Dr. Val FarmerDr.Val
Rural Mental Health & Family Relationships

Mother's Memories

July 31, 1995

My wonderful mother is 94, lives on her own in Fortuna, California and is physician certified, "sharp as a tack." My sister Doris, who lives in the same community, looks after her. This summer she has been visiting her children in Utah, Colorado and South Dakota. She grew up in Preston, Idaho and has lived in Montana, Washington and California. Imagine the changes she has experienced in her lifetime!

Technology: She remembers with awe the introduction of electricity replacing the coal oil lamps and lanterns. The pot bellied stove was warm and cozy. Chopping wood was a pain. The microwave oven is remarkable.

Inside running water was a great convenience. She remembers hauling water out of a 40 foot well in oaken buckets. It was used for drinking, cooking, cleaning and washing clothes. Butter was kept cool in the well. She also remembers storing blocks of ice in sawdust and bringing them out in summer to make ice cream.

The Model T replaced the family’s white topped buggy and sleigh. Her first automobile trip was to Blackfoot, Idaho for the state fair.

"Before cars, we visited family, friends and relatives. We all knew our cousins. We played games. We played `Ginny’ and `Fox and Geese’ in the snow. We had socials and dances. We had a Christmas dance every year. Everything was home entertainment."

She taught school in Burley, Idaho. One of the boys in the family where she was boarding brought out a ham radio. "It was quite a thing to sit there in Burley and listen to a music program from Los Angeles. We took turns on the earphones."

She compares that event to watching men walk on the moon. "That was something to see - men gliding around in space. Even now."

She marvels that my brother Larry can send an E-mail letter to his daughter in Kiev in the Ukraine and have it arrive in one minute.

"Television is all right. There is too much fighting and violence. I think it is too bad the way morals are. It is worse than it has ever been."

Medical. There have been great improvements in medical care. Antibiotics have made a huge difference. "Small pox and measles were deadly. Chicken pox was bad. Diphtheria was something else."

"During an influenza epidemic in 1918, a lot of women died. They stayed up to take care of the family. Poor Dr. Cutler. Even the Doctor's wife died of the flu. I remember him going to sleep standing up. He was so exhausted. He was killed in an accident on the way home from one of his many house calls."

Her two biggest scares occurred when my sister had spinal meningitis and I had pneumonia. My sister was taken to the hospital and treated in isolation for two weeks. "I was scared to go get her. It looked good to see her. She could walk!"

Talking to me she said, "Your temperature was 105. The doctor walked the last mile to our farmhouse during a blizzard. He told me what to do and I did it. Dr. Crary (Fairfield, Montana) saved your's and Thella's lives."

The hardest experience for her was the death of my brother Scott in a plane accident. She teared up and talked about how painful it still is for her.

Beautiful places. "Bryce Canyon, Zion's Canyon, Yosemite, Avenue of the Giants in the Redwoods, the Grand Canyon. The maple leaves turning colors in Vermont."

Presidents. "When they were presidents, they were presidents and we honored them as presidents." Hoover. "He was OK." Roosevelt. "He was a good president." Truman. You either liked him or not. He proved to be a good president, didn't he? A lot of people were against him." Eisenhower. "I liked Eisenhower. He was a pretty good guy." Kennedy. "I was never particularly fond of Kennedy. Nixon. "It’s too bad he had this problem, wasn’t it?"

Historical events and personalities.

World War I: "I remember when it ended. We had a bonfire in the square in Preston."

Lindbergh: "I heard it on the radio. To fly clear across the Atlantic was unbelievable." She brought up the Lindbergh kidnaping and how tragic that was.

Amelia Earhart: "Everyone was looking for her. She was daring, wasn't she?"

The Great Depression: "We were out on the farm. We had our own milk, vegetables, canned food. We got along. We didn't suffer for food. A lot of people did."

World War II: "I hoped there would never be another world war after World War I. A lot of Americans went over to help them." Her oldest son, Doyle, served on the USS Monterey. "When his ship docked in New York, that was the end of the war for me."

Hitler: "That old guy." Disgust in her voice - as close to profanity as she got. "I can still hear his voice. I didn't like the Germans very much. It wasn't the people but the leaders."

Pearl Harbor: "That was a surprise. That was a surprise for most people."

Atomic bomb: "It was too bad. It ended the war, didn't it?"

Korea and Viet Nam: "I didn't like those wars. Randy (her youngest son drafted during Viet Nam) was a lucky guy. He got to go to Germany instead of Viet Nam."

I asked if some things in life could have been different or perhaps better. She replied in her typically stoic and accepting manner, "That wasn't the way it was."

Thanks Mom for the memories.