A FEW MEMORIES OF HOME
Compiled by Gay Slade
Memories are such fragile glimpses into the past. They are all too often ignored, so neatly tucked away into our minds' attics, and then forgotten. Then, within us, that fragment of the past ceases to exist.
And so I asked the children of Walter and Hazel McRae, my grandparents, to pause a moment and remember, lest we forget even more:
"Daddy and Mother believed in hard work. Long hours were put in each day to build a home, raise animals and produce on the farm and support the family."
"When I was little it was a ritual that every day when I saw Daddy getting off the Apache bus down on the highway, I would run out to the gate and he would sing, 'Oh, Dona Lee, Sweet Dona Lee,' and I would sing, 'Oh, Daddy Dee, Sweet Daddy Dee.'"
"During the depression Daddy's paycheck took care of three families - Grandpa McRae's with Ireneand Parley still at home and Uncle George's family. Grandpa and Uncle George farmed carefully to supply as many needs as possible."
"Daddy always wore coveralls and grey shirts and a grey-brimmed hat for work, and he carried a large round-topped lunch pail. His shoes were the heavy lace-high kind and he wore grey socks.
"All the years I lived at home my father carried an old black lunch pail to work, and wore bib overalls until he became one of the bosses. The overalls were just part of him at home, plus an old beat-up hat. I really don't know where all those old hats came from 'cause I don't remember him wearing a new one - only a cap in the earlier days."
"I was playing a game at a baby shower and was concentrating so hard that I discovered I was chewing my tongue! I got that from my father - he chews his tongue when he is 'deep' into something."
"I remember picking up potatoes from the fields and also stomping the silage in the silo before going to school.....When we moved across the river, I spent many evenings helping Daddy put in the pipeline from the pond to the location of the house. He was fun to be with. I especially remember the many fireflies that flew around us. Daddy made the adobe for our present house and I helped with that too. Hard work."
"I was the 'tomboy' of the family so I was the one who worked with my father more than the other girls - milking cows, plowing, pitching hay (we didn't bale it, but carried it to the wagon loose and stacked it in the 'barn.' ). He didn't have much patience with animals (he always said he would rather have a tractor than a horse cause you didn't have to feed it when it wasn't working.), but he had even less with me if the cows weren't milked and fed as he thought they should be."
"Mother has always seemed to me like she keeps busy. When we were smaller, she would wash, iron and spend hours and hours gardening and canning."
"Mother always had a big garden and washed outside and spent hours over a hot flat-iron ironing our full skirts and slips....One summer we planted an acre of tomatoes. I can remember having tubs of tomatoes sitting out in front. Also the year we planted peanuts and had peanuts everywhere.
Mother always canned. One time it was pineapple and all our hands blued from where the acid ate our skin."
"Mother did most of the gardening, but, of course, we all had to help. But I remember many of the things we did to keep from working too hard on the hot summer days when we were supposed to be pulling weeds. Mother canned nearly all summer long - or so it seemed. They brought in corn by the wagonloads and we used to sit in the middle of the husks playing with the corn dolls until we were reminded that husking the corn was our job. All the jars had to be cleaned and washed every year 'cause they were kept out in a shed. That was a nasty job, especially when they hadn't been washed well before they were stored. We had to use sand as an abrasive and that plus hot water and soap and lots of elbow grease had to get them sparkling clean - you didn't slip many half-clean jars past her!"
"I can so clearly remember my mother taking a rest in the afternoon and saying wearily as she would hit the bed, 'No rest for the wicked, and less for the righteous.' I guess she felt guilty for being tired."
"Most often it seemed to me that Mother stayed home. Either she was wearing 'mother hubbards' (maternity dresses similar to muu-muus of today) or she was caring for sick children. Maybe it wasn't so, but it seemed to me that we had a lot of sickness - measles, chicken pox, mumps, whooping cough, etc. Guess we had our share of colds, etc. also. Or maybe it was just me, as I know I had lots of terrible ear aches."
