Just to start out, do you want to tell me a little bit about where and when you were born?
I was born in Sacramento county California, on March 5th, 1947.
And you are the oldest, right?
Tell me a little bit about your parents, what you remember about them from when you were a kid?
I remember that daddy was never home. He worked, and worked, and worked. He had his own business. He was a truck driver, and they transported crops from the field to the granaries. He hauled grains, and tomatoes, and peaches. Mostly grain. He hauled wheat, and barley, and rice. Sunflower… not sunflower… milo. But like I said, he did do some tomatoes. When I was really young he did hay. And they would haul hay to the coast, and that’s how he got over to Fort Bragg. They would take a load of hay and sell it to the co-op there that sold hay to the local dairies, but then he also had some that he would take out to the farms. He wouldn’t sell a whole load to one person, but like, every two weeks he would make a trip to the coast, and he’d be gone for the better part of a week delivering there. So he was gone a lot. I don’t remember seeing him except at the hay stack where he was loading up another load, and that was a big deal because we would have a picnic, and lemonade, and stuff in the heat of the summer. And that’s when we would see him, because he worked so much that we would get up in the morning and my mother would say, “your dad was home last night,” and I didn’t ever believe her until I saw the dirty clothes.
So, you were raised with mostly just your mom in the house?
When I was really young. When I got to be, oh maybe third grade, fourth, fifth grade, most of his jobs transitioned to being all more in local crops, and not so much over to the coast. I guess it just wasn’t profitable. I don’t know why he quit hauling the hay, but then we saw more of him. And that was really kind of an adjustment because we weren’t used to having him around. And, you know, Daddy was kind of gruff. You know, so it was different, but then, you know, you work into it. Then as I became a teenager he was home all the time because they were hauling local. He still worked long hours, but, um, he was home. And most nights he was home for dinner, and that was kind of cool. Yeah, that was kind of cool.
Ok, so that’s a lot about your dad, what about your mom?
Um, she was, not an easy person to live with. It was really hard to do anything to please her. She was very critical. Especially of me, because I didn’t meet her stereotype of what a girl’s body should be like. And she did all of the sewing, she did my clothes in the store, but she did a lot of sewing, and because of my body shape I was difficult to sew for. And she let me know it. I don’t have a lot of good memories of her growing up. When I go to look at positive things the things that I find are that she was always there, and she, in her own way, cared. She always made Halloween was a big thing, and I hated it because I never liked to dress up, but Halloween was a big thing when I was growing up. She always made the most special treats of any mother on the block. I kind of think it was a competition thing, I can’t say for sure. She would work for days decorating marshmallows and apples. I don’t remember her ever so much baking, but making special treats that involved time, and putting them on a tray to serve to the kids when they came trick-or-treating. If there was ever a need at the school she was the first one to volunteer. She was always the room mother. We didn’t do a lot of field trips back then because we walked or rode our bikes everywhere, and were in a small community, but if there was a need for a parent to be there, a mother, because dads worked, mothers stayed home in those days. You know, the economy was such that mothers didn’t need to work. But anyways, she was always there, and that says a lot about her. But, she always was, till the day she died, a very negative person. And, um, that’s something that I’ve had to try to really overcome and live with. You become it. I don’t remember, I don’t remember her teaching me how, you know, saying this is how you do this, or this is how you do that. I just remember that we had chores and we learned that way.
What about when you started school? What was that experience like for you?
Oh, it was exciting. Exciting! I was a big girl (laughs). I loved school. I loved school, and I had an aunt that would come and visit, my grandmother lived with us when I was growing up, and Aunt Helen would come to visit. She would always read to us. Bring us Golden Books and comic books. She was always reading to us, and I couldn’t wait to get to school and learn to read. And when I got there I realized that I already knew how to read. And that was so exciting to me. They gave us Dick and Jane. “Look, Dick, look, Jane, see Spot run.” And I thought it was so stupid. But no, school was exciting to me. I never wanted to miss. I loved everything about school, just about. Yup.
That’s awesome. What kinds of interests did you have as you grew up, maybe around the time you were becoming a teenager?
Um, music. I played the flute and the piccolo. And I loved music, all kinds of music. Still do. Hobbies. Because we were two girls in the family I became my dad’s only son, and I did all kinds of things with him. And I loved it. I loved going hunting with him. Not so much the fishing, but I did it because it gave me alone time with him. And I, um, like I say, I didn’t really have any hobbies. I just didn’t, as I remember. I wanted to be a teacher. I remember that. I wanted to teach fifth grade because that was US history, and I loved us history. I had a fifth grade teacher that was the ultimate example, and I wanted to be just like Mrs. Mitches. And, um, that never happened because dad didn’t believe in girls going to college. It was like flushing money down the toilet. And so, he would not allow me, in high school, to take college credit classes, and set me up in a business class because I could always find a job. And so, I always wanted that teaching, but it came in other ways after I joined the church, and had church jobs and stuff. But hobbies, no, I don’t know. Don’t remember ever having any.
