Autobiography of Pearl Elizabeth Stocking Merrill
Contributor: Turpinca Created: 1 year ago Updated: 1 year ago
edited by Ann M. Jones
I, Pearl Elizabeth Stocking, was born in Starrhs Ferry on April ll, 1916, the daughter of Joseph Horace Stocking and Martha Jane Butterfield Stocking. Starrhs Ferry was just out of Burley, Idaho. There were four other children in my family when I was born. Revie was eighteen; Luella, fifteen; Rulon, eight; and Lucy, one and a half. Revie was out with the sheep and Luella was eventually married when she was nineteen. I was just four years old when she was married. Rulon went to college. I didn't really know my older brothers and sisters while I was growing up.
Mother was cooking for the lambing crew in April when I was born. Grandma Butterfield came to Idaho to take care of her and me, and made Mother leave the lambing sheds. She had been cooking for eight or ten men, maybe more, from early in the morning until late at night. They left there so Mother could rest before the baby was born because Grandmother was very worried. Grandmother Butterfield was there to attend my birth.
Many people thought Lucy and I were the only children my parents had. They thought we were twins because Mother always used to dress us alike, and Lucy was short for her age while I was a little bigger. We were like twins. Whenever one was given a present, the other one was also. We always had the same types of things, maybe different colors, but we were raised like twins. Until we were old and graduated from high school, we hardly slept a night away from each other. We were constantly together. I was the one who was always running around and getting into trouble. I couldn't keep still and Lucy was the quiet one. But we had many years of close companionship.
We lived on the farm and in the summer Dad would put up hay and grow beets and potatoes. He had hired men, many hired men, but the one that stands out in my mind is Andrew Antone. He was a Greek boy who had come from Greece when he was very young. He found his way out to the farm, and Dad hired him. He couldn't speak a word of English but soon learned the language by working on the farm with the other men. He loved Lucy and me. He'd pick us up and carry us around. We'd go out and help him pick up the eggs. I guess he was lonely, but I remember him so well even though I was only a toddler.
Another quaint little person that came into my life and lived on the farm was a little Mexican man by the name of Rosie Alcala. He worked for Dad for many years. He would carry us around and play with us as he herded the sheep.
Cliff Court, Luella's husband, came down from Canada and worked at the farm for Dad. He was a real source of inspiration and a lovely person to be around all these years. He has been in the family as long as I can remember. It was 1918 when he came down from Canada.
I remember once when I got a spanking. I was told not to go sledding because it was supper time but I did anyway. I had to go get my own willow stick for my mother to use to paddle me. I had to sit and wait while she emptied the ashes out of the stove. All she did was switch my legs.
We had a relative living close to us, Ensign Stocking, who had six children. He had one daughter, Isabel, who was my age. She was their youngest also. We went through grade school and high school together. I was baptized on June 1, 1924. My cousin, Isabel, and I were the same age, and we were both going to be baptized that same day, but Isabel was so afraid of the water that she screamed and hollered and carried on until they couldn't baptize her.
When I was in the fifth grade a new girl came to school. Her name was Ada May Clark from Logan, Utah. Her dad was Israel Justice Clark, manager of the Amalgamated Sugar Company, the beet factory. She and I became very fast friends and we have been good friends, even to this day. She now lives in Colorado, but we correspond and telephone and keep in touch. She has been like a sister to me. She married Bert Tucker.
When there was a crash of the economy, Dad lost the farm. He had it mortgaged. After World War I he had bought some very expensive sheep and it hadn't worked out. There was a financial collapse all over the nation. He lost the farm and part of the sheep herd. He came out with at least one herd of sheep, the lambing sheds, and the forest reserve right still intact.
After Dad lost the farm in Starrhs Ferry we moved around from place to place. The years were very difficult from 1923 to 1928. Then there was the financial crisis over the nation which caused the Great Depression. It seemed like our depression time was from 1923 on.
