By Molly Beck McGoldrick and Carol Capra
Above on the scooter, left to right, Carol Ealy Capra, Molly Beck McGoldrick, and Mikki McGoldrick. Photo courtesy of the Capra Family Archives.
Molly Beck McGoldrick remembers: One of my greatest good fortunes was having a sister for seventy-one years. We were close in age, only sixteen months apart, and we were close in many other ways. We even got married together in our 1963 double wedding at St. John’s Cathedral, an event many people still remember.
Mikki and I grew up in an idyllic setting in Spokane. Our home at 2808 South Scott had a back yard enclosed by blue spruce, hollyhocks, lilacs, iris, bleeding hearts, and climbing roses. In front, there was a row of maples and a group of Ponderosa Pines. One of these pines was so inviting, we wore its bark smooth as we climbed up and down, over and over.
The different seasons on the South Hill were incredible. In Mikki’s words, “Springtime was a gift to the senses. Our backyard was pungent with the scent of root beer iris and lilacs in bloom. A canopy of red climbing roses grew like a snake onto arbors and shutters, and there was something magical in watching a bleeding heart plant take to the sky as the days heated up.”
As summer approached, we rode our bikes to the Manito Grocery, dashed barefoot over the simmering sidewalk to the cool, rough-hewn wood floor, freshly washed and swept with sawdust, to grab a Nutty Buddy or banana popsicle. We also frequented Wanamakers Dry Goods to thumb through pattern books and look at school supplies. From there, we moved on to the pharmacy and soda fountain, where Mik perused Photoplay and Seventeen, and she checked out nail polish displays and peeked into the shiny, gold lipstick cylinders with their fragrant, oily tips. Summers were full of neighborhood kids to play with, too. Our best friend, Carol Ealy, lived across the street from us, and next door were the Koesters. They kept a Doberman Pinscher named Junior who snarled and slathered at the window. We knew to never open Junior’s door.
Summers in Spokane also meant a lake experience. We spent our summers at Pend Oreille and Coeur d’Alene. Pend Oreille especially stands out: it was a sensual bouquet filled with the fragrance of cottonwood and cedar. We packed a cornucopia of cousins, aunts, and uncles into one log house. Mik described it all in her own way: “The place was rustic, cozy, and teeming with cousins … who chased each other from room to room, leaving long trails of sand brought in from the beach. A river rock fireplace provided the only source of heat. Big daddy longlegs hung out in the single bathtub, and puffs of blue smoke polluted the front porch where uncles puffed their cigars, laughing at inside jokes that ceased when the wives came in view.”
Prior to the construction of the Albeni Falls Dam in 1955, the lake would swell with spring runoff, sweeping north and depositing great bars of sand where the town of Sandpoint is located. Still carrying a significant load, it curved into our bay – Murphy Bay – and released the remainder of its burden before continuing downstream, becoming the Pend Oreille River. The receding water exposed pristine sand bars of fine orange granite sand. We had to wade through the muck of horsetail and willow to get them, but it was worth it.
One year the flood was so great, Mikki and I were able to take a rowboat into our great grandmother’s house. We laughed and laughed as our oars banged on her walls and we imagined fish swimming in her kitchen. Although I’m sure these summer hi-jinx were adult-supervised, it seemed like we were released at the end of the school year and allowed free range like wild animals, something that I’m sure contributed to our free spirits and aversion to regimentation. Mikki told her own version of our summer escapades: “My sister … was great at catching trout and we would fight over who would get to eat the tail, fried very crisp. As true tomboys, my sister and I could not figure out why society insisted we wear bathing suit tops or shoes. Our family held a contest each summer to see how tough we could get the skin on the bottoms of our feet. Walking on hot asphalt and over sharp pebbles soon promoted leather-like foot padding which was much prized for going fishing barefoot.”
When winter came, bringing its own magic, I’d pull my bed over by the window to watch it snow and listen to the sound of car tires crunching up Scott Street as the occasional car passed in the muffled night. Mik was less enchanted: “Winters were harsh as a beast blasting its way down from Canada. Tiny shards of ice covered the landscape and blankets of snow piled up in the driveway. ‘Oh the cold hurts so much,’ I would lament over and over while walking to Hutton [Elementary] School. Often, I would wear my patent leather party shoes instead of sturdy boots, just like I had seen in ‘Singing in the Rain’ with Debbie Reynolds. I really fell apart in sub-thermal temperatures.”
Although we were close, we had differences as all sisters do. I was horse crazy and would have spent every waking moment on horseback. Mikki got on a horse once and, according to her, she was bucked right off onto a horse pucky and never got back in the saddle again. It tickled me to see her describe herself years later as a “tomboy.” She was always more interested in what I would call “girlie things.” We were once caught in our great-grandmother’s bedroom: in her own words, Mikki was “caressing a hot pink perfume box.” On the other hand, I was far more interested in the stuffed owls with the luminous eyes.
