Cicily Breinholt: This is an interview with Verla Hendrickson Breinholt, my grandmother. This interview is being conducted on December 7, 1997, in Richfield Utah. My name is Cicily Breinholt. The subject is the Great Depression in Sevier County. Grandma when were you born?
Verla Breinholt: May 7, 1919
Cicily Breinholt: In what town were you born?
Verla Breinholt: They say I was born in Richfield; it was a cabin out in the field; the kitchen was in Central and the bedroom was in Richfield and the county line went right through the cabin (laughs) when I was born.
Cicily Breinholt: How old were you at the beginning of the Depression?
Verla Breinholt: Nine or ten.
Cicily Breinholt: What type of business was your family involved in?
Verla Breinholt: Farming, let's see, Do you want to know what I had to do? There was no boys so we girls had to do the work of the boys. I milked four cows every morning and helped feed the chickens and gathered the eggs, and fed the pigs, and helped carry in the wood and the coal for the stove. We had coal and wooden stoves at that time; that was our heat. Most everything was rationed; we had what we called slips, stamps in little booklets, rationing slips; and when they were gone, then you couldn't buy any more gas. Our sugar was rationed and we girls had to work in the fields too. We had to thin beets and in the fall we cut the top from each beet. Then put them down each row. Later we loaded them onto a wagon and took them to the sugar factory to be made into sugar. When they tromped hay, we threw the hay on the wagon. We girls had to tromp it down. I remember one day, they threw a blow snake on the wagon and I went to the top of the wagon and climbed up the ladder and that was the end of me tromping that load. We drove the cows to the pasture; sometimes we had a horse and sometimes we didn't; and we had to drive them to the pasture every morning and bring them home at night. Everybody was in the same boat. Do you want to hear about my clothes?
Cicily Breinholt: What type of clothing did you have in your closet?
Verla Breinholt: My clothes were mostly made over from my older stepsisters. Mother would make them over to fit me.
Cicily Breinholt: How many pairs of shoes did you have?
Verla Breinholt: You would only have one good pair of shoes. You could afford two once in a while. My sister wore them out quicker then me, so they bought her a pair of more like boy shoes. Boy, did she scuff them up. I didn't have a boughten coat until I was sixteen. My Grandma Tuttle, my mother's mother, her sister Georgia Powell would take the coats apart of my older stepsisters and press 'em and turn 'em wrong side out and make us a coat and then they'd look pretty good when they got through. They cut the pattern out of the old coat and they'd have to do a lot of cleaning and brushing and pressing and everything. That's how we got our coats, and I was 16 years old when I got my first boughten coat. We sent to Montgomery Ward for it.
Cicily Breinholt: Did the crash of the stock market affect your family?
Verla Breinholt: Not very much, because we raised our food out on the farm. We had a big garden. Mother canned 1400 quarts of fruit and vegetables. We had a potato pit and it had potatoes, cabbage, carrots, and more vegetables to store in the pit, under the ground.
Cicily Breinholt: What type of education did you have?
Verla Breinholt: I went to school in Annabella. We didn't have kindergarten then; we had first grade. In the second grade I was lifting coal in one day, and I dropped this heavy piece of coal and it mashed my hand and broke my thumb. I have a crooked thumb today from that mashed hand.
Cicily Breinholt: How far did you go in school?
Verla Breinholt: We went to the sixth grade in Annabella and then to the junior high and high school in Monroe.
Cicily Breinholt: You said before the price of gasoline went up, so did your family have an automobile?
Verla Breinholt: It was rationed; you could only buy so much of it. It wasn't that it cost too much, it only cost 25 cents a gallon, but if you used your ration slips, the ration slips only lasted so long. You could only buy so much gas. My dad always had a car.
Cicily Breinholt: What toys did you have and what games did you play?
Verla Breinholt: When I was five or six, Santa Claus bought DeLynn and I a little red table which we shared, and we each had a little red chair. We had a toy telephone that you put on the wall, like they had in those days, and we were so tickled. Every Christmas we got a doll and I remember my oldest sister Lillian talked me out of my doll because it had ringlets, and she wouldn't trade it back to me. I remember how broken-hearted I was. She was pretty clever the way she talked me out of that doll (laughter). Her doll had painted-on hair.
We would have parties and we'd say, you're invited to a party at so and so place; bring a cup of sugar, and then the mother would make candy. A batch of fudge, a batch of divinity, and a batch of taffy. Then we'd have popped corn and play games. We'd play musical chairs and others, but I can't remember.
Cicily Breinholt: Did you have indoor plumbing?
Verla Breinholt: Yes, we had indoor plumbing in our house. We were about the only ones in Annabella that had a bathtub and washbasin and toilet in the house.
Cicily Breinholt: What impact has living through the great depression had on you in terms of your attitudes and the way you live?
Verla Breinholt: I'm tight; I don't ever want to throw anything away. My old coats and clothes hang in the closet, well we might use them again. I'm not so bad that way now, but I used to be. 'Cause that's the way we had to do during the depression was make the clothes over. Mother would make my dresses, maybe they wouldn't last because the material was so thin. They wouldn't last long because we'd make them out of the older girls clothes. Now this went to World War Two and I wanted to go to see Leo, and we got married on the only leave he had for years in the Marines. He'd send me a telegram, saying he'd see me on a certain time and then his leave would get canceled. I didn't see him for a number of months, and I was homesick to see him. They said they were coming from North Carolina to San Diego and then they were going overseas. I made up my mind I was going to see him before they went overseas and my step-dad said I spent all my ration stamps on gas. I can't take you to Cove Fort (that's where the buses came in), so Leo's father in Venice said he'd be glad to take me over. I remember that two buses went by and the third one stopped and he said can you sit on your suitcase to St George. I said you bet and so I that's how I got a seat and I made it to San Diego.