The depression years were really rough. Many people didn't have enough to eat, but we were very lucky. We had plenty to eat. Mother always raised a big garden. We had mutton to eat and a cow. Mother would make butter from the cream of the cow and take it down to sell it at the store or trade it for things that we needed. We didn't have money to spend. Luella used to send a few dollars to Mother to buy coal because Cliff was working. They were living in Salt Lake City. I have no idea how much she might have sent over those years, but I do remember some money coming in to buy coal. There was one year when a package came from Grandma Butterfield. Mother opened it. It had a pork roast and a couple of chickens in it for Christmas when it was so bad. We never missed a meal that I remember. Because I was young, I didn't realize what a struggle it must have been for Mother and Dad to keep our home together.
Everybody was having problems and there was no work. Dad would have men come from all over and ask him for work. They would say "I will work for my board and room." They knew they could live in the sheep camp and be fed. Some of them he'd have to turn away, but if it was in the winter time he would take them in to work at the lambing sheds. He needed many men to haul hay. He needed men at night to bring the ewes and new born lambs in and that sort of thing.
We spent the summers up on the forest reserve so Dad and Revie could herd the sheep. We started going up to the forest reserve when I was about eight years old. We lived all summer long in tents and in the sheep camp, sleeping on the ground or in makeshift beds. We would pull the sheep camp from canyon to canyon and change campgrounds once a month, when they would move the sheep. We were always on a stream of water where we could lie and listen to the babbling brook. We had such a carefree life with nothing in particular to do because we had no sewing machines or tools of labor so we rode horseback.
I think I've always enjoyed horses. I've always been around them. A beautiful horse in a parade just really charms me. I think they are just absolutely beautiful.
On hot days we used to go down to the Dry Valley bridge and swim in the river. It wasn't very deep. We'd go down there on horseback. Our life up there was really one of doing nothing except what we wanted to do. There were no jobs other than getting meals and washing dishes.
The forest reserve joined Grandpa's ranch near Soda Springs, Idaho on the Blackfoot River. We could see Grandpa and Aunt Lizzie, his second wife, often. We had a little mule named Peggy that was very surefooted and a sorrel horse named Tim. Lucy and I would get on our horses, our one horse and the little mule. We would ride over to Grandpa's and Aunt Lizzie's from where we were camped. One summer we even had to go over every other day to feed the bucks, the male sheep. Dad had the bucks on part of Grandpa's ranch in a field. We'd go over there and feed them grain to get them good and fat. That was our chore that summer.
In 1928 there were 360 acres of land that came up for homesteading. It joined the reserve and also the Dry Valley part of the valley, so Dad filed on it. Dad had a two-roomed house built on it so after that, instead of living around the sheep herd in the sheep camp, we lived in this little two-roomed house all summer long. We had to live there for seven months of the year for seven years to prove up on it and then it could become ours.
Ada May had come up to visit one time. We used to sleep in the sheep camp there. Dad pulled it down to the house. We took Ada May for a ride over the mountain one day. We nearly killed her. She wasn't used to riding like we were. She was so stiff and saddle sore she couldn't get off the horse and walk after that. We just about did her in.
There was a family that used to live in Dry Valley in a log house. The father was Ed Morgan. They had a family of six children up there. There was LaVon, Morris, Mary, Lola and two younger boys. LaVon was our age. They lived at the mouth of the canyon. We lived above in the middle of the canyon. We'd go down to her place and play Kick The Can until dark. We'd do a great deal of horseback riding together.
In the summer when Dad and Revie would bring the sheep off the range, they would bring them into Dry Valley and use the Morgans' corral to separate the lambs from the ewes. Then they would start trailing the lambs into Soda Springs to the railroad. There they would be loaded on rail cars and taken east to the market, usually Omaha. Lucy, Mother and I would usually be assigned to herd the sheep on the range for two or three days while they were taking the lambs. They had to trail them thirty miles. It would take two or three days to get them in and get them loaded.
