Look to the Stars
by Alice Isom Gubler Stratton
Chapter 11
Annie Comes Home
(1923)

54 In a letter to Annie and Kate, dated January 11, 1923, Mama says:

Dear Girls,

I certainly have a comp for you both. William came in with an egg and said "The hen laid this that has a face like Kate. There's one hen with a face like Annie's and one with a face like Ianthus Spendlove and there's five black hens that have faces like Kate's." I remember the time when things looked that way to me. Even houses had faces with frowns or smiles and usually resembled some member of the family that lived in them.

Wayne has his second tooth and can say "coon" through his nose just like Annie used to sing "coon, coon" and he can say "pop, pop, mom, mom, pop."

Feb. 14—Mildred has gone to a Valentine dance tonight and the others are flying about town and we are sitting here without a fire and it is bed time and as I can think of nothing to write, I think we will hie to bed.

Maybe I had better tell you about Freckles. When Grandma was out, he went in and struck a lot of matches and mixed up some dope, then came home and drank all her pepper sauce, then cried till bed time, thought he was hungry because his stomach burned. Today he made another visit there. She discovered it and brought him home. He broke a bowl, poured all my yeast out and I didn't know it till I was ready to make the bread. I put some kindlings behind the stove for morning and he started to build a fire there. LaPriel bought a valentine. He burned that up. Well, that's nearly a daily program or its equivalent. Love, from Mama.

Clinton's mania for matches kept Mama constantly on guard. He had a fascination for electric outlets too. Instead of plug-in sockets, we had screw-in sockets, which were little wells in the wall. The well was protected with a round copper door hinged onto a wall plate. We all wore high-topped button shoes, so the button hook hung handy-by on the door casing between the living room and kitchen, near our one electric outlet.

On his exploratory rounds, Clinton pushed his chair into the doorway, and climbed after the button hook. The pretty copper wall plate caught his eye. With nimble fingers he opened the little door and caught sight of the shiny copper spot in the center of the well. To touch this with the button hook was the logical thing to do, so he took a jab at it. A sputtering circle of light whipped like a lasso around the room, and with a yelp, Clinton landed on his back on the floor.

55 Following are parts taken from a letter written by me to Kate and Annie, dated March, 1923:

Self illustration of Alice with bows in her braided hair

Dear Sisters … Clinton says to tell you our turkey layed a egg. Did you feel a breeze up there day before yesterday? Well, it struck us. The ground just flew around in the air. The peddles on the apricot flowers layed on the place where the ground ought to be. Some ground got in a pan where the milk ought to be. The milk got on the floor where the ground ought not to be. My hair flew up in the air where the sunshine ought to be, the sunshine was up in the clouds where the rain ought to be. Some storm.

Kate I heard a comp for you. I heard that you was the most unselfish and best girl ever. Good for you.

Annie I am glad you are looking and feeling so well. I hope you soon ketch up with your work.

Mildred gets the sore throat every Saturday so she can get out of the work. ... When you kids get home I will squeeze you to pieces. Beware!!! … Kate I am the only girl that wears ribbons in my hair. I don't care. Oh yes, Ione Tiffony wears her hair that way too. … I am as ever your loving sister, Alice. OX OX OX OX Two hugs and kisses apiece.

One morning in history class, Karl Larsen said, "Alice, will you ask your Grandma if she'll come and visit our class?"

"Oh yes," I exclaimed. I knew Grandma could hold the class spellbound with her stories.

When I asked her. Grandma said, "I'll be happy to come."

"Mr. Larsen said he'd come for you in his car. Our class is at 10 o'clock," I told her.

Next morning I said, "Mr. Larsen, Grandma will be ready when you call for her."

"Good," he replied, proceeding with the class.

I was so anxious for him to go after her that the class seemed eternal. Finally, slipping up to his desk, I whispered, "Aren't you going after Grandma?"

56 "Why, I haven't asked her to come yet," he answered in surprise. "I only wanted to know if she would."

I felt horrible. Dashing home at noon I found Grandma waiting and watching out the window for Mr. Larsen's car. She had even curled her hair with irons heated in the lamp chimney. Primly she sat in her black satin dress, the one I loved most of all with the ecru lace dickey and the embroidered red rose.

"Oh Grandma," I cried, "I'm so sorry. Mr. Larsen didn't tell me which day he wanted you to come."

