Merle Alice Rees born July 2, 1911
Thoughts and Memories
by Marlene Call Walker
There were many people Mother led by the hand to make sure they felt special, wanted and needed. She gave us a pattern to follow, and taught true and correct principles. Blame said it best when he said, “Where is everybody?” The other 5 of us were in the room but, without mother, the house really seemed empty.
Mother and Dad taught us not to turn down any church calling through their example. They always had a church calling. She taught Spiritual Living, Social Science, Political Science and Literature (Shakespeare) at week day Relief Society. She was a counselor in Relief Society. She served as ward librarian, in the primary, and as a Teacher Trainer for 10 years. She also taught early morning seminary in our home. Mother regularly attended Sunday School and Sacrament meetings. Dad was gone much of the time with his church callings leaving Mother to get herself and 6 children ready on time.
Exercise your testimony! Mother exercised her testimony as well as her body. She exercised with Jack LaLane on TV and also the Channel 7 lady who is still on at this date. She encouraged all of those around to participate with her. On her death bed she claimed she didn’t have arthritis after the doctors examined her and asked how long she had suffered with it. She said, “I don’t have arthritis. I’ve never had it!”
Mother loved to shop. She bought nice things on sale (she loved a bargain) and kept them to give as gifts when appropriate. She had a good supply of gifts (for weddings and birthdays), even wrapping paper and bows. She always made birthdays, Easter, Christmas, and each time we had to give a talk, or anything important, special by buying us new clothes. In fact she was on her way to buy her girls Mother’s Day outfits when she had the auto accident that resulted in her death in May 1975.
Mom was a beautician. She did Mrs. Titus’ hair and several other ladies in the neighborhood. The style was deep finger waves. She made ringlets for me every morning before I left for school using a curling iron in the flame of the gas burner on our kitchen stove. On special occasions, she would French braid my hair. It was so tight my skin pulled up and my hair didn’t have to be undone or combed for a week.
Mother was an artist. She used charcoal, pastels, oils and later in life acrylics. She even gave the kids in the neighborhood art lessons on still life. She painted dancing dolls, flowers, animals, and landscapes. She took figure drawing at the agriculture college in Logan Utah.
Her life of service was spent taking care of people like Aunt Ellen and Aunt Amy. When there was a thunder storm she went to Arlee Lusty’s to comfort her. Arlee was so afraid of thunder, that she hid under her bed or in a closet. Mother asked me to give Maria Stoof a pair of my shoes because I had more than one pair. She went out of her way to help each person feel needed and important. We shopped at a gift shop because Helen Hesser. A friend of Aunt Leah owned it. She gave Bob, her youngest brother, a flower off the casket when grandma Rees died.
For a Halloween party mother made those neat hand made invitations by yellowing a sheet of paper, and drawing a treasure map and burning the edges. She made lots. She didn’t want to leave anyone out. I remember her inviting people I didn’t even like. The back stairs were covered with a board the kids had to slide down. At the bottom there were things hanging, skeletons, green and yellow lights etc. She had us sit on chairs in a circle and put a sheet over the center and passed parts of a guest who met with misfortune on the way to the party, (pealed grapes for eyes, cooked spaghetti for intestines etc.). Everyone had so much fun.
Mother enjoyed reading. While Dad was in the Navy during the Second World War she collected and sent him inspirational stories, poems and interesting articles. She enjoyed teaching. She was a teacher trainer and loved making visual aids. Written information was typed on masters and with her own recipe of gelatin she made copies one at a time placing the master on the gelatin, removing it then placing a type paper carefully on until it transferred. After around 10 copies the gelatin had to me made fresh. I remember the cardboard picture stands she made. She found pictures or would draw them to fit each lesson she taught.
She enjoyed cooking and collected recipes. She made dinner rolls most Sundays. She would invite Jim to dinner and bribe him by making him hot rolls. I remember her Baked Alaska and her Saturday night Chili. This was made while getting ready for Sunday. She would cut Dad and the 3 boys’ hair, iron and set out all the clothes, shine all the shoes, and bath and curl the 3 girls’ hair. When the mission home was in Salt Lake she would invite our missionary relatives to dinner. Dad always cooked, cut and served the meat. I remember her flaming deserts, with sugar cubes dowsed with lemon or vanilla extract, then lit on fire. Even after all the cooking, her pots and pans where polished with no black on them. Our home on 1218 Wood Ave. was a white frame house, with a huge Bing Cherry tree in front on the East property line. Mother had us pick,then she bottled the cherries we could reach. She made luscious black cherry pies that everyone enjoyed. Elder Mark E. Peterson was a member of the Sugarhouse Stake Presidency. Dad was in the Stake Sunday School Superintendencey and was supervised by Elder Peterson. He commented several times how much he enjoyed eating at Mother’s. Elder Peterson later became a member of the Quorum of the Twelve. She made good use of things around her. She was very thrifty. She picked fruit in Bountiful and bottled it. She picked berries and apples at the farm in Morgan and preserved them. She canned lots of tomatoes and peaches.
