O'Leah "Lee" Lasson Hurst
Contributor: PKristineHurd Created: 1 year ago Updated: 1 year ago
O’Leah “Lee” Lasson Hurst
We lived on a cattle ranch all my childhood. My father was Niels Oscar Lasson, and my mother was Ursula Spencer. We lived up Spanish Fork Canyon where we owned a dry farm and raised cattle. The nearest small community was Birdseye, Utah. There were five children in my family.
Ward Oscar Lasson was born July 25, l9l8. He died of a heart attack at home in
Birdseye, Utah. He is buried in the Spanish Fork cemetery. He died May 9, 1993.
Edythe Lasson Dame was born February 7, l920. She died of lung disease in Idaho, on 28 May, 1991. The place of death is listed as Ontario, Oregon, so that maybe is where the hospital was located. She was buried in Spanish Fork cemetery on Jun 3, 1991.
O’Leah Lasson Hurst was born January 20, l926. When I was born the family was still living at the old homestead, or old place, but moved to the current home in 1932. I was still kicking and grumbling at the time of this typing.
Electa Lasson Brown Inman was born May 5, l928. She was the third daughter and had auburn curly hair. She was a darling baby….so petite… sweet disposition and she resembled our mother very much.
Marilyn Kay Lasson Mitchell was born October l6, l936 in Birdseye, Utah, in our home that we lived in most of our growing up years. Mother and Dad lived there until they died.
I was ten years old and I can recall very vividly when she was born. They had brought Mom’s bed out into the living room near the heat from the coal stove. My aunt was there to help and so was the doctor from Fairview. Dad had to drive about l7 miles to tell him she was in labor. They sent all five of us into the bedroom to listen to the radio. I can recall getting to hold that little girl baby when she was just a few minutes old.
My father, Niels Oscar Lasson, was born in Fairview, Utah on June 26, l887. At the time of his death, he was living alone and the stove he was using burned fine coal. It backed up on him and smoked up the entire house. No fire appeared so his son (who lived a short distance away) didn’t find him until the next morning. He died of smoke inhalation. He died December 6, 1975. He was 88 and ½ years of age.
My mother, Ursula Spencer Lasson, was born in Birdseye, Utah on November l2, l897. She died in the hospital in Payson, Utah from a brain aneurysm. Our son, Steven, was just a baby in arms, but Mother and Dad got to see him before she passed away. She died April 1, 1969. She was 71 years of age.
Mother was less than five foot tall and was on the heavy side. Dad was around six foot tall and was quite slender. He was bald headed as long as I can remember.
Both were very even tempered. Mother was much more outgoing and loved people. She liked to go places and visit relatives. She had a keen sense of humor and was fun to be around. Dad was head of the house, but Mother had a great influence on his decision making. Our home was fairly permissive. It was a happy home and we shared much love. We were an l8 year-spread between the oldest and youngest child. We only had two bedrooms, one for my parents and one for kids, and so it was a crowded bedroom.
Mother worked in our home for most of our growing up years, but later drove a small bus for the kindergarteners, and also worked in an elementary school doing school lunch. My mother had lived on a sheep farm or a cattle range all her life. She was only educated up until the eighth grade, so she was really poorly educated. She would really stress proper language. She would correct your language, no matter where you were – if the verb didn’t match the noun in terms of grammar or tense. I don’t know where she got that training, as she didn’t get it in school. Anyway, they had cattle that they sent up into the mountains every summer to graze. They would send up a chuck wagon. It was actually a covered wagon, white canvas on the top. They would send up a cow herder or a cowboy to watch these cattle over the summer. They would send food up to him, or he would ride the horse down on Saturday to get a bath and then pick up food for the next week. He was up there all alone. This was my brother, Ward’s, summer job for several years. You could get up there by horse, but you couldn’t get up there with a car
Dad stressed honesty at all times. His word was binding and he was a fair-dealing man. He said to do nothing that would discredit the Lasson name. He was very proud of his heritage. My Dad used to teach us to always stick to your word. Your word was your bond. If you were a Lasson, you didn’t need a legal document. The Lasson’s were quite a proud family. Mom would say, “Don’t you EVER do anything to cast a shadow on the family name.” Mother always felt she really married up. She would always preach, “Don’t ever to anything to shame the Lasson name. It is a very noble name.” Mother said it more than Dad did. Dad was quiet. Mother did most of the teaching of the family, but they both felt it. If you did something bad, you were disgracing the whole family, not just yourself.
I think all the people around them felt the Lasson’s were pretty uppity. They really weren’t, but they had the self-esteem to carry it off, if you know what I mean. And I didn’t have an Aunt or Uncle that wasn’t just as proud of themselves as they could be and had real high self-esteem. And on my mother’s side, I had Aunts and Uncles that weren’t. One was an alcoholic and others had other problems. They weren’t a real proud people. The Lasson’s were. I guess it came from when they came over from Sweden. That was a blessed name. They really had a lot of pride it in.
I can remember the road in front of Mother’s place, being just a mud road. It was highway 89 – a state road, but it was just gravel. I can remember many a many a many a time that total strangers would spend the night in our living room. They had run off the road and had to wait until someone came looking for them, as we didn’t have a telephone. Dad would get his team of horses out a lot, and pull their cars back on the roadway. He worked on the road crew for extra money when they paved 89.
Our house on the farm was moved to its current location. It was moved from about ten miles away. They put big logs under it and pulled it with a team (or two teams) of horses. The back log would be moved to the front and they moved that home the whole way. They dug a partial cellar underneath the kitchen and put the house on the foundation. If life was easy, it wouldn’t be hard. (laugh
Mother and Dad never had a wedding reception nor had Dad ever given Mom a diamond. So on their fiftieth wedding anniversary, they had a huge wedding celebration and had an open house with wedding cake, flowers, and she got her diamond as well.
