Autobiography of Beulah Gardner Larsen
Contributor: JamesAnderson Created: 2 years ago Updated: 2 years ago
“January, 1974 I, Beulah Gardner Larsen, was born of goodly parents, the 27th of September 1901. I was the second child in a family of ten, and the first child to be born in the red brick home my father built for my mother. It was located at 135 East on 4th South in Spanish Fork, Utah.
“My parents names were Brigham Evensen and Margaret Barclay Gardner. My father's occupation was farming. My brothers and sisters in order of birth were:
Harold Barclay Gardner24June 1899
Margaret Gardner21 Dec 1903
Archie Barclay Gardner 4 Mar 1906
Mark Barclay Gardner12 Nov 1908
Edna Gardner Christensen 4 Sept 1910
Reid Barclay Gardner14 Nov 1912
Blanche Gardner Pusey 4 Dec 1914
Neil Barclay Gardner17 Apr 1918
Elaine Gardner Wood30 Jan 1922
“We always had an attractive well-kept home. My advent came at the time when our drinking water came from a well, our wash water came from the mill stream across the street, kerosene lamps furnished the light, and washings were rubbed on a wash board in a galvanized tub. The tub was used on Saturday night for the weekly baths. Carpets were made from rag strips sewn and woven by hand. People rode in buggies, surreys, wagons, and sleighs -- all horse drawn. Nearly every family had a vegetable garden, berry bushes, a few fruit trees, a milk cow, a pig or two for fresh and home-cured meat during the winter.
“My grandfather kept bees, my father grew sugar cane for our own molasses, and Aunt Annie raised silk worms on mulberry leaves for the manufacture of silk cloth. Aunt Annie was my father's sister and our neighbor. She was the dry-good buyer for the Spanish Fork Co-op, the largest mercantile store in town. This gave me several advantages as a little girl. I owned the first pair of patent leather slippers in town, and the first fur fabric coat. The coat was of white curled fur and the envy of all. I also rode into Salt Lake City with Aunt Annie on the big black train one fall. We went to select the Christmas toys for the store. The top floor of the Z.C.M.I. was like a fairy land with hundreds of beautiful toys all on display. The train ride, the toys, the lunch in a real restaurant where each booth was curtained off for privacy was something I have never forgotten. I also rode in a Fourth of July Parade on the Big Co-op's beautiful float one year. This was a thrill.
“My earliest recollection was concerning my sister Margaret's passing. I was four years old when she passed away from the after effects of diphtheria. I remember the Relief Society presidency laying her out, placing bottles of ice around her body to keep her from turning dark. They also made her clothes. Mama helped me pick some pansies to put in her little hand as she lay in the coffin at home.
“My schooling began in what was called the beginner's class, when I was six years old. Jennie Rowe was my teacher, and school was held in a small adobe school house that later was torn down to build the new Thurber School. The adobes were white-washed, so it was known as the little white school house. A board fence surrounded the school yard. A hand bell was vigorously rung to call us to line up for school. We formed a double line, marked time--one-two, one-two, and marched into our classrooms. We sat in twos at double desks, and we girls kept a small bottle of soapsuds and a cloth to keep the top of our desks clean. At recess we played hop scotch, jump the rope, hide and seek, and guinea. I still wonder why the old game of skill called “guinea” has been lost and forgotten. It was a fine game.
“During the summertime I played house, made holly-hock dolls, and sewed for hours on clothes for five cent china dolls. We always carried these 4 inch dolls around in a match box.
“We had our first graduation after the eighth grade, then went on to four years of high school. It was during my seventh grade year that I paired off with my permanent crowd. There were four of us--Mary Snell, Alene Medrum, Laura Kay Lewis, and me. My pals lived about two blocks north of our house.
“My parents were devoted Latter-day Saints. We attended all church meetings without question. We knelt each morning around the breakfast table for family prayer. Each of us in time learned to take our turn to offer the prayer. As soon as we were old enough to earn money, we were taught to give a tithe of one-tenth of our earnings to the Lord.
“It was never hard for me to follow the teachings of my parents, for I can never remember of a time I did not have a testimony of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. On the 3rd of October, 1909, when I was eight years of age, I walked the seven blocks to the old First Ward Church alone. I had a white towel and nightgown in a paper bag. There in the corner of a dim furnace room, I was baptized in a small cement font. I felt very timid and shy, but another girl's mother took me under her wing and helped me out of my wet gown and into my clothes. The following day in Sacrament meeting, my father confirmed me a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. My mother had explained the day previous the importance of my baptism and membership in the Church.
