--Poetry & Writings--

Small Town

by Frances Farmer

Never to leave the almond blossoms; to be always close to warm, plowed earth and growing things.  He'd bemoaned that once and now he was here, wishing that it could have been.  Or was he?  John Van Ornum wasn't sure.  It had been a long time since he had sprawled in the orchard, digging bare feet into the rough clods and dreaming of worldly things.  Well, he had what he wanted then ---- education, a certain amount of fame, and his breakfast in bed.   Now he was thinking of almond blossoms and plowed earth.

From the looks of things he wouldn't have had those for long, any way.  The trees were gone, and a two story frame house in place of the three room shack -- the Van Ornum homestead.  And the sunken garden ---- It hadn't been much of one.  Redd and white four o'clocks, weedy morning glories, and an occasional peanut plant.  Thinking of it made him feel drowsy with the remembered hum of bees and the hotness of California sun.  They'd filled it in now.

A long time -- too long.  Of course his memories would be all pleasant.  Except that one ---- the morning when he leaned across the sun-covered oil cloth in the kitchen and screamed, "I hate you!" at his grinning brother.  The kitchen clock thundered its ticking into the silence.  He could feel the hot, sticky oil cloth under his bare arm, yet.  And their mother only saying, "Now John!" abstractly reproachful.  It was queer that she hadn't been shocked.  He had expected her to be -- almost wished it.   It had shocked him when the words were out.  But he didn't regret it -- not to this day.  It was something that needed to be said or seemed to be at the time and he had said it. 

Van Ornum thought of the fig tree.   But of course it would be gone, too.  What a tree it had been -- great, green leaves that spilled sticky milk over your hands when you crushed them.  He'd tried that stuff on his warts once, on the advice of Freddie Peck.  And the fruit!   They'd eaten them preserved it heavy syrup.  But fresh and purple ---- and the tree was gone.

Cooper's house was still up.  The old lady was probably alive yet, but he had no desire to see her or listen to any well-meant 'do you remembers.'  She used to give him crullers on the cool, vine dark front porch.  They didn't make crullers like that any more, and they called them doughnuts now.  Funny that his most vivid memories were of foods and smells.   The black walnuts ---- Those trees at least were still standing.  On a parking strip now, darkening the pathetic new concrete sidewalks.  He used to stub his toes on the roots bared in the dirt path.

It had been a long time and new he was back.  Scents of an almond orchard and sunken garden, tastes of remembered foods ---- and that was all.  Well, if there were to be nothing else it would have been worth it.  It had to be or why had it been at all?  Van Ornum began to wonder.   Thirty years since had been gone and except for an occasional inspiration from good music or an artistic expression in a book, there was nothing to add to his little hoard of scents and tastes.  How much of anything he had accomplished?  Nothing.  It had been perhaps essential to his existance, but was there any use in exista ---- but now, he wouldn't think of that.  It sounded a little futile.  At any rate, when he was dead, there still would be a smell of almond blossoms to remember ---- a taste of sun-ripe figs to make his death worth while.

Van Ornum looked around at the small-town skyscraper and the new concrete.  He'd have to run if he were going to make the tree o'clock train.




This appeared in the West Seattle Chinook  – April 30, 1931

Provided by Ulrich Fritzsche M.D.



Courtesy of David Farmer

Poem written by Frances published in a student newspaper



by Frances Farmer


My feet go running.

I think they sing

A song to themselves,

A crazy thing of

"Run, run, run,

And keep to the track.

But don't look forward

And never look back!"

I ask my feet

"How do you know

That the way you are taking

Is the best to go?"

But a foot can't answer.

Each in it's shoe

Goes running onward.

I go too.



Provided by Ulrich Fritzsche M.D.



by Frances Farmer


You can speak to me of swimming,

I cannot feel the swift, cool water

closing in

Without a chilling thought of how

the wind

Is sharp against wet skin.


You speak to me of swimming.

Being as I am

I think that I

Will walk along the sand

And stay quite dry.



Provided by Ulrich Fritzsche M.D.



by Frances Farmer 

Since there has always been a stage, it is assumed that there has always been a crew.  Past annuals and Chinooks are strangely silent about the existance of such a crew, before recent years.  This much we know--that a stage crew exists now under the eye of Mr. Charles G. Hannaford; advisor, and that it existed last year and the year before that with G. Gordon Hannaford and that before even that a Mr. Smith had charge.  Further back than that it is impossible to learn.

Starting on the basis that there is a stage crew now, we may further state that it has been successful.  According to C.G. Hannaford, the success of a school activity depends on whether or not its members get things done and have a good time doing it.  There is no other group in school which does as much actual, consistent work as the crew, or whose members have such consistently amused faces.  The stage crew then, exists and is a success.  

The high point in stage technique for the school, Hannaford believes, was reached in the recent Senior play.  For this production the crew made a new set of flats and, due to the new floor, also constructed braces to hold the scenery up.  It has been the custom before this, when supporting flats, to pound nails into the floor.

The Pow Wow was another colorful spot for the crew when, besides managing the stage props, it performed its epic "Dirty Hank" as one of the acts.  This was written by (A. Gelatine Slyde) Hannaford and enacted by the members.  The farce was said to have exceeded the usual excellent stage crew standards.

These big nights are only two of the almost daily duties of the group.  Besides being on hand at all assemblies to raise and lower curtains, besides arranging lighting effects for all school dances, the crew from time to time has gone to different grade schools to lend its assistance for grade school productions.  Jefferson and Fauntleroy have received this service.  It is needless to mention the necessary though less spectacular duties of the crew of being on hand at all after school auditorium practices.  

With the coming of the opera and commencement exercizes before them, the group is by no means at the end of its season.

Just to what thing the group owes its success is hard to say.  

There is some argument as to whether the crew makes the members or if the members make the crew.  At any rate, it is certain that there are a good many notable people enlisted---take Gordon Clothier, Don Duncan, Pattie Fiset, or Rupert Hawley for instance.  Gordon, former stage crew manager, is now a licensed motion picture operator.

The standing officials of the crew are now:  Bill Smith (the little one), stage manager; assistant manager, Don Neal; Homer Wolf, electrician; Don Duncan, loft manager; and Virginia (Fagin) Ashford, property mistress.



This appeared in the West Seattle Chinook – May 21, 1931

Provided by Ulrich Fritzsche M.D.


This page last updated 2001, Aug 16