My paternal grandfather, Ole Lasson, Junior was born May 20, 1854 in Nobbelov, Jaisherod, Sweden. He died April 5, 1938 in Fairview, Utah and is buried there in the newer cemetery up on the hill. My grandfather Lasson spoke Swedish; he lived there until he was 14 years of age, and then came across the plains with his family.
My grandmother, Cynthia Philinda Terry, was born Oct 22, 1860 in Union Fort, Utah and died March 17, 1937 in Fairview. She is buried at his side.
My maternal grandfather Jacob Hyrum Spencer was born Nov 5, 1845 in the area around Hancock County, Illinois. He died Dec 17, 1922 in Birdseye, Utah. He is buried in Payson. My grandmother, Sally Elmer was born Mar 22, 1852 in Council Bluffs, Pottawattamie, Iowa. She died Dec 10, 1910 in Birdseye, Utah.
My Uncle Frank and Aunt Rae were my favorite uncle and aunt. Uncle Frank was mother’s older brother and they were the ones who lived on a sheep ranch about five miles from our home. Mother and Aunt Rae were very close and so we interacted with them very often. We ate dinner many times at their home. Uncle Frank smoked all the time, but he developed cancer of the lips and had to give it up. He was not active in the church until he married Aunt Rae and she wouldn’t marry anyone who was not active in the church. She was a great influence in his life
My earliest memories were when I was around four years of age. We lived in a three-room old house on the Lasson farm. We all slept in one bedroom…that is Mother and Dad, Ward, Edythe, Electa and I. We had a cellar outdoors where we kept our dairy foods cold and stored the potatoes and carrots for the winter. We also had an outdoors bathroom, a three-holer, a short distance from the front door. We had only one entrance to the house… definitely a fire hazard.
I was closer to Electa because we were nearer in age. She was a petite little girl with long, auburn ringlets, which Mother curled on her finger every day. She was a “show-stopper”. She’d sleep on her face to keep her hair pretty. Poor plain me, Mom would get me a yearly permanent and tie a ribbon around my head to keep the hair out of my eyes. (Can you hear the violins playing?) She was and is cute as a button. She was quiet in nature and loved to stay indoors and read or do embroidery. I was a “tom-boy” and loved the outdoors. Although we were quite different in nature, we were very close and spent many hours together.
She lived to sew and made most of her own clothes as a teenager. One time she was voted as the “best dressed” girl in her school.
She had a “sneaky” streak and was lazy from the neck down. One day she and I were supposed to do the dishes after a big dinner feeding the “hay men”. When dish time came, Electa suddenly became scarce and so the dishes were done without her. About half an hour later, Dad went out into the farmyard to gather eggs and standing against a haystack was Electa. She asked, “Daddy, are the dishes done yet?” She has never lived down that story.
I am fairly average in size…maybe on the short side. I have hazel eyes and brown hair and, yes, I did have freckles. I got a permanent in my hair each September whether I needed it or not. I just wore it pulled back with a ribbon tied around my head. I had three sisters who were all red headed and my brother, Ward, used to tell me I was adopted because my hair didn’t match the other girls. I did have a favorite hairdo. It took a lot of work to set and comb it out. It was pin curls set all over your head. I would brush it out and then pull the curls to the extreme back,
On Christmas Eve it was tradition for us to all collect around the stove in the front room. We read the Bible story of the birth of Jesus Christ. We opened all our gifts from each other on Christmas Eve. We only had Santa’s gifts to open the next morning. A week or two before Christmas, Mom would take us all into Provo to shop for a new dress and shoes for Christmas. Dad would bring out a large bowl of nuts with their shells on and a nutcracker. We unshelled nuts and talked. We were permitted all the candy and nuts our little hearts desired. The candy was a variety of hardtack, gumdrops, ribbon candy, etc. A large five-pound box of a poor grade of chocolates was purchased and kept under lock and key in a “steamer trunk”. This was shared on Christmas Eve. We usually got new nightgowns or P.J.’s at the same time. We each selected a chair or corner to hang our stockings for Santa to fill.
Our home had no central heating. The stove heated that room and one bedroom. A Heaterola stove heated the front room and the other bedroom. We had no indoor plumbing and we used kerosene or gasoline lights. Our house was so cold in the mornings so that is probably why we opened all the gifts at night when the house was nice and warm.
We loved Christmas and Mother always cooked a chicken dinner, rolls, pies, etc. for Christmas Day. Good, good memories! We used to go up in the mountains with our horses to cut down our Christmas cedar trees. I can recall being pulled on a sled behind the horse and holding on to the tree so it wouldn‘t fall from the sled. My brother, Ward, used to set animal traps for coyotes, etc. and I can remember going with him to check out his traps and haul the animal pelts on the back of the sled with me balancing myself on top of them.
If I wouldn’t go to bed on Christmas Eve, Mom would say, “I can hear Santa’s bells,” and I would reply, “No I can’t,” and she would say, “You just listen.” I did, and I could hear bells. Boy, I went to bed fast, let me clue you, so I still believed in Santa Claus. Later I learned it was my dad, over at the barn. They’d had it planned between them, or maybe he just thought of it on his own, just to get us to go to bed.
My house was less than 1000 square feet in area. It consisted of a living room, two bedrooms and a kitchen dining combination. Yes that is right, 4 rooms. My parents had the larger front bedroom, and all the kids shared the back bedroom, where the girls slept 3 to a double bed and my brother Ward slept in a cot on the other wall. Edythe was 17 when she left home and so until then Edythe, Electa and I slept together. I was 6 years younger and Electa was 8 years younger than Edythe. The only closet in the whole place was in my parent’s room, and so all the things we needed to hang up went in there. We had an outhouse outdoors. It wasn’t until after I was married that my parents finally split off part of the bedroom and made an indoor bathroom.
We had flannel sheets in the winter time and cotton sheets during the summer. The flannel sheets were warmer but weren’t washed as often. They probably needed it oftener but the soil didn't show so plainly. We only bathed once a week, so I’m sure they needed it. We bathed in round laundry tubs. Some families used the same water for each member of the family, but at our house we each had our own fresh water. Sometimes, Dad would use our used water if the warm water had all been used. We heated the water on top of the coal stove. We were pioneers or something like that.
