The day must have been very cold when I came into the world because it was January 25, 1922. Dad said all there was between me and the outside was a one-inch slab wall. No wonder I am cold all of the time.
My parents are Elbert Alvie Blevens and Evva May Abbott. When I was six weeks old, Mom had a serious operation and she was given by the doctor a 99% chance of not living. He operated thinking that the problem was gall stones. Our country doctor maintained all along that it was Mom’s kidneys, so while she was opened up, he moved some things around to show the surgeon the real problem. The surgeon had to then remove the diseased kidney from a very awkward position. Mom lived and at this writing is 88 years old and in reasonably good health.
Mom said when she came home from the hospital I was completely worn out from people teetering me and bouncing me. I suppose I cried a lot because I was put right onto cow’s milk at six weeks old, so I probably had the colic or something.
We lived on the “dry land” in Prowers County, Colorado. Our home was 26 miles south of Lamar. The folks tried to farm without much success. My brothers Bert, Isaac, Frank, sister Ruby and I were all born in this area. Verne, my oldest brother, was born in Plains, Kansas. Dad had to turn his homestead place over to the surgeon to pay for Mom’s operation. We lived for awhile on my grandparents homestead which was nearby. Then we rented a place and after that we moved to Lamar when I was about seven or eight.
What did I like about the country? The blue sky, the billowy clouds, the horses, the birds, and the calves. The happiest time of my young childhood was when I was on a horse or a calf. One calf finally stopped trying to throw me off. He would simply give me a nice ride whenever he found me on his back. However, there were hazards in the country like rattlesnakes, dust storm, prairie fires, and tornadoes which made living there rather scary at times. We were trained that on the first shout of warning we were to all head as fast as we could for the storm cellar, because a tornado was lurking about. Getting in the storm cellar in a hurry had its own dangers. An eminent storm was also sensed by the rattlesnakes who could detect it before we humans and if they were close to the cellar, they would beat us to it.
I started school in the country. My memories are vague but it seems to me that I always knew how to read. I remember some Christmas programs in which I was embarrassed because I forgot my part. We met in a schoolhouse which was about the size of our living room. However, it sure looked large to me. We also had Easter egg hunts which I remember as being fun.
Due to the fact that Dad was working in Lamar, leaving Mom with six small children on the farm and lots of problems wasn’t good and it was decided that we should all move into the city. We did and I could not believe we were going to live in such a gigantic place (all of about 5000 people). I went to Lincoln school on North 9th. As I said, it seems to me that I could always read and could read third-grade work. However, the school placed me in the second grade because I was from the country and because I was so scared that I cried for one solid week, causing big black rings around my eyes. The teacher did not know what to do with me. Neither did the boy that shared my desk. He kept putting his arm around me to console me, which of course made me worse. They finally did what they had to and that was to put me back in the 1st grade. That suited me just fine because those kids were just as scared as I was. From that time on I liked school. Some of my remembrance of grade school are: many children received milk to drink at recess time. These children were undernourished but I didn’t know that. It came in a small bottle and they had a straw to drink it with. I wanted milk to drink also but they wouldn’t give me any so I brought my own from home in a small fruit jar. The teacher always gave me a straw to use. The milk tasted better coming through that straw.
I played a lot of baseball and skated a lot. One time I organized a baseball team and asked the kids to stay after school to practice. I even set up a game to play with another school. All of this unbeknown to the teachers or parents. It didn’t take them long to find out why the kids were not coming home right after school. They talked to me and told me they thought it might be a good idea for me to cancel the team and the game. I was very competitive during my school years.
Shortly after moving to Lamar I was downtown waiting in a car for my folks. A girl about my age that I had never seen before came walking down the sidewalk. Right then and there I decided that she was going to be my friend. It wasn’t long until I discovered that she lived one block from me and we did become best friends. We practically lived together. Her name was Norma June Walker. June was an only child and her parents took me with them everywhere they went. She moved away when she was ready to go to the 8th grade. Her cousin Sonny Lewis was our same age and my boy-friend. When we were in the 8th grade he found someone else and June had the job of telling me. She felt worse than I did.
