When my Uncle Paul came out of the army in 1948, he was disappointed to learn that the money he had been sending home to his mother to keep for him and been given to his sister by this mother so she and her husband could buy a house. So, in anger, he packed up his things (including some pots and pans from his mother) and headed out west.
My Uncle Paul was one of seven kids that was part of the Freed family. My dad, Chester, was his only brother. When Paul left in 1948, no one knew where he was going. As a matter of fact, no one was in touch with him for many, many years. My dad was always curious about him obviously, wondering where he was and concerned, of course, that something might have happened to him since there was so no communication with the family. In the meantime, both of my dad’s parents died and several of his sisters. Uncle Paul, of course, had no idea they were dead.
There were eight of us kids born to my dad and mother (Grace). There was an even split of boys and girls. My brother Jim was the second oldest but the oldest brother. He enjoyed camping with his family and they had a pop-up trailer that allowed them to travel and camp in various campgrounds around the country. My brother decided to take a trip to California in 1975 and asked my dad to go along with the idea that they could check various places out west that might give a clue as to where Uncle Paul might be living.
They finally reached the State of Washington where Jim’s wife, Nancy’s, Aunt Dorothy lived. To that point, they had no luck finding Uncle Paul as they traveled west. They explained to Aunt Dorothy about Uncle Paul and their attempts to locate him. It was at this point that my dad, certainly disappointed at not finding any evidence of where Uncle Paul was, decided that he’d fly back home alone since the trip in the camper would take another week to return to Pennsylvania where they lived at the time.
In late September, 1977, Aunt Dorothy was reading the paper (Tri-City Herald) where she found an article about a silver mine in DeLamar, Idaho. In that article, it mentioned that Paul Freed, an elderly recluse, was the only resident of DeLamar before the big mine opened. Curiously, she sent the article to her niece Nancy and said “I read this, this afternoon and got to wondering if this “Paul Freed” that is mentioned; could he be your uncle that you were looking for when you were out here to see us?” Dorothy.
My brother Jim notified my dad immediately and my dad got in touch with the newspaper and asked if they had more information on the recluse Paul Freed. My dad had his brother Paul’s social security number which he provided to the newspaper. They checked it out and found out that the social security number matched my Uncle Paul’s except for one number. That was enough for my dad. The newspaper provided him Uncle Paul’s address, which was Murphy, Idaho. My dad sent Uncle Paul a letter and Uncle Paul answered with “I knew where you were all the time. If I had wanted to get in touch with you, I could have at any time”..meaning, of course, he didn’t want anything to do with the family. My dad wrote back and told him about his mother and dad dying and his sisters. Uncle Paul’s return letters were brief and short but he seemed to be warming to the communication.
My dad mentioned to Uncle Paul that he’d like to see him. Uncle Paul said to come on out if he wanted to. Brother Jim, in the meantime, had purchased a Winnebago motor home, and after shuffling time schedules, etc. it was decided that dad, Jim, our brother Paul (yes, named for Uncle Paul) and I would head out to Idaho in the motor home. Brother Paul and I were living in Maryland and both had families so we knew it would be a sacrifice to leave our families for several weeks. But, we knew dad was excited about the prospect of seeing his brother so we arranged our schedules accordingly. Paul and I drove to Uniontown to pick up dad, then drove on to Pittsburgh to meet Jim to begin our trip. Jim had already stocked the motor home with food and since my dad was a pretty creative cook, we knew he’d be whipping up some specialties.
We headed out the Pennsylvania turnpike into Ohio and on to Chicago. We did stop in Chicago to enjoy a good dinner. Of course, as we left Chicago, we got lost and ended up going out of our way to get back on track. Paul was driving at the time and we harassed him for getting us lost.
My trip was marred some because of a tooth ache. It actually started hurting before we left but got gradually worse and we traveled. But, it was tolerable although it did interfere with my sleeping.
We made another stop in Michigan and went to the Henry Ford Museum which was very entertaining and fun. We also stopped at the Corn Palace in Nebraska and an “all you can eat” restaurant. We had trouble getting dad to leave because he didn’t want to leave all that good food behind. Lol
After two days of traveling, we pulled into Murphy, Idaho – population 23 and 2600 miles. Since Murphy was a county seat, it did have a court house and a gas station type store. Across the street was a landing strip that was used by small planes. As you looked around the town of Murphy, there were a number of small homes and several shacks. We went to the gas station store and asked about Uncle Paul. They told us he was probably up at the silver mine if he wasn’t at his residence. We walked down to Uncle Paul’s shack and sure enough, he wasn’t there. As we peeked into some of the windows, my dad did recognize some of the pots and pans Uncle Paul had taken with him back in 1948. We went back to the gas station store and talked with them. They told us that Uncle Paul’s place in DeLamar was about 30 miles from Murphy. They told us about a dirt road that we could take out of Murphy. We thanked them and began our trip. We went about 2 miles in the motor home on the rocky road and realized that this wasn’t going to work out. The motor home was taking too much of a beating on the bumpy road. We returned to the gas station store and learned that our cousin had flown to Boise and rented and car and was down at Uncle Paul’s place there in Murphy. His name was Kenny and he was the son of my dad’s sister, Viola. He, like us, was curious about seeing Uncle Paul and he knew we were traveling there so he timed his trip to meet us as well.
The store clerk at the gas station told us that the only way to get to Uncle Paul’s place in DeLamar was to take the long way around by driving to Oregon and going in that way. It was about 80 miles compared to the 30 miles on the dirt road. Kenny volunteered his car so we all piled in and off we went. Even though we had pretty good road most of the way, we still had to travel about 10 miles on dirt road to reach DeLamar.
We weren’t entirely sure which “shack” in DeLamar was Uncle Paul’s place but we drove slowly and spotted the shack with an elderly gentlemen sitting on a chair on the front porch. The five of us got out of the car and my dad walked up to his brother Paul. He put out his hand and said “I’m Chester Freed”. Uncle Paul acknowledged his hand shake and said “I’m Paul Freed” shaking his brother's hand. Meanwhile, I had my super 8 movie camera rolling although I was sure how Uncle Paul was going to respond to us. After it looked like Uncle Paul was “okay” with our being there, we walked up to him and introduced ourselves and got a big handshake. It was, needless-to-say, quite the experience. After chatting for a little while, Uncle Paul asked if we wanted to drive up and see his silver mine. So dad climbed in the cab of Uncle’s Paul pick-up truck and we guys climbed in the bed of the truck along with Uncle Paul’s German Sheppard dog Jake. Now Jake was an interesting story as well. Uncle Paul told us that he liked to ride in the bed of the truck and stand on his back feet and lean over the driver’s side part of the bed and try to bite car antennas as they came by in the opposite direction. Jake would also bite at tree limbs as they rode through the mountains and several times Uncle Paul had to stop his truck and go back and get Jake who would be hanging from a branch by his teeth.
As we journeyed down the narrow dirt road on the way to Uncle Paul’s silver mine, we were hanging on for dear life as Uncle Paul was traveling rather fast – at least we thought so – given the mountainous terrain that was on either side of the road. We suddenly had second thoughts about maybe he did want to “bump us off” after all by throwing us out of the bed of the truck on a sharp curve. But, we arrived safe and sound at the mine after being amused at Jake as he snapped at various trees along the way.