Gwen Alta Brown Cole
I was born December 21, 1920 in Preston, Idaho to Maralba Brown and Alta Hollingsworth Brown. I was born at home in a little frame house on East Onieda in Preston, Idaho. At this time my father was working with his father, John, in the maintenance of the Central and Jefferson school in Preston. Wages were low and jobs hard to find. When his brother, Jim, wrote to him from Grand Junction, Colorado and told him of a job there working with him in a café where dad could work as an apprentice and learn to be a Chef, Grandpa Brown encouraged him to try it. So we were not long deciding.
Grand Junction was a beautiful little town with many trees and cozy little bungalow type homes. We liked it very much. Mother worked along with Dad trying to get enough ahead to buy a home here. I was left with a couple of very special ladies. Mrs. Clegg and her elderly daughter. They cared for me for several years. Molly, the daughter, would take me for' long walks and we would sing songs, have picnics in the park. She would spend many hours telling me stories. I loved them both dearly. They had a large bull dog named Colonel that had very sad eyes or so I thought. One day I squeezed myself through a little space by the door of his pen and played with him. I heard Molly calling me and when she saw where I was she screamed and called her mother. Evidently Colonel was supposed to be a very mean dog and I very carefully squeezed myself back out of his pen as they were apparently afraid to come in and get me. I still think of him as a nice dog but not long after that they sold him they said. Dad and mother did buy a home here and paid on it for several years. It was a nice big house or so it seemed after living in an apartment for a long time. There was a large lawn and trees surrounding the home, we loved it. But I guess it just wasn't supposed to be, dad got word of a special, good job in McGill, Nevada with wages so good he said he had to take it. Dad left mom and I there and left for Nevada. About a month later he sent for us as he had made arrangements for us a place to live. Oh what a change came into our lives. There was no lawns, no trees, all the property was owned by the mining company and the employees were given the houses to live in. They furnished everything, including the paint to fix it up. Dad was a good hand at painting and mom knew a few tricks of her own that soon had the house more like home. There was a fair sized ward of LDS. people there and we soon got busy. It was here in McGill that I started school, Kindergarten and first grade. Then dad was transferred to Ruth, Nevada, another little mining town owned by the Ruth Consolidated Copper Company. Here dad also worked as a chef, cooking meals for about 800 miners. The work was hard but dad never complained, he made a lot of nice friends. Everyone called him Brownie.
We had an addition to the family just before we settled in Ruth, my little brother, John Marvin Brown was born. I remember how excited I was. I stayed with Aunt Myrtle, daddy's sister who lived in Ely, Nevada just about 10 miles from Ruth. Mother was in the hospital there so this made it quite convenient for dad and me. John was a real joy to me, I was a big six years old then and soon learned pretty well how to take care of him or so I though. We were very close, I loved him dearly and we always stuck up for each other whenever there was any trouble of any kind.
In Ruth we lived in a little two room home for a while on the dump. It was called that as it was built on dirt that many years ago was the excess dirt from the mine. It had been leveled off and homes were built on top. It was about five blocks from school and I walked every year to school. One day a friend of mine named Verl Theobold decided to do a very scary thing. We both had a big box left from some furniture just purchased. We dared each other to climb in the box and roll down to the bottom of the dump, about a block of steep hillside. I had to go first, of course, to prove how brave I was. My, what a ride that was, it is a wonder I didn't break my neck. When I got to the bottom I couldn't even breathe for a few minutes and Verl was hollering "Are you all right?". Of course I wasn't going to tell him, so I answered "I'm OK -- it was fun. Come on down" so he did! It was a head over heels, leaving him also breathless and hurting. His box broke open just before he landed on the bottom. Verl stood up, glared at me and started to cry and climb back up the hill to go home. I was afraid to laugh as he was already so angry with me.
Another fun pastime we enjoyed was going over to the garbage dump where there were lots of can lids from coffee cans, anything under which a scorpion could hide. They were a poisonous bug with a long forked tail that they would sting with if they got a chance. So we (silly kids) would take a long stick and flip these lids over to see who could uncover the biggest scorpion. Sometimes this gave us quite a thrill when the scorpion would raise his tail and charge us.
Several of my friends set traps and caught little chipmunks that were very plentiful in that area, then built a pen with a wheel in it for the chipmunks to run around in. It was quite amusing but I never did have one, I always felt sorry for them. They didn't live very long in those pens.
Uncle George and Aunt Myrtle Wilson, my dad's sister, lived in Ely, Nevada at this time so we children grew up together and had a lot of fun times. Especially on thanksgiving, they always came to our house or we went to see them. Aunt Myrtle gave us a pair of white mice. Dad built them a special pen with a small box up in one corner for a nest, with a sloped board leading up to the nest where they slept. I had a lot of fun with them and was pretty excited when they had four babies but they didn't live very long. Mom said she thought it may have been to cold for them, it was fall and got pretty cold for a few nights.