Underneath the floor of the kitchen was a cellar where we stored fruits and vegetables, and added onto the back of the house was a shed where other things were stored.
I cannot remember any scarcity of food. Mother was a good cook and made cookies very often. We often helped Mother when she made the cookies. We lived on a cattle ranch which was actually too small to provide enough income to support a family. We would have one or two good years and then a series of years when money had to be borrowed to sustain the family. As children we were not treated as if we didn’t have any money. We thought we were living as high as the rest of the children on the other ranches. The land had been originally one big ranch, until Grandpa Ole Lasson split the land up between his sons. Many people referred to it as the Lasson ranch, and didn’t realize that it had to support so many families.
When I was young the whole ranch was our playground. It had a little stream flowing at the bottom of the hill, and we used to pretend we were fishing. We did catch many minnows with our hands. We would make mud pies and every spring down by the polliwog pond we operated on polliwogs, salted them, buried them and gave them funerals and placed flowers at the grave. We had one big tree out by the sheds, and Dad had put up a rope swing. We had a huge barn, sheds, chicken coops, etc. We had cattle, milk cows, pigs, chickens, sheep and dogs and cats. One of our favorite places to go was to an old homestead that was two or three miles from home and we loved to ride horses or hike to it. We would explore, and there was a creek where we’d catch minnows. Also a spring was there with good water cress and also a gooseberry patch we loved. I once rode a horse around the yard. Mom had a clothes line strung on one side of the yard. It was a long line with wooden supports. The horse got frightened and started to run across the yard. He ran under the line and it knocked me off. I wasn’t hurt, but scared.
As a girl I hated it when we had to feed the harvesting crew, and we had to fix dinner for l2 to l5 men and that included a fully cooked meal with dessert and all. Needless to say we had to wash all the dishes after they were done eating. My daughters asked me where the phrase I used to describe Sunday meals came from, “We have food for the thrashers”. This is where it originated.
I read very few books as I was growing up.. I read all my assignments in school and was a conscientious student and got good grades all throughout my school days. We did not have electricity and so we had to read by gasoline or coal oil lights. They were very, very poor excuses for light. We went to bed by eight o’clock each school night. We got up early but had to wait for Dad to build fire in the cook stove to warm up the kitchen. Many a time we let down the oven door and warmed our backside a wee bit.
Our home was located 26 miles to the north and 21 miles to the south of any town. Our nearest neighbor was two miles away. Our school and church was seven miles from our home. Because we were located in Utah County, we had to attend school in that county which was to the north, in Birdseye, Utah, even though San Pete County was only 2 miles to the south.
I attended all six grades in a one-room schoolhouse. There were probably a total of l9 students and they were all taught by one teacher. I was the only one my age in first grade, so they promoted me to third grade from the first. I wasn’t that sharp but they didn’t want to arrange teaching materials for only one student. When they promoted me to third grade, there were three girls and three boys. As a child I wanted to be an airline stewardess when I grew up.
The school was located about seven miles from our home. A school bus picked us up each morning. Our home was the end of the bus route, so we had to be ready and on time the minute he showed up at the end of the lane. He didn’t wait for us or take excuses. We caught the bus at 7:30 a.m. and got home at 5 p.m.
It was a one-room schoolhouse which could be divided in the middle by folding doors. It was used as a church on Sundays. The building did not have running water, central heating, or indoor plumbing. We had a cold unisex facility outdoors, a two-seater. A man was hired for cleaning the building and bringing in fresh water in a 10 gallon can for drinking. He also had to haul in coal and start the big stove in one corner of the room which was used to heat the entire building. He had to come early to get it warm enough for us to study. We had two recesses per day and an hour break for lunch. We played games outside and sledding on a road that ran in front of the school when there was snow, which was very often. I wasn’t the best softball player, so when they chose teams, I was one of the last chosen. We wore dresses with long stockings. We wore heavy coats and mittens or gloves. It was very cold in the winter up Spanish Fork Canyon.
I was baptized on June 10, 1934, in the early summer in the river near the Church in Birdseye. With all the spring runoff, the water was cold and I thought I would freeze to death as I shivered and shook for an hour.
My favorite meal was southern fried chicken, mashed potatoes, chicken gravy, hot rolls, glazed carrots and cherry pie. Mom would can cherries in the summer so I could have my favorite pie in the winter.
One day my Mother was listening to the radio (we didn’t have TV at this time). They were advertising Kleenex. I don’t think Kleenex had been out very long. If you could say something very complimentary, you could win a prize. Mother thought, “I don’t know why I couldn’t write something about Kleenex’s as I like them.” So she took the story of the chuck wagon and wrote upon how she used the Kleenex up tending cattle. She wrote from the cowboy’s perspective. She would fry her meat and instead of washing the frying pan she would use the Kleenex to wipe out the grease, and it was good as new. And she used it to dust off things in the camp. She used it to shine her boots, and she used a Kleenex tissue for all sorts of things. She really recommended Kleenex highly.
Well, she sent it in, unbeknownst to anyone else. And she won a radio. What was funny, they sent back her winning letter. When she wrote the entry, she had misspelled almost every other word. Mother couldn’t spell. She was a very poor speller. When questioned, she said, “I purposely misspelled words because I wanted them to think I was a real cowboy.” She didn’t need to try so hard, as she could misspell words on her own. That was her proudest gift of the year – that radio. She was sharp enough that she wanted to put on the air that she was a hill-billy, but she was one without having to fake it.
The naughtiest I ever was in school was one day in elementary school. All the 5th and 6th graders decided to sluff school and go mountain climbing. I stayed home that day because I didn’t want to get caught. Well, the next day, those that had sluffed had a huge math test for makeup. To be accepted and funny, when the teacher turned her back, I stuck out my tongue at her. She caught me and I had to do the test also.