"I always thought Mother was the best seamstress there was. One day when I was in the primary grades, I came home from school and she had made three dresses in that one day - I was impressed! She could always manage to get some sewing done."
"Mother made all of our clothing - floursack panties, made-over dresses and coats, etc. Mother did miracles with her sewing machine as we usually had nice things to wear."
"One 4th of July Mother made me a new dress. As I stood in the program, a sleeve started to fall off, then the skirt, then something else - she'd been in such a big hurry, she had just basted it and had forgotten to sew it on the machine."
"Every summer we quilted - or so it seemed. Sometimes she had pieced a quilt from old pieces of wool and we only had cotton or wool batts. They were beasts to quilt but she always worked with us and encouraged us to keep trying. Whenever we wanted a new dress we would show her a picture in the catalog of what we wanted. When the time came that we really were going to have a new dress, she would use the picture in the catalog and cut the patterns out of newspaper to make the dresses. I remember being surprised to learn that not everyone sewed this way and that you really could buy ready-made patterns to use. One of my proud moments was one day when Mother gave me a piece of material and told me I could make it any way I wanted to (with the catalog and newspaper). That dress didn't fit all that well, but I wore it and I will never forget it - it was green and made with a straight panel in front, dropped waist, and gathered skirt (and it probably looked as bad as it sounds, but I surely was proud to know that I had actually made a dress all by myself.). Think I will always remember the feeling I had when I realized that she was trusting me to do it by myself - new material was still a very scarce commodity at our house."
"Sometimes we would tease Mother and get her to laughing until the tears would run down her cheeks. She could give as well as take and she kept us on our toes. She always wore a big
apron and would wipe her eyes with it when she'd been laughing, peeling onions, etc., etc. I especially remember the day we were trying to get the pig back into the pen and Mother was
'shooing' him with her apron when he decided to escape in her direction. He ran right between her legs, caught his snoot in her apron long enough to upend her. We all had a very good laugh at her expense."
"I always liked to tease mother. There were a few choice male characters in town about whom I would always tease her and occasionally my judgement wasn't so good, and she would be embarrassed when I would choose to tease her at the wrong time. I also delighted in tying her apron strings to the chair all the time."
"She loved to have her back scratched. I can remember her backing up against the corner of a door frame and giving it a scratch. She also loved to have her hair brushed and combed, or maybe was just patient enough to let me do it. I remember her long hair with just a little gray that was rolled around a bun."
"I remember Mother combing my hair - she didn't waste much time on snarls. Then later when I finally was allowed to let it grow longer, she would sometimes braid it for me in French braids. She could made beautiful braids, but I sometimes thought I would look like an Oriental permanently 'cause she pulled it so tight."
"Both Daddy and Mother stressed responsibility at home and in church and elsewhare. If you were given something to do, you did it!"
"Every Saturday was house-cleaning day - from front to back, top to bottom. Many holidays were just spent at home, working. They were responsible and hoped and expected their children to be. If you have a job, be there and work hard.... The folks had a keen sense of social responsibility. All receptions (wedding), funerals, town socials, church socials, etc. were supported.... Being the youngest, I went along to many activities - ballgames (where Stanley and Lorin participated), at home and away, trips to see the older, married sisters."
"My father could waltz beautifully. I loved to have him ask me for a dance when they were playing a waltz. Somehow he always made me feel so graceful on the dance floor and most other times I felt like a 'klutz.' In those days most of the dances were just community affairs - the whole family would go and the little children slept on the back row of benches around the hall until the dance was over."
"I loved to waltz with Daddy. He frequently stepped on my toes - he was teaching me to keep them out of the way."
"They were willing to share whatever they had. I wasn't always aware of what they were giving(in fact, I seldom knew anything about it until many years later) but, even as a child I knew that
many people came to my father for advice or for help. I was very proud to realize that so many people thought so much of him. I was aware that he had an outstanding reputation in the town."
"I remember being sent to the neighbors' with things my mother thought they could use - bread, butter, milk, etc. And I remember her taking things much more often than sending any of the children with them. My parents were always concerned and considerate of others."
