The Personal Histories
Darvil Burns McBride & Josephine Phillips McBride
(JOSEPHINE) FUN, HOBBIES AND PASTIMES
As a small child and through my growing-up years, I just plain loved people. In fact I think I kind of still do.
As a three-year-old (1915, a theatrical couple arrived in our town of Thatcher. They had trunks of beautiful costumes for the youth of the town they chose for the roles in their productions. They, like many of their persuasion in that time of history traveled throughout small-town America presenting their production for the profit, generated by admission charges.
In preparation for the play, "Tom
Thumb’s Bride," they chose me as the bride to play opposite Tom
Thumb. He was a year older than me, and a cute little boy I liked. I've
forgotten his first name, but his last is Tenney. My brother, Virgil,
four years older, took part too, in the role of a member of the
tuxedo-dressed wedding party.
Back then, all special events of any size in Thatcher were presented in the large high-windowed, basement cultural hall below the old and beautiful church house. During the play, I remember looking from the stage, out over the hall through awed, little-girl eyes at so many people; the hall had filled to more than capacity. As a part of the play, after the wedding ceremony, the wedding party sat at a long table spanning the front of the stage, taking refreshments—homemade ice cream.
I remember well how yummy it tasted to a little girl. But, in that warm desert country, a good part of it had melted before I'd finished. No matter, (it was still good melted), so with no intention of wasting a bit, the bride—the center of attraction—lifted the bowl to her lips and drank it down to the last drop. The crowd burst into deafening laughter. Puzzled, I looked around at them all trying to understand what struck them so funny.
After the performance, Mama wanted a photograph of Virgil and me in our costumes. In the picture, which is included as part of this history; in the background, Dee, my eldest brother peeked out from behind a bush as Mama clicked the camera. Probably feeling neglected and needing attention, he had leaned his impish face out to at least be included in something. No one had known of his presence until after the picture's development. The family has laughed about that photo ever since. And who knows how many generations will continue to laugh with us as time passes on into eternity.
As little girls, our early interests swept us along playing hopscotch, jacks, jump-rope, and playing with the dolls we loved so much. Across the street at Dubie Michelson’s house, her dad kept a cow out back in the pasture beyond their orchard. In the pasture grew gorgeous bunches of high-stemmed sunflowers. Around an old stump just the right height, we bent the flower stems to fashion a bright, yellow and green bowery (bower) over it, transforming it as far as we were concerned, into a real throne. There with the stump framed with the lovely greenery and flowers, we played make-believe king, queen and princess. After tiring of that we went to the big grape arbor built by her dad; it covered the entire back of their house. There in the shaded enclosure, we imagined it as our stage, we played movie star. We even broke off dried lengths of grapevine and smoked them like cigarettes, mimicking the antics of the actresses of the day. After tiring of the fun at Dubie’s, we crossed the street to my home and played some of the same make-believe games over against and on the green bank of the big canal just a hop-skip-and-a-jump from our house.
I always received a doll for Christmas, including the Christmas when I was thirteen years old. I don’t remember a single time that I didn’t get a doll from Santa. I liked baby dolls better than little girl or boy dolls, so they’re the ones I remember best. There were two special doll-Christmases in my life, for they were beautiful, warm, sun-shiny days—shirt sleeve days. Coatless and comfortable, I remember the experience of radiant joy, pushing the buggy up and down the sidewalk and around the yard—one of those little childhood memories that never wanes.
Speaking of dolls: In our town there was a fun place called the Confectionery Store. Its main attraction for me was the big, glass, candy case that sat low near the floor where a tot my size could get a good look at its many wonderful fascinations. There was also a counter to sit at and be served, and round ice cream tables with the twisted wire legs and dainty, matching chairs known as bistro sets. Once in a while Dad or Mama would take Eleanor and me there for a treat. I loved sitting at the child-size tables with matching chairs for kids, exact replicas of the large ones. Sitting there made the ice cream and candy taste even better. George Echoles owned the store, and he loved kids. (He was married to the eldest daughter of the old Woods family, an early pioneer family of our town.)