We used to have to go up around the sheep early in the morning at day break when they were coming off the bed ground and then stay with them until they shaded up around ten or eleven in the morning. Later when they would come out to feed again we would have to go up on the range and be with them. We wouldn't allow them to go very far because we didn't know the range. With the hills being so steep we could have lost some of the sheep, or we could have become lost ourselves. We would ride Peggy and Tim and at least two of the three of us would go up around the sheep early in the morning and then be up there until dark. We would come home, unsaddle the horses, and stake them out so they would be there the next morning for us.
Often Luella and Cliff would come up and be there so Cliff could help in the corrals taking out the lambs. They would be there with their car to drive back and forth from town. Other than that we would not see anyone for two or three days. Because we were proving up on the homestead, Dad would take Mother, Lucy and me up to the homestead and leave us there for six or eight weeks. We wouldn't see another soul except ourselves. We'd have plenty of food and a house in which to live. Dad would have to go back and bring sheep up the trail from wherever they happened to be because they couldn't get on the reserve until about July. We would be up there many a year alone until Dad came back up with the sheep. At the time I was never lonely because I never realized what loneliness was. When school started Dad would take Lucy and I back into town to live and go to school while they stayed in Dry Valley to make the seven months required by the homestead law.
In 1928 Dad was finally able to buy a home in Burley at 1359 Elba. It had two bedrooms upstairs, a hallway, storage room, living room, dining room, a kitchen, and one bedroom and bath on the main floor. He bought that house for $1250. We used to walk to school. It wasn't very far. In the wintertime Lucy and I would stay in the house, walking to and from school, and building the fire in the heater to keep the house going. Mother was out cooking for the lambing crew in January, February, and March of every year.
In 1933, Grandfather Stocking died and gave the Stocking Ranch to Dad. After that the family stayed at the ranch during the summer.
As a young kid growing up I was a fast runner. I could beat all the boys in grade school and junior high school but I didn't pursue that. My dad was really proud of me. He thought I could beat anybody. He would often try to get a running match between me and somebody else, saying I could beat them.
We used to go down to Fort Herriman to see Grandma Butterfield and stay with her. I remember riding the train down from Burley to Salt Lake City. In those days with the soot and the dirt from the train, we'd be filthy before we arrived. Mother would spit on her white handkerchief to wipe our faces so we'd look pretty good when we got off the train. Luella and Cliff were living in Salt Lake City, and Lucy and I would go down and stay with them in the summertime for a month at a time. We'd walk from her place downtown and back. We'd walk up to the capitol building. We had a good time wandering around Salt Lake City together.
As a teenager I had very bad acne. It inhibited my social life because I became quite withdrawn, and it was difficult for me to be in a crowd. In those years there was not much that could be done about it. Not much was known about it. To this day I don't know if we were eating wrong or what it was that caused it. I outgrew it but I still have some of the scars on my face. If I had any spare money I would buy any and everything to put on my face to heal them up or cover them up. But there was really nothing that worked.
I enjoyed high school very much. I made many good friends. As a junior I was made a member of the National Honor Society and was in the top of my class for the Honor Society as a junior and as a senior. I was not smart enough to become valedictorian but I didn't care because I didn't want to have to give a speech. I enjoyed high school and I tried to make the most of it. I didn't do well in mathematics, but I did do well in English and Spanish, especially reading Spanish. I can still remember some of the vocabulary. It is very difficult for me to understand the Spanish people because they speak so fast.
All through high school I wanted to go to college. In my senior year in high school I sent for catalogs from colleges all over Utah and Idaho. I did want so much to go to college. I finally came to realize that there was no way that I was going to be able to go to college. It about broke my heart. Ada May's mother moved to Logan so she could go to the Agricultural College which I would have dearly loved to do. There was no effort made by my parents to my knowledge. There was not even any talk about why or why not. I think that there was not that much money, but I also felt that it was not even considered. They felt that women didn't need an education. Rulon graduated from high school in 1925. He went to Salt Lake, worked, and put himself through. When he needed extra money for college tuition, Dad would sell off a heifer or a pig or something to get extra money to send to him. Rulon was the only one to get a college education. Lucy didn't want to go to school.
