Village Life Prior to World War II
Vast changes have taken place since the late 1930’s in how people made a living, in how they conducted their household affairs, in their games and recreation, in the utilization of children’s labor for family survival, and in how they dealt with health problems and with death. The list could go on. This section will focus on life of that era. A time machine trip going back sixty, seventy, eighty or ninety years to LaVerkin or any other village in Utah’s Dixie would unveil one major condition--that of poverty. The people you visited wouldn’t consider themselves as impoverished of course, and would be insulted, or would laugh at you if you suggested they were. Comparing their incomes with those of people living to the north in most other Utah cities, or with typical incomes of today, you would come back to the same conclusion. They got by on very little, and everybody; adults, children and old people, put in long hours to insure survival.
The long narrow town clung to Main Street. Gravel or dirt were the favored street surfaces. Irrigation ditches, running along the streets, watered rows of poplar trees. Motor vehicles were rarely encountered on the streets nor were there parked vehicles along the sides. Automobiles might be encountered on Main Street because, until 1936, it was also the highway; otherwise, iron-tired wagons constituted the main traffic. As of 1916 there were reported to be four automobiles in town; Model T’s owned by Morris, Henry and Joe; and a Maxwell driven by Arthur Woodbury. (If Joe did own a car, May was likely the driver. Joe said he wanted nothing to do with a machine that couldn’t follow a few simple directions such as “whoa!” and “giddyup!”)
At night, a single light at the city center served more as a beacon than a source of illumination. Otherwise, darkness reigned and only infrequent clouds interfered with the heavens’ nightly show. The Milky Way, the Pleiades, the Big Dipper seemed almost close enough to touch. Bats and swallows flew intricate maneuvers through the evening sky while frogs, toads and crickets serenaded. English sparrows and houseflies found LaVerkin a congenial place to call home. Dense flocks of sparrows visited barnyards to pick up after the animals. Flies were constant summer companions. Before meals, a family might combine efforts to whoosh as many as possible out the door. The hot sun, peach fuzz and flies combined to make cutting peaches for drying a task to be remembered. The busy hand-fans that were the sole source of air movement during two-hour Sunday afternoon Sacrament Meetings did double duty as fly swatters.
Morris Wilson exerted leadership in the spiritual life of the Ward, and in town projects, such as the culinary water system. He created a sense of community belonging, insomuch that, LaVerkin became an extended family to a degree unequaled by few other communities. Perhaps his most dramatic action was to establish Saturday afternoons as the city recreation period. The modern reader, who is used to five-day work weeks, must remember that in those days there was barely time in six days to do the work necessary for family survival; leaving vital work undone so as to observe the Sabbath was frequently a stern test of will. When Bishop Wilson began pushing the idea of knocking off work early on Saturday afternoons so everybody could play or watch baseball, some folks such as Arthur Woodbury gave full support. He loved the game, and his boys were born athletes who became star players for the team. Henry Gubler, though, may have taken Exodus 20:9 literally, and wasn’t about to test the Lord’s patience by doing his labor in just five and one-half days rather than the full six. To Henry, who was a staunch Republican, Morris’ cockamamie plan was probably just another example of how being a Democrat can jar your mind askew.
The burden of knowing that his good friend was a Democrat wasn’t his only affliction; Henry’s wife, being a Pickett, was similarly misguided, and would not listen to reason. He and Susanna were barely on speaking terms during a typical election campaign, a cause for merriment among the locals
Joseph and his family did support the Saturday games. When possible, Joseph shied away from leadership roles readily assumed by Morris and Henry, but he was loved and respected in the community, and his support was most important to the plan’s success. Probably, May was more comfortable in positions of stern authority than was Joseph, and she wasn’t one to just turn the other cheek. If she saw one of her boys in a fight she would command them to get in there and duke it out. She was “mush” where Joe was concerned though.
Winferd and Alice Gubler invited Joseph and May to ride to the Temple one day in their cramped Chevy. When they stopped for a fifth rider, May just pulled Joe up on her lap to provide additional seat room and hugged him all the way to St. George. They were both more than happy with the arrangement.
Morris was no doubt motivated to create the Saturday afternoon games by his love for baseball. As a young man in Mountain Dell, he cheerfully rode horseback the four miles to Virgin so he could play on the Virgin team. He also must have recognized the value to each citizen of a shared sense of community, because under his leadership it became customary for the entire populace to gather frequently during the year and have a great time together. These events will be described more fully in subsequent sections.
The Early Home
The home of early settler, William Sanders, will serve to provide a glimpse of home and family life. William, or “Will”, and his wife, Amelia Wilson Sanders, had moved to LaVerkin from Mountain Dell and lived in a two-room shack for about fifteen years, where the older of their nine children grew up until they could afford to build something better. It’s unlikely that Will borrowed money to build their new home. The easy mortgages of today were unknown then. They occupied the new house in 1921, and Amelia soon had a rose arbor that extended from the front door to the gate. The house was wired for electricity but had no plumbing; that was added a little later. It was a brick two-story structure. The second level was left unfinished and was used as a sleeping room in winter. Children, and sometimes adults, slept outside in the summer, scurrying back inside only when thunder storms were impending. Downstairs there was a kitchen, a pantry, that always had wonderful smells coming from it; a living room, and two bedrooms. The pantry had a small pass-through door to facilitate sending food into the living room when meals were served there. The floors were covered with linoleum, a precursor of vinyl flooring. It didn’t wear well and had to be replaced frequently. The distinctive odor of new linoleum, while not quite matching that of a new car smell, did give an ambiance of clean freshness to a home.
Open windows served as air conditioning in the summer. Two wood-burning stoves kept winter’s cold at bay. The kitchen stove was the primary source of warmth. A “heater” in the living room would have a fire going at least part of the time, but supplying wood for full-time fires in both stoves wasn’t feasible. Cold winter nights usually found the family gathered near the kitchen stove. It got a particularly good workout on Saturdays throughout the year. Amelia cooked Sunday’s food a day ahead so she could better observe the Sabbath. Water for Saturday night baths was heated on the stove, and a stove lid was turned upside down to provide a ready supply of soot. With a layer of fresh soot and some vigorous polishing, shoes looked almost good as new and were ready for Sunday.
Two standard pieces of kitchen equipment were the cream separator and the butter churn. Separating milk from cream was a nightly chore. The distinctive whirr of cream separators came from every home. Separators have hundreds of parts, each of which had to be carefully cleaned after every use--something akin to overhauling a car every night. Delma, the youngest of the Sanders’ children, reports that she took the brunt of the separator cleaning chores.
Many families put the cream in one, two and one-half, or five-gallon cans and sent it north to a creamery. The Sanders family consumed theirs or made it into butter. The butter, properly molded into one-pound bricks and wrapped in special paper on which Amelia’s name was printed, could be traded at the store. Sales of butter and eggs were the main source of cash for purchasing necessary staples.
Cream constituted the one big luxury of that era. Cracked-wheat breakfast cereal without cream would have been indigestible. You would spread a slice of bread with jam, put it in a bowl, and poured cream over it. Cream had dozens of wonderful uses, and best of all, it was non-fattening--at least nobody worried about it. Most of the skim milk was fed to calves, lambs and pigs; nothing edible was ever wasted. The family owned a cheese press for making plenty of cheese to satisfy their own needs.
Commercial refrigeration which used toxic ammonia as the refrigerant had been in use since 1859. Home refrigerators awaited the invention of a safe product. DuPont’s Freon, came into use about 1930. For LaVerkin, home refrigerators awaited the ability to afford them. Most homes had one by the late 1930’s. Prior to that, a homemade evaporative cabinet warded off some of summer’s heat. A typical cooling cabinet might be five feet high and thirty inches square, made of a wood frame to which open mesh wire was attached. Burlap went over that.
A system for allowing water to keep the burlap soaked was then installed. It was better than nothing. By the late 1940's, no one in LaVerkin used evaporative cooling.
Near the Sanders’ main house was a granary and underneath it, a cellar for storing potatoes and other foodstuff. A platform suspended by wires provided a mouse-free zone. Will might trade fruit or molasses for a year’s supply of flour that would be stored in the cellar. On one peddling trip, he traded for both flour and kerosene, (for lanterns). Unfortunately, some kerosene leaked down into the flour. The Sanders family ate uniquely flavored bread that winter; throwing out the flour and buying more was out of the question.
Beyond the granary, was the barnyard with a corral, a hay barn, chicken coops, pigpens and an “out house” stocked with old Sears Roebuck or Montgomery Ward catalogs. Both Sears and Wards mailed inch-thick catalogs to every home twice a year, and after providing months of intense study, these catalogs became toilet paper. Thankfully, they were printed on coarse paper for many years.
