By Bertha Malvina Thurber Butler
The first Christmas I remember very well was when I was a small child in Grass Valley, Utah. I knew there was something in mother’s trunk for me, and one day when she was away I removed the lock and found a pretty plaid piece of cloth for a dress. (I was a naughty child, but doubt if she knew it). It was about this time that I received a doll – it was about ten inches tall, a cloth body stuffed with sawdust, and a china head with black painted hair. The only real doll I ever had.
After moving to Richfield in 1889, we lived neighbors to Nebeker’s. Norie (Lanoria) Nebeker was about my age and we became very close friends. One Christmas eve, she wagered that she would be first to say “Christmas gift” the next morning. So, on Christmas morning very early I went cautiously to their door and called my greeting, and was much chagrined when she presented me with a small pair of china statues (dolls). I had not expected any gift of that kind.
One Christmas in Richfield, Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus had arrived and were presenting gifts from a beautiful tree lighted with candles. Suddenly Mr. Santa caught his clothing on fire. He got outside and the fire was put out without any serious damage.
The Christmas of 1898 was a different one for me. My cousin, Vina Bushnell, of Meadow, had been living at our home and attending school. Her father came to take her home for the holidays, and I went with them and had a very lovely time visiting with my Aunt Elizabeth Bushnell and her numerous family. I was gone from home about two weeks. It was this Christmas time that my dear John was doing missionary work in Minnesota and his father died December 30th. I was away from home and did not know of his death at the time. He had been in very poor health for a long time, had dropsy. The family were practically without funds and had a very meager Christmas. Jane tells of how the children fixed up a tree of some kind, putting spools of thread, scissors or anything available on, to distribute as gifts. Happy children they were and enjoyed the fun, but the dear father, who was so ill, shed tears when he saw their efforts. He loved his family and knew he was about to leave them.
The next Christmas, 1899, we had been married about six weeks and were at a mine about two miles over the mountains from Kimberly on Gold Mountain. John and Jack Gilbert were contracting there. We were snowed in, and isolated. No way to get to town except on snow shoes or skis. I think we were very much alone for Christmas as the other men working there had gone to the Valley.
The Christmas of 1901 we were still at the mines, but now living at Kimberly and working at the Anna Laura. We all went home to Richfield for Christmas, where the entire Butler family met together and had the family picture taken. John and I also had our first picture taken together.
We moved to Idaho in 1904, and there we had our children growing up in the home. We always had our Christmas tree, as the men would get one from the mountains very easily, while hauling wood. One Christmas (about 1911) we had a family gathering at our home with a nice tree in the kitchen. Most of the folks had been there overnight, staying at our home and Grandmother Butler’s, across the lane, so Christmas morning we surely had a jolly time, distributing gifts for all, visiting, eating, and enjoying the day. As I remember there were present John’s mother, Grandma Butler, and her unmarried children, Jane, Taylor, Eva and Lee Tom--, Horace and Ida and their children, Erin and Caroline and children. There may have been others. This was the last Christmas that Grandma Butler was with us. The next year she was in Utah, and died after returning to her home in Idaho, April 21, 1913.
The Christmas of 1912, Jess and Olive Smith were living in Grandmother Butler’s home, and there we had a nice Christmas party, the Butlers and Smiths all joining together and the next morning, December 26, Horace Smith was born. I was present.
The Christmas of 1914 is one I shall never forget. Our dear father was very ill. He had left home the 2nd of December, going to a Salt Lake Clinic and from there he was sent to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, where on the 8th of January 1915 he underwent a very serious operation, having a papilloma or tumor removed from his bladder. He was in very critical condition, but through having a good clean body, uncontaminated with liquor or tobacco, tea or coffee, his blood was pure and soon he was on the way to recovery. We felt that the blessings of our Heavenly Father had been with him. He was never very well after this time, but lived 22 ½ years longer, caring for his loved ones. This Christmas day we at home had all received gifts from our dear one. Mine was a nice warm robe which I needed as the weather was severely cold – the thermometer registered 20° below zero for many days at a time. My brother Erin came for us and took us to his home for Christmas dinner. The next day Grant had his arm broken by a horse falling on him. Taylor was caring for the place and he took us to Soldier, 7 miles, to the doctor. This was an added worry and one we did not tell father about until he came home the 2nd of February.
