Grade School Fun and Follies

School was fun and very trying. It was understood that you had to go. That’s just the way it was. You went to school no matter what unless you were really sick. I heard about kids “ditching” or “sluffing” but that never occurred to me. We lived about a mile and a half from the school. Since we all went to school on the same block we all walked together, little kids and big kids.  We would walk through the College. My Uncle Reid worked for the College and when it was lunch time we would meet him at the College and hitch a ride home and then back again after lunch. We would all pile into the back of his pickup truck and off we would go. Lunch was an hour then and we never ate at the school. School lunch was for the bus kids. When I was in Jr. High they changed the lunch time to 45 minutes and then it was really hard to get home and back in time. Sometimes if we missed Uncle Reed we would see my Dad on his way home for lunch and get a ride from him. Mother always made a wonderful meal. Much better than you could get at school.

At Halloween we would all dress up, students and teachers. In those days we wore masks. Kids don’t wear masks today. When I was in the 6th grade, our class made a spook alley for the rest of the school. I remember when some of the kids, especially the younger kids, came through they would cry and not want to finish. I think I began to realize that some things are not fun for everyone.

At Christmas time the school would bring in a huge tree and the kids would make decorations for it. They would put lights on it and every day we would go out and stand around the tree and sing carols. We didn’t worry if they were about Jesus or Santa Claus, it was Christmas and it was magic. We would draw names and bring gifts for each other. One year instead of a specific person we brought a gift for a boy or a girl.

When I was in the 6th grade we put on a talent show. One of my friends and I decided to lip sync and act out a popular song. It was about a space man that came to earth and fell in love with an earth girl. He followed her around saying “I love you, I love you, I love you to bits” and she would run away. Finally they were on top of a building and she pushes him off and when she goes down to see he sits up and says “I don’t love you anymore”. After some looking, my wonderful husband identified the song as “The Little Blue Man” by Betty Johnson. This was 1958 and it was a big hit. We’ve put the you tube video at the end of this post if you’d like to listen to it.

I tried to find a copy of the song at the record store but they didn’t have it. I went to a radio station and begged them to let me have a copy of the record. They said I could buy it. I didn’t have any money and so I went to the school principle and asked him to pay for the record and I would work for the school to pay for it. It all turned out fine. When we did the program my Mom and Dad were sitting right up front and my Dad always had this big grin as he watched us. I had a really hard time not to laugh. But they said it was really good.

School was hard for me. As we began learning to read, I don’t know why but I had a very hard time getting it. Words did not make sense to me. I loved the stories and I loved it when my Mother would read to us. As we were required to learn spelling and arithmetic I could not keep up. Spelling especially was a mystery. I remember sitting on the couch as my Mother tried to “help” me. I would soon be in tears of frustration. It was all just a muddle to me. I don’t know how I managed to make it through the different grades. Finally when I was in the Fourth Grade my teacher was Mr. Bauer. He had quite a reputation as being kind of mean. I was a little scared of him. But bless his heart he took me under his wing and gave me the assignment to make a monthly calendar for the class. I could decorate it anyway I wanted. I could use the overhead projector to copy pictures on big sheets of paper to color. I felt very important. He had me help one of the other students with his multiplication tables. I barely knew them myself but now I realize that Mr. Bauer knew that if I helped someone else I would also learn. Then he had me come into school early and stay after school and read to him. He was very patient with me and at least I got some confidence and began to enjoy reading. I will always be grateful to Mr. Bauer for his kindness towards me.  Years later Mr. Bauer’s son married my cousin Nancy.

Here’s Betty Johnson

Going To School

I guess I started school when I was about 5 years old, that would be about 1951. Kindergarten was 6 weeks in the summer before 1st grade. I remember being excited to be going to school. We went for a few hours every day. I don’t remember too much but I think we had a nap time and snacks.

I went to West Elementary. This was a very old brick building. It was two stories and had a basement for the restrooms and a kitchen and lunch room. It sat on a large block with the Jr High, and the High School. The school district offices were in another building. That building also had a large auditorium that all three schools used for assemblies, movies, and special programs, and community programs. The auditorium was on the second floor and instead of stairs they had ramps. I remember marching in line up those ramps to go see news reels, puppet shows, plays that the High School staged, Christmas programs, all kinds of programs. One thing that I always remember about that auditorium was every year we would be marched up those ramps to get shots. Both sides of the auditorium would be lined with Doctors and Nurses and we would be sent down what felt like a death march. I felt like I was running the gauntlet. We would get a boaster shot that was supposed to keep us healthy. What it did was make our arms very soar and stiff for the next two weeks. The boys would hit you in the arm and laugh because it hurt. There would be a lot of screaming and crying and I would try to be brave but it was hard. The nurse would grab your arm and swab on the cold alcahol and the Doctor would jab you with that needle and it always hurt. I don’t care what they say it never didn’t hurt. Then we would be sent down the back stairs and back to our class rooms.

