Growing Up Wishing I Was A Girl
I was born at Sacred Heart Hospital in Spokane, Washington. I had a childhood filled with ups and downs, and sometimes I feel like it was a childhood filled with disappointments, and at times with happiness. That sounds like I am talking out of both sides of my mouth, as I am sometimes accused of doing. It really did take me most of my life to figure that out, and I sometimes feel it took a near death motorcycle accident to understand the dynamics and my place in my family, even though I was the oldest, and finally admitting to myself I was a transgender woman.
I really don’t know that much about my parents prior to them getting married. My father, Murray Board Jr, was born in Billings, Montana to Mary and Murray Board Sr. He grew up in Newport, Washington, and did not graduate from high school. As I said, I know very little about him or his childhood except that my grandmother divorced Murray Sr and later remarried the only grandfather I ever knew, Floyd Willson. Grandma and Grandpa had two more kids together, Donna and Boy(I never knew Uncle boy’s real name. I just knew him as Uncle Boy), but my dad was quite a bit older than them. I never met my biological grandfather or even saw a photo of him until I was an adult. The only photo my father had, and that I ever saw, was his booking photo into prison. According to my father he was one of the best safe crackers on the west coast. Even though my father had no relationship with his biological father he did cause issues that my father always had to explain. It almost cost him a job with the Auburn Police Department. His background check was just a bit more scrutinizing than it might otherwise have been. Dad joined the army and served in the Korean War, and, as with most combat veterans, he never spoke about that time in his life. Other than that, I don’t know much more about my father even though he and my mother remained married until he passed away in 2020 at the age of 88. My mother, Claudia, was born in Spokane, Washington to Stanley and Laura Bratton, and grew up in Spokane. At the age of six her mother, Laura, died of pneumonia. Several years later my grandfather remarried Ida Green. They never had any children of their own, which I truly think took a lot of courage on my grandmother’s part. By that I mean I sometimes think it was hard for her to never have children of her own, and then raise three kids as her own. Mom had two older brothers, Wade and Wally. The three of them were active in music, tumbling and dancing. My mother was the tumbler/dancer, and she would perform her acrobatic dancing routines at different places in, and around, Spokane. She graduated from North Central High School in 1953, but after that I don’t really know what she did. Mom and dad’s parents were acquaintances, and my parents met through them. They were married March 20, 1954, and I was born a year later in June. Mom was a telephone operator, and quite honestly, I did not know what my father did at the time of my birth. I can remember him saying he worked in a flour mill and for Kaiser Aluminum in Spokane. I am not sure which place he work at the time of my birth, or if he worked someplace else in Spokane. I have a sister, Sally, who is a year and a half younger than me, and a brother, Keith, who is seven years younger. I don’t really remember much of the first three or four years of my life and my parents never really talked about those years. They took home movies of me and in later years we would occasionally watch them. I would see the typical scenes parents would take of their children. They often showed me being held by my mom or dad, crawling, or learning to walk, or sitting in the laps of my grandparents. Other times I was filmed playing in the front yard of our home either naked or only wearing a diaper playing with a hose and filling a small inflatable swimming pool.
In 1958 my dad had accepted a job as a bus driver for what was then known as Seattle Transit. The first real memory I have, and it is just a very vague memory, is of me near a U-Haul moving truck about the time we were moving from Spokane to Seattle. At the time it was just my parents, my sister and me. We were dirt poor and moved into a low-income housing project called Holley Park in the Rainier Valley area of Seattle. Today it is not a good place to live with a high crime rate. I have now idea what it was like in those days. I don’t know how long we lived at Holley Park, but I remember playing outside our little fourplex and riding my tricycle. One thing I do remember was a large, grassy hill behind our small fourplex. In my mind’s eye it was a high, steep hill, but in actuality it was probably a low hill with a gentle slope. One cold, winter day I remember playing all day in a cardboard box. Someone had cut the bottom open and I could lay the box on its side, and I could get into it on my hands and knees. I played in that box all day sliding down that hill, and eventually rolling that box up and down that hill while crawling on my hands and knees inside. My dad worked swing shift driving bus and sometimes my mom would take Sally and me to ride the bus while my dad drove. There use to be a photo of me hanging from one of the grab bars attached to the roof of the bus for standing passengers to hold. I remember it used to be fun riding the bus while my dad drove. My mom worked at a local local florist as a floral arranger by day, and a bar in the Rainer Valley called Cane’s on Friday and Saturday night’s. The flower shop was owned by the father of one of their friends. I believe the bar was owned by a friend or acquaintance of my parents. I am not sure what she did at the bar, but I know she was not a waitress or bartender. I am not even sure if she was even a bouncer, but she carried a small badge of some sort. She was probably security of some sort.
