Here is the compilation of her memories which I used to make up the book. The book contains the same information, but it's peppered with photographs and documents. To see the book online, here is the link: http://www.lulu.com/shop/melanie-jensen-johnson/may-donaldson-west-an-autobiography/ebook/product-18569240.html
After uploading the formatted version for publishing the book, in pieces to eliminate the persnickety photos, I can see that the formatting has become corrupted. If you'd like a PDF version of the book, leave your email in the comment section and I will email it to you. Note that I added the headings.
My Father, John Kissell Donaldson, was born in Pennsylvania on August 7, 1885. Then his family came out west to Ogden. My mother, Hazel Alice Morgan, was born in Salt Lake City on January 5, 1884. My parents were married September 27, 1905. I never asked my father, and he never told me anything about my mother. He never talked about her, and I think the reason was that he married a young woman, I think she was 20[i], and there was 7 kids. I think it would be hard for him to talk to us about her after her sudden death. We should have got him alone and questioned him about these things. I have no idea how they met or anything.
I was born in Ogden, Utah on May 4, 1912. I think I looked like the Donaldson side of the family. I was the first girl. Darrel was just a little bit older than me. There was 4 boys, although one died, then I was born. Then came Jack, Hazel and Arlene. I was raised in Ogden, and when my mom died, Mamie (Mary Elizabeth Doxey) and another neighbor collected flowers for her. Mamie’s dad said to my dad, “You should find a woman and get married to help with these seven children.” Little did he know that my dad would pick his daughter! Mamie had never been married before. I lived with my Grandparents (Walter and Sarah Donaldson) until my stepmother married my dad when I was 8, on November 10, 1920, and moved into the house. I came back when they were married.I don’t remember much about my mom. I was 6, almost 7 when she died. We were all sick with the flu except my oldest brother, and w
went to the funeral party. I don’t remember seeing her in the casket. I must have blocked it out of my mind. Just Walt and I, since we were the oldest boy and girl, were the ones that went down and went in to see her, and I can’t ever remember seeing her. I have a letter that my mom wrote a month before she died. (Letter is on pages 4-7.) A lot of people had the flu and she wrote that she hoped she didn’t get the flu, and she was dead in a month. She was only 34 when she died, really young. She died on February 26, 1919.[i]
I’m so glad my stepmother married my dad. I don’t know what would have happened to us if she hadn’t married my dad. We’ve had our ups and downs, but she has been so good. I found out she was my best friend.
We used to go to church a lot-- my dad made me go to church. I resented that some, and when I got older I did what I wanted. On March 24, 1920, my dad received his own endowments and was sealed to my mother, Hazel Alice Morgan and us children.[ii]
I was baptized when I was 8 years old. I was baptized in a creek in Scofield, Utah. I remember going across to the chapel and changing clothes into our white clothes. We had to go across a big field and I remember how cold I was coming back since it was in September. It was daytime, but it was cool out. I remember how cold I was coming back from that creek all wet. I don’t remember who baptized me.
When I was about 14 I would go do baptisms for the dead
at the temple. The teacher would take us and we would be baptized maybe twenty times. I can’t remember what age it was for sure that we used to do that.
at the temple. The teacher would take us and we would be baptized maybe twenty times. I can’t remember what age it was for sure that we used to do that.
When I was little, we lived on 30th street as I remember it. Then Mamie had a family, I really worked when I was growing up. But she needed the help; she couldn’t handle it all herself. There was always this great big long table in the kitchen and, my word, we filled it up! I helped out, we all worked around the house. We had to come home right after school and help get supper on. We couldn’t stay and do much of playing.
My mother would be quilting in the front room and I’d be in the kitchen getting food ready. I never did learn to quilt. She’d quilt with relatives: Aunt Ellen, Aunt Vivian, a bunch of them. They’d come over and make these quilts out of coats or anything they could find. I remember them around the whole front room making those quilts. I was the ‘clean bottle and diaper’ changer. I didn’t mind-- it seemed that every little baby that came along I just loved.
Mamie paid $25 to the doctor to help her have the babies at home. That’s a good deal! She had 10 of her own children, making 16 children to look after.
My dad shoed horses ever since I was a little girl. I wished I’d watched him more. My brothers say they wished they had watched him more too. It’s quite fascinating to them now. I have a picture they took; it’s not a very good picture of my dad, but they’re going to take it and see if they can get a picture made of it. He was thin as a rail but he was still a pretty good sized man when he died. He never did look like he was ninety. But you could tell he was getting old. He’s worked so hard all of his life; he was a hard worker.
It was a brick house we lived in on 30th street. We had a basement which kept things kind of cool there. It was so hot in Ogden and we didn’t have air conditioning then. In the summer it was so nice and cool downstairs a lot of us would sleep down there. The basement was so nice and cool compared to what it was upstairs. We had a stove downstairs, which helped heat the place besides cooking things on it too. Of course, in the winter time we were upstairs because it was warmer. Of course we had a furnace, I don’t remember what kind, and later they got a gas furnace and it heated the downstairs for the winter and that helped. And we always used to have boots and leggings, or snowsuits they call them now. They still wear them up there because it’s so cold in winter.