Cicily Breinholt: Now these ration stamps that you had, how did you qualify to get those, did your family just have them or did everybody have them?
Verla Breinholt: Everybody had them. They were given out depending on how many were in the family. You would get a little booklet of stamps. They were a little bit smaller than a postage stamp and you had to use them for most everything that you bought. I remember sugar and gasoline were the most rationed. We were fortunate to live on a farm so we raised our own food. We raised our own flour wheat and we'd take it to the mill in Glenwood and had it ground up.
Cicily Breinholt: What advice would you give to young people it they were to face a serious economic depression?
Verla Breinholt: Be economical with everything. Don't splurge. I only had four changes of clothes. I had four dresses I wore to high school and had to keep clean. Underclothes we had two changes and we'd wash them out every night and hang them up on the line in the bathroom.
Cicily Breinholt: Describe your house? How many rooms were in it?
Verla Breinholt: We had a porch that went halfway around the house. A dining room. We had to remodel the house and we had to make a bedroom out of the parlor and we extended the dining room. When I was in my teens, we finally got the upstairs finished, so then we had four bedrooms upstairs instead of one. Later we made the one into a bathroom.
Cicily Breinholt: How many sisters did you have?
Verla Breinholt: I had four stepsisters. My sister Joanne got in some trouble, so my daddy and mother took her to Provo to stay and go to school, so there was just the three sisters. There was three girls and we each milked four cows every morning and my step-dad milked three, so we had fifteen cows. We had to scrub our galoshes after we got out of the corral before we could go to school and this was all done before eight, because the bus came early and we had to catch the bus. My step-dad and mother had four boys, but one died. There was Joe, Bob, Roy Dean and Jimmy.
Cicily Breinholt: Were they all a lot younger then you?
Verla Breinholt: Yes, and my sister Madeline was the youngest.
Cicily Breinholt: Did you have to share room with any of your sisters?
Verla Breinholt: DeLynn and I slept in a bed upstairs. We had a candle holder because we didn't have electricity on the way upstairs and it wasn't finished and there was only boards to walk on. Little by little they got the upstairs finished, but it took years.
Cicily Breinholt: Is their anything else you would like to add?
Verla Breinholt: We had a lot a fun. We were not aware that we were poor. Everybody was the same way. They didn't have anymore than we did. Like I said, the parties were just candy and popcorn and we played games. We had a Victorola, that we played and we'd let them dance on our porch. My girlfriends have never forgot that, the parties we had when we danced on our porch. My stepsister and her husband bought the house when my mother and dad decided to build over here in Richfield. She extended the house and the porch isn't now as big, but it was fun because we put rock salt on and made the cement slick, and then it was even more fun to dance. My friends, Donna Hansen and Helen Strang mentioned the dances on my porch that they could remember. We'd dance when we had parties at my place.
Now, Leo he went to Arizona to work. He was going to get a job in the airplane factory. World War Two changed everything. Pearl Harbor was bombed so Leo came home, and he and his two friends joined the marines. I went to Manti to work in the parachute factory.
In the meantime in my teen years, my family had a grocery store. I worked in the grocery store in Annabella a little bit, and I worked in Forsey ice-cream. I made 4C bars and Popsicles, milk-nickels. I'm not sure how long I worked there.
My friends always took a trip every summer on the Cove Mountain. We had to saddle and bridle our own horse and hobble it. I had one named Frisky because it was so small. I could handle the horse. That was a lot of fun and the girls were supposed to keep it a secret when they were going camping, but somehow the boys always found out and on the mountain they'd stay over to Deep Lake and we'd stay over at Anderson cabin. It wasn't finished; the roof and floor were on it, but the sides hadn't been closed-in completely.
Cicily Breinholt: You said you worked in the store, now did your family own the store?
Verla Breinholt: Yes
Cicily Breinholt: That was during the depression right?
Verla Breinholt: Yes, mother worked during the day and when I'd get off work at Forsey's, I'd work till sometimes ten. It just depended on when customers came. We had canned stuff and bread.
Cicily Breinholt: So your family's store did well then.
Verla Breinholt: Yes, we had bolts of material and house-dresses and we sold gasoline, which we pumped by hand. I have to tell you about Jay Staker; he lived up in the south of town, the last house (gestures) up the hill. He'd push his car down to the store to fill it up and he was too tight to put in more than one gallon of gas (laughter) and so he'd be out and then somebody would have to push him up to the tank, and he'd buy one gallon and that would get him to Richfield and back.
Cicily Breinholt: Well, thanks, Grandma for being an interviewee for me.
Verla Breinholt: When we went on dates, we'd have one car because of the gas prices and one fellow would take his car. We'd put two couples in the back and two in the front. We'd go to Monroe to the dances.
Cicily Breinholt: What else did you do on your dates?
Verla Breinholt: We'd go to dances, the movies.
Cicily Breinholt: Who was your favorite actor and actress?
Verla Breinholt: Nancy Carol, Clara Bow, I don't know, Tom Mix, Clark Gable, Gary Cooper.
Cicily Breinholt: Well, that sound's good, Grandma.