Great events are but occasional. To each of us there surely is no event more important than that of finding a home in earth life. I really enjoyed that special occasion. I knew before hand, that I would be more or less shackled when I arrived. I surely found things very, very retarded. For example, up to my arrival in earth life, I was able to move around with ease and with great rapidity. I surely had shackles placed on me. When I opened my eyes on 4:16 in the morning on 7 May 1940, low and behold, I was cramped into a very tiny, helpless body, in the arms of Doctor J. L. Wicks. I don't exactly know just what happened. I remember I was crying. A lady I found later was Aunt Alice, took me into another room in the house, and gave me a real good washing in oil. Aunt Liza was also there to help take care of me. I could never complain with the treatment. I seemed to be very welcome, but it all seemed so strange. A thick veil had, in the mean time, been pulled over my memory, and my parents, the two with whom I had previously made plans with to come and live with, they whom I had been so well acquainted before their departure into earth life, were now perfect strangers to me. I just couldn't make it all out. It really was a strange sensation, but here I was and there seemed to be no turning back. Those new clothes they put me in were so soft and warm and comfortable. They were like as if I had dropped into a feather bed. I welcomed getting settled. I was weary and hungry, two new sensations, so I enjoyed being able to settle down. I was as helpless as could be. Other than being able to throw my arms and legs about, and move my head from side to side, I depended entirely on others. That feeling of helplessness that I was experiencing, seemed to be the lot of the young of the human family. Of all in nature, we are about the most helpless at that age.
My home was an item of interest. Not a large place as there were but four rooms. I could plainly see that mine was to be a humble beginning. There was nothing luxurious in it, but it did contain the necessities, and what more, there was evidenced an atmosphere of friendliness and happiness. As I have before mentioned, I was made to feel that I was welcome, that my parents had looked forward to my coming with the thrilling anticipation of having a little girl to provide and care for and teach. It was not long before I learned to care for them and also that brother who was nearly three years old. His name was Paul. He was quite a boy. He took a liking to me the first time he saw me, and I couldn't help but think that he had been sent to Daddy and Mamma three years before, so that he may be able to help take care of me and watch over me. You know, little folk need a lot of care and protection, and a big brother was an asset to any little girl, especially the kind of brother I had. He had been through what I was now going through, so he knew all about it. Many times we talked together of our problems. We couldn't remember for a certainty, but it seemed to the both of us that we were very close to each other before we came here. I just think Paul and I knew each other quite well, as also my other sisters and brother who were born after me, and also my Daddy and Mamma. Well, Paul and I talked over many things. He gave me a lot of pointers as to how this or that should be done the easier way, and how results could be secured more readily. I guess he must have had quite an experience, as there was no older child in the family, so being first, he had to learn a lot by experience.
I shall never forget his little curl on the top of his head. I guess it had required some training, but it seemed to be a permanent thing when I first knew him. By the way, I had to wait much longer than he did before I had hair enough to have a little curl. That's one thing I was born without, and what's more, the roots must have been very deep, for I had to wait until I was quite a girl before I had enough hair to even bother about.
The days passed into weeks, and the weeks into months. I was made very happy. Those people I had come to live with loved me dearly, and at almost every whimper I made, would come rushing to me. I guess I took advantage of their good nature. I kept them pretty much on the run. They say I was a good baby, and that I was pleasant and very active for my age. I soon learned to play with Paul's little toys, and with a few toys of my own. Not long after I arrived, I was given a name. Ruth May Blacker was to be my title, and it was given me officially by my Daddy at a ward Fast Day Meeting in the little yellow schoolhouse at the Almy ward. I remember (I think I can) Daddy and Mamma telling Bishop Bowns that I was born around four o'clock in the morning of May 7, 1940. He needed some of this information to complete the church record. I could have added that it was on a Wednesday morning. It was nearly time to get up for the day anyway, but I supposed I rushed things a little. I remembered that trip for some time, but as time passed, it seemed to have slipped from my memory.
We didn't live in our home at Almy very long after I was born. Daddy was the principal at the school, and soon after my birth, he was selected as a teacher in the Evanston City Schools. I don't remember the move, but Daddy and Mamma bought a home at 211 Front Street in Evanston, and we moved in about the first of September. It was a real nice little home with a green back yard, as well as front.
There was a chicken house in the back next to the alley, and a little garden spot. After I became older, both these places were attractions to me. The little yellow balls of chicken felt nice to me. I guess that at times, I handled them a little roughly. I used to get a little chastisement from Daddy because of my intense interest in baby chicks.
That garden was really quite a spot! I never could understand why it would hurt any to see what the roots of a little garden plant looked like. A person had to learn, and I didn't know everything then. Very often Daddy would find some little feet tracks in the soft, wet dirt of the garden, sometimes immediately after watering. The prints weren't very long, oh, maybe three inches. Across the garden they would go. Sometimes I would fail to step on a plant, but more often I wouldn't. Sometimes I got caught at it. On these occasions it didn't take so long getting off the garden as it took to get on. Many times, when no one saw me, I walked over the garden to see how the plants were getting along. Sometimes they looked too thick, and I would try to correct the difficulty. I really didn't see, should ten plants have to be pulled out of the row as a thinning out process, why all ten couldn't be pulled out of the same place. It looked much simpler, and surely didn't tear the garden up so much. I'm sure at times, when Daddy or Mamma went to the garden, they found someone's tracks, but I'll bet they could never figure out who made them.
I learned to walk when reasonably young, so they tell me. At nine and a half months I started out for myself, and have been going ever since. I used to enjoy that baby jumper! It was a little canvas chair sort of affair, attached to a strong spring, which hung from the ceiling. I got to be quite rough on it with my jumping. Up I would go just as high as I could jump, and then would let my whole weight drop, and then I could jump up and down time after time, until the jumper would sound as if it would not hold up any longer.
I readily took a liking to all the good things a youngster takes to, such as ice-cream cones, candy, gum and whatnot. With Paul being just a little older than I, and reaching the age where he really needed a lot of good, rich food for the building of strong bones and teeth, and well-developed muscles, we both insisted on those items I mentioned. We have always been great hands with oranges. Mamma has always talked of vitamins, vitamin this, and vitamin that. Carrots contained this and spinach that lettuce another and fresh fruits another, and for fear we didn't get enough, she became very adept at giving two teaspoons of cod liver oil, with a glass of milk before our going to bed.
On the 30th day of April 1942, we were fortunate enough to have stop at our house, a little sister. I was so happy! I was now getting to be old enough to enjoy playing with dolls, and here came a live one! Now there were two of us girls, and what plans for playing I made! Paul was a real playmate to me, but he never cared to play with dolls and to do some of the other things that seemed so natural for me to do, so when a new sister came, I was overjoyed. We decided that her name should be Lois. She was always such a cute baby that I never hesitated telling anyone that she was my sister, and just as I had planned, we have played together with everything from balls to dolls. We owned a special four-wheeled baby vehicle, called a buggy, which when pushed by our mother, provided transportation. I'm not sure Paul ever used it, but I had my picture taken in it just outside our Evanston home. I am told, that when Lois was in it out in the fresh air, that I pushed her up and down the driveway, and at one point, it got away from me, and rolled down the gentle incline, into the street. Luckily, there wasn't much traffic, and Mama was able to hurry out and retrieve her.
I can recall a time when Daddy had bought a watermelon, and left it on the floor of the car, while taking other groceries into the house. I felt the need to help by carrying it. It was very heavy, and I had great difficulty wrestling it off the floor and over the sill of the car door. If I was even able to take a step or two with it, that was all, as it slipped out of my arms and fell to the ground, splitting into pieces. Daddy wasn't happy at all with my efforts to be helpful!
For a little over two years, we lived at Evanston. I enjoyed about every minute of it. In the late fall of 1942, we moved from Evanston to Rupert, Idaho to Grandpa Blacker's farm. Daddy had been born and raised on a farm. In fact, most of his raising was on the very farm to which he was returning. Mama had been born and raised at Hilliard on a ranch, so farm life was not new to them. I had the time of my life on that farm. What with cats, the dog, Jiggs , the chickens, cows calves and especially the horses, I was at the height of my delight. Also, the farm afforded enough room that I could run and run, sing, shout, whoop and holler like a little Indian. Really, I managed to combine them all into one big, active noise.
In November 2019 my cousin Tom Blacker and I traded family stories through FamilySearch. I told him about a dog named Jiggs that we had when we lived on the Thomas and Hettie Blacker farm. On 15 December 2019 he sent me a picture of him with Jiggs. It was taken sometime after his parents, Earl and MarJean Blacker, took over the farm.
My brother, Paul, being three years older, remembered more about Jiggs than I did. On 17 December 2019, some seventy years after we left the farm he sent the following to me:
Jiggs was living at the farm when we moved there in 1942. I believe Uncles Earl and Verl were the original 'owners'. I'm sure he wasn't chosen by Grandpa Blacker. Jiggs was indeed a rather small but very active dog. Undoubtedly a mixed breed but of the terrier type of beast. He lived on table scraps that Mom would give him, some milk that Dad would put out for the cats and Jiggs would confiscate, and he was a consummate mouser. He frequently caught them out in the field or around the barn. I'm certain that he never ever had a single bite of commercial dog food. He would always accompany us out to the barn every morning and would always ride on the wagon pulled by Prince and the other horse (I don't remember their names) or in the cab of the old truck. Often he would just run along side of the tractor or truck. Jiggs led a charmed life. He seemed to regularly get run over by the wagon, a truck or a tractor. He would scream and thrash and then disappear for a day or two and then be back. I remember he got behind one of the horses one day and the horse kicked him so hard he flew, it seemed, for miles. We never had him in the house, and no one made a bed or a box for him. I believe he spent his nights in the hay stacks. Dogs of that size can live for up to 20 years. I don't know how old he was when we moved there in '42. But it is conceivable that Jiggs could have been around even into the late 1950's, maybe even the early 60's. Or with his charmed life, he may still be alive today - who knows. He may still be wandering the earth with Cain, John or the three Nephites.
We bought sixteen Jersey cows from Grandpa, and they provided a lot of work for Daddy and Mama. In a few months time, we had eight or ten little calves and they soon grew into cows. With the farm work, and after the first year after Uncle Earl and Uncle Verl were called into the army, Daddy couldn't hire much help, so we had really more work than we wanted. Mama helped with the milking a good part of the time, and so did we children. I don't know that we were so much help, but we had the time of our lives running through the barn, helping with the chickens and calves and always being on hand to see that the cats sometimes as many as eight or ten would get their milk.