(The Woods family owned the first movie house in Thatcher where silent films were shown once a week, and were always “to be continued” the next week. Their youngest son, Grant, was the same age as Virgil. They were good friends even after they married and raised families. Grant’s wife, Genney, had a beautiful trained voice, and they had a lovely popular daughter Mac’s age that attracted the interest of nearly every boy. Grant’s father served as County Superintendent of Schools for many years.)
But, back to George Echoles and the Confectionery Store. He and his wife, Ann, had only one child about my age. He had been born spastic, and he needed constant care, which the parents admirably provided. George always talked about wanting another little boy, and later, he was blessed two fold, for his desire was granted when Ann gave birth to twins—a boy and a girl.
In the Confectionery Store one day, being the cute curly-haired doll that many said I was, George said to me, “Josephine, some day I’m going to put you in this candy case.” After that I made sure Dad or Mama was very close when I went into George’s store. Though I greatly admired that candy case, I certainly didn’t want to be caged in it.
EARLY TRIPS TO CALIFORNIA: Wherever my Dad went he always had a good time. He didn’t call his trips to California vacations, for when he did go they were buying trips for his own store, regardless, he had a good time. Virgil was the trustworthy one of the two older boys, so he stayed behind to attend to the affairs of the store when Mama went with Dad.
Sometimes he’d take a kid or two along. I especially remember a trip to California when they took Eleanor, Rodney and me; I was 13 years old. Mama had prepared ahead of time for herself and us. I’ve forgotten what was bought for Rodney, but she had ordered look-alike, dark suits for Eleanor and me, kind of a grey tweed with knickers, blouses and a jacket or weskit. Mama wanted pictures of us and of her in all of our brand new splendor, for she had also bought new clothes for herself. For the photos, we stopped at a picturesque spot on the Superior Highway.
Mama would fix a nice basket lunch to take along on these trips; the basket held fried chicken, a great number of boiled eggs, plain bread and butter and maybe potato salad. We didn’t take too much, but enough for snack stuff along the way. Along the way, we usually picked up food and fruits, plus ice cream, soda pops and things like that. She liked to leave something for my big brothers staying behind. This time she had fixed a huge grocery sack, mostly of chicken, some of which she left at home for Dee and Virgil. The first time we stopped along the way for a snack she discovered she had left the whole sack. We had no fried chicken that day, and I’m sure the boys at home found it and no doubt chuckled at our hard luck as they grinned over their good luck.
<>I reflect upon the trip with a smile, for at 13 I still loved dolls. I brought a big china doll whose arms and legs moved. I also brought its entire wardrobe, even hats. Some might think I should be ashamed of playing with the doll clear across the desert at 13, but after all these years of remembering, I’m still not embarrassed.
I marveled at the Superior Highway on which we’d stopped for the photographs. Even today, it’s well traveled, even though much improved and shortened. Travelers from out of state as well as from foreign countries look upon it as a spectacular, unusual and beautiful stretch. Back then it was full of steep curves and turns, each one enchanting us with new vistas. In those days, the miles of sand dunes west of Yuma towards San Diego had proven to have worrisome obstacles. For decades, hardy teams and wide-wheeled wagons had been the only means of using that shortcut to the ocean. To help tame the shifting sand and to open a route to the coast fit for automobiles, the State of California constructed a “wooden” road across the unpredictable stretch (now I-80). Though it was wide enough for but one car—about as wide as an ordinary, single traffic lane of today’s freeways—it served its purpose for many years. To allow cars to pass each other, short turnouts about two car-lengths long were built about every mile along the dipping, turning board-way. If two cars met in between—which often happened—the one nearest a turnout backed up to it, allowing the other to pass.
The strange road was of simple construction. It was like a wide, heavy-duty boardwalk. Three or four stringers of stout rectangular timber paralleling each other had heavy, wide, oak planks about three inches thick and 12 inches wide bolted to them. The seemingly endless, wooden ribbon followed every contour: the ups, the downs and the arounds of each singular and sometimes spectacular dune after dune. Though harrowing to the faint of heart, the click-clacking under the weight of the passing vehicle, proved exciting to the first-timer. See and read about it at: http://www.outwestnewspaper.com/plank.html
Now, there is no hotter place in the middle of the summer than in the middle of a dune filled desert, especially as the elevation approaches sea level when we traveled the I-10 route through Blythe, then through Indio where it dips down to 14 feet, or more, below. To keep the inside temperature of the car bearable, Mama kept buckets of cold water in which she routinely dipped dishtowels and hung them wet around the interior. We dipped our hands into the water to pat it on our bare skin and clothes, taking advantage of the cooling effect of evaporation.
