Look to the Stars
by Alice Isom Gubler Stratton
Chapter 5
Big Things Happen
(1917)

17 ZCMI used to give Grandma a box of creamy, soft, swirly chocolate at Christmas time. The box was big, but so was Grandma's posterity, and I knew one piece was all I'd get. And this piece I licked fondly until there was nothing left but the good smell on my fingers. Sometimes Grandma gave me the empty fluted cups and breathing deeply I'd bury my nose in them. She knew what a rare treat this was to all of us.

One day when we were at Grandma's house with our cousins, she brought out her chocolate box. Breaking the cellophane from the shiny, pink box, she removed the velvet ribbon. Our mouths watered. She lifted the lid and chocolate aroma filled the room. To each child she passed her treasure. Breathlessly I waited and finally she held the box before me.

"Do you want a chocolate, Alice?" she asked.

Trying not to appear too eager I timidly replied, "I don't care."

"Well," she retorted, "If you don't care, I'm certainly not going to waste one on you."

And she didn't. I was crushed. But the lesson she taught me has never been forgotten. I learned that I'd better let it be known that I do care, one way or another, about everything of importance. I also learned to say, "Yes please," or "No thank you."

Grandma's house had plush carpets of red roses and dark green leaves on a rich brown background. Light, filtering through white lace curtains, was reflected in the soft sheen of her polished furniture.

Edith and I were her dusting girls. Sometimes our cousin Virginia Campbell helped. Edith was Grandma's favorite duster because she sat tirelessly under the dining table, working the dust cloth into every curlicue of the carved legs. Her fingers also went round and round through the fancy iron work under the sewing machine. I detested fussy details. Still, Grandma gave me as many lemon drops and peppermints as she did Edith. Edith knew she deserved 18 more and she and Virginia helped themselves from the shoe box of candy on the marble top table in the parlor. Those frosted lemon drops were as tempting to me as to them, but my nagging conscience held me back. So Edith and Virginia snitched freely and I shared the blame.

Grandma didn't blame gently either. Once she accused me of using all of her black shoe polish.

"Grandma, I didn't do it," I said.

"It's no use for you to tell me that, for I know full well you did," she snapped.

I stood up for myself the best I could, but she said I was being disrespectful and sassy. I was humiliated, because Aunt Mary Campbell was there. I hated being scolded in front of company. One look at my shoes would show that they never had been shined, except with soot, and that rarely.

Tears stung my eyes and my throat ached. I was trying hard not to cry. Aunt Mary put her arm around me. The squeeze of her hand and the look in her eyes told me she knew I was innocent. I resolved that when I became a Grandma I would never tell a grandchild they did something if they said they didn't.

Grandma braided my hair snake-braid. The idea was to weave each lock of hair in so tightly that it couldn't come undone. She wore a thimble as she braided, claiming it helped her do a neater, tighter job. That wasn't the real reason. The thimble was for thumping my head when I wiggled. I had to sit like a statue. She pulled my hair so tight at the temples that she almost braided my skin in too, and slanted the outer corners of my eyes up, and the corners of my mouth as well. A scowl would have been impossible because the muscles were stretched the opposite way. I became so tough headed I could have been hung by my braids without feeling it. But my hair, as Grandma lamented, was like snakes, crawling all of the time. Mama called it wiry. No way could the ends of my braids be fastened so they would stay. Once undone, the braids unraveled like pulling a thread on a knitted sock. That meant more head thumping from Grandma's thimble.

No squirrel ever stored more diligently for winter than Grandma did. In our granary she kept a forty-gallon wooden barrel with grapes pickled in molasses and water, and one for pickling corned beef and one filled with brine for cucumbers. All winter she dipped into these barrels, doling out goodies into her little brass bucket for us to take to her friends. On Saturdays or after school she would send me pattering across town with the shiny little bucket taking her offerings to Grandma Spendlove or Grandma and Grandpa Hinton or to Albert Stratton or Lizzie Lee.

Grandma ate her meals with us except when she had company. Then she cooked on our stove, but served her guests on her own pretty table with her elegant dishes. Once when she was taking currant pies from the oven, she dropped one. It spilled from the plate in a broken heap. I was glad, because she said, "You young ones can have it." No pie ever tasted so good as the one we ate from the kitchen floor. Her daughters used to say, "Ma is so saving, that if a fly lit in the molasses, she'd lick its legs before turning it loose." Papa said she was thrifty.

