Autobiography of Brian L Hughes
My story will begin with my grandfather, Ron Hughes. He was born in 1906 in Wenatchee, Washington. One of his early jobs was picking apples. The freshly picked apples were placed in the wooden apple boxes that are now collector's items. He had to fill and then carry and load the apple boxes on a flatbed truck. He received a nickel a box. Grandpa had a pet crow! He somehow afforded college at WSC in Pullman. He married Altha Holland. Sometime after WW2 he made money in Wenatchee by selling garden starts, tomatoes, peppers, squash etc. The business was called "Sunnyslope Floral". Eventually the business moved to Omak, Washington and was renamed "Hughes Floral". My mom met my father and they married in '57. In '63 my grandfather bought the florist shop in Tonasket and left the Omak shop to my aunt Aubrey and her husband, Bill Rotter. Hughes Floral, two shops to serve you!
I was born Brian L Anderson in Seattle Washington, 1960. My family lived in Renton, We were Ace, Vada, Bradly, Brian Anderson, and siamese cat Caesar.
I remember diaper pins, baby blue and light yellow, plus a baby bottle. I remember a plastic curtain that hid the hot water tank. But these memories might have been imagined or imprinted from someone else. I haven't imagined going to the Seattle World's Fair in '62 but my mother insists that I was there.
As an infant in Renton I do remember playing with toys that could make farms and log cabins. Our neighbor had a spinning top with a small choo choo train inside. My mother left my father in '63. I remember riding on the train from Seattle to Wenatchee. We lived with my Mom's sister in Omak for a year. Aubrey Rotter, husband, Bill, cousins Monica and Dave. I have a few memories living with my Aunt. My brother and I slept in the "ramp room" and I remember a big fuzzy coat that looked like a brown bear.
In '64 Mom rented a small house next to the Omak Hughes Floral property. We stayed there about a year. One evening I stood up in my bed and looked out the window into the dark of the city. I thought that I should be able to stand and wait for a few moments and see the dawn. I was just then realizing that time passes much more quickly when we are asleep.
Mom and the rest of the adult family decided that she should head north to Tonasket to help Grandpa and Grandma with the business. In '65 Mom rented the basement unit of a small house on 4th street. I have vivid memories of the house. I started grade school the next year. I can remember my first day at school and plenty of memories learning English and math with the rest of my classmates. Sometime between '65 and '67 we took in a stray dog, a black cocker spaniel we named "Sammy". I loved the dog. I always remember her being with me except at school. Mom rented the upper unit of the house in '68, it was a lot nicer than the basement. My great grandmother, Evelyn, lived with Grandpa and Grandma at the Hughes Floral property at Tonasket. She had a foot pump bellows organ. I have one vivid memory of her playing a hymnal. My first actual musical experience was playing it. It didn't take long to figure out which notes sounded better together than others. I remember Grandma Great poking my knees with her fork, I wasn't properly sitting at the dinner table. She had sheets full of buttons. She collected buttons, sewed them on to sheets. My grandpa was a retired Boy Scout master. He was scout master of the Omak Washington troop in the 50's. He sewed together Native American regalia that his troop would dance in as he played a drum. My family donated his costumes to the local museum at Omak. I learned how to loom bead from Grandpa and did several pieces over the years. Grandpa was also a silversmith and did a lot of excellent bolos, rings, bracelets, and belt buckles in silver, turquoise and jade. His watchband was handmade in silver and turquoise, he always had it on. I'd wager everyone in the immediate family would remember it.
One special moment was learning how to ride a bike, I learned on my neighbor's. I sat on it at the top of a gentle slope, leaning against something, then I straightened it up and let it coast down the hill. No pedaling, just riding on it, I quickly learned to balance and started pedaling a few seconds later. Bikes were important for us at Tonasket, a kid's form of transportation. One day my brother and I were playing "submarine" in cut flower boxes tied together at the ends. We were planning on staying in our sub all day. Grandma even brought us peanut butter sandwiches for lunch. Then mom came and told us we had to go clean out the back of delivery van. She had spoiled all our fun. We opened the van and there were two brand new stingray style Western Flyer bicycles in the back!
I had a lot of fun playing with kids when we lived in the city. I mostly remember spending time flirting around with my neighborhood girls. I don't remember why but my Grandmother on my father's side, Merle Anderson, bought me a tape recorder. I remember recording an adlib song where I sang "Sleepy Time, sleepy time".