Mother was very particular about her laundry, she really got white things white. She was an expert at removing stains. People in those days took pride in putting out their wash first thing Monday morning and hanging it correctly. She washed and starched sheer curtains stretching them on nails on a frame. She bought a mangle which ironed flat things like T-shirts, sheets, pillow cases, towels etc. In later years, while she watched T.V, one could usually find her ironing.
She kept her clothes neat and mended, using her sewing machine most every day except Sundays. Mother must have loved lavender because a lot of favorite clothes mother made or remade for Marlene were lavender. She always shared clothing and made over what was out of style or the wrong size. She made rickrack earrings, and covered shoes with fabric and glue. Mother made me a dress while we were in San Francisco all by hand. It was a pink and brown striped chambray dress with puffy sleeves, square neck and gathered skirt. Mother mended socks with a gourd or a light bulb. I still have the tool to fix runs in nylons stockings (stockings were silk before World War II). Everything was fixed and recycled.
During the War rationing, she traded her pepper coupons for sugar to can with. She felt bad because she could only put a heaping 1/2 cup instead of the 3/4 cup she was used to. They used to tell people that sugar was the preservative.
When we went to the farm where her parents lived, in Round Valley, Morgan Utah, she always took gifts, one thing was Libby’s drinking glasses. She painted flowers of all kinds, daisies, rose buds, etc. on them. I remember best her purple pansies, guess that is why I enjoy them in my yard. She loved to share. Mother tried to see how much she could take to the farm, because she felt she always brought back more than she took. She wanted to give to show the appreciation and love she felt for her parents. At the farm on Christmas it was a fun tradition for the children to hurry into Grandpa and say, “Merry Christmas Happy New Year a pocket full of money a cellar full of beer, a big fat pig to last you all the year”. They then gave the kids money according to age. The grandchildren got $1.00.
She kept the house painted inside and out. She was a great fixer of toys and broken dishes etc. Mother and Dad let me decorate my room by myself. I chose to wallpaper it with green stripes and a border around the top with curtains tied back with little mirror curtain holders. Neil was so neat. He and Terry Fitzgerald painted and repainted Neils room and built a knickknack shelf just for fun.
We kids loved to play the roller piano, but it wore a hole in the carpet. So Mother tried to have the piano fixed only to have the workings removed. Neil and I played and rolled a gallon of molasses from the piano bench to the floor until the lid came off and really fixed the carpet. Neil and I had races to see whose icicle would grow the longest before it fell or melted. I remember Norman Polbanz broke my icicle and knocked it off the roof. Mother taught me how to play the piano the best she could and then gave me the opportunity of taking piano lessons.
She told us about bob sledding with Uncle Son and going through a barbed wire fence. Mother and Son, her brother, were good friends. She also cooked for the thrashers, Decorating graves on Memorial Day with peonies, snowballs, lilies and Iris that she called flags was very important to both she and her mother, Blanche.
Mother missed the spelling of manure in school. She was a farm girl and they really teased her.
She remembered sharing dresses with her sisters, Von and Helen. They had to be sent from Morgan to the college and then back to Morgan.
She enjoyed flowers and the beauties of nature. Her garden grew best from the left over garbage she buried. She liked her Dogwood tree, (this was a bush in our back yard on Wood Ave.), her patch of lilies of the valley, a purple primrose, her prize evergreen trees, and the row of Bird of Paradise trees that kept the driveway from slipping down to (our neighbors) Hunt’s yard. She never complained about the kids sleigh riding across the front lawn. They came from miles around because our lawn had such a nice steep place. Some of the kids didn’t make the turn and ran into Mrs. Welch’s garage at the bottom of the hill. Mother was a good neighbor and good at smoothing things over. She kept busy returning things from Alan’s trading sprees.