I had close friends in middle school and thereafter but before that time, it was probably a gal named Odetta Gardner. Her mother was my mother's niece, although they were the same age and very close friends. We used to have sleep-overs and they had a field of grass that they used to feed calves and they would irrigate it by flooding the entire field. It was so much fun to get into shorts and run and slide on the grass. Because it was pasture grass, they didn't care if we packed down the grass and when it was wet, it was very slippery. Man it was fun, fun, fun. We sometimes made honey candy or taffy and stretched it. Every farmhouse had sugar, honey, cream, or vinegar and that was all that was needed for both batches. Maybe that is when I started growing my sweet tooth. Other friends were Lynna Siler and Ann Gardner.
Only my Dad’s parents were alive when I was born. I rarely saw them smile but I knew them during their older years. My grandmother often wore a long gingham dress with an apron covering it full length. They lived in Fairview, Utah, in a modest frame home on an acre of land. Grandpa had fruit trees and hated to see us pick the green apples off of them, but I would sneak them since I loved them. He also had a milk cow which he milked every day. He took delight that my mom could milk for him. None of his other daughter-in-laws could milk.
Grandma Lasson dried bag after bag of apples, then hung them upstairs on a roof support beam. They were good. Grandmother always had a large earthenware churn that she kept full of raisin filled cookies. I love them.
When I was about ten, my Grandma Lasson died. She wasn’t very close to me, and I didn’t know her well. Her body was put in her living room for viewing. She looked asleep.
I was so young when they died, my memory of hearing any of their history is very vague. I think they came over for the church. At the age they were when I knew them, they were not active in the church. When they were younger they were active and two of their sons went on missions, and Grandfather donated to the church, but by the time I knew them they both had suffered major health problems. Rarely were they both up and spry. They were very stern, big-framed people, not heavy, and not an ounce of fat on them. Your great grandpa Lasson was heavier-set than your grandpa Lasson and your great Grandma Lasson was about as tall. She was a tall lady, kind of a mannish frame. My Grandpa Lasson was president of a bank in Fairview, and had holdings in a mercantile store. He was pretty well off financially, and had this ranch out in Birdseye, one big cattle ranch. When he decided to retire and go back to Fairview, he divided it among his five sons. It made the ranches so small that it was a marginal living for everybody. The four of them stayed on the ranch. One left, Uncle Glenn; he was an engineer and his wife didn’t like ranch life much. There was Uncle Art, Oscar (my Dad), Uncle Dolph, and Uncle Bernard. They all had adjoining cattle ranches that were given them by Grandpa Lasson.
Even though the farms were small and hardly ever made money, they kept trying. It was during the depression, and everyone was hurting. They were doing as well as anyone else around them, if not better, because they always had the eggs and milk and meat they produced.
One Sunday our church group went up the canyon to a park and had a testimony meeting and then a picnic afterwards. Some of us decided to walk across the large stream of water. It was fast because of spring run-off. Everyone got across but me and I was dragged downstream for at least three blocks. Finally my friend stuck out a tree limb and pulled me in. I’ve been frightened of water ever since.
Our social life was mainly Sunday School parties quarterly and we had Ward dances two or three times a year. They hired a 3 or 5 piece band and all the family came to the dance, babies and all. Mothers would nurse their babies and put them to sleep in a secluded and dark corner, or in the supply closet. There were more watchers than dancers. I can tell you that I wasn’t a watcher. I think I came out of my mother dancing and yelling – and I haven’t stopped either activity 77 years later. Sometimes my partners weren’t my first choice, but mom said it was impolite to say “no” to a neighbor or an ugly kid. I tell you I’ve danced with some ugly boys.
7th Grade and up we were bused to Spanish Fork for school. I attended the Spanish Fork Junior High. It was twenty-six miles from my house. It housed the sixth, seventh, and ninth grades. I absolutely loved the Jr. High experience. We had a teacher for each subject. Also we had ballroom dancing every Friday and I just lived for Friday. I always had boys a plenty to dance with, and it was good for my ego. It was such a neat class as a sister and her brother taught the class. He was married, but she had never married. They were so cute together. The building was a red brick rectangular building, all on the same floor, and there were approximately 300 to 350 students in the entire school. We always wore dresses or skirts and sweaters with long winter coats. It was very cold during most of the school year. We wore long stockings or knee highs until spring when we would bring out the anklets. We wore oxfords or casual slip-ons. In the winter, we sometimes wore galoshes.
We didn’t have any choices in subject matter. The girls took Home Ec and the boys took Shop. We were taught to cook and to do simple sewing. I remember making an apron which had bias tape sewn all around the edges of the apron. I don’t think it stayed together long enough to be washed twice.
I loved math and English and P.E. I just loved school. I got bored during the summers on the ranch. I also liked basketball and other sports. I wasn’t very tall but I was fast to run and dodge. One year I had to write a long poem about our country. As hard as I tried, I could only do three verses. Ward and Edith (his wife) helped me and we had a two page poem. The teacher was impressed, but she kept the paper and I never saw it again.
Ward was my only brother, at times kind and sometimes a tease. My brother told me to look at the freight train out on the railroad tracks and I did. He said, “I’m going to tell Mom that I saw you pee on a boxcar.” I said I didn't, and cried. Then he laughed; U.P= Union Pacific.
I was a sophomore in Spanish Fork when World II broke out. I remember sugar and gasoline being rationed. When I dated it was always with another couple or more because gas and cars were very limited. Nylons were unavailable and so they were considered a luxury. We were encouraged to buy savings bonds and saving stamps.
In high school I didn’t have much class selection but was interested in business classes, such as typing, shorthand and bookkeeping. I wasn’t a very serious student, but I did do my homework and got good grades.
I had a speech teacher that I just idolized. Her name was Jane Tanner, and she was single and dedicated to her teaching role. She taught drama, English and speech. I had a class from her each year I was in school. She was in charge of the school plays. I always felt left out because the practices were always done after school and I always had to catch the bus.