Ruth, Nevada was our home until I graduated from the eighth grade and John was in the second grade. During the summer after my graduation we drove to Preston in our 1929 Ford and dad decided to go into business with his cousin Chet Conlin. So our next move was to Preston, Idaho, dad and mom's home town.
Just before we left Ruth, Nevada a tiny baby sister was added to our little family. She was born at the Steptoe Valley Hospital in East Ely, Nevada the 25 June 1934. She was a tiny, premature, seven month baby. Not much hope was given to us that she would live. We had the elders of the L.D.S. Church come and give her a blessing and named her Jane Larue Brown there at the hospital.
I remember that mother was terribly ill with albumen of the kidneys that caused the premature birth. Grandma and Grandpa Hollingsworth even came from Preston to be with us. I was very excited about them coming I don't think I realized how ill mom was at the time. However, our prayers were answered and little Jane became my doll. She was so tiny that I really did dress her in my doll clothes. We fed her with an eye dropper for several months. Mother worried about her a lot, sometimes sitting and holding her for hours, especially at night, almost afraid to lay her down. She and dad would take turns while the other one slept. Their efforts were rewarded as Jane began to grow and gradually became a delightful little personality in our home.
We lived in the Brown home when we came to Preston as it had been rented for several years after grandmother Brown died. It was in bad need of cleaning, mom and dad did this from top to bottom until it did feel like our home. Dad especially loved the old home because it was where he had grown up and it had a lot of precious memories to him.
We lived in Preston only from August of 1935 to December of 1936 until tragedy struck that changed our lives. It was December 14, 1936, a Monday morning and John was killed on his way to school. Two cars collided at the intersection, one car skidded around and hit John. A little friend of his was seriously hurt too but he did recover. We all had a very hard time accepting and adjusting to this loss. Mother especially had a hard time. She grieved excessively. Mom never was quite her real happy self after John's death.
I graduated from Preston High School in may 1939. That summer Aunt
Blanche, mother's sister came for a visit and when she invited me to go home with her and her son Thomas mom and dad gave their permission and I had a very happy experience visiting the big city of Oakland where they lived and San Francisco where Uncle Howard worked. He offered to find me a job if I wanted to stay but I was dreaming of a young man back home, Wayne Cole by name and was just as excited about returning home as I was to see the big city.
Shortly after I graduated from Preston High School in Business Education I went to work for Doctor Eugene Worley as his secretary and office manager. I worked 5-l/2 days a week for $20.00 a month/ He was very pleasant to work for. He had a deep bass voice and would sing a lot. Our office was upstairs in the old Greaves building and he would sing coming up those steps and down the hall, you could hear him for a block. He had a good sense of humor that I didn't always appreciate. Soon after my engagement to Wayne I took my ring off to do something messy and had to wash my hands. I left the ring on the sink and it just disappeared. When I asked him about it he said he never noticed it there. He even called a plumber to take the sink apart to see if by chance it went down the drain. I swept the floor, looked everywhere but couldn't find it. I was just sick. The next morning when he came in to work he casually handed me the ring and said he found it on the floor, I knew he didn't, I had searched that floor several times. He laughed, but I didn't think it was funny. About a week later I had a chance to get even and I did. He left his glasses on my desk and went out to lunch, I found the glass case in his drawer, put the glasses in it and put them in my purse. When he came back, of course he needed his glasses. I kept them for two days. Dr. Worley called the cafe, the gas station, all over, no one had seen them. The next day when he called to make an appointment to get a new pair I decided enough was enough. I went to work early and put them back in his desk drawer so he could find them. He was surprised. I told him the glasses must have been there all the time. I guess I proved I could be as good a liar as he was. We laughed about this several times but I never admitted that I took them.
Wayne and I were married May 1, 1940, a very busy time in the life of a farmer but Wayne didn't mention this when we set the date. We were married in the Logan Temple. Mother was ill that spring so it was Marjorie Hollingsworth who made me a white blouse and pleated white shirt to wear to the temple, I guess you could call it my wedding dress. She also accompanied me to the temple as my escort. Ralph was with Wayne. After the ceremony, Marjorie rode home with Ralph and we went on to Salt Lake City. We stayed at the Moxum Hotel across the street west from the old city building. We drove a car owned by Mr. Cole and Ottis, a 1935 black Plymouth. It was in a better condition than Wayne's 31 Chevy Coupe for the big trip to Salt Lake City. That evening we decided to go to the show -- left about half way through- stopped at an ice cream parlor and ordered banana splits, didn't even taste good. We went window shopping along Main street and enjoyed being a part of the big city. When we got back to our hotel room I pulled a trick on Wayne. He was to bashful (I guess that is the right word) to use the bathroom in our room. He made some excuse and went downstairs. As soon as he left the room I hurried and got in bed so when he came back I warned him- as he was the one to get in bed with me I would not be held responsible for anything that just might happen.