I think we had an ice box, where you put ice in the top. We gradually got a refrigerator. It seemed as soon as those things came out, we’d get them. Like the old type of washer, the big tubs with a wringer on it, with two tubs to rinse in. I remember when I was younger than that, my mother used to boil the sheets in that same copper boiler to get them clean right on the stove. They used to use lye to get them white. Then she’d put them in this old washer and wash them through. Then she’d put them on the line and it would freeze stiff from the cold or snow in the winter. Later, Aunt Mamie got so she would put her wash downstairs to dry them, because finally they had a furnace and that. We ironed our pillowcases. My mother would put a sheet under what she was ironing. She’d gradually turn it over, so she’d end up ironing them too. We ironed all the boys’ white shirts and their work shirts too. Some of the boys had blue work shirts. I’ll tell you, I learned how to iron. I had to do a whole basketful at a time.
We had a coal stove in the front room that you put coal in. Then later we had a Heatrola[i] in the front room. It was a big square thing that you had to have a chimney for, and you’d make a regular fire in it, but it was nicer looking than the old round-bellied coal stove in the front room.
In the kitchen I remember the stove. We’d cook on them and you’d have to be careful when you made bread because you couldn’t get the oven too hot, and you had no way to control it. You had to kinda learn how to do that and have the stove just about right, and not too big of a fire in there so you cook it or else it would burn. Isn’t that different from today?
We used to have what they called a ‘starter’. It was in a two quart bottle. We would get a start of yeast, and you had to keep putting sugar in it periodically. You’d put part of it in as part of the water for the bread. I seemed to know how much shortening and salt to put in. I still have the big pan out in the shed we used to make it in. I’d fill it up with flour, I’d put just so much in, and throw some salt in, and mix it around a little bit. And some sugar. You had to be careful that you got enough moisture in. A few times I didn’t and the bread didn’t turn out so good. It’s a real job to get the moisture back in. You can’t just mix it, but- oh- it’s a job! Then you had to mix it by hand, put it on a board-- we had a great big board. We would make 12 loaves of bread every other day. I didn’t make it every time. I was in Junior High then I think. I used to kinda hate it in a way, but I look back and think I was lucky to learn how to do these kinds of things.
I used to experiment. A lot of things didn’t turn out so good but I would try to make this and that. A lot of times it turned out real good. I learned how to make pies and cakes and cinnamon rolls, many different things, when I was pretty young. I’d make the bread and Aunt Mamie would do it too. Everything we made from scratch, even baking powder biscuits, which we’d make for a while just for a change. We’d make peach cobbler and all those homemade things. Then she’d make a prune pudding-- she’d boil it in a cloth in a pan and make a sauce for it out of lemon juice and little spices. We really enjoyed that, but I never did learn how to make that. I remember how good it was!
Mamie would make homemade noodles; I made them too. They’re quite a job because the dough is so stiff. You have to dry them and everything. But that was good too. She’d make dumplings and anything almost you can think of. There was quite a few of us. I used to make a big batch of food. I still make a big bunch of food. I can’t get used to cooking for just me. We’d have a big pan of potatoes and gravy, or spaghetti. We’d make big portions because there was a lot of us to feed. We had a lot of fun, even though it was the depression. Our family was hard up too.
In the fall we’d do a lot of canning. I remember my dad would buy so many hundred pounds of potatoes, so many sacks of flour, and all this food, and we’d store it down in a walk-in fruit room down in the basement. They would just fill the room up with peaches, pears, anything they could get their hands on. They would can it in two quart bottles. They used to put it in a big copper boiler, putting a cloth on the bottom. I can just see them. I used to help with that too. I’d wash bottles or whatever, and learned how to put up fruit that way. And they’d make preserves, great big pans of preserves. We didn’t have pectin then and things like that back then. You can do without it if you get your fruit not too ripe, because they have a little pectin in naturally. Lemon juice will help with it too. I don’t remember exactly how we did it. They’d have big pans of preserves on the stove. Some they’d seal up and others they’d put wax on the top while it’s hot.
In the fall they always made sauerkraut. They had some kind of a cutter. They’d run the cabbage across the cutter to cut it real thin. Then he’d put it in a barrel and put it in back of the coal stove. It would ferment and smell. When it’d finally ripen, they’d put it downstairs and finish it up. They’d just left it in the barrel, and it would be icy when they took it out. They’d cook it with a little pork or meat. It was pretty good, but I was never too crazy about it. Once in a blue moon I’ll buy a can now, but I’m still not very fond of it. We made dill pickles in a barrel too. A lot of times they’d put them in those two quart bottles. We used to even put up corn, and beans, anything we could get our hands on. And raspberries. About the only thing that doesn’t work fresh is strawberries. But you can make strawberry jam. We used to make that, and other kinds of berries you could get up there. And sometimes the farmers there would have a bushel of peaches for 75 cents, so my dad would get about 7 bushels before we got through. My dad would even get in and help peel them, and we all helped to get those put up. It was quite interesting when I look back.