Grandma Great passed away in the winter '69
In 1970 Mom bought a brand new single wide trailer and plunked it down on Hughes Floral property south of Tonasket. I finally had my own bedroom. For the next 8 years I went to school, did chores for the floral shop, worked in the surrounding apple orchards, watched TV and listened to music. We had three apricot trees next to the trailer that used to load completely full of apricots which would ripen and fall to the ground. There were no neighborhood girls my age. Hughes Floral was about a mile south of Tonasket on the west side of river.
There were several buildings next to the Hughes Floral property that looked like an old store and garage. There was a loading ramp nearby too. Down at the river there was a steel cable buried into the bank and in the water. I believe that the location was once called "Perry Landing" where folks on the west side of the river used to cross to get to town on a small ferry connected to the cable.
My brother and I spent quite a bit of time with Grandpa, he took us fishing and supervised us when we did our greenhouse chores. We called Hughes Floral, "the greenhouse". It was a hot house, we grew plants in it. We had to keep it warm in the winter. We burned sawdust. I learned how to drive our front loader tractor. My brother was kind of jealous, he was just the sawdust shoveler while I putt putt around on the tractor. I always helped him shovel after I was done stocking up the sawdust room. What we did was buy sawdust by the truckload from the local mill. My cousin, Dave from Omak would drive the truck to the mill and park it under the big green sawdust collector. The mill sawed logs into "2 x 4"s. They'd open the collector and fill the truck with sawdust. We'd drive the truck to Hughes Floral and dump it out back on our sawdust pile. I don't remember how many truck fulls of sawdust we'd buy for the winter, probably more than 20. During the winter I used the tractor to transfer the sawdust from the pile outside to the sawdust room where my brother was. He shoveled it into an aluminum conveyor that carried the sawdust to the hopper. At the base of the hopper there were iron grates where the sawdust burned that we kept lit all winter long . Fire went up into the flues, up and out the chimney. Water was heated and pumped through pipes into the green house. The green house was made of transparent fiberglass sheets. It took a lot of heat to keep from freezing. When the temperature was real cold we had to fill the hopper twice a day. Grandpa used to heat the oil pan of the tractor to make sure it would start on extreme cold days. He even had an alarm installed near his bedroom that would wake him if the temperature inside the greenhouse dropped to the 30's. We burned sawdust for a couple more years. In the mid 70's we converted to pellets, but they were too expensive. A year later we switched to an industrial electric water heater. We stayed with it for quite a few years, and finally Mom went with an industrial heat pump.
In 6th grade I asked June to go steady with me. June and I were a thing for a long time. I still remember her birthday. We eventually broke up but we remained friends.
I really liked my high school days. I was student from '74 to '78. I still miss being with the people, like the seniors I admired when I was a freshman, the cheer leaders and all that they cheered for. I was in band, marched twice in Spokane and Wenatchee, carried the snare drum '74 and the bass drum in '76. I spent hours on end helping out in drama club. I most often I controlled the stage lights during our plays. I was also given the honor of controlling the stage lights for the legendary Marty Robbins. My favorite study was astronomy. When NASA came to our high school I was chosen to model in front of the entire student body an authentic space suit design that was used on the moon during the Apollo missions.
In the summer of 1976 I finally parked my old western flyer bike for a dark green 1966 Ford Mustang with a 289 V8 and Warner T10H manual 4 speed transmission. My cousin Dave was the original owner, my Mom took ownership in 1970. I really enjoyed working on the car. I changed the spark plugs and points probably way too often. My brother had started driving the mustang in '74, but in '76 he opted to buy a car he could call his own, he knew how much I was attached to the Mustang. In '77 Dave had opened a car repair shop in the nearby town of Oroville. He let me work there. I did a lot of the simple work like pulling transmissions and changing alternators and water pumps. We rebuilt the Mustang's transmission and upgraded the 360 CFM Autolite with a Holley 500 CFM two barrel carb. We should have replaced the piston rings but we never got to it. The number one cylinder had a cracked compression ring, used get a lot of blow by going down hills.