Oh, I did want to go to college. I made up my mind that if I ever had children, if they wanted to go to college, I would scrub somebody's floors if I had to in order to put them through school. All of my girls have at least had the opportunity, even though some of them didn't graduate. To this day my heart still aches as it did in 1934.
I did the best I could. I got a job working at M.H. King's variety store in Burley. I worked on the floor from 8:00 AM to 6:00 PM, six days a week. Each Saturday I'd be paid eight silver dollars for a week's work. After doing this for a few months, Mr. King asked me to come and work in the office. I worked in the office tabulating invoices and merchandise that was coming in.
I then went to work for the city of Burley. We put out the utility bills for the whole city. We did all the tabulating by hand, figured the kilohours and the cost of each one and sent the bills out. In high school I took typing and shorthand along with my Spanish which helped me to get the job.
A man on the city council who was in the bank, Chuck Bauer, asked me if I'd like to come work for him at the bank. I went to work for the Idaho Bank and Trust Company. I was a bookkeeper. There was one girl there who was really fast on the bookkeeping machines. It would take me so much longer than her. I made up my mind that I was going to become as fast as she was. Each day I'd try to increase my speed and pretty soon I was up even with her. We were putting the work out together. She would take half of it, and I'd take the other half of the statements and the ledgers. She would do one half of the ledger and I would do the other half. And then the opposite, I would do the first half and she would do the other half. We would compare and balance the books that way. I got so I was very fast on those bookkeeping machines. It was great joy to take a challenge and meet it. That started my banking career.
Even though my parents weren't very active in the Church, my mother, I'm sure, had a testimony of the gospel even though she didn't ever share it with me. The way she taught us as children she had to have had a very strong testimony of the gospel. Through her I have always known that the Church was true since I was a little child.
Lucy and I used to always go to Mutual. I remember going to Stake Conferences in the Stake House in Burley. I became more active when Mary Rencher asked me to be her Stake Secretary. She was President of the Mutual. While I was in high school, John Rencher taught shop. He and his wife lived in Burley. She was a great influence on my life. A truly great friend, both she and John but Mary in particular.
In 1933, I don't the remember the occasion, I met a young man and became very infatuated with him. We were planning on being married in 1935. He went to San Francisco with a friend of his to go to diesel school. He had kind of a struggle there. He met some other girl in that area and wrote me a so called "Dear John letter". At that time I hadn't heard from him for a long time. I was walking home from work. It was dark and had started to snow. I was stepping off the curb to cross the street, and I heard my name. Someone called my name and I looked around. There wasn't a soul around that I knew. As I crossed the street I heard my name again and I looked around. There was no one that I knew so I walked on home. When I got home I told mother. Somehow I knew I was going to get a letter in two days, and I did. It was my "Dear John". Mother said "well you were warned that that letter was coming. I believe it was too. I was being prepared for a Dear John letter.
On June 13, 1937, Donald Gower Merrill was brought over to my home to ask me if I would go on a picnic with him and Ada May and Bert. Bert had to go up to Lake Cleveland as a junior forest ranger to do some work. So I went with this new acquaintance and we had a very enjoyable afternoon and early evening.
We were so compatible that I felt completely comfortable with Don and felt that one day he would be my husband. I think he had the same feeling. He came to our home many times after that until we decided to get married. Don wanted to get married sooner than I wanted to. I was probably still carrying a torch for my first boyfriend. It was hard to say that I would marry someone else because I suffered from a broken heart. It was very difficult for me yet I knew all along that I was going to marry Don. But I put him off until he wore me down.