When I was a sophomore, I awoke one morning with severe pain in my chest and Mother was alarmed and drove me to the doctor at five in the morning. They found I had pneumonia in both of my lungs and was hospitalized at once. I was there for three weeks and was in a coma about two of those weeks. Sulfa drugs were just being used to fight infection and they were good but so slow. We did not have penicillin which would have been faster treatment. In fact, they called all the family home to say goodbye as they thought I was leaving them. I can remember of hearing robins singing outside my hospital window….I just thought I heard them. When I came out of the coma, all I wanted to eat was lemons and salt and dill pickles. Things have never been the same since.
I don’t remember my mother telling me she loved me often. One reason for this, I think, is that she had two children younger than I. I was always the active one. I was never one to stay home much. If I could be out going or doing or out helping Dad with the horses, I would be out. Electa was very much a homebody. She loved to do everything Mom liked. They were very close, like a favorite daughter, if you had one.
My youngest sister had rheumatic fever so Mom babied her a lot. I don’t think they neglected me, I just think they thought I was okay. I remember being so concerned over Kay. Mom would often say to her, “How’s my sweetheart doing?” I wasn't jealous. I was concerned for her too. It’s just that I had never heard her say those words to me. I think she just figured I didn't need it. When I was in the hospital, she came in and said, “Well, how’s my sweetheart today?” It really took me by surprise – me, her sweetheart?
I was on the winning basketball girls’ team. I was about to be in one drama when I got sick and could not complete it.
I had a surprise 16th birthday party. All my friends said they couldn't sleep over so I decided to wash my hair. I had put my hair up in pin curls all over my head. When someone knocked on the door, I thought I would die. I hurried and took out the bobby pins and celebrated. Three girls and four boys were at the door. This was in January and the boys slept outside on the haystacks. The girls wanted to go sleep in the haystack too, but Mother wouldn’t let us. We just couldn’t understand why we couldn’t join the boys. How dumb was I?
I can remember one time there was something about Electa getting a new dress or something. I remember complaining, “You are always doing for her and not for me.” Mother said, “O’Leah, don’t you envy that sister at all. You’re the one that has the good grades. You’re the one that has all the boyfriends. You’re the one that has the student body office. You’re the one that is the cheerleader.” Electa never dated at all. I didn't think I was envious of her. I was just complaining. Mother said, “You should not be envious of your sister one thing.”
She said, “You've got everything going for you.” It kind of took me back a bit. I guess it was true, but I’d never really thought about it. I think that is just how they looked at me – I was okay. I had good friends. I was Sweetheart queen and girl’s day manager – so I was in a lot of the limelight, but I never really felt like I was in the “in” group. I never really thought, “You've got it made.” But you look back and think, “Well, you did – you drip!” I didn't realize it at the time. You grow up in spite of yourself.
I was a student body officer all three years I was in high school. I ran for office in ninth grade and didn't get it, but it made me more visible and was successful in High School. My senior year I made it as head cheerleader with my very closest friend, Zola Gull. We thought we had the world by the tail. Our family doctor said he would come to the games to see all my energy. He said when I was in the Hospital he never thought he see me with so much energy two years later.
I was secretary for the Sophomore Class, Queen of the Sweetheart Ball my Jr. year and cheerleader my Sr. year. I was also the girls school representative one of those years.
I went to every Jr. Prom, Sr. Prom, Homecoming Dance and every other school dance for all three years. I only missed the ones in May of my Soph. Year. I never felt I was popular but they said I was. Close friends in high school were Zola Gull, Berniece Ostler, Betty, Ila McAllister, Toni Wilde and there were lots of boys who were friends. I was Queen of a Valentine’s Dance while I was in high school. The student body voted for me, but I only knew I had won the day before the ball. Mom had to go to the department store and trade eggs for my special dress. She didn't have any money.
We had l00 in our graduating class and I was so unhappy for school to end. I had a date and we went to a dance afterwards and then to dinner in Provo…then on to Salt Lake City and woke up my sister, Edythe, who was living in an apartment as she was working there. We woke her up at three A.M. and all eight of us piled into her 4 x 4 apartment, and she graciously rubbed her eyes and fixed some breakfast for all of us. I can’t remember what it was…only that it was fun. I got home about dawn the next day.
As a young adult I was very energetic and always on the go. I loved to dance and date and that is mostly what I did. I went to work right out of High School. My first job was at Ironton Steel Plant located between Springville and Provo. My best friend Zola and I each got a job there. She was in the accounting section as she was the smartest and a very good student. I ended up in the Shipping and Receiving area, but I liked it there.
When I graduated from High School, it was l943 and the war was on and so we, Zola and I, went to BYU and stayed with her parents and rode a trolley to Provo every day. We only stayed one quarter as there were no cute boys to date and school alone was boring. So we went to Palo Alto and worked at Moffitt Navy Air Base. We had a friend working as a telegrapher there and we moved in with her. She was in nursing school and accidentally gave the wrong medicine to a patient and the patient died. She couldn’t handle it and so she had gone to California to get away from her bad experience.
I lived at home until I was 17 years old, and then I left to work two years and then I finally went to U.S.U. where I met Rex and got married when I was almost 20.
I met Rex in February of 1946. On my first date with Rex I wasn’t impressed with him at all. I was dating two other fellows at the time. He wasn’t my priority. Finally he kept making dates until all my evenings were taken up and the other two withdrew. By April we were engaged, and the wedding was planned for August 26, 1946.
On another occasion, I was 19 and Rex took me and another couple out on Utah Lake in his Dad’s old, old fishing boat. We went clear to the other side to an island. As we started to come back, the engine conked out and I was hanging onto the side of the boat. The two fellows were trying to swim and paddle with one paddle. I was frightened of water, but luckily when it got dark, Rex’s Dad came looking for us.
We were married in the Salt Lake Temple. I got a speeding ticket en route to SLC. World War II had only ended a year before, so money was tight and Rex didn't own a car. Our plan was to go on our honeymoon with another couple. We had a reception for the other couple the day of our wedding, and we had our reception the following day. We went for a two week trip through Canada and the Northeast.
