Look to the Stars
by Alice Isom Gubler Stratton
Chapter 20
Sing a Song of Six Pence (1931)

114 With the holidays behind, I moved my belongings from our bachelor quarters at Vergene Simpkins' home, to Winferd's dinky apartment. Kate had been a second mother to me for a year and a half of college, providing the place to live and the groceries. Kate had fussed over me, loved me, and worried about me. A lifetime of gratitude or good deeds on my part could never repay her for all that she had meant to me. Vergene's apartment would be more serene without me, since there were still three school teachers, Kate, Edna Heaton and Sylvia Jones, living there, and one student, LaVema Heaton. The extra closet space would be appreciated.

Winferd took me to live in the basement laundry room that had been his quarters since starting school. He paid his rent by sweeping snow and making fires for Amy Leigh. The cubby-hole "apartment" was furnished with two built-in, cast iron, laundry tubs, hot and cold running water, and assorted pipes, both large and small, that criss-crossed the ceiling. Winferd had squeezed in his camp cot, folding table and chairs, and his little gas stove. And that was Home Sweet Home.

Surveying our bridal suite, I said, "Shall we fix up the place?"

"You're the lady of the house. Where do we start?"

"Let's put a broom stick across this corner to hang our clothes on, then we can get your shirts and pants down off those pipes. We can use a piece of cretonne for the closet door and to curtain the little window."

The transformation began. An Indian blanket replaced the denim camp quilt on the bed, and a bright flowered cloth covered the metal table. Inspired, Winferd built a couple of shelves for books and dishes, and I made a curtain for them too.

"My, what a difference a woman and a piece of cretonne makes," he grinned.

115 At the end of the winter quarter, I took a job at Bradshaw Chevrolet, and Winferd stayed in school. That $50.00 a month pay check looked pretty big. The depression was on, and prices hit rock bottom. A three-pound box of soda crackers sold for 18¢, and a not-very-pretty cotton dress could be bought at Penny's for 35¢. People traded labor or bartered as far as possible, but some things demanded cash.

Now that we were rich, we rented an apartment with room to move about in. Before, one of us had to exhale, when the other went by.

We moved into Stephen's Apartments on Main Street. The rooms were big, pretty, and fully furnished. There was a bathroom, too! It was like getting heaven for $10 a month.

Winferd became a victim of a teacher's contract fraud. For a $25.00 fee, a phony firm guaranteed him a contract at the end of the school year. The salesman who took his money did a lively business throughout Utah before being convicted. Winferd was summoned to Salt Lake City to testify in court, so early one Monday morning, I took him to the Union Pacific Depot to catch a train.

Becase we had overslept, there was barely time for him to dress and grab his suitcase, while I slid into my slippers and kimona. The town was just beginning to rouse, so Main Street was deserted.

Stopping the Chevy under the trees by the city park, Winferd turned off the ignition, gave me a big hug and a kiss, then bounded across the street to the Depot. The train pulsated and puffed as it idled on the track. Winferd was the last passenger to climb aboard. The whistle blew, and the wheels began to grind. Fascinated, I watched until the caboose disappeared, then with a sigh, I stepped on the starter of the car. Nothing happened.

"Oh no," I whispered, "It can't be stalled here!" Over and over I tried, but there was not one spark of life.

By now the town was fully awake and Main Street bustled with people. I was a sight! My hair hadn't been combed, my pajamas looked slept in, and the Japanese silk of my kimona fluttered bright as a beacon light. The scuffs on my feet were little better than being barefoot, and our apartment was at the opposite end of Main. What a predicament!

"Please help me," I cried in humiliation to the boy at the corner service station. "My car won't start."

Leaving his gas pump, he looked under the hood of the car, but he was as helpless as I. I wished I could become invisible. Certainly I couldn't march down Main Street looking like this.

I fled to a wash east of the park, and followed its meandering route back of town. My sandals scooped gravel and my feet hurt. what a tortuous detour! Hurrying along the least inhabited alleys, I eventually came to my end of Main, and there I had no choice but to cross.

For once, when I least wanted to be noticed, the man at the service station across from our apartment bubbled with good humor. "Good morning Alice," they called, then one of them added, "Well, well. Did you get up before breakfast?"

116 "Sure did," I sheepishly grinned.

I couldn't stand at the curb waiting for the traffic to ebb, so I darted through the first gap between cars, and into our apartment house.

Although our apartment had a gas stove and refrigerator, I yearned to acquire something of our own. I went in debt $300 for an electric stove and refrigerator, to be paid at $10 a month. Electric appliances were a luxury, and priced high. Although the new things looked beautiful in our kitchen, still the monster debt nagged me.

When school let out, Winferd got his teaching certificate, but no contract. The depression was so acute there was not a single vacancy. Uncle John had been right when he steered me into business. Winferd returned to the farm in LaVerkin, and I stayed on at Bradshaw's. Then it happened. Business houses in Cedar City that employed married women were boycotted, so I lost my job. My $300 debt might as well have been $3,000. With no job and no money, either amount was impossible to pay.

A poster in the Civil Service office announced examinations to be given. One was for a position in Hawaii. Why not try for it? I could work there at least until we were out of debt.

When Winferd came on Saturday night, I broke the news that I had lost my job. Spreading out the Civil Service literature, I said, "Look, next Monday they're giving an examination for a job in Hawaii. Do you care if I take it?" He was silet for a long time. "I know I can pass. Please let me try. You could get a job in Hawaii too."

"Would you like that?" he asked.

"I think it would be thrilling."