You mentioned that expectation that women don’t go to college. What other expectations did you find from teachers, or from other family members?
Well you respected your elders. Always, always, always. You didn’t bad mouth. You didn’t have an opinion because you weren’t an adult. I look back on that and I think hmmmmmmm. But, you were compared a lot. You couldn’t just be you. I have a cousin that I’m really close to, and he’s about nine weeks older than me, and we were always being compared. He was a year ahead of me in school, and if Jim got straight A’s on his report card I was expected to get straight A’s. There were a lot of expectations of being proper, and being good. If mom and dad said, “don’t cross the street without coming in the house and getting one of us to walk you across the street,” even if you’re ten years old, that’s what you did. You didn’t question the rules. And if your parents didn’t enforce them, the neighbors did. If you did something that wasn’t right, you know, Sandy’s mom was going to spank me as much as my mom was. You’d get it twice. So yeah, there were rules, and you just really didn’t even question them. That’s the way it was, so. Is that what you wanted?
Lots of the things you talk about- how you liked to go hunting with your dad, how you were often compared to your cousin, Jim, but there was also this expectation to be proper and everything- did you ever find that your interests were more tom-boyish but you were still expected to be very feminine and proper in that way?
Absolutely. Oh yeah.
How did you deal with that?
It was just the way it was. I never wanted to be a boy, I liked being a girl because I liked dresses. And I liked fixing my hair, and everything, but I also liked doing the things that my dad did, and I was a better shot than most of the men we went hunting with. And they respected that.
That’s pretty cool.
Yeah, yeah, um, but those were things that I enjoyed doing. You know, I bit my finger nails. I didn’t care about fingernail polish. But yeah, you know, when it came time to go to a school dance, I wanted a pretty dress. I wanted to look nice. We wore dresses to school back then, we didn’t wear pants. And I wanted to look the best I could look every day I walked out the door, but when I got home, I wanted to put on my pants and go out and see what daddy was doing out at the truck shop. We lived on where his trucks were after I was like, in the seventh grade, so I could go out there every day and see what he was doing. I never wanted to get greasy and learn how to fix the engines or work on the trucks or anything like that, but I wanted to know what was going on. It was mostly the hunting because I loved to shoot, whether it was a bow and arrow, or a rifle, or a pistole, it’s just, those where things that I really enjoyed doing, and I did them well.
Ok, I want to start talking about high school, and when you were starting to look toward your future. What kinds of dreams did you have for yourself when you were a teenager or young adult?
Well like I say, I wanted to be a teacher, but when that couldn’t happen I started looking more at business. I never really thought that I would work as many years as I did because I hoped that someday I would get married and have a family. I expected that I would be like my mother and stay home and raise kids, and my husband would work. And so, I really didn’t think far ahead like you do now, and I don’t know how much of that was influenced by not being able to go to college. Now if I had been able to go to college and knew that I could be a teacher I probably would have thought I would do that, even after I was married and had children. Because some of the teachers that I had, most of them were older and their kids were grown, but a couple of them weren’t, and teachers the were starting to get younger. I could see that if there was any way that I ever could have become a teacher I would have been able to do it and have a family too, but because I wasn’t I didn’t even think beyond graduating from high school, in the sense of finding a career that would last me my life time. I just knew that I was gonna marry your grandfather and that I would work until the babies came.
How did you meet grandpa?
At school. In high school.
Were you in the same grade?
No, he was two years ahead of me. He was dating a girl that I kind of ran around with, and behind his back she was dating his best friend.
And of course, everybody but grandpa knew it. He had a cool car, and I didn’t know him real well, but I knew who he was. The A&W was the hang out place and we would go cruising at night, and go cruise through the A&W and stop and have a root beer maybe. But I knew that she was seeing Bill. She lived out of town, you know, it was easy for her to see someone else. And I just kept waiting for him to find out. And when he did, he’d always come over and talk to me and my friends when we parked having our root beer, but it was after they broke up that, um, yeah, that summer.
And when you decided to get married, how old were you, what was that like, what did your parents think? Tell me about that.
I was sixteen when we started to date. I was seventeen when we got engaged. And it was again, one of those, not expected but this is going to happen. It was not unusual. Some of the girls in my graduating class were married before we even graduated. Some of them were expecting babies and got married, some of them just got married. Aunt Gail got married in January, and she was so excited the day we graduated because she just found out she was pregnant with their first baby. So she was married six months before we graduated. It was not unusual for girls to just get married, finish their senior year, and go off and raise their families. Gotta realize I was raised in a small farming community. I don’t know what was going on in the big cities then because I didn’t know anybody that lived there. But because we had dated for a couple of years it was just kind of the conclusion that we would get married. So, you know, they liked him and thought he was an ok guy, so they were fine with it.