While many high school students have no clear vision of their long-term goals after graduation, my sister had a keen sense of direction: south to California. She wanted to be an actress ever since she was ten years old and played a chicken in a drama class musical. Her first lines ever spoken in a production were, “Cock-a-doodle-do / I bid you adieu / Until we meet again.” She performed with the Spokane Civic Theater and moved to California to pursue her showbiz dreams after graduation. She found California idyllic: “I dreamed of California. At the age of 17, I left home to become whoever I might become. Orange blossoms intoxicated my soul and California became a way of life. Who needs a diamond ring when Santa Monica had sun-spun-dazzled waves and oranges growing on trees? Being a movie star or being a waitress doesn’t really matter if you live in California. I have been both. Happiness to me is having come to California to make good in some facet of show business.”
Mikki enrolled in the Pasadena Playhouse and eventually signed with Warner Brothers. And while she stayed focused on her showbiz dreams, she kept herself open to other possibilities. She took courses from Los Angeles City College when her schedule allowed, and she read and absorbed so much information. She never completed a college degree, but nobody could beat her at Trivial Pursuit.
Too often, siblings end up going separate ways and there is an irreparable disconnect. But that was never the case in our family. Perhaps Spokane and the lakes were part of the glue that held us together. After all, Mikki did spend the last twenty-three years of her life in the Pacific Northwest. Yet the land of orange blossoms and “sun-spun-dazzled waves” never ceased to enchant her.
Carol Capra remembers: Mikki, Molly, and I grew up across the street from each other at 28th and Scott on the South Hill, not far from Rockwood Boulevard and Manito Park near Hutton Elementary School. Mik was the girlie girl, and Molly and I were the tomboys. We played all day outside with the neighborhood kids, climbing trees and playing basketball and kick-the-can. We spent nearly as much time in each other’s houses as in our own. We were Campfire Girls, and spent five summers at Camp Sweyolakan. We celebrated our birthdays together and had a great time at old Natatorium Park. Summers also meant spending time at Coeur d’Alene, watching Diamond Cup hydro races, learning to water ski, and who liked which boy as we sat around beachfront fires with the other kids. In the fall, we walked to Hutton Elementary for school and looked for beautiful leaves on the way. In the winter, we went sledding and ice skating in Manito Park. Back then, there was a park employee who shoveled the ice and tended a fire in the big fireplace near the pond. We also learned to ski on the neighborhood hills using red wooden skis with straps that went over our rubber snow boots. Sometimes we took a bus (sponsored by the Spokesman-Review) up to Mount Spokane where we learned to use a rope tow. When we were older, Mr. McGoldrick drove us to Sun Valley for the Ski Weeks where we skied and swam in the heated pool where we had fun splashing and laughing with our other friends from Spokane.
As we grew up, Mik and I dreamed of going to Southern California and getting out of Spokane. She constantly read Photoplay and other movie magazines, imagining herself as a movie star. After graduating from Lewis and Clark High School in 1960, we followed our dreams. I attended USC and Mikki joined the Pasadena Playhouse. We went to the 1961 Rose Bowl Parade, but it was so crowded, we left and went back to Mik’s room at the Playhouse to watch it on TV. In the summer of 1961, we rented a Japanese house in Hollywood Hills. I worked for an insurance company and Mik worked on movies and interviews. Mikki eventually signed with Warner Brothers and had roles on several TV shows, including Maverick, The Donna Reed Show, Ozzie and Harriet, and Adam-12. She also worked in the movies, including Ski Party, Beach Ball, and a starring role in The Sea Gypsies. Despite all this, we never lost contact and we re-connected each summer with our families at Coeur d’Alene, Sandpoint, and Spirit Lake.
In 1990, thirty years later, we found ourselves back in Spokane. We soon partnered in a real estate business before Mikki’s love of travel led her to another career turn as a tour director. She even got me to go on trips with her to Hawaii, New Orleans, Palm Springs, and a Caribbean cruise. Her experience in showbiz really helped her entertain her clients and she always got great reviews at the end of each tour.
Mikki kept busy after retiring from the tour business. She helped plan our Lewis and Clark High School 50th Reunion, where we had a blast reuniting with our lifetime friends. She also volunteered with Advocates for the Bing Crosby Theater.
Mikki, Molly, and I went to Camp Sweyolakan for the 75th Anniversary weekend many years ago. Mik wasn’t planning to spend the night, but Molly and I brought our sleeping bags and chose to sleep in one of the treehouses. Mikki left after dinner on the boat to get picked up across the bay (so she thought). Well, there was a miscommunication and her ride wasn’t there to pick her up. Meanwhile, Molly and I settled in to our treehouse as a huge thunderstorm began. We loved the excitement.
Out of the blue, we heard a faint “wooo, wooo” through the sound of the rain. It got louder and louder, but we thought we were hearing things: “wooo, wooo” was a signal we only used between ourselves. Finally, we looked down out of the treehouse and there was a rain-drenched Mikki below. She had hitched a ride back to camp and crawled under a car in the parking lot when the storm hit. Of course, we only had two sleeping bags and we had to figure out how to fit her in. Naturally, she took the nice, warm spot in the middle. But we didn’t mind.
Mikki McGoldrick – using the stage name, “Mikki Jamison,” appears as Veronica in this TV pilot for “Archie,” based on the comic strip.