"Dad would do anything for anybody. He never let anyone off at their house at night but he'd wait until they were in the house to leave."
"He enjoys doing things for people and sometimes he seems to feel frustrated because he doesn't figure he is doing enough for you,"
"Mother seemed forever tired to me and I think she was. She had her own large family and then helped so many others. Both of my parents were forever helping someone. Very often Daddy was plastering, repairing a chimney, cutting wood, fixing a fence, doctoring a sick animal, taking some person to the doctor - you name it, he did it. They frequently shared our Christmas with those who had nothing."
"Course, Dad had another reputation that I didn't appreciate much - he was very strict with us. I resented this - felt that he wasn't justified in many of the decisions he made - so I have some sharp memories of the times when I 'said my piece' to him even tho' I was quivering in my boots. As the years have passed and I have learned more about the pressures and demands my parents were facing during those years right after the depression - in fact, all through the 30's - I can understand that he didn't mean to deprive us of any of the good things of life, but their limited means would not allow for all the extra trips to town for the ballgames, parties, etc. that seemed so important to me."
"When a boy came to ask me for my first date, Daddy made Barbara go along and I was humiliated."
"I always knew Mother loved us, but she is definitely not the affectionate type as for as outward displays of affection.... Believe it or not, I was shy when I was younger, and I always did everything I could to stay out of trouble either with Mother or Daddy. I remember June and Nadine used to get in trouble occasionally and I dreaded it when they would have a round with Mother...."
"Daddy always liked praise, seems to thrive on it. He is quite hard-headed and determined about how things should be done, etc. I've never known him to strike one of his daughters; however,
Stanley and Lorin got the belt taken to them on occasion. I've also never heard him swear."
"Mother's favorite sayings were - well, maybe best not printed, but direct from Grandpa Post."
"I remember very well the time she was putting a gallon of milk in the refrigerator just as Barbara walked upon the porch with a university friend she was bringing to introduce. Mother let out
with a 'Damn it' that could have been heard far and near and Barbara was really embarrassed."
"As far back as I can remember I knew that my parents had a strong testimony of the truthfulness of the gospel and a sincere desire to follow the counsel of the leaders of the Church. I remember hearing more than once that 'If the leaders told your father to go jump in the lake, he'd do exactly that because he was willing to do what they said without questioning them.' I don't remember having any formal Family Home Evenings until I was in high school and then all I remember was that I resented them 'cause they were 'unnecessary' and another 'burden,' but I was taught the principles of the gospel mostly by the example of my parents."
"Ours was a spiritual home with prayers night and morning without fail, attendance at all Church meetings, trying to follow the counsel of church leaders, paying a full tithing, etc."
"When I was married, Daddy took time off his work, losing needed pay (he was on a salary) and Mother left a six-month-old baby whom she was breast-feeding to travel to Salt Lake City so I could be married in a temple. The Arizona, St. George and Manti temples were closed at the time - August being temple-vacation month. They said, 'If Barbara (being the oldest and first to marry) is married in the temple, all of our children will also marry in the temple.' And they all did. Daddy has always tried to do whatever our church leaders have said to do, and without question. When the welfare plan was first announced, my parents began storing food. When the leaders told the priesthood to subscribe to the Church News, Daddy did. Only then, one bought the whole Deseret News papers about once a week along with the Church News section. The church leaders soon arranged for people to buy the Church News alone, although I feel sure my father did not complain."
"Mother served as a Relief Society President. Mainly I remember she was gone a lot and we had to take turns preparing the dinner meal. My father used to say that she could drive all over southern Arizona and get the car just inside the gate before it ran out of gas - he was sure she never looked at the gas gauge. Or else she'd get it in the garage and he couldn't back it out the gate before it was out of gas."
"I can remember my Dad's taking us to conference in Salt Lake and running out of gas at Tempe and his having to walk a mile to get gas. How disgusted he was!"