The lot was enclosed with a combination woven and barbed wire fence, necessary to keep the Sanders’ animals in, and stray animals out. On the lot were a garden, a small orchard, and a large shady grape arbor.
Some homes weren’t as substantial as the example being used. Adrien Squire describes the LaVerkin home his family lived in through the thirties as follows:
Our home was lumber with lapboard siding, I believe, and with a pine sub floor (cracks, knotholes, and all). Some of the knotholes were covered by nailing jar lids over them. That reminds me of a story of the relief society sisters discussing mouse-in-the house problems. When asked how to keep mice out of the house, one of the ladies said, ‘I stuff steel wool in their little holes.’ One of the others said, ‘Well, who holds their little feet?’
Planting big posts in the ground on which to install the floor joists leveled the house. That left the north side of the house two or three feet off the ground, which accomplished two things: It provided a good place to store onions for the winter, and it also allowed the north wind to get a good run on the under side of the floor. The added pressure build-up allowed the wind to REALLY squirt up through all the cracks and holes in the floor. This was especially noticeable on winter Saturday evenings when all of us took our weekly turn in the #3 tub for our bath. More than one fanny was scorched when backed too close to the wood-burning stove.
Our living room carpet was home-made by sewing 3 foot wide strips of fabric together (which looked like pencil sized rolls of cloth held together with strings woven over and under each of these cloth strips). I don’t remember the time intervals, but I think it was once a year, the carpet was pulled up, taken outside to the clothesline, and beaten soundly to remove dust and dirt. The straw used as cushioning and insulation for the floor was cleaned up and new, sweet smelling straw put in its place, and then the carpet was re-installed and held in place by carpet tacks around the edges. We loved rolling around on the soft, aromatic floor.
The Sanders family ate breakfast the same as they would now, but the modern world has gotten confused concerning noon and evening meals. At noon in those days the family ate dinner, the main meal of the day. (“lunch” was something you carried along on a hike or to a job out of town) Supper, a lighter meal, was eaten in the evening. Breakfast typically consisted of cracked wheat mush. Most homes had a hand-grinder and it would be one of the childrens’ chores to grind some wheat each day or two. Bread and milk was the typical supper menu item. Fresh green onions, added to the pleasure of bread and milk in the spring, and grapes livened it in the summer and fall.
Simple fare was the rule. The family ate what was available. The greatest menu variety came with the seasons. Peas, corn, tomatoes, new potatoes, watermelons, etc., fresh from the garden made for true gourmet dining. Strawberries began ripening the middle of May, followed by cherries, apricots, Red Ashtrakan apples, Greensborough peaches, and so on, until the last grapes, pears, apples, and pomegranates were eaten in November and December.
Will extended the life of fresh Tokay grapes by packing them in sawdust and storing them in the cool cellar. They were great for school lunches, particularly after they had time to develop a little “bite”.
A hog was butchered in the fall and Amelia rendered out lard for making soap and for cooking. Anything that needed preserving was salted, bottled, canned or dried. Five gallons of chili sauce were sealed in the can by soldering the lid shut.
The modern reader will have difficulty grasping how much work was demanded of everybody; adults and children, just to insure survival. It was a labor-intensive life both at home and at the workplace. Children’s labor was vital for getting it all done. Families raised practically everything they ate, and eating during the winter depended on preserving and storing during the summer.
There was one dependable source of fresh meat, of course, the chicken coop. A teenage boy or girl thought nothing of taking a chicken to the wood pile, laying its neck out over the chopping block and whacking off its head with the ax. Barnyard chores were a three-times-a-day responsibility 365 days a year. Animals were a sacred trust; they ate before you ate. The Sanders children knew they were due home at sundown to begin evening chores. They became expert in judging just how long they could play and still get home while a sliver of sun remained on the horizon.
There was always machinery to be repaired; harnesses and other equipment to be mended; soap to be made by boiling lard, mutton tallow or beef fat in lye; clothes to be washed; clothes to be made; and clothes to be mended. The list could go on and on. When a tool broke, or a bucket wore through and began leaking, they weren’t thrown away. Pretty soon a “tinker” would pass through who would have ingenious ways of mending things. He was usually on foot and would carry his tools plus eyeglasses and pocketknives for sale on his back. Tinkers were known to mutter as they worked, about the most trivial and frivolous problems, rather than saving their cussing for important frustrations. Thus, the phrase, “Not worth a tinker’s damn” came to be.
Amelia bought black sateen cloth to make little girls’ panties--playgrounds always had a dirt surface and black sateen, a cotton fabric woven and polished to resemble satin, was tough and forgiving. Many mothers used the fifty-pound flour sacks that were commonly available. It was never possible to totally bleach out the company logo, so when a small girl leaned way over she became a poster child for some flourmill.
Amelia made most of the clothes the family wore; which was just fine with the wearer, as she was a skilled seamstress. Some cloth might begin life as a woman’s dress, be cut and altered to clothe two or three successive small bodies, and spend its twilight years as part of a quilt. Socks and stockings were made of cotton or wool, neither of which is a match for big toes; the mending basket was never empty. A gourd or an old light bulb pushed into the toe made it possible to weave a patch over the sock’s hole that the toe accepted as part of the original fabric.
Anyone who lived in that era can relate many stories of long hard work. What you will never hear though are complaints about all that labor. The work made their lives more interesting and meaningful.
The Sanders family didn’t spend every minute in toil. They acquired a radio in the early 1930’s and a hand-cranked Victrola sometime before that. KSUB in Cedar City was the one radio station that could be picked up in the daytime. Many stations could be heard at night, depending on atmospheric conditions, sunspot activities, etc.. Radio programming in that pre-TV era was more akin to today’s TV fare, and the family might gather around to hear “The Lux Radio Theater”, “Abie’s Irish Rose” or a host of others programs. Sometimes just as the hero was in a tight spot, the signal would fade and another station’s might come in instead. A neighbor, who frequently came to the Sanders’ home to listen, could not understand such poor manners, “Don’t they know they’re butt’n in?” he would demand.
There were other breaks from daily toil. Amelia was very good with the harmonica and enjoyed playing it. Will Senior would sing, particularly when on peddling trips. Bill Junior, besides being a great singer, was a saxophonist who was in demand at dances. Silent movies were also shown once a week in LaVerkin during the 1920’s.
Handmade quilts, made up of layers of whatever cloth might be available, kept you warm in winter. Surviving a January night in an unheated attic with the north wind finding every chink in the house’s armor, was a real achievement. You groped your way through the darkness, then burrowed between the flannel sheets under three or four heavy quilts
where it was warm and safe. Then while marveling that you had again escaped the ghostly apparitions that inhabit dark attics, you fell into a child’s peaceful sleep. Store-bought blankets were available, but they cost unattainable money.
LaVerkin offered an elementary education for its children; but prior to 1914, if they wanted to attend high school they went to Cedar City. St. George began graduating high school seniors in 1914 and offered a closer alternative. Finally in 1919, the students could attend at least two years at Hurricane High School. There was no bus service though, until about 1937. Owen and the next younger sibling, Lucille, would drive to Hurricane each day in the family buggy.
Like most others in LaVerkin, Will Sanders and his family, ran an integrated farm business. They raised crops, then processed them to get them ready for market; they peddled the finished product directly to the public. Will raised plenty of alfalfa hay to provide feed for cows and horses but his main “money” crops were strawberries, apricots, peaches and sorghum cane. Children were involved with irrigating the crops; piling, hauling and storing the hay; pruning trees; thinning, then picking the fruit; cutting and drying fruit, or later sorting and packing it; cultivating the sorghum cane; cutting the tassels off; hauling the cane to the molasses mill; and helping with peddling.
Distance from potential markets, plus poor roads, particularly until the late 1920’s; meant that everything for sale had to be dried or, in the case of molasses, put up in barrels or cans. The experience of Loren Squire, (who later married one of the Sanders girls), and four other young men, as they journeyed from Manti to Hurricane in 1917, illustrates the point. Driving a Model T Ford they arrived at Beaver about midnight. They left Beaver at eight o’clock the next morning and arrived in Hurricane at nine that night--13 hours later.
The present road between Toquerville and Andersons Junction was completed in 1931. About 1929, Will purchased a Model A Ford truck that made it possible to haul fresh fruit to the consumers. No longer did the family have to spend so
much time drying fruit. He could be away from home for just a night or two instead of a week at a time, as he might when using a team andwagon.
Delma recalls as a young girl, going with her dad on peddling trips in the Model A truck. Both outfitted in bib overalls, they worked their way up and down the village streets of the towns along highway 89, past Circleville and Marysville. A housewife might complain that the fruit was too small, lacked color, was too this or too that, but Will was always pleasant and patient and the sale would eventually be made. He was also rigorously honest and people got to know he would treat them fairly. When night came, they would obtain permission to set up their cots in a barnyard. The farmer would readily agree once he determined that neither of them used tobacco. Will, as an ex-chef, had been a cook for the Hurricane Canal crew--so the meals he cooked on the road were always first rate.