I don't know why I loved horses like I did, but I would stand at the horse corral gate and stand for the longest time, just looking at them and dreaming of the time when I would be large enough to have one of my own to ride. Often Daddy would let me help him drive them when they were hitched together. Sometimes Paul and I would go down to the field and ride the horses while Daddy was working them. During those years, little girls mostly wore dresses, so that when I would sit up on one of the horses, holding onto the names, the harness would pinch the insides of my knees quite painfully, but not enough to stop me from riding. Uncle Roy and Aunt Hilda, who lived down the road a little way, also had a team of horses, and now, after years have passed, I can't remember the names of all four horses. I know there were Star, Prince and Queen, so I would just hazard the guess that there was also King. I can't remember, however, what our two were named.
At one time, one of Uncle Roy's horses, I think Queen, got her leg caught in the wire fence at their home, and she was bleeding quite badly from a terrible cut just above her hoof. Uncle Roy and Daddy, in deciding what to do, finally resorted to throwing flour into the cut, to stop the bleeding. It seemed to work, but I have no memory as to how long it took her to heal or whether or not she had more problems with it. Another time, it seemed the two brothers had all four horses at our place, and they were trying to see how much they could pull. They hitched one to the derrick, used to lift hay up onto stacks, and tried to see if that one horse could pull it alone. I think it did pull it a short distance.
The derrick, made out of logs, was used on another occasion, when one of our steers was butchered. Mama wouldn't let us go out to see the actual killing of the animal, but we kids, probably just Paul and I, went out afterwards, to see the carcass hanging upside down from the derrick, with the head lying on the ground. We squatted around the head, probably with our cousins, Leon and Royal, amazed at the sight of the still-open eyes, and the tongue lolling out of the mouth. Daddy owned a really mean bull, whom we were absolutely forbidden to get near. He was kept in a strong corral, and had a ring through his nose, so that he could be handled safely by a man holding a pole, that could be attached to the ring.
No child's life is all roses. I had my troubles. Sometimes they were bigger ones than I thought Daddy and Mama believed them to be. When a little calf, or a kitten died, it grieved me very much. I wanted everything to live and be happy, and have always thought they had a right to that much, but it didn't always work out that way. I received my bumps along with the others. Youngsters can't always play as fast and furiously as I did without having collisions and other types of accidents. I received quite a fright one day. I believe it scared Mama more than it did me. I was helping Mama wash clothes, and was helping her put the wet clothes through the ringer to squeeze out the water, when lo and behold, my fingers got in between the two rollers. I started to cry, but that didn't stop the wringer, and it continued to turn. My hand then was pulled in, and it was but a second until my arm to the elbow had passed through. Immediately, Mama sensed what the trouble was, and hurried to release the wringer. It's a good thing that she was close by. I would have been badly hurt, I'm sure, had she not have been close by. It scared me quite badly, if nothing more. It hurt too, but not to the point that it couldn't be soothed after a short time.
On another occasion, I gave Mama a scare. She had quite a time keeping me out of the things I shouldn't be into. On one particular Sunday morning, while she was out feeding the chickens, I climbed onto a chair by the kitchen cabinet and proceeded to drink from a bottle containing a very pretty, red liquid. As Mama came in through the door, she saw what I had done, and ran to me and took the bottle. At the time, I hardly thought it overly polite, but supposed I was in it up to my neck again. She saw that I had drunk some, so she immediately tried to push her fingers down my throat. She did a pretty good job of it, too. I really thought she intended putting her arm down my throat, and in fact, I wondered if she hadn't. She tried to make me throw up all that I had taken. I couldn't see any sense to that, so I kept it. She excitedly told me to spit it out. I tried to, but after a thing has gone down, one can't spit much out. I couldn't figure what she was trying to do. She ran to the door and called Daddy, and then came back to work on me again. I was really being put through something. She hurriedly fixed up another drink for me. It didn't taste as good as the first drink, and I never bragged about its taste. This time it was vinegar she was trying to get me to drink. I didn't like it at all, and she had quite a time getting much of it down me. I had better luck spitting it out than I had the other one, after it had been swallowed. Daddy came and Mama told him that I had swallowed some potassium permanganate, which of course was poisonous, and used in baby chicks water to kill any bacteria that might be harmful to them. Daddy called the doctor by telephone and asked what should be done. All this time, Mama was struggling with me, trying to make me throw up, but I couldn't. Daddy returned to the kitchen and told Mama the doctor didn't think the solution was strong enough to do me any real harm. I was surely thankful I could be left alone. I suppose Mama and Daddy were even more thankful than I. Mama then and there threatened to never leave anything within my reach, which I shouldn't have. She had always made that a policy, but this particular time, she slipped and I took advantage.
The telephone hung on the wall in the living room, next to the kitchen. It was a wooden box, with a speaking horn, and an earpiece that hung on the side, attached by a cord. In order to use it, one had to crank a handle on the other side, which rang a telephone operator at the telephone office. She would ask, "Number, please", and the caller would give the phone number of the party being called. Then the operator would physically connect a cable from the callers connection, to the hookup of the person being called.
Several peoples phones would be on the same connection, so each household had a certain number of rings to alert them to the fact that a call was coming in for them. I don't know how many rings we had, but people weren't supposed to answer if the phone was ringing for a neighbor. However, it wasn't uncommon for different people to quietly lift up the receiver and listen in to somebody else's call.
As mentioned before, we were close neighbors to Uncle Roy and aunt Hilda and their family. We had the time of our lives playing together. Leon and Royal played with Paul, but none of them could outdo me, because I was as good as any boy my age, or even a year or two older. At least I thought I was, and that seems to be about as near to the real thing as one can get. Winter or summer, I enjoyed being outside in the snow, mud, warm or cold. Daddy always said I would have made a good boy. With Leon and Royal, we would play cowboys and Indians. Once they tied me to a tree and shot toy arrows at me with their little toy bows. Luckily, they were terrible shots. I always so enjoyed being out and doing a boys chores, hauling hay or straw, sliding down that big straw stack, climbing on the hay stack, feeding the cows and calves oh, just to be a boy! That was the life, and here I was a girl. Well, that didn't prevent me from doing all those very things. I loved to do them, and could do them, too.
On the 18th of July 1944, another girl moved in on us. This time it was Mary. I was getting large enough to be a great help, especially after the baby became old enough to be taken out into the yard in her buggy. Mary didn't have to stay with us long, before she was one of the family, in very deed. It soon seemed as if we had always had her. One boy and three girls in the family. Daddy was getting a lot of farm help, wasn't he? It became our chore to take care of Mary while Mama was doing her work. At times, we thought it was quite a chore, especially when we had other things we would liked to have done. Often, Paul and I would take turns taking care of her while the other did other things.
One of my favorite times of the day was just before bedtime, when a good share of the time, Daddy or Mama would read us stories. I liked every kind of story. But Paul didn't like the sad ones. If the story got too sad, he would leave the room and go away until it was finished. One time Daddy read us the story, Dog of Flanders. It was a very sad story, but very interesting, and I listened intently. Both Paul and I cried as it was being read, especially during the latter part, and Paul had to leave. The story I liked better than any other, I believe, was Black Beauty. Horses, horses, horses. I dreamed of horses.
After Lois and Mary grew to be older, we played with our dolls. We also, and have from the time we were very small, enjoyed drawing on blackboards or paper. Especially did we enjoy coloring. Many and many a color book have we used to good advantage. I suppose I have enjoyed doing what most other boys and girls enjoy doing. I have always liked to go to Sunday School to hear the stories my teachers would tell. We always attended Church, Sunday School in the morning, and Sacrament meeting at night. Sunday is the Sabbath and we have been taught to observe it as such. I'm sure I am a better girl than I would otherwise have been had I not have been taught in that manner. We went to church in the old stake house near the courthouse in Rupert. I would look up at the line of lights that encircled the chapel, and wish I could be up there, crawling above all the people. I often wondered why we had to have bread and water for the sacrament, and not tiny, chocolate cookies and juice. Once, during the war, on our way home from church, Mama was very upset, because she discovered that Lois had gone to Sunday School without any panties on. Another time, Daddy stopped the car, to get out and pick up a gunny sack that had fallen from somebody's vehicle, and took it home, as things were very scarce because of the war. We didn't understand much about the war, except our parents had little books with stamps in them that would allow them to buy sugar, or some other commodities that were rationed. I knew a little about Hitler, because once, when an airplane was flying over our house, I looked up and yelled, Heil, Hitler and then ran to hide for fear somebody would shoot me.
A few disjointed memories of that same time of my life:
Here, Jiggs, here Jiggswhile Leon and Royal did the same, as they wanted Jiggs to go home with them after playing at our house. Poor Jiggs stood not knowing who to listen to.
When Grandma Brown visited from Evanston, Paul and I were put into the next room for the night. She was snoring, and I thought it was a bear. I was so frightened!
Grandma Brown sewed our dolls dresses right to their cloth bodies, so that we wouldn't take the dresses off and lose them. Lois and I were so sad, as we wanted to take their clothes off and put them back on.
I was always a little uneasy around of all my grandparents, probably because I was of a rather shy nature. Grandpa Blacker seemed rather stern to me, though he always sent us a brand new dollar bill in a special envelope, for Christmas. I suffered terribly from car sickness, and once Grandma Blacker tried to help me by cutting open a brown paper bag; wrapping it around my bare middle and tying it on with string. I was probably five years old at the time. It didn't help, unfortunately, and was very scratchy. I never knew my Grandpa Brown, as he died before my mother ever married.
We remained on the farm until the last part of December 1945, at which time we moved to Ontario, Oregon where Daddy and Uncle Fred bought a furniture store on the main street of the town, and appropriately named it Blacker Furniture Store. Our family lived in a comfortable house in town, which was heated in the winter by a sawdust-burning furnace. There was a sawmill in nearby Payette, and we loved the smell the burning sawdust gave off. We would listen at night to the sound of the trains coming into Ontario. The Portland Rose and the City of Portland, were two of them. Paul remembers when a new water tank was being built and seeing the sparks fall from high up, as the men were welding on it. I enjoyed living in town again, as there were not so many chores nor so much work for Daddy and Mamma, but I do wish that we had a horse. They tell me we don't have room enough here for one. I get to see more picture shows here than we did while on the farm, because we youngsters can go to the matinees about every other Saturday sometimes a little oftener. I remember that we could walk to movie house, and the cost of a ticket was a dime.
I was given a red scooter for my sixth birthday, and Lois also received one for her fourth birthday. Daddy also brought home a toy that was a cross between a sled and a wagon, which we had fun with up and down the sidewalks. I wished we had more room in which to play. One is quite cooped up in town.
Across the street from our house was a small neighborhood grocery store. One evening, Paul was given a couple of empty, glass milk bottles, probably quart size, and asked to cross the street and get a couple of quarts more of milk. The bottles were re-used, and they had been washed with the money placed inside. I seem to remember that it was dark, or nearly so when he left. Somehow, he tripped and fell on the bottles, which broke, and cut his arm severely. When he came into the house, Mama and Daddy rushed him to the kitchen sink, where they attempted to wash the cut, which was bleeding profusely. I can see in my mind's eye, the water and blood mixing together and running down the drain. He had to have three stitches, and seventy years later, still carries the scar and the marks of the stitches.