I think of how hard my mother worked. I’ve never seen such a hard worker than she was. My Dad and she didn’t have too much. We all had to kind of go without. But we got by because they sacrificed. They did it so they could keep us in food and clothing, so they went without themselves. When I was small, it seemed like nobody had much. In later years, I was glad to see that they had quite a few nice clothes. And my dad lived quite a while after he retired and I think they really enjoyed life. We all got older and got married and things were easier for them and times had changed, too.
On payday, every Friday, my Dad would bring a bag of candy home. We always looked forward to that, it was a treat to us. He wasn’t making very much money. We had to get along on a little bit of money. I don’t know how he made it. And they paid their tithing. I used to think we needed the food more than we needed to pay tithing. I know it’s terrible to say but I thought, “Gee, we need that money”. But they made it and raised a family to be proud of. We all turned out pretty good for a family that large.
I had the small pox, but didn’t get Scarlet Fever. It seemed like I was pretty lucky, I didn’t get sick all the time. The ones of us that didn’t have Scarlet Fever lived in the basement. They quarantined our family with a big sign with bright red letters on the door. My mother would cook bread and all this food and put it on the steps down to the basement for us to get. I helped wash and do things like that and Mamie took care of the ones who were sick upstairs. I don’t remember how many of us were downstairs. We went to school and stuff, and lived out of the basement. I was the oldest girl and it seemed like I was in charge of the children living in the basement.
I don’t remember being that crazy about sports although ‘sports’ is listed under my name in the high school yearbook. As a child we didn’t have television. I remember going over to my uncles’ house to hear the first radio that came out. Uncle Clicks had the first radio. It was so interesting to hear Amos and Andy, and some of those old things. We just loved it.
We used to go on a lot of trips up to the canyon for each of the holidays, and we liked to maybe go up to Lagoon where there were a bunch of rides and everything. But we usually would go up to the canyon because we couldn’t afford all those rides with the large family we was in. So we’d usually go up Ogden canyon up to the South Fork and we’d have wonderful food. My mother would make wonderful cinnamon rolls and homemade bread and cakes. We’d have everything you could think of. We always had good food and everything was made from scratch. We never had junk food around-- we didn’t know what it was. I didn’t have a lot of candy; I think that’s why I still have my teeth.
I was born 10 years too soon. Jobs were more plentiful later. Times were so tough that before I graduated from High School my dad kept saying, “You got to go out and get a job.” That’s what he did with the older boys too. They went out and got jobs to help out in the family. I used to worry about it. I wanted to be a nurse, but I didn’t dare tell my dad what I wanted to be. It worked out fine, though. I started out working at the Ogden Knitting Company in 1930. I started out at first for 19 cents an hour. I think I made about $1.50 a day for eight hours straight sewing. I folded clothes, and sewed all day long, putting pockets on dresses and putting on collars. There was one lady that sewed on all the collars. We sewed all day long for 8 hours on the machines and we got very little for doing a dozen dresses. We got 7 cents for putting on a dozen collars.
We really worked for our money, but then it went farther. You could get quite a few groceries for $5 back then. I remember butter was 25 cents a pound and bread was 5 or 10 cents. We didn’t have bought bread very often, but when we did, it was a treat for us. All we’d ever eaten was homemade bread, rolls and pancakes. When we’d make pies for the family, we’d have to make at least three, and we’d all eat it up. There was never much left. My dad would eat two pieces because he just loved pie. I do too.
I worked myself up from the assembly line ‘til was inspector. I folded a lot. I would cut the threads off that weren’t supposed to be on, and check them all, that the pockets were on straight. I’d have to take them back and make them fix it if it wasn’t right. Or if it was something little to do, I’d go to a sewing machine and sew it up and pass it on. It worked like an assembly place, certain people had to work on collars, and some of them put on pockets. They’d make garments there too. I was able to get the garments a lot cheaper there, and I’d get them for different relatives. It was quite interesting.
When Ruth and the other half sisters got older, she said, “I want to be a nurse”. They were able to think that way because they were born later, when times were easier, and jobs were more plentiful.
I loved to go dancing. I would go with a lady friend of mine, Myrtle Slater to the “White City” dance hall. It had the largest all-hardwood dance floor around. It was a big, beautiful hardwood floor. The lights were low, and we would waltz. We always wore long dresses in those days. I had some of the most beautiful clothes then, because I was working at the Ogden Knitting Company.
One night in 1934 Myrtle and I went up to the dance hall. She knew this fellow named Johnny, and Leo was with him. Johnny introduced me to Leo and we danced around. They took us home that night. Myrtle knew Johnny, and Leo seemed to be real nice. They were. I can’t remember if Leo had the car or the other guy. We went home and I can’t remember when he came back.