Will had plenty of company on the road. Peddling was the way Dixie farmers sold most of their crops. Even his mother had gone peddling. After her husband became somewhat incapacitated, she would take along one of the children and go as far north as Salt Lake, peddling among other things, pickles and chow-chow that she had expertly made. On the way home she would visit family members in Sanpete County.
A peddler did more bartering than selling. He might return with flour, potatoes, farm tools and machinery, or clothing, some of which he hoped to sell along the way or after he returned. When Will’s son, Clarence, got married he left to peddle molasses and dried fruit. In Salina, he traded for a bed, a stove and some salt rock. South of Panguitch on his return, he made a nice profit on the salt rock by trading it for a winter’s supply of flour. Even a Bishop’s duties might include peddling. When the tithing bins bulged, Morris would hitch up his team and head north hoping to turn the produce into cash.
LaVerkin And The Great Depression
The Great Depression got a lock on the country in 1929 and it engulfed the rest of the world soon after. Prices of farm commodities plummeted, the stock market lost eighty percent of its value, millions were unemployed, most college degrees were worthless, and eleven thousand of the nation’s twenty-five thousand banks went under. Faith in democracy and in the free-market system was severely tested. Dictators who grabbed power in the Soviet Union, Italy and Germany, were looked upon with approval by those who saw only chaos in the democracies. Communism was viewed by many misguided idealists in this country and around the world as the way to relieve economic suffering, and to achieve a degree of equality.
In neighboring towns, ranchers who had borrowed money to build sheep and Angora goat operations, went bankrupt and lost their homes. Amazingly, the State Bank of Hurricane survived. In LaVerkin, no one appears to have been caught with large debts. As old-timers joke, “Economic depression is all we ever knew. This one was just more of the same.” Reasons why this was basically true have been mentioned--LaVerkin and its neighbors were isolated from possible markets by both distance and by miserable terrain, and there were no lucrative markets in the area such as the ones Silver Reef had provided fifty years earlier.
Another reason was that small farmers had wallowed in depression from the end of World War I. Ironically, the success of agriculture in general meant that food prices remained low and that unless a farmer had a highly efficient operation, he couldn’t stay in business. America had millions of family farmers, including thousands in Utah, attempting to live out hopeless dreams of being one’s own boss on one’s own farm. The family farmers are mostly gone now, except for those who farm as a hobby or as a sideline.
Herbert Hoover was president when The Depression started and got the blame for it. Franklin D. Roosevelt was president from 1932 on. His social and economic experiments organized under the “New Deal” aimed at getting the country out of The Depression evoked either gratitude and praise, or fear and loathing. Relief projects that gave federal money to needy individuals caused some of the greatest controversies. Republicans generally favored letting private charities provide relief, fearing that people would lose their self-sufficiency, their self-responsibility and their self-respect if the government offered succor. Democrats maintained that with nearly a third of the workers unemployed, there was no choice but for the government to provide aid. Both sides were right, of course. Individuals, and groups now routinely look to the Federal Government for aid in a manner unheard of in 1930. On the other hand, even the most lavish New Deal spending made only a small dent in The Depression. It was only when the greatest government make-work project in the world’s history (World War II) came along, that prosperity came to stay-- as of this writing, at least. The fact that Joseph and Henry Gubler, who were staunch Republicans, and Morris Wilson, a staunch Democrat, could work well together during that period of intense political feeling, tells us much about their qualities of character.
Various projects were set up to keep people busy. The Civilian Conservation Corps, or CC's, and the W.P.A. were two examples. The construction of up-to-date outdoor privies was a major W.P.A. project, which employed an average of 2,100,000 workers nationwide. The dispirited men who signed up didn't get suddenly motivated when engaged in a make-work project. Those of us who were young then carry the mental image of W.P.A. workers standing around leaning on their shovels.
The Civilian Conservation Corps was founded in 1933, and disbanded in 1942 shortly after the United States entered World War II. The object was to provide employment for unmarried young men, doing conservation work such as planting trees, building flood barriers, fighting forest fires and maintaining forest roads and trails. Recruits lived in work camps under a semi-military regime. Monthly cash allowances of thirty dollars were supplemented by provision of food, medical care, and other necessities. It employed 500,000 men at its peak and provided work for a total of three million.
Locally, there were camps at Leeds, Zion Park, LaVerkin and Hurricane. The LaVerkin camp was located just north of Highway 9, more-or-less across from the LDS Stake Center. Evidence of the Corp’s reclamation work can be seen to the right of the highway on Kolob as it climbs toward Kolob reservoir. A couple of charming meadows betray evidence of wooden dams now buried underneath the sod. In 1936, the writer observed CC boys building the dams in the jagged little canyons that had been cut because of overgrazing.
The good work done for local soils did not carry over to the enhancement of local souls. The men assigned to the Hurricane camp were from the Midwest; probably every one of them “used alcohol and tobacco”. There have always been a few black sheep among Mormon youth of course, but playing host to dozens of such fellows every evening in a small town was a continuing crisis. Inevitably there were marriages, with attendant hand wringing by concerned family members. Enlistees from LaVerkin were mostly assigned to the Zion camp. They express fond memories of their experiences and appreciation for having employment during such austere times.
A Family Copes
Victims of personal or of natural disasters can currently expect assistance from various Church and governmental agencies. That wasn’t the case in the 1930’s, and before. Death and debilitating illnesses involving both children and adults were far more common then, and survivors learned to scratch out a living. Edward (Ed) Gubler, son of Joseph, is a case in point. He was born in 1895, so was old enough to shoulder farming duties by the time LaVerkin was established. He became a skilled carpenter and worked on such projects as building the Zion lodge and the lodge at the North Rim. He was married by then to Thora Wilson, daughter of Morris. When their first LaVerkin house burned down, Ed built a solid brick one that even featured indoor plumbing. He suffered some kind of heart attack while working at the Grand Canyon lodge. It didn’t kill him; he lived another forty six years. Medical science offered nothing then. The doctor could only suggest a year’s rest. He was feeling better when construction of the “new” two hundred-foot high bridge began about 1934. He and another worker were high on a scaffold when a cable broke, plunging them to their deaths--or so they assumed. They both clung on until they were rescued, but the shock induced another heart attack. For the rest of his life, Ed was a semi-invalid. He was able to supervise and direct the children’s work but could never again do significant labor. There was no workman’s compensation, or food stamps. The only known welfare program provided a few dollars a month for a widow and her family. Even if help were available, it’s doubtful that Ed and Thora would have accepted any.
Every family member in the Ed Gubler household, was enlisted to help scratch out a living. Their house was on a five-acre plot where most of the family’s food could be raised, including alfalfa hay to feed the milk cow. Surplus fruit could be traded for flour and potatoes. Thora made most of the clothing. Her skill was such that no one could tell that the clothes were homemade. She also took in washing. The oldest child, Lyman, was twelve. He began working two hours every evening for the Sanders Brothers, isolating turkey hens whose mothering instincts were interfering with the functions their owners had in mind. He turned the pay over to his mother for household expenses. Not before tithing was paid on it though. Thora saw to that.
Both Thora’s and Ed’s family members shared with them in many ways and Thora was determined to keep things equal. Son, Thell, recounts how one of his Wilson uncles might come by in the morning needing some labor. As the uncle would return with Thell in the evening, he would ask how much he owed. To Thell’s dismay, his mother would state, “Not a thing. He was glad to help out.”
When something from the store was absolutely needed, Thora would charge it. At the end of one month, Ed was shocked to see that the family owed a whole five dollars!
In 1941 they sold their home and acreage and put the money towards the purchase of the little LaVerkin store-post office. This enabled Thora, who did most of the work, to earn cash income and it enabled Ed to carry out many tasks appropriate to his condition. Emil Graff, who sold them the store, told someone that he expected to repossess it within the year; he hadn’t reckoned with the Gubler determination.
The store’s front window was an important source of local news. For a wedding reception, you needed to make just one invitation; post it on the window, and the whole town would show up.
A bane to the Gublers, and to every other small business, was that of credit. Incredible as it may seem to the modern shopper, there were no Visa Cards then. It was the custom to extend credit for thirty days at a time. Some families like that of a widow who received a few dollars of aid from the county each month, promptly paid their bills before considering any new purchases. Others weren’t quite so trustworthy. They might succumb to the temptation of letting a bill go for a few months. Soon they were avoiding the Gubler store altogether and going to Hurricane for their shopping needs-- and paying cash.