“As a small girl I always enjoyed a trip to Provo by surrey during the summer months to Aunt Bena and Uncle Sam Buckley's. It was a full day's trip to drive over and back, with several hours in between to play and visit. When I was about six years old, Uncle Sam moved his family to the mining town of Knightsville (located northeast of Eureka). Harold and I were allowed to ride the train to Knightsville for a visit each year with our cousins. Here I had many good times roaming the hills, picking wild flowers, and in wintertime a non-stop sled ride down the hill to Eureka.
“When I was seven years old, I fell into the moving wheel of a buggy-type vehicle we were riding in and broke my leg between the hip and knee. I spent all of June on my back in the front bedroom with my leg attached to 10 pounds of rocks hanging on a stretcher at the bottom of the bed. I spent all of July with my leg in a cast, and all of August on crutches. Mama was at this time expecting her fifth child. When my brother Mark arrived in November, he only weighed 3-1/2 pounds, and Mama nearly lost her life.
“During the summer after my graduation from grade school, I heard a religious sermon that had a profound influence upon my life. The sermon was based on the statement: “The glory of god is intelligence.” The testimony of the Spirit rang deep within my soul, and I determined within myself to earnestly seek intelligence. To me at the tender age of fourteen, knowledge meant intelligence. So I made a commitment with myself to make the most of my high school studies, to be an A student, and to go on and graduate from college.
“At this time I planned all of the subjects I would take in both high school and college. I had decided to take subjects that would serve a dual purpose. I would graduate in what was then called “Domestic Art and Science.” I would avail myself of everything that would train me to be an efficient homemaker and mother, and at the same time provide myself with a profession as a teacher.
“About this time I borrowed a pattern of Alene Meldrum to have my mother make me a dress. She unpicked the stitching on the waist several times, gave up, and laid the sewing aside. So I went and borrowed Alene's dress which was like the pattern, and managed to put the dress together. With this success I made several other less consequential items.
“When school opening came around, Mama informed me that if I wanted to go to school, I would have to do all of the sewing for the family. This was a big order for nearly everything we wore was made in the home. I had always been a dutiful daughter, so I set out to accomplish the almost impossible. I first went to the sewing teacher and convinced her I needed to take and was capable of the advanced sewing class. I also told her of my mother's ultimatum.
“I signed up as a freshman but went into class with the junior and senior students. Sewing during noon hour and every other available moment, I had the school year requirements completed by Thanksgiving time. Although many of the students in the class were three years older than I, at the end of the school year I was selected to go to the Utah State College for a week and enter the state sewing contest there. It was a fun week with students from all over the state. Mama's ultimatum paid off--I came home with first prize in sewing.
“The following fall so many young men had been inducted into the Army for World War I that our Utah-Idaho Sugar Company hired girls for the first time to work in their laboratory. Mama always ran on a very close budget, so she took me out of school to work in the laboratory. This was the termination of my school days. I made no protest at my mother's decision; from habit I had always done just what she said, but I cried many lonely tears into my pillow at night. I did not mind the work at the laboratory, but the dreams I had of gaining a fine education, and the goals I had set for myself left me feeling helplessly inadequate. How could I ever hope to be that person of intelligence?
“Mama never knew of the tears and the shattered dreams, for I silently buried them deep in my own heart. I also tearfully asked my Father in Heaven to bless me and help me learn to sew and cook well and make something worthwhile of my life.
“It was at high school dances that the young people learned to dance. This was an activity I was now not a part of. After high school, my friends started going to the public dances at Pack's Pavilion at North Main Street. So Mama had a very lovely pink silk dance dress made for my first dance. My brother Harold gave me a lovely lavilier with a small diamond and pearl in it for Christmas. I felt very dressed up and proud of my attire, only to realize I did not know how to dance. What an effort I had to try and learn that which my friends already knew.
“As a child I had tonsillitis often. Mama had great fear of operations, so we did not have the tonsils out. When I was eighteen my tonsils were so infected and diseased, I began to have rheumatics and long illnesses. I finally went to my uncle Dr. Hughes myself and made arrangements to have the tonsils taken out. I was operated on on our large kitchen table, as there was no hospital in Spanish Fork. I had no more tonsillitis, but my health was already impaired. After three dances, my legs were always very tired.
