Ruth Genevieve PHELAN Dewsnap

Ruth was born December 1st, 1926 in Flagstaff Arizona, to Eugene Frances and Eunice Ann Phelan.

From the time she was very little Ruth always had an impish, playful, sometimes ornery personality. She loved to tease and joke around.
Ruth married at 19 to Bob Dewsnap and had four children –

Bill, Catherine, Suzi and Emily

She divorced in 1962 and moved to Escondido down close to San Diego where she worked for the Bank of America for 25 plus years, as a PBX operator and later a teller. She once foiled a would be robber’s attempt to coerce an elderly lady into withdrawing her entire account for him, by being very observant and calling the police.

Just after she retired from the bank she moved to Pueblo in 1991, to be near her sister and youngest daughter – both Emily’s. After her heart attack in 1993 she became an active member of the cardiovascular rehab team where she made many good friends. Weekly I’d hear funny stories of this one or that one and somebody’s birthday party.  I’d always tease her about how they probably got chocolate smudges on the equipment and that all those calories counteracted the exercising!

Ruth was never a “joiner” but was actively involved with friends and neighbors; always helping when needed to lend a hand, balance a checkbook, or run an errand. She loved doing crafts, playing card games, and reading – but her most favorite thing to do was go to lunch with a friend then to Wal-Mart to shop.

Stories Told By Ruth

When I was a little girl, we lived in a small town where everyone knew everyone else.  So you had to be good cause if  Mrs. So and So saw you doing something you shouldn’t, it was a sure thing Mom or Dad would find out, but they also cared about you and neighbors helped each other.

I remember walking to school one day.  I walked through a pile of ashes not knowing, but soon found out that they were very hot and had just been dumped from a coal burning heater.  One of the embers got inside my shoe and burned the side of my foot! The owner of the ashes heard my cries and came out, then carried me home to Mom and helped take care of the burn.  He also promised to be more careful of where he put his ashes from then on.

Another time while walking to school, we always took short cuts through vacant lots and down unpaved lanes to save time.  One such path went by a pasture and there were always a few cows out grazing, but one day there a was a big old bull out there.  We knew that bulls always charged anything red – my brother Gene and sister Pat both had very red hair so we all took off screaming and crying that the bull was after us.  By the time we reached the school yard some teachers and some other kids came to our rescue and assured us that the bull was still behind the fence!

Christmas was always special because Mom and Dad made it that way.  We didn’t get a lot of toys, but there was a lot of love.  Santa brought each one something special and in our stocking we had an apple, an orange, a few mixed nuts, and a candy cane.  I remember several packages came in the mail and they were never opened, no matter how we begged, until Christmas morning.  The Christmas tree was never up and decorated until Christmas Eve.  Then the unopened packages were placed behind the tree for the next day and that was all we saw until Christmas morning when we got up and saw that Santa had come. Then when everyone was up and dressed, Dad would pick one of the packages and untie the string (we didn’t have tape in the olden days).  He would wind the string into a ball, then carefully unwrap the outer paper and fold it neatly and lay it aside, then he opened the box and took out the presents. From Granddad and Aunt Grace it was always cookies and home made candy, divinity fudge and peanut brittle.  From Grandma and Aunt Willow and Uncle Claude there was fruit and nuts and maybe a small toy, but also homemade jelly and jam preserves. Dad opening the boxes was always the memory of Christmas because he made it so suspenseful.  Each package was opened in the same methodical way.  Dad loved to watch the suspense he created in us. I think that was the best part of Christmas for him. One time years later, we got back at him by putting his Christmas gift inside several separately tied boxes ending with a large carton. When he finally got to the bottom, he found a fifth of White Horse Scotch and a box of his favorite cigars, so he figured it was worth every knot he untied.

Dad was a Railroad Bull as they use to call the special officers. His job was to police the trains and keep the hobos off. All the hobos knew Dad as a kind and fair person, so they usually never gave him any trouble. But if they were in trouble they knew whom to turn to. One night after we had all gone to bed, my oldest sister and I heard this strange sound – shuffle, clunk, shuffle, clunk – then out front the gate opened with a squeak, so we looked out the window and saw this bent old man coming towards the house. We quickly went to Mom and Dad’s bedroom and told them that someone was trying to get in the house. So Dad got up and went to see. It turned out that the man was an old guy who just wanted Dad to give him a place to sleep in out of the cold. So Dad took him over to the jail and put him in a cell with the door open so he could leave the next day. All the hobos also knew our house as a good meal if they did some wood chopping (in those days we all used a lot of wood, winter and summer, because we cooked on wood burning stoves).

Once Upon a Rock

A favorite treat was going for a ride. We had a Model A Ford and it was full with Mom and seven kids. One night we went for a ride out west of town and after a mile or so we saw some sheep and talked Mom into going over to see them. Model A’s were like 4 wheel drives, they went anywhere. We soon arrived where the sheep weren’t and rocks were in abundance! Large rocks, and Mom drove right over one and got hung up so we all had to walk back to the highway where some friends picked us up and took us home. Then some of the men from town went back out and lifted the car off the rock and brought it home to us. That was the last time we went to see the sheep!! Besides one of my brothers came down with chicken pox that night so Mom had her hands full with chicken pox’s going through 6 kids!!