Wood, as indicated earlier, provided almost all the fuel used for heating, cooking and molasses making. Trips, usually to Little Creek Mesa for juniper wood--known as “cedar”, were made in the fall. Probably every farmer owned a standard fourteen-foot long, iron-tired wagon pulled by two large workhorses. For wood hauling, the wide hayrack that facilitated hauling alfalfa hay, was removed and high stakes were installed on either side to hold the logs in place. A chain was taken along for pulling dead juniper trees over, and for securing the load once it was on. Shorter chains, just under four feet in length with rings at either end, would serve to keep the load from shifting from side to side.
Reed Wilson reports that usually he or Wayne, but not both on the same trip, would accompany Morris on such an expedition. With a large bedroll and a wooden grub box filled with a three-day supply of food, man and boy set out. Their route would be down across the old bridge over the river, up the old Hurricane Hill road and on out to Rattlesnake. Reed was not content to sit on the slow-moving wagon. He spent most of his time attempting to chase down rabbits or other unfortunate wild life that he spotted along the way. After giving the horses a lengthy break, they would follow the barely passable Troughs road (now part of Apple Valley) onto Little Creek.
Assuming some daylight was left, they set to work. First, they used the horses to pull trees over. Next they trimmed the branches with axes, and cut the logs that remained so that none was longer than fourteen feet. Logs were loaded with the butt end of one going to the front of the wagon and the butt end of the next log going to the back--and so on. Oversized logs were split in two using sledgehammers and wedges, or sometimes, an inclined plane was set up and the logs were hoisted on board. During the second day, as the wagons were about half filled, the loops of the short chains would be placed over stakes on either side of the wagon to ensure that the logs stayed in place. The chains automatically became firmly anchored as additional logs were put over them. The approximately two cords of wood aboard the wagon were secured in place by placing chains over the top, and the initial and most frightening segment of the trip home was began.
Going down the primitive Troughs dugway was not for the faint-hearted. Every trip he made, Reed was convinced that this one would be the last; that the wagonload of logs would go crashing into the gully. He always walked along behind down this stretch, ready to pull his father from the carnage. With the nastiest part of the trip behind them, they made camp.
A report of the conversations between father and son during the long fall evening would make a charming paragraph; except that they didn’t happen. By the time they had finished their work, taken care of the horses, and had their supper, their only thoughts were of sleep.
Reed was eager to go on these expeditions the first few times. Gradually the amount of work involved dawned on him and he quit volunteering. He always went cheerfully, though, when asked..
When they reached the crest of the Hurricane Hill the next day, and started down the old dugway, the horses had little to do but guide the wagon and hope for good brakes so they wouldn’t be rammed to their deaths. (Horses are able to provide only minimal braking power for a wagon.) Amazingly, only one accident fatal to man and beast is known to have occurred during the old road’s existence. Frank Isom Jr., of Hurricane, died when the brakes failed on his wagon.
Braking was accomplished by forcing brake-blocks made of green pitch-pine wood directly against the iron tires of the rear wheels. The blocks had previously been shaped to make maximum contact with the wheels. They were attached to sturdy poles, the bottoms of which were bolted to the undercarriage. A rope tied to the upper ends enabled the driver to engage the brakes from his seat at the front. The brakes had one final test as they descended the road toward the hot springs, and the horses got their final test pulling the load up the hill after crossing the bridge.
The real work, in Reed’s mind, began after they got home. The logs had to be chopped into usable lengths--about eighteen inches for home firewood use, and about forty inches for heating the molasses boilers. Fortunately, it’s almost fun to chop juniper wood when you’re young, have a sharp ax, and you can send the chips flying.
Games, Recreation And Social Events
Children’s labor was vital to family survival in LaVerkin from its inception until, dependence on the family farm ended, sometime after World War II. They worked long and hard, but they did find time for play. Commercial games and toys were almost non-existent, they utilized what was available.
During the LaVerkin early years, there was a common town pasture on the hillside along under the canal bank. On Sundays there was a two-hour break between Sunday school and sacrament meeting. It was a window of opportunity for restless young wranglers. The boys discovered that they could ride yearling steers, or whatever other animal they could catch, and not get caught themselves because the adults were home observing the Sabbath. The terrain was rough and the animals were not particularly cooperative. A deacon who showed up for sacrament meeting with a fresh set of scratches and bruises could have elicited concern and suspicion, but the adults must have had more important things on their minds.
The canal and the river were important to the summer recreation program. The canal was wide enough and deep enough just as it emerged from the tunnel for a swimming hole. The river also had a spot or two that was adequate. These were great places to sluice off the fuzz after a morning of peach picking. Both areas were “suits-optional”. In other words, nobody (boys) wore them, and girls stayed away. Don Squires recalls an afternoon when some boys were lounging about on the riverbank and a group of girls came along. The boys in or near the water immersed themselves to a discreet depth but the best the boys further out could do was lie on their stomachs until the crises was over.
Spelunking appealed to the adventurous few. Three interesting caves have been mentioned that offered varying degrees of challenge: one is above the east entrance of the canal tunnel; another is above the hot springs but below the Hurricane Canal; and the other is somewhat downstream on the north side of the river. Also, there was the canal tunnel itself that opened out into a couple of caverns.
The cave above the springs, that has since been sealed off, was the scene of young Owen Sanders’ “Tom Sawyer” type experience that nearly became his tomb. It was formed by water dissolving the limestone rock and its passageways and caverns extend hundreds of yards in various directions. One day after school Owen obtained some matches and went exploring. He told no one because adults would have thwarted his plans. Shortly after entering the cave, he noted that water was dripping from a certain area of the ceiling and making a distinct “plop” as it dropped into a little pool below. That observation saved his life. He spent considerable time wandering through passageways, being thrifty as possible with his matches. Also near the cave’s mouth, he found three pieces of pottery, two jugs in perfect condition and a broken bowl. After placing the jugs where he could easily get them as he left, he went on his way. By the time he got down to two matches, he realized that he had no clue as to his location. It was totally black and he was totally lost. When chore-time came in a couple of hours, he would be missed, but there wouldn’t be the slightest clue as to where to look for him. The fact that the pottery had been sitting in plain sight was proof that no one else knew of the cave’s existence. After his initial panic subsided, he recalled the dripping water. He quietly groped about in the darkness, listening for the delivering sounds. Finally, he began hearing them, by moving back and forth among the passageways, while noting if the sound became fainter or sharper, he was able to move closer and closer. At last he saw daylight, now diminished because the sun was close to setting, but it was all he needed. He was so pleased to be out in the world again that he stopped at the hot springs and gave the caretaker one of the jugs he had brought out. The fate of the jugs is unknown, but sometime later Owen led Park Service people to where the pieces of the bowl lay. They glued them together and put the bowl on display at the Zion Park Visitor center where it remained for many years.
As mentioned earlier, toys and games were scarce and used available materials. Small girls felt blessed if they owned a doll in good condition and a scaled down version of the four-wheeled baby buggies their mothers used. If they had younger siblings, the skills they developed playing with dolls were soon put to practical use. During fruit harvest season, for example, nine-year old Afton Wilson’s mother spent full time working in the packing shed. Afton took care of the baby and prepared dinner (the noon meal) for the family. Her friend, Quinta Nielson, would come over just as soon as she completed her own chores, and the two of them turned the work into the happiest of play.
As teenagers, the girls had equally great times working together packing fruit. Perhaps girls are better than boys at having fun in whatever situation they find themselves. Girls felt free to hike down by the creek, or up to the Hot Springs without concern for their safety. Up around the hill, they always kept an eye out for Montezuma’s treasure that was known to be hidden somewhere in the area.
A mother’s safety zone for her children tended to include the entire area of LaVerkin, rather than just the house and lot as is often the case today.
There were a few yards of concrete walkway around the church and that was a good place to play jacks and to roller skate. The skates in those days, had small iron wheels and clamped onto regular shoes.
Hopscotch was another popular girls’ game. The game was played on a “board” drawn on the sidewalk by charcoal or chalk or anything that would leave a mark. Then a taw was thrown into one of the numbered squares on the board. By jumps and hops, the person whose turn it was, would move through the board, skipping the square that was marked with the taw. On the way back down the board, the taw would be retrieved. If you stepped on a line, or, when the taw was thrown, it landed on a line, the next person would have a turn.
“Bonies” were important toys recalled by Gladys Woodbury. They were dried animal bones, particularly cows’ vertebrae and “knuckle” bones. “What an imaginative child couldn’t do with the right assortment of those dry bones, sticks and strings to create a "farm” or a “ranch”.
Streets were also convenient playgrounds. In the daytime, a softball game might be going on. On a summer night, a bonfire might be burning with potatoes roasting in the coals. Perhaps, children would be playing run-sheepy-run. At a signal from their stomachs, they would pull the charred potatoes from the coals and happily dine.
