. Jacob is getting up there in years but he still gets around.

I drove us all over to the festival grounds as close as I could get to the stage where he would sing. He got in place and enjoyed the moment.

Uncle Jake ready to join the Verde Valley Day concert

Uncle Jake ready to join the Verde Valley Day concert

He doesn’t stand to sing anymore but you can still hear his voice from his seat.

Verde Valley Voices singing at Verde Valley Day

Verde Valley Voices singing at Verde Valley Day

Well that got away from me. I thought I was only going to write a paragraph about that and then move on to our trip.

We spent two nights in Cottonwood so we could get in a good visit with Jake and Sally. I was delighted to have Linda with us so she could meet my lovely Uncle and Aunt. Sally is a fabulous story teller; Carla and I kept giving her lead-ins to tell Linda another of our favorite stories about Jacob and his family. If we ever meet in person be sure to ask me how my Grandpa played cupid for Aunt June and her husband Tony.

Cottonwood was the southern-most point of our trip and eventually we had to tear ourselves away and start the long trip home.



3 thoughts on “Western U.S. Loop: Uncle Jake and Aunt Sally

  1. Just a delightful narrative of your recent journey to Cottonwood Arizona. I know that your Uncle Jake and AUnt Sally must be thrilled when you show up. The Verde Valley is a great place to live or visit. Thank you. All my best.

    1. Thank you! I’m sorry it took me so long to approve your comment.

      1. Reading your piece was a pleasure.

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