The lower grades were on the first floor and the 4th, 5th and 6th grades were on the second floor. One year the school built an attachment that connected the Jr. High and the Grade School building so that it became one large building. This attachment had a Home Economics room, Art room, and Choir room. The Jr. High and High School both used these class rooms. The doors connecting the grade school with the Jr. High were usually kept closed.

The grade school had a large slide, some swings, one of those merry-go-round things that could kill you if you let go when it was going fast. Our play ground was concrete and gravel. There were some basketball hoops and a large field for baseball. Over by the High School were some tennis courts.

By the time I was in the 4th grade I loved baseball and I think I was a pretty good hitter although I don’t remember being a very good fielder. We only played soft ball and I never learned how to use a baseball glove. But I was a pretty good tom boy. There are so many school year memories that I can not possibly get them all in one post. I think that is enough for today.

Cedar City’s Downtown District

Cedar City had a central downtown business district. There was a JC Penny’s, Woolworths, a Five and Dime, a office supply store, several dress shops and mens clothing stores. A Bank and the Post office and the Carnegie Library. Hunter Hardware sold sporting goods, tools and in the front of the store they had china and kitchen appliances and records. At Christmas time they stocked toys. Mother would take us there to look at the Christmas toys. It was wonderful to imagine what Santa would bring. I learned years later that my Dad sold his hand tied fishing flies and did gunsmith work for Hunter Hardware and earned credit at the store that he and Mom used for Christmas.

On the north end of Main Street on one corner was the El Escalante Hotel and across the street was the Union Pacific Train Station and on the other corner was the City Park and swimming pool. I mention the El Escalante Hotel because my Dad belonged to the Rotary Club and every year they would have a Father Daughter Lunch and these were held at the El Escalante Hotel. I remember having to be on my best behavior. Dad, Sandra, Kathryn and me. Sometimes, one of the men would not have a daughter so Dad would lend him one of us for the day. I felt so important when my Dad would stand up and introduce us. The room would be packed and you could hardly move your arms to eat. It was so exciting to be waited on and served our food and not have to do the dishes. The place settings would always have coffee cups and as soon as we sat down we would turn our cups upside down to signal the wattress that we did not drink coffee. Later my Dad joined the Lions Club. I think he liked this group better. He became President several times and Mother was active in the Lady Lions and was President of that organization also. They would go to National Conventions and would come home with so many fun pins and souvenirs. The Lions Club did a Father Daughter Lunch also and these were always fun. After the El Escalante Hotel closed meetings were held at the El Ray Motel.

Saturday Matinees

I did not get to go to the matinee every Saturday but when I did it was a treat. There were two indoor theaters in town. The ticket price for kids was 15 cents. The theaters were owned by the Yergensen brothers and one brother lived in our ward and had a daughter my age. Her name was Julie, she had blond hair and I always thought she was the prettiest girl in our class. I always thought it would be great to own a movie theater.

In the summer, especially, the theater would have contests. I remember one was to collect Meadow Gold Milk cartons or bottle caps. Some of the prizes that were offered were bikes, and the one I thought was the best was this huge Sugar Daddy candy bar. It was the biggest piece of candy I had ever seen. My treat of choice at the movies was a box of popcorn and a sugar daddy. Sometimes I would get atomic fire balls, or sugar babys. But Always pop corn. The matinee usually consisted of the previews of coming attractions, a serial and a cartoon then the feature. Some of my favorite serials were Captain Video, Hopalong Cassidy and Gene Autry. I liked Gene Autry better than Roy Rogers, I thought he sang better. But Roy Rogers did sing with a group called the Sons of the Pioneers. I loved their cowboy songs. For years I thought they were the Sons of the Utah Pioneers and I thought that was real neat they were from Utah. I was a kid, what can I say.

One of my favorite movies when I was young was “Calamity Jane” staring Doris Day and Howard Keel. I loved the color and the songs. Many times in my life I felt like a “Calamity Jane” too brass and too bold in order to hide my hurt and insecurities. Trying to be a friend and a hero to everyone but really just a scared little girl. I begged my husband to watch this movie with me just a few months ago and he did but he has some kind of prejudice  against Howard Keel and he just couldn’t see what what I saw. So we just laugh when I want to watch a movie with Howard Keel or Gordon MacRae

I would go to the matinees with my cousins or my older brother Douglas. We would usually walk downtown, and after the movie go to my Dad’s office and get a ride home. Sometimes after the movie we would stop at the store right next to the theater called the Candy Kitchen. They sold home made candy and drinks and I think they made sandwiches, hamburgers and such. It was kind of a hang out for the older kids. They made very good candy. Some of my favorites were sea foam, English toffee, fudge and divinity. They also sold ice cream cones and sundaes. Then one day the man who owned the store closed and moved to Page, Arizona, a new town that was created when the Glen Canyon Dam was being built. The closing of the Candy Kitchen was a great blow, I really missed it. Nothing ever really replaced it.