Small boys have enough excess energy that they can enjoy games that seem absurd in retrospect. Wayne Wilson recalled, as a six-year old, having great fun riding his stick horse into the thick of battle or to round up stampeding cattle. Another odd activity was the hoop roll. This was just a matter of rolling an iron hoop along the ground with a “scooter” a slender board that had a flattened, slightly cupped can attached to it. The best hoops came from wagon wheel hubs and were prized possessions. To start the hoop in motion, the board is held at an angle and the hoop is allowed to roll down it. With practice, you could roll the hoop over and around obstacles. It is far more fun than it sounds. Today, visitors to the Cove Fort Museum have the opportunity to become acquainted with the sport and to roll hoops about the barnyard. Wayne also told of making bows from the branches of ash trees, and arrows from willow trees, with which he imperiled the abundant rabbits, doves, and quail of the area.
Concrete, asphalt and grass have obliterated the dirt playing fields of probably the most important boyhood--and sometimes girlhood--sport of the twenties and thirties, that of marbles. Various games involving marbles existed. And you could play “for keeps”. Usually, a boy who was a very good shot would try to keep his mother from knowing about his winnings. Mothers impose a moral discipline that is foreign to a small boy’s psyche. A bag of sparkling new glass marbles brought sure joy to any lucky youth that had just acquired some. Everyone had an oversized special marble (taw) that was prized above all the other marbles in their sack. If the taw were a flint, it was like having a precious jewel. A taw-sized steel ball bearing known as a “steelie” was also valuable. Games could always be seen going on at recess and after school. Various sets of rules applied. One involved making a large circle and shooting from the perimeter, another called for a small oval that contained the marbles, with players tossing their taws from a lag line, hoping to land near the oval. Recalling the mindset of sixty years ago and how important the game of marbles was, one feels pity for today’s small boys; of their restricted lives bereft of marbles.
Piggy was another game that required a dirt surface. Assuming five players, four small holes would be dug in a six-foot circle and one center hole would be dug. Each player would be armed with a stick. The object was for whoever was "it" to knock or push a mashed up can into the center hole with his stick. When this happened, everyone had to change holes and "it" had an opportunity to get a hole of his own. Bruised shins were part of the fun. Condensed milk cans were favored for piggy and for street hockey. When just two little holes were punched in the top to get at the contents, the can held up much better than cans that had the entire top missing.
Rubber guns were built by all the kids as the main weapons for war games. They were made of wood but used rubber as both the missile and the propellant. Tubeless tires hadn’t been developed. All tires required inner tubes until the 1960’s, so there was a plentiful supply of rubber. Strips of the desired length and width were cut from these tubes. Probably the most popular model utilized clothespins requisitioned from the family clothesline. These were attached to the guns' handles, and the bands cut from the inner tubes were stretched over the end of the barrel and inserted into the jaws of the clothespins. Skilled builders would attach four or more clothespins to a gun allowing for multiple firings. Another approach called for cutting a continuous band from the tube’s cross-section. You could stretch three or four of these along the barrel then, using your thumb, roll off the rear end of the band when firing. Boys were the main participants in the above games but girls were always welcomed. During war games, if you got hit with a rubber missile you were supposed to acknowledge it. One youth who was playing shirtless kept claiming that he hadn’t been hit, “I didn’t feel it,” he would insist. Finally, one of his friends sneaked up and zapped him on his bare back at point blank range. “Did you feel that?” the friend asked.
Boys seem to be born wanting to drive cars and shoot guns. Obtaining these necessities was rather difficult in the early days when you might earn ten cents an hour picking fruit. A single-shot twenty-two-caliber rifle cost just a few dollars and thus were within reach of a few youth, much to the chagrin of local jackrabbits and cottontails. However, a weapon available to every boy, was the “flipper,” a sling shot made from the forks of a tree branch and utilizing bands of rubber from an inner tube. The leather sling was cut from the uppers of an old shoe. Flipper in hand, a lad was ready to wage war on the thousands of English sparrows that swarmed through every barnyard, and the peach birds that were the bane of fruit farmers.
Possession of an automobile was the supreme act of ownership for a teenage boy, that only a blessed few achieved. Don Squire yearned for his own wheels as he approached driving age during the 1930’s. He faced one hurdle that most teenagers didn’t--his father was the area’s Utah Highway Patrolman, and Loren Squire had old-fashioned ideas about obeying the law. At their father’s bidding, the older boys, DeLance and Phil, waited until they were eighteen to get their driving licenses. That would be an impossibly long wait for fifteen year-old Don.
About this same time, two Hurricane youths traded a donkey for an old car. Neither they nor the car were licensed, nor were they concerned about the law as they coaxed their old Essex around town, feeding it a quart or so of gasoline at a time.
Total automobile traffic was very small in both towns, and automotive rules were enforced in a relaxed manner--except at the Squire household. Don did manage to get in some under-age driving practice in borrowed cars on farm roads, so that by age sixteen he was ready to pass the driving test. He even got his dad to sign for him to take the test at that early age. His father then loaned him most of the $96.00, so that in 1938, he paid for a 1931 Model A Ford.
After the US entered World War II in late 1941, gasoline was severely rationed and Don would have had difficulty meeting the important social obligations of a car owner, were it not that farmers were allotted generous quantities of gasoline. By then, Don was a valued part-time employee in his uncle’s turkey business, and could obtain farm gas rationing coupons. It fell easily within his persuasive powers to convince gas station attendants that the car he was driving was actually a farm implement, probably a tractor.
Poaching was a leisure-time activity in which you could have fun while doing good--for your family at least. It combined a number of elements that made it satisfying. It was an inexpensive way of getting out into the great outdoors, and it meant firing guns. It was more exciting than ordinary hunting because it brought into play one’s full stealth capabilities, both in obtaining prey and in avoiding the game warden. It was in the grand frontier tradition of obtaining your meat as you needed it, wherever you found it. Teenage and young adult males were its main adherents, but it had more-or-less general approval.
During The Depression, poaching was sometimes a necessity, if the family were to have meat. Farmers and ranchers, unintentionally and unwillingly, provided feed for deer and for game birds. It seemed only proper that they should reap a few benefits. Plus, there wasn’t the overall hunting pressure that has developed since World War II. Like driving around town without a license of any kind--it wasn’t a big deal.
One of the “sport of poaching’s” most dedicated, skillful and, until now, unsung practitioners was young Jack Eves. The open spaces of the Uintah Basin were his initial training grounds. Eight year old Jack would stop by a neighbor’s house and borrow the shotgun that belonged to the two old ladies who lived there. Frequently he would bring a duck or two home. By the time his family had moved to LaVerkin when he was about ten, he was a pro. He soon knew the trail habits of deer down along LaVerkin Creek in the winter or on the Pine Valley slopes in summer. In the nearby fields, a plentiful supply of pheasants that had been introduced to the area in the previous century, provided diversions closer to home. He never went hunting, though, unless the family needed the meat. Also, nothing was wasted. They ate just about all of the deer that was edible. They had no refrigeration, so preservation was mainly by smoking and drying. A piece of dried venison, or “Kaibab buckskin”, required a lot of chewing. For cooking, his mother would grind the dried meat.
As human population increased, as game became scarcer, and as the area became more organized; poaching became more of a crime than a sport. When effective game wardens became more in demand, a skilled pool of talent awaited the call-- the ex-poachers.
A poem, “Escapades” written by Owen Sanders seems appropriate at this point:
Escapades of vibrant youth
Bewilder and perplex,
And antics that disturb the old
Can often stir and vex.
Should Age in vivid retrospect,
Review ITS youthful years,
The vision it would recollect
Should calm some frantic fears.
(By permission of author)
Baseball was by far the most important team sport in the area during the early part of the century. Football was not played by local high schools until about 1940. Basketball, baseball and track events were the varsity sports. Touch football was played on the streets. In fact, because streets weren’t cluttered up with automobiles, young people could establish a game along just about any street in town. Baseball games, as previously mentioned, were the big community sporting events for young adults during the twenties and thirties, and nowhere more so than in LaVerkin where almost the entire town turned out for Saturday afternoon games. Girls, who otherwise had little or no interest in baseball, got caught up in the excitement and tended to be loyal fans. Reed Wilson, born in 1910, got into baseball early and stayed late. The Wilsons were athletic, and young Reed watched his older brother, Wayne, play until, at age fifteen, he also made the team. They started him at center field, the safest spot for a rookie, but he was a natural athlete and over the years he played every position except catcher. The last position he played was first base, the best position for an old guy. Home runs were Reed’s forte. The writer recalls, as a loyal Hurricane child, watching in dismay, as Reed Wilson would step up to the plate and slam the ball over the head of Hurricane’s left fielder.