When I was 10 or 11 we were celebrating my birthday. After the get-together a bunch of us became bored and decided to do something about it. We pooled pennys and got enough money to buy a package of cigarettes. (I must say here for my grandchildren that I was not a member of the Church at this time, I had never even heard about the Church.) A gang of us then went to the river to watch the flood water that was on its way. We went under the bridge to smoke. My older brother was also at the river and saw us and went home to report it to the folks. Out they came and picked my younger brother, Frank, and me up and took us home. Dad called Frank into a room first, and I heard him say, “Frank, when you get old enough to smoke, you come home and smoke.” Well, that didn’t sound like too harsh of a punishment so I sorta felt relieved about taking my turn. However, he said to me, “You are never, ever to go over to June’s house again!” Period! To me that was very unfair. It didn’t seem at all right that Frank got off so easy and I was punished so harshly. As it turned out it was a blessing, for I did not smoke again. However, neither did I go to June’s home again. (I did once to tell her goodbye when she was going to move away.) It was a blessing because when I met Alan, he mentioned to me that there was not a double standard in the Church. He said that it was just as bad for a boy as it was a girl to do something wrong. Then, that punishment came back to my mind and it made me sit up and take notice of a Church that had that kind of teaching. I was interested in learning more and learn more I did. That is a story for later.
When I entered the 9th grade I found another girl friend. We did everything together. Her name was Faye Wright. We were cheer-leaders and majorettes for 3 years in high school. I played the guitar, so we sang together and entered every contest that came along. We only lost one. To this day it is a mystery to me why, but several times the radio station manager called us to come down and sing on the radio. We must have been something else. The theatre manager was always calling on us to perform for the Rotary club and the Lions club, etc. Our numbers were comedy and we loved doing them.
During my high school years I met another girl by the name of Nell Tattershall. She lived some of the time with my Aunt Edna in Canon City, Colorado where I spent some of my summers. Nell had lost her mother when she was born and was raised some what like an orphan, although she did have a father and some brothers and one sister. Nell and I were close and we did a lot of hitch-hiking together. Things were different in those days as hitch-hiking was not dangerous. We rode with different people and never once did they say or do anything out-of-line to us. They always treated us very nice.
My brother Frank and I and Faye, my girl friend, all owned bikes. We did a lot of riding around the country. One time another girl friend and I rode bikes to another town 45 miles away and the next day we returned home. Then one other time a boy friend and I rode our bikes 60 miles in a day, We must have been crazy.
I had lots of favorite teachers in school. Literature and algebra were favorite subjects, along with Spanish. We learned some tap dancing in gym which I liked and we played basketball, which I did not like because I could never understand what I was supposed to be doing out there on the floor. I did a lot of jumping around but did not know what the procedures of team-play were.
Naturally Faye and I liked the boys, but we were not the socially elite of our school. One time she and I put our heads together and came up with an important decision. We decided if we had dates to “things” at school (or elsewhere) that was great, but if we didn’t, we were not going to moan around. We decided that we just would do something else that was fun. Right after that meeting we both met really neat fellows and they asked for dates and we accepted and we went steady the last two years of high school. All of the girls were suddenly our friends as we had two of the neatest guys in school.
After being graduated from high school I went to work as cashier at the Pioneer Theatre. I also went to the Junior College in Lamar. Because I was cashier, I knew almost everyone around. I used to sit in the box office and wonder if the fellow that I would someday marry would ever walk past. [I might add here that when I was 9 years old I was walking down North 9th street and as I walked I planned my future. Following were the goals that I set for myself that day: (1) I wanted to get married some day, (2) I wanted my husband to be nice looking, (3) I wanted him to be very nice to me, and someone that made us a comfortable living, (4) his name was to be Alan, (4) I wanted to go to Utah. (The reason Utah was chosen was because I liked the name and also its shape on the map, and (5) I wanted to go to New York and Washington, D.C. for a visit. I never wanted to go the the state of Ohio because I did not like the word “Ohio”. That was it.] So one night HE walked past the box office. It was closing time. As HE got past the office HE looked back at me and smiled and I winked at him. HE was carrying two large suitcases so it was very evident that he was new in town. Well, as soon as I got home I announced to Mom that HE was in town and I had to meet him. We did meet and we dated and his name was Alan and he was from Utah and he was a Mormon. From the day I met him I was in seventh heaven and still am. There is a story behind all of this but no room to tell it here.