Even though Grandma and Papa did most of the disciplining, there were times when Mama took a hand, and when she did she made it good. She wouldn't tolerate 19 our quarreling or fighting. If two of us got into a scrap, she cut three willows, one for each of us and one for herself.

Raising her stick, she'd say, "All right, if you two want to fight you're going to do it right. Now you hit each other or I'll hit you."

My arm would go weak in the elbow. I couldn't begin to lift my stick. Looking at my sisters then back at Mama I'd whimper, "I don't want to fight."

"Do as you're told and hit each other," she would demand.

We'd both be sniveling by now. "We don't want to fight," we'd howl.

"Then kiss each other and behave yourselves."

Kissing each other was the worst punishment of all, but it was either that or the tingling of the willow. Usually it was the latter. But Mama didn't have to use this method on us often. It was drastic enough to make for lasting peace.

But the world wasn't at peace. Grandma digested the Deseret News each evening and we got a review of the news the following day at meal time. Often when I was busting to talk, Papa would say, "Shhh, Grandma is talking."

A war was going on. The Germans, especially Old Kaiser Bill, were the bad guys and the English, with the British Fleet were the good guys and they were scrapping over France. Little Belgium was the stomping ground.

When our stable was cleaned, the manure was always pitched out of the two east windows. The mounds dried and we used to play one mound was Bunker Hill and the other Golden Hill. We wore a powdery trail in between as we ran back and forth. Now these piles became France and Germany and we played "Kaiser Bill went up the hill to kill the king of France. Kaiser Bill came down the hill with bullets in his pants."

As Grandma reported the news, vivid pictures built up in my mind. The British and Germans were deadlocked somewhere in Belgium. Neither side could advance, so they dug trenches for themselves. Parallel lines of trenches ran clear across northern France from Flanders to Switzerland. "No man's land" was the strip between. I pictured the Germans burrowing in their muddy trenches like mean little gophers. Grandma's reports were awful! Millions of lives were lost in those trenches by machine guns, poison gas and liquid fire.

Stories of German submarines filled the news. Grandma was aghast at the news when the Lusitania was sunk, drowning over a thousand people. The Lusitania was a British ship of war, but was carrying just plain people, a lot of them Americans. President Woodrow Wilson let Germany know we didn't like this one bit, but Germany sank eight more American Ships. In a single week they sank eighty-eight ships. (History of the American People by David Saville Muzzey, pages 631-637)

President Wilson said, "It is a fearful thing to lead this great and peaceful people into war … but the right is more precious than peace." (Muzzey, p. 631)

On April 6, 1917 the United States of America declared war on Germany! Our country was involved in World War I. (Muzzy 632)

Fortunately, the world continues to turn, war or no war, and springtime brings sheep shearing time. The Goulds Shearing Corral upon the Hurricane Hill was fast becoming the biggest operation of its kind in the world, so the story goes. Aunt Alice and Uncle Will Spendlove ran one cook shack, cooking for thirty or forty men, and Thad and Lizzy Ballard ran the other cook shack, cooking for the 20 same number of men. Uncle Will came to Hurricane almost every day for water and supplies, and Thad did too. Thad had a water tank that was as long as the bed of his wagon.

Papa decided it would be a good family outing to go to Goulds so he borrowed Uncle Ren's team and wagon. To ride anywhere was a treat to us. Mama put a denim quilt over a shuck tick in the wagon box for us to sit on and packed the grub box. She sat up front on the spring seat beside Papa.

I was so excited I could hardly contain myself. I thought of the good picnic Mama had prepared and of seeing Aunt Alice and Uncle Will and of watching the men shear sheep.

When Papa slapped the reins, on the horses backs, the wagon creaked and swayed as the horses pulled into the ruts in the road. Going up the Hurricane Hill was scary, because the dugway was narrow and steep, but I savored each turn of the wheels. Once on top, the horses settled into an easy gait and I stretched out on the bed, enjoying the protection of the tightly stretched wagon cover over the bows that the beating sun illuminated but did not penetrate. The horses jogged along and the wagon wheels ground pleasantly in the dirt, lulling me to sleep. When I awoke, we were going down the hill and Papa was pulling back on the brake rope.