The Hurricane games were played on the “square”, a dirt playing field now occupied by the Hurricane Elementary school. Home plate was at the corner of First West and First South. Poplar trees lined the north edge of the square along State Street. When Reed connected, the ball was usually still flying when it reached the poplars. He hit one during a game at LaVerkin that carried over the poplars that lined the west end of the “square” and to the basement window of Winferd Gubler’s house. It struck the frame and took out the entire assembly. The incident provoked awe rather than sympathy, “You should have built your house further away,” Winferd was told; the town had its priorities.
Sometimes players were enjoyable to watch for reasons other than just their skill. As anyone who has played knows, you put a man who demonstrates the fairest judgment and the clearest vision in an umpire’s vest, and he becomes a blind partisan of whomever you are playing against. The Woodbury boys made up about half of the team, and one of the team’s big guns, Glen, sometimes fell victim to inept calls. As Adrien Squire recalls, “He had a temper and would often throw a fit when calls didn't go his way. I've seen him throw his cap down and stomp on it, throw his bat, and gesticulate all over the place to convince all he really meant the cuss words he was using.”
As various leagues were formed, LaVerkin and Hurricane were always the core teams. Sometimes the other villages, such as Toquerville and Rockville, could field a team and would join. The teams traveled far afield in their attempts to have a game every Saturday during the summer. LaVerkin frequently played Beaver, for example. The players had to cover all expenses, no easy task for men who were barely eking out a living. When the Civilian Conservation Corps (CC’s) was created in 1933, there were soon camps at LaVerkin, Hurricane, Zion and Leeds. Teams from these camps were warmly welcomed into anybody’s league, if for no other reason than that they had endless supplies of government issue baseballs. Now, during a game at LaVerkin, if a foul ball went over into Joseph Gubler’s pear orchard, a new ball from the CCs’ ample larder was tossed out, and the game resumed. In the meantime, younger boys would be searching for the ball. Once found, three options presented themselves. One, the ball could be returned to the CC’s for a nickel reward; two, the ball could be retained for use in boys’ games; or three, it could be given to the LaVerkin team. Reed received enough balls in this manner that he no longer had to take baseballs home and re-stitch them so they would last through another game or two.
Interest in baseball waned as the thirties drew to a close, partly because young men were more and more seeking their fortunes elsewhere. Reed and his younger brother, Paul, then played for St. George teams. Reed also became much in demand as a team manager.
LaVerkin teenagers attended school in Hurricane, and Reed was also on the Hurricane High School basketball team, in spite of having to miss the first month each fall to help his father make sorghum molasses. He also played basketball for Dixie College. But, baseball was his favorite sport. The highlight of his baseball career came at a State Amateur tournament; he got a home run off an ex White Sox pitcher.
Television appears to have killed off one of the most endearing features of village life; drama. Maude Judd had the following to say about early LaVerkin theatrics:
From the first, LaVerkin has been known all over the county for its dramatic talent. The first play, name unknown, was played in one of the homes and required most of the adults of the town for the cast. When county fairs were held in St. George the committees asked LaVerkin to bring some plays for evening entertainment; they always played to packed houses. In the fall of 1905, the first play produced in the schoolhouse was “Tony the Convict” under the direction of Robert Dean. The cast included Mr. Dean, George and Louise Judd, Wilford Thompson, Pearl Webb and Maude MacFarlane. Proceeds went for the purchase of the first organ owned by the ward. Later plays included; In the Toils, Nugget Nell, Moonshiner’s Daughter, The Lightning Rod Agent and others. Besides the ones already mentioned, those taking part in later plays were John and James Judd, Robert Arthur, Harriet Hartley, Camilla Hartley, Annie Hartley, Glen Woodbury, Hazel Woodbury, Ezoe Woodbury, Mary Stratton, Atkin Hinton, Samuel Webb, Arthur Webb, Pearl Webb, Jed Fawcett, William Savage, Alberta Savage, Mary Naegle, Lamar Stout, Allen Stout, E.J. Graff, Linda Fletcher, Marge Gubler and Rhea Wakeling. The scenes behind the scenes furnished much amusement for the players. This good clean entertainment kept the community alive and furnished funds for ward and community affairs.
Chautauqua productions were eagerly awaited. They brought drama, music, humor, and information on various subjects. The original Chautauqua began after the Civil War in upstate New York for the purpose of training Sunday school teachers. As it broadened its scope to education, music and some drama, it grew in popularity and chautauqua groups were formed throughout the United States many of which lasted into the1930’s. Lecturers and acts were booked into villages as small as LaVerkin. A few children’s tickets would be scattered around the playing field so the lucky finders could attend.
Drama took on new life in the 1930’s when Luther Fuller and his wife, Rosalba (Gubler) became residents. Luther was talented, strict, and kind. Under his direction, actors gave professional performances. He and Rosalba could build and paint any required backdrop. Productions were taken to neighboring towns of course. The writer recalls, as a young boy, sitting entranced through LaVerkin plays presented on the Hurricane High School stage. He yearned to give assistance to the heroine played by Ardella Gubler in whatever quandary she found herself. He was shocked when, some weeks later, he saw an accomplished actor, Wilford Thompson--whose character takes the rap when he realizes that the culprit is his long lost son,--out leading an ordinary life.
The LaVerkin players were convincing indeed. Drama came naturally to Wilford. He was wearing a brand new shirt while umpiring a Saturday afternoon baseball game. A fouled ball beaned him, sending him down for the count. His apparently, lifeless form lay sprawled on the ground for so long it was decided to give emergency aid. A bucket of water was sent for. Just as the aid was to be administered, Wilford opened one eye and said, “Don’t get any on my new shirt.”
Drama was an important segment of radio programming and high quality plays could be heard each week on the Lux Radio Theater. Radio did not compete with stage performances though. In fact, it probably enhanced interest in live productions. Listening to a radio, you could visualize the action in your mind. You enjoyed comparing your responses to those of the actors on stage when you saw a play. Television though, has been the great destroyer of imagination. By the 1960’s, the stage was dark.
A prophet might have addressed LaVerkin residents in 1938 and said, “Fifty years hence live drama will be gone from here; and there will be no dances at the chapel every Saturday night.” After their initial shock and disbelief, the citizens would express pity for the poor folks whose lives were to be deprived of two of mankind’s greatest social inventions. Saturday nights, the benches of the White Chapel were pushed back; the live orchestra, consisting of piano, sax and drums, tuned up; and the townspeople began dancing. Shut-ins were the only non-attenders. Babies were laid end to end along the benches where their dancing parents could monitor them. Almost everybody danced, and with numerous partners. A young couple in love, could manage to get back together frequently, but otherwise variety ruled.
Winferd Gubler, who had the Church calling of dance manager, looked after everything from hauling the drums to the chapel to inspecting the lavatories. Young Bill Sanders played a mean sax, but probably the star of the band was his sister-in-law, Millie Sanders. She could make the piano “stand up”. She didn’t need sheet music; her hands knew all the tunes. Even while Millie was greeting someone, making them happy to be there, or just watching the fun, her lively playing never stopped. Other star players came along later of course.
Dances were also held on holidays, particularly New Year’s, and on special occasions, such as the cleanup day in 1947, when poplar trees were dispatched. At these events, homemade ice cream and, of course, salted crackers, were served. Any true gourmet knows that the two were made for each other.
As the writer can attest, having two left feet, no sense of rhythm, inborn shyness and palms that sweated profusely when grasping a girl, were distinct disadvantages in that era. For many such awkward youth, ballroom dexterity and social courage were just a jug away. The vintners of Dixie’s past still furtively plied their craft, and a swig or two from a fruit jar retrieved from its hiding place in the shrubbery, enabled the veriest klutz to launch himself into the social swing. A lack of moderation though, meant an escorted exit. Inability to dance was no excuse in the late 1930’s or early 40’s. Elwin Slack would teach you.
The main problems at the dances were young men from neighboring towns who were attracted to the fun. A chance to get wild while out of their families’ sight was a strong motive for coming, and LaVerkin got the name “Little Tijuana” for that reason. Winferd could count on the support of other adults as needed, such as the time some Hurricane rowdies brought cockle burrs and tossed them into ladies’ hair.
A few older women whose opportunities for such excesses had long since passed might complain to Winferd about certain young couples dancing too close; they wanted to see daylight at least somewhere up and down the line of contact. Winferd never pried anybody apart though. He left the setting of such standards to the Sunday school and the young men’s and women’s programs.