We moved from Manard, on Camas Prairie, to Acequia in September 1917. Our Christmas tree this year was a big sagebrush, as we had not been able to get an evergreen. This substitute was pretty when fixed up, but the odor of sage permeated the house. It was this Christmas that we got our second Victrola, a portable square-shaped box which we enjoyed very much. Our first Victrola was an Edison with a large horn attached to it and was the first, and about the only one, available to our many friends while we lived at Manard. Our home was a place where relatives and friends were always welcome and this music was especially entertaining to all of us. It was at this 1917 Ward Christmas program that Donald contracted whooping cough, so for the next several weeks we were all at home either sick or caring for those having whooping cough, as all seven of our children had it during this time. The next Christmas we had a player piano brought to the house to try it out. We decided we did not want a player piano so returned it and got another one which we had a long as we kept our home. The three older girls became quite efficient in playing it. Edith now has this piano in her home.
We moved from Acequia to Twin Falls in March 1922, living in a nice home on a ten-acre lot north of town. After two years here we moved into town and lived on Adams Street. We had lost our home and practically everything we had owned, so now were renting. The Christmas of 1925 was indeed a trying one. Father and the boys had been farming a place at Filer, about seven miles away. They had had a very hard year; the bean crops they were raising were almost a failure, barely paying expenses of the summer. Very much discouraged, father left on the 20th of December for contact, Nevada to get work in the mines. He worked here for two months, earning $100 per month, and was cheated out of three-fourths of this amount. Christmas, with father gone, was lonely. Gladys was clerking in Wright’s store and did all she could to help us. Uncle Lee came to visit us during this winter and found our coal bin about empty and us, hoping to get money soon to get our supply. He bought us a ton of coal, for which we were grateful. Uncle Lee was surely a Santa Claus, though a little late. Delta Duffin was with us for awhile.
We moved from Twin Falls to a farm near Hollister, 18 miles south, in September 1926. This farm was leased from E.J. Hunt and Sons of Buhl, Idaho, and was known as the Beatty farm. We were there seven years. Each Christmas brought its joys to us. Grant, Edith, Donald and Gladys were all married and we had our family gatherings as often as we could, the grandchildren coming to brighten the day.
The Christmas of 1930 Gladys and her boyfriend (Ervin) came from Lyman, Wyoming, where she was teaching school. They announced the marriage of Donald and Marie Bosch in Salt Lake. We had expected Donald to come home for Christmas, but he did not get home until the next Christmas, then brought his wife and baby Donna Marie.
The Christmas of 1932 we had dinner at Edith’s home, 336 6th Avenue North, in Twin Falls. It was the last Christmas that my mother was with us, as she died the next Thanksgiving day, November 30, 1933. I had had an operation in the Twin Falls Hospital the latter part of October 1932, so was feeling too well at Christmas. Glenn was attending college at Caldwell, Idaho. Etta and Ross were both working for Hunts at Buhl. At Christmas time Ross had received a five-dollar bill for his work, and when he reached home it was gone, no place to be found, which was a great disappointment to him.
In 1933 we moved from Hollister to the Gettert farm (80 acres) three miles west of Eden and thirteen miles northeast of Twin. Here we lived until August 1937, when I made the move to Shelley, Idaho, where I bought a home. My husband had died the month before and we were not in a position to continue renting the farm, so considered it best to make this move. Grant’s home was at Shelley, and the other boys were in school. Glenn and Ross were at the U. of I. at Moscow. Each Christmas brought its joys and remembrances. The boys usually came home from school and the married children and their families came when they could.
I think it was the Christmas of 1935 that Glenn and Ross were coming home from Moscow to be home for the holidays. They did not have enough money to buy their tickets on the train so were going to hitchhike, and against regulations they chose to ride the cars that were bringing students home. They would get on top, or underneath or wherever they could find a place to ride. The train officials discovered them and put them off a time or two, but when the train started again they would be on it. Finally, before reaching Boise, the train officials phoned ahead and had some officers on hand to arrest them. They tried to escape by running but were caught and taken to the lock-up. They were so dirty, covered with coal dust, smoke, etc., that they did not look like white people. At the jail they washed up as best they could and were given a very good meal which they needed and relished very much. The keepers had taken things from their pockets, among which was a letter from their father, telling them of his hopes of having them home for Christmas, also enclosing some money for them. After about five hours in jail, some officers came and talked to them, and in asking questions found that they were not criminals, but just two homesick boys trying to get home for Christmas. He gave them some advice and released them to go on their journey. We had a very happy reunion.