A few years later my Dad took us to see Glen Canyon Dam and we stopped in Page and visited the new Candy Kitchen man’s store. It was good to see him again but I was still mad at him. I realize now that it was amazing how my Dad was able to keep up with so many people. He knew everyone.

A Little Tale About Lowell Thomas

In the winter of 1968 - 69, I was 23.  I was working at the Grand Canyon North Rim. Some men came through and offered us jobs at Yellowstone National Park for the winter and then we could go back to the Utah parks to work the next summer. I was pretty much at loose ends. I didn’t want to go back to school so I thought this would be very interesting. We had been to Yellowstone once as a family and I was really fascinated. So I committed to go. Some of the other girls that I worked with said they would go also but when it came time to actually leave they were no shows. I showed up to report for work  at Mammoth Hot Springs in Yellowstone National Park. I drove my little ’56 Chevy. I felt like I was on a big adventure. I got there about a week before Thanksgiving. There was no snow and I soon learned that the Park people worried because that was how they survived during the winter. Guests would come into the park and then be taken by snowmobile into the park to see Old Faithful and other favorite sights.

In my last blog I talked about the great newscasters we listened to on the radio. Lowell Thomas was one of my favorites. He would close his show by saying “So long until tomorrow”. He traveled all over the world. After we got a TV, I remember watching him as he traveled to Tibet on the back of a donkey. I thought he had been everywhere.

It was never very busy during the week but the weekends we would have pretty large groups come in. I was asked to serve a special dinner at the Park Superintendent’s home for some dignitaries. We were told that these were very special guests and we were to do our work and stay out of the way. When I found out the special guest was Lowell Thomas I was so excited. Then I found out that in all his travels he had never been to Yellowstone. I was amazed. He had been everywhere but never to Yellowstone. He was getting pretty old by this time but he looked fit and trim.  Somebody took my picture with him and then they sent it to me. It is one of my prize possessions. Just to be in his presence and hear that famous voice was such a privilege.

Saturday Morning Radio

We did not get a TV until I was in the 9th grade. I started babysitting when I was about 10 years old. As TV began to find its way into peoples homes it was great when I could tend kids who had a TV. But right now I’ll talk about radio. We had a big radio and phonograph player in the living room. Saturday mornings we would gather around the radio to listen to a local children’s program. They would play a program called “Let’s Pretend”.  They would act out stories. I can’t remember exactly which ones but I think they were Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and other stories like these. It was sponsored by “Cream of Wheat” I can still hear the song in my head. “Cream of Wheat is so good to eat, we eat it every day.” It must have worked because I did like Cream of Wheat. The radio station sponsored a safe bike riding rally and if you entered you could win prizes. I was probably in 5th or 6th grade when I entered. I tried to do my best but I was not good enough. I think I got something for participating but I don’t remember. I do remember being disappointed and feeling a bit foolish. I have struggled for many years feeling stupid. This experience just helped verify this notion.

Radio was an important part of our lives. I remember listening to the evening dramas. The Lone Ranger, Gunsmoke, The Shadow, Dick Tracy and many others. In the daytime there were the soap opares, Our Miss Brooks, Guiding Light, Helen Trent and several others.  These were played in 15 minute segments. Then there was Arthur Godfrey, and Art Linkletter’s House Party, the best part of his show was “Kid’s Say the Darndest Things”. We would hurry home for lunch during school so that we could listen to Art Linkletter. When we finally got a TV and these shows were on TV we loved them even more.

We had a small radio in our room and on Christmas eve after Mom and Dad had banished us to our bedrooms and we were too excited to sleep, I remember quietly listening to Christmas programs. It seems like Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney were always on. Finally drifting off to sleep to the sounds of Bing Crosby. We only had one station in town so whatever they played we listened to. I believe they were a CBS affiliate and so we heard Edward R Murrow, Lowell Thomas and the other great CBS News casters. CBS would broadcast Symphony Orchestras and the Grand Old Opry. Our local station played a wide variety of music, so I grew up listening to big band, country, pop, classical and rock and roll. I developed an appreciation for a wide variety of music. This has proven very beneficial since meeting my husband Jim. It has given us a common ground that has given us many happy times.

These radio dramas served another purpose. I would get together with my cousins and we would act out the stories we heard. We would play Robin Hood, Prince Valiant, and Tarzan, seems like I was always the male part and Charlotte and Phyllis were the damsels in distress. Another story that we made up was Prince Jump over the Wall. I saw an old movie the other day that I think must have influenced us. It was the Thief of Baghdad and the hero climbed over the wall into the princess’s garden. So romantic.