He came back, though, and started coming back to see me regularly. He lived 28 miles away from Ogden; he was from Morgan. They had a farm there and he had to work milking cows and all that stuff. He used to get down as often as he could and I kept going with him. Of course I was going with other fellows, too, for a while there. Once he came to dinner and he was sitting there next to the Heatrola, the old kind of coal stove. He was in his white shirt and suit and everything and the chimney came down and the soot just went all over him![i] He was shy. He didn’t have much to say, he wasn’t like a lot of people. Another time he was showing me how to drive. I never took my dad’s car, we weren’t allowed to. I was driving and we came down the hill and I went off into the gravel and tipped us over on the side. Leo got burned with the acid from the battery. It ruined his suit and the car was kinda wrecked. It was his dad’s only car. I was sure Leo was going to be fixed when he got home. Before he took it home, my dad took it to his blacksmith shop on the main street in town, on Washington Avenue. He straightened it, did all he could to get it in shape before Leo had to take it home to show his dad what I’d done to it. I never heard what he said about it, I never asked.
One time he came to get me, and we lived down in my mother’s home where she was raised. Our whole family moved there because there was a place where we could have a garden. I had a date with Leo and I had to leave a note for him telling how we’d moved. I didn’t know how to get in touch with him; I don’t think they had a phone then. I left a note that we lived down across the tracks. I’ve got a picture of the house. He found me.
Another time he came down there to Mamie’s place when we were living down there. I didn’t live there very long; I got married. He was supposed to come at a certain time and he was just a little late. There was a streetcar nearby. You’d have to go about 2 1/2 blocks to catch it. So I just went alone on the streetcar. He came along in his car and his sister was with him. I wouldn’t get off of the streetcar, I just went on. I was a little bit miffed about it. So I showed him, I thought, “I’m not getting off, I’m going clear into town.” So I did and then we got together in town of course. Isn’t that funny?
Leo moved to Ogden in with his sister when he started going with me, the sister that was with him in the car at the time. I don’t know exactly when he moved down. He tried to get work; it was hard to get work in those days. I was working at the knitting factory at the time, and he’d come down and meet me and we’d go and have something to eat, then go to a show. Usually we’d go about three times a week to the dance at White City. When he wanted to get married, I said, “We’ve got to go to the dance at least three times a week.” We didn’t go too much longer, we never kept it up. But I sure did enjoy it when I was younger, I just loved it. We knew each other about two years before we were married. He didn’t have much of a job, and I was thinking of my future too. He finished the eleventh grade and I finished High School. But he was always so handy. His dad wished he could have sent Leo to a school to learn to be a mechanic or something. They were poor too. I’ve seen him take an old Ford all apart and put it all back together. He’d have been good at that. My family thought a lot of Leo.
When Leo gave me a diamond ring on my birthday (May 4, 1935), he wanted to go and get married. I didn’t want to run off because of how my dad reacted to Hazel running off (she eloped in January 1934). I knew that I’d be in deep trouble if I had, because my sister had done that very thing. So I put him off for a good year. We were to marry on my birthday the next year (1936).
Young Married Life
Leo was always after me to get married, so we got married the 28th of March, 1936. We went over to the Bishops’ house and he married us. My dad and mother went, then Leo’s dad, but not his mother because she was sick a lot. As we went out the door, one of the Bishops’ daughters threw rice at us. That was all I remember. It wasn’t much but it worked.
They had a shower for me at work, and one in the family with the relatives. In those days, we didn’t have the receptions like they do nowadays. None of us of the first six children did, although the rest of the later 10 children did except Ruth (the oldest of the younger family).
They gave me a radio when I got married-- the girls at work did. That was my first radio. I used to read a lot before I got married. I read mostly novels. Everyone used to read a lot because there wasn’t TV.
When we first got married I think the first thing we got was a kitchen set. First we just rented rooms and that, Leo wasn’t making much and neither was I. Of course we were getting by, with me working too. We paid $16 a month in the first place we got. We had to walk to work; we didn’t have a car, of course. I was lucky I was working in those days. We didn’t have a fridge either. They had cockroaches, so we didn’t stay there the full month. We had some canned milk and found some roaches in it. We got out of there. We stayed in a room next with an aunt of my mothers. She had a big place. We were there with the cousins and we just had a room there for a while. We finally got another place where it was quite nice, and I don’t remember if we had a refrigerator then or not... It was down not too far from where my folks were living.
Leo was driving a taxi when we got married. Then he worked at the Hotel Ben Lomand. He worked there just long enough that he lost his thumb and ruined his index finger too. He was still able to use it pretty well. He was left-handed and that was the hand he hurt in an ice-chipping machine. He was never a good writer after that because then he had to learn to use his right hand. He couldn’t write with his left hand because the thumb was off at the knuckle, half of it. He couldn’t get hold of the pencil very good.
My brother, Robert, came to live with us at one time. They’d work at anything they could get. They would lift one hundred pound bags of sugar all day long and stack it. Leo was strong. Then I think he finally got on the railroad helping a boiler-maker.[i] Then he worked himself up to boiler-maker. That was a pretty good paying job then. I think he was making $1.98 an hour. I think I made $1.50 a day for 8 hours straight sewing.
When I was first married I would can peaches, apricots, pears, dill pickles, sweet pickles, all these foods as I was taught as a child. You could get them up there in Ogden where they were really good. It was so satisfying to see them all done up. We made all kinds of jam and jelly too, even put up corn and beans. We even put up some deer meat.