A hurt look flashed across her face, but quickly she smiled and put her arm around me. "It's all right. I'll come when he wants me."

Mr. Larsen never did say when he wanted her, and I struggled with my tottering faith in grownups.

Our bishop died February 2, 1923. He was the only bishop I had ever known. It pleased me when he gave me a pat on the back. Paying tithing had been fun ever since the day I took him my rooster. Bishop Isom's home was beautiful, with a stairway sweeping grandly down into the living room. Before he built his home, he lived in a tent. In those days he kept the tithing and fast offering money in a can in his wheat bin, and when the Church Auditor came to see him, he put a horse blanket around the Auditor to keep him warm.

People paid tithing in cash if they could. If they couldn't, they paid in produce, and the Bishop gave them a receipt. The produce given to the "worthy poor" didn't have to be turned into the Church as cash, but the surplus did. If the Bishop couldn't sell it, he bought it himself. Since he already raised everything he needed, he usually ended up giving the surplus to those who didn't qualify as "the poor." He had always been kind and good to everyone, and the people loved him.

Ira Bradshaw was put in as our new Bishop on May 20, 1923.

I was absent the day our class planned a party for the closing of school, so my invitation came by mail in a pretty pink envelope. It read "Lady Alice, robed in velvet, scarcely deigned to fling a glance, on the coarse home woven cotton, flitting through the rustic dance. Lady Alice will you please me, by coming to the school house bright, very early in the evening at 7:30 Saturday night?" It was signed "Theron Lathum." He had happened to draw my name.

At the party we danced awkwardly together, and then the class played games. Because our house was on the way to his, Theron walked me home after the party, but neither of us said anything. Theron's cheeks were fat and pink. I liked bashful, round-faced boys, and thought of him as my boy friend after that. I saw him cast shy glances in my direction too, but we never did get around to speaking to each other.

Just before school closed, our entire class sneaked off to Gould's Wash, to picnic, including me. I hadn't forgotten my unpopularity on April Fool's Day last year when everyone disappeared but me. Even the teacher looked annoyed when she saw me sitting there alone. The memory of it gave me the 57 courage to sluff with the rest of the class.

After school was out, a letter from Annie informed us of the day she would be home. Excitedly we watched every car as it came around the bend by Pete Lathum's.

"Annie will be in this car," we'd cry. As the car sped on, we'd say, "Nope. She wasn't in that one. She will be in the next one."

And so the game continued during the anxious waiting hours. As night came. Papa entered the game. Each set of beaming headlights was the one. At last! A car stopped at our gate and Annie got out with her suitcases!

How pretty she was. Her cheeks were round and rosy, an infallible mark of beauty, her eyes sparkled, and her clothes looked like college. With my flair for romance, I was excited to learn that Annie had a boyfriend, too. His name was Rass Matheson. She met him while Kate worked for Rass's sister-in-law Gwen. Instinctively I knew she would marry him, and all of the Mathesons would be our relatives.

Annie was an efficient stenographer, speedy in shorthand and typing, so Charlie Petty hired her. So now, after having been gone for so long, she was finally living home again.

Summer is happy things sandwiched in between work. After school let out, Mildred went to work for Orson Hall in St. George, but she got homesick and I was glad. Together we made a cozy nook with our pillows and an old camp quilt among the willows along the canal bank and settled down to read love stories. My favorite was B. M. Bauer's "Chip of the Flying U." My emotions soared like a bird on the wings of romance. The background music of water racing through the headgate and splashing down the hill, the rustling of the willows, and twittering of the birds helped. Next we read "The Sheik." It was a little more sophisticated, but still we were transported.

The Sheik, on his white horse, dashed across the desert and kidnapped a French girl from the caravan, holding her close to his beating heart under his flying, sweet smelling white robes. They galloped over the moonlit sand to his private tent, apart from his harem. She never knew when he silently slipped away in the night.

Unluckily, Grandma got hold of the book. "Annie," she exclaimed to Mama, "do you know what sort of trash these girls are reading?"

"Grandma, if isn't trash," I said defensively. "It's a good love story."

"It's trash," she insisted.

The book vanished and we never saw it again.

Reading with Mildred on the canal bank was a short-lived joy, for she went to work in the laundry at the Wiley Way in Zion.

