From the Fortress of Solitude
Its a warm Sunday in Pleasant Grove. The windows are open to let the cool valley breeze blow through.
Mother (Luella) brought a couple wicker baskets full of pictures upstairs for review. I had no idea there were so many old family pictures! Had I known I might not have started this blog! But I'm neck deep in it now and its too late to turn back. I'm committed to getting all the family pictures digitized and published so everyone can enjoy them and read the stories of "the old days on the ranch, or in Rapid, or in Utah....."
Today we gather around a patch of old dusty ground in eastern Montana, the site of the old Mattson Ranch, one mile from Piniele. There isn't much left of the ranch house except for the memories of the Mattson children that once lived there. So, with Luella at my side ready acting as tour guide (in her house coat no less - taking it easy on a Sunday) we start a walk through the past.
Enjoy your time spent on the Montana ranch. It was a happy place. "Everyone loved to come to the ranch. The coffee pot was always on and there was always something ready to eat. We had company morning, noon and night. The ranch was on the dirt road so anyone passing was obliged to stop, have a cup of coffee and a biscuit and visit. The house always had company. It is just the way we lived," Luella said as she clutched the photos you're about to see in her hand.
"Are you ready?" I asked.
"Yes, let's start," she replied. So, today its our turn to stop, have a cup of Great Grandma Ida's coffee and visit. Its a warm day so we'll sit outside to talk. Oh, and if you have to use the facilities, the outhouse is around back......
Picture 1. Mother remembers this picture was taken during the winter of 1949. It was one of the worst winters they'd had on the ranch. The snow was deeper than Great Grandpa Albert's head.
This was the trail on the way to the two hole outhouse. You can see the outhouse's top over the snow. The outhouse was in the back of the house. Mother said she was afraid of skunks near the outhouse during summer nights.
"We used the Montgomery Ward or Sears Catalog for toilet paper. The smell wasn't too bad. I used to go to the outhouse from time to time just to get away from my brothers and sister," Luella said. She hesitated to confess possible trips to the outhouse for a smoke as a teen but I got her to fess up that it was a distinct possibility. Naughty Luella.
Picture 2. This picture was taken in front of Roxy Jacobson's home in Belle Fourche, South Dakota. Roxy used to be the Mattson's neighbor in Montana before moving to Belle to open this boarding house. As fate would have it, Luella met her future husband CB (Charlie) in this home when she was eight years old and he was ten. Dad and his mother, Grandma Elda, lived in this boarding home after Elda and Grandpa Charles divorced. Mother said that dad would show off to her on his bike.
Grandma Mattson needed to come to Belle because of hemorrhaging. Luella was young so it was thought she should stay with Grandma Violet while she recovered. Luella and Violet stayed at Roxy's boarding house. Violet and Grandma Elda became friends. Mother remember this was the first time she'd used a proper bathroom with taps and running hot water. It was also the first time Luella remembers taking a proper bath in a porcelain bathtub. On the ranch they used a portable tin tub.
From left to right. Irene Jacobson, Luella sitting on her grandmother Ida's lap, Jens Jacobson,
Marie Simmons(?), Walter Mattson (Luella's father), Helen Lidman (Luella's cousin), Roxy Jacobson, and finally Violet Mattson (Luella's mother).
Picture 3. Walter Mattson (Luella's dad) is holding Aunt Linda. The other baby is Carlene Maus (a cousin). Taken on the Maus ranch near Hermosa South Dakota.
Picture 4. The entire student body of Piniele, Montana's one room school house taken in 1947. Mother hated the braids in her hair. Grandma made her wear them. It was either braids or curls.
Left to right. Harvey Cambell, Charles Gosslin, Luella Mattson, Jerry Rosencranz (with the baseball hat), Margaret Huff (above Jerry), Tommy Simmons (with cowboy hat), Billy Rosencranz (kneeling next to Jerry), Kathleen Landcaster, Keith Landcaster, and finally Francis Rosencranz.
It was an all grade school house with 5 year olds to teen age boys. Classes were called up to the teacher's desk one at a time for lessons. After the lesson you were given seat work and the next class would be called up to the desk. Most of the kids road horses to school. Mom and her brothers and sister walked the 1 mile to school. In the winter Walter took them in a sleigh. The school had a big pot belly stove for heat.
"In the winter we'd put our wet shoes near the stove to dry so the school always smelt of rubber," Luella said.
Grandma Violet (Luella's mother) was the school's room mother. She put on all the school's plays. After the school plays there were refreshments and then dancing. Everyone loved to dance. Luella used to stand on Louie Talcott's shoes when she'd dance with him.
"Thats how you learned to dance," she said. Grandma Violet always knew the latest dances. She'd drive all the way to Belle Fourche to learn them if she had to. Once she knew the dance she'd teach the boys and girls in the school house.
The girls sold basket lunches as a school fund raiser. The girls and their mothers prepared basket lunches (fried chicken biscuits etc) then sold them in an auction to the boys and their dads. The moms and girls were required to eat with the person that bought their lunches.
The Piniele students went to Brodus Montana for high school. Brodus was 32 miles from Piniele so Luella boarded with a family in Brodus along with her best friend Penny Thex. They shared the same bed. Grandpa Walter brought Luella to Brodus every Sunday night. On the way they'd listen to Gunsmoke on the truck radio. Walter picked Luella up every Friday night to bring her back to the ranch. Mom was 13 years old when she started school in Brodus. Mom liked being in town and being around other people. .
Mom and Penny smoked cigarettes in their bedroom downstairs. During her time in Brodus Luella needed spending money. She went to the cafe and got a job washing the cafe's dishtowels at her boarding house. She and her friends hung out at the movies and at the soda fountain in the drug store.
Picture 5. Luella and Linda on the ranch. Mother was pigeon toed for awhile. Her feet straighted out over time. Mother was seven. Linda was four.
Picture 6. Walter and Violet went to Belle Fourche and bought John and Marvin coveralls with matching caps. Of course the event required a photograph.
"That was the last time those outfits were that clean," Luella said.
Picture 7. We finish with Luella walking down the ranch road with her doll.
We must be careful not to stay too long and outlast our welcome so let's leave the Mattsons to their work and continue down the duty trail to the highway.
We live in a different time don't we. We are less inclined to stop in to visit neighbors and less inclined to ask for help. Our electronic world offers unique access to each other electronically but with that comes the cold separation of distance. Will we ever get that Mayberry, down home life again?
Perhaps its time to get in the car, or just walk across the street and have a 'Visit' with a good friend or relation.
Remember, the Fortress is always open if you are ever in Pleasant Grove. No front porch but there is a back deck with a wonderful view of a pleasant Utah valley.