As with other social activities, it’s difficult to distinguish between those of city and church. The MIA (Mutual Improvement Association) used to have church-wide ballroom dance competitions. Bill Sanders and his young friend, Norma Stout, were selected to represent the LaVerkin Ward in the St. George Stake dance festival. They then were chosen to represent the Stake at the main event in Saltaire. Norma figured if Bill could stay off her toes on the dance floor he was probably okay in other ways, so she married him.
Christmas was, if anything, more exiting to a boy or girl in 1930 than now, even though the meager toys that thrilled them might be ignored by today’s surfeited child. A new dress for her old doll and new shoes for herself were cause for a little girl’s eyes to sparkle in pleasure; it’s the contrast that counts. There was so little of anything during the year, that Christmas was, relatively speaking, a bounteous occasion.
It was a magical time for little Delma Sanders. Nothing tangible happened until the day before Christmas, but that didn’t dampen the anticipation. In the afternoon, a tree that had been brought in from the mesas to the east, by Will Senior, or one of the older boys was set up in the Sanders home and trimmed with strings of popcorn. Donuts and apples were hung from the branches. A huge community tree was set up at the church, and on Christmas Eve, the entire populace gathered there to enjoy the program and to greet Santa Claus. Amazingly, he always remembered to arrive right on time. And even more amazingly, he came with exactly enough gifts for every child and each one with a name on it. Delma’s happy illusions about Santa remained intact for quite a while. One year stands out in her memory. Sarah gave Delma her present early, a red sweater, so she could wear it to the program.
Christmas day was usually spent nibbling on the home-made Christmas tree ornaments; the tree was usually bare by evening. The next day the tree was removed and Delma installed it in her “play house”--whatever nook of the yard she so designated. Then it had a second career as a tool for Delma’s imagination.
We can lament that a tree had such a short life as a Christmas symbol, but living rooms were small and families were large.
The following, entitled “LaVerkin’s First Christmas” was recounted some years ago by Delma’s mother, Sarah (Wilson) Sanders:
The LaVerkin LDS Ward was organized on June 22, 1904, with Morris Wilson, Jr., as bishop. A rock schoolhouse, built in 1905, also served as a recreation hall and church building. A committee composed of Bishop, Morris Wilson; Relief Society President, Hattie Woodbury; Primary President, Sarah A. Sanders; and MIA President, Minnie Wilson; planned the first LaVerkin Christmas party and program in 1905. Bishop Wilson hauled a cedar tree from the foothills. The butt of the tree was thrust into the hub of a wagon wheel, which served as a stand. The committee decorated the Christmas tree with threaded popcorn, popcorn balls, colorful homemade paper chains, and wax candles. They brought mosquito netting from the Isom store in Virgin City and made bags that were crammed with nuts and candy as presents for the children. They invited Jim Cornelius of Virgin City to ride down and act as old Santa. The people attending the first Christmas party were the families of Bishop Morris Wilson, Joseph Gubler, Henry Gubler, William Sanders, George Jones, William Hardy, Arthur Woodbury, George Judd, and Allen Stout.
The eyes of the children sparkled when the candles were lit and the program was presented. Then Santa appeared to distribute the sacks of candy and nuts. His beard caught fire while he was removing the candy from the tree. Mrs. Joseph Gubler began to claw the burning cotton from Old Santa and scratched his face. Although Santa lost his disguise, no serious injury was caused, and everyone enjoyed the party like one big happy family.
Either they chose accident-prone Santas, or the burning beard story took on a life of its own. Emma, daughter of R.P. Woodbury, recalled a Christmas Eve when Santa got too close to a candle that adorned the big tree, and her own illusions about Santa were shattered. His whiskers ignited and in the rush to extinguish the blaze, they were jerked off. “That’s not Santa. That’s Powell Stratton!” some urchin exclaimed. Powell, who was a little younger than the earliest settlers, was often in demand as a Santa and for providing musical numbers. He could accompany himself on the guitar while he either sang, or he played the harmonica.
The Fourth of July always opened with a bang; you were awakened at dawn by a small explosion. One morning in about 1921, Owen Sanders recalls that the awakening seemed more like an ending. The blast shook the whole town. At ground zero in the playing field there was a hole about six feet deep and six feet across, and leaves were shredded from the nearby row of trees. Windows were blown out from the little rock schoolhouse and from neighboring homes. Although some teenage and young adult males were interviewed, all evaded blame or censure.
Foot races were important on both the Fourth and Twenty-fourth. For years, Vernon Church took on all comers of any age in a special race, and always beat them. Finally when his son Karl became a teenager, a new champ reigned. The most important ingredient for assuring success of these holidays was the homemade ice cream and the crackers.
Frequently on the Twenty-fourth there would be a community camp-out at the Square. Everybody would try to dress as pioneers and drive over in covered wagons. An evening program would help everyone relive their ancestors’ trials and triumphs. Sometimes savage Indians would attack the camp early in the morning. It could be so real that even afterward a kid wasn’t quite sure the tomahawk used in his “scalping” was madeof foam rubber.
May Day, with the braiding of the maypole, was an important community holiday that has since totally disappeared. It was usually held at the town square, but some years, it was at somebody’s farm. As Alice Stratton recalls, “The pretty colors were artistically arranged. The braiding was precise-- over and under, over and under--as the children marched, alternately facing each other. Little girls, dressed in rainbow colored mosquito netting dresses, looked like butterflies braiding the maypole. I know. I was one of them and I remember the elegance of it.” A couple of years, Duncan’s Flat was the site. Besides braiding the maypole with colorful streamers, there would be swings and teeter-totters set up for the children, and softball and horseshoe games would be played.
Valentine’s Day brought a quaint custom involving the “snatch-grab”. The perpetrator obtained the most elaborate and fancy valentine possible. He or she would place it at someone’s door step, then knock. Just as the supposed recipient went to pick it up, it would fly back to its owner via the attached string.
Halloween was more a time for mischief. The current custom of children going about soliciting treats was unknown. It was a time for pushing over outhouses, dismantling someone’s wagon and rebuilding it in some awkward location, and tick-tacking windows. A tick-tack was made by cutting little notches around the rims of a wooden thread-spool then mounting it on an axle and attaching a string. After winding the string around the spool, the tick-tack was placed against some unsuspecting householder’s window. The racket produced when you pulled the string was either jarring, or satisfying depending on one’s point of view.
Actually, mischief enjoyed an open season. A WPA project was the construction of outdoor privies. Twenty or so had been delivered to various homeowners and put in place. Before they could be bolted down though, a mixed group of teens “borrowed” a trailer and hauled all of them to the town square, where their owners had to retrieve them the next day. Another time, some of the same group swiped a pair of long underwear from a clothes line, stuffed them with straw and ran them up the flagpole by the church.
Memorial Day called for shovels and hoes. Desert shrubs grew over the cemetery during the year; but for that one day, it was spic and span. Various organizations may have taken turns doing the clean up. Muriel Church recalls that the Primary did it for many years.
A medical revolution, still in progress, has taken place since the mid 1930’s. Other than a few procedures such as surgery and setting broken bones, a doctor had nothing more to offer a patient than did a gifted home practitioner. In 1935, the druggist’s arsenal for combating infection consisted mainly of Mercurochrome, tincture of iodine, hydrogen peroxide, and Epsom’s Salts. Aspirin, of course, has been available for pain relief since the late 1800’s. About the only prescription drugs a pharmacy carried were narcotic based painkillers. Mumps, measles and whooping cough were assumed to be standard childhood experiences. Blood transfusions were still in the developmental stage. Antibiotics, heart surgery and transplants were far in the future. The medical revolution resulted in at least two things not being done. Mothers are no longer required to remain in bed for two weeks following a baby’s birth; and tonsils are no longer routinely removed. It is rare indeed to find someone born prior to 1935 who still has his or her tonsils. They were seen as the culprit in all manner of childhood problems. A reason why their removal seemed so prudent was that when they did become infected and abscessed, the patient’s life was in danger. Acute tonsillitis could lead to quinsy, a revolting, acutely painful and dangerous pus-filled swelling in the throat, that seriously interfered with swallowing and talking, and might even impair breathing.
The heartbreak of losing a child to disease or infection blighted the lives of far more families in that earlier time. When Loren Squires moved to LaVerkin in 1919, he recorded some grim statistics from the LaVerkin cemetery. There were twelve graves. Six of the occupants had died prior to their first birthday, one, at age eight; one, at age seventeen; one, at twenty-eight; one, at thirty-one; one, at forty and the eldest, at age forty-seven. Keep in mind that the cemetery had been in use less than twenty years and that the total population of LaVerkin was only about one hundred. Children weren’t the only victims. Among the writer’s 1937 Hurricane fifth grade class that included the LaVerkin children, at least six students had lost a father, a mother, or, in one case, both.