The worst stop endured on our way to California was outside Indio after nightfall. We were able to find a motel (cabins): the windows were screened, and had loose canvas coverings we rolled them up to catch any whisper of breeze. I managed to sleep pretty well. However, when we awoke, we had a problem. Where we had draped our clothes during the night, they touched the floor. When Eleanor and I put them on, there were consequences, for they were filled with ants. Why they chose our clothes, I don’t know, but they certainly didn’t crawl in to keep warm.
On this trip we visited Balboa Gardens and Zoo in San Diego, experiences so fun and beautiful. A big pipe organ sat at one end of a huge building; luckily we had arrived at the right time to hear its music. The family enjoyed every minute of it, but I didn’t see much, for the kidney infection I had been nursing off and on for a few years suddenly flared up; I spent most of the day lying in the shade. However, the beauty of the grounds contented me, and from where I sat I could see roundabout for a good distance. The manicured, colorful beds of flowers and the cascades took my breath away.
Dad was a good traveler. He loved to go first class, and when we went with him we too went first class. We stayed at the motels and hotels that he knew. He knew all the drummers (salesmen) who came out of the big cities to hit the local stores with products. These men kept him well informed of places to stay and to eat; in the larger towns we always ate at the best restaurants. He and Mama had great fondness for the ocean and enjoyed it whenever they found convenient times. Once, as we approached San Diego, but were still miles from the coast, Mama excitedly said, “I can smell the ocean! I can smell the ocean!” We knew that certain atmospheric conditions could waft whiffs of the ocean’s fragrance many miles inland, and it was not uncommon to enjoy the phenomenon.
At age 17, we made another trip to San Francisco for Dad’s buying for his store. Eleanor had a light coat along and I had a heavy long one. In the evenings in Southern California, she wore her light coat and I wore my heavy one. More to the north in San Francisco it was really cold, and I thought, “I’m glad I have a heavy coat,” but it didn’t work out that way. Eleanor took the heavy coat and I was left with the light one. It was okay. I didn’t freeze. After all, I was only the little sister, and I could make-do with whatever else was handy for cover.
In San Francisco we ate at a restaurant we considered quite nice. It was small and I don’t remember much about the food, but I do remember the rolls. They were so delicious that I lack words to describe them. I always hoped that some day we would go back there, just for the rolls. Eleanor loved bananas, and that’s what she remembered most. But those rolls: Dad arranged for a sack full, which we relish later. Even though the restaurant wasn’t as classy as most places Dad took us, I’ll always remember the occasion as an elegant evening.
When in Los Angles, we always arranged to make one trip to Boos Brothers Cafeteria. Dad and Mama loved the place. Besides the good food, a live orchestra provided music we loved. It was all delightful; we three kids thought we were in heaven. A degree of intrigue enveloped me while walking through the small corridors and choosing as much as I thought I could eat of my favorite foods. We sat at fancy set tables with their heavy silver, lovely crystal and linen, all the time soaking in the music, a treat unlike a dream a wide-eyed country girl ever hoped for.
We experienced sadness there: Mama, Eleanor and I visited the rest room. Mama was wearing a ruby ring of tiffany setting that Dad had brought her when he returned from his mission in South Africa. At the wash basin she took it off and put it in the pocket of her light-weight jacket. Then after removing the coat, she draped it over the low door, the only place she could see to hang it. As we walked from the restaurant toward the car, she reach into the pocket to find the ring—it wasn’t there. We rushed back to search for it, and though the management cooperated in every respect, it was to no avail.
The name of one hotel we stayed in near the middle of the city slips my mind, but it was wonderful. Liveried doormen opened and closed the elevator doors, seeing to our comfort and safety. Someone was always at your beck-and-call. I well remember the Clark Hotel in Los Angeles and another one close by, a beautiful one that I especially loved—such fun. Later, much later, I had insisted that Darvil and I and the kids revisit the Clark for pure nostalgia’s sake.