From the time I was little I always wondered about where I came from and why I was here and where was I going. The religions of the day did not appeal to me at all. Many times I would ask Mom to tell me why I was born. One time she lost patience with my insisting for an answer. She stamped her foot at me and said, “I don’t know why you were born!” This was really a worry to me. As a small child I believed in tithing but did not know to whom you should pay tithing. Paying it to the churches I knew or to a minister did not appeal to me at all.
Alan and I went together for two years, one year while he was in Lamar and one year corresponding with him when he was not in Lamar. Alan did not preach a lot of the Gospel to me and it was for the best. We eventually got around to talking about marriage in general. One day I told Mom that I would not join any church just for a fellow. She said, “Why don’t you quit your job and go to Utah to see if you want to join the Church.” That was an interesting suggestion, especially from a mother to her young daughter, but that is what I did. My only concern in going was leaving behind my brother Frank who was close to me and just younger. He rode with me on the train to Colorado Springs and that was the last time I ever saw him. He was killed in Italy at the Rapido River crossing in January 1944 during World War II.
I stayed with Alan’s folks for awhile. They were very nice to me and they did not preach to me. They took me lots of places and exposed me to the Gospel in that way. I did ask lots of questions. I moved to Ilene Lindsey’s place for a while after I got a job at the Arm’s plant and then I felt like I wanted to live elsewhere. One evening I noticed a girl out walking her little brother and I spoke to her. I asked her if she knew anyone in the area that rented rooms. She said, “Now isn’t that funny. My mother was just saying this morning that she wished that girl that lived down at Ilene’s would come live with us.” I asked her where she lived and it happened to be in the two-story red brick home that I was hoping I could live in. It turned out that I was talking to June Barker. In a few days I moved into Fred and Helen Barker’s home where they treated me royally. It was here that I learned the Gospel.
Alan and I were married February 14, 1943 in Colorado Springs. One week later we left for Utah so that Alan could enlist in the Navy. I did join the Church which was the smartest thing I ever did in my life. I was baptized by Alan’s brother Eugene in the font in the Salt Lake Tabernacle. Why I didn’t have Alan baptize me I do not know. I guess I thought that once he got me under the water he might not bring me up again.
One week after my baptism Alan left for basic training and I moved back to the two-story red brick house.
It was a blessing to me to be in the Barker’s home during this time as I learned many things. Also, at this time I ran around with Elsie Rupp and Ruth Lindsey. They were such good friends and meant a lot to me. The Lindsey family was also a strength to me as well as the Colliers and many others in Taylorsville Ward. The Hintze family was so good to me and to this day I am so thankful to be a part of the family. The Barker children accepted me and that helped a lot also.
After about a year I decided to join Alan who was now in Washington, D.C. I did and we enjoyed the time in D.C. and from there we went to Williamsburg, Virginia. I worked, and Alan was stationed at Camp Perry. After months of wondering whether we were going to be able to have children, we found that Jan was on the way so I went to California so that I could be with someone when he was born. My folks lived in Long Beach and they were kind enough to let me live with them. Jan was born! When he was about six weeks old I was wishing that I was back in Utah, even though my family was really good to me and never made me feel that I was an imposition. One day in the mail came a letter from Helen Barker. She said, “Why don’t you pack up that baby and come home?” and that I did. Jane, Bill, Verl and Ruby Barker were kind enough to drive down, pick me up, and take us back to Utah. I stayed with the Barkers until Alan was released from the service.
Jan was three months old when Alan returned, and he was a cutie. One time I told the Barkers that I could never repay them for their kindness. They said, “Don’t try. Just pass it on.” Well, all through the years we have had a lot of passing-on to do to repay all of the kindnesses that have come our way from many, many people.
Alan and I have three children, Jan, Helen, and Frank. My patriarchal blessing promised me that I would live to see my children grow up to be fine, honorable people, and they have, and I have. Alan and I took Olia Hopkins (Shearer) into our home when she was a teenager and we lived in Hamilton, Ohio. She is one of our kids also, so we have four.