Beth was born on the 8th of May 1946 at the Holy Rosary Hospital in Ontario. Another girl for Daddy and his farm work! We are surely glad to have her with us, and hope we can make her feel at home. I'll bet we'll be able to. Daddy is getting so he doesn't mine girls! in fact he seems to like them. He says that so long as they are nice girls as he has had so far, they will be alright!
Soon after Beth was born, Daddy, Paul and I went to a carnival which came to town. I believe it was the first carnival I had ever been to, and I was surely thrilled. I had been on a merry-go-round before, but I surely enjoyed another ride. One of the big thrills that night was a ride with Paul on the Ferris wheel. I didn't know whether I should be scared or not. That dangling on top was a real experience! We were stopped up there two or three times and at first I was a little concerned. We went into a side-show and saw some things I don't believe I shall ever forget. The fire-eating man was a strange thing to me. I don't know yet why he didn't get burned. Another man lay on a board which had a lot of nails driven in, and he had two men stand on him. It seemed to me that the nails would surely hurt him, but he didn't seem to mind. Mama and the two babies didn't go with us. Beth was just a tiny baby, so they remained at home. The next night we all went down and saw a man and woman do tricks on wires across two sets of poles. They were very high up in the air. The daring tricks would surely have scared me.
I was six years old the day before Beth was born, so that fall I started school in the first grade. I was really frightened that first day. For some reason, I had the idea that we had to know our phone number, and though I had tried to learn it, I couldn't remember what it was. It would have been only three digits, which was apparently way too many for my poor brain. A few years later, when we moved out to the acreage, our number was 206, which I can remember to this day. Anyhow, the fear of being away from home for the first time, and not being able to recall the number, caused me to start crying. My teacher, Mrs. McCutchin, tried to comfort me, but I almost think that she had to call Mama, who had to come in and help. I was intimidated by the other kids, and had a wobbly start. Another day, one of my braids came undone, and I was so embarrassed about that. My teacher was an outstanding one, and did lots of things with visual arts. She had built a cardboard store, where we could go in and play when our work was finished. She painted some little wooden chairs bright red, and told us to not sit on them until they were dry. I forgot, and when I went into the store and sat down on one of the chairs, I got red paint all over my dress. I cried again, and felt so terrible. I think that it was due to these hard times, that I developed my sympathy and compassion for little kids who have a tough time in school.
We put on plays and programs, and once I was a pansy in one of them. Mrs. McCutchin had made beautiful, big crepe paper pansies on sticks, which we got to hold and wave as we sang, Little Purple Pansies Touched With Yellow Gold. I was very proud, as I knew my family was watching from the audience.
Another memories of living in this house---Once, Mama and Daddy went outside to bring in the clothes that had been hung on the line, and for some reason, some one of us locked the back door. They had to knock and pound for quite awhile before we realized what had happened.
Grandma Brown had come to visit us from Evanston. Mama had made oatmeal mush for breakfast, and I was sitting across the table from her. As she took a bite of oatmeal, there was a long hair hanging from the spoon. For years, I could hardly eat oatmeal without gagging. I am gagging right now as I think back on it.
Mama had made some chocolate pudding with whipped cream on it, which we ate for dessert after supper. That night, as we were asleep, Lois threw up all her chocolate pudding over me and the bedding, but that incident didn't keep me from enjoying chocolate pudding.
A curious incident happened not long after Beth was born. Mama walked down to the furniture, pushing Beth in the baby buggy, and left it outside on the sidewalk as she took Beth inside. When she returned to the buggy, a small dog with collie like markings was sitting beside it. As she started back to our house, the dog followed along just as if it was familiar to following buggies. He followed all the way to our house, and never left us. He became our dog, and we named him Rover. He was as faithful to us as a dog could be.
Just two or three weeks after I started to school, we sold our home in town at 241 North West First Street and moved to a new home located in the north-west corner of the city limits of Ontario. There were ten acres in the new place, which had a small, white frame house on it. We didn't know whether it was the wise thing to do or not, but we were inclined to think it was. While it was close to town, it was further away than our central location where our old home was. It did provide a lot more room for us, which we really did need so far as yard room was concerned. The place was run down and the yard was filled with weeds. It was nearly a mile from the schoolhouse, and we walked the distance a good part of the time, particularly on our way home in the afternoons, and often at noon. Daddy nearly always took us to school in the mornings on his way to work in the store. A lot of times it was comfortable to walk, but at times we really got cold.
Cars and pickup trucks all had running boards then, and when Daddy would pick us up, we would often stand on the running board, with our arms through the car windows and hanging on tightly. It was great fun to ride on the outside of the car that way.
Not long after we moved to the country, our folks began the plans for a new home, since the one on the property was too small. Daddy and a Mr. DeBore did most of the work. Our new home was very modern for the times, and was built around the existing one. Later in this story, more will be written to describe what the new home looked like, but for many months, we were living torn-up and unfinished conditions. Daddy was an exceptionally hard worker, and it seems that every minute when he wasn't at work at the store, he was working on the house, and encouraging the rest of us to help so far as we were able.
For the next two or three years things went on rather uneventfully so far as outstanding experiences to me personally were concerned. In the main, we got along fine. Our neighbors, particularly Mr. and Mrs. Guy Farnsworth used to say they never saw a family with children get along as well as we did. They said they seldom, if ever, saw us have any trouble amongst ourselves while we were playing. I must admit we occasionally did have disagreements, but they were never serious.
Our neighbors across the road, the Frank Phillips, had two girls about my age, Gloria and Mary Jean, and they joined with us in our play often. There was usually a problem with our dogs, however. They had a large, black spaniel named Bob, who would always follow the girls to our house, as did Rover follow us to theirs. Invariably, Bob and Rover would fight, and we would try to stop them, with each of us defending our dog. Often the defense would cause hard feelings and one of the other would head home vowing to never play together again, but we spent countless hours playing together. They owned a big, white horse named Bill, and I was so very envious of them. We used to play house in their old out buildings. We would even find eggs from their chickens and break them and stir them into whole wheat kernels that would be fed to the chickens. Then we would try and eat that slop, which taste I can remember as I write this. Why we did it, I can't explain.
I had two very unpleasant experiences each about the same nature, but a year apart. Daddy used an electric fence for the stock, and though we were warned not to touch them, I accidentally did, and the results were not too pleasant. The last time, I was running along the ditch bank and fell into the small ditch of water. As I fell, I unthinkingly grabbed for the electric wire with my right hand. The current forced my left hand up to the wire as well, and I absolutely could not let go. I screamed, for I was really frightened, and gratefully, Mama and Paul were not too far away. Mama had Paul run as fast as he could to pull the switch from the control box which was hanging onto the back of the chicken coop. As soon as the current was turned off, my arms dropped, and I was able to climb out of the water. I was alright, but I will never know what would have happened had no one been around. I believe I would have been electrocuted within a few more minutes. Daddy never used the electric fence after that to this day. Later, electric fences were made so that the electric current pulsed on and off, so that a person would be able to let go, in case they were caught on a fence.
So far, I hadn't had a horse of my own (1946-47). I have always loved horses, and have ridden many a mile on stick horses, which were either willows, or a tough, tall weed stem that grew near the canal. I guess all kids do that. We had cows and calves on our place, and I really enjoyed them.
Daddy always preferred Jersey cows because they were smaller than Holsteins, and didn't require as much feed, and the butterfat in their milk was higher, bringing more money. We always had our own milk and cream, and often Mama would make butter. Jerseys were pretty cows, with their big, brown eyes and dish-shaped faces. They looked almost deer-like, compared to bigger cows. One was named Brownie. She was darker than the others, who were mostly light brown. Once, Daddy in an effort to improve the small herd, bought a very expensive pure bred heifer, that cost $400.00. She was quite young, and a beautiful light tan, but before she was old enough to have a calf, she bloated and died. Some of us kids were out by the corral and saw that she was in trouble, so ran and got Mama. We knew that often, in order to save a bloating cows life, someone had to stab them high up on their side, between the rib cage and the back leg, in order to let out the terrible buildup of gas. The gas was formed when the cow ate something that was too rich, like green alfalfa, and the pressure would build up until it pressed against the heart and lungs so much that those organs wouldn't be able to work, causing death. Our poor heifer was dying, but Mama couldn't gather the courage to stab her. We ran for the neighbor, Jay Phillips, who came over, but then it was too late. Our calf soon sank down and died. We felt so terrible!
Daddy had built a barn next to the open shed, and they would come into it to be milked. They went to their own stanchion, which we closed to keep them in place. In front of a manger, the grain was kept in wooden compartments, which we scooped out with a big can, being careful to not give them too much in case of causing bloat. The flies would get bad and really bother them, sometimes laying eggs under the cows skin, causing big lumps to form. While they were eating their grain, we would spray them with fly spray from a can with hand pump. A new heifer, who had her first calf, and hadn't been milked before, would kick, and often Brownie, would kick as well. We had metal hobbles that would slip on each back leg, with a short chain between the two pieces. Then the cow wouldn't be able to reach very far with her hind feet.
Daddy eventually bought an electric milking machine, which we hung from a big belt, which we fastened around the cow. We still had to "strip" the cow by hand, to make sure all the milk was out, so as not to cause mastitis. Outside the barn, was a tub which we filled with water each night. We would put a milk strainer in the top of a milk can, and pour the milk into it. In the bottom of the strainer, was a milk pad, a circular, white pad which would catch any impurities or dirt that might have been in the milk. Then we put the lid on the milk can, which would sit in the cool water overnight until Daddy would put it in the car or pickup, and haul it to the creamery. He would pick up the empty can at night to bring home in time for that night's milking.
We would have to take the strainer and milk machine into the house to wash very thoroughly, as if the milk didn't pass inspection, it was returned, and the milk check would be smaller. Before we poured the milk into the strainer, we would pour some into the big black discarded frying pan that the cats and Rover would drink out of. Some times, they would get in the way, and we would just have to pour it in over their heads, as they wouldn't move, and after they would finish drinking, they would have quite a job cleaning the milk from their heads. Rover didn't bother the cats, and they would all sleep together in a box in front of the car, in the garage.
Daddy and Mama felt doing chores was good for children, so we would help with the milking, feeding chickens, mowing lawn, weeding the garden, picking currents and raspberries and other work that came with a family on several acres. We had a coop with a fenced, grassy area for the chickens. I never really cared much for taking care of them. The coop always smelled awful, and when we had to scrape the manure off the roost, I had a hard time. I would have to hold my breath, run and scrape and then run out again to the fresh air. Daddy had built wooden compartments along one wall, about three feet up, so that the chickens could lay their eggs in them, and not out on the ground. We had to keep straw in the nests, and gather the eggs once a day. Sometimes, a chicken would be broody, sitting on her eggs to hatch them, and would peck at our hands when we tried to get her eggs. The roosters would get quite mean, and would chase us if we didn't keep our eyes on them. We would have to take wheat out and scatter it around, calling the chickens as we did (Here chick, chick, chick) and they would come running. We would also put ground up oyster shells in their feeding trough, to give them the calcium they needed so that the shells of their eggs wouldn't get too soft. We also fed them mash, which was ground-up corn or other grain. In the winter, Mama would combine the mash with hot water, and stir it up into a thick batter, which we had to take out and scrape out of a pan or bucket into the trough. I hated the smell of the hot mash, which set off my sensitive gag reflex again.