"Mother was gone from home a lot as Relief Society President twice, MIA President and a stake missionary. At one time we had a refrigerator that had a knob which, instead of saying OFF, said VACATION, and at one point I put forth the idea that, since Mother was gone so much we ought to leave it on vacation. Also, at that time I decided that Relief Society was for the birds and you would never find me leaving my kids all the time to go there. HA!"
"I can remember Mother coming home after sitting with someone that had died all night. It amazes me that it never seemed eerie - I guess I just grew up with it. After I was married, I was at home when Grandfather McRae died. We were all gone in the other room and when someone went in and found him gone, Mother was broken-hearted because no one was there when he went and his spirit waited outside his body and no one was there. I've always admired my parents for the years they took care of Grandfather and the troubles and pain they had and how well they handled it. Stanley's death was very, very hard on my folks. It took Dad nearly five years to get over it. But it left him a much softer person, not so harsh, not such a temper and very loving to all his children."
"We made many trips to Tucson to see Grandmother Post. Most always Dad would stop on the way home to get us an ice cream cone. For years I always had a soft spot in my heart for that place on South 6th Ave."
"Daddy couldn't stand to be tickled, even touched near the ribs or knees. Ulcers always dictated what he could eat so he was very careful, a real problem for a 12-year-old substitute cook. Mother was very healthy. She really liked hot foods - chili, onions, etc."
"I've always thought Mother the best of cooks and remember especially her bread, beans, cakes, pies and ice cream. When I was at home, we didn't eat much Mexican food nor much meat - usually fried chicken on Sunday was all. Daddy felt he couldn't eat the meat because of rheumatic fever and he did not like onions, chilis, etc. He was most unhappy when anyone would use the bread knife to slice an onion!!"
"Daddy made us clean up our plates, and I had a particular girl friend who would come to visit and we would get the giggles during prayer and he wouldn't let us eat. He claims he never did anything like that, but she remembers this also."
"One of the earliest things I remember was my father sitting on a high stool and working on some mechanical drawings for a correspondence course he was taking. We had a big black glass-topped table where he worked. We all knew that he would have loved to have had more education, and it was instilled in us very young that education was important, that doing our best work at school was important (he always went over our report cards carefully), and that if we were ever punished at school for anything we would get more of the same at home."
"Daddy moved to Bisbee with his parents when he was about 9 years old. One day Daddy and his schoolmates decided to have some fun so they tied the doors of the schoolhouse so no one could get in or out. Then they threw rocks at the schoolhouse for about a half hour. When the teacher got out - she had been tied inside - she gave Dad a licking because he had been the leader.... Mother attended school in St. David. One day after school, when the teachers had gone, Mother and a friend got their paint books and painted all the pictures in them. They got a spanking when the teacher found out who had done it. Mother had to herd pigs and cows and help with the other work on their farm in St. David. One day Mother and her friend went for a walk. When coming home they found a snake that had a little rabbit charmed. They decided to help the rabbit and began throwing stones and sticks at the snake. The snake went up a tree, then down a hole. While it was still going down, they put a rock on its tail and took its rattlers." (from stories written as a Beehive girl)
"Daddy very much wanted all of us to have an education. He and Mother always supported us in our school and church activities. If he had a characteristic he tried to imbue in us, it was dependability. He is also much more of a perfectionist than Mother is, and Mother says too many of us inherited that from him making us nervous when things aren't going like we want them."
"I remember Dad always told us to tell the teachers that it was much easier to make a 'one' on our report cards than any other number. When I was in about the 7th grade, the boys about drove me crazy being mean. It wasn't until after I married that Mother told me Dad had gone and complained to Mr. Bateman. Their policy was that the teacher was always right and never once did they take our side against the teacher. If they did so it was never to our knowledge. Dad was always insistent on our going to college. I really didn't want to go, but he insisted on at least one semester. And, of course, by that time, I was hooked."
"I love my parents dearly and owe them a great heritage and training in the Church that I feel few other people have."
"Love for the gospel, hard work, service to others in need, dependability, respect for education - all these are but a few of the threads running through our memories and building our heritage. Let's not forget....