"Aren't we going to Goulds?" I asked.

"We have been to Goulds," one of my sisters replied.

"But I haven't," I cried.

"Oh yes you have. You just didn't wake up," someone said.

Crawling over to where Mama sat, I said, "Mama, I haven't been to Goulds, have I!"

She looked at me in surprise and put her arm around me. "Bless you," she said, "I guess we forgot to wake you."

"Oh Mama," I cried, "you didn't have the picnic without me did you?"

She looked stricken. "I'm afraid we did. There were so many people, I guess we didn't notice you were still in the wagon asleep."

I didn't just cry. I howled broken heartedly. How could anyone do that to me! How could they, when we simply never, never went anywhere! "I didn't even get to see the shearing corral," I bawled.

Everyone was sorry, but I knew I would never get to go again, and I didn't.

My disappointment over the Goulds trip was deeper than I can express. It had been so good just to smell a wagon cover again and to hear the clopping of horses. A longing for the annual trek to Kolob was revived, stirring within me almost to the point of obsession. I yearned for the sight of bluebells, pink phlox, squirrels and pine trees.

I'm sure Mama felt very sorry about the slip-up on the Goulds trip too, so when Aunt Ellen and Uncle Ren Spendlove invited me to go to Kolob with them for the summer, Mama and Papa consented to let me go. I was transported with joy. I loved every turn of the road, camping under the open sky, watching the dying embers of the campfire, hearing once more the sound of horses munching grain in their nose bags. With a happy heart I drifted off to sleep.

The early morning climb up the mountain brought us to Heaven! A Heaven of long needle pines, the smell of sage and racing through the meadow with Venice and Velma.

21 Aunt Ellen made corn bread for supper. She put a piece on my plate with yellow butter melting through it. I took one bite but could not swallow. I looked at the dear faces in the lamplight. WHERE WAS MAMA? WHERE WERE MY SISTERS AND PAPA? My throat tightened. I picked up my plate and headed for the door.

"Where are you going?" Aunt Ellen asked.

With a gulp I answered, "I want to eat my corn bread outside."

It was still twilight. I sat with my back against a pine tree, my plate in my lap. I tried to eat but couldn't. Tears were splashing on my dress. Why? Here I was at my very own Kolob, sitting against my favorite tree, with my favorite food on my plate, still I was crying. Digging a hole in the sand, I buried the bread and then I cried hard. In that moment I knew Heaven would never be Heaven without my family.

The next day Lafe and Tennessee Spendlove galloped in on a little buckboard to deliver some things to Aunt Ellen. They were returning to Hurricane that afternoon, and I begged to go with them. Venice and Velma coaxed me to stay, but I would not.

When I got home, Hurricane looked hot, dull and dry. I realized that I had run away from Kolob. This time I fell desperately ill. Heartbroken, a homesick longing as big as the earth and sky seemed almost to crush the life out of me, a longing to bring together the two dearest things on earth to me, my family and Kolob. And this could never be.

It was quarterly conference and the house swarmed with relatives from "up the river." I was on the bed in the northwest bedroom and was going to die. I knew it and I knew Mama and all of the relatives knew it. This was the end. Then I saw the concern on Mama's face and I said, "Mama, if you will get Brother Barber and Brother Jepson to help Papa administer to me I will be better." They came and after the administration I was well instantly.

On June 5th, my cousin Ianthus Campbell died. He was one of the babies that had inspired my sisters to pray for twins. Now Iantha was left without her twin the same as I was.

Ianthus used to play ball in the street with us. Our balls were made of tightly wound carpet rags, stitched on the outside with carpet warp in a honeycomb stitch. Our bats were pieces of board whittled narrow at the handle and wide as a paddle—the wider the better our chance for hitting the ball.

Sometimes Ianthus teased me. Once I got so aggravated I hit him with the garden rake. I couldn't hit him good because the rake was too heavy for me to swing, but I got him good enough to make him run home bawling. Uncle Lew said he was going to take me to Kolob and use me for coyote bait. Now Ianthus was gone and he would never pitch a ball to me again, and I wished I had never hit him.

