Events of the Life of Alice Merle Rees Call
Life began for me on a very hot July night, apparently close to the midnight hour because for many years of my life I celebrated my birthday on the 28th of July. Later I found in a small book Mother kept her household expenses in, a note saying my date of birth was July 29, 1911. The location was in a small house in Coalville, Summit, Utah. The only recollection I have of this home was that it had a dungeon under the floor with a trap door from the pantry into a dirt floor dugout we used to keep food cool.
I have been told that when I was born and Dad found he had his third girl in a row, he was disappointed, disgusted and left home for the rest of the day. He made up for it however, because I always felt that I was my dad’s pet. His nick name for me was “Mall,” in all my growing up years I could always find a comforting lap to climb into, and he would rock me and sing. Dad loved to sing and make up songs to other tunes. He played the mouth organ for hours in one black leather chair with wooden arms which we finally broke off climbing on them so often.
We moved to the town of Devil’s Slice where my father worked in a general merchandise store, having been a furniture salesman and merchant in Coalville. Devil’s Slide was a town owned by a cement plant and all the homes were alike made from cement blocks. We were very friendly with a family of Crouch’s who had children of corresponding ages to us. Their father owned and operated the only butcher shop in town. I remember the clean smooth odor of that shop with its fresh sawdust on the floor. At times then we would ride our bicycles to the market, we would get a weenie from the butcher.
I broke my arm walking the fence of the school yard. I broke the elbow cap and had a large cast. I remember as soon as I could get my fingers worked loose from the cast, I wrote with my left hand again. About this time our father decided to branch out for himself, and we moved to Croydon, Morgan, Utah where he opened a store which had everything in it. Uncle Howard Thackeray had been the owner. About this time many people were leaving this small metropolis and business was not so good. Dad carried almost everyone on this books or issued credit, which through the years have never proven satisfactory, as it is very hard to pay fro a dead horse or groceries that were eaten two weeks ago. He then decided to solicit business at the Jap camps which were rows of dormitory type building near the cement plant. The Japs all worked at the plant. It was always a thrill to go to deliver the Japs’ order of groceries as they were a delightfully clean people, and most generous. They always gave us children native Japanese candy and fortune cookies.
High lights of the life in a small town of about 100 people included the school marms. They stayed with our Uncle Royal Thackeray. (It was then Grandpa and Granma Thackeray’s home.) I always seemed to get on the good side of the teachers because of this close relationship. My first grade teacher who let me start when I was just five because there were so few others so young in the town was Ethelyn Barns. She had a olderly mother who also taught there but she had the “big kids” in the other room. At first we were all in one room and the teachers would take turns first reading for the first grade, then spelling for the second grade, etc., going from one class to another. Every morning we had prayer, raised the flag, and had a story read to us. Vividly I remember some of the wonderful books we heard. Kazzan, Baree, Son of Kazzan, Wildfire and so many famous and interesting animal and human life stories were among those we read. We would almost always beg for just one more chapter, but . . . , school must go on . . .
Christmas time was always an exciting adventure. We would have preparation for months ahead. Mother didn’t sew too well so grandmother Thackeray always made us our one new dress a year, and we would always go and try them on. I think she told us they were for our cousins Elma and Lulu Condie as they were about our same size. It made no difference for we still loved and enjoyed the dresses scarcely hoping all the time that they would be ours.
It seemed an especially sad time when the Grandparents moved to Ogden. The Christmas Holiday season we would get now clothes for our old dolls and I remember I was quite big when I found a dolly of my sister’s with a new head on to be give to me. It had been carefully hid in the clothes basket awaiting our going to bed so that it could be groomed. This was my first hint that there wasn’t a Santa Claus.
Very early Christmas morning we would get up and dress, and the crunch of the snow as it crackled because it was always extra cold In Croyden, as we ran to Grandpa and Grandma’s home about a black away, it was a thrill. We always tried to be the first there, as Grandpa stayed in beds on purpose to give us a silver dollar that was big and round and ever as heavy. The requirement for the dollar was that we had to say the traditional poem: “A pocket fully of money, A cellar full of beer, And a big fat pig, To last us all the year.”
The cousins of the whole family came there and stayed over night. Each family exchanges gifts with each other’s family. We had Santa come to distribute the presents. We had to be extremely careful not to get too near the tree. Then a big feast prepared by all the mothers. They set one very long table with candles and the men always had a sip of Grandma’s homemade dandelion wine. We spent the summer picking the flower heads for the wine and it was filled with lemons and simmered for days in a warm place to ferment. Grandma paid us five cents a lard bucket to pick the dandelions.
I can’t see today how she did it but Grandma never forgot a birthday of any of her children or grandchildren, and it was always something very special. She gave treasures like pearls, a locket, a ring, perfume, or she made us that lacy slip of silk dress we longed for. When they moved to Ogden, they would make the trip back up to bring us specials of groceries, oranges and other fruits. Grandpa was a careful shopper and he would demand the exact weight, often taking things back if he thought he was being cheated.
The whole town was upset and were going to keep their children home from school when they found the population was too small to maintain a school in Croydon, so they were to bus us to Morgan. This was when I was in the eight grade. Dad got the job of a bus driver, but it was nerve grueling ordeal. He had tried many occupations traveling for a woolen company later for Shupe Williams candy company. We loved his sample cases even if most of the candy was varnished to make it shiny. We had a few cows and horses and always had a garden that we had plenty of food. Dad could still buy groceries by the case and wholesale.
