Personal History of Hilga

Written by herself, November 2001

I was born in Delta, Utah, in 1927. I was the first child of my parents.  I spent the first two years of my life on a small farm in Sutherland, a small farm community near Delta. This was just a few miles west of where my grandparents lived. My brother Ira was born just a year after me, 26 Apr 1928. The family moved to Provo in 1929 to a farm of about 50 acres. The land was only fair-to-poor for raising crops, so Dad bought a small herd of dairy cows and started a door-to-door milk route in Provo. He milked about 20 head (by hand) for about 15 years. Through the years he raised such crops as sugar beets, grain and hay. He even tried celery one year, but it must not have paid off, because he did not try it again the next year. I think it must have been very labor intensive, and he had only some small kids to help him.

My earliest memories seem to be of hay hauling time. I believe I was about seven when it became my duty to help tromp the load. Dad would climb up at intervals to help square up the load for me. As I became older, this job was passed on to Helen and Ira, and I started to help pitch the hay on the load. Dad even found a smaller pitch fork for me, and I still have it. Ira learned to drive the tractor as he got older, but I never mastered the skill. I remember when I was twelve and wanted to drive the car to pull up the hay fork into the barn. Dad finally relented when he got tired of listening to me whine, and took me for a trial run. He told me to back the car up to the middle of the corral, and when I heard the word, I was to gun the car and then let it coast up to the barn. I put my foot down on the gas and did not take it off until I hit the post that held up the shed. Dad did not say a word, but the look on his face indicated that I had failed the test, and should return to the barn and continue to tromp and pitch the hay as it was dumped from the big hay fork. Ira resumed the easy job of driving the car. I decided that I would never be able to drive, so I never asked again.

Beet thinning time was always the worst time of the year for me. It meant long hours of crawling down even longer rows of little sugar beets. Dad would block the row with a hoe, and we would then thin each clump of beets to just one plant. Many were the trousers that had no knees at the end of the day. Burlap sacks were sometimes used to make pads for our poor sore knees. I always managed to tear out more beets by dragging the sac than I did with my fingers. I remember that the four of us, Ira, Helen, Jeniel and I worked for about two years for a bike. (It was still in use in 1955.) Ira laid claim to the bike, and of course the girls all gave into him. It afforded him the transportation that he needed to get him far enough away that he was not always available to help with the chores.

I think threshing time stands out as the most exciting time of all. The grain would be hauled into the yard and stacked in large round stacks. Threshing was a community effort. Dad would go to the neighbors and help them, and then they would come to help him. The threshing machine would pull into the yard the night before the big day, and it would be set up so that they would get an early start the next day. The crew arrived early, started the big machine, and the straw and chaff would begin to fly. There would be straw chaff all over everything; we kids would be covered thick with it. The fine, nice wheat would pour into the bins in the granary, or into sacks for hauling away. We loved to play in the grain and bury ourselves in the bins. I think that the most impressive thing about the day was the large crowd of men and all the big machinery. Mom would cook a big meal for the menfolk, and it was a wonderful time. When I got older, it was not as much fun, because I would have to stay in the house and help Mom cook the meal, and then wash up the dishes.

I learned to milk cows when I was about eight years old. At first I just milked at night and only one or two cows who were about ready to dry up, so I could not do too much damage to them. Later I had to get up and milk in the morning before I could go to school. Since the bus came about 7:30, that meant EARLY. I hated going to school with my hands smelling like a cow, but I could sure arm wrestle the boys because of my strong hands and arms.

I started school at the age of 6, attending LV Elementary. This was a two-room school, so the first, second and third grades shared one room and one teacher. I spent most of my time listening to what was going on in the other grades. I did very well and was a good student. I would bring my little books home and read to the other kids. The next year LV was closed, and we were bused twelve miles to the Spencer Elementary. The long ride was often hard. In the winter we would have to sit on our feet to keep them warm. We were one of the first to get on the bus and it was cold. We also had to walk about a half mile to catch the bus. Some days in the winter the snow would drift over the road, and we would have a real struggle getting to the bus stop. Sometimes we were wet to our knees by the time the bus got us to the school.

I had measles in the first grade, but managed not to miss a day of school from the second grade to the sixth, even though I had all the regular childhood diseases. I did have to stay home when I had the mumps in the sixth grade. By the time I got back to school, half of the class was out with the mumps. We even managed to give them to Mom. I remember seeing her try to hang wallpaper. She had a rag tied under shin to hold the mumps up, and she would hang one piece of paper and then lay down for a while. We all lay on our beds and watched her.

My close friends were LaRue Paquin who lived with her grandmother in a very small house on the main road and by the Provo River. Jean Jorgensen lived by the beet factory just across the main road at the head of our road. I did not get to visit them much because it was almost a mile to their houses. We did spend a lot of time together at school. We stayed at Spencer until we finished the 8th grade.