But Uncle Lew and Aunt Mary still had one boy, Marcus, the same age as Edith. The nearest thing Papa had to being a boy was me. Grandma said I was a Tomboy, and Papa encouraged it. When Sam Pollock came to play checkers, Papa used to get me to shinny up the porch poles. Sam would say, "Ah George, she can climb as good as any boy." I wasn't interested in being "as good as." I wanted to be "better than," so that's when I started climbing to the peak of the barn. When Grandma 22 saw me walking along, the ridge of the barn roof, she fluttered into the yard screeching, "Aaalliss, come right down before you break your neck!" From my perch she looked wonderfully small down by the woodpile, and I loved her clucking and ruffling her feathers over me. I climbed down, but I knew I would climb up again because I wanted Papa to brag about me. Then there was the mulberry tree in front of Grandma's house. The top limbs were even higher than the barn. When Grandma saw me swaying overhead she went into a most satisfactory dither and I climbed down to please her. Between her spasms and Papa's bragging I felt famous.

We used to sing a song that went something like this:

My sister wears a velvet dress and ostrich feather hat
And white kid gloves and shiny shoes and all such things as that.
She goes to parties, matinees and dances all she can,
But she can never do the things I'll do when I'm a man.

Chorus

A girl can't be a cowboy, or run away to sea,
Or be an Injun fighter, like I intend to be,
So I don't care what she may wear, it never makes me mad,
For I shall run the country when I'm big like Dad.

This song made me wish I was a boy. Sometimes I honestly resented being a girl.

Although it had been years since Grandma had closed her store in Virgin, she could still buy wholesale from ZCMI. In fact, ZCMI not only gave her chocolates every year, but they also gave her a rich looking satin dress piece every summer when she returned to Salt Lake to visit relatives and friends. And always she returned with a big cardboard box filled with white canvas slippers, a pair for each of her granddaughters. She bought them for ten or twenty cents a pair. With each pair she gave us a half-moon shaped piece of chalk to keep them white. We only wore them on the 4th and 24th of July and on Sunday. The rest of the time we went barefooted.

Sometimes we made moccasins out of the backs of old overalls, to protect our feet from the scorching earth and from the grass burs. Our winter shoes—and there was only one pair a year—had high tops that either laced or buttoned. A button-hook hung by the door between the front room and the kitchen. Saturday nights we turned a stove lid upside down and with a rag and spit we rubbed soot on our shoes, blacking them for Sunday.

Frank Beatty traded property with Charlie Workman and moved his family practically off the earth. They moved at least two miles away in the Hurricane fields. That meant that I lost Mildred Beatty for a playmate. But Workmans built a house a half block up the street and I got a new playmate, Eloise. Eloise's sisters Hazel, Flora and Delsey used to read stories to us. When they read the people in the stories came alive, they were so full of expression. Eloise's brothers Carl and Eldon treated us like grown-ups and entertained us, and Sister Workman would put out big glass fruit bowls filled with dried malaga grapes and paper shelled almonds on Sunday afternoon. We loved to visit at Workman's home.

In the fall, a most disgraceful thing happened! When school started they put all of the dumb little six year olds in with us. The "Beginners" was discontinued and the new kids started right out in the first grade! It wasn't fair! 23 With a wounded, superior air, we looked down on those little "babies" the whole year through. But one thing eased the blow, and that was that it made us kind of distinctive for we were the last of the beginners, and the new little kids were the first, first graders to be only six years old.

The new school building was not quite finished, so we started the first grade in the Relief Society building.

Great things were going on in Hurricane. Tall power poles were being planted down every street. How exciting it was when electricians began wiring our house! My little sisters and I were right underfoot to grab every metal slug the men dropped to the floor. They were the size and color of nickel coins.

The electric power was turned on in Hurricane in September 1917. Every corner had a street light and lights shone from every home. How beautiful it was!

Light globes were delicate, exquisite things of thin, crystal clear glass, with delicate wires inside, glowing first red, then bright yellow when the power was turned on. A globe hung from a drop cord in the center of each room in our house. The front room, kitchen and hall had wall switches—push buttons in a copper plate. In the other rooms the lights were turned on at the globe. We were fascinated with the magic that took place when we pushed the button, but Papa sternly said, "This is no play thing. You will wear out the switches." He made a strict rule that the lights were to be turned on only once each night, and we could take turns at that. When it was my turn, I looked forward with excitement all day for the coming of night. We boasted and bragged to our playmates about the brightness of our lights. To out-do us all, Iantha said their lights were so bright they had to open the door to let a little dark in.