What do you think, if getting married young was the norm then, and now things are moving towards the other extreme of people getting married older, what do you think of that, and what do you see as pros and cons of the different situations?
I never had a chance to grow as a person because I went from my parent’s home, to my home. I graduated on the eleventh of June, and got married on the seventeenth of July. I had no time to really grow into myself. Um, I didn’t have any experience, well I shouldn’t say any, but I had very little experience in making major decisions on my own, because decisions had been made for me. And I think, you know, now, you’ve made a whole lot more decisions in your life since you graduated from high school than I probably made in the first ten years I was married. I think that it gives you a better advantage to, um, making tougher choices more wisely, and yet, I see some going to the extreme of, like you say, not getting married until later, sometimes that’s their choice, sometimes it’s a matter of circumstance, and um, I don’t know. It was the way it was. You’re probably more equipped to deal with some of those first few years of marriage challenges than I was, but you stumble through it.
When did you start to feel like you were entering adulthood?
Oh, probably about the time I was fourteen. Being large for my age, that means height, weight, everything, and being the oldest, I was mature. I was mature, and I was not afraid to do things by myself, in the security of my, um, neighborhood so to speak. But, um, I felt like I was prepared to get married at eighteen, and I felt like I was an adult. Seriously. I really felt at different times that I should have been given more freedom than what I was. And that was in high school. So, I guess that was the time, you’re 14 when you go into high school, and I felt like that was about the time I was going towards adulthood.
You joined the church right around the same time you were getting married, right?
Do you want to tell me a little bit about how that was for you?
Ok, yeah, I had been baptized into another church when I was, I think it was 12. I’m not sure. It was called the Christian church, and that’s where I had gone all of my life. Mom always took us to church, that was another good thing about her, she always took us to church. Daddy didn’t go. He was raised in a- his mother’s family was catholic, and his dad’s family did not have a practicing religion that I’m aware of. And his mom and dad got divorced and that influenced him a lot about religion because, first of all his catholic mother married a non-Catholic, and then got divorced, and that was just taboo. And then he saw her being treated unkindly by her church. So when Mother would take us to church and there would be a program or something Daddy always would be sure that he had a drink of alcohol before it was time to leave to go to the church so that Mother would tell him to stay home because she didn’t want to take him to church with alcohol on his breath. So, you know, she was really good about church. When I was 14 I was really excited because there was a returned missionary coming back, and he had been in Africa. Everyone was excited about Elden coming home and telling us about all of his experiences and everything. He came and he was a nice looking young man, and he was called to be the Sunday school teacher for my Sunday school class, and it was about this time of the year, Easter time, and we were, you know, having a discussion on Easter, and the resurrection, and everything, and he said some things that I didn’t believe. And you know, he’s a returned missionary, he knows, but I somehow got the courage to tell him that what he was saying was wrong, and he said no, that I was wrong, and one thing led to another, and I told him that I knew that I was right and he was wrong, and that I couldn’t sit in a class where the teacher was teaching lies. I got up and left. And I wonder now where I got the courage to do that. But Heavenly Father was guiding me. And for the next four years, three years, I went to every church in town, with every friend that I had, looking for a place where, and I loved going to church. I loved going to worship services, and Sunday school, and I was looking for how I had felt there before he disillusioned me. And everywhere I went, I just didn’t feel right. It just didn’t feel right. And then, when your grandfather and I started to date, um, his family was inactive, and he hadn’t been to church for a really long time. But he told me a little bit about his church, why he didn’t want me smoking in his car, and why he didn’t drink ice tea, and that kind of stuff. And I said, “well you know, I like to go to church, I just haven’t found any place where I really feel, you know, comfortable.” After we dated for a year, on our anniversary weekend our one year anniversary, he said “will you go to church with me?” and I got really excited and I said yes. And so, we went to sacrament meeting that Sunday. And when I walked into the church I felt like I had come home. There was just the spirit there, that I hadn’t felt for almost four years. And we went to church, not every Sunday, but most Sundays, for, well, from July until January, and when we got engaged in January then we started talking about me joining the church. That’s when I started taking the missionary discussions. And because I was not eighteen, mom and dad would have had to signed permission for me to join the church, and neither one of them believed as we do. They didn’t know what we know, and I didn’t want to make- ask them- to give me permission to do something that they didn’t believe in. And so I told the missionaries when they asked me about baptism, I said yes, that I knew it was true, I had a testimony, but that I couldn’t do it until I was eighteen, because when I turned eighteen I was legally an adult in California, and that I could do it on my own. And they respected that, so I turned eighteen on the fifth of March, and I was baptized the next Saturday, the thirteenth, and did not need their permission to do it.
