Memories of Mom (Mary Morgan Donaldson) and Dad (Walter Robert Donaldson)
Contributor: crex Created: 1 year ago Updated: 1 year ago
Donaldson Family Reunion (6/97)
Life with Mom (Mary Morgan Donaldson) and Dad (Walter Robert Donaldson) in Standardville
Written by Bill Donaldson (son)
In our family there were two sisters and five brothers who grew to maturity but it seemed we were more like two separate families. Mary and Walt, the oldest, were born in Ogden. Bob and Maxine were born in Winter Quarters, a little town near Schofield. And Don, Jim and I were born in Standardville, another small coal mining town five miles from Helper up Spring Canyon.
In between Maxine and Don, there was a brother, Scott, and a sister, Doris, both born in Winter Quarters. Doris died just two days after birth. Mom explained that she went to sleep with Doris at her side cradled in her arm. When mom awoke, Doris was not breathing. Like all mothers who have lost small children, mom wondered what she would have looked like and looked forward to seeing her on the other side of the veil. Another even worse tragedy struck when Scott was twelve years old. He, along with some other boys living in Standard (we never called it Standardville) went to cut Christmas trees for their families up on the slopes of Greek Canyon, a short distance from town. Apparently a boulder struck Scott in the temple. He died that same evening in the Standard hospital just two weeks before Christmas day in 1938. Mom and dad often spoke of Scott at Christmas time for the rest of their lives. They learned to live with his death but didn’t seem to ever “get over it.” That reunion in the Spirit World with Scott and Doris, now many years past, must have truly been a joyous one.
The earliest recollection of my childhood is a vague memory of being in the Salt Lake Temple when I was sealed, along with all the siblings except Jim, who was born in the covenant, to our parents on May 4, 1936. I was just three. Mom and dad were also sealed together for the eternities on that day. Mom had a special understanding of the importance and sacredness of temple work and I feel certain she saw that day as the most important day in the history of our family.
December 7, 1941, the news came over the radio that “the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor.” Everyone spoke in hushed tones and listened for bits of news. Mom and dad were very worried because Bus (Walter) was on a troop ship somewhere on the ocean bound for the Philippine Islands. That event changed everything for our family. It divided our family into two separate families. Soon Bob would also be in military service in England. All of the eligible young men in town would eventually leave to serve in the armed forces. Mom and dad were proud of the little cloth banner in the window with two stars on it. They waited constantly during the war years for letters from Bus and Bud (Robert) to reaffirm that they were all right.
With the young men gone to war, there was a need for workers everywhere and Mary and Maxine both moved to an apartment in Salt Lake and found jobs. None of the older four – Mary, Walt, Bob or Maxine – ever came back home to Standard to live. Mom and dad looked forward to any of them coming back for a visit. There were many conversations, much of it centered around the Gospel, well into the morning when they did. Don, Jim, and I were the family at home.
Dad was known to be a hard worker by everyone who knew him. All the years I can remember he worked “outside” which meant that he did not have to work deep inside the mine tunnel where the coal was dug. The mine entrance was about a half mile from our home. He ran the hoist, which I know now, was a very responsible job. He would control the cables which lowered the trips of cars loaded with coal down the steep slope to the tipple where the coal was sorted to size and the rocks thrown out by the men working as “bony pickers” before the coal was loaded into rail cars and shipped out. While the trip of about ten loaded cars was lowered down the track to the tipple, the cable would at the same time on a tandem track pull a trip of empty cars back up the hill to again be loaded inside the mine with coal. Dad also ran a motor to switch the cars around on the tracks at the entrance to the mine. His was a very physical job that kept him hustling constantly from the mine entrance up to the hoist room. He was in great physical condition. Pictures show him to be trim in those days, probably 155 pounds. During the War, he would sometimes come home for lunch. After eating he would lay on the floor in front of the radio, listen to the war news and take a nap for a few minutes before walking back up to the mine. Usually he took his lunch in a lunch pail. He would always leave something – a half sandwich, etc. – for the first one who opened the lunch pail when he came home.
Although he didn’t read many books, during all his life dad read the newspaper every day and listened to the radio. He was always up on current events around the world as well as at home and liked to talk about them. Professional boxing, prize fighting, was a major sport at that time and dad never missed listening to a radio broadcast fight. Jack Dempsey and Joe Louis were his favorites.
During the winter months the mine normally worked around the clock because of the high demand for coal. During the summer months the mine was often idle while stockpiles of coal were used up. It was also the time when union contracts were negotiated – the time of year that favored the company owners over the miners. When the mine was idle, a large group of men would congregate every morning outside the company store to just sit around and talk. But, I don’t remember dad spending much time with them.
