The childhood of Mary Elizabeth Brereton
Contributor: SouthPawPhilly Created: 1 year ago Updated: 1 year ago
Mary Elizabeth was called Beth, Betsy or Betty. She was a sickly child who did not like to eat. Molly would butter and jelly bread and cut it into tiny squares (like little cakes) to trick her into eating. Beth was the baby, so for years she got to sleep between Mom and Dad in their bed. Mother (Amalia Olsen) was the disciplinarian. When Beth did something naughty, Mother got a "willer" to hit her legs. Dad (Richard Eugene Brereton) would shield her and say, "Don't hurt the baby Mama." Dad had a temper himself sometimes, but he did not want his baby spanked. When Beth was growing up, children were seen and not heard and if they tried to get involved in adult business, Mother (Amalia Olsen) quickly backhanded them.
Beth was a happy-go-lucky kid. She liked to go do things, jump around, hike and just have fun. She was very independent, and though she liked to play with other kids, she was also content to play by herself. She like to play with paper dolls and would stage plays with them. Her parents couldn't afford to purchase new dolls, so Beth would wait for a catalog in the mail and cut the entire thing up to make paper dolls. she cut out mamas and daddies and an entire family; and of course, Molly would have a fit over her ruined catalogs. This may have been the beginning of Beth's dream to be a "Great Actress" like Betty Davis.
Mother once gave her a black baby doll and later a Chinese baby doll. Beth was VERY unhappy with these dolls because in her mind they just were not her babies. She just wanted a plain old doll that could be her baby. Beth also had a little set of baby dishes her brother gave to her when she was five years old. She later gave one piece of the tea set to each of her daughters, and one piece to her namesake, Stan Brereton's daughter. Her most memorable gift was a baby buggy with a doll and a blanket.
She loved reading- once she learned to read she was hooked. Mother (Amalia Olsen) was hooked on reading too, and often sat on a little pillow on the oven door (because she was cold) to read to the kids. Molly used to buy a pulp magazine with recipes and stories, which had a story in the back about "Teddy Bear." She read it to the kids every month, and they loved Teddy Bear. Beth liked adventure stories the best. At age 11 or 12 she liked Jean Stratton Porter's books like "Girl of the Limber Lost" and "Freckles". As she got older she liked mysteries and histories and all books.
Beth also enjoyed music. Mom and Dad gave her an old Edison phonograph, which had disks that slipped on it. Her family never had enough money for a piano or Beth could have taken lessons from her cousin Vera Clark (whose son was later the manager for the Osmonds). One popular song of her time that Beth recalls:
Just a song at twilight
When the lights are low
And the flickering shadows
Softly come and go
Though the light be weary
Sad the day and long
Still to us a twilight
Comes loves old song
Comes loves old sweet song
As a child, Beth loved to cook and when left alone in the house would create a surprise for Mama. Once she whipped up a cake and put it in the cold wood stove to bake. Beth's favorite food as a child was macaroni and cheese. She also enjoyed her mom's homemade applesauce cake, strawberry shortcake, and bread. Molly cooked for every meal. When Gene was alive and working on the farm, they ate their big meal at lunch. Sometimes they had a "bottle lunch" which meant they pulled everything out of the fridge and munched on leftovers.
Beth's real chore was dusting the house. Mother had a Minnesota treadle sewing machine with iron fretwork on the side. Beth's little fingers were just small enough to dust in all the holes. She loved to wash dishes because she thought it was so grown up and fun. They washed the dishes on the table using a big dishpan with soapy water and one with rinse water, and then they dried the dishes with a towel. The water would run down her arms and drip off her elbows, and she would be drenched by the time the dishes were washed. Now Beth just throws her dishes in the dishwasher. Her kids tell her she had the cleanest dishes in town because she washes them and then lets the dishwasher clean them again.
Molly had a 9' by 12' kitchen with blue and white squares of old-fashioned linoleum. Beth and John had to scrub the floor on their hands and knees. Beth remembers being very tired by the time they had the whole floor scrubbed and the mopboards around the edges as well! Beth was also responsible for helping to sort the fruit brought in from their apple and pear orchards, to get them ready for sale.
Beth was scared of the dark and John liked to antagonize her. Dad once sent them to the cellar to get apples with only a match to light their way. John blew out her match, ran up the stairs and yelled, "Here it comes!" Then he held the door closed so she couldn't get out of the cellar.
Dad had a Model-T Ford with snap-on cellulose windows that attached in the winter so you could stay warm. Beth remembers putting along in it. Dad let off the brake and they would start rolling. Her brother John liked to turn the key off and on so the engine backfired. Once Dad took them to the movies (a cartoon like Felix the Cat) and let John make the engine backfire over and over again all the way down the road.
Beth's older sister Gertrude was married right after Beth was born. Gertrude's son was only 9-10 months younger than Beth, so they grew up like cousins. Gertrude's kids would come over and they would all sleep on the floor together. Gertrude's oldest son, Don Smith, later fought in the Battle of the Bulge in Belgium. It was during the winter and he was stationed on the big guns for many hours at a time. The hard work gave him a bad heart and he died shortly after returning home from the war.