I am sure no one could have been happier than I was. Our home was a farm in Whitney, Idaho. We fixed up the two east rooms all freshly papered and painted just for us, I loved it. Wayne was in partnership with his father and a brother, Ottis and were just starting out trying to get the farm and home in better condition and there was a lot of work to be done. I found there was always a lot of work to do but we were so happy and contented it was all worth it. To add to our joy we had a beautiful family.
Glenda--August 1942, Joyce--April 2, 1945, Diane -- April 1949, Bonnie Larue --1953, Marilyn -- November 20, 1956, Sharlene -- March 19, 1961. We welcomed each of these special little spirits and they are still bringing us joy beyond measure.
We sold our farm in Whitney the fall of 1968 and bought a home in Smithfield, Utah where we still reside. We are very happy here and have made new friends, although our friends in Whitney are and will always be very special to us.
The years have been kind to us and our Heavenly Father is generous with his blessings. It think the highlight of our life is that day when our youngest daughter, Sharlene, was married and all six of our daughters with their wonderful partners were all in the Logan L.D.S. Temple to witness her wedding and sealing for time and all eternity. What more would two parents ask for?
At the present time we have 17 grandchildren, each one a perfect, beautiful spirit that has added to our joy and purpose of our lives. Sometimes as I watch them grow and progress it makes me want to live forever. I just hope and pray that their lives may be a happy and they will bring as much joy to their parents as our girls have brought to Wayne and myself.
Looking Back Through The Years
While looking back through my pictures to prepare my life story in pictures, Marilyn and I found a few that brought back several unusual things that happened during our life on the farm. The year of 1945 was quite unique, World War II was going on over seas. Many of our friends and neighbors were fighting for their lives and our country's freedom. My sweetheart, Wayne and his brother, Ottis did not go because they had what then was called a farm deferment. Mr. Rawlings on the county draft board said "only if things become desperate because they also needed the food to feed our service men."
Our second daughter was born April 2, 1945. That same spring, summer, and fall we planted about forty five acres of sugar beets that was then harvested by hand. This work was usually accomplished by having Navajo Indians brought in to our county by the Sugar Company from Arizona, but this year we received instructions that we had to have all this work done by German prisoners of war. They were housed in barracks located around the sugar factory just about a mile north of our farm home. They were kept in groups of twenty five men who had two guards watching over them each with a rifle in case anybody tried to get away. They were allowed a small wage, just enough to buy cigarettes or maybe a treat once in a while. That year after all the beets was harvested there wasn't much for them to do in Franklin County so they were just held as prisoners of war.
It was Christmas Evening, Wayne and I were in Ott and Mildred's part of our big ranch home. Just visiting and heating some carrot pudding that Mildred and I had canned that fall. Wayne noticed a face that briefly appeared in the big front window, a minute later a knock came on the door and Ottis answered it. It was one of the German prisoners. Ottis invited him and four big Germans in. Mildred and I were a little shocked but Wayne and Ott seemed to be perfectly at ease. We warmed more pudding and they stared starry eyed at our Christmas tree. Then they told us about their homes in Germany. They were drafted into the army at fourteen years of age and they had not been to their home in four years. One of them, I remember his name was Paul Kreutz, even shed some tears. About midnight they decided they better get back to the camp. It was late and cold after showing them around our barn, cows, and machinery, etc., so Ottis said I'll drive you back. They looked at each other very concerned, "Oh no, we must get back the way we came, if they knew we were here we would be shot." "How did you get out?" we asked. "Oh, it was easy, the guards were so drunk they didn't watch us that close!" We just about went into shock thinking of the chance those boys, maybe I should say men, took just to visit someone's home on Christmas Eve.
Thinking back on this incident I wasn't all that surprised all summer when they were out there in the field Wayne and Ottis insisted we take a ten gallon milk can with ice and lemonade with paper cups out to the field for them and sometimes cookies. I remember one time I had Joyce lying in the back seat of the car when I took the cold drinks out to them and it was during their noon break. They all gathered around looking at her, smiling and talking in German, pointing at her. They could speak good English when they came to visit us on Christmas Eve. Paul Kreutz wrote to us for a couple of years and sent some pictures of himself and a girl named Kathy he had known before the war. They were married shortly after he got home from the war. For their honeymoon they rode a bike out to some country inn. Later they lived in a big house that was partly destroyed by a bomb. Paul's parents were both killed in the war. Kathy had an elderly father and a young brother. They all lived together in this house after Paul and Kathy were married. We sent a CARE package to them several times.
A few years later a neighbor boy, Alden Sharp, was called on a mission to Germany. We sent him Paul's address hoping he could find him and he did, but Alden found he had neglected his speaking English and could hardly communicate with him. Paul and Kathy had a small chicken farm and were happy. We gradually lost track of them through the years.