We lived at 421 Blvd., Logan, Utah. We lived in two rooms of an old German lady’s home. We paid $11 a month and then took care of the outside and her laundry. I was a secretary for the Agronomy Department. Dr. Wynne Thorne was dictating a book, and I was taking it down by shorthand. The he would re-word the words and I’d retype several times.
Rex had several qualities that I tried unsuccessfully to change; his stubbornness, his lack of interest in people, his love of things and books and his love of schooling. Our biggest challenge in our marriage was our lack of money because Rex was in school the first seven years of our marriage.
I was going to become a secretary, and I worked at that for the first four years of my marriage while Rex was getting his B.S. and M.S. When I was about 7 months pregnant with Craig, I quit work and stayed home with my children after that and Motherhood became my career. At that time, when you got married, the women dropped out of school and worked to let the husband get his degree. She was expected to be a homemaker, and the man the breadwinner.
Over the course of years, I have worked as a Mother, at Sears in the catalog department, and in the Logan Hospital Credit Union
We were very poor for the first seven years of our marriage, especially during the years Rex was pursuing his Doctorate at Cornell University. We didn't have a car for the first two years of our marriage and no telephone. We heated our apartment with coal and wood.
I have gone to USU over the course of several years, but I never did graduate but I do have enough credits to graduate but I never did do my student teaching for my senior block.
We came to Logan to go to school. Rex was a sophomore, and I had one year of college. I worked for three years doing a project on alfalfa research, so my paycheck was actually from the federal government. I didn't work after 1949. Dad worked part time, and we had the GI bill because of Rex’s serving in WWII. It was about $120 a month. It got you by, just barely.
We rented a house on the boulevard from a little German lady. She rented a bedroom, kitchen and bath on one side of the house. We did errands and did laundry. It seems like I had a hand paddle that I had to use for laundry. I never seemed to get her clothes white enough for her. We lived there before Craig was born. That house has now been destroyed. We later lived down on 7th North and Main. And now that house is torn down, so wherever we lived, people tore down our places. (laugh)
We kept on going to school. We moved to Provo for one year – so Rex could do celery plant research. Rex got a scholarship to Cornell for $1000 plus tuition. We didn't have a nickel to our name – we didn't have anything, but we thought we could live on that $1000.
We moved to Ithaca and lived with an LDS family who rented out part of their home. They had a huge great room with a kitchen/bar in one part. I never did know exactly what the husband did. He traveled a lot – going all the time, and hobnobbing with politicians, governors, etc.. One week to New York and another to Boston. The woman was from Boston, and he was from Arizona. They had a big ranch home, horses, and lots of acreage. They wanted the great room for their teenagers, but the kids weren't quite old enough to utilize it, so they rented it out. The idea was for them to get help with the property. If Dad would take care of the horses, repair the barn and repair fences, they would deduct the cost of wages from the rent. Otherwise it would have been very, very, very expensive. It was an older home, but had been extended. They had a ten-year-old girl and a twelve-year-old boy. The wife was a very citified gal, but really loved the horses. She rode them a lot.
I know one time the family we lived with went on a vacation for two weeks and asked us to baby sit their two kids. And we were young we just had Craig at the time. He had a lot of sore throats. We were up night and day with him, he was a cross baby. Anyway, we didn’t know how to handle their two kids. We were lucky to get them to their dance lessons and their violin lesson. I remember the little girl fell and broke her arm. When we called to tell the parents, they just about had a fit and said, “Well, why weren’t you watching her better?” When they came back, they didn’t want to pay us. They came back and said, “Well, we don’t owe you much, do we?” I was predicting their behavior a bit. They had a housekeeper, so I had talked with her a bit. I told her, “I don’t know if they intend to pay us much.” She said, “Well, you make sure they do!” So she gave me some backup and I just told the lady, “You owe me $300.” So they paid me $300, but there just wasn’t the same chemistry between us after that. They had really treated us like family before, but she wasn’t a warm person anyway – truly a Bostonian. She figured she was about a grade ahead of everybody – and maybe she was.
Anyway, we lived there for a year, and then moved to student housing on campus. That was more fun, because you were around people who were in the same boat as you were. If you were broke, you were all broke together. Plus, you weren’t trying to please somebody all the time.
We had Vicki in college housing. The pregnancy went great. Mothers had to stay in the hospital then for ten days after a delivery. We brought home our redheaded daughter. Dad was taking care of us. He had a portable bassinet made of canvas. He was going to use it to bathe Vicki, but it leaked a bit. He was going to put paraffin on it, so it wouldn’t leak. We had gas stoves in the kitchen. He heated up the paraffin and was putting it on the canvas when the wax exploded. I was in the back room with Vicki and didn’t know what happened. He came back in the bedroom to tell us the kitchen had been set on fire. It burnt the floor. The kitchen was pretty well damaged and there was a lot of smoke damage. When the kitchen burst into flames, it was so hot at the top that the curtain tops had burnt, and the curtains fell to the ground.
Craig, Vicki and I were moved to someone else’s apartment for a few days while they got ours cleaned up. Rex never did live down that idea of setting the apartment on fire. We still had the old refrigerator and stove; they just cleaned it up.
We came back to Logan – came for $4600 a year. Rex had been offered $5400 a year if he stayed in Washington D.C., but I wanted to come out west, and he did too. USU was our only offer in the West, so this is where we came.
We rented a house on Canyon Road and then bought some property about 8 blocks further up. We had a house built for us at 812 Canyon Road. That’s the house we moved into in 1954. Cherri was born in 1956. We lived there until 1971.