It was a wonderful thing in the spring when the folks would order baby chicks to replace the ones we used for meat. The post office in town, or the feed store, would call, and say that our chicks had come. Daddy always ordered White Rocks, which were an all white bird. Our neighbors had Plymouth Reds. We would drive to town, and go into the building, and could hear the little day-old chicks cheeping loudly. They would come in big, flat cardboard boxes about six inches high, and about three feet square. We would carefully carry them out to the car, and then to the barn, where Daddy had built a pen filled with straw. We would open the box, the there were dozens of little fluffy, yellow balls, which we would lift out and put into the pen. There was a heat lamp hanging low in the center, because they needed to be kept warm, with no mama hen to snuggle up to. There were little metal feeding boxes with mash in them, and special water bottles and dishes into which we put chemicals to kill germs. I can still remember the clean, wonderful smell of those newly hatched chicks.. Soon, however, they would grow and begin to get feathers, and they were no longer cute. They would even start pecking at any smaller, maybe sickly chicks, and if not watched, would peck them to death.
We had a very large lawn, which was too large for a hand mower, so a gas-driven one was purchased, which we kids could operate. It took a long time to mow so much grass.
Paul got a large, boys bike, which I tried to ride, when my feet wouldn't reach the pedals from the seat. The bike was black and very hard to ride, but I got so I could do it.
We took a trip to Wyoming, to visit the Brown relatives. While visiting Uncle John and Aunt Dorothy's family, I was able to ride their ranch horses, especially two buckskins named Biscuit and Tango. When we left to go back to Ontario, we were given a bum lamb, whose mother wouldn't take it. We drove all those miles back home, with that little lamb in a box in the floor of the back seat. We named him Billie, and he became a beloved pet, who didn't really believe he was really a sheep, but thought he was just one of the kids. He would run with us when we played, and followed us everywhere. We really grew to love him. One day, Daddy told us that Billie had been butchered. What a terrible shock! I ran into the house, crying, and sobbing out that Bully has been Bitchered! I couldn't bring myself to eat him.
It was during these three or four years, that both my grandmothers died. Grandma Blacker died at Rupert October 12, 1947, and Grandma Brown at Evanston, January 5, 1948. We all felt bad to think that they were gone, and we have missed them a lot. We were never around them very much, but always enjoyed their occasional visits.
I was baptized but a few days after my eighth birthday. The ward wanted to give the young men experience in performing baptisms, so Ray Huffaker baptized me, and I was confirmed by my father at the same time. I was really frightened days before, because I was so afraid that Ray would keep me under too long. Also, the other girls who were being baptized had white dresses, but Paul had been baptized in a white sailor suit, and I inherited it. I felt embarrassed that I was wearing pants with the white top. The whole episode was quite stressful, and I was certainly glad when it was over. I had been taught that this was one of the important steps in my entire life, and I hope that I shall always remember the covenant I made, and that I will always be a faithful member of the Church.
We seem to all have peculiarities which follow us. I apparently am of a nervous disposition as may be attested by the fact that at times I carry on conversations in my sleep. It is reported I do quite a lot of mumbling, sometimes plain enough to be understood, and at times, I get up and walk about a little. On one occasion, I sat up in bed and bumped the window so hard it cracked. Another time, while walking in my sleep, I hit the window pane and broke the glass into a thousand pieces. I remember very clearly the dream I had at the time that I had been late in leaving school, and had been locked in the gym by the janitor, who then left. I was in a corner, by one of the two outside doors that had glass windows. In my terror to get out, I swung at the glass with my fist, breaking it. As I did so, I woke up to find I had broken the window in our bedroom. I could have had bad cuts, but I received but a minor scratch or two.
I've had good health for the most part of my life however, on an occasion or two, I have been pretty ill. I think I have had most of the childhood diseases. Lois and I, and maybe Mary, had the measles when we still lived in town in Ontario. Mama kept the room dark, as measles can apparently affect the eyes severely. It was miserable to be so itchy. We were each given a little plastic or celluloid doll, about five inches tall. In February of 1950, I had a seriously sore throat, which kept me home from school for about three weeks. It was Strep throat, and in the fall of that same year, I missed two more weeks of school due to a touch of pneumonia, which the doctor had a difficult time breaking up. I was so sick, that one evening I was having hallucinations from the high fever. I thought there were chickens scratching at the bottom of the bed. I was moved out into the area of our house near the kitchen, so that I could be watched more easily during the days. Daddy brought home a heat lamp, which stood on a stand, and had a different light bulb on each end. One was red, and made a lovely glow, and the other was white, which could get hot enough to burn the skin. Mama would rub me with Vicks, and then pin heated flannel around my throat and back, under my nightgown, then shine the heat lamp on to warm up our chests and backs. She worked hard inside the house and out, and her hands were slightly rough, and were rather scratchy as she rubbed me. I complained about her rough hands, but there have been many times since, during my life when I have longed to feel those hands caring for me again. At one time, the doctor prescribed sulfa, to which I had a bad reaction, and it was decided that I was allergic to it. While I was so sick and weak, she bought me a book that became one of my lifelong favorites - Anne of Green Gables. It was a green, hard-covered book, and I read it while I was so sick, and have re-read it many times, plus the sequels. I loved that story and still do.
The summer of 1951, at 9:00 one morning, Beth and I were taken to a clinic in Ontario where Dr. Emmett took out our tonsils. I was terrified, and when Mama saw how frightened I was, she suggested that I have mine removed first. It took every ounce of strength I had to climb up on the operating table and lie down on it. Daddy held my hand, which comforted me somewhat. The ether almost took my breath away, and I thought I was going to die from suffocation. Dr. Emmett told me to count backwards from one hundred with him, and I soon started tingling all over. I tried to move, but I couldn't, but felt as if the table and I were flying all over the room. I tried to slow so the Dr. could catch up with me, and the next thing I knew, I was waking up. I could see Mama, but she seemed to be all over the room at once, and I fell asleep again. When I woke up, Beth had been operated on and was lying on a bed beside mine. We felt so miserable. It was 2:30 pm, when we were taken home, and put into Mama's and Daddy's bed. Mama had some ice cream for us, but I couldn't eat any because my throat was too sore. That night I couldn't sleep, as I kept smelling the ether that was still in my system. We soon recovered, but it was a terrible experience.
Also, during the summer we traveled to Rupert on our way to Idaho Falls temple to be baptized for the dead. I was baptized for thirteen people, and then we traveled back to Rupert and stayed there for a day, then traveled to Lava Hot Springs for a Blacker Family Reunion. Daddy had the assignment for the genealogy report, which he gave after we ate a potluck dinner and had a talent show. We of our family didn't have a talent to perform, so it was a little embarrassing when so many cousins, many of whom we didn't know, performed so wonderfully. Also, as soon as the talent show was over, the younger folks went swimming in the hot springs, but Daddy encouraged his children to stay for the genealogy meeting, as he felt we should know what was going on. He had prepared pedigree charts on bed sheets or roll-up window blinds, in order to show the family lines. He always did a great job.
After the reunion, we drove on up to Wyoming to visit with Mama's family. On our way, we went past Bear Lake to the little town of St. Charles, named after Charles Rich, whom Brigham Young sent to colonize that area. That's where Grandma Blacker (Hettie) was born, and where Daniel D. Hunt and others of his family are buried in a beautiful little cemetery on a hillside, overlooking the lake. We then went on to Evanston, where we drove to the cemetery to where Grandma and Grandpa Brown and Mama's sister, Aunt Violet were buried. We arrived Saturday evening and visited Aunt Alice and Uncle Bill at their tiny home, then drove out from there to Aunt Dorothy's and Uncle John's place in Hilliard. It was very dark by then, and we had trouble finding the little road that left the highway and went down to their place. It had been a long, long hard day for us, and we were surely tired. We were welcomed into their quaint little ranch house, and Uncle John woke up our cousin, Charlotte, and had her come out and play the piano for us in her nightgown. Then after a visit to their outhouse, we went to bed. Charlotte and I slept together, after I was shown the "thunder mug" under the bed. I was determined that no matter what, I wouldn't use it. About one in the morning, there was a terrible thunder and rain storm, but by morning, the weather was clear and sunny, and the sagebrush smelled so wonderful! In another bedroom, they had a gun rack made of the bent front legs of antelope, which fascinated me. They had quite a few horses, which of course I loved. I remember two buckskins, named Tango and Biscuit. I was able to ride around a little on them, and wished so much I had my own horse. On the ranch, there were two interesting areas. One was a patch of quicksand, that Uncle John showed us, which was rather unnerving, and the other was a rocky area where oil seeped up from the ground. Uncle John said that the Mormon pioneers used to stop there on their trek to the Salt Lake Valley, to grease their wagon axles.
The next day we attended church in a small, cold building, which I later found out was where my mother and father had met many years before. After church, we went down the road to where Mama's brother, Uncle Jim and Aunt Lucille lived with their children. I would have loved to have lived the way these relatives lived in Wyoming, on ranches with cattle and horses. This ranch was where my mother was raised.
Back home in Ontario, we continued to go to school, attend church, and be involved in our close family activities. We were always active in our ward. We attended Primary and participated in the various activities. In Primary, the names of the girls classes were Bluebirds, Larks and Seagulls. We girls were given maroon felt bandelos, which we wore around our necks, and when we would complete certain goals, we would get a plastic emblem to glue onto them. Also, in MIA, the Young Women wore blue felt bands over the right shoulder, and as we achieved prescribed projects, we could sew or glue various badges and emblems onto them. Our family was always encouraged by our parents to participate in all the Church activities.
And so the years went by, as we lived and worked together as a family in our newly finished rock house. The outside of the home was covered with reddish sandstone, which made a beautiful home. Daddy was very progressive and had several unusual features built into the house. The garage was built into the house, so that when we drove in, we didn't have to get out into the weather, as most people did, as most garages were separate buildings. We had a big kitchen with a built-in dishwasher, which was something most people didn't have. Daddy had designed bins for flour and sugar, on the inside of cupboard doors, making it very convenient to get to those items. He had a little space with a door for the Mixmaster to go into. The kitchen stove was built into an island in the center of the kitchen, which had cupboards around it, making sort of a divider between the kitchen and the dining room. I remember him arguing with the builder, who thought that was a bad idea, but Daddy prevailed, and it turned out to be a very useful arrangement. He also had the washer and dryer installed next to the refrigerator, with a small door built into the wall near those appliances. The bathroom was on the other side of the wall, and dirty clothes were put into this space under the bathroom counter, and could be taken out directly next to the washer on the other side of the wall.