When I had Linda on December 26, 1941, we lived in a house. They kept you 10 days back then when you had a baby. It was $60 for the hospital and $35 for the doctor or the baby. It was reasonable then, ‘course the money was worth more. It was right after Pearl Harbor, and I remember they had us new mothers practice running over to the baby bassinets and grabbing our babies, and running to safety as air-raid drills in the hospital.
Some of the boys had been in the war. David was over in Germany. He still carries shrapnel in his leg from being over there. Jay was in the army too, so they had the GI Bill. That helped them so much to be able to go to college later.
During the war, my Dad and mother took the family up to Tacoma for four years.[i] They lived on the outskirts then. He worked in the shipyards, welding and whatever. He was a hard worker. The day the war ended, everybody got laid off. But he did pretty good up there.
When my Dad lived in Tacoma during the war, he would come down on the bus and my sister Arlene and I would can deer meat. He’d take back a suitcase of it on the bus back to Tacoma. He’d come down about that time, sometimes to go deer hunting too. We’d get a deer in Ogden, Arlene and I would can it for him to take back. They liked to eat it and I never liked deer meat. So I never ate any of it.When he came back[ii], Dad still shoe’d the farmers horses. He did a lot of other work there in his Blacksmith’s shop too. A lot of people beat him out of a lot of money then. He was in business with his brother-in-law, who would be my uncle James Russell. They customers would charge it and he’d do the work and they wouldn’t pay. He went after a lot of them and some would pay, but a lot of them didn’t. He kept books on it. You can’t get money out of a deadbeat. A lot of them owed him money and got away with it. When we got home from the hospital from having Linda, everything was froze up. The water was frozen; it was terrible. We got disgusted with it, so we went house-hunting.
We lived close to the railroad, and for years we heard rumors that the railroad was coming and would buy everyone out. Just a couple of months after we moved out, the Railroad came by and bought it after all. The new owners got three thousand; they got the big bonus, we had sold it to them for much less. We lost quite a bit. That hurt us a lot because we had stayed there and fixed it up, and somebody came along and made a good deal. They got quite a bit of money we would have. They hauled it away and it is somewhere in Ogden. We missed a few opportunities. I guess we weren’t supposed to be rich. We seemed to always have a bit of money in our pockets.
We bought a brand new place on 39th Street. We had to paint it with 4 coats of paint because it was a FHA home. You had to have a flat coat and two other coats, we did the painting inside and out.[i] I would take Linda and place her in a basket. I still have the basket she used to sleep in. We were too poor to buy a regular baby bed. I had her right by my bed so if she woke up I could take care of her and feed her.
I was very protective of her. She was my first and I was nervous. I went back to work and after about six months I quit. It was hard for me to leave Linda and go to work. Mamie watched her for me for a while. I was so worried about her I wasn’t happy. One day I just walked out of the Ogden Utah knitting, and never went back. I had quit once and they took me back. I guess they liked my work. Then I just couldn’t stand working so I quit and never worked again until the girls were in school.
When Sandra was born in 1946, I was afraid I wouldn’t love her as much as I loved Linda. I loved Linda so much. But I did love her as much-- every bit as much. I guess we have enough love in our hearts for each of our children. I didn’t know you could feel so much love for your children.
I remember we got a television before a lot of people did and so a lot of times we’d go over and get the folks and bring them out to our place and let them watch TV. And we’d have a little lunch or something.
On the holidays, we would go with the family up Ogden canyon or South Fork or somewhere to go camping; sometimes we’d go up for overnight and have breakfast, or maybe go early and have breakfast. And we’d make cakes.
We had a special time. Dad would drive really fast in the Buick that had the seats that folded up, around and up the narrow winding canyon. Away we’d go, to different places and things. Sometimes we’d just pack supper and go up closer to the canyon. We’d all bake lots of good food to take. It was fun. We had real good food: hamburgers, potatoes, different kinds of salads, cakes. Linda would remember these things; Sandra was younger. ‘Course they went sleigh riding and we had a good time in all that deep snow.
Leo loved to hunt. He had guns, one to hunt deer with, and others. He liked deer meet; I remember putting it in his lunch to take. We’d all go up together the whole family. The men would go hunting and we’d cook for them. I’d never shoot the guns. We’d take tents and coats. We used to go up camping we’d cook over a fire with maybe a grill to put the pans on. It got pretty cold up there. Hunting season starts the end of October. Linda could never say Ada’s name. She would say goodnight to everyone and she’d always say just, ‘goodnight’ last ‘cause she could not say Ada’s name. Somehow when Linda was a little girl she somehow got burned in a fire, and she cried and cried.
The girls were friends with the neighbors across the street. They played with the kids there. I have pictures of them. Arlene and I would tend each other’s kids so we could go out and do our shopping without dragging our kids to the store. When I see young mothers with so many children, all crying in the stores, and the mothers are unhappy too, I am grateful Arlene and I tended for each other.
Linda loved comic books ever since she was a little girl. I wished we had hung on to them. Every time we went to the store, she’d ask for one. They didn’t cost too much then. Linda loved to read.