I wore a cute, green nylon dress that I especially loved for its coolness, for the day was warm. Out on the street for a bit of sight seeing, I glanced at my image in a window as I stood in a sunny spot and simultaneously heard a whistle from across the street. To my horror, I discovered I had forgotten my slip. I broke away from Darvil, ran back into the hotel where a dozen people watched as I pushed through the back-lighted door. I ran past them, knock-kneed, up to the room where I corrected the embarrassment.
When with Moma and Dad. we didn’t always stay at hotels, because Aunt Ella Birdno lived in Santa Monica. A half-sister to Nonnie, she was like a second mother to Mama -- always welcoming us with open arms. Forced to move from the valley because of asthma, she found relief in the coastal city. Uncle George had passed away and she lived there with a grown son and daughter. She had established her own business, selling her home-made chicken pies at the Santa Monica Pier where the beach-goers, sight seers and tourists swarmed. We would treat ourselves to a piece of the delicious stuff any time we wished.
Because of Dad’s independent spirit and fear of being an imposition on a relative’s hospitality, we didn’t stay with Aunt Ella as often as we kids and Mama wanted. Nevertheless, Mama always finagled some precious days, for they dearly loved each other, and Mama loved Aunt Ella’s daughter, and son, George, and his delightful wife.
One fun place we stayed was a subsurface apartment with a kitchenette. Mama fixed breakfast and maybe sandwiches for lunch, but we always went out for dinner. There, Eleanor got her glorious fill of bananas, for they were only ten cents a pound in the nearby grocery store. Dad and Mama were kindly tolerant about letting us bring fruit to our room. Though strawberries and raspberries were quite expensive we often bought them also; and we took advantage of ordering them with our cereal in the restaurants. This downstairs apartment had little windows at sidewalk-level. Probably the dampness in the air caused it, but I could always smell the faint, unpleasant odor of what reminded me of the outside privies back home. We never began a return trip home from California but what Mama cried, and I believed Dad was on the verge too.
We had an old chicken coop in our back yard. It was a struggle, but my girlfriends and I moved it over next to the canal bank where we spent hours cleaning it out and fixing it up. Complete with makeshift furniture, walkways, a fence, and other niceties we had scrounged up, we arranged it appropriately for our own private clubhouse. Caught up in our imaginations, there, we played away many pleasant hours.
A huge cottonwood tree on the edge of the front yard extended its long branches over the entire yard, even over our front porch. During the seventeen years of my life in that home, we had some kind of swing hanging from a big branch high up in it. In the back yard a colorful hammock stretched between two smaller trees. A favorite leisure on summer days found me comfortably stretched out on it reading a book, and often, slowly savoring spoonfuls of peanut butter, as the shaded hammock gently swung in the breeze.
The canal coursed along the south side of our lot. We loved that two-foot deep, or more, 20-foot wide, flowing stream with its tree-lined, shady, grassy banks. The bigger kids played in it at any time they wanted, and even though down the canal a ways they had a deeper swimming hole, they often played in it there by our house. The younger ones could too—under supervision. As a four-year-old, I was playing in it with my big brothers when suddenly I lost my footing and under I went head and all. I vividly remember struggling to find the bottom with my feet as the current carried me along, but try as I might I couldn’t find it. Standing there on the bank, Mama saw me go under, and watched my long curls floating along downstream. She yelled to the boys to grab me; they reacted at once and snatched me out okay. Through the years though, too many little ones lost their lives drowning in the big canals.
Wild plum trees grew close by, and with them Mama made delicious jelly. We spent a lot of fun times on the bank of the canal, sometimes having a picnic, relaxed in the grass, eating the jellyroll cakes she made with the plum jam. During early summer, as a youngster, Darvil, who lived a block away, scouted the canal banks picking wild, fresh asparagus sprouts. He bundled them to sell, and I remember watching him on the banks by our home. Mama never failed to buy a bunch (sometimes more) from him, paying ten cents a bunch. The freshly picked sprouts were delicious— it seemed much more so than the store-bought bunches.
Though I never considered myself much of an athlete, in junior high school, I loved to play softball during the physical education period and noon break. I mostly insisted on playing first base, and nearly always did, because I usually got my way. In those days of no television, and because of our rural life, we knew little about kinds of hockey. The day came when the school acquired a lawn hockey set. I absolutely loved the game and spent much happy school time with my girl friends playing it. It became my all-time favorite sport.