A Swelling Time

Mom always said that I was so ornery that she had to spank the mumps out of me. It all began when I was asked to peel some potatoes for dinner and I preferred to talk to my friend Martha who lived next door. So I peeled a couple of potatoes, then ran outside and called Martha, who was also supposed to be helping her Mom fix dinner. So we talked some before both Moms called us back in and set us firmly to our chores, which we did until we thought of something else to say. After the third time, Mom was more than firm and I ended up peeling the peels that I had so generously peeled off. Then I was sent to bed. Yes I could eat and do dishes but then right back to bed. The next morning I was a very plump faced child and not feeling too well. Mom didn’t need anyone to tell her that I had the mumps since I was about the third or forth one to get them. Martha’s Mom woke up to the same thing.

Sledding at the Grand Canyon

Living at the Grand Canyon was like living in a wonderland for us kids! The snow was four to six feet deep and drifts up to some rooftops. Deer roamed freely thru out the town and some were almost tame. Once one of the boys coaxed a huge buck in on the back porch and almost into the house before it got scared and bolted away. Sledding was our favorite pass time. There are lots of hills in and around the town and a couple were closed to cars just so we could sled on them. 

The Haunted House

When we moved to Flagstaff in 1938, Dad was without a job so finding a house with reasonable rent was top on his list. The one he found was in an estate of a man who had died by hanging himself in the attic, and up to this time the lawyers in charge couldn’t keep it rented because all the previous tenants claimed that it was haunted. But Dad needed a house that would take care of a family of Mom and 7 kids. So he moved us in and went to work for his brother for awhile, then got on with the Forrest Service as a game warden during elk and deer season, so he was gone a good bit of the time.

Nothing ever happened when Dad was home, but when he was gone, we began experiencing some very odd things. Mom use to read to us children in the evening before bedtime, and one night we were all sitting in front of her on the couch, when Spike (our dog) suddenly started growling and starring towards the back door. We kids could see a bright light up against the back door window, like a large flashlight. We were frozen with fear but Spike headed for the door growling and snarling. Mom followed then all of us behind her. The light went out and we found nothing. The screened in porch off the kitchen was secure and no sign of anything.

Another night Mom got up to check all of us and with Spike leading, she was in the hall where the bedrooms and bathroom were, when the toilet flushed and Spike growled. She opened the bathroom door to an empty room!! Little things like this happened quite frequently. The one time we were left alone because Mom had to go to the Grand Canon to see about a house Dad was going to rent, there were no happenings. Years later the house was sold and remodeled completely, so the poor ghost was laid to rest.


  1. admin says:

    Mom knew her customers. After all, she’d been working for the Bank of America for over 20yrs. She started out on the pbx machine – you know the old octopus looking switchboard with lots of long cords that plugged in. Her station sat high on a platform where she could view the whole lobby, who was coming in, who was on the phone or with a customer, overseeing all the movements of the branch. It wasn’t exactly her job to keep watch, but she did and knew most of the regulars by name.

    After years of being ‘tied’ to the phone she was ready to give being a teller a try. A daunting task in handling all the money but she soon got comfortable with it. She was transferred to the Rancho Bernardo branch and worked the drive-up window. She really liked that the best as she felt a closer connection even though customers were in their cars.

    One day a little lady who had a rather sizable balance drove in wanting to withdraw the whole amount. She had a younger man with her who seemed nervous and the customer was acting ‘different’. Mom could tell something was wrong and excused herself saying she had to get approval for such a large amount. She notified her manager who called the police. They quickly responded by surrounding the drive-up on either side trapping the car at the window. The young man tried to flee at this point but was caught when the police officers tackled him. The lady was shaken but oh so grateful … Mom was a hero that day!!


  2. admin says:

    Mom use to hide in her room. She thought we didn’t know the why of it but the rhythmic whirl of the old Singer gave her away, that and plus it was almost Christmas. She made lots of our gifts. I remember one year getting warm heavy fluffy terrycloth robes made out of … terrycloth bath towels! We love them along with the flannel night gowns and pjs.

    Mom had a way of knowing just what we’d like and fitting it to us – perfectly, without us ever trying it on. Like the Homecoming dress she made to surprise me. It wasn’t fancy, but I adored it. A simple ‘A’ shaped with a collar, long sleeves and cuffs in autumn colors … and I “loved” it!!


  3. admin says:

    Before I got my drivers license Mom use to drive us to school. I remember day after day in the Fall when we’d head up Valley Parkway before turning towards the school, my kid sister and I would beg her to “keep on going”! We loved the beautiful winding drive to Lake Wohlford or Valley Center in autumn … but, she always made the turn much to our chagrin. Except for one day – she actually kept going! Can you imagine our surprise and glee!?! Unbeknownst to us she’d made arrangements with our teachers, took the day off, packed a picnic and – kept going!! What a wonderful glorious crisp fall surprise that was ~


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