We were married February 3, 1939 in the Logan Temple. We went down on our own. Don's sister, Katie, and her husband, Nolan Olsen, and Mother and Dad Merrill went with us to the temple. Then we drove back to Burley. We didn't have much of a honeymoon except we stayed overnight in Logan and then we had to go back to work. At that time I was working at Idaho Bank and Trust Company.
We first went to a little motel apartment that had a kitchenette and shower. We stayed there until a suitable apartment could be found. Then we went to a basement apartment in the Whitehead home where we lived there a year and a bit. When Mother and Dad went to the ranch for the summer we stayed in their home and took care of their garden.
Don decided to go back to school and see if he could get into the line of work that he had been trained for. He went down to Logan and lived with Mother and Dad Merrill to brush up on his schooling. He then was able to get a job in Ogden, Utah. We moved from Burley in 1941. We were there until 1943 when Don was drafted into the army.
I was a few months pregnant and I didn't want to stay in Ogden alone so I went home to Mother and stayed there until Elizabeth Ann was born on April 25, 1943. I stayed until she was six weeks old. When they moved back up to the ranch in July then I took Ann and went to Logan and lived with Katie and her family. She had invited me to live with her. I couldn't see myself going back and forth between Burley and Soda Springs. I needed to be around younger people. During those war years when Don was in the service the separation was really hard to bear.
Katie had a son two weeks after Ann was born. Nolan needed help up in the office of the Extension Service so I went to work up there as secretary to an entomologist. I learned to play bridge. We were just groping for things to do to keep our minds off the war while our husbands, friends, and brothers were away in the war. I don't remember ever enjoying bridge, but it was something to do to keep my mind off the war.
Katie had never had a sister and I filled in as a sister for her. We got along fine. I helped her do things around the house and when I started working she took care of both children and I paid her for tending. I paid my way. It was the companionship that I needed more than anything else. I was getting some money from the government as a dependent. It helped Katie and Nolan out too because they were able to use my ration stamps which helped with the family.
I lived with Katie until August, 1945. I realized that with two women in a household for that length of time, I was getting on Katie's nerves so I took Ann and drove to the ranch to stay for two or three weeks to give Katie a rest.
It was at that time that they dropped the bombs on Japan, and Don came home. I had to drive back down to Salt Lake City alone and back to Logan. After Don got back from the service, we visited around for the month of September. In October Don had to go to Salt Lake to Fort Douglas to get mustered out. We decided to go to Ogden where we had been very happy. Globe Mills, which was now called Pillsbury, offered him his old job back. We rented a little apartment in Washington Terrace. A barracks had been converted into apartments. We lived there until we moved to 32nd and Adams, where Vonda Grace was born January 22, 1947.
In 1950 we were able to purchase our first home at 3646 Monroe. We paid $8950. The down payment was $300. We were worried about going into debt that much. We moved in the spring and Lois Jane was born December 9, 1950.
I was so content that I didn't even want to go to Salt Lake City or Logan, vacationing or anything. I just had a feeling of absolute contentment. It was our very first home, and we enjoyed it.
Grant Stacey's family lived next to us to the north. Carl Gibson's family lived across the street and Lester Birch's family lived diagonally. I remember when they got their first TV, black and white. We carried it back and forth between his house and ours to see where the best reception was. In 1953, we got our first TV. The four families would cook up outdoor barbecues. We had twenty-two little children at neighborhood Christmas parties. Santa Claus would come. It was a close knit neighborhood.
After we moved to Ogden I met Ethel Allred and Catherine Putnam. We formed a trio and performed in church and at funerals. We sang in All Faces West which was a musical that was put on by the city of Ogden in commemoration of the Twenty-Fourth of July. It was done city wide and we as a trio had some of the lead parts in it. I had a good time singing in it. When we moved to Astoria I sang a few solos. This was the extent of my singing career other than a lead in an operetta in the seventh grade.