The dining table wasn't in the dining room, which was actually a rather informal living room with a couch and chair, and two glassed in corner cupboards, where pretty dishes and knickknacks were kept. The table and chairs where we ate, in the kitchen, was a beautiful chrome set, which was all the rage, with red plastic upholstered chairs. There was a lamp with a silver base, and a red and white striped shade in the center of the table. The floor of the kitchen was covered with beautifully inlaid blue linoleum. The counter tops were also covered with the basic blue linoleum. One door went directly from the kitchen into the garage, and another went into a back entry, where there was a big, grey upright freezer. Daddy had built an insulated store room with a heavy, insulated door. Paul has sent his memories of some of the home, which I will insert here:
"Dad's design for the kitchen was very avant-garde but very efficient and effective. Don't forget the marvelous inlaid linoleum work that was done for the kitchen floor. The floor furnace was probably not the best idea that he had but it was certainly wonderful to come in from milking the cows on a cold winter morning and then standing on the grill and having the heat blast up from below. And Dad also designed the food storage room with the huge door that almost closed. He had the room and the door insulated with a substance called vermiculite that came in small pellet like particles that you could compress between your fingers. The insulation worked well in the winter time and kept things from freezing, but it tended to warm up in there in the summer time and it was December again before the temperature cooled down again to acceptable food-storage temperatures. Dad also wanted to put in a hardwood floor in the living room. The flooring was tongue and grooved and the wood was so hard that we bent almost every other nail that we tried to drive into it. Dad would then countersink the nails with a punch and the new piece of wood would cover the old nail. It made a magnificent surface, but after a year or so when the nails started to loosen the floor would creak and there was nothing you could do about it. After the floor was installed it was absolutely beautiful, but it was certainly a pain in the neck to get all the wood cut, nails driven, the floor sanded and three coats of varnish on top. But when the room was finished with the latest Dumont or Emerson television sets, it was one of the finest living rooms in Ontario. And we had the old pump and the pressurized water tank in the below ground-level pump house located at the front of house. Spiders and all kinds of unclean life forms lived down there. Soon after we moved in the water pressure was dropping so Dad called in some well experts who took off the pump and replaced it with a bigger one and at the same time they lowered a stick of dynamite down into the well about thirty feet. The purpose was to fracture the ground around the bottom of the well and allow water to flow better. I was home and in bed with some disease and they took me out of the house and we stood out in the center of the front yard while the dynamite was set off. It blew a column of water up about three times the height of the house. They then installed the new pump and we had happy water ever after."
Between the kitchen/dining room, the living room could be shut off from the rest of the house by a large, beautiful, wooden sliding door, that slid back into the wall. It was a unique feature. The living room, as Paul mentioned had a hardwood floor, which was eventually covered with carpet. I can remember kneeling with Daddy, installing the strips of wood, and how difficult it was to pound the nails into that hard wood. All during the construction of the house, we kids had the job of picking up the bent nails and straightening them. Quite often, we would hit our fingers with the hammer, as we tried to hold the bent nails still, while trying to pound out the angle.
The living room was painted in unusual colors, according to the times. Part of the walls were painted in Flamingo, a dark pink, and the others were painted Chartreuse, a yellow-green. The picture window drapes were a floral pattern in those colors, on a cream colored background, as were the matching drapes on the two side windows. Off to one side of the living room, was an office, with bookcases, and a wooden desk custom built to Daddy's specifications, and off the living room on the other side, was Paul's bedroom.
There were four bedrooms in the house, along with a second bathroom that never was finished. From the bedroom where I slept, at the back of the house, we could watch the airport light as it flashed around and around at night. We had on our beds, electric sheets, which were a pinkish color. I would read books at night under the cover of the blankets, with the light from the sheet's controls. When Beth was small, her crib was in that room, and she and I would hold hands at night, with her reaching her little arm through the slats in her crib. We used to call it "hanging hands." We had a dresser with a mirror, and on the top was an embroidered runner. This was the room where I cracked the window during a nightmare.
We had a lovely home in which we were raised. The front lawn was very big, and required a lot of work to keep it mowed. There was a long gravel lane from the graveled road, lined with rose bushes. A weeping willow tree was close to the front of the house, and we had a couple of maple trees on the other side, one of which I loved to climb. We also had a few peach, prune and pie cherry trees.
We irrigated the place by flooding, with water that came in a ditch from a canal, which partly flowed through the top of our land. There were always water skippers skating around on the ditch water, which we would catch with our hands, and when there were cucumbers from the garden that got too big, we would cut them in half and make boats from them, along with manning them with crews of water skippers. I can remember the strange odor the water skippers left on our hands after we played with them.
We would make stick horses out of tall weeds, the names of which I don't know. They grew taller than the wild sunflowers, and didn't have the prickly stems. They would dry to a cream of whitish-gray color, and we would literally wear them out galloping furiously for miles. At first, the bushy growth at the top made a great tail, but in no time, with all the mileage we put on them, the tail would wear away.
I had always longed for a horse, and so, after I got too old to ride the stick horses, in a pinch, started to train a Jersey steer I named Gypo. When he was big enough to ride, I would ride him bare back, and he would neck rein. I would ride him all over the pasture, even galloping at times. A few times, I would ride him outside the pasture, but not too often.
About this time, Rover became old, and was going blind. He had joined us in our adventures for many years, and was a loyal, good-hearted fellow. He would share a bed with the cats in the garage, but finally stopped eating, and so one morning, Daddy loaded him up in the car and took him to a vet to be put to sleep. How sad we all were! Our dear friend, who had chosen us instead of our choosing him, was gone. We never got another dog. to replace him.
I attended junior high across the street from where the elementary school was. I did well in most studies, but arithmetic wasn't a strong point of mine. I did very well in sports in PE, and was a very fast runner. One difficulty arose when we were supposed to buy red gym suits. They were a one piece outfit, with the top and shorts combined. I was horrified at the prospect of appearing in shorts, and it was with great embarrassment that I did.
I can't remember most of my teachers' names. One English teacher had us memorize poems, and I chose "The Cremation of Sam McGee", a very long piece, which impressed every one when I was able to recite it in class. I have tried to memorize many poems over the years, but only snatches of most of them remain.
About this time, two big building projects were going on in our area. A new ward building was being built, which many ward members worked on, and also a new high school was being built right alongside our pasture. It was really handy for us when we got to high school, to just walk down through the pasture, crawl through the fence, and go into the back door of the school.
I started as a freshman at this new school, the Ontario High School, and enjoyed my time there. Paul was also attending, and was a member of the band, playing the saxophone, which he did very well. Our school colors were red and gold, and we sang our school song with great gusto, which was done to the tune of, "On Wisconsin". The words were:
On, Ontario, On, Ontario, Fight on for your fame.
Play the game for dear Ontario,
Glorify your name, Rah, rah, rah!
On, Ontario, On, Ontario Shout it to the skies.
Fight, Tigers, fight, fight,
Fight For Ontario High!
The new ward building was also built up on the bench, where our home and high school were located, about half a mile from the high school. The ward members worked very hard, helping with the work, and had lots of fund raising dinners, auctions and candy sales. It was a great day, when the building was finished and dedicated by Pres. David O. McKay. Afterwards, we were all able to go up to the stand and shake hands with him. We really appreciated our new building after meeting in the old white Mason Hall downtown. Our family was very active in the ward, and we children were always participating in Mutual. I was a pretty good baseball player, a very fast runner, and could really hit the ball long distances. I loved running, and was one of the fastest girls at school. Unfortunately, in those days, girls could play sports in PE, but there were no organized sports activities as there was for the boys. I always hated the fact that when we played girl's basketball, which I was also very good at, that the rules only let us play as far as the half way mark. I always wanted to really let loose and play like the boys did.
John, our little brother, was born the 28th of August, 1953, a very welcomed addition to our family. We loved him dearly! Mama was afraid that if he were named John, that people would call him Johnny, which she didn't want, but we never called him anything but John. He was born in the Holy Rosary Hospital, and it seemed like forever before he and Mama were able to come home.
Our parents were always very active in genealogy and missionary work. All our lives, there were stacks of family group sheets and pedigree charts lying around. When they were called as stake missionaries, they would be away in the evenings, several nights a week, holding cottage meetings, as the meetings with investigators were then called. They were very successful, and several families were baptized. We were always very proud of our parents' activity in the Church, as they were very faithful and well-thought of.
On one occasion, when they were in charge of the genealogy for the stake, they encouraged people to get their Books of Remembrance started. At the end of the project, all who accomplished this goal, were honored at a stake event. Each of us Blacker kids, of course, participated, showing our books, which were handmade by Daddy with wooden covers inscribed with a wood-burning tool. Over the years, these homemade Books of Remembrance have become treasures to us.
Daddy's and Uncle Fred's furniture store joined forces with some other men and the G&B Furniture Store came into being. They moved into a bigger building, and the business became even more successful, selling furniture, musical instruments, appliances and carpet. In those days, carpets were not tacked down, but laid loose on the floors. In order that the edges not ravel, it was necessary that strips of cloth tape had to be hand sewn to the cut sides. It was discovered that I had the skills necessary to bind carpet, and so for a couple of years, I bound many of the carpets sold at the store. I was paid so much per foot, and was able to earn some spending money that way. It was very difficult work, and very hard on the binder's back, legs and hands. Mostly, the binding was done by kneeling on the floor, and hand sewing coordinating- colored tape first on one side of the carpet, with a very large needle threaded with heavy, waxed thread. Then the carpet had to be turned over, and the tape sewn with a different stitch, to the other side of the carpet. My fingers became rather calloused. I didn't mind binding the carpets at the store so much, and occasionally, the carpet was brought home where I would work on it on the floor of our living room. What I really disliked, was to bind the carpet in the homes of the people who purchased the carpet.
One day, Daddy brought home a small, black and white pony, which was obtained by some sort of bartering with a man who wanted to get some furniture. We were so thrilled! The pony's name was Sir Muggs, and he came with a saddle, bridle and martingale. He had been trained to do several tricks, which included lying down and rolling over on command, shaking hands, and rearing up. He was a wonderful pet, and we all grew to love him very much. At last I had a horse to ride, even though I often wished he were bigger. He had unusual, icy blue eyes. He also had the bad habit of taking the bit in his mouth, putting his head down, and running way with the unfortunate rider. I can't remember now, whether Gypo had been dispatched and used for our family meals, or if we had both at the same time. I dearly loved Muggs, and rode him more than any of the other kids.