I don’t remember much more about that time in my life, nor do I remember just long we lived in Holley Park. It’s funny how I can remember playing in a cardboard box but not much more. From Holley Park we moved to a two-story house on Boyer in Seattle. I have no idea what part of Seattle it was in, but I do remember a little more as I was getting a little older. I can remember we had an old coal fired furnace in our basement. To a 5-year-old it was huge and was a monster to me. I never liked going into the basement unless my dad was going down to shovel coal into it. I also remember watching when the coal delivery man came and poured coal down into the shoot into our basement. My sister Sally and I slept in a big room upstairs of the house which was also our playroom. I got a horseshoe set for my birthday and it had rubber horseshoes and wooden stakes. One night for some reason Sally and I took the wooden stakes and began punching them through the sheetrock walls. Don’t ask me why we started doing that, but it was a lot of fun, until my mother caught us. We must have punched twenty to thirty holes in the wall next to my bed. Boy oh boy, did we ever get our fannies tanned. We never did that again, and my dad spent one of his day’s off fixing the wall, then repainting it. There was a big field across the street from where we lived, and I used to go over there with my friends where dig holes we could jump into and play in. Only by the grace of God am I still here. It one of those holes would have caved in on me, I would not have survived. I did many dumb things growing up and this was just one of them I started Kindergarten while we live on Boyer at a school called Montlake Terrace. I was so excited to start school, but as soon as my mother left on my first day I cried. It really was the first time I remember not being with my parents. I eventually settled down and found Kindergarten to be a great experience. In those days there were no school busses to take us to school, so we walked to school. I remember sometimes walking to school with a girl who lived next door to us who I used to play with. She was older than me so was spending the entire school day at school where I was only spending half the day. Many times, I remember walking to and from school by myself. Can you imagine doing that now? My teacher was Mrs Easterwood, and her name always made me think of the Easter Bunny and Easter Baskets full of Candy, I don’t really remember a whole lot about her other than she was old.. I remember there were toys and play cupboards in a corner of her classroom and I always seemed to gravitate toward the cupboards and playhouse with the girls. I’d play with the boys too, and boy’s toys, but I liked playing house with the girls too. I remember we all had to bring one of our mother or father’s old shirts that we could wear as an apron when we were doing painting. I got one of my dad’s old bus driver shirts. I remember one time we were supposed to be doing a painting project. I don’t remember what I was supposed to be painting, but instead of painting on paper, one of the boys in my class and I decided to paint each other instead. Don’t ask what made us paint each other, and I don’t remember if we painted anything else. Mrs Easterwood made us take the other’s shirt/apron home so our mothers could wash them. My mother never let me forget that.
In those days we did not have 911. One of the ways to summon the fire department were red fireboxes mounted on telephone poles. They were kind of like call boxes the police used prior to two way radios. They were not locked because they were for people to report fires in the area. All you had to do was open the door and pull a lever to activate the alarm. The lever was also covered with ink so when the fire department arrived, they could find the person responsible for pulling the alarm if it was a false alarm. I was fixated on the firebox on the telephone pole a couple houses down the street from our house. I can remember riding up to the telephone pole and climbing up on my tricycle seat where I could reach the firebox and open it. I was fascinated by it, even though I really did not know what it was for. One time I was looking in the firebox at the lever. I didn’t know it had ink on it. I always wanted to pull the lever to see what it did, so this time I decided to do so. I reached up and gave it a yank and it began to let out this earsplitting alarm into the neighborhood. It scared the heck out of me, and I could not climb down off my trike fast enough and pedal my little but home. The next thing I knew there were fire trucks driving into my neighborhood with their lights and sirens blaring looking for the fire. Of course, they never found a fire and began to drive and walk up and down the street looking for the desperado responsible for pulling the alarm. Someone must have saw me around the firebox around the time the alarm sounded and a couple of firemen in full bunker gear walked up to our porch where my mom and I were watching all the excitement. The firemen told my mom what had happened and asked to look at my hands, which I would not let them do. By this time, I had saw the ink on my hands. Mom grabbed my hands and pulled them out for the firemen to look at. Well, they found their girl….I mean boy…. and gave me the lecture of my life. I remember I was scared and crying hard thinking I was going to jail. Mom later told me she did not lecture me because she felt I got a good one from the firemen and being as scared as I was was enough of a lesson. I never went anywhere near that fire alarm box again.
