Look to the Stars
by Alice Isom Gubler Stratton

Chapter 4
Man Made Marvels

1414 The desk in the front room was a hazard. It stood on legs high enough for the baby to toddle under without bumping her head, and the cabinet on top teetered precariously when both doors were open, so Mama put the top part on the floor in the north room. It made a cool counter top for the pans of milk in the summer.

This was our first summer in Hurricane, and the upstairs bedrooms were like a furnace compared to Kolob, so we slept downstairs. Edith and LaPriel slept on the floor in front of the desk top. One morning, as they played on their bed, they hung onto the desk doors and it toppled, spilling the milk on them. Looking like drowned rats they spluttered and bawled. Their hair was matted with slathers of cream and their nightgowns were plastered to them. They were a ridiculous sight in their puddle of milk.

It didn't seem right to not be going to the ranch, but summers in Hurricane brought new discoveries. I learned that July fruit is not always bruised. When Uncle Ren's boys brought apricots and peaches to Kolob, the fruit arrived bruised, oozy brown and delicious. I thought it grew that way and I loved the bruises.

Hurricane had been celebrating Peach Day since 1913, but this year was our first time. The fruit was spread under the shade of the trees on tables made of planks. Melons, peaches, apples, plums and grapes were heaped high. People even came from Cedar and St. George in their wagons. Indians pitched their camp north of town. This was a two day celebration. On the afternoon of the second day, the melons were cut and everyone ate the fruit display. How jolly it was! Dozens of wagons. with teams tied to the side of them, were parked on the north end of main street where Marzell Covington lives today. Horseshoe pitching and other sports were in progress, when from somewhere in the direction of LaVerkin, a strange roaring and popping was heard. The horses moved uneasily, snorting and tossing their manes. Then a chugging vehicle appeared, laying a trail of dust, puffing clouds of smoke from its rear. Wild eyed, the horses reared on their hind legs and squealed. Men hung onto the horses halters to calm them. The vehicle came to a stop where the crowd was the thickest.

"It's an automobile, an automobile," some kid shrilled.

Wow! If we'd been on Kolob, I might never, never have seen one! It made a terrible noise, and smelled awful, but it ran without horses. Wagon covers and buggy tops were white, but this vehicle was black topped. The wheels had wooden spokes, were smaller than wagon wheels and had rubber tires.

Mr. Fox owned the car, and he offered to take passengers for 10¢ a mile. Five people could ride at a time. Grandma gave each of us a dime and I sat in the front seat by Mr. Fox. All the way to the flour mill and back I sized up the car's interior. It had isinglass windows rolled up like blinds, and a bristling coco mat on the floor. Mr. Fox had a mole on his right cheek with three hairs sticking out. Maybe that's why they called him Mr. Fox. My, how I wished I had another dime!

1515 In September I went to the Beginners in the same room with the First Grade. My sisters went to school in the Church House and in the Relief Society building, but we were in Robb Stratton's building that was supposed to be a store, on the corner of what is now 112 West and State. You had to be seven to go to the First Grade. My cousin Josephine Spendlove was our teacher.

In the winter we were either too hot or too cold, depending on where we sat from the pot bellied stove. Probably that's why we were dressed like cocoons.

"Guess what?" I piped one evening at supper. "We had a program in school today and I sang a song all by myself."

"You did!" Mama exclaimed.

"What did you sing?" Grandma asked.

"I sang 'Oh that chicken pie, put in lots of spice. How I wish the goodness that I had another slice.'" With a happy sigh, I settled back waiting for the family's praise. Instead, everyone grinned, then someone whispered, "She can't even carry a tune." I was crushed. Later, when Miss Spendlove asked me to sing, I refused.

Coming home from school each day, we walked past the loafers, or what some folks called the Spittin' an' Whittlin' Club. The front of, or the side of Charlie Petty's store, depending on the season, the wind or the sun, was the gathering place for the farmers. After school, we'd pass them, leaning against the store, or squatting on their heels, enjoying the afternoon break before chore time. Some of my playmates used to stop and beg their dads for nickels. Impressed, I decided to try it.

"Papa, can I have a nickel?" I asked, expecting him to say no.

Instead, he dug into his pocket and handed me one. I felt sheepish. I didn't really want the nickel.

Walking into the store, I surveyed the jars of hard tack candy and the packages of gum. I couldn't spend the money on something that would be eaten up and forgotten, so I bought a yard of inch wide, red, white and blue striped ribbon that I took to my room. Occasionally I'd spread it across my lap, or thoughtfully run it between my fingers.