Goiters were common. Women were about five times more likely to get them than men. They are a swelling around the thyroid gland caused by iodine deficiency that tends to occur in mountainous regions, such as the mountains and uplands of the American west, and Switzerland. The luckier ones just had a swelling at the front of the neck, but some had a large glob that hung from the neck like an apple in a plastic bag. One poor Hurricane woman had one that encircled her neck and kept her in a constant state of choking. When the cause of goiters was discovered, school children in the area were issued iodine pills on a regular basis, probably once a week. They were quite tasty, and most students downed them without any fuss. Adding iodine to table salt solved the problem for good.
There was never a doctor in LaVerkin. The closest one would be in Hurricane, although there were times when Hurricane was also without professional medical services. Even if doctors had been readily available, money was required for their services. There was never enough of that to go around. Mothers had to develop healing skills and had to utilize whatever healing aids nature provided. Pine gum salve was one suchmainstay.
Sarah Sanders, wife of William, succeeded two particular times that have been recorded. From Maude Judd’s account: “While William was at work, his wife, Sarah, and small son, Clarence, grubbed brush from their lot so it could be plowed and planted. Wile grubbing one day, Clarence accidentally struck his little sister, Amelia, with his hoe, cutting a deep gash in her head. There was no doctor, so Sarah took care of the wound the best she could, and the girl recovered completely.” A daughter, Delma, attests to her mother’s healing skills. On a cold winter day when the wood-fired living room heater was nearly red hot, little Delma tripped while playing and her cheek smacked against the stove’s rounded belly. She jerked away, but much of her cheek stayed behind. Sarah treated it with daily applications of castor oil and some weeks later no trace of the problem remained.
It was Mary Gubler, or “Aunt May”, that most people sought out for help with their ills, and that everybody obeyed when she proclaimed a quarantine. Town board minutes of May 17, 1928 announce her appointment as Health Officer. It was probably more of a “calling” than a paying job; there was nothing in the Board minutes about a salary. She was twice reimbursed for expenses however-- once for $3.75, the other for $11.05. She may have had a similar charge from the county prior to the city appointment.
If a communicable disease such as measles or whooping cough visited a home, Aunt May would soon follow. A red flag on the front gate meant, “Nobody comes in, and nobody leaves”. This was particularly true for school, church and shopping. If the father wasn’t sick, he usually carried on his work as usual.
Aunt May commanded respect because of her skills and because of her caring, but it was her voice that demanded immediate attention. There were no telephones, but Aunt May didn’t really need one. She possessed a strong voice. Her children were within reach of her summons anywhere on the bench. If a family was foolish enough to ignore the quarantine on their home and Aunt May saw one of them out in public, besides having a commanding physical presence, her expostulations would be heard by the entire populace. It was a risk no one ever took. It could be that everybody trained their voices to carry long distances then. If Henry, who lived nearly two blocks from his brother, had business to conduct some morning, he would go out on the front porch and call, “Oh, Jo-oe!” Joseph would soon answer back and they would have their discussion.
May’s expertise wasn’t confined to medical lore, she had useful advice on numerous subjects. Washday, for example, meant standing about all day scrubbing clothes, tending boiling tubs of water, et cetera. To avoid miserably cold feet on a nasty January washday, she advised sprinkling a little cayenne pepper in one’s shoes.
Farming is a dangerous occupation and people had to learn to patch themselves up. Sometimes the accidents were more serious. In 1921, Henry Gubler nearly died when he stepped off into a gully one dark night while coming in from his homestead at the Canaan Gap. The pony he was riding had been picking its way along in the dark when it suddenly stopped and refused to budge. Henry should have taken a lesson from Balaam of the Old Testament, but instead he dismounted and began to walk forward. He stepped off the precipice that had halted his mount. He lit on his feet, but the impact shattered the bones in his feet, legs and hips. His son, Ovando, eventually found him. He used pillows as splints to ready his father for the agonizing trip home in their wagon. Henry was more than lucky to be alive, but there was absolutely no hope that he would ever walk again. The bones in his legs were too thoroughly pulverized. At least that’s what the doctors said. Henry thought otherwise. He devised his own therapy program that included hours of daily exercise over a two-year period seated on a sawhorse, plus daily workouts at the hot sulfur springs. Ovando faithfully carried his father piggyback down into the water for each hydrotherapy session. Throughout the ordeal, Henry maintained his resolve, and he did walk again.
A document in possession of Henry’s daughter, Ruth, indicates that Henry’s neighbors were willing to share their meager resources on his behalf. It reads: “Henry Gubler one of our honorable citizens had the sad misfortune during early spring to break both of his legs, and thus became incapable for several months to come. We the undersigned esteem it a privilege and a pleasure to give the amount placed opposite our names, to assist our brother to carry the great burden that rests so heavily upon him”. Twenty-three people donated. The amounts ranged from one to twenty five dollars for a total of $115.00. The money didn’t go for Henry’s personal expenses. One of the boys was on a Mission at the time; the hundred and fifteen dollars was just the amount needed to keep him out there. Henry wasn’t a large man to begin with and because he had difficulty standing or sitting erectly afterwards, he appeared to be even smaller.
After World War II, he purchased a new Kaiser-Frazier automobile. It was a large car that Henry found he could best aim by peering just under the top of the steering wheel. When folks round-about saw a car in motion being driven by a hat, they knew Henry was on the road again. Henry didn’t let a physical impairment interfere with a lifetime of church, business and community service.
Dentistry has undergone its own revolution in technology, services and in the number of dentists available. Throbbing pain from decaying teeth was a way of life. Abscessed teeth could be a cause of death. Will Sanders owned some dental pliers and was skilled at pulling rotting teeth. He didn’t charge anything, he pulled teeth just to alleviate suffering. But when a St. George dentist heard about him and threatened to sue, Will quit. Ervil took the pliers over and did a few emergency extractions.
Owen Sanders’ first underwent the torture of a dentist’s office in Hurricane during the mid twenties. The dentist used a foot-operated treadle powered drill. The pain he inflicted far overshadowed that of his successor, Dr. Gibson, who had electrically powered equipment. Even so, Dr. Gibson’s office is synonymous with “torture chamber” in the minds of many older local residents. His drills were far slower than modern models and caused far more pain. His needles were re-usable and thus had to be much larger so they could be properly cleaned. Needles required frequent sharpening, but certificates attesting to his sharpening skills were conspicuously absent from the office walls. He punched the needles in rather than inserted them.
Mortuaries are a blessing to modern Relief Society Presidencies. Prior to the 1940’s, it was they who were responsible for all the tasks necessary to prepare a deceased for burial. This included lining the coffin, making burial clothes, bathing and dressing the body, and tending the body night and day. A local carpenter, usually Bill Nielson, made the casket. Lack of embalming meant funerals were conducted no more than two days following death. At least one person would have stayed with the body throughout the night, applying wet cloths to keep the face from going black.
Sitting up with the dead may also have been done as a show of respect and to just keep an eye on things. When long-time LaVerkin resident Alice (Isom) Gubler Stratton was a Hurricane teenager along in the twenties, a neighbor, old Sister Wilson, passed away and Alice was asked by her mother to sit up one night with the body. The prospect of being with a dead person nearly scared Alice to death and although an obedient maid, she did want a good reason for doing so. "Well, sometimes people think a person's dead, but they're not. Someone needs to be there in case she wakes up" replied her mother. Jittery with fear, she reported that evening to where the body was laid out in the Wilson's living room. A forty-watt light bulb hanging from the ceiling provided little more than an ominous gloom. The empty wooden box for holding the coffin was on the floor near the body. It was a hot summer, night and fruit jars containing ice were packed around the body; spare jars of ice were by the cellar steps. A large electric fan turned on high was positioned near the feet to help keep the body cool.
As she nervously commenced her vigil, she was joined by the deceased's grandson, Clarence Mangum, who decided to help out. Clarence had a fondness for drink, and this situation called for extra portions. Soon, he really needed to lie down and he picked the one comfortable facility to lie in--the coffin box. As Alice was adapting to being with apparently two bodies, the fan caused Sister Wilson's long hair to come loose from the bun into which it had been arranged, and for the rest of the night, it swirled and waved out away from her head as if it were alive. Alice kept telling herself that Sister Wilson’s body wasn’t also beginning to move, but just as her nerves would calm down and her fears subside, Clarence, in his drunken state would shatter the stillness by letting out a loud groan, or kicking the side of the box.
As midnight passed, Alice was becoming somewhat used to the situation but she was also lonelier now and more attuned to any new night-noise. The windows were open to admit cool air and a cat slipped in through one of them. It announced its presence by dislodging a jar of ice, sending it crashing down the cellar steps. The cat was even more frightened by the racket than was Alice, and it let out a blood-curdling yowl. Giving up on bravery, Alice tensely awaited the dawn expecting each breath to be her last.