After school let out for the summer my dad went to work for Boeing. I am not sue why we had to move, but we moved into a small single-story house with a basement on South Ferdinand Street out in the Rainer Valley of Seattle. It was a cute little green house with a big willow tree in the front yard I used to climb. It was owned by the nicest old man by the name of Mr Hartstad. God only knows why I remember his name. Maybe it was because he was such a sweet man. There were lots of kids in the neighborhood to play with, and we played and rode our bikes all over. My favorite place to ride my bike was the dirt roads across Ferdinand. It was full of potholes like dirt roads are famous for and crossed Ferdinand and continued down a long hill. We could see Lake Washington from our house although it was quite a distance. It seemed like the road went all the way to the lake. The road only leveled off when it crossed an intersection at about every block. I rarely rode my bike down the hill, and if I ever did so, it was only to the first intersection. The dirt road across the street was level, so we would ride our bikes there. It was fun try to spin our tires and then see how fast we could go, then slam on our coaster brakes and come to a skidding stop kicking up dirt, dust, and of course, ROCKS. I remember one time we were riding our bikes on the dirt road when one of my friends came to a sliding stop. For some reason he fell and ended up breaking his leg. He was always faking some kind of injury so of course I started to laugh at him, until I realized he really was hurt. I ran to get my mom who helped him get to our house. When I later learned he had broken his leg I felt bad. I learned at a young age not to laugh or make fun of someone who gets hurt, and I still don’t to this day Both his mom and my mom really gave him a good lecture about faking injuries after that. I don’t think he ever did after that again.
There were blackberry bushes everywhere around our house which we referred to as the sticker bushes or just stickers. In the summertime we would carefully crawl into them and make little clearings we could sit in, calling them our forts. We would crawl into our “forts” and eat enough blackberries to choke a horse. We would crawl out after eating our fill with our faces around our mouths and our fingers purple from the blackberry juice. There was a big field across the dirt road from us that we used to play in. One time we found an old tire in the field that we started to play with rolling it around. Somehow, we lost control of it on the gravel hill, picking up speed. We were unable to catch it and the last time I saw it; it was airborne as it crossed the intersection at the next block. To this day I don’t know where it ended up or if it hit anything. I can only tell you that we ran like heck in case it did hit something, or worse, a person, and someone saw us.
I was a big J.P Patches fan growing up. I still am a Patches Pal. J.P was a clown who came on TV every morning and afternoon and showed cartoons before and after school. He and his side kick Gertrude lived in the city dump, where J.P was the mayor and Gertrude was Miss City Dump every year. I remember one afternoon a couple of friends and I decided to go look for the runaway tire we lost and to visit J.P and Gurtrude. We thought the old tire might be in the city dump that was located at the bottom of the hill. We also thought J.P would be home, so we hiked down the hill where we ended up at the Seattle City Dump. We didn’t find the tire, and J.P. wasn’t home.
In those days there were little stores on street corners in neighborhoods. Over time they began to disappear, but they were everywhere in those days, and our neighborhood was no different. Our little store was about a block from our house and I used to walk up there with some of my friends.
