Here, gathered in our beloved South Dakota, are a few members of our Williamson / Mattson Clan. Charles and Luella are to be blamed (be kind, they didn't know what they were doing). We're generally a happy bunch and somewhat intelligent (notwithstanding our tenuous grasp on reality). I'm also proud to say that most of us still have our teeth.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

The Family Gathered for Grandma Mattson's Funeral. September 1987.

There is a certain melancholy one gets when perusing old photo albums.  Those of us showing age marvel at how quickly time has past.  We look at our faces in the photographs and compare them with what answers back in the mirror every mornings.  We curse the passing of time and its ravages on our youth.

"If I could only have those years back," some mutter, wanting to relive those happy days long gone, forgetting that the passage of years has an effect on memory's reliability.  We forget that time can gloss over the rough spots. 

Others mutter, "If I could only have those years back," out of regret for poor decisions made and the wish that what was done could somehow be undone and a different path taken.

I remind myself that today is the day I'll look back upon in the future and ask, "If I could only have those years back."  Well, we have those years now.  We are not dead and buried, the sun shines and oxygen moves in and out of our lungs, so never forget the preciousness of the present. Today there are decisions to make and people to love and places to visit - so make every hour count.  Pull up the regret anchor weighing down on your soul. Take the thought that your best years are behind you out with the trash.  These things belong in the past. The past has already been lived.  Its the future that waits to be written.

Grandma Mattson's Funeral.  September 1987

     Our beloved Grandma Mattson died in September 1987 in Rapid City, South Dakota.  Violet Pierce Mattson was the mother to Luella, Linda, John and Marvin Mattson.  She was preceded in death by her husband Walter.  Grandpa Mattson died in February 1973.
     Most of the family gathered in Belle Fourche, South Dakota for her funeral and burial. 

     Grandma Mattson's grandchildren are pictured above.  Kirk is the tallest.  I'm standing next to Kirk; and thank you for commenting on my distinguished appearance.  Kim Williamson DelGrosso, Grandma Mattson's eldest grandchild (and my sister), stands next to me. I won't labor the length of this paragraph to list the others.  I've mentioned the most important, so let's leave it at that - shall we?

     Grandma Mattson's Great Grandchildren at the funeral.  I'll list them for you and let you identify them in the photo based on the descriptions. Amber, the sweater of many colors.
Autumn, in her calico 'done gone to Sunday Meeting dress'. Ashley, always so photogenic.
Jazmine Burrows, shy and feeling very embarrassed because of her sister.  It's all she can do to keep from giving Nicole "something to cry about!" She bites her fingers instead.  It is a coping mechanism. Nicole Burrows giving her best attempt to wake the dead.  It was a funeral; you got to give her credit for trying. Brandon DelGrosso. It's just Brandon.  He's the kid that always looked so innocent.  It was important to know where Brandon was at all times. Seen and heard was good a good thing for that boy. Forest DelGrosso holds Sierra Burrows.  Best Smile of the bunch belongs to Forrest, and he managed to pull it off even with the smell from a very dirty diaper.

     Luella Mattson Williamson, Grandpa Emerson Leissman, Charles Williamson and Grandma Elda Vercellino Leissman at the funeral luncheon.  Emerson was stepfather to Charles. Elda was his mother.   

     Elda Vercellino Leissman with her grandchildren.  Janice Williamson Burrows, Kim Williamson DelGrosso, Annette Williamson, Lisa Williamson, Victor Williamson and Grandpa Leissman.

     Here we are at Grandma Mattson's graveside.  I remember how we struggled with Grandma's coffin from the hearse to the grave through the wet soggy marshland Belle Fourche calls a cemetary. It was all poor Uncle Ray could do to stand upright.  I struggled behind Uncle Ray, carrying my share of Grandma and his.  I know Grandma took great delight is watching us from the other side.  Her sense of fun was all too present