One day, about this time, I had arrived at our ward building for some purpose that escapes me now, and was the only person there at that time. I must have been early for some assignment or meeting. As I walked up the wide sidewalk, I noticed a silver object lying in front of me. I soon could tell that it was a silver ID bracelet, which was a fad with girls at that time. I thought, wouldn't it be great if there was a name on it, and the name was "Ruth"? Our family struggled financially, and though we had plenty to eat and enough to wear, we didn't have extra for jewelry, etc. As I picked up the bracelet, imagine my surprise, when the name engraved on it was, indeed, "Ruth"! I was almost stunned, and wondered if Heavenly Father had blessed me with an ID bracelet with my own name on it! As I held it, I continued to wonder about it, and hoped that maybe it was something that I could keep and wear. The more I thought about it, it came to me, that maybe this belonged to another Ruth in the ward, Ruth Taylor, who was my age. I so hoped it wasn't hers, but later, when she arrived, and I asked her, she said she had lost hers, and so with heavy heart, I gave it back to her, but for a short time, I had an ID bracelet with my very own name on it!
In those days, the Church had many activities for the young people of Mutual age. There were Gold and Green Balls, annual dances for which the cultural halls were elaborately decorated with false crepe paper ceilings and special decorations, with real bands and floor shows, which consisted of singers, and always dances that we Mutual kids had been practicing for months, which had been taught to us by the ward dance directors. We had special costumes, which were usually sewn by our mothers. All the wards in the area were taught the same dances, and in the fall, all the wards performers were transported to Salt Lake, where there was a special evening where the dances were performed in front of audiences at night. There would be hundreds of us performing the same dance, and then other Mutuals from other areas, performed the dances they had learned. These Dance Festivals were quite spectacular affairs.
We also participated in Road Shows, with the ward Drama Directors writing plays or various acts, which we would practice for weeks on end. Then over a period of two or three nights, every ward would perform their act for their ward, and then immediately leave and be transported to another ward, where the act was repeated. This went on until every ward's road show was performed in every ward. It was very well organized and timed, so that the audience was being entertained all evening by different performers. Then judging would take place, and the best road show would have the honor of representing the stake in the church-wide competition in Salt Lake. One year, our ward won with a great show based on the opera "Carmen". We had great songs, dances and costumes. We traveled in several cars, and spent the night in a motel. I was one of the dancing girls and we wore white blouses with full skirts made of red and yellow fabric. We played tambourines as we danced. I can still remember some of the steps. I think we won third place for the entire church, if I remember correctly. Pres. McKay was in the audience when we performed. It was a great opportunity.
We always had a girls' baseball team, and I did very well. I was a good hitter and a fast runner, and really enjoyed playing.
In school, I was an average, or above average student. I did quite well in all my classes except with math. I took a bookkeeping class that was very hard for me. Our teacher, poor soul, was a gloomy fellow, who smoked and had such bad breath, that it was really hard for all his students to be around him. He would walk around the class and observe our work, and as soon as he came to my desk, I would have to hold my breath and fight to not gag. When he would call us up to his desk, to look over our work, I also had a dreadful time trying to not breath, and would hold my hand up to my face, as if in deep concentration or thought. I also struggled somewhat with Miss Root's typing class, as I wasn't very fast and made a lot of mistakes. I really envied Lois and Mary, who took to typing and were remarkably fast at it.
I took Home Ec., and learned how to make baking powder biscuits, and a creamed egg dish that I have made hundreds of times since. It was called Eggs ala Goldenrod, and our children have pretty well been raised on it. During sewing class, we were to make aprons, and mine was a blue fabric with little white flowers all over it. A horrible thing occurred when Miss Johnson came to inspect my work, and I accidentally sewed her finger with the sewing machine. It was a terrible experience for both of us, though she was very nice about it.
My parents were working hard to become as self sufficient as possible, and so we raised calves for beef, grew gardens and canned produce. At one time Daddy built a special frame in which to raise fryers from some of the baby chicks. He stacked three or four layers of chicks with cardboard floors on chicken wire supporting each layer. We would feed and water each layer, and then, in order to clean out the manure, we would slide out the cardboard floor, dump the manure, and then slide it back in, or a new one. I don't remember how many chicks we raised to fryer size with this system, maybe fifty. We had raised others by different methods as well. When the chicks reached the desired size and weight, we would have a large butchering project, which I'm sure none of us enjoyed. Mama would have hot water heating in the house, and we would have a couple of buckets ready. We would catch the chickens, and deliver them to Daddy, who would have one of us hold them by the legs and lay their necks across an old stump. Then he would chop off their heads and toss them to the side, where they would flutter around a while before dying, scattering blood everywhere!
When they were still, we would have to pick up the bodies by the legs, and take them to a bucket, into which Mama would pour boiling water, and we would have to slosh the chicken up and down. The heat would release the feathers, which we kids would then have to pluck. This was a terrible, smelly job, and the wet feathers would cling to our hands and clothes. Then, the naked bodies would be cut open, and the insides pulled out. More horrible smells! Finally, the legs would be cut off, and the bodies resembled what one would buy as a chicken in a grocery store, and after being washed well and cooled and cut up, would be placed in plastic bags, and frozen in our big, gray Amana freezer. The whole process was so messy and terrible, that we would be grateful when it was completed for the year. Often, we would pick up a leg, and find the cords at the cut-off point, and chase each other, pulling on the cords and making the bird's claws open and shut. We would often sit down to a meal, and be able to say that everything on the table had been raised by us. It was a very satisfying feeling, which I have always wanted to replicate, and sometimes have.
Daddy always wanted his children to be able to play the piano, and so purchased a used, upright not long after we moved to the acreage from town. I "took" from Aunt Elva, Uncle Fred's wife for a short while, and later, from Sister Jacobs in our ward. I certainly never excelled, probably because I had great difficulty learning to read the notes. Daddy always said that he just wanted us to be able to play the hymns. I've always felt bad that I disappointed him in one of his dreams of having his children play. I can't remember the others taking lessons very much. Maybe Daddy lost heart after I never really took off. Paul excelled on the saxophone, and played in school bands and dance bands. We had a beautiful, velvet piano scarf that covered the top of the piano, and had long fringes on each end. We girls would often drape it around ourselves and pretend we were finely dressed. We had a beautiful mahogany record player/radio piece of furniture, and had many records which we played by the hour. One set of Viennese waltzes was nearly worn out, as we played and replayed them, dancing around the living room, one of us adorned in the piano scarf. "The Blue Danube", "Tales From the Vienna Woods" were some of the numbers we danced to.
After my Sophomore year in high school, my parents and friends, the Nielson's decided to change professions and get into the motel business. This was a tremendous change in our lives, requiring us to move to Riverside, California. We sold the home, and our beloved animals, left our friends and left Ontario. The decision, which had seemed so promising, turned out to be disastrous for both families, as the persons touting the motel we were going to have built and own, turned out to be swindlers. They were arrested and convicted, and we were left high and dry in California, with all the money lost. We had lived at 3764 Roslyn St. in a small, modest home, waiting for the motel to be built, and while waiting, we kids had attended school, I finished my Junior year at Ramona High School. We had good friends at the ward. We enjoyed the climate, palm and orange trees, a trip to Disneyland, and some trips to the beaches. I took Driver's Training there, learning how to drive in the busy traffic. Daddy obtained a job working at a furniture store.
While there, Grandpa Blacker, who was wintering in Mesa, Arizona, with his second wife, Aunt Luella, was afflicted with a blood clot in one of his legs, which required amputation. My folks made several trips to Mesa, to visit, but he became worse and passed away the 27th of March 1957, which only added to my parents'stress. I drove with my folks to Mesa, where we picked up Grandpa's gray Hudson car, and with Mama driving ours, and Daddy driving the Hudson, we made the trip to Rupert, and attended the funeral.
Two of Daddy's brothers, Uncle Alma and Uncle Roy invested in a furniture store in Rupert, called Home Furniture, which was being sold by a Campbell, who, by the way had been in England with Daddy on missions, both leaving from the same ward in Rupert. Daddy was asked to manage the business, which was a real blessing to us. He left us in Riverside, and found a house to rent in Rupert, kitty corner from the Rupert swimming pool. It was an old, run-down place, and he spent much time fixing it up for us. Paul had been attending BYU during our move to California, and he came to Riverside to help us move. Daddy sent a Mr. Morgan from Rupert with his farm truck, to move our furniture, and after he drove away, we started out in the car, with Paul and Mama driving. I don't recall that I helped drive at all. We were crowded into the car with many of our belongings, and I sat with my feet in the large, rectangular bread pan. It was a tough trip, driving all day and through the night. We arrived in Rupert early the next morning, and found the home Daddy had rented. He didn't expect us so early, and as we walked in, he was kneeling in the bathroom, working on the floor. He was so surprised to see us, and started to cry. At last, we were all together again, in spite of the terrible circumstances. I will refer the reader to my father's account of the Riverside episode, which was a terrible blow to our family. Paul, evidently felt that his attending BYU would be too much of a strain on the family finances, which at that point were nil, and without informing our parents, joined the Army. It was a terrible blow to them, as they felt so responsible for the position the family was in. I remember how my dad cried, as he said goodbye to Paul the day he had to leave and open the store before we drove Paul to the bus station in Burley. It was a very sad day for all of us.
We lived in the rental that summer, until my folks purchased the old house at 905 E Street, which then became the family home. We were soon busy in the Rupert 1st Ward, and in our various schools. I became a senior at Minidoka High School, and we all tried to put the Riverside experience behind us, but it was many years before I could forgive the men who had caused my parents so much suffering. I'm crying as I write about it now, after all these many years. At least, I have tried to forgive these men, but I certainly hope to be able to stand face to face with them some day and tell them about the effects of their actions.
As Rupert was a rural area, heavily dependent on agriculture, many of the young people were able to get work in the summers hoeing sugar beets, harvesting potatoes and sugar beets, hauling hay, etc, and we did our share. Because so many farmers raised potatoes, and the harvest occurred in the early fall, but after school was in session, the schools would have a two-week release time so that the farmers could employ students to help in the harvest. This was called "potato, or spud vacation", and in those days, most of the picking was done by hand. The farmer would dig the potatoes with his tractor, then would scatter gunny sacks at intervals along the rows. The pickers would wear a belt around their waists that had two upright hooks on the front, to which a gunny sack was hooked. Then, the sack was dragged along between the pickers' legs, as they stooped over, picking up the potatoes and putting them into the bag. When the bag was full, the workers would stand it up, and with per-cut string and a large needle, would sew the bag shut, or else there was someone who came along and did just that. The bag was then picked up and put onto a truck, by workers who walked beside the truck, as it slowly drove through the field. This was heavy, hard work to harvest the potatoes before the mechanized pickers came into being. The summer we moved from Riverside, I worked for my Uncle Alma on his farm, harvesting potatoes. I stayed at their house during the week, and we would get up very early, along with my cousins and aunt, and make a huge bunch of sandwiches, then head for the fields. We would stand on the moving picker, pulled by the tractor, which would dig the potatoes and send them on a moving belt up and across a platform where three or four of us would stand. As the potatoes came across in front of us, we would pick out the clods, the vines, and any bad or deformed potatoes and toss them away. We would work from daylight until noon, and I would get so tired and so hungry, thinking about the bologna sandwiches and the "Sandies"cookies Aunt Edith had bought, that it seemed the time would never pass. We'd then sit in the shade of the picker and have our lunch and maybe lay on the ground for a little while before we would begin again and work all afternoon. It was hot, tedious work, and later, Uncle Alma told my folks how surprised they were that I, a city girl from California, would work so hard. One of their girls, Luanne, was the same age as I, and we were good friends and both seniors at Minico High School.