I did work out in the arsenal once the girls were in school in 1950. I worked out in the arsenal in 37 mm shells. It was a really dangerous place to work because of the powder. We had to wear blue uniforms and we had to be awful careful, not to have pins in our hair or matches in anyone’s pockets because of the powder; it could blow everything up. I worked hard there. It was hard work at the Arsenal. I think the girls resented me leaving them to work. Sandra really hated to come home from school when I wasn’t there. It would take me a while to get home especially in the snow. One day I went out alone to work and the snow was too deep and I turned clear around in the big old car-- it was a Buick. I didn’t care too much when I got laid off in 1954. It was quite a hassle to work there.
In 1954 Leo had been laid off and I was laid off two weeks later. We owed $1900 on the house. Leo went to California to see his sisters’ husband, who was working for North American Aviation, so he got Leo on there. On my birthday in 1954 we all rode down to California- Leo, the girls and I- because he used to get a pass on the train because he worked for the Railroad. Sandra was 8 and Linda was 12.
Leo started working and I came back to Ogden and was going to rent the house. We rented it for several years to my mother’s relative. We didn’t charge much because he did some work on it. We didn’t charge near the price we could have for it. It was fine. I wished we would have hung onto it, because that’s where I would have ended up retired. We would have been in Ogden.
After settling things in Ogden, I drove down and Leo’s sister Cecile went down with us. Of course I paid everything going down. My mother made us fried chicken and a real nice lunch to eat on the way down. Cecile didn’t want to stop to get a drink to go with it. I remember how thirsty I was on that trip.
We stayed with my nephew Glenn for a year and there was seven of us in a three bedroom home. There was another guy living there with his daughter. We lived on 1st street in Manhattan Beach. I mostly worked the first year making lunches, a good cooked meal every night, and I’d go get the groceries. I didn’t know my way around very well for a while. I learned how to get to the grocery store and go the same way every time so I wouldn’t get lost. And of course I made everything from scratch, like pies or whatever we had. There was plenty of food. I cooked for all of us. Glenn had a Roadster, and would take them every day to the beach.I stayed behind and cooked for them. Things were so different ‘cause there was so much going on. We didn’t know anyone. They worked from 3 PM to 11 PM. Leo worked at North American Aviation at the main plant in Inglewood, near the airport. He was a tool and die maker, then a senior tool and die maker, then a supervisor of some kind[i]. He enjoyed doing the work better than telling the men to do the work, he was so handy. Sandra seems to take after him.
We lived with my nephew for a year, then we ended up on 1540 3rd Street. We were in Manhattan Beach for 4 years. Our next door neighbor was a nice lady friend. She wasn’t a member of the Church, and there were some nice girls across the street that Linda and Sandra played with.
We started taking the girls to church, dropped them off. Then we decided we may as well go with them since we had to turn around and pick them up. We started to really like it down there. We decided to start going ourselves. They put us to work in the ward. The Church was in Redondo Beach, about 7 miles away. We really got busy in the Church and made a lot of friends. One good friend we made there was Cathy Westover. Linda got acquainted with her there. They became good friends. It was fun.
About then I was taking care of a little boy- Brent. I was afraid he’d get hurt or something. One time we went out to one of the parks, I think Knott’s Berry Farm. We were going along and he slipped into one of the ponds there. I about had a fit ‘cause I was supposed to be taking care of him. That’s one thing I remember, that I may have paid more attention to him than the girls. I think that wasn’t right. I didn’t work much when the girls were home.
When we started going to the ward it was a real nice ward. They put us all to work. Leo worked in the Mutual, then he was counselor in the Mutual. Then we put the program together for the Sunday School and Sacrament Meeting. We had the machine out at the house. We’d get to the church on Friday to type up the program on the certain kind of paper, then we’d run and make a master copy, then run how many we thought there’d be at church. Sometimes people wouldn’t give us the information. But we got acquainted with the church people. Since we had the machine, people would come to our house to run off everything. They had all kinds of dinners and we went to everything then. We loved it up there once we got to know people.
It seemed like the whole week was taken up in the church. Lots of meetings! We’d have church on Sunday, then Family Home Evening on Monday, then Wednesday there was Relief Society, then Mutual Thursday, and Friday we’d work on the program.
In 1957 we went to the Temple. We were taking the girls to church, then we decided to go with them. Then we went and had them sealed to us May 31, 1957. We lived close to the beach, had a nice home and everything.
Reta, Leo’s sister, lived over the hill and down 20 miles, at least, down a pass. She had cancer and I took care of her a lot. I went over the mountain road and took care of her. I’d scrub her floors and wash her laundry. They wore white gabardine shirts- I remember doing lots of ironing. One time I had gone up to Ogden and Linda took care of Reta. She knew how sick she was after she took care of her while I was gone. I remember years later when Linda was sick with cancer. She said when she was holding her head sitting at the table, “Oh, I don’t want to be like Aunt Reta.” She remembered how bad off she was.
Then in 1958 Leo was laid off at the main plant and he had to go clear over the hill to Canoga Park, when the freeway wasn’t in yet. We decided we ought to move over there, so we moved into Reseda. We went to the Encino Ward. We lived on the edge of Reseda near Tarzana so we went to the Encino Ward.