Just as sleeping with Edith had had its humor, like her peeking under the bed to see who was there, so she livened up the dish doing. Pointing to some specks on the shade at the kitchen window, she would say, "Each dot represents a hundred-thousand people." Then she'd launch into a Grand Opera performance, mimicking a lady in town who had a penetrating, high vibrato. And so she sang as she washed, while I wiped the dishes.

58 But Edith did not believe in unnecessary drudgery, especially at her expense. One day, as we cleared the dinner table, Edith gave LaPriel a swat on the head.

"What was that for?" Papa demanded.

"She didn't have to dirty her whole plate," Edith retorted. "She could have put her molasses on just one spot."

Papa did his best to carry on the normal activities of a man, like riding the range. Mama used to carry a chair out in the yard for him to climb upon to mount his horse. He stayed in the saddle all day long, and when he came home at night, she helped him dismount.

One day a bull gored his horse and Papa was thrown off, breaking a couple of ribs. Uncle Ren Spendlove's boys helped him home. That was the last time he ever rode for cattle, but as soon as his ribs mended, he resumed walking to the barbershop every day with his checkerboard.

Across the street from the barbershop, was the Isom Hotel, where the traveling salesmen, or "drummers" put up. They, too, joined in the checker games. One drummer, Mr. Van Horn, came to our home in the evenings and taught Papa the game of chess. When Papa was involved in a game, he was oblivious to everything else.

One evening, Robert Woodbury came to visit him, but he was involved in a chess game with Mr. Van Horn. After visiting with Mama for a spell, Brother Woodbury finally arose. Papa and Van Horn were silently staring at their chessmen. It had been minutes since either one of them had spoken or moved.

Grinning, Brother Woodbury said, "Well, goodnight Annie. Please tell George I've been here to see him."

With Annie clerking in Petty's store, luxuries began to appear on our table, like bananas and pineapple. Annie made wonderful new kinds of pies, too. And more than that, she set our table with beautiful, new dinner plates. They were larger than the ones I got from Lee's Manufacturing Company, and nicer. She bought a generous set, enough for our big table. Lovingly I washed them when it was my turn to do the dishes.

Then it came LaPriel's turn to clear the table. She stacked the plates, and carried them in one load to the kitchen. Somehow they slipped, shattering in fragments on the floor. What a disaster! I think all of us went into shock.

"LaPriel, look what you have done," Papa shouted. "Now you will have to get busy and pay for every one of them."

LaPriel was our littlest sister, scarcely nine! Conscientiously, she saved every penny she earned, then finally Annie and Mama came to her rescue and helped her. Mama never scolded when we broke a dish. She knew how we felt, and that was punishment enough.

Taking out tonsils was a neighborhood affair. When LaPriel had hers removed. Dr. Baker did the mass operations in Will Wilson's home. Now it was time for Willie and Clinton to get their tonsils out. The leaves on our 59 dining table were opened up for the slaughter. How many youngsters were operated on in our living room, I don't recall, but I do remember that the house was heavy with chloroform, and there were groggy, blood-spitting kids rolled up in blankets lying all about the room.

Papa's enthusiasm about my sales ability with Excelcis was so great that he decided I should cover LaVerkin, too. Because of his desire to help, he walked the two miles down the dugway, across the river and up the other side with me to LaVerkin. The sun was blistering hot. By the time we had canvassed the town as far as Grace Stout's home, my world turned black. Sister Stout said I was having a sun stroke. She had us come in and rest, and she brought us a drink. As we left, she put one of her daughter's pretty straw hats on my head. The hat had blue streamers down the back. A man came along in a wagon and Papa asked if we could ride with him to Hurricane. When the goods arrived from Excelcis, Papa arranged for a car to take us to LaVerkin. I earned about $5.00 a month for taking orders.

One day I sat yearning over a picture of satin pumps in the Chicago Mail Order Catalog. Holding my feet in front of me, I fancied I could see the soft sheen of black satin and the glitter of rhinestone buckles upon them. With a sigh I looked up as Mama came into the room.

"Look how pretty, Mama, and they only cost $2.00. Can I order them?"

"Don't be foolish," she cautioned. "Satin becomes rags. To put those slippers on your feet would be like casting pearls before swine."