“As a teenager we had many fun times making candy, singing around the piano, sleeping parties on the lawn, or in our big hay-barn. In the summertime, we rode on hay-racks up Spanish Fork Canyon to a sulphur spring bathing resort called “Castilla.” We always had a wonderful time there, swimming, picnicking and singing as we rode home in the evening on the hay-rack. Then there were the Sunday night band concerts during the summer at the city Park. Boys from all of the neighboring towns came in on the electric train that ran through Main Street. There was plenty of mating and dating among the teenagers.
“I had my Patriarchal Blessing when I was nineteen. Among other things, it mentioned that I was to be a teacher. My teaching within the church began in my teens with the small children in Sunday School. Since then I taught religion class one year, Primary many years, Teacher Training, was on the Sunday School stake board, and taught Relief Society, Bible Project, nutrition, and Teacher's Topic on the stake board. I have also taught four different sessions of three months each of Project Temple. This was a missionary calling from the stake presidency, and I taught it in First Ward, Eight, and Ninth Wards. At the present time, I have been teaching theology in the Relief Society for twenty years. I was Jr. Sunday School Coordinator for six years, and I started a library for our ward 17-1/2 years ago. I have worked continuously at this, and at present I am the Meeting House Librarian for the Second and Ninth Wards.
“It was in September shortly before my twentieth birthday that I first met my husband-to-be. It happened one starry summer night at Castilla, the sulphur springs bathing resort in the mouth of Spanish Fork Canyon. Suzie Snell and I had been invited to stay overnight with Aunt Annie and friends who were camping in tents in the grove there. That evening when we heard the strains of dance music floating on the night air from the hostel, we could not resist slipping into a dark corner of the
ballroom to watch the dancing. There were just two young men from Spanish Fork among those dancers. They were Walt Larsen and Grant White.
“I knew Grant because I was in his class at school. Suzie knew Walt because he was her age, and they were both several years older than I. It was while Walt was dancing that he caught his first glimpse of me among the shadows and, knowing Suzie, he felt it would be all right to ask her friend to dance. Little did he realize he was approaching someone who was prim and precise on introduction, and that this would probably be our first and last meeting. Suzie, who was standing behind me, gave me a firm shove that sent me into Walt's arms as he asked for the dance. We were on the dance floor dancing before I could decline. Suzie knew what my answer would be, and she felt it would be silly for me to miss a perfectly good dance with a hometown boy. Speechless, I accepted, and speechlessly we danced. I was so taken by surprise that it was not until the dance was over that I managed a quiet comment and 'thank you.”
“Suzie and I slipped away as soon as my dance was over, but Walt did not forget me. The following Sunday evening when the townspeople gather for their weekly band concert at the city park, Walt came looking though the crowd to claim me for our first date. He had his father's car for the evening--one of the rare occasions during our two and a half year courtship that we rode rather than walked on our dates. To me it was a privilege for my father had never owned a car.
“Walt was never given to excessive talk, so I would never have known that it was love at first sight on his part had he not told his brother Max, “Keep looking for the right girl. You'll be like me--know her the minute you see her.”
“We were married the third of December 1923 in the Salt Lake Temple. I stayed the night before with my pal Laura Kay at the Bee Hive House Annex. Walt and I went alone to the Temple. We had a wedding at my father's home for the closest of the relatives. A large table was set the length of the living room, and a hot dinner was served to the guests. Among the gifts that we received, the one I remember best, was a large galvanized tub filled with pots and pans of all description and a washboard with which to do the family laundry.
“Walt did not have steady work, so we moved about considerable. We lived for three months in Los Angeles, California. A short time in Magna, Utah, and then my father gave us a building lot on his farm on South Main Street. Here we built the four room lumber home that I live in today.
“We had five children. Geraldine was born at my father's home, and the rest were born at our own home at 616 South Main in Spanish Fork, Utah.
Geraldine Larsen8 March 1925
Weldon Gardner Larsen20 October 1926
Margaret Larsen 4 November 1927
Lois Elaine Larsen12 June 1930
Bruce Gardner Larsen7 October 1932
“One of life's kindest gifts is “Not Knowing” what the future has in store for us in the way of trials. Thus, we hopefully face the future. Had I know that the first seventeen years of our marriage would be one of poverty, sickness, and death, my courage would possibly have failed me along the way.
“Walt's father gave him five hundred dollars as a wedding present for our furniture. Before he could find steady work so we could move to ourselves, the bank where the money was deposited failed and was only partially refunded. The home we built had no plumbing, and we could only furnish the two back rooms. In a day when rag carpets were a thing of the past, I decided to sew enough rags for a rug-sized carpet for our front room. I was so ashamed when company called and saw it bare. Mama gave me an old steel couch, we purchased one cheap unpainted chair, and I put my cedar chest in the room. Later on when Walt had work at the pipe plant, we bought a rug and furniture. But we had such a a struggle making the payments, we never went into debt for anything again as long as we lived. This meant that there was much we went without.