"Why don't you come to LaVerkin with me. The farm is the best place to be right now."

We might as well get some real adventure," I argued. "Please let me try."

After much coaxing, he finally said, "It's up to you."

Sunday evening, before Winferd returned to LaVerkin, we rode up Cedar Canyon. Each weekend since we were married, we had either picnicked or camped there. In the winter when the road was closed, we had driven as far as we could, then pitched our tent in the snow. We were dressed for it, and we did a lot of hiking and climbing. Now this chapter of our lives was coming to a close. Tomorrow, I would take the Civil Service exam, and let our apartment go.

Kissing me goodbye, Winferd said, "Good luck on your exam," and left.

The examination was scheduled for ten the next morning. I was excited as I dressed. Then I discovered my glasses were missing. I searched everywhere. Without them, I wouldn't be able to read a word. Then I remembered. As Winferd kissed me last night, he ahd removed my glasses, putting them in the glove compartment of his car! My heart sank. The vision of palm trees and white-capped waves blurred through my outraged tears.

117 "This can't happen to me," I cried. grabbing the phone, I dialed. "Operator, give me Medford 2740 in LaVerkin, please." There just might be time for Winferd to run the glasses up to me, if he broke the speed limit.

Hello," Ovando said.

"Van, I've got to talk to Winferd quick."

"Well, he's out in the field somewhere, do you want me to get him?"

"Yes, please. I'll hold the line."?

As I held, minutes dragged into eternity. Finally the operator cut in. "Maam, you've held the line until you've run up $2.00 on your call. Do you want to hold it longer?"

"$2.00," I wailed, "that's all I've got left!" Sorrowfully I hung up. It was no use.

Throwing myself face down on the bed, I howled. With the crying over and my future blighted, I sadly began to pack.

That night, Winferd came in his dad's truck. Handing me my glasses, he said, "I'm sorry, sweetheart," and I buried my face against his shirt and bawled some more.

Patting me tenderly, he said, "I have found a nice place to live in Uncle Willie Hardy's house."

"How will we pay the rent? I blubbered.

"Uncle Willie is grazing his calves in Dad's pasture, and I am working for Dad. That will take care of it."

He was so blooming cheerful as he loaded the truck, that I suspected his taking my glasses was no accident. Somehow it didn't even matter. Happiness oozed through me, and I knew it was going to be fun moving into Uncle Willie's house.

Winferd was right about the farm being the best place to live during a depression. Poor President Hoover! He stoutly resisted the Federal Government being any part of the dole. He maintained that that should be in the hands of the states. But in the cities, thousands of people were struggling to stay alive, and finally, federal loans were made to the states to feed the poor. The American Red Cross distributed wheat and flour throughout the nation. A flatbed truck stopped, and a man lugged one-hundred pounds of wheat to our door. It was not asked for, but delivered none-the-less, throughout town. Later, when loads of flour came in, we requested that they not leave any with us. Undoubltedly it was a life saver to folks in need. The "dole" was set up to feed the people, but it was embarrassing to see many people line up to get their grapefruit, pineapple and corned beef, who were farm folks and far from starvation.

Winferd's work on the farm paid well in milk, eggs and other produce, but not in cash. Being penniless was normal, and trading was good. When the dance orchestra played for produce, we paid our tickets with turnips, and danced to the tune of, "We ain't got a barrel of money". My worn out dress shoes were replaced with a pair of fifty-cent Keds, which gave quite a different look to my junior prom formal.

118 I take my hat off to song writers, the melodious historians of our country. They have faithfully captured important events and moods, setting them to music. "Side by Side" was a fun dance tune, and the words, as we sang along, had a substantial goodness. the following words are not exactly correct, but they convey the message:

Side by Side
(1927)


Oh we ain't got a barrel of money,
Maybe we're ragged and funny,
But we'll travel along,
Singin' a song,
Side by side.

Don't know what's comin' tomorrow,
Maybe it's trouble and sorrow;
But we'll travel the road,
Sharin' our load
Side by side.

Through all kinds of weather,
What if the skies should fall;
Just as long as we're together,
It doesn't matter at all.

When they've all had their quarrels and parted,
We'll be the same as we started;
Just travellin' along,
Singin' a song,
Side by side.

Gus Kahn (lyrics), Harry M. Woods (music)

Once, when the cows went down on their milk, we were without butter for quite a while. Then, one cold winter day, Winferd found a broken crate of bakery bread along the highway. Gathering it up, he brought it home. Bakery bread was like cake to us.

Aunt Eunice Hardy said, "If you'll trade me half of your bread, I'll pay you in butter."

It was a deal! We enjoyed the luxury of buttered toast for quite sometime.

That winter, blackbirds came in clouds to feast on the scattered seed in the cane fields. Winferd and Walter Segler shot into a flock, bringing down 150 of them. After they were gathered and cleaned, Winferd brought me seventy blackbird breasts.

"Let's have blackbird pie for dinner." he said.

After the meat was browned and arranged in a pan for the crust, I turned sick at the thoughts of the seventy lives it took to make one pie! We at it because it would have been sinful not to, but the meat was dark and tough, like eating crow.

"Please," I begged, "don't ever kill anymore blackbirds!"

He never did.

Walter Segler had planted a crop of carrots for the market, but was not able to sell so much as a bushel of them, so he invited us to help ourselves. They were big, crisp and sweet, and we ate them until we were almost carrot color. During December, Winferd got one week's work on a road job at Short Creek. His check came to $17.00. That was all of the cash we had for the rest of the winter.