A fun pastime was making up little plays and charging ten pins for the ticket. One afternoon we noticed the door to the wooden church house ajar, an open invitation to go on stage. We'd just cast the parts to Red Riding Hood, when Clark West's frame filled the doorway. He was the janitor. With the terrible voice of authority, he demanded to know why we were there. I was scared. He stood with his feet spread wide and I observed how long his legs were and how much room there was between, so in a sudden longing for freedom I darted between his legs and ran home.

Meat markets and refrigeration didn't exist. Grandma and Papa had cattle "on the range," and when a beef was butchered the word was spread through town. Papa always had his beef animal done in the early morning before the flies awoke, and people came from all over town with their little pans to buy a cut of fresh meat. We usually ended up with the heart and the liver. Mama stuffed the heart. We called it "Yorkshire Pudding" but it was more like sage dressing than a pudding. Trying to eat the liver is what made a vegetarian out of me.

Thanksgiving day, plank and saw-horse tables were set up in the church house and covered with snowy white table cloths. People came in buggies and wagons, 1616 bringing their good food and pretty dishes. We walked through the ankle deep snow. My feet were soaked and my toes ached, but nothing could dim the joy of the only community Thanksgiving I can remember.

Grownups had a good thing going in those days. They expected total respect from young folks, and they seemed to get it. An oft repeated axiom was, "Children should be seen and not heard." This was simply a matter of discipline. Also, it was an accepted custom, that at any large dinner, grownups ate first. Youngsters, out of respect for their elders, must learn patience and wait their turn. So it was with this community Thanksgiving. The grownups ate while we got our shoes still more soggy by trying to make a snowman. When our fingers got purple, we collected around the stove. Our good behavior was rewarded by the full and loving attention of the grownups as they waited on us as we were seated around the second table.

A few days after Thanksgiving, my sisters brought their baking powder cans tinkling with pennies and nickels and dumped them out onto the table to be counted. Wide eyed I watched and listened to their chatter about paying tithing.

I didn't have any nickels or pennies. I didn't even have an empty baking powder can, but I knew a little about tithing. I had seen the loads of tithing hay being hauled to the tithing barn, and I had watched Mama push the firm, yellow butter from the wooden mold onto the wrapper for "tithing butter". And our chickens laid "tithing eggs."1

"Mama, when can I pay tithing?" I asked.

Mama's dough covered hands stopped still in the big pan where she was mixing bread. She looked at me for a long minute then smiled. "My goodness, you are getting to be a big girl, aren't you? Why of course you want to pay tithing."

After the dough was washed from her hands, she said, "Come with me".

I followed her to the chicken runs, where she scattered a little wheat. Greedily, the chickens flocked around her and she slipped her hands over the wings of a young, black rooster.

"Here," she said, handing him to me, "hold him while I tie his legs."

From a bunch of used binding twine that hung on the corral fence she selected a short piece. Securing the rooster's legs she said, "You've been a good girl to help feed the chickens, so you can take this rooster to Bishop Isom for tithing."

My sisters giggled at the rooster squirming in my arms, as I announced I was going to the bishop's with them. I hugged my rooster as we walked the six blocks to his house and the rooster chuckled back at me.

When Bishop Samuel Isom saw us coming through his gate, his front door opened wide. His ample front was made for hugging children and his big mustache made his laugh seem extra jolly.

Seeing the rooster he asked, "Ho, ho, what's this?"

"He's a tithing rooster," I announced.

"Ah, he's a fine one," the bishop said, taking the chicken from me and setting him down on the porch.

1717 The Bishop sat at his roll top desk and my sisters paid him their nickels and pennies and he made out our receipts. As he handed them to us he gave us each a loving pat.

"Will you please read my receipt for me?" I asked, looking up at him.

"Gladly," he replied. Taking it from me he read, "Alice Isom has voluntarily contributed to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, one rooster."

I tingled all over. The church was so big and I was so small, still I had contributed to it!

When we got home Mama gave me an empty mentholatum jar. "You can keep your tithing money in this from now on," she said.

The jar was shiny and warm from the scrubbing she had given it, scrubbing off the label. The translucent milk white glass was beautiful to me. I loved that mentholatum jar and used it all through my childhood.2


  1. Eggs were considered a woman's petty cash. Women tended the hens and turned her surplus eggs in to the store for "script." There were "tithing eggs" and "Sunday eggs." The two-roomed, brick Relief Society building in Hurricane, Utah was built with "Sunday Eggs."
  2. Story "The Happy Tithe Payer", originally published in Friend, May 1976, p. 2.