“We had been in the little house a year and a half when my second baby was born. Little Waldon became ill with bronchial pneumonia and passed away the 15th of December 1926 at the age of six weeks.
“My five children were all born within a period of seven and a half years. I was not the strongest physically, and yet I took in sewing and unwisely went back to the Sugar Factory Laboratory for a season's work, to help out the finances. Bit by bit my strength became less, and I found myself having influenza several times a winter. When Bruce came along and was three months old, he took bronchitis. I spent ten days applying mustard plasters and working around the clock to save my baby. By the time he was out of danger, my nerves and my strength gave out. I began to cry and to shake internally, and I was put to bed. I spent the next year lying on the couch or sitting in a chair.
“With no strength to work or even to enjoy reading, I found it difficult to maintain a good attitude. So to keep up my morale, I read small excerpts from a little booklet called “The Sunshine of Life,” and I either memorized or just used them as thoughts for the day. One that was to remain with me and give me drive throughout my life was from Benjamin Franklin: “Dost thou love life? Then squander not time; for that is the stuff of which life is made.”
“It was the days of the great Depression, little work was to be had, so Walt took care of me with the help of my young sister Blanche. Walt washed, ironed, kept house, and even baked bread. Our parents gave us farm produce such as flour, buttermilk, etc. There was pork when a pig was killed. How we loved my mother's good sausage and the scrapple made from the meat on the pig's head.
“My health did not improve, and a year later when I passed out with jaundice, they decided to operate, and I was taken to the Hughes Hospital. My vitality was very low, and I spent the night awake, with the realization that they did not expect me to live. I felt a very sweet peace, as though angels might be near, and I prayed again and again that the Lord would take me unless he could promise me health sufficient to care for my little ones. After the operation, the doctor told me I should be a like a new woman. But the wanted strength was slow to come, and I spent the next several years homebound with considerable illness.
“Bruce was three years old when I finally started back to church. I always selected a back seat, as my hair hung lusterless, my skin was blotched and sallow, my clothes shabby, and I weighed 104 pounds. I felt so inferior I never spoke to anyone until they spoke first. I remember watching my friend Alene give a lesson in Relief Society. She and Laura Kay had graduated from college as teachers. It seemed to me that day that to be able to give such a lovely lesson would be a most wonderful accomplishment. It was something I little dreamed I would ever be able to do.
“I remember the day when one of my brothers took Mama and me to Provo to visit Brother and Sister Keeler with whom my mother had once lived. Mama and Sister Keeler left me alone with my children and Patriarch Keeler. I explained how inadequate I felt because of my lack of education. He looked at me and smiled and said, 'Mother has as fine an education as a lady might desire. She has served diligently in the organizations of the Church, and the Church has educated her.' From that day on hope was born in my heart, and I decided that whatever the Church called on me to do, I would do it. I came home, reread my patriarchal blessing and decided surely I could teach little children again. I knew that through my extreme illness, I had lost my ability to tell or explain things to others, but I also knew I could have the Lord's help. Bolstered with the scripture from 1st Nephi 3:7, 'I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandment unto the children of men save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing he hath commanded them,' I went ahead and assumed many different positions in the Church. Always I was unprepared for the position but accepted on faith, faith that my Father in Heaven wanted me to succeed as much as I wanted to, and that with his help, I could extend myself beyond my own natural abilities and succeed.
“Because my health was so poor, I prayed for wisdom and understanding to help myself health-wise, and I was asked to teach the very first nutrition lessons in the Church. Nutrition was just coming into the teachings of the schools. I have been nutrition conscious ever since, and I am sure this was the Lord's way of answering my prayers for health and strength. Now in my seventies, I enjoy more good health and far greater activity than the average woman my age, and I still have not a strong constitution. Along with nutrition, I have learned the great value of calisthenics, walking, and jogging, and so with self-discipline, I have been able to find and maintain good health so far. As I look back on the years of anxiety, worry, and over-work, I realize why I could not manage to gain weight and build physically. My children were grown and my daughters married before plumbing was installed in the home. So much sewing, hundreds of quarts of fruit and vegetables canned without the ordinary conveniences! I often felt if we ever reached the place where the bare necessities could be had without a struggle, I would be the happiest person in the world.