Although he was inactive in the Church earlier in his life, dad was known as “the bishop” during most of my growing up years. Actually he was the branch president of the Standardville Branch that also served the members of the Church in two other coal camps further up the canyon, Latuda and Rains. The meeting house was also the union hall and the town cultural hall for Christmas parties and other events. There was one large room with a slightly elevated stage at one end where opening exercises and sacrament meetings were held. In addition, there were four small classrooms. I accompanied him on several occasions when he picked up orders at the Bishop’s storehouse in Price and we delivered them to needy families. Dad also often worked on the stake sugar beet farm south of Price. There was still a horse in use at the farm and since dad had driven horses in the mines as a younger man he knew how to handle and work the farm horse. He was also perhaps the only man around who could shoe horses, which he often did. I believe he learned this skill at his brother John’s blacksmith shop in Ogden.
Dad loved to tell stories of his youth in Schofield and Winter Quarters when there were no cars and men road horses and carried guns. He was outgoing and found it easy to talk with people including strangers. He seemed to always be positive and upbeat even when things weren’t going well. One of his best traits was that he was never judgmental of others and never spoke ill of others.
During the same period of time, mom served as the Relief Society president. It seemed that there were always quilting frames in the front room with three or four sisters quilting and talking. Mom was a self-taught pianist and had the gift of being able to play by ear. She could, of course, also read music and played hymns for the branch services and had a lot of popular sheet music which she played for her own enjoyment. She also had a beautiful alto voice and loved to sing.
Mom had an unwavering faith in the restored gospel and often bore her testimony. She never missed a church meeting nor failed to fulfill her church responsibilities. Genealogy and temple work were constantly part of her life. She was genuinely concerned for the salvation of each of her children and also for her ancestors not wanting even one to be lost. Every Memorial Day we traveled to the Provo and Spanish Fork cemeteries with a huge number of peonies. Mom knew from memory where every family grave was located and everyone received her special attention.
Mom was the one who made clear what was expected of us in terms of living the commandments. When I was only about six years old I was out with the other kids one evening and some of the older ones were smoking. They got some of us to try it and I smoked part of a cigarette. When I went into the house, mom was rocking Jimmy, who was just a baby, in the dining room. I stood beside her and she immediately picked up on the smell of tobacco smoke. She forthwith took me upstairs to the bathroom and washed out my mouth with soap. I still remember that taste and never again smoked.
Mom always wore a dress and apron when at home. Before she went out – anywhere – she would always dress up and looked her best. Every Saturday afternoon she along with Don and I would go to the meeting house to get it ready for Sunday meetings. We would move all of the wooden benches back out of the way, sweep the floor which created clouds of dust, and then line up the benches with precision. Early Sunday morning Don and I would dust all of the benches.
Mom and dad’s lives were filled with work and church and taking care of the family. They took only one vacation that I remember when we went to Kingman, Arizona to visit Bus (Walter) and Connie. They went to only one movie that I recall, “The Fighting Sullivan’s.” Their greatest entertainment was to drive to Helper, park on the main street, and watch the people.
They visited Salt Lake often and talked of buying a house and moving there. Mom was particularly anxious to move closer to her roots in Provo but wanted to live in Salt Lake. Things just didn’t work out until Bob bought a new house in 1949 near Highland Drive and 3300 South and invited the family to move there with him. This opened up a whole new life of opportunities and challenges for all of us and proved to be a great blessing. Within a few years the Standardville mine was permanently shut down and the town was dismantled.
Excerpt taken from William R. Donaldson's personal history
Contributor: crex Created: 1 year ago Updated: 1 year ago
Dad (Walter Robert Donaldson) was about my height, five feet eight inches, and was a trim, wiry and muscular although he put on weight after he finally retired in his seventies. He was of an optimistic and cheerful disposition and had a great sense of humor. He loved to tell stories of the 'old days' when he rode horses, got to drive the first car that came to town, and witnessed a great many events right out of the old West. His formal schooling ended at about age 13 when he went to work in the mine -- this was the norm for coal mining families in the early part of the century. He was well read on current events and kept up with the local and world news all his life. Dad was a friend to everyone and made friends easily. He never spoke ill of others and was very tolerant and non judgmental. He came out of inactivity in the Church and had the family sealed to him after some eighteen years of marriage. However, during nearly all of my growing up years in Standardville I remember him only as the branch president although everyone in town called him Bishop.