Beth remembers her brother John having every kind of pet. They had a tiny pet skunk that had been de-scented, ferrets, pigeons and cats. Beth had a cat of her own that was very attached to her. When she was a teenager she stayed in the canyon and worked during the week. The cat cried and looked for her, and Molly told Beth, "She knows you're gone."
Beth was only eleven years old when her dad died. She was in the sixth grade and her Uncle Willy came to the school to get her. He told her, "Your daddy died today." She cried and felt bad, but she was too young to realize what had happened. Molly took a long time to get over it. Beth's brother Dick ran the family store after Dad died, but he died of heart trouble at the age of 36. After that, Bill lived at the house with Molly, Beth and John and he supported them. He worked for Utah Power at the mouth of Provo Canyon.
Beth was about fourteen years old when slacks first became popular for women to wear. Molly forbid Beth to wear them, but Beth and Alene (her best friend) picked berries to earn money, and then went to town and bought some on their own. Molly had a fit. Later, Molly started going to her daughter's sheep ranch in the mountains of Colorado. She had to ride horses, so she also started wearing slacks.
While Beth was growing up many things were invented. For instance the radio- Dad had on eof the first in their area when she was six or seven years old. They would listen to shows on the radio like "Fibber Magee and Molly" which was a comedy. Beth worked on the radio when she was 16 or 17 for KOVO in Provo. They did Hansel and Gretel and she was always the wicked witch. She also did the Betty Boop voice. Whenever a movie played, a cartoon would play first and Betty Boop was one of those cartoons. In high school she wrote her own material for a comedy reading, with all her voices and imitations, and she won first place with it at a BYU speech tournament. Beth daydreamed about being an actress and going to Hollywood. She would have loved to play roles like Zazzy Pitts who played in "Christmas Holiday"-she was spacey looking with great big eyes and a shaky voice. A famous line of hers was "Life is just a bowl of cherries and I'm the pits." Beth was stage-struck and always pretended she was an actress.
Letter from Helen Reed Brereton to Haylee Larsen regarding Mary Elizabeth Brereton
Contributor: SouthPawPhilly Created: 1 year ago Updated: 1 year ago
I first met your Grandma when she was 17. She was a small cute little auburn longhaired bubble. Always enthusiastic about anything that was fun. I was the new girlfriend of her brother Howard (John). We visited back and forth between Payson (where I lived) and Provo where she lived; we traveled on the bus to get back and forth. She kind of liked a boy in Payson I knew. She dated him a few times and decided he wasn't her kind of guy. There was a new radio station just introduced in Provo-KOVO. She spent a lot of time there singing and dancing. She met a young man there she went all gaga over. His name was Blaine. It was quite a while before he asked her for a date. Of course she had lots of friends and dated quite a lot. He girlfriends and boyfriends group dated a lot and had a lot of fun. They danced and sang a lot. She has such a beautiful voice. They were just a good clean fun group. But when Blaine finally asked her for a date I didn't know if we were going to save her, until the time came for the date and then she got cold feet and didn't want to go. They had fun. Blaine was a settled type of person; Beth was a kind of flighty fun-loving person. There was a new song out that was something about scatterbrain she sang so much, so Blaine called her "Scatterbrain."
We went away for a year for work and during this time they were married. Her sister Bud (Florence) and I made her a wedding cake and mailed it from Colorado. I don't know what it looked like when it got to her. I think Blaine baptized her. In time we came back to Provo to live and they had been to the temple and Blaine was in the Navy, and she was expecting Mike. Johnnie and I had a little boy Gene who was 3 years old. We all stayed with Grandma Molly for a while. Beth took Gene with her a lot, he was her lover. They laughed a lot about celebrating because he pronounced it "cellerbraking." When Blaine came back to the states she joined him in Pleasanton California and they were in Cordelaine, Idaho too. After Blaine was out of the service they settled in Mapleton for a while. Beth had really difficult pregnancies. I swear she started morning sickness a month before she was pregnant.
Anyway, she gave all she had in strength, health, energy, love, just everything for their children. She and Blaine worked together too and gave all they had to raise the children and made them who they are today. Your dad (Richard) was the cutest little brown-eyed bundle of mischief that ever lived. She had he and Mike close together and they were a handful. While she was getting one of Richard's hand out of trouble, the other one (Mike) was behind her getting into trouble somewhere else.
Beth always had a lot of friends. There was a Davis family she was real friendly with. All their girls spent a lot of time in their home. From babies up she had a friend that lived across the street from her named Alene Pierce. They were inseparable. I think they were 16 or 17 and Alene died of a brain tumor. Beth has never really gotten over that. Till yet she still talks about this. She had another, Josephine Booth, she loved so much.
I don't know what I can tell you about Blaine. He was a real hard worker. He loved his kids, taught them how to work. He was a good man, compassionate. They played together, but Blaine was a serious person. He loved Beth very much.
I don't know if what I have written will help. Hope you can read it. If I rewrite it you'd probably never get it. I'll answer any questions you have. You can call me anytime. I am proud of you for doing this for your Grandmother and the rest of your family.
Love, Aunt Helen