My love for water comes up in other places in this history. The time came when we could no longer safely play in the big canal. At its headwaters where it was diverted from the Gila River, horses, cattle and garbage had fouled it, and the authorities warned us of infectious diseases. Though many ignored it, like my big brothers and Darvil and his brothers and friends, who continued playing in it. The most desirable place to swim was thirty miles away at Hot Springs. Hot Springs boasted a big, beautiful, white hotel. The extensive pool of warm water fed by the natural hot spring had, at places, a squishy mud edge we had to walk through to get to the deeper water. We liked it despite the mud, but later the pool was bordered and lined with concrete, and a row of dressing rooms were built along one side. A nice diving board and a double-platform tower were at the deep end. I would dive from the edge of the pool and the diving board, but try as I might I couldn’t boost my will sufficiently to dive headfirst from the tower. However, I willed myself to jump feet first from it, and that showed daring enough. Many visitors throughout the United States, with varied ailments, frequented the hot, soothing waters hoping for curative results.
The very warm water rapidly sapped our strength, but as a little girl I stayed in the water the whole time. I stayed so long that it made my fingers, palms, toes and feet wrinkle with creases deeper than a prune. I raised a ruckus like a big baby when Mama and Dad finally forced me to come out. Never in a hundred years would I have left the water on my own accord. We enjoyed Hot Springs as a family, and as a teenagers and older, we continued to enjoy it. The junior high school, high school, junior college and church groups often chose the place for their outings. We swam, picnicked and finally after the boiling sun settled below the horizon, we danced on a spacious cement slab, on into the cool of the evening.
For a while we had a nice place to swim in Safford, three miles away, while a new electric plant was being built. There was a big concrete-lined pool filled with water for swimming, giving us much quicker access than way out thirty miles at Hot Springs. Solomonville, ten miles from Thatcher, had a pool for a short time too. I celebrated one of my birthdays with my friends with a trip to Solomonville to swim. Later, while in junior high school, the high school built a small but fun swimming pool. Though quite small, years later our own children enjoyed it through the years. The day came when a permanent, expansive, public pool with dressing rooms was built three miles east in Safford.
When we were small children, the church often chose to organize outings to a place called the Flume Camp at Cluff’s Ranch above Pima. The flume shot lumber down its long slender stretch from up high in the mountain where the timber was cut. Rough debarked logs floated for miles down the water-filled chute to a place where the lengths were then hauled down to the mill pond, waiting their turn to be converted to finished lumber. At the bottom of the flume, the V-shaped mossy sides and bottom gave little kids a full forty-foot ride. Our parents lifted us up over the edge and released us. The fast flow of water about two or three inches deep carried us slipping and sliding to its end where waiting adults scooped us up and out.
The schools and church sponsored hayrides on big, flatbed, horse-drawn wagons that carried a few bales of hay for comfortable sitting and leaning. We played, joked, shifted around, dangled legs over the side and jumped on and off the wagon at will, as the horse slowly plodded along through the desert over narrow dirt roads in the cooler late afternoon and early evening. Our destination was the middle of a broad, dry, sandy wash among big, black-limb mesquite trees, with a smattering of other growth and rocks and the ever-present cactus. There, we built a big bonfire, and after the flames reduced the logs to glowing coals, we roasted marshmallows or weeners to eat with the other tasties. Homemade ice cream usually topped off the picnic. The fun wasn’t over though, for we enjoyed the return trip in more comfortable cooler air. The horses wended their way down the silent, dark road, under moon and star-filled skies—having just as much fun returning as going. The memories of the fragrance of the desert, the newly baled hay, the smoke and roasting food, still whets my senses. What lovely outings—a bygone day, for most.
Sometimes we planned picnic outings of the same nature as the hayrides, but on horseback. Dad took care of finding the right horse for me; he would go to a friend to borrow the proper steed so I would ride out and return safely. I loved horses, and I loved those outings. I could have been a real horsy person if I’d had half a chance.