Kids would also get a group of their friends and form a crew to hoe beets, and this way, we earned money for school clothes. It was slow, hot, tedious work as well. Those rows seemed to stretch on forever. The stake farm always had sugar beets, and the various wards would have so many rows assigned to each, and we would go out two or three times a year in early summer, to hoe the beets. Our parents insisted that we be there and do our share, much to our disgust, especially when most of the kids in the ward never went. Once we went out very early in the morning, and breakfast was served in time for us to get back home and get ready to go to school, but usually, the hoeing was done in the evening. It was always nice when a large group would show up and we could finish early and have the nice, cold pop the ward provided. When only a few came, it took us several hours, and maybe a second evening, and we would think bad thoughts about those who didn't come out and help. The last few years, because of herbicides and planting methods, the weeds are very sparse, and it is quite easy to fill the assignment for the ward.
My Grandpa Blacker, had remarried after Grandma died. He married Aunt Luella, who wasn't really an aunt by blood, but when young, had married Grandma's brother, John Wilkes, known as Johnny. He had died early, leaving her with some young children to raise. She eventually became the owner of a grocery store, and became quite successful.
Since knowing each other so well over the years, Grandpa married her, and we always called her Aunt Luella. She lived alone, after his passing, in their home on H Street in Rupert, but her step children, Daddy, in particular, watched over her and took care of her needs. It became necessary that we girls were recruited to help. We would mow her lawn, paint the fence, weed her flower beds, and take her grocery shopping, or get her groceries from a list. The hardest part for us, and I'm ashamed to say, the part we complained about the most, was taking turns spending the night with her. We would walk over the couple of blocks in the evening, and sit with her until bedtime, around 9:00 or 9:30. That's all we did, was sit, and try very hard to carry on a conversation for a couple of hours. Then she would go into her bedroom, and we would go into another one, and stay the night. There was a clock in the living room, that would tick loudly, and for much of the time, neither one of us could think of much to say, and sat and listened to the seconds click by. In the morning, we would get up and see that she was alright, maybe help her with her breakfast, and then hurry home to get ready for school. Usually, I would go alone, and if I remember, the younger girls might go with each other. We would always go pick her up for special dinners at our home, and try and help in any way we could. After she became rather well off, she had very nice tastes and had nice things, and was very particular about them. We would help clean her house, especially on Saturdays, and she had us do her ironing, even ironing her dish towels, sheets, and bathroom towels. I feel disappointed with myself that too many times, I went reluctantly, so I'm afraid I didn't deserve any blessings that might have come. We took care of her for several years. When she had married Grandpa, because she was well off, it was decided that after they both passed away, the home and belongings would revert back to Grandpa's family. Sadly, during her last year or two, her daughter, from Pocatello, finally moved her to her home, and when Aunt Luella died, the will had been redone by her lawyer son-in-law, and everything went to them. It was a bitter blow to the family, especially after we had done so much for her. We don't blame her, because she was elderly and sick by then, but that's another man I want to look in the eye and ask questions of in the next life.
I graduated from high school in 1958 and it was decided that I would attend to Ricks College in Rexburg, Idaho, and live in the girl's dorm, 72 College Ave., which was unceremoniously called "the Cow Palace". My friend, Sharon Johanson, whom I had known when we lived in Ontario, and I shared a room with two girls from Canada. The old building has since been torn down, and was rickety and worn out by then, but we had good times there. At that time, there were only three buildings on campus, but we were able to get a good education. We had a long hike for our meals, from downtown all the way up to where the boys' dorms and the cafeteria were. The boys' dorms were old military barracks, and in even in worse shape than the girls'. They were referred to as "lambing sheds", and had no heat except for individual stoves in each room, which had to be started up each morning.
I enjoyed my first year there, and one of Sharon's and my favorite things to do, was to go to a drug store on main street and buy a small root beer float for a nickel. They were so good! Then we would buy Payday candy bars to eat back in the dorm. Our house mother, was a strict lady, Sister Johnson, who made sure the doors were locked each night at 10:00 on week nights, and maybe 12:00 on midnight. She was a widow, and had spent many years watching over the girls in the dorm.
I was a good student, and took classes to get a teaching degree. In those days, one could get a provisional teaching certificate in two years. I was able to get a small scholarship for my second year. Sharon and I decided we didn't want to live in the dorm, and found a house at 334 Harvard Avenue with four other girls, up on the hill near the radio station. The owners, a young couple named Ricks, lived in an apartment downstairs. Two of us were Hispanic girls from Texas, Hilda and Zulema and we all managed, for the most part, to get along well. We pooled our money and shopped together, and cooked as a group.
The college had an event, where the men were supposed to grow beards, or pay a fine. One day, while sitting in the student lounge, waiting for a class, I noticed a fellow, who had black hair, but a reddish beard. He was wearing a green blazer, and I wondered if he dyed his hair or his beard. Not long after, he with his roommates, came to our house, since one of my roommates had invited them. This began friendships between both groups, and we invited them several times to a meal at our home, and since we had a television, and they didn't, they would often come to watch "Yogi Bear", a new and funny cartoon. This young man's name was Laron Waite, and he was very handsome. He apparently, was attracted to me, as I was to him, and we soon began going together, and spending time on campus visiting. We had many things in common, and I admired his intellectual abilities. He was on the track team, but I only saw one race that he was in. He had been a football and track star while in high school.
I began my student teaching this year, which was very challenging. I was assigned to teach in a third grade in a school quite a distance from our home, which necessitated my walking during the winter all the way from the radio station area, down the hill, across the main street and a couple more blocks, to the school. I never dreamed that some day, some of our grandchildren would attend that same school! My daughter Chelsea's and Jason's girls went there when they first moved to Rexburg. The winters in Rexburg are very cold, and I would often arrive at the school, and have to go into the ladies room, crying with my cold legs and feet. Of course, we had to wear dresses to school, so my legs were bare. I also taught Relief Society in our student ward, and most of the time, even when I wasn't teaching, I would get up and go to church by myself, as Relief Society was first, and the other girls didn't want to get up that early. They would come later for sacrament meeting. I graduated from Ricks in May, 1960.
Laron and I had become very close during that year, and when the year ended, we had decided, though I didn't have a ring, that we would get married when he came home from his mission, which he was being interviewed for. It was hard being separated when we went home at the end of the year, I really missed him and the times we had together.
I was hired as a fifth grade teacher by the Minidoka County Schools, and planned to teach while Laron went on his mission. He was called to a mission in Australia, but because of some quota, had his mission changed to England. I taught at the old Lincoln School, just a block away from our home, and was able to walk home for lunch.
Near the end of the school term, our bishop called me to serve a mission. He said he never wanted any young person to say he or she didn't serve because their bishop didn't ask them. I was called to the Scottish-Irish Mission and was to leave not long after school was over for the year.
The day I left for the mission home, my folks drove me over to the bus depot in Burley, where on a Sunday afternoon, I left for Salt Lake City, and arrived there in the evening. I got off all alone, and carried my very heavy suitcase all the way up to the mission home, which was then situated behind the Church Office building. I was terrified!
We were in the Home for a week. In a journal, I recorded the following, summing up the last day. "Sunday, June 15,1961. We got up early, but not early enough for breakfast, and trooped over to the tabernacle to hear the broadcast by Richard L Evans. All two hundred thirty-two of us streamed across Main St. stopping car loads of astonished motorists. We returned to class.
That afternoon, went with our families, who had traveled to join us. My family and I went for a drive to the This is the Place Monument. Then we had a picnic in Liberty Park, and fed bread to sea gulls. I'll bet it tasted better than crickets! After an evening testimony meeting in the Assembly Hall, we waited in Temple Square until time for me to leave for the airport. John kept running around, and I felt that I couldn't stand to leave, because he and the others would be grown older when I got back home.
My plane left at midnight. I hated to say goodbye. I love them all so much. The other missionaries going to Scotland were also there with there families, and I walked down a long hall with mine and kept wishing we could just walk out together and go home. The plane left for Denver. It had a propeller, and the ride was very exciting. The pilot announced that since there were missionaries on board, that he'd fly around Salt Lake City so we could see it by night. So many lights were on, and it was just beautiful, but I looked down at the car lights heading toward Idaho, and wondered if one of them held my loved ones.
We arrived over Denver, and the lights were even more beautiful. It looked as if someone had taken their jewels out of a jewel box and spread them out for display. In Denver, we changed planes and boarded a jet, which was what I had been dreading. The inside of the plane was very modern, but I was frightened as we strapped ourselves into our seats. I couldn't believe the feeling as we took off. My heart was pounding when we went up so fast. The flight was very smooth, just as if we were sitting on a couch in our home. I had taken an airsickness pill, which made me sleepy, so I fell asleep in a short time.
The next thing I knew, we were landing in Detroit, and it was morning. We were to change jets there, but I was so sleepy from my pill, that I just wanted to sleep. After a tremendous effort I staggered after the rest of the new missionaries, and got on the other plane. We looked down and saw the tiny houses and trees and the tinier cars and people. They say that we landed in Chicago, but so far as I'm concerned, that was only hearsay.
My pill was really working well, and I didn't know anything until we came to New York. We landed at Idlewild at 9:30 Monday morning. Our plane was to leave at 6:00 that evening, so we took a bus into the city. I'd heard that the Scottish accent would be hard to understand, but they couldn't be any harder than those Easterners. We went to the UN Building, and then walked to the Empire State Building. We rode the elevator to the top and, of course we had plenty of time for me to get carsick. At the top, we looked all around and saw the Statue of Liberty.
When we got back down to ground level, we discovered that we'd lost two Elders. We waited around, but finally decided they'd maybe, upon not finding us, gone back to the airport. When we arrived there, we found they weren't there, and then, we didn't know what to do. It was 5:30, and the plane was to leave at 6:00, and our passports were locked in a locker for safekeeping, and one of the lost Elders had the key!!! Talk about worried! Half of our group was on the plane, since they hadn't gone into the city, and part of us were on the other side of the huge airport, tearing out our hair, and two Elders were wandering around in parts unknown.