During the war, Dad was drafted into the Navy. We got to go as a family to be with him in San Francisco. On the way, Uncle Ivan sold our car and drove us. He would have us guess mileages to signs posts. Our car was a old Ford. We also had a Willeys we could take the back seat out of and see the ground. The first day In the San Francisco housing project, Neil and I got locked in the closet. We had no furniture but beds, and a kitchen table. We as children had a neat recreation program and playground. Dee and Maree came to visit us there.
Mother and Dad took Grandma Rees to Yellowstone. They brought me an abalone ring. I set it down while wading in the stream at the farm and a pig ate the abalone out of the ring the very day I received it.
Neil and I stayed with Vee and Melba. She didn’t have any milk for breakfast one morning. She gave us canned milk on our cereal undiluted. It was so awful and we were so hungry, we went to our house and got what we could find, graham crackers and peanut butter – it was terrible!
Mother encouraged her children to bring their friends home. She encouraged Dad to take us to 2nd South so we could observe the drunks. She was conscientious and used many teaching moments. While waiting for her teenagers to come in from dates she and dad would read to each other so they could stay awake till we arrived home. I remember our parents helping us with our homework. Mother had to encourage me to be more friendly and out going.
Sunday mornings we all loved to climb on the bed and read the colored comics together. A game we all loved to play was Three Billy Goats Gruff.
Taking a trip meant going from one relative’s house to the next and staying overnight. Mother and dad visited friends and relatives often. I remember visiting Steven’s, Della Thackeray and her husband, after June Rahl died and the stuffed horned toad they gave me. They took me for ice cream cones at Browns Ice Cream because Bob mom’s brother and Uncle June worked there. Aunt Unetta looked so cute at the Blue Cottage bakery with her cute apron and hat. We enjoyed Call family reunions at Liberty Park.
On the trip, to Bryce Canyon when the Madsen boy fell, Blame was a baby, and he cried. To calm him, Dad got out of the car and walked with Blame while Mother drove up on the hill and through the gate of the Manti Temple.
She had what the doctors called grapes She thought it was a miscarriage. It happened when Mother wanted me to stay home and help instead of going to an after school activity. I did attend the activity only to come home to a very sick mother. This experience made me a more obedient child.
After Jim and I were married, we invited Dad and Mom to Goblin Valley. Mother was a good sport, but camping just wasn’t her favorite thing, especially when it came to sleeping on the ground. She choose to sleep in the car. Jim and I drove a Fiat and Mother was afraid Jim would run over his fingers. The car was very small compared to Jim’s long body.
Mother could handle hard situations with a calming influence. Niel’s friend Raymond Lusty chopped his head open with a hatchet. Mom poured a box of cornstarch to coagulate the blood and Marlene held him on her lap all the way to the hospital. Niel was 2 or 3 years old at that time.
When Brenda was born, mother came to California to take care of the children. On the way home from the airport the rear tire blew. Mother calmly helped Jim change it on the freeway. Jim felt he could not have done it without her calming influence. Neil was in second grade when they discovered he had polio They went to Dr. Joseph Nehru, a polio specialist in the Boston Bldg. Mother learned how to massage his leg and give him the therapy he needed.
Mother had us clean windows one on each side when any fighting went on. You can’t stay mad when you have to look at the other person through the glass you are cleaning.
The faith Mother had when Dad was in the hospital with a tumor and there was no food in the house, was unbelievable. She sent me to the basement storage room for something to fix for lunch. I brought up the last bottle of cherries and wondered what we would eat for dinner. I was all upset. Mother calmed me down and asked if I had prayed about it and assured me everything would be all right but she told me to go and look again. There on the shelf were two more bottles that weren’t there the day before. The next day, Lloyd Johnson brought meat and Madsen’s brought two bushel of tomatoes and two bushels of peaches.
Alan was a challenge. He got lost often especially in California where all the housing units were the same. Neil got lost when he went down town in Salt Lake. He would always end up at the D and RG Train Station. We made weekend trips to the farm. Once Alan tripped over the well at the farm in Morgan and cut his chin on his glass baby bottle. He still has a bad scar from it.
Dee and Maree were working at Mueller Park. Their car had a problem so Maree was driving and Dee was on the hood pouring gas in as they went. The car caught on fire. Maree told us to get out. Dee and Maree on either side of the car were throwing dirt to put out the fire. They ended up throwing dirt in each other’s face and laughing. We then realized then that Neil was still in the trunk of the car.