What a thing for Mama to say! I knew very well she didn't think of me as a swine. Mulling this over in my mind, I realized that since all I ever had was one pair of shoes at a time, satin pumps wouldn't be so good for climbing upon the hill.

That fall I was in the seventh grade and Karl Larsen was my full-time teacher. I remember Karl mostly for his beautiful art work on the blackboard in colored chalk, for his excellence in teaching music, and for saving Lalif Wood's life. Lalif was so happy about his new necktie that he kept tying and untying it. Once he slipped the knot so tight under his collar that he couldn't loosen it. His face got red, then redder and redder. When his ears turned purple, one of the boys shouted, "Mr. Larsen, look at Lalif!" With a bound Mr. Larsen was down the aisle. Quick as a flash he pulled out his pocket knife and cut Lalif's tie free.

I submitted a second drawing to the Juvenile Instructor. This one was of a boy with a rag wrapped around his stubbed toe. When it was published, I received a Hiawatha Reader "Being Longfellow's Song of Hiawatha" edited by Robert George. In the preface is written, "To teach a child to read, and not teach him what to read, is to put a dangerous weapon into his hands." Then it goes on to say that the Song of Hiawatha is recognized as one of the most fascinating poems in our language. The book is beautifully illustrated and although loved and worn, is still on my book shelf today.

The biggest event each fall was the coming of the Ellison White Chautauqua troupe to Hurricane. For five nights they played on stage in the school house. Posters announcing their coming were up in Judd's and Petty's store windows, and I was always waiting in the school yard as their vans, loaded with stage props, arrived. Every year I passed handbills to earn a season's ticket.

60 Each night I sat spellbound, as the troupe of actors played their great and moving drama and my tears flowed freely as I lived every line, until one night, during "The Great Divide," Fern Ruesch leaned forward, putting her face in front of mine.

"Alice, you're crying," she giggled.

Embarrassed, I wiped my cheeks. In that moment I resolved to never be caught crying in public again. Now I wish I could shed tears more freely.

At Thanksgiving time, Mama wrote the following letter to Kate, who was working in Cedar.

Hurricane, Utah

26 November 1923

Dear Daughter:

We will send your underware so you can be warmer. Wish you had them now as it is getting colder. There was ice on the step this morning where the spray came from the tap, and I saw a very thin ice in the corral a few mornings ago, the only bit I have seen this fall. The wind is blowing frightfully just like it did twelve years ago tonight when our only little boy left us. The whole of this month has reminded me so much of that one, but I must not think of such things when there are so many things to be thankful for.

I will tell you of some of our friends (friends in need, friends indeed) good acts. Perhaps you remember of Charles Allen hauling our hay last summer and there was so little of it that he would not take pay, then Brother Reber cut the grain and when Papa told him to bring his sacks at threshing time for his pay he did not do it, just laughed and said he could do that much for nothing. James Stanworth put in the fall grain out in the field and when we asked his bill he said "Nothing."

Charles Allen hauled two cords of wood for us and had the town credit one to himself and the other to Uncle Ren, on woodhaulers day for the disabled and widows and Papa got him to put up our last cutting of hay on shares here and when we got after him, he said that was all right, just to let him know any time he could help. And Howard Isom sawed our wood and said their regular price was $5.00, but would only charge us $3.75 Uncle Ren and Uncle Will have both thrown off a few sticks of wood occasionally when passing. When we asked Will Spendlove his price for taking you up there, he said he was glad to do that much to help you.

Well, good night and keep well. Love from Mama.

The dining table was the family social center. When the leaves were up it could seat twelve people. Usually, after the supper dishes were done, we sat around the table with our school books and studied. Sometimes we played games, like "Up Jinks" or "Button, Button," or "Pox and Geese." Our games were all homemade, except, of course, Papa's checkers.

At Christmas time, Annie gave the family a deck of Finch cards. During the holidays we played the game with fascination. Never had we enjoyed a holiday season more. Day after day we played, until the game became an 61 obsession.

Once, when Papa asked us to set the table for supper, someone said, "In a minute. We are almost finished."

Sternly Papa arose, demanded that we hand him our cards, then he threw them in the fire. We sat in stunned silence. We couldn't believe he would do such a thing to something that had brought so much pleasure. It was like a bereavement. We were each crying bitterly within, but knew better than to show any outward signs. Instead, we quietly set the table.