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Gwen and Joanne

(pronounced Gwennnjwan)

by Jwan

When we were young, Gwen and I were the best of friends---and the best of enemies. We were both born in Salem, Oregon. Gwen wasn't all that happy when I arrived since she was only 14 months old and should have had many more carefree days being the baby of the family. I, on the other hand, was delighted to have a playmate right from the start.

Our early years were spent in India learning how to manipulate Old Fat Ayama and to make delicious dirt balls from mixing spit with the dust on the car's tires. David and Paul Wiebe taught us to be scared to death of the well in the garden---where the Boogie Man lived.

When the war came and we moved to Reedley, we continued our light-hearted childhood (except when we had to watch our pesky little sister, Margy!), sneaking out the window to hide in the grapevines when dishes were to be done and playing out in the neat buildings in back of our house. Paul set up "running water" using a big barrel with a faucet at the bottom. Betty helped "can" overripe vegetables from the garden. Phyl and Grace tried to help raise us properly---and did an extraordinary job of it, considering how well we've turned out. (I remember Phyl braiding my hair to a chair once when I'd given her more grief than she was willing to put up with.)

Going to Windsor School provided us with a multicultural education. Some of our schoolmates were Japanese-American kids who had to live in quonset huts within an internment camp surrounded by a barbed-wire fence; they were the smartest kids in school. We also had the Okie kids who had come to California with other Grapes of Wrath folks. I remember thinking it was so strange that their moms called their dads "the Old Man." And then there were all these Mennonite kids--who thought they were better than any one else. Gwen spent quite a deal of her time trying to prove that she wasn't one of THEM.

Those early days in India and Reedley were great. Mom thought we were poor, but there are only two things I think we could have added to an otherwise complete life: another bicycle and a second bathroom. It was a great way for Gwen and me to start our lives---right, Gwen?