Three years of purposeful conversations with my father about his childhood rekindled my erstwhile inner journalist. I did the research, dug up the facts, and interviewed those with active memories of his parents, Ell and Victoria. This allowed me to hang some truth on my suspicions and led me down the 'creative non-fiction' path.
Eau Claire Leader, June 2, 1909. J.E. Matson was a successful doctor and businessman with high expectations. He considered his son blessed with an abundance of potential, but woefully deficient in ambition and direction.
Champ was supposed to be born in Spokane, to be delivered into the world by his paternal grandfather, the doctor. Didn't work out that way.
Champ's paternal grandparents, J.E. and Emma Matson, were solemn, proper and moved gracefully in the upper societal circles of Spokane and Eau Claire.
Ell's father opened the doors to get his son a job on the Grand Coulee Dam, but Ell still had to go through the motions.
Ell helped establish the footprint for what all the newspapers were calling “The Greatest Structure in the World.”
“You're nothing but a boomer, a clown, a grifter. A punk.” And a deadbeat, apparently.
Still a deadbeat. One step ahead of the creditors.
Most customers felt sorry for a 10-year old kid selling magazines. Recognizing the connection between this cover and his reality, Champ worked his parentage into his sales pitch.
Ell knew the “J” in his name stood for “Jesse.” He never told his son.