When Gary was born on February 22, 1959, I had a staph infection and was put back in the hospital. I wasn't allowed to take care of Gary for five months. They wouldn't let me touch anything on the doors or his diapers or anything. Rex broke out in boils because of the staph infection. My doctor at the hospital was a carrier, and I didn't know it. The infection was in my breast. They thought I had milk fever, so they were treating me for that . It got hard like a cantaloupe. Every doctor in Logan came by my room to look at that cantaloupe. I was so embarrassed. They didn't know what it was. The doctor, (Dr. Budge) didn't want to lance it. He left town. The doctor who was in charge said, “Well, if I’m in charge, I’m going to lance it”. They put me in another room – not an operating room, they didn't want to contaminate it. When they cut into it, the infection hit the ceiling. I had a wick put into it for draining for six weeks. Every other day, I would go into the hospital, and they would split open the scar tissue so it would drain. I thought I would die. My Mother came to take care of me for three weeks, but it was too much for her. That was as long as she could take the stress. She just got so depressed and tired. It was too hard on her. She said, “I don’t know what you are going to do but I can’t take any more of it.” I was really bad, and weak. I was really a mess.
Rex would come off the hill from USU twice a day to feed Gary a bottle because I wasn’t allowed to touch my baby. Or Rex would get him started, and I could hold a bottle. I could turn him over using a blanket, I just couldn’t touch him. And then Rex would come home and have the baby all night. He would care for Gary and for me. Cherri was only three at the time – but she could take care of herself. Anyway, I didn’t have any trouble with Cherri.
No one from the Relief Society cam to help. I can’t remember why. We just didn’t tell them, I guess, and they never seemed to know. I do remember the architect that built our house found out about it, and his wife brought over a pie. I do remember that. But that is the only recollection I have of anybody knowing about it. I didn’t talk to anyone, and I guess they assumed I was just staying home with the baby. And then when you mother stays a while, they think, “Oh, she’s taking care of them.”
When Gary was just five months old, Rex decided he wanted to go on Sabbatical to Iowa State. I was just so far out of it (because of the infection), I didn’t do a thing. Rex cleaned out the fruit room and got the house ready to rent. I don’t remember doing a thing. I don’t remember even traveling back there until we got there.
Rex loved it there, but it was a hard year on the kids and me. We had everything – flue, chicken pox, measles – and I got everything right along with the kids. It was so hot and we had no air conditioning. They would be crying because they were so hot and miserable. I remember calling the pediatrician and asking what to do about the pain of chicken pox down the throat. I can’t remember what he said, but then I asked, “What would you recommend for me?” He said, “My Hell, you’re no child. Take care of yourself.” In other words, I’m a pediatrician. I don’t take care of adults. I’ve never asked another doctor for help with another patient. He was really rude. I wasn’t sleeping. I remember him saying, “try some hot milk.”
We were stake missionaries, so I didn’t get to know the ward members much. We were always out – not proselyting much, but meeting with the in-actives and holding church. It was fascinating to me because some of the families I’m sure never got bathed and dressed up until we showed up. They had been baptized in the church – but were just backwards and hill-billy-ish. They were nice people, common people. I don’t know that they ever got active enough to come to a regular church meeting. I didn’t particularly enjoy my church calling there. But Rex enjoyed it all – he was learning, and he was at the height while he was learning.
While we were in Iowa, Vicki was baptized. I remember her running around in the quad (the houses were arranged in a rectangle around a grassy area for play) in a white dress.
Then we came back to Logan in 1960. We later had a surprise package with Steven. One time Steve asked me if I was shocked when I found out I was pregnant. I told him, “Yes – I didn’t ever think I would be able to have him.” I was having a lot of problems, and I had been told not to get pregnant after Gary. I went into the doctor for some kind of birth control, and he said I was going through the change, not to worry. There was a change all right!
We stayed here in Logan. All the kids have gone to Utah State, got their degrees, met their spouses there or close by, and all have been married in the temple. All have been very productive.
My favorite callings were working in the Young Women’s for years and years. Rex and I were dance directors for years and years when we were down on the Island (on Canyon road, so called because it had canals or rivers surrounding it). We would take dance festivals down to Rice Stadium in Salt Lake. It was a lot of work – but it was fun, very rewarding. We were stake dance directors – for the stake, not just for the young people. We taught square dancing for special interest groups. When we moved to Ninth North, they asked us to be dance directors again – but we said we just couldn’t do it anymore. We had left our kids so much; we just couldn’t do it anymore. We stopped dancing pretty much in 1970 – and just did it occasionally. Dance director was a fun calling – because I could do it with Rex. Rex was a very good dancer – better than I. He could study the steps and do them – but I had to be shown.
I worked in the Young Women – both as a teacher, counselor, and secretary. I like that calling. I was in that for year. Then I was called to be Primary president – for a term, four or five years. I liked it, but not as well as the Young Women. I felt more like a mother in the Primary, to the young teachers. I had teachers who were not active or from part-member families. The bishopric was trying to activate them. That’s a place where they felt the teachers could have a calling and be active because they knew more than the kids. It was the teachers you were training. I heard a lot of sad stories. I’ve been in RS presidency, taught, and was stake RS teacher for a few years. I’ve been visiting teaching supervisor.
We used to square dance just for fun – every Friday or Saturday, depending on who the caller was. And Rex liked that. We did a lot of ballroom dancing. When we were both students at the university, we were part of a ballroom dance group – sponsored by the institute. Rex was the president of the group, so we did a lot of the presentations and teaching of both ballroom dancing and square dance. We were in charge of Gold and Green balls, many, many, many. I remember thinking that one of the most important things about picking a mate was that he could dance. My Dad couldn’t dance, and mom loved to. She said, “Don’t every marry someone who can’t dance. You’ll regret it all your life.” Well, I don’t think if my Dad had danced, they would ever have danced. They lived out on the farm and didn’t have many opportunities to dance. But somehow in my mind, I thought that dancing was very, very important. I look back on it now and think, “Where are your priorities?” Rex liked to dance, though, almost better than I.
I enjoy reading biographies and poetry. I like some hand work – knitting, cross-stitching and crocheting.
We belonged to lots of bowling leagues. I bowled with a women’s group – and then we went as a mixed doubles group.
We had church study groups every month, and then the activities turned into playing cards and having dinner. Then it just got so we were having dinner. And then it got so we were just going out to dinner, as no one wanted to cook (with a laugh) and then it just broke up.