The Christmas of 1937 I spent at Grant’s. I had my home in Shelley and had four lady boarders who had gone home for Christmas. Agnes was at home and Jack was completing his high school. The Christmas before that, 1936, Etta came from Salt Lake with Horace. Glenn and Ross also came from Moscow.
For Christmas of 1938 I made the trip to Moscow, Idaho, to spend it with my four sons. Donald was working at Spokane, Glenn at Lewiston, and Ross and Jack were in school. Margie was there also. I got a ride from Jerome with a Mrs. Jenkins. Melvin took me from Twin to Jerome and we started about 3 a.m., December 20th. It was a very foggy day, and hard to follow the road. Mrs. Jenkins was going to Moscow to bring her son and some other students home for the holidays, then take them back for school, and bring me home again. We arrived safely in Moscow about 5 p.m. and surely enjoyed meeting my dear ones again. Margie made the trip to Boise to visit her parents, so I spent most of the next two weeks there very much alone. The four sons were all there with us for Christmas dinner.
I went to a dentist and had my only nine bottom teeth drawn, and got a full set of new teeth made. It was rather a painful ordeal, but a job I needed to have done. Glenn was the one to settle this account. It was a fine Christmas present for me. It was also this Christmas that I received my Parker fountain pen from my children. It has done me a lot of service and I am writing with it now.
Mrs. Jenkins came back to Moscow in due time and we were to go home the next day, but a snow storm had started and she was afraid that the road over the Blue Ridge Mountains would be blocked before morning, so we decided to start that night. We left Moscow about 7 p.m. and had a very disagreeable time, all night. The storm was a bad one, rain, hail, wind and sleet taking turns. As we reached the top of the divide we met a man driving a big oil truck. He put the chains on our car, which helped some, as we were having trouble keeping on the road. This driver said if we had more trouble he would be along and give us help. We went a short distance and found our engine radiator was dry. We stopped and waited for the oil truck, but he passed us by without stopping. We would go a little way until the engine heated up, then stop to cool it. We kept this up until we reached a highway station where we got water and continued on our way. Mrs. Jenkins had been without sleep for a long time and her eyes became so inflamed and sore that she could hardly see. When we reached Emmett we went to her cousin’s place and stayed a couple of hours, resting and bathing her eyes. We reached Boise about 5 p.m. where I stopped for a few days.
Christmas of 1940 was in Logan. Agnes and I attended early pageant.
The Christmas of 1941 I was living in Logan until September. I rode to Twin Falls with a neighbor (Mr. Smith) in August. Went to Twin Falls from Salt Lake for Christmas with Edith and family. Jack came from Moscow and met me there. We had a fine dinner and a generous good time. Melvin took Jack and me to Acequia after dinner, where we stayed with Uncle Horace and Aunt Ida. Melvin came for us on Saturday morning and took us to Shelley where we visited with Grant and family, also went to Idaho Falls and visited with Agnes and Roland. Jack returned back to Salt Lake with me where he visited Etta and family. Gladys and family came while he was here. They stayed just a short time.
I moved to Salt Lake to be with Etta in September 1941 and here I was for Christmas, but went to Twin Falls to meet Jack and visit. Etta was working and I was keeping house and caring for her children. We had a very nice Christmas tree and many nice presents. I received many cards and tokens, also several dollars in money from my children.
The Christmas of 1942 was spent in Salt Lake with Etta and family. Jack did not come home this year.
Now it is nearly Christmas of 1943. I am here at Hill Field working. I have a very comfortable little room where I am able to do some of the things I like to do. This day (Monday, December 20) has been my day off and I have spent a lot of time writing about Christmases I remember. I have remembered a lot of things I am glad to get recorded so our children will know about them. I have had photographs of father and myself made and sent to the nine of our children. Hope they will enjoy them. Jack is far away from the rest of the family right now, but we hope he is well and happy.