What can I say we were kids.

We All Loved Bikes & Roller Skates

You would think with all the kids on our street that there would be bikes everywhere. But that was not the case. Sandra had a bike and later Doug got one. But that was all. Of course there were other families that had bikes but not every kid had their own bike. I remember trying to ride Sandra’s bike. It was too big for me but I was determined. I persisted and fell and skinned my knees and elbows many times. Aunt Mima was sure I was going to kill myself. Eventualy I mastered the bike and Life was Good.

My main mode of transportation after I grew out of the tricycle was roller skates. Talk about skinned knees and elbows. We did not have helmets and knee and elbow pads. I had scabbed knees for years. Scares upon scars. My roller skates were the kind you had to attach to your own shoes. You had a special key that would tighten them to your shoes. It was best to use leather soled shoes. Canvas shoes did not work very well. The skate would slip off too easily. But the skates would leave marks on you leather shoes. But to me that was a small price to pay for the mobility of skates. I could go all the way down town on my skates. I would wear the key around my neck and it would swing back and forth in front unless I stuffed it down my shirt. Just remembering those days I can almost taste the dust and feel the wind when I got to a hill and could just coast down. I liked to skate on the sidewalks around the college because they were wide and didn’t have as many cracks. But the college didn’t like the kids skating through so I had to be careful and not get caught. Now, I realize, what could they do but yell at me and tell me to get out. But I didn’t like to be yelled at. So I was careful.

What a great time to be a kid.

More Summer Stories

I remember watching my Mother learn to drive the car. I must not have been very old but it was a big deal. Aunt Wanda was the only woman on the street that could drive. I think after so many of the kids had cuts that needed to be taken to the doctor for stiches that Mother deceided she needed to be more independent. But it was a celebration when she got her license and summer became moble.

Now we could pack a lunch and head to Zion National Park for the day. First stop was usually the visitors center maybe for the bathroom. But they also had this really cool relief map of the park. I loved to find the different trails we hiked and follow the little green line with my finger. Then it would be off to the picnic tables across from the swinging bridge that took us to the Emerald Pool trail. We would catch lizards and horny toads along the way and laugh when they got away. After Emerald Pool it would be Weeping Rock, then the Narrows Trail. Each trail and stop offered opportunities to play in the water. Look for tadpolls and frogs. We thought Zion belonged to us. It was our park and we just let everyone else visit. I looked forward to the day when I could hike the more difficult trails. Finaly Doug and I hiked up to Angles Landing. What a thrill. Being so high above the canyon floor. One part of the trail was called refrigerator canyon because it was almost always in the shade and a breeze would hit you just as you turned a corner. It felt so good. Soon you came out on top. Then you realized you were not quite there. In order to get to the point of Angles Landing the hiker had to go over a narrow piece of the trail. A shear drop on both sides, no hand rails, maybe a chain to hold onto but it was not for the faint hearted. I don’t think eather of my sisters ever made it that far. I loved it. It was wonderful.

The other trail was up Lady Mountain. Dad, Doug and Richard hiked it even when Doug had a broken arm. They came home with tails of how hard it was and it was on shear rock most of the way. I wanted to go, but no, “I was a girl and too little”. Richard got to go and he was younger than me. It was just because I was a “girl”. Finally I went to work in Zion after I graduated from High School. I was a cabin girl. In other words I cleaned cabins for guests. But as soon as we were done with our units we were done for the day. That left time to go hiking. One of the first things I did was hike up Lady Mountain. Doug was just home from his Mission and he was working at Zion also. One day we went together. It was so great. It was difficult and often times there was nothing to hang onto. The park service had placed chains to help you climb. The trail was marked by paint on the rocks and foot holds chipped in the side of the mountian. That trail is now closed and no one is allowed to climb up there anymore. I don’t know why. Maybe the park service deceided it was too dangerous. But I was there and it was great.

Another Zion story. One year for my birthday we went to Zion and decided to go on a trail called Hidden Canyon. It was in the same place as Weeping Rock. It was a trail that went up into the cliffs and wound around into a canyon that could not be seen from the canyon floor. Even though it was the end of March it was hot and dusty. We had packed a lunch and planned to eat it when we reached the canyon. The trail was steep and winding. As we climbed Doug started falling behind. He said he was not feeling very good. At times he would double up on the trail and cry. I am ashamed to admit I was very upset with him for ruining my birthday. We finally made it to the Canyon and rested and ate our snacks. Doug by this time was not well and throwing up. We finally got home and Mom and Dad took Doug to the Doctor and he was soon in the hospital having his appendix out. You can believe I asked God to forgive me for all my bad thoughts that day.