I love to dip chocolates. And it hasn’t been easy for me to get this heavy, but with dipping chocolates every year I gained a few more pounds. I’ve been working hard on it for eighty years – and look where it has got me. (Laughing)
I remember one time Mae (Marshall) saying, “My kids love to come to your house, but your kids don’t like to come to my house.” I said, “But I give them something.” I gave them empty bottles, empty spools of thread, empty pill boxes. I save stuff like that – that would fascinate kids. Then when they would come and have to leave, I’d say, “Here, take this with you.” And I still like to give people something when they leave.
Lily Gerber used to tell me the same thing, “Ricky would have you as parents if you blinked an eye. He thinks you are the greatest parents that ever lived.” And he spent a lot of time with us. She was off gallivanting somewhere so Ricky would hang out with Craig. And we would send him home when Rex came home from work. Rex didn’t want another kid in the house for dinner, but Ricky would be in the house until dinner every night. Lily also had a daughter named Barbara. I was in Young Women’s at the time. Lily would say, “You know, I hope you never do anything bad.” I said, “Well, don’t look too closely.” She said, “Well, I’ve got a daughter that actually worships you – and if you ever did anything bad, it would wreck her life.”
I used to have a lot of neighborhood kids at the house. That was my philosophy. I wanted the kids at my home and in my yard. I didn’t want to have a baby on the hip and going to look for a child. I wanted them at my house. I did it all their lives – I had kids at my house, more than I had my kids out. I was pretty strict and wanted to know what they were doing and wanted to keep their bedtimes regular.
I was known for my ability to cry at the drop of a hat. I remember going to one of Edythe Dame’s kids’ wedding after she had died. Of course I was crying at the wedding – and the kids would say, “Oh, we knew Mom was there – there you were crying, just like Mom would have been.” Edythe and I were the only ones who cried like that.
Kay and Lynn (Mitchell) married right out of high school. They were both 18 and high school sweethearts. They came up here to USU to school. He was in forestry. And Kay had no skills, whatsoever. I don’t think she loved school. They lived in an apartment right across from us on Canyon Road in the basement. She got a job working for Brunson’s – the ones with the photo studio. Both husband and wife went to work. They had Kay go up and stay with the kids during the day and do housework. She hated it. Mother was lucky to get a towel folded, no matter how it was folded. This lady wanted it folded just so – in thirds, you know the way they do, and stacked by colors and all with the same fold. Kay had to do half the work over again. She had never really been taught. She had done some work, but she was the baby of the family and didn’t really do much. She had rheumatic heart as a child. All the time I knew her, mother just waited on her hand and foot. She didn’t work at all around the house that I knew of. After working at the Brunson’s, Kay would come back crying saying, “I just can’t keep this going, but we can’t live without it.”
We were paying a full tithing. I said to Dad, “I think we ought to take our tithing and give it to Kay and Lynn. Then I’ll know where it’s going and what it’s doing. It will just help them.” We did that for over a year. After that, they moved to Fourth North to an upstairs apartment, and he got more work. Then they were fine, but that first year, they about starved to death. I don’t remember having them over to dinner much, but I do remember taking food over to them.
When Craig and Vicki were going to take ski lessons, Rex and I signed up for classes too. We figured as long as we had to take them up and wait for them, we may as well take classes. We were close to forty. I remember telling my Mom, “Can you believe what we are doing? We can’t afford it.” She said, “Just do it. The time will come when you don’t have any desire and the time will come when you just can’t. Just do it.” This really came as a surprise to me. Mom had always been so frugal – and her telling us to spend money. This was a real eye opener to me – just enjoy life, each year that you are in.
When Rex was in school, I remember wishing, “I’ll be so glad when you are out of school, and we have some money.” But when he got out, we really didn’t make that much anyway and it wasn’t all that different. You can wish your life away. Make something out of each day. Find something good in each day.
Enjoy each day. Find something pleasant in each day. (At this point she was in tears as she said, “It’s not always that easy to do.”) But if life were easy, it wouldn’t be hard.
Try new recipes. I think that opens up a whole new cultures, new ideas, and new foods. I just think it keeps you more alert and active and interested in life.
As you can look at me, you can tell I’ve been interested in recipes all my life and I’ve eaten a lot too. I collect cookbooks, and I like cooking shows. I can be as entertained by a cooking show as if it were a drama. If it is real foreign – with ingredients I know I’ll never use – like sea bass – I’m not interested in those. But if ingredients are ones that I recognize, I enjoy it as much as if it were entertainment. I’ve got my favorites, so I don’t watch every cooking show. When they are all dressed up and looking trim and slim, I don’t watch them. They just don’t fit the kitchen. I think, “You don’t know how to cook.” (laugh). When they come all dressed up, a party dress off the shoulder. At least they could put on an apron.
I like to collect dolls. I don’t know where that came from. I didn’t have many as a kid, and I didn’t like dolls. I was more of a tomboy than a doll person. I guess I just like the look of the little porcelain faced Madam Alexander dolls. I started out with international dolls. Then it just grew from there.
One phrase that I’ve said is “This too will pass.” That has been really helpful over the years. When we’ve had illness or things that I’ve thought would never go away, I may not have thought it at the time, but then when things started to improve, I’d think, “Yeah, this too will pass.” And it’s helpful. I’ve said it to many of my friends. They will come up to me later and say, “This is the friend that said, ‘This too will pass.’”
Priscilla Haslam had her daughter (and husband) and four kids (one a new baby) move it with them. They sold their old home faster than they wanted, and just need a place to stay while they built their new one. They stayed with them three to four months. I would go visiting teaching with Priscilla, and every time she would say, “Lee, I don’t know whether I can stand it. It is just so hard. They are sweet, sweet, people but this is just too much.” I would tell her, “Priscilla, just hang on. This too will pass.” Now, they have moved out. Every time Priscilla sees me she says, “You were right. This too will pass. And I kept relations with them. We are still speaking. That is good advice – this too will pass.”