They had boxes of penny candy. Things like jawbreakers, bubble gum, licorice sticks and other yummy goodies. They also had nickle and dime candy bars and ice cream bars and popcicles too, as well as other food items. I wasn’t able to buy things very often because I didn’t have any money so would watch as my friends picked out pieces of candy and eat it. Once in a while my mom would give me a few penny’s, or we would cash in pop bottles for the few cents in deposit money, so I could buy something. Before plastic pop bottles everything came in glass bottles and jars. Each time a person would purchase a bottle of pop they had to pay a deposit; 3 cents for a small bottle and 6 cents for a large bottle. We could take the bottles to a store and get the deposit back which we could use to purchase penny candy, unless you had the big bottle and you could buy a 5 cent chocolate bar. We thought we were rich if we had a bottle worth 6 cents. We didn’t get to drink a lot of pop so didn’t have bottles, especially the big bottles, very often. We used to look for bottles outside and sometimes we would find one and turn it in. Anyway, like I said, I didn’t get to have much money growing up, but would walk up to the store with my friends. One time I walked up to the store and while my friends were looking for penny treats I was just looking around. There was a small freezer with ice cream bars and popsicle’s in it. I am not sure what possessed me to do so, but I took out a popsicle and pulled the wrapper off. They weren’t sealed like they are now, so it wasn’t a big deal to do so, and took a bite out of the popsicle, put the wrapper back on and put it back into the freezer. Afterward, the owner told me he saw me and that I had to pay for the popsicle. I told him I did not have any money, but he insisted I needed to pay for the popsicle. I was so scared not to mention embarrassed in front of my friends, who left the store with me standing there alone. The owner let me go home to get a dime and come back and pay for the popsicle. I went home and asked my mom for a dime. As was usually the case, she refused to give me a dime. I kept asking, so of course my mom asked me what I needed a dime for. I did not want to tell her why just saying I wanted to go to the store and buy something. She knew something was up and kept asking me and refusing to let me have a dime. I was so scared I was going to go to jail for taking a bite out of the popsicle, so I finally had to tell her why I needed it. She was so mad and kept telling me I’d be lucky if the store owner didn’t call the police to take me to jail for stealing. I was only about six at the time so there was no way I was going to jail, but I didn’t know that. I sure thought that was where I was heading if I didn’t get to the store to pay for the popsicle. I had a small piggy bank with a few cents in it. Most of the money in my piggy bank had come from my Grandmother Willson, who always gave Sally and me a little money everytime we saw her. We were not allowed to take money from the piggy bank, but on this occasion I was told to take a dime from my piggy bank to pay for the popsicle. Mom also made me sit in my bedroom for a while as my punishment, but the longer I sat there and did not go to the store to pay for the popsicle, the more I worried I was going to jail. Mom finally marched me up to the store yelling at me the entire way. When we got to the store, I saw the store owner on the phone and I was sure he was on the phone to the police. In fact, mom even mentioned I had better hope he was not calling the police. I was so scared. Mom made me tell the store owner what I had done. He did not have much to say except he saw me take the bite of the popsicle and put it back. He accepted my dime, but never said he would not call the police on me, then let me remove the popsicle from the freezer and keep it. Mom would not let me have it, and made me throw it away.
Of course, this chapter would not be complete without the “Look out Don, it’s going to blow” story. When we moved from Boyer St to Ferdinand, we graduated from coal heat to oil heat. The oil man would come every so often and fill our oil tank so we would have heat. The fill pipe was located in our front yard next to our dirt driveway, and it stuck up out of the ground four or five inches about twenty feet from the house. Why it was so far away from the house is beyond me. One afternoon my sister, Sally, and I were playing in our front yard. I was always curious about stuff like this (Remember the fire alarm box) and this was no different. I spied the pipe sticking up out of the ground and went and removed the cap off the pipe, which only screwed on and off. This was not the first time I monkeyed around with an oil pipe. When I was about 4 years old, I decided to open the pipe at my Grandpa Bratton’s house in Spokane. This one was located on the front side of his brick house. I decided to throw a bunch of rocks into the pipe and listen to the funny sound it made when it hit the bottom of the tank. Even though there was oil in the tank the rocks did make a sound when they hit the bottom of the tank. I remember my grandfather was pretty mad when he came outside and caught me dropping rocks into the oil tank. Unless that tank has been removed, those rocks are still there. Anyway, back to my story. I unscrewed the cap and peered down the pipe. I don’t know what I thought I would see because it was pitch black after about three inches below the top, but I figured it needed to be filled. So grabbed our garden hose and shoved it into the opening and turned on the water. Sally and I watched the pipe and the hose for the rest of the afternoon waiting for the tank to fill. Finally, water did begin to gurgle out the top of the pipe and we shut off the water. Oil is much lighter than water and I have no idea why oil did not come out, but it didn’t, at least I don’t remember any oil coming from the fill nozzel. It was about this time I started to get a little scared because I had no idea what would happen now that the tank was full of water. I also wondered what my mother might have to say about the tank now being full of water. I wondered if she would say anything, just give me a good spanking, or both. I really thought the tank, furnace or both would blow up, and both Sally and I were keeping our distance, leaving my mother inside the house. About this time a friend of my mom and dad’s, Don Karns, drove up to our house to visit. As Don was getting out of his car in our driveway next to the oil pipe, Sally and I went running by him. As we ran past Don we were yelling, “Run Don, she’s gonna blow!” We ran to the sidewalk in front of our house, with Don following us at a slow walk. He was pretty curious as to what we were up to and being the curious adult that he was, he asked us what we were doing and what was “gonna blow”. We told him what we had done, and he just stood there with an incredible, dumbfounded, look on his face. When the shock of what we had done sunk in, he went into the house. The next thing Sally and I knew our VERY angry mother was on the porch yelling for us to get into the house. She told me later in life that she could not spank us because she was so mad she was afraid to do so. The next day a man in a big tank truck arrived to pump out the tank.