Lincoln High School was across the street from Spencer, and I went to the 9th grade there. I sang a solo in the school operetta that year. I don’’t remember the name of the play, only that I sang “Beautiful Dreamer.” I was so afraid when I sang at the matinee that I was so far off key that the piano had to stop and let me go on alone. The next performance was better, that was when my parents came to see me perform. I was not able to participate in after-school activities since we lived so far away, and I had to catch the bus home. I had to get home to wash milk bottles, then milk cows and do other chores. I spent as much time as I was allowed with my nose in a book. I often read about four books a week. I knew every book in the school library, and I always had some checked out. All of this reading helped me with my reading and spelling skills, but I never did do well in math.

About this time in my life Dad had his first heart attack. I don’’t think I even knew that he was sick. He could no longer take the long hours on the milk route and the care of the dairy cows plus the crops, so he sold the cows and turned the barn into a chicken coop. He raised pullets to sell for laying hens. The chickens were hard to raise, and many of them died, so needless to say, he made no money on them. Even the laying hens did not lay enough eggs to pay for their feed. Times were a little rough about then. It was about 1940, and the Government wanted to build a steel plant away from the sea shores. They decided to build it in Vineyard. That was the best farming ground in the county, but it was close to Utah Lake and to the railroad. So the Government bought out those farmers, and they were looking for other farms to buy. Dad was able to sell his equity in the farm for enough to buy a house in PG and have it paid for. Then he could go ahead and die and Mom and the kids would at least have a place to live. There was an acre or more of ground and two large chicken coops on it. We did bring some chickens and a cow with us. I was assigned the task of milking the cow, because I knew how. The other girls never did learn to milk. (When I graduated and left home, Dad sold the cow!!)

I remember the day we moved. The neighbor brought over his large hay wagon, and we loaded everything on it. I think there was also a truck, and a trailer behind the car. Some of us kids wanted to ride on top of the load of furniture. I can just imagine what the neighbors must have thought when they saw us coming. Talk about “Oakies.” We could hardly wait to get down to survey the place. The house was brick and had one bedroom, a kitchen, large living room and a BATHROOM!!! on the main floor. There was a second floor (without a floor) with a small, steep stairway up to it. We all had to try out the toilet; we had never had indoor plumbing like that before.

Well, you might guess that five kids did not fit well into that limited space. The rooms were all large with very high ceilings. Mom and Dad and the baby (Ileen) slept in the bedroom, and the rest of us slept in the front room with all the furniture we did not have room for in the other rooms. Dad had brought some flooring or barn siding from the farm, so it was not too long before he laid down a floor upstairs over the kitchen; that way we would get some heat from the chimney from the coal cook stove in the kitchen. We had a folding bed that he was able to get up the narrow stairway. Jeniel and I were the ones who stayed up there. It was June 1942 when we moved, and it did not take long to find some friends in the neighborhood. Ira met the three Jackson boys whose grandmother lived across the street north of us. Ora Jense became my friend, as she lived across the street to the west of us. Ardell Peterson lived down the street from her, so I had some one to help me get acquainted. Mom took a calling in the MIA and found many friends at church. Dad worked for a short time at the steel plant building some of the buildings. He could not stand the way supplies and materials were wasted, so he quit. He found other work with a carpenter who was building houses on the north edge of town. He was able to work on a contract basis doing finish carpentry. That way he could work when he felt up to it, and to go home if he had any chest pain. He had a good boss, and did very good work, so he was able to do this for several years.

I started tenth grade at Pleasant Grove High School. The kids there were rather clannish, so I did not mix with them socially. I concentrated on my studies, and continued to read lots of books. I maintained an A grade and graduated in the top ten of my class of 80. I had decided that I wanted to be a nurse, so I took all of the science and math classes that I could get so I would qualify for Nurses Training. The War was in full swing, and they needed nurses at the front. The Government was offering the Cadet Nurse Corps, started in 1943, to encourage women to become nurses. The program paid tuition and uniforms, plus a stipend of $10 per month. I was accepted into the program; my good grades had paid off for me in that way. I went into training in June of 1945 and the war ended in August of the same year. I was able to finish my training at the Government’’s expense. That was real lucky for me, because I would never have gotten an education except in that way.

Now back to school days at Pleasant Grove High. My favorite teacher was Estelle Fenton. She taught English and literature. She was single and very heavy, she was also very stern, but you could learn from her if you were willing to study.

During the summers we would work in the fruit. We picked strawberries, raspberries, apricots, beans, tomatoes, peaches and finished up the season with apples. It kept us busy and gave us pocket money for such events as Strawberry Days carnival, movies, ice cream, and finally school clothes. I remember when I bought my first skirt and patent leather shoes with my earnings. I was so proud of myself, and I felt so elegant in those shoes. When I turned sixteen I was able to work in the cannery doing apricots. I made $36 that first check. I was so proud, and I took it right home and asked my Dad if he would build me a room of my own upstairs. I am sure that it cost more than what I had given him to build it, but boy was I glad to have a place of my own. My bed was a mattress on a board over two saw horses. I could now read all night if I wanted to, and Jeniel would not holler at me. Dad then went ahead and finished off the rest of the bedrooms, so we now had three bedrooms upstairs and a cubby hole where extra things could be stored. We were living in class. Dad later moved the door of the bathroom from the kitchen to the rear hall. It was always bad if you were in the bathroom and there was company come to call, and you could be stuck in the bathroom. We always had to make sure that we had that part of getting ready for a date done as soon as possible.


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