In Relief Society there was a Sister Nunn, Marie Flood and me, and a bunch of other ladies. We were kind of the main ones who catered the ward dinners. Marie figured out the numbers and I did the rolls. There would usually be about 200 attending. The Reseda Women’s Clubs would be like that too. I used to spend a lot of time in the kitchen. Usually Marie and I had to serve them.
I remember making gravy one time and I scorched it. I was just sick. I remember there was something you can put in it to help it, but I can’t remember what it was now. We did that to fix it, but I always felt bad, because it was a big dinner. I don’t think it was too bad; they all seemed to eat it anyway.
Some of the gals who helped us would go home and get all dolled up and they’d go out, they’d help a little bit, then they’d go have their dinner and get their husband. I’m not a person that likes to get out and be, you know, like that.
I did the catering for about two years. There were always ward dinners. I really enjoyed doing it. It was a lot of fun, and a lot of work too.Linda graduated from High School there. I had hoped she’d go up to BYU. A lot of people liked their daughters to go up there. Gary was coming to see Linda when we lived on White Oak and Parthenia, or Main Street. We lived right there by the railroad track. The cars would go racing by, and sometimes we’d hear a freight train. The track was right in back of us. We lived there when I did the catering. It was on the corner of those main roads right where the railroad crossed. It’s funny that two of our houses were right by the railroad tracks.
Marie helped me so much with Linda’s marriage December 2, 1960. She made a bunch of tablecloths to put on the tables. They were edged on the machine in a green thread. She worked like a trooper to help out. My sister Barbara helped a lot too. She made lots of petit-fours. I was kind of disappointed that the hall was so big, but we had quite a crowd. The Jensen’s knew quite a few people who came out and we had a real good turnout.
When your first daughter gets married, it’s just never the same. You feel like she’s not yours anymore. It’s never the same.
In 1960 I was taking care of a lady; she asked me to baby-sit. The lady across the street had the job and asked me to do it for her. She was a young woman, and was so sick she was in bed all the time. She had cancer. All I had to do was baby-sit. But who was going to feed the kids? She had a little boy and two little girls. So I did the washing, made the meals and all that stuff for her. I did that for about two years then she passed away. That was in 1960, until maybe 1962.
On November 23, 1963, we were having a ward dinner that night. John F. Kennedy was assassinated that day, and we didn’t have a very good turn out that night. We went ahead with it anyway. We usually had a pretty good turn out, but that night wasn’t a success. He was well liked. Everyone felt so bad about it. I remember just crying when I found out.
When Linda got married, they lived where we lived. They lived in a house behind the Jensen home in Reseda, then bought a small yellow house. When we moved to Simi in 1964, they sold their home and moved to Simi too. We lived on Fig Street.
Marie Flood moved to Simi about the same time we did too. We didn’t do as much catering when we lived in Simi. We had been in the same ward, but then they divided and I didn’t see her much anymore. I always really liked it in Simi. We were pretty active then. I liked the ward pretty well, although it kept changing.
I took a course in cake decorating there. It seemed like we had to eat all of those cakes I’d make. I have some pictures of some of them. I remember I made a pumpkin cake I was really proud of, round like a pumpkin and it looked like a Jack-o-lantern. I made some crazy cakes! I made one that looked like a bathing suit-- I just wanted to. I made it into a birthday cake. The girl holding it in the picture is a niece of mine.
We moved out of Fig Street and moved into a single wide trailer so Larry and Sandra could move into our house. They were married September 12, 1965. I don’t know what we charged them. They stayed six months because they had to drive over into Canoga Park every day; that was quite a ways. They moved there. They could have got that for a song. They were both working odd hours and I didn’t see much of Sandra after she got married.
I went to work after Linda and Sandra got married in 1965. When you’re alone, it’s hard. That’s why I went to work- to pass the time. It was something to do. It was only part time and that was fine with me-- it didn’t take all my time. Then I could get home in time to do dinner. Well, sometimes I didn’t get home; Leo would get home before I did. It was a lot of hard work, but it was something to do and make a little money. And there were a lot of nice people, ladies, working there.
I was the only LDS one there. They were a little shocked because I drank coffee. I’m a terrible person because I drank coffee, then I quit. I’ll have to pay for what I do, I’m not going to be the judge of others.
I worked for Berlewood Elementary in Simi Valley. They had satellite schools. We used to get all the food ready and send it out to the other schools in the heavy foam containers that kept it hot. It was quite a job, but I enjoyed it. They’d make about 100 loaves of bread in their huge mixer. They’d make the chocolate cookies, there’d be 16 pounds of white sugar, not quite as much of brown sugar and real butter. I think that’s why the kids liked them so much-- everything was real butter.
One time I reached up and picked up an orange crate full of oranges. It was up on an upper shelf. I got it down by myself and the next morning I had a goose-egg right on my groin. I had a hernia from it. It was right after Sandra got married. I went to see Dr. Reiner the next morning and he asked me if I wanted to go to the hospital at one o’clock to take care of it. Somebody else did the operation. They took care of it and I was off for a while. I didn’t go back because it was just before school was out for break. I worked there until we moved to St. George in 1973.