As teenagers we loved the dances only slightly less than we loved the boys, and what would the dances have been without the boys? We looked forward with eagerness for each Friday evening. I chuckle even now as I see in my mind so clearly a comical incident that happened at one dance. The critical part of the election year enveloped the community. The orchestra members were stretching between numbers and W.T. Webb, running for an important office stepped up to the podium to take advantage of free exposure. Launching into one of his electric campaign speeches, his false teeth suddenly popped out. They fell against the podium with a clack and a bounce, and quick as lightning, in one continuous motion, he snatched them from mid-air and smoothly slapped them back into place. He hardly missed a syllable as he continued seemingly unabashed—a stroke of good luck—for if they had hit the floor they would have surely broken.
Yes, the dances lifted our spirits during those wonderful times. Ball room dancing in vogue, we whirled, dipped and turned in fox trots and waltzes through the warm evenings. One of my beaus, Reid Morris, how he could dance; I loved to dance with him; he was a darling young man. Reid is still alive. He liked me—like a whole lot and would have married me. How fun and exhilarating those times were; how sweet the memories.
[Darvil: As her husband, the one who finally won the prize, I’ll tell a bit about Jo: "Not just Reid alone, there were a lot of young men who wanted to marry her; she really enjoyed the envied position of being the belle of the town. So darned cute, pretty and considerate of all, the young people of the valley greatly admired Jo, and many young bucks wanted to date her. She never lacked for dates. At the dances, constantly in demand, the boys kept her always on the floor. I decided not to even try for her because of her extreme popularity, but, things kind of worked out." At this point, let me extract a couple of paragraphs from a beautiful tribute paid to us by Frankie, my youngest sister and the last of the children in the family: She writes: “I knew Josephine Phillips from the time she lived in the home by the canal in Thatcher—and I remember her as the prettiest girl in town. When the Phillips family moved next door to us into Grandmother and Grandpa Sim’s house, and Darvil started seeking Josephine’s attentions, I was as happy and elated over that as maybe Darvil was—though really not quite, I’m sure.” (The complete tribute is found later in the history.)]
Three years in a row I attended the College Prom with the student body president. First, Homer Elledge who had come from Globe, Arizona invited me: tall, very thin and still lacking some physical filling-out, but nice looking, and very popular, though not a match for Darvil. His lovely mother would have loved for him to marry me, but he didn't really care that much about me. The second time, Darvil invited me. For the third prom, the invitation came from Gene Mangum: a nice, dear person and so affectionate and still is so with Darvil and me. He organized my sixtieth, junior college graduating class reunion, the class of 33. We attended it May 1993 in Thatcher.
I felt special, privileged and thrilled when we lead the promenade each time. I liked the atmosphere of the spirit-lifting occasions. We dressed in beautiful formals, were in the company of handsome young men and in the midst of colorful, tasteful decorations. Such fun times for a young woman of my interests and inclinations. I loved the dances and the overall splendor of the occasions.
After marriage, my active interest in fun, naturally, became different. My mother and Grandmother Nonnie did many kinds of handwork, especially when they rode in the car during trips. Never really enthralled with the idea, I forced myself to learn to crochet. When the kids were small I began an afghan of wool yarn, and finally, I finished it. Quite large, it turned out to be a beautiful piece of art, I thought: an accomplishment worthy to be proud of.. Unfortunately, I failed to take proper care of it, and I felt terrible when I found moths had ruined it.
When my friends were having babies, I decided to learn to knit booties for presents. I made a few of them, and they turned out beautifully, and my friends appreciated them for their new infants. At first, I needed close supervision, but as I continued doing them practice paid off, for each pair was nicer than the one before. I did learn how to knit well. Handwork, too tedious to be a pleasure unnerved me, even though I kept at it for some time. I did some embroidering too, but still, I never really enjoy it.
Eleanor sewed and became an unusual seamstress. She made many beautiful clothes for her daughters as they grew up. As a little girl, I played at the sewing machine for hours on end, and as a sophomore in the high school home economics class, I made a beautiful dress. Beautiful on the hanger that is, but hardly beautiful on me: very unbecoming, horrible—terrible! I let it hang there forever in the closet.
Eleanor and I were ten and twelve years old when a little recipe book arrived in the mail. I remember us together in the kitchen making a batch of fudge from one of the recipes. Really, Eleanor did most of it, while I busied myself being no more than a pest under foot, but she patiently let me help. Always right there crowding her in every thing, she would kindly put up with her pesky little sister. Of Eleanor, I told myself that she loved me, but that she didn't like me. There in our kitchen we cooked on an old, black coal and wood-burning stove. That was the first fudge I had tasted, and I think the best: it tasted so good. We made fudge during the winter, because we couldn’t do it in the summer. That old stove sure could heat the place up.