I remember at this time in my life, I was scared to death of ghosts and monsters. I couldn’t watch any kind of scary movies or TV shows like the Outer Limits or The Twilight Zone. If I even tried to watch The Creature From The Black Lagoon, I couldn’t sleep for several nights and hid under my covers. I remember an old movie called The Attack of The Giant Crab Monsters. It was about a group of scientists who had gone to a small island somewhere hoping to find another group missing scientist. Well, long story short, the scientist began to come up missing one by one. Before they disappeared though the “victim” would start hearing a voice telling them to go somewhere on the island, where they would be attacked by a giant crab who would use one of their claws to sever their head. I was at a neighbor kids house one afternoon when that movie was on TV. It was like driving past an accident and you can’t look away. I was unable to look away or leave. The more I watched the more scared I became. I was not able to sleep for many nights fearing one of the crab monsters was going to come get me.
Every night I had a system when I went to bed that lasted into my teens. There was no way I would allow my bedroom door to be fully closed. My mom would not let the door to be fully opened and would close it, but not latch it, so I would get up and open it about halfway. If mom came past the door, she would close it again, but if I was still awake I would just get up and open it back up. As long as there was a bit of light coming in from the living room, I was okay. After mom and dad went to bed and all the lights were off was when I really got scared. After we moved to Auburn my mom finally put a nightlight in the hall leading to our bedrooms, and it helped a bit, but not a lot because I could not hear the TV or other signs of life in the house. I believed that would keep ghosts and monsters away. I also slept under my covers every night. I figured if I was under my covers hiding, ghosts and monsters could not see or find me. My bed had to be tight against the wall so nothing could come up between the bed and the wall. I would prop my pillow against the wall then form an opening between the pillow, wall, and blanket so I could breathe. My dad used to tell me I would suffocate if I didn’t keep my head out from under the covers, but there was no way I was going to be in the dark with my head out from under the covers. I did not want to suffocate, so I made sure I had plenty of space so I could get a good breath of air. It also helped keep me cool. There were times I would wake up in the middle of the night and see things in my bedroom that were nothing more than things of mine, but in the dark, my imagination ran wild. I would be so scared I would start screaming. My dad would come running from their bedroom, but when he realized what was the matter, he would just give me a disgusted look and tell me to go back to sleep. I always felt embarrassed. I was in high school before I was able to start watching scary movies.
It was about this time I began to feel I was different than other boys. I would get into mischief, but I was not very rough and tough. I remember all the boys I knew wanted to play sports and were rough and tumble. They would chase each other, push each other down, wrestle with one another….all the things boys would do growing up. I was never that interested in sports or playing sports. I had no desire to play rough, in fact, I avoided it. I am not saying I wanted to play with dolls and stuff, I just didn’t want to play rough. This was noticed by the boys in the neighborhood and sometimes I was teased, but I was accepted. I knew I was different, but I really didn’t know why. I remember wishing I was a girl and there were nights I would go to bed and pray I would wake up the next morning a girl. Every morning I remember waking up and being very disappointed, and the cycle would start all over again. It was about this time when my mother gave my sister a couple of her old skirts and old shoes. Sally recently told me she does not remember that, but I sure do. I don’t remember her wearing them but I did, and I loved them. They were more mine than they were her’s. I am not really sure what my dad thought, but he never said anything to me. I have no idea if he said anything to my mother, but if he did, my mother never said anything to me about it it either. I also remember watching my mother get ready to go places. She would paint her nails with nail polish and put on makeup. I can remember watching and asking if she would put nail polish on my nails and lipstick on my lips, which she did. I liked wearing the lipstick and nail polish, and she would put it on me when ever I asked. I am really not sure why it stopped. Maybe my dad asked her to stop putting it on me.
I always wanted to do things with my dad, but he never seemed like he wanted to. I would ask him to play catch with me, but he rarely did. I would see the other boys in the neighbor hood outside doing things with their dad’s and I would wonder why my dad did not seem interested. Maybe he too sensed there was something different about me and just didn’t want to admit maybe I was different.
In 1963 my dad was hired by the Auburn Police Department, and we moved from Seattle to Auburn.
Up Next, The Auburn Years