I was born in Lovelock, Nevada, which was on a Blackfoot Indian Reservation. My dad worked as a meat-cutter for Safeway and when Mother was expecting me, she worked in a laundry. A pregnant Blackfoot Indian, Wapun, worked alongside her, and mother was astonished when Wapun went into labor, got word to her husband, went home, had the baby, and came back all in the same day. When Mother went into the hospital they kept her in bed for two weeks, which was normal for that time, but I can imagine how tired she was of being there.
Baby girl Bowers still didn’t have a name when it came time to go home. She didn’t have a birth certificate because they had to have a name to give her one. She didn’t have a name because her parents had confidently selected a boy’s name, even though it was before knowing the sex of a baby before it was born. Finally, the nurse came in to talk to Mother about it, suggesting a name with letters from both parents’ names: Ivan and Dora.
When I was six months old, Mother’s daddy died in Canon City, Colorado and we three moved back home so Dad could take over the running of the municipal gas plant. By the time I was three and a half, I had a baby brother, and dad had a new job keeping the tomato-canning factory running in Crowley, Colorado.
Mother told me about our little family’s excursions down to the plant to see daddy. We went in a line, Mother usually carried my brother, then came DiVoran, the dog, the Nanny goat and her kid. The baby goat walked across the panes of glass warming over the baby tomato plants and his little hooves went click, click, click.
Dad was invited into World War Two so he moved the rest of us to his parents’ apartment house back in Canon City, where they had a corner apartment available just for the three of us. It was in Canon City that I came to know, from Auntie Elvira, my beginner’s Sunday School teacher, that Jesus loves me.
At bedtime, Mother let us each give her a word and then she’d make up a wonderful story that had the word in it. Sometimes she would color in my coloring book while I slept and I woke up to the most beautiful picture I’d ever seen. On Sunday afternoons, she took us to a movie and to Woolworth’s to shop. She gave each of us a quarter and we could buy anything our hearts desired. We usually bought glass animal toys we could put in the window for the sun to shine through.
Grandmother had her beauty shop with a separate entrance in her home. Granddad left every day at six a. m. to go to work as a guard at the Colorado State Penitentiary. As in-laws, Mother and Grandmother were often at odds with each other. Each knew exactly how to get me to talk, though and I ended up in lots of trouble for reporting to one what the other had done or said.
We were downtown when the war ended. Cars honked, the whistle at the Pen sounded, we were at
Woolworth’s and the owner brought out Halloween noise-makers for everybody.It wasn’t long until Dad came home, bought a blue 1937 Chevrolet and loaded us up for a trip to Westcliffe where he and mother had purchased, “Min’s,” café and restaurant. We lived in an old house, then a duplex, then dad bought the old train depot and renovated it making a room to rent downstairs and family living quarters upstairs.
Mother had always wanted to be a secretary so she bought a portable typewriter and put it in booth where she could practice when business got slow. She said I could use it. One day I was two-finger typing away and Dad walked by. He asked what I was doing and I told him I was writing the story of my life.
“You’re only seven years old, said Dad, it’s going to be a very short story.” However as things turned out it was a long story because I’ve been writing it for a lot of years.
I usually spent a week or so back in Canon City at our grandparents. She wouldn’t have David and I at the same time because we fought too much, but I loved being the only darling. I could walk to the library, check out a book in the Wizard of Oz series, take it home and sit on the porch to read it. It wasn’t only mother who told me everything, but grandmother did as well. One day Mother overheard one of Grandmother’s sisters asking another something and the second sister said, “You’ll have to ask DiVoran, Marie tells her everything.”
I’m sure my Mother and my Grandmother talking to me so much prepared me for understanding human nature and for becoming a writer. They listened too. Dad was a great storyteller, but he never talked much when he came back from the war, so I didn’t hear any of his stories until he was had grown old and he told them again to mother and she wrote them down for me. He never talked to any of us about the war and I knew that he had screaming nightmares, though I don’t remember hearing him for myself.
In Westcliffe, we had a library across Main street from the restaurant, in back of the Community Building. I can see myself crouching in front of the two low shelves where my favorite books lived. I recall confessing to the librarian that I still liked fairy-tales and she was kind enough to tell a small girl that she liked them too.
We had a movie theater in Westcliffe, and my brother and I got to go every time the feature changed, which was every few weeks. We’d watch from the restaurant’s plate glass window and run to the end of the street to the show the minute the neon marquee went on.
Because of the high mountains we had little or no radio reception. But I loved music, so Dad, as a treat, gave me the key to the back of the juke box and let me trip the switch fifty times so that all the songs would play. In school we had folk-dancing and rhythm band and we put on plays. All of that is important to a writer. When I was twelve years old, I started teaching Sunday School because our teacher, who was sixteen became ill and couldn’t teach anymore. I’m happy to say she survived.