We had a neighbor boy, Skipper, who would walk in the house, open the refrigerator and squeeze the margarine through his fingers. This happened when we lived on Wood Avenue.
One day Dad was asleep on the couch with his mouth open. Neil dropped marbles in his mouth. He woke up with strange gurgling sounds wondering what happened. The first auto accident was when Mom and Dad were 1st married up City Creek canyon. The car rolled off a curve. Dad and Mom were thrown from the car. Dad carried Mom to the road for help. She was unconscious. He had a broken arm, it was so bad that the bone at the elbow was exposed.
The night of Mom and Dad’s second accident in 1947, we were pulling taffy and Mom was reupholstering a chair with wooden arms.
The third accident was May 7, 1975. She was Mother’s Day shopping for her daughters with Linda and Lynns mother going to Pyketts, but in separate cars. She suffered in L.D.S. hospital for 12 days. She died May 19th, Brenda and Brent’s Birthdays. Mothers day was May 18th that year. Mother was so concerned with others even while she lay there suffering. She said to me “Why are you here? You should be home with your little brood”. She would fall asleep (her only relief from pain) then apologize for not being better company. Helaman told the family in Feb. 1991
Dad and Mother met at a Halloween party at 33rd S 21 East in Salt Lake. Unita Rhodes, Helen Rees and Evelyn Tanner were there. Uncle A.V. and Evelyn Tanner were dating . Merle had just quit school in Logan and was attending Beauty School. Dad was working at Continental Bakery.
Dad and Moms 1st date was to the Paramount Theater the show was, “Just imagine” which was a futuristic film. Mom already had a diamond from Ken Paskett. Dad got sick with Quincy (bleeding tonsils). Mom had Ken take her to visit Dad. Ken waited in the car. It wasn’t long after that mother returned Ken’s diamond ring to him.
Dad worked at a Safeway Store on 33 rd So and Hyland Drive. This was the 1St pay and take it store. He drove a Ford Roadster with a Rumble seat.
The night before H.P. and Merle were to be married, Feb. 10, 1932. H.P. was living at Aunt Addies he went to take a bath, but the bathroom had new wallpaper on and wasn’t supposed to have moisture. At Aunt Addies suggestion, dad opened the window and proceeded to take his bath. He fell asleep in the tub and woke up with ice frozen around him.
Mom’s folks lived in Croydon. In their rock home was the post office, Blanche Rees was the Post mistress. On the night Dad and Mother were married, Blanche wondered which one of Willard Call’s two wives he would sleep with. She put him in a room by himself and the two wives together. H.P. was asked to cut a ham for breakfast. He cut the whole thing then they finally told him everyone else had eaten. The reception was held in the combination school and church building which was one story high. They had a program and a live orchestra. Dad wouldn’t stop dancing to shake hands with Uncle Jack Davis, and his political friend, the congressmen. Jack was married to Zina, Blanche’s sister.
Their first apartment was at 70 East So. Temple. It took all day to carry $17.00 worth of groceries upstairs to their apartment. It contained ham, a side of bacon, sugar, flour. The apartment was so hot that after a few months they rented an apartment on 6th So 5th E but Aaron was to help Merle move because Dad had to work She saw a cockroach and went and rented an apartment at 422 So 5 th East Dad had to find her when he got off work. Then they lived at 557 1/2 7th East in the back. Helen moved in with them because she had poor health. It was a one bedroom and she slept on a couch. They lived there only 2 months. Then they moved to Midgley apartments. Marlene was born there. and Helen still lived with them. Then they moved to 8th So. and Blair. Helen went to Calif. when they bought their home on 1218 Wood Ave. for $2700.50. They took over a contract for $16.08 a month for 20 years. They lived there for 21 years before Mom got her dream house. I can remember her longing for a 1-1/2 story house. Their house on LaJolla had 4 levels.
When Neil was born, he had to be left at the hospital, they couldn’t bring him home until he weighted 5 pounds. They gave mother instructions on how to pump her breasts; this she did 4 or 5 times as day. Dad took the milk in before he went to work in the mornings. They used it for Neil and other preemie babies. Pumping increased the flow. One day he took in a quart. Miss Nance, supervising nurse, noticed it. Dad said, “Let me know if you need more, we’re using the other quart on the table.” Twenty years later when dad saw Miss Nance, she had to tell her daughter, “This is the man I told you about that brought mothers milk to the hospital”.