Burned out light globes became treasures. Women crocheted lace coverings for them and used them as ornamental curtain tie-backs.

But electricity was undependable. We didn't put the kerosene lamp away, because with every gusty wind or rain squall, the power went off. Each time Mama lit the lamp, Papa remarked, "Another cow must have stepped in the Santa Clara Creek." That's where our power came from.

On the morning of October 30th Grandma came from Mama's bedroom. "Good morning girls," she said, "the stork brought you a little baby brother in the night."

Papa came into the room with a funny look on his face. It was a grin with tears in it, like he was laughing and crying at the same time.

"Come quietly and you can see your new brother," Grandma said, going into Mama's room ahead of us.

Mama smiled at us and pulled the covers back so we could see the little creature that was bundled beside her. Well! He certainly wasn't any beauty. He was bald headed as a jack-o-lantern. If he had waited one more day he would have been born on Halloween. "If I were Mama," I thought, "I'd stick to girls."

What I couldn't quite figure out was why everyone who came to our house made such a fuss over Papa. All of our Aunts kissed him and said, "Well George, at last you have a fine son," and the corners of Papa's mustache twitched and he batted his eyes like something was in them. Not one soul said, "Well George, you have six lovely daughters!" Except Sam Pollock. When he came to play checkers with Papa he'd sort of say it in a round about way. He'd say, "Ah George, someday the devil will pay you off in sons-in-laws."

Our brother was named William Howard for a whole line of grandfather Williams going back on both sides, and for our Howard ancestry that came from England. 24 Papa had Howard in his name too, and since George had been given to my twin, our new brother got the Howard part.

During all of the excitement of Hurricane growing, and our family growing, Grandma still kept us posted about the war with Germany. We heard about, saw and felt the effects daily. Every man between the ages of twenty-one and thirty had to register for military service. Looking back, I don't see how our country could have had such a jaunty air about going overseas. Our soldiers joked and laughed and sang, making the war appear to be a romantic adventure. Snatches of their songs went something like this:

Johnny get your gun, get your gun, get your gun,
Take it on a run, on a run, on a run,
Make your daddy proud of you, and your own red, white and blue.

Over there, over there, send a word, say a prayer,
For the Yanks are coming, their hearts are strumming,
The drums are drumming everywhere.

… We're going over …
And we won't be back till it's over, over there.

In every little church house in every little town farewell parties were held. The entire town gathered for the farewell party when the first soldier boys left Hurricane. Sweethearts and mothers were in tears. I remember Josephine Spendlove, Mattie Segler and Annie Workman, sweethearts of Elmer Wood, Ren Spendlove and Claude Hirschi. The girls were dressed in sheer blouses, and their lacy camisoles with tiny pink or blue ribbon bows showed through. They looked so romantic to me. Through their smiles, they shed just enough tears to make the occasion sweet and sad and I got a lump in my throat. The following two songs were sung and continued to echo in my mind, because we heard them many times afterward:

SMILE AWHILE

Goodbye means the birth of a teardrop.
Hello means the birth of a smile.
Over high garden wall, the sweet echoes fall
As a soldier boy whispers goodbye.

Smile awhile, you kiss me sad adieu.
When the clouds roll by I'll come to you.
Then the skies will seem more blue
Down in lover's lane, my dearie.
Wedding bells will ring so merrily,
Every tear will be a memory.
So wait and pray each night for me
Till we meet again.

SO LONG MOTHER

So long my dear old mother, don't you cry.
Come, kiss your grown up baby boy goodbye.
Somewhere in France I'll be dreaming of you,
You and your dear eyes of blue.

Come, let me see you smile before we part.
I'll throw a kiss to cheer your dear old heart.
There's a tear in your eye, don't you sigh, don't you cry.
So long mother, kiss your boy goodbye.

The following day people gathered on the streets to wave goodbye as our soldiers left town in a Model T Ford, on their way to Camp Lewis.