We started Rock hounding after talking to a fellow at Leo’s work who was into it. We decided to join the Rock Hounds. We used to go there at the rec. area, I’d meet him at night and we’d grind and make the ‘cabochons’[i]. I have a lot of them still. He did a lot of them because he was better at it. I could polish and grind them. We had the stone grinder/polisher. He made me quite a few rings and things. We’d buy the rings, and he’d put the cabochon in. To make the jewelry, he’d cut the rock, you’d saw them, then he’d mark them off, and he’d cut it with the saw. Then he’d put them on a dopstick[ii] so he could grind it. It took a lot of work. He’d make a display of finished stones and he’d put the rough ones next to it. I gave that to someone. I hope they took care of it; it was really nice. I have quite a few pendants and jewelry that he’d made. It was interesting. We belonged to two clubs; we used to go to both of them. They’d have big shows and they were very interesting.
We used to go to Arizona a lot when we lived in California. We had that little trailer and we’d go over there, like on vacation with some friends and we’d stay a week or two, or whatever vacation Leo had coming. We would get fire agates there. We would sit outside with them in a bucket and hold it up to the sun, check them over to see which ones were the prettiest. They were so pretty in the sun. He’d polish them. I have a lot of them that didn’t get polished. It was a fun hobby to have. We enjoyed it a lot. Leo liked to fish in California. We used to come clear up to Wyoming; there’s a lake there. This friend of ours had a boat and would take us out fishing. I would never catch anything. This one time I caught the biggest fish; it was 24 inches long and 8 pounds. I was so tickled. And Leo caught a big one too. The other lady always caught the big ones. It was probably in the 1970’s.
I used to have Linda and Sandra’s families over for Christmas dinner. The Jensen’s had Linda’s family over for Thanksgiving. I think that’s the way it worked. Linda liked plum pudding, I liked it and Leo kind of did. I don’t make it anymore because Sandra and them don’t like it. It used to be a tradition. Linda always wanted to have a fruitcake and plum pudding, and pumpkin pie at Christmas time and Thanksgiving time, and pecan pie. She had a good recipe for pecan pie. Almost any recipe will work in one bowl-- gee whiz, it was easy... I came across that recipe a while back, and later we made a less sweet version. I like the sweeter one better.
We used to get together and have a Christmas tree. They’d let the grandkids open up the presents at home and then come over to our place at Fig Street. We’d usually have a Christmas dinner-- Turkey and dressing and everything that went with it. Then we’d have the tree with presents for the kids. I really miss that.
We lived in California 19 years total. Leo wanted to get away from the traffic and all the rat race there. The smog was hard on him. If he went somewhere where someone was smoking it seemed to bother him. I think he was on the verge of emphysema in his lungs. I think that working at the railroad really hurt his lungs; those engines and the boilermaker. He was laid off at the time and I said he ought to just quit. So he retired at 63 and I kept working. He wanted to leave. So he said, ‘Why don’t we move?” It was in May and school let out in June. He kept bugging me to go.
We came up here about the 26th of May, 1973 and lived in our travel trailer, it was so hot. He had to get the cement foundation in, where the mobile home would sit on. He was out there trying to get the cement going, they had delivered it, and I finally had to help him push it around because it was beginning to harden. I tried to help him as much as I could. I could see he wasn’t going to do it in time. We had to work like beavers, but we got it done. Then we had to wait ‘til that dried, and then we had to wait ‘til our Mobile Home came, so we lived in the trailer for quite a while.
It was pretty hot here. We didn’t have our air conditioning in until we got our mobile home in. I don’t know how the Pioneers stood it; I don’t think I would have made a very good pioneer. I’m glad I didn’t live in those days. What they went through! We finally got it all finished, but Leo worked so hard on everything. Leo planted roses, got grass in and planted all of the big trees that are here. It took a while to get it all in shape and I think Leo had a lot more planned. He planted two almond trees. He planted grape on the west side by the shed and here by the awning so it would grow and keep it cooler here on the west side. They’re still growing. He planted an apple tree and a peach tree, and an apricot tree and a pecan tree that never did any good. And we have 16 cypress trees. Some look kind of shabby I guess because they’re getting old now. Then there are two fruitless Mulberry trees.
We didn’t do much rock polishing after moving up to St. George. We had a lot to do fixing up the place. There’s a great big piece of a trunk of a tree, of petrified wood out in front on the patio.
For years I worked in the ward library. I could hardly get out of there, I did it for years. Then I got those medical problems and wasn’t coming to church regularly and I don’t go much anymore. Leo made a stool for the St. George temple, to be used in a solemn assembly. I still have it. They needed it to kneel on.
Leo only lived 6 years after we come up here. If I’d known, there’s a lot of things I’d have him do. I wished we would have hung on to the house in Ogden because that’s where I would have ended up retired. We would have been in Ogden. But we ended up here in St. George because we’d be halfway between where my children and grandchildren were in Southern California and Ogden, my folks. That’s how we chose St. George. But that’s the way it happened. But we were happy here; we enjoyed it here. We were quite happy when we finally got it going.