I started learning guitars in the 70's. A friend had a bass that I used to plunk a lot. One of the gals in band brought her Les Paul copy to school that I played. I started out with open chords and learned how to barre chord. With all of the music that I was exposed to I never did learn notes, key signatures. My excuse, I couldn't read music because I was in the percussion section. I took guitar lessons from a local beatnik in town. I learned to play chords without really knowing what the notes were, I had no idea what playing in the key of "c" meant . But I could strum and sing with near perfect timing. During basketball season I used play "Smoke on the Water" on bass guitar when our starting lineup was announced. Eventually we swung our stage lights around and pointed them to the center circle. It was up to me to turn off the gym lights and turn on the stage lights, our ellipsoids. One time, without me knowing about it, someone had left the master switch turned off on the stage lighting panel. So when I turned off gym lights the ellipsoids didn't come on. My team was announced in total darkness! Someone yelled through the curtain to turn on the lights. Oops.
Once we could drive my friends and I teamed up and went to the movies a lot. We were at the Omak drive-In theatre when we met some of the local girls and kind of hit it off. We ended up dating a little. I was matched with a gal who lived by the Omak lumber mill. We spent some time together but her father was a little scary. I liked another girl, Melody, the most and kind of upset my friend who had been matched with her since the beginning because I ended up going out with her. We had a lot of fun being together. Melody lived just a block away from the house that my mother rented in Omak back in '64. One of the people I met while we were coming to Omak to party was Waldo. He was in the same high school class as my Mom who he immediately remembered when I introduced myself and who my family was. Waldo ran a recording studio in Omak and he sold me my first electric guitar, a Rickenbacker 6 string with slanted frets with the body style of the bass, it was great. He also sold me HIFI stereo gear, great stuff. I had to pay him back of course, over time, but it was interest free.
The summer of '77 my Mom, brother and I had our last names legally changed to "Hughes". It took lawyers and the court to make it happen.
In my senior year I fell in love with a girl from Tonasket. I asked her out while we were cross country skiing at Sitzmark. She was the prettiest girl in school. Our first date was a party at a friend's house. We kissed a lot. I took her to a few movies and afterward we'd find a place to park and kiss. I was totally in love with her, but we were going in different directions. I still think about her, I still love the time we shared together.
I asked June to our senior prom. Uncle Bill let me use his '69 Cadillac. she wore a white dress. My Mom, the florist, made sure June's wrist corsage was the prettiest and most expensive at at the prom. We had loosely agreed to go partying afterwards with everyone else up in Canada, but instead we found a quite place to park and just talked.
So that's it, high school was over, it was time to move on.
In late '78 my brother fell for a beatnik gal, I was introduced to the new crowd of people that had slowly been migrating into the Okanogan area. They were hippies, beatniks. With fiddles, pennywhistles, guitars, and mandolins they played bluegrass, folk, and folk rock. I spent quite a bit of time on several local communes doing Native American sweats, rainbow gatherings, barter faires, going to Grateful Dead concerts, healing gatherings, and more Native American sweats. I never fell in love, but I still share a great interest in the culture. It's time to move on again.
In '83 moved in with my father in Washington's Puget Sound region and got a computer programming job. Something I had dreamed of doing in the '70s. I mean I really had a dream that I was a computer programmer. Now I was. I coded in Assember, COBOL, Pascal at college, Visual Basic, Visual C++ 6.0, VB 6, and .Net. Wow, I just relived 25 years of my life in one sentence!
Grandpa passed away in '88 and Grandma passed in '93.
I never stopped playing music. I used to pick up my acoustic and invent a song, totally adlib with lyrics and everything, lay it all down just to prove to myself I could do it. None of it recorded or written down though. I had purchased enough sound equipment that I was able to DJ small dances. A couple of my friends and I did just that. We DJ'ed for 5 years or so mostly for fun but it was a lot of work for us setting up and tearing down so we quit the DJ business. At our height we had our crowds literally hopping mad with ecstatic music fun time, I'll never forget how much fun that was.
In 2005 I bought a fairly inexpensive AD/DA or analog to digital / digital to analog converter. It's a way of recording music on a computer. I recording my first CD, and came up with the title "Specific Gravity". Since then I've engineered "Share the Health", "Dream Hold", "Chronological Harmonics", "Cool Fidelity", "Delicate Eyes", "Sound Feelings", "Prolific Mingle", and "Apricot Tangle". See www.bhughes.com
Back in '09 or so a friend at work was taking advanced guitar lessons and was able to teach me what it meant when a song was in the key of something, like C. After all of these years I have finally learned about notes and harmony!
Some things I really regret: Trading my Rickenbacker for a stereo, not buying the '66 Mustang from my Mom, and not being honest and telling at least one of my girlfriends how much I love and need her.
Some things I'm proud of: Paying off my 1st credit card, becoming a voting Grammy member, my autograph collection, and getting my first royalty payment.