The Heart, The Soul & The Guts of Victor Bidwell!
I Remember Victor (1911 - 1996) By
I was the youngest of 5 daughters. And the following recollections are made only after the sisters and parents had already firmly established their positions and stances. There is much I was never around to recall. For purposes of objectivity, I am writing in the 3rd person: "Victoria" and "she" and "her."
Victor was raised by a mother whose passion was The Christian Bible and taking care of her family. She was "fanatical" about her faith. His father was alcoholic. One of Victor's brothers hung himself after returning from WW II. One died an alcoholic and indigent death. His sister lived a successful life as a devoted Christian Scientist. Victor had written a poem for publication in his youth about God, with a touching love and respect. But by the time Victoria could remember, Victor had turned against religious ideas with an anger beyond reason. And his anger was expressed with sarcasm and vehement cursing throughout the rest of his life. He and his God-forsaking wife Marie, consequently, raised their 5 daughters in a Godless and troubled home. Only his mother Ida Bidwell, praying endlessly for their souls, stood between the spiritual darkness and struggling members of the dysfunctional family.
Victor's intellect and skills of self-expression made him "an unforgettable character" to everyone he met! Valedictorian of his high school graduation class, he went on to college; but finances did not allow him to continue. Still, ever since I can remember, Victor did not have "the peace of The Lord" in his life. He was frustrated in his vocation as a mechanic. But he made the best of it, deciding that virtually all customers were going to get a history or current events or philosophy lecture before they got to pay their cut-rate bills. Illustration: a few months before Victor took ill, he dropped in to visit Victoria. She let him talk as long as he wanted and never said one word. She only nodded and made noises of agreement. He went on for 3 hours and 20 minutes, nonstop! Then, she uttered one sentence; and he went another hour and 20 minutes! Victor Bidwell had a lot to say and an opinion on everything. And if the subject of conversation was foreign to him, he would start an inquiry so he would be ready next time. Victor's mind was just this sharp and urgent to communicate right up until the last few weeks!
Victor married Marie Frances Hawkins, 7 years his younger and when she was 16. Pictures show (and it is reported) that they were deeply and sweetly in love. Victor settled into auto mechanics, body work, and tow truck operations. Victor was kept out of service in World War II because of his large family. Victor and Marie raised 5 daughters, all honor students, brilliant in school activities. Only Victoria, the youngest, took an interest in Victor's occupation as a mechanic. By the time Victoria could remember, no semblance or demonstration of "sweet love" between Victor and Marie could be seen, felt, or detected. A dark cloud of financial struggle and vicious and physically dangerous sibling rivalry and parental discord hovered over The Bidwell Home. The Bidwell Girls were all noted for their intellectual brilliance. Some were noted for their outspokenness and their eccentricity.
From his youth on, having lived through The Great Depression and seeing the dehumanizing circumstances the poor were forced to endure when relief was not available, Victor developed a social conscience and a heart that bled for the underdog. Victor chose to be politically active in his youth. It is reported that his valedictorian speech was approved by the teachers: then he delivered to his audience a replacement and a highly inflammatory oratory against the uncontrolled greed and selfishness of the rich against the poor. Victor wrote and spoke for the working man and the poor during a time when unions were just being established and no welfare or relief was available to the suffering. He served to organize meetings and lead protest groups. He became suspect by the-powers-that-be. And his typewriter was fingerprinted by the FBI, and he was told to cease and desist or face prosecution and prison time. Consequently, Victor chose to stop with his social reform activities, and he became jaded in his optimism that one could make a difference. He adopted the attitude that no cause is worth fighting for. Victoria remembers Victor preaching to her that she should never dedicate herself to a cause, all the while (and in certain contradiction to this attitude) exhorting Victoria to care about The People. He taught her that every person deserves to be treated with a certain, basic respect simply because he or she is a human being. And that everyone deserves the opportunity to have the basics necessities of life so that they can preserve their sense of self-respect and serve as productive members of society.
Victor was a practicing workaholic. He early realized his failure as a father when he could not make his young daughters stop with their fighting and cruelty. He never took a vacation. He had no outside interests, except his mental and intellectual pursuits and giving history and current event lectures to his customers. In fact, he was a living legend in town "The Philosopher Mechanic with Depression Prices!" Until age 80, he worked from early morning to late, late at night, this way avoiding the girls and their relentless fighting in the home setting over which he had no control. This saddened him to no end.
While the 4 older daughters turned to the girlish pursuits of teenagers, Victoria (4, 5, 6 and 10 years younger than they) was a "tomboy," out riding the Skagit Valley on her horse til dark every night. Only she went into the shop at night to learn how to grind valves and bore out engines, take a car down to the bare metal and do the body work to restore it, and go on wrecker calls with Victor. Only she would seek attention from Victor the only way he could give it with any semblance of love: in a work-related setting. She worked alongside him in the shop. She stayed up with him for long night hours at the kitchen table, listening to his history lessons, his political and social views, his heart that bled for the less fortunate, and his tales of working for social reform in his youth. She went on wrecker calls with him. She ran parts for his business. She kept his books. And she fixed his midnight snacks.
It was obvious. All the girls knew that Victoria was Victor's favorite. And since her infancy, they expressed their jealousy in
"Who Is Victoria BidWell?" 9