“Christmas was always a trying time. As soon as the children were in school and the September canning completed, I began going over the hand-me-downs from the relatives, and bargain hunting to try and supply my brood with a happy Christmas. When the big day was over, I was usually so tired I had another attack of flu. We were never without food, but I do remember once when Walt was away looking for work, and he had taken what little money we had with him. I found myself so hungry for some protein, I could hardly eat what we had. I took my little ones down to the City Park and sat and watched them play all afternoon. When I returned home, I found groceries on my table and among them was a perfectly beautiful pound of cheese. My mother had paid me a visit.
“ One day when things had been especially difficult, my mother told me that there had to be a turn in the road, and indeed it finally came. After seventeen years of hardships, my husband finally found permanent and satisfying work at the Union Pacific Railroad yards in Provo. Although the work was very strenuous, he loved the repair work on the trains. Gradually and slowly my health began to repair, but through the years I have never been able to indulge in a good cry. To cry always brought back the inward trembling that made me ill and stripped me of my strength. Almost tearless, I have had to lay away my loved ones.
“In the 1950s, we bought a Chevrolet car, and Walt and I enjoyed many nice rides through the fields. For years, we drove every Thursday to the A&W Root Beer stand in Springville and had our supper. We made about five trips by train to West Virginia to see our son-in-law Reed Ewing and the grandchildren. On one trip, we also went to Washington, D.C., and on up to New Jersey to visit my brother Mark. After Bruce's marriage in 1960, we always made one trip a year to Denver. Following my husband's unexpected passing in January of 1972, I had a lovely trip to Niagara Falls and the Church history spots in the East and Midwest. Bruce invited me to join his family for the trips.
“Some of the happiest times of our life were the Santa Claus parties we started to have for our grandchildren in 1958. We had a lovely Christmas dinner, and then Santa came and delivered gifts to all. After he was gone, the grandchildren exchanged gifts. Walt's mother and mine came as long as they lived and enjoyed the fun too. Grandma Larsen laughed and enjoyed 'Old Santa,' as she called him, just like one of the children. When our home became too small for the growing families, we had the party up in Lois Elaine and Dean's home. When they moved to Price we could no longer manage the party.
My children have all been happy in their marriages. Geraldine married Reed Taylor Ewing 31 Jan. 1947 in the Salt Lake Temple. Margaret married Mack Spencer Adams 1 Sep. 1948 in the Salt Lake Temple. Lois Elaine married Dean Lewis Brockbank 26 June 1947 in the Salt Lake Temple. Bruce Gardner married Donna Darlinda Coman 23 Sept. 1960 in the Manti Temple.
“ Geraldine and Reed moved to Bluefield, West Virginia, in June of 1953. They had three children. Geraldine passed away with leukemia October 20, 1953. This was indeed a sad day, but Reed married Mary Elizabeth Montgomery the following year, and she was a loving mother to his little ones. She has always been a very dear daughter-in-law. The children are all fine adults now.
“Margaret and Mack have 10 lovely children. Lois Elaine and Dean have six, and Bruce and Donna have five. My children are all devoted Latter-day Saints. They and my grandchildren are the joy of my life. Whatever hardships Walt and I had to face as we raised our children, we felt they were well worth the effort. They have repaid us over and over again in happiness, for we can be proud of each and every one of them. My son served his country in the Korean War and has fulfilled a mission for his church. Five of my grandsons have fulfilled missions and others are looking forward to the time when they, too, can receive a call.
“My family and my church are my joy and my life. The Gospel of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a way of life--and what a glorious one it is! As Patriarch Keeler promised, I have received a fine education by serving my church. As a teacher, the Holy Ghost has no peer, and I am grateful and proud to have been so taught. I have a deep and abiding testimony of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and it grows deeper each year of my life. My testimony is my most precious possession. What peace and gratitude I feel to be led and directed by Jesus Christ himself through a living Prophet of God.”
Beulah's autobiography clearly shows what a gentle, loving person she was. Despite poverty, illness, hard work, and many limitations, she became a remarkable kind and wise woman. She was an island of strength and peace in a life that did not foster that with comfort.
In addition to becoming a master teacher despite being denied a formal education, Beulah became an accomplished painter. She was able to take art classes late in her life and, to her great pleasure, developed a latent talent. Among other paintings was a beautiful oil of the Neil Gardner family home that stood on the corner of the street where she was born. She gave it to her brother Mark because he was so openly delighted with it. She said she planned to give it to whomever liked it best. It hung in place of pride over Mark and Ruth's mantel in their living room and was featured it on one of their Christmas cards. It is now cherished by one of their daughters.