While living in Ogden, our last daughter was born. We named her Deon Pearl. She was born on January 29, 1955.
At work one day they called Don into the plant manager's office and said they needed a good man in Astoria, Oregon as chief chemist. He had heard many times that if you don't accept advancement with the company you don't go anyplace. It would mean a step up in the company. I wasn't exactly pleased at all because I realized that I was going to have to give up our new home.
I had a difficult time making that move. To move from a land of four seasons and blue sky and sunshine to an area where there is nothing but clouds and rain ten months of the year was very difficult for me. I wasn't as brave as I thought I was. But we made it. We lived there five years. I worked at a bank in Astoria for about one and a half years.
I became the chorister for the branch and Ann became the organist. We worked together for those five years. I guess I worked in all the organizations because there were so few that we went to Sunday School, Sacrament Meeting, Relief Society, Primary and Mutual. I was chorister to all of them. I taught, and I was also district chorister. I was called to be the Relief Society President but I didn't serve for too long a time because I got an ulcer and was ill and couldn't do it, maybe only six to eight months. Our lives in Astoria centered around the Church. We had never become so active in every organization. It was because we were needed and we sensed the need. We filled our lives working for the Church and on behalf of the Church. We made some beautiful friends.
Don and I were also called on a district mission. We served two years on this district mission. There was a little antagonism against the Mormons mostly because there are so many Finnish and Scandinavian people. They were entrenched in Catholicism and Lutherinism. They didn't need Mormonism.
We had a nice home. The girls loved it and loved being out of doors. There were the blackberry bushes and the daffodils out in the back yard and the tulips. They had a good time. We had two Japanese maple trees in the yard and they had the most beautiful red leaves. The girls loved to climb them. In the fall they changed to fiery red, then the leaves would all fall, making a red velvet carpet around those beautiful trees. Our mailbox was down the hill and on the main road.
It was a nice hill to live on. We could look out of our window and see the valley and the winding Young River and Saddle Mountain. Often there would be a tug pulling a log raft. Astoria was a quaint place because of the draw bridge. There were so many old buildings. It is the oldest town west of the Mississippi River. It was a fur trading post built by John Jacob Astor in 1811. Lewis and Clark made their home for a winter in Fort Clatsop. The fort is reconstructed and a nice place to visit now, a historical item of interest.
In June, 1961, Don was transferred to Los Angeles. On September 16, 1961, I started working for the Citizens National Bank. Over the years its name was changed to Crocker Citizens National Bank, Crocker National Bank, and Crocker Bank. I worked there for nineteen and a half years, almost twenty years until I could retire.
We've been very faithful in our Church work. For seven years night Relief Society was held in my home every week. I was the spiritual living teacher for that group. Not many people now even remember that we used to have night Relief Society. We used to have a goodly number of sisters come to hear the lessons. We had a good sisterhood.
In June, 1987 we were called to be ordinance workers in the Los Angeles Temple which we continued to do until we moved to St. George, Utah.
In 1985, July, I fell and broke my wrist. A friend and I were out for our morning walk at seven o'clock in the morning. I just splattered myself out flat on the sidewalk, ran my hand into a tree and broke my wrist. I was in two or three different casts over the six weeks I was recuperating from that. The last cast I had, my hand was laid out flat on a board just straight out. When he took the cast off I couldn't move my fingers. They just would not bend. I had to take therapy at the Whittier Hospital three times a week for eight and a half months in order to loosen up those fingers. I can move them and use them but they are not like they used to be.
In the summer of 1991, we moved to St. George. There I have found the same contentment that I had in our little home in Ogden. We are away from the traffic. We can walk to the temple and love serving there. We love the weather.
I have never lost the desire to get a college education. So since moving to St. George, I have enrolled in a Spanish class for senior citizens which I have enjoyed very much. I also fell and broke my other wrist. But it has mended nicely.
[Pearl died October 13, 2007 in Redmond, Washington at the home of her daughter, Lois.]