We kept butter and milk in a cellar behind the house under the granary, where we also had plenty of fruit bolted. It was a satisfying life with a high swing in the apple tree next to the house and a rousing game of kick-the-can, or hide-and-seek. In the winters we went to the show in Devil’s Slide behind old Pet, a big fat red horse. She did get frightened once and ran away and with us at the crossing of the Devil’s Slide bridge. Save having to walk almost home we were none the worse for wear. There was always a horse to ride, and a new colt each year.
High school was as usual. I was chosen to take a lead in one of the eight grade operettas, and I sang in many Operettas through high school. I was invited to a big annual Junior Prom where they had a banquet first. I remember the dress was a changeable taffeta pink and gold with yards of lace on it. I graduated with a class of 13. Then I went to the A.C. College in Logan, Utah, where I specialized in art and dates.
After going to College for two years I felt I didn’t have the money to specialize in art so I left the college and came to Salt Lake City to enter the Utah School of Beauty Culture.
I went with many different fellows and still (?), the sheepherder, Kenneth Paskett, whom I had gone with through high school. Then one Halloween, we girls decided to have a party. Evelyn and Lillian Tanner, Helen and I had a friend Edna Tayler. It was to be a costume party at the old Baldwin Radis Plant. There I met and danced with the brother of Ev’s boy friend A.V. Call. His name was Helaman Pratt Call, that was such a hard name to say so he got the nickname of “Mud” from Aaron, his brother and most of my family in Morgan still call him that.
We had a short romance our first date was to go to Farmington Utah to a sister Jennie Walker’s for a birthday dinner for his other mother, Aunt Addie Call, as we so lovingly knew her. The boys in the Call family scarcely knew which was their real mother as they lived with the other one depending on where they could find work. Aunt Addie lived in town while his own mother was in Bountiful. The boys worked out there on farms, and when I met Helaman he was in town working at a bakery the “Wonder Bread Co.” WE played tennis, swam, and had an enjoyable time. The depression was just starting, but on February 10 we decided to marry, and the ceremony was in the Salt Lake City Temple. After the wedding Mother Call prepared a delicious dinner for the wedding party at her home in Bountiful. We had a few hard times as jobs were scarce but Helaman’s great sense of responsibility kept him on some job or another we even went to Ely, Nevada to work in a grocery store. But I took ill and had to be brought home where I had a miscarriage.
We moved from a small little place to a lovely apt. on West Temple, the “Midgley,” where our sister Helen Rees came to lie with us. The custodians were marvelous and did moving, house cleaning, and all hard tasks fro us. I was then a full fledged beauty operator and worked in a shop. Then our child was born in Bountiful. Helaman was working for “Piggly Wiggly” Markets and could not get off to come see me at the hospital. Aunt Manty Mann was there as mid-wife and we had Dr. Trowbridge, who was our family doctor through the years. We moved to a duplex, from there, we bought a home; and Helaman was fired after his vacation. They did not like their employees to be too permanent so they transferred them often. We kept our little home at 1218 Wood Ave. for many years in fact, all six of our children grew up there. Marlene and Neil also went to college from there.
My husband was active in all phases of church work while being president or Superintendent of Mutual, Sunday School, in the Bishopric. While he was in the Sunday School he was called into the service. Going in the Navy to Farragut, Idaho, made a sad parting as he loved his four children very much. He spent time in San Diego, while training in Radar School. I was able to spend a few days there with him staying at his brother’s A.V.’s. He wrote many letters, and I wrote daily, sometimes twice a day. He would get them in bunches as the service was poor on ship board. Their ship was hit by a Kamikaze Plane and the Radar shack where he was, was buckled to a few feet clearance; he received burned hands, crawling out, then after it was over he collapsed and when the ship was brought into San Pedro harbor for repairs, he was to gave gone into a hospital, but as he called home, and we finally made connections, phone service was poor in those days, I had news for him. Our little daughter Linda, then three years old, had just been run over and was in the hospital. Just as I relayed this message the phone went dead and we were unable to get a connection for quite a while. We had read in the paper about his ship being hit, so I imagined the worst that he had been injured and had fainted or something. He had told me he was to go into the Balboa Hospital. Anyway, the men took up a collection, got him on a plane and he flew to Hill Field. They held up a train so that he could make connections. When he came walking in about 3 a.m. and found me still ironing. We talked and talked the rest of the night until time to go see Linda.
Daddy brought her a beautiful big white teddy bear. She began to improve from that day. In the meantime Helaman’s Father had a stroke and lived about a week. All his family rallied around him as he passed away. Helaman was to have gone back to the navy but they got him an extended leave, and after the funeral I again was able to accompany my husband to San Pedro where we lived in a wonderful camp which was clean and had a 24 hour a day cafeteria that had an abundance of food. During the war food was rationed, and except for defense workers hard to get. We spent many happy days while he was being mustered out of the navy. He gave insurance lectures during this time.
We had another baby, Sylvia. When she was about eight months old, we were in a terrible automobile accident. We had traveled to Bountiful to administer to a very dear friend who had had a baby that was not right. We had been having fund raising projects for three days and this was a Saturday night. On our way home a car filled with young boys and their dates coming home from a basketball practice, turned their car directly into our path and the car was almost cut in tow. Two people were killed and the rest badly hurt. I was thought dead as so many things were wrong. My leg was badly destroyed opposite hip socket torn loose, my face was literally destroyed. Nose cut almost off, pallet torn loose, teeth out, head and diagonal cut from one side of my face to the other severing both lips, which controlled the muscle that controls my smiling. We were picked up by a (?) after delivering a body to Provo. It was Mervill Holbrook, who knew Helaman. He took us to the St. Marks Hospital on the 7th of December 1946.