As a high school girl, I learned to bake cookies and simple deserts. Mama, happy for me to try everything, encouraged me, and I loved it. I clearly remember my first loaf of bread. My best girlfriends and I were in the class together. Rhoada Foster, our teacher, assigned us to mix and bake just a plain, white, ordinary loaf of bread. I guess I got my yeast too warm because everybody else's loaf rose up so beautifully and light, but mine stayed flat. It looked and tasted awful. However, I simply excused the fiasco by saying, "Mine stooped to rise, but it forgot to get up.”
Now I have a recipe book that lets me make elegant hot rolls that I'm proud of. I can bake lots of things in my microwave oven, the small toaster oven and in my wonderful range oven. I've lived to experience a wonderful day and age and appreciate the inconceivable advancements and my good fortune to enjoy them.
In Solomonville there were six of us, all recently married and most with new little ones. We all loved music and we each had a good ear and could carry parts. We sang as a double trio at many functions in the community and by special invitation throughout the Valley. The diversion from the rigors of the daily routine were pleasant breaks. We loved the practices, the traveling together and singing as special guests.
I loved being a part of ward choirs and singing in other large groups. I sang with the Singing Mothers of the Solomonville, Thatcher and Layton (Safford) wards and took advantage of all opportunities. During Christmas time, the college in Thatcher presented the Messiah and invited members of the community to take part. I had been a part of many of them before marriage and continued afterward. Back then, as a married woman living away from Thatcher, the narrow winding road to Solomonville and back seemed like quite a jaunt for me—a whole ten miles away. Practices, though a ways distant from home were not only fun, but a welcome escape for tattered nerves, especially after number three arrived just two-and-a-half years after the second. Eleanor, my sister two years older, accompanied the choir as organist for many years. Jean, my baby sister, would also become the accompanist for many of the presentations. Both were recognized and in great demand for their advanced acumen as pianists and organists. Both, unlike me—I wasn’t the dedicated piano student that they were—played at everything everywhere.
Though I had a love for the piano and had been given every opportunity in time, expense and wonderful teachers, the same as Eleanor, I neglected practicing. Actually, it seems that the only time I really put my all to it was for the fifteen minutes just before I arrived for the lesson. Piano came easy to me, for I learned to play quite decently for having been such a lazy student.
In Flagstaff, for Darvil’s schooling and then in Solomonville for over two years, I recall how much I missed the piano. The year Sally Jo was born, Darvil bought me a brand new Gulbransen piano from Richardsons in Safford. I felt like the luckiest, richest person in the world. Since then, through the many years, I’ve always had the pleasure of beautiful pianos in my homes. I’ve so loved and appreciated them.
As my three little children grew older, I often gathered them to the piano to sing. During that time, the Church published a new, beautiful and sweet primary hymnal with a selection of delightful pieces for children. I bought one for each child and put their names in them. I don’t know what has become of Mac’s and Sally’s, but I still have Jon’s. I’ve promised it to him when I die—but, not until. Many of them were compositions by Mildred Petit, an unfamiliar name to me then. Years later after moving into the East Pasadena Ward, I met her and we became good friends.
<>After we moved to Pasadena, I missed singing in a choir and especially in three-part groups—my first love. After a while, I became acquainted with two nice women who invited me sing with a group of ward women. Informed of the once-a-week practice, the first time I went, I looked up to see the director and in surprise, I said to myself, “I know her.” Her married name was Millard, and at the first break, I spoke to her asking if her maiden name was Knutson. She said yes and asked me how I knew. In response, I told her that her first name was LaVerne and that I remembered when she used to visit Thatcher and stay with her grandmother. I added that I remembered she eventually attended the junior college there: she confirmed what I’d said. She had a marvelous voice, an out-going personality and was an exceptional music director. Our group had outstanding accompanists too. Also, we were a service group. How I loved the music and taking part with them. Sadly, when LaVerne died, the group dissolved, and I sorely missed those friendships. ><>>