Book Review: Telling It the Way It Was

In David Jussero’s book, Telling It the Way It Was: A Country Boy Survives Life in the City, he urges his readers to get the most out of life, because “Life is like a roll of toilet paper; the closer you come to the end, the faster it goes.”

I do agree with his philosophy, but that’s not the only reason David’s book struck a chord with me. As is true for many Washingtonians, David and I both have roots in the North Dakota prairies. My grandparents were German immigrants. His were Finnish. Hard-hit by the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl years, my family left farming to seek better opportunities on the West Coast. David and Caroleen Jussero did the same thing. North Dakota roots run deep, especially when one leaves family and good friends behind. Even though we’ve both spent most of our lives in the Pacific Northwest, that sense of connection to our state of origin is not easily severed.

David Jussero’s grandparents, John and Anna Jussero, immigrated to the U.S., married, and homesteaded near Rolla, North Dakota, not far from the Canadian border. Four children were born while they lived in a sod house. Then John built a wood frame house for his family which expanded by five more children, one of whom, Richard, became David’s father.

The tight-knit Finnish community somewhat reluctantly accepted Richard’s marriage to a pretty French girl from Lac la Biche, Canada. Their oldest child, David, was born in 1936. David’s often humorous tales of growing up on a small wheat farm, going to one-room country schools, and dropping out of school at age sixteen to undertake a series of farm jobs draw a picture of a life that emphasized self-reliance and hard work. But Dave had bigger dreams and by the time he was nineteen, he’d left the farm behind to seek a new life out west.

He found work in Portland, Oregon and sent for his neighbor and sweetheart, Caroleen Messier. They married, had a daughter, and moved to better jobs in Seattle. Soon Dave was also buying and managing rental houses. He was so successful in his sideline, he retired at age forty to spend time at the things he really wanted to do, such as volunteering for Habitat for Humanity and other humanitarian groups, traveling extensively with Caroleen, and bicycling twice across the United States.

Dave’s observations on history and his stories of human interest, interspersed with homemade verses, witty comments, and many photographs make reading his book a pleasure.

David and Caroleen Jussero live in Snohomish, Washington. Telling It the Way It Was is available at or may be ordered through booksellers or at

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