Thank you for sharing that. And so, you got married, and then when did kids start to come along, and how was that to go from being a wife to then a wife and a mother?
Oh, I loved it. Except that he didn’t sleep! Um yeah, we were married for over two years when Michael was born, and I just couldn’t believe that this beautiful baby was mine! I never, wanted to put him down. He’d go to sleep, and I’d lay him in my lap, and just sit there and look at him! I was excited to be a mom, but I had worked for two years, and I loved my job, and people at work made me feel good and made me feel important, and I didn’t want to give that up. I went back to work when he was three months old. Back then the doctors didn’t teach you, or tell you, about, you know, putting the child on a schedule or anything like that. It was feed them when they cry and they’re hungry. There was no, direction given as far as training a child to go to bed at a certain time and things like that. And so, I really struggled because every three hours that baby wanted to be fed, and that didn’t give me much sleep, because it wasn’t three hours from the time he got up and wanted a dry diaper and a bottle it was three hours from the time he had gotten up to begin with. Yeah, so, that was really hard, and what was even harder was going back to work, and realizing that I couldn’t do it. And giving up that praise. “You’re good.” Getting patted on the back, you know, after being raised with such a negative mother, I mean, it felt like, it was night and day being told you were good. You know, that you were doing wonderful things, and so it was very very difficult for me to say, “I can’t do this. First of all, I can’t afford to pay the babysitter what I’m having to pay, and secondly, all I do, I don’t get anything done at home, because I’m tired all the time. I can’t do it.” And so I had to quit. And that was really tough. That was really tough. But once I got into it and everything then I was happy I didn’t have to get up and put on my nylons and high heels and go to work, and so, it was a really growing experience for me. You know, after Michael was born. But nobody loved a baby as much as I loved him.
What did Grandpa think of you going to work, and then quitting to take care of Michael?
I don’t remember, um, I honestly don’t remember ever discussing it. That was one of those decisions that I made. And it was, it was hard financially because we had grown to rely on that paycheck that I brought in, and so I did other things. I baby sat. Like I said, I don’t remember really ever discussing that that was what I was going to do, I just knew that I couldn’t do it anymore, you know with him and everything, so I just, I did it.
Ok. The next question I wanted to ask is about my mom, because she came along and then you had a daughter. How do you think her experience growing up was different from yours? Based primarily on how you treated her, if you were the same or different than your parents had been in regard to raising a daughter.
I think I tried to be positive. I don’t know that I was very good at letting her do things when she thought she was ready to do them. I think, you know, with both of the kids, that I still kind of tended to raise them the way that I had been raised with expectations of doing what you were told and that kind of thing. But your mother was always very independent. And I tell the story, and this is literally true, that when she was three months old, she stood up in her crib, she stomped her foot, and she wanted to hold the bottle herself. She didn’t want me to hold it and feed it to her. Being the second child and seeing an older brother running around your mother walked at a very, very young age. Part of that was because of medical things. When she was born, she was born pigeon toed. We had to use medical devices to get her legs straight, and the things that were used gave her a sense of balance. She was small, she was very small. She was crawling and pulling herself up, and she was literally walking by herself I think when she was seven and a half months old.
Yeah, she’s got her baby books, you could verify that time line. But she was a very independent spirit, and um, somedays that was good and other days it caused conflict. And um, it took me a while, and all mothers have to learn that somethings you have to learn by failing. And she didn’t fail very often, but when she did you know, she’s like the rest of us, she learned from it. But it was hard for me to realize that she was ready to do things before I thought she should be even thinking about them. Sometimes it was just easier to let her do it. She wanted to learn to play the piano, and I said “well you can’t learn to play the piano until you’re this old,” and she said “why not?” and I said “well because you can’t play the piano until you know fractions, and you don’t learn that until you’re in the third grade.” And it was “then teach me.” And it was the same way with cooking. She wanted to cook, she wanted to bake. “Well you can’t until you know fractions because when you measure.” “Well then teach me.” And so I taught her. She was wanting to do things maybe before I was ready for her to be doing them. Now she might tell you that I held back, and I probably did in a lot of things. But I think that I learned. I hope I learned that she was ready. I think that she had as many challenges growing up as a girl as I had simply because I was learning right along with her.
I guess just final question, what would you tell me now that I’m kind of in a transitioning into adulthood period of my life? What wisdom would you want to pass on to me, or to others like me?
Stay close to Heavenly Father. Listen to the spirit. And His plan isn’t always ours. But He knows more. That’s the hardest thing because we decide like I did, I wanted to be a teacher, but that didn’t work, so what do I do? You know, don’t get so focused on worldly things that you’re not doing what He has in mind for you. He gave you a brain, a very good one. And um, set you goals. Work towards them. But when Mr. wonderful comes along don’t put that off to go and do things that maybe aren’t going to be best in the eternal plan.