Norma Thomas Atkin: Her life
Contributor: Dieselbeetle Created: 11 months ago Updated: 11 months ago
Norma Thomas was born June 11, 1925 in Varteg, a little village in the county borough of Torfaein, four miles North of Pontypool, South Wales. She came into the family of Richard Charles and Naomi Forward Thomas, with 5 older siblings: Gladys born in 1911, Harold George, 1913, Wilfred Alvin, 1916, Ivin Ramond,1919 and Edith born in 1921.
As a child, Norma liked to dress up and was often teased by her older brothers. They would say she was "being a princess where a princess wasn't needed" (brothers being brothers!). She started Kindergarten at 3, but it lasted for 2 years, so by the age of 5, she was reading. She was always a good student, mastering multiplication and division by 3rd grade. She played hopscotch, skip rope, gymnastics but liked the 'big swings' the best. There was a wall dividing the girls from the boys at school. Norma liked to sneak around the wall and peek at the boys.
Norma's mother, Naomi, could always tell when Norma was coming home...she could hear her singing. Her coat would be over her shoulder and she would be singing coming down the road. She did have a natural talent for music along with her beautiful voice, playing the piano by ear when she was younger. Her parents started her in piano lessons, but those did not go well and she lost interest in playing. Later, as a mom, Norma used her singing talent with the 'Singing Mothers' at church. She never wanted to be a soloist, but did enjoy singing with the choir.
Norma grew up in a mining town so there was black 'sootie dust' over everything: shoes, clothing, house inside and out. They would need to scrub everything... even the sidewalk! And their water source was not close - they had to go up and down two hills to 'fetch' it.
They lived in a "white-washed old fashioned cottage, on top of a hill. It is a ways from anywhere and has no modern conveniences what-so-ever, but it is comfortable and clean, and we have spent many happy days here. We also have to carry our drinking water". (Taken from letters written in 1945).
She was baptized in 1933 at the age of 8.
When President Heber J. Grant visited Wales, Norma had the "privilege of shaking hands with him, and to hear him speak, although I was not very old at the time, I will always remember him. I thought how nice he looked with his white hair and beard. He looked very distinguished." (Letter from May 1945).
She was an excellent knitter. Knitting sweaters, hats and gloves in a few days.
On Sundays they would usually have a jello-like truffle and cucumber sandwiches.
At 14 she finished public school and became a 'checker' at a laundry, that was the same year (1939) that Hitler invaded Poland and World War 2 started in Europe.
Christmas, 1944, she met a tall, thin, young American serviceman named Tom Atkin that was recuperating from a wound. This was the start of her own real love story... The details of how they met, 2 years of writing back and forth, a marriage proposal by mail, and then coming to America....is in Tom's story.
She would often ride the train to and from Wales to Birmingham, England, and one time the train was so crowded that they had to "stand all the way home, for 4 hours. The train was simply packed. We were glad to get in get houseboy the fire, we were that cold." (Letter from Norma to Tom).
List of some movies mentioned in her letters while living in Wales and England: "Cover Girl" with Rita Hayworth and Gene Kelly, "Lady Let's Dance", "The Climax" with Boris Karloff, "Rosemary", "The Love Story" with Steward Granger, "Wilson" (about President Woodrow Wilson) and she especially liked "Since You Went Away". Norma's family moved to Birmingham in June of 1945 to be closer to grandparents in the '5 houses'. Their house, 23 Booth Street, Handsworth, Birmingham 21, was the mission headquarters for the LDS church. Her father, Richard, took care of the LDS Ward House and was the District Leader, riding his bicycle all around the area, keeping in touch with the members.
Norma liked the dances in the band hall, and went to many. "I had to walk to the station, on Saturday, because the snow as that bad. It had stopped all means of transport. And funny enough when I got off the train at Snow-Hill, I lost the heel off my shoe, again. Boy was I mad! I came back on Sunday morning, and I had another 8 mile hike from the station up home with only one heel on my shoes. When I got in the house I felt like having a good cry. It has started to snow again tonight. By morning we won't be able to open the door." (January 29, 1945).
She called photos, "snaps", children were "nibs" and Americans were called "Yanks". Her family were required to dim the lights in their home at night during the "horrid" war until April of 1945.
May 7, 1945, "It's an exciting day...we are expecting Mr. Churchill to announce the end of the war any minute. I will be very glad. I suppose you will be too. It won't be very long now before you will be able to go home."
May 10th, "I went to the victory dance after all and now I am feeling the effects. I'm so glad the war with Germany is over, I will be very glad indeed when it is all over, so as we can settle down and live a normal life once again...you should have been here the first part of the week, there's been great big fires, bands out playing, people singing until early hours the morning. I bet there wasn't many who did not have drink. It was disgusting to see some people, but they seemed happy, and you can't help laughing at them sometimes. How did you enjoy Victory Day? (Written to Tom while he was stationed in Germany).
Norma and Edgar Thomas (Tom) Atkin were married on December 11, 1946 in the Salt Lake Temple. They brought 8 sons into the world: Richard Thomas, born in Tooele, Utah on September 27, 1947, Maurice Grant, born in Logan, Utah March 30, 1949, Willard Bruce born in Salt lake City, Utah on 5 January, 1951, David Brent, born in Provo, Utah on January 30, 1953 Steven Mark born in Provo, Utah, May 29, 1954, Norman Kenneth born in Provo, Utah on September 6, 1957, Byron Lee, Provo, Utah on January 28, 1961, John Nathan, Provo, Utah on March 4, 1968.
Norma was proud to be an American citizen and took her voting rights seriously, but nothing was more important to her than her family and church. She was very happy to be a 'stay at home Mom' and take care of her children and husband, always there for them, encouraging, loving and always smiling.
"Do you know dear, I often think, are we worthy of all the blessings the Lord bestows upon us? Sometimes perhaps we don't realize how much the Lord does for us." (April 1945 letter).
Norma passed away on July 17, 1997 in Provo, Utah of natural causes. She is buried in the Springville, Utah Cemetery.