Just a few minutes before 6:00, they showed up, and were we ever relieved to see two skinny, scared Elders! We got our passports, but still had to catch a bus to the British terminal. The ride took ten minutes, but we finally arrived in time, expecting to wave goodbye to the plane, but luckily, they were holding it for us. We received some dirty looks from the crew, but after all that rush, they couldn't get the door to close, and so we sat there for another ten minutes, while they wrestled with it. I kept thinking about the door coming off somewhere over the Atlantic.
We landed Tuesday morning at Prestwick Scotland. I went down the steps and took my very first breath of Scottish air, which tasted different than American, or at least Idaho air. We went to customs where we had to wait for awhile, and then caught a bus to Renfrew, where we were met by some people from the mission home. They piled us into a little van with our luggage stacked to the ceiling behind the back seat, and we were off! It was very disorienting to be driving on the other side of the road with the driver on the other side of the car.
The mission home was very beautifully situated amid lovely grounds. The front hall was loaded with the luggage of twenty-nine new missionaries' luggage. We were herded into a room where people took our money in exchange for a stack of missionary books. We were all worn out, and one Elder lay down on the floor behind the couch and went to sleep. We were fed dinner, and then went into the Sisters' room to rest for a little while. I fell asleep right away, and when I woke up, I was alone in the room. I had the most dreadful feeling come over me, of terrible homesickness. Everything seemed so awful, and I wished I had never come. I missed my family, and I went to my suitcase and opened it up, as that was the closest I could get to home, because Mama and the girls had re-packed everything for me just before I left, and I kept thinking, "Mama was the last person to touch those shoes, and Daddy put those envelopes there" I'd never felt so alone in my life.
I went downstairs to find out where everybody was, and an Elder dashed in saying that if I were Sister Blacker, to get out to the van. Some of us were to catch a train in Glasgow that was leaving in a few minutes. I grabbed everything that looked familiar and dashed out. I'd left one coat upstairs, but nobody would listen to me. They just kept hurtling around screaming, "Hurry!"
Well, we missed the train, so we went to an Italian restaurant one of the older missionaries knew about, while we were waiting. I still had no idea where I was going, or who my companion would be. When it came time to pay for the meal, I had no idea what money was what, so the Elders had to help me.
We missed two more trains, but at last we caught one. Two Elders and myself climbed aboard and sat down as if we were being sent to Siberia. I watched Scotland slip by the window. It was getting dark and was raining, and everything looked dismal. We arrived in Ayr, and got off the train to be met by some of the old timers and my companion, Sister Lindsay. She and I caught a bus that took us to where we would be staying. I met our landlady, Kathy and her husband, Bill, and their baby, John. I couldn't understand anything they were saying to me, and I was so grateful when it was time to go to bed. I was so very, very tired, that I could hardly stay awake, and this condition lasted for several days. Next morning, we went to town to the Police Department so I could register.
We stayed in Ayr for about three weeks, and were then sent to Kilmarnock, where we had a room at 13 Ayr Road with a Mrs. Carrick, a widow, whom we grew to love. She thought our names were too formal, so she called us Sister Ann and Sister Jan. The branch in Kilmarnock was populated by people all under the age of sixteen, and I'd never met such a scrappy, jealous group. They were at each others throats most of the time. Sister Lindsay was sick a lot, and didn't seem to want to get out to work, so I began to get terribly discouraged. We met in a dirty, public hall, which had to be cleaned up, and we with some Elders tried to have Church on Sunday, and MIA, which we called Youth Club, during the week.
On Wednesday August 2, I developed a terrible stomach ache, but thought it was something I had eaten. We visited with some ladies, trying to get them interested in getting a Relief Society going, but they weren't very interested. When we got home, I had a terrible stomach ache, and the Elders were called, who administered to me.
On August 8 I had my appendix removed, which was a very scary time for me, as I was alone at the hospital. I woke up from the operation and was in a ward with about twenty old women, with beds stretching along both walls. I had a terrible pain in my side, so I knew I'd been "done." Later, Sister Lindsay and the Elders came in. I felt so terrible, and told Elder Cottrell I'd changed my mind, and didn't want to go through this after all. He said he would go to the Doctor and insist that I "have my incision removed."
I was taken to a convalescent home, where everybody was good to me, but I was very miserable, and in a lot of pain. In a few days, I had the metal clips removed, and felt as if I was going to split open, and have my insides fall out. After that, I went to the mission home to further recover, but was immediately put to work doing illustrations on large cards for the Traveling Elders to use as they taught. I was to make four sets, with each set containing forty-five cards. In several days, I was sent out to the field again, but was told to take the rest of the cards with me, and finish them as soon as possible, doing a little missionary work as well. I was sent to Edinburgh to Sister Hunter, who was a great worker, and soon, after I felt better, we worked very hard. Actually, we lived in a smaller town not far from Edinburgh, called Danderhall.
Sept 27, 1961 We were split up and each sent to different areas, which was tough, as we had been a really good team. I was sent to Falkirk to a Sister Ure, who turned out to be a wonderful companion, and we got along very well. We lived with a Mrs McLeish and her children in Camelon a small village just outside of Falkirk.
Mrs. McLeish was a widow, who would often way, "Wi no man at me back!" Her children living with her consisted of a married daughter and her rough husband, Archie and small son; a twenty year old daughter, Jean, who was engaged to be married; Ian, a nice seventeen year old, who was eventually called on a building mission; Penny, a very rambunctious thirteen year old who caused a lot of problems for us in the ward; and Dennis a nice boy of about ten or so. They owned a little, yappy black dog named "Wee Glenn".
Mrs. McLeish was a loud, rough lady who always wore the same outfit, a sleeveless, flowered one called a "pinnie", with a maroon sweater. She fed us meals that were very heavy and greasy. For breakfast, we always had British bacon, fried eggs and fried bread. The bread would be fried in deep grease until it had soaked up a lot of fat, and was very crispy, but artery clogging. Supper, or "tea"was almost always "mince and taties" which was hamburger gravy over mashed potatoes. Sunday tea was always a thick soup made from carrots, potatoes and turnips, with always a very large serving of hot custard for dessert. Often it was a fight to get it all down, but we didn't dare draw her ire by leaving anything uneaten.
Our bedroom was upstairs across from the only bathroom in the house. In the kitchen hanging from the ceiling was a wooden clothes-drying rack with a rope that would raise and lower it. Wet clothes would be laid across the slats and then pulled up to the ceiling to remain until clothes were dry, Bottles of milk would be delivered early mornings, and in the winter, the milk would freeze and rise up a inch or so from the bottle with the cardboard lid on top. Birds would peck at, or cats would lick the exposed milk.
Mrs. McLeish would hardly ever leave the house. She was quite heavy and mostly sat in her chair by the fireplace in the living room. Grocery vans would drive around the neighborhood, each with their distinctive bell or horn ring. One would be a bakery, another a butcher's van, and another a green grocer, or vegetable seller. The housewives would go out and step up into the back of the van where there was a counter, and purchase what was needed for the day.
Sis. Ure and I bought Mrs. McLeish a new "pinnie" for her birthday, along with some flowers. She was very grateful and cried.
The Church had purchased an old building in Camelon. It had been a dance hall, and we spent quite a bit of time helping with the remodeling. An older couple from the States were serving a building mission, and he managed the work. Two awful things happened while we were working on the building. A pipe broke in the upstairs somewhere, and caused the ceiling on the ground floor to break through and spill gallons of water down into that part of the building. That required lots of cleanup. An upstairs room was converted into our chapel, and a baptismal font was downstairs along with some classrooms and a cultural hall. I was the organist, which was terrifying, as I didn't do very well. We worked hard and soon had a small group of adults and tons of youth. One night, after we left the Youth Club, and walked home, we were awakened very early in the morning as the police came to tell us our building was on fire. We were horrified, as we had been the last two in the building. After a few tense days, it was discovered that some of our own youth, had hidden in the building until we had left, and then scattered hymn books and papers in front of the heater, and deliberately caused the fire. Poor Bro. McDonald, who had worked so hard on our building, now had to start over, as the floor of our chapel had burned through. The boys were caught and sent to a correction facility.
After several months, a Sister Rollins was sent to be my companion, and we got along really well. I was kept in the Falkirk area for thirteen months, which is a very long time. I had a couple more companions. Sister Hyde came, and we got along really well. The branch was growing, and we had a number of adults coming and taking over some of the responsibilities. At one point, Sister Hyde and I were moved a few miles down the road to Grangemouth, and got a room there, with an older couple, Mr. and Mrs. Graham, whom we came to love. They took good care of us. Mrs. Graham was a little spacey. Once she propped up a wobbly frying pan on the gas range, with a book of matches, which, of course, caused a little excitement. She had a ratty, old sick cat named Ginger Tam, who we would hold on her lap while were seated at the table eating. Tam had a dreadful stuffy head, and would sneeze greenish gunk all over the place while Sister Hyde and I tried to hold it all together. At one point, a little black kitten came around and took up residence with the family. We named him McBlackie
We and two Elders were to start up a new branch in Grangemouth. Baseball was a great way to get involved with kids, and through them, get in touch with their families. The British missions used this plan to our advantage. The kids, unused to baseball, would gather around when the missionaries would go to a park and start batting balls around. Soon we had a small group of young people coming, and were starting to get into the homes of several of them. I was given two different local sisters to work with, Sister Walker, and later, Sister Clark.
About this time, in October, I was called to be one of the first traveling sisters! It was a real honor, and my new companion was Sister Jesse Smith. She was a little older, about twenty-five, and had been married, but her husband had been killed in a coal mining accident in the states. She was a great person, and we were given a car. a little, light blue Wolseley, which we drove around to visit the sister missionaries.
Nearly the end of October, Sister Smith and I flew with some Elders to a conference of the leaders in the Western European Missions in London. We were the only Sisters amongst six hundred Elders from all the missions in the area. We stayed in a hotel and had meetings in Hyde Park Chapel. I knew Laron would be there, and studied all the Elders' heads to try and locate him. Finally I did, and we were able to meet and go to dinner with him and his group. It was so strange! I was really proud that he had advanced in his mission to a high position, and had been very successful as a missionary.
I was released December 23, 1962. Another missionary Sister Winward and I were to travel home together, as she was from Burley. Though we had never been companions, we had been able to get to know each other. We were both sent home a few days early because of the travel arrangements.
After a really long trip home, with a couple of long waits in airports for connecting flights, we finally landed in Salt Lake on December 24, 1962. My family was there to meet me. I remember seeing my dad, almost push through other waiting people to get to me and hug me. What a wonderful moment! How glad I was that they were there. We stopped at a cafe near the airport and had something to eat, and then drove home, just in time for Christmas.
Laron and I were married in the Idaho Falls Temple, February 28, 1964.
Because both of our missions were in the same area of the world, and we served at the same times, a wonderful link has been established with the British Isles, which has also affected our children's lives. Through the songs, slide shows and our experiences, all of us in our family have developed a great love for most things British. Our missions have been a great influence on us all.