Long Time resident of Monroe Washington
By Gail Dillaway
Mabel Boyes Neisinger was born on June 5th, 1916 in Edmonton, Alberta where her father was a school teacher and her mother was a “stay at home” mom. Mabel grew up during a challenging time that included the Great Depression and a major war, World War II. In spite of the challenges she encountered, Mabel was able to earn an education with top honors, achieve a career, and balance family needs while holding down a variety of jobs. Mabel Boyes Neisinger is an example of a woman who was able to change with the times and find opportunities in the midst of challenges. She was an example of the strong resilient women who populate this country.
For most of his life, Mabel’s father was involved in the horse and livery stable business. In 1919, the family moved to Bencough, Canada where her father owned a livery stable. Here Mabel’s brother, John Robert (Bob), was born. In 1922 the family moved to Shelby, Montana where her father did custom farm work. Mabel’s Aunt owned a laundry and a large farm in Shelby, a reason that the family was drawn to the area. In 1923 Mabel’s second brother, William Hugh (Bill) was born and a year later Mabel’s father, Charles, moved his growing family to Monroe, Washington where he was hired as a teamster at the Great Northern Fruit Farm, one of the largest employers in Monroe at that time. There in 1926, another brother, Mervin Russell (Merv) was born. In 1927 a job offer for Mabel’s father, Charles, led the family to return to Shelby, Montana. In 1929, another brother, Calvin Richard (Cal), was born and in that same year a job offer from a friend, James Stirton, brought the family back to the Monroe area for the final time so that Charles could become a partner in a large chicken farm. The farm was located on South Lewis Street and to the West was the Great Northern Berry Farm where Mabel’s father cared for the teams of horses and cultivated the fields.
From 1929 the family was permanently located in Monroe. Mabel started public school late due to illness and at first was home schooled by her father who had a teaching background. In Monroe she attended Monroe Central Grade School which had been built the same year Mabel was born, 1916. As a young girl, Mabel was a Mother’s helper, taking care of their growing family. From time to time her mother worked at various jobs to help support the family leaving Mabel in charge. Mabel was not only busy with chores and child care but she was always busy tutoring her brothers since she was an excellent student. Mable even tutored some of her classmates. One of these classmates, Emil Anderson, said that he would never have made it into college or even through high school without Mabel’s help. She was especially skilled at Mathematics. Mabel was named Valedictorian of her Monroe High School graduating class in 1936. As a teenager Mabel also worked picking berries, weeding and helping with the harvest at the Great Northern Berry Farm. She also remembers working at the Frye Lettuce Farm, a large employer in Monroe, for 10 cents an hour for 10 hours of work.
One of Mabel’s closest friends while she was growing up was the daughter of the Superintendent of the Great Northern Berry Farm, Sue Stewart. Sue had a pony that she and Mabel rode double to various places including Snohomish. Mabel remembers many hours of fun riding the pony with Sue. In 1929 The Great Depression quickly spread across the country and affected Monroe as well. It became increasingly difficult to find jobs in the area, especially for young women.
When Mabel graduated in 1936 from high school, she took a job as a nanny for Mr. Honzell’s family in Everett. Since Mr. Honzell was the superintendent of Robinson’s Plywood Company, he was quite wealthy. Working for the Honzell family allowed Mabel to attend Everett Business College. She was one of the state’s fastest typing and short hand students and in recognition received a Palmer Certificate. Armed with her experience from Everett Business College, she was able to successfully land a job in 1938 with the Washington State Employment Office in Everett. Mabel returned home to live with her family and to help out after her father Charles died of a heart attack in 1937 at the age of 61. She helped her family and was an example for her brothers. With Mabel’s encouragement her brother Bob graduated from high school in 1937, Bill in 1941, Merv in 1945 and Calvin in 1947.
Mabel was married to Fred Neisinger on July 25, 1942, just before he joined the Air Force. Fred was stationed several places while in training to be an airplane mechanic and Mabel was able to find work nearby. In 1943 Fred was sent overseas to Northern Africa and then to Italy and Mabel returned home to once again live with the family in Monroe. Fred was discharged in 1945 and in 1946 Mabel and Fred built their home on North Dickensen Street where Mabel still lives today. The one acre site was given to them by Frank Wagner and was located next to Frank Wagner Elementary. Mabel and Fred had two children, a daughter, Suzanne, born in 1946 and a son, Steven, born in 1949. In 1960 Fred died of a heart attack. Mabel returned to work at the office of the State Reformatory in Monroe where she censored mail and performed office work to support her family. She retired in 1980. For the next two years she took care of her mother who was suffering from dementia until her mother eventually passed away.
Mabel’s life spans almost a hundred years over which time she has been forced to deal with a series of difficult situations. Moving frequently in the 1920s, followed by the Great Depression and World War II all took their toll on Mabel. Three of her brothers and her husband all served in World War II causing much anxiety for the family. The death of her husband in 1960 and worry over her son’s service as a marine in Vietnam were sources of stress. Her mother’s dementia was a challenge along with having to help raise multiple grandchildren. She even had to work out a conflict with the City of Monroe over a drain field at her home which eventually cost her almost $100,000. Throughout all of this, Mabel continued to work hard to support her family. Mabel is a woman of many talents and was able to balance several working careers with the challenges of supporting a family. Her determination and drive helped her to succeed. At 98 1/2, Mabel remains active in the community. Weekly she walks a mile to have breakfast at Denny’s and then to shop at the local Fred Meyer store. Mabel represents a woman who embraced the idea of hard work and active living, a philosophy she continues to hold today.
Gail Dilliway interview with Mabel Boyes, January 2015.
Gail Dilliway interview with Mervin Boyes, December 2014.
“Great Crowd on Hand Honor H.S. Graduates,”. Monroe Monitor, June 12, 1936.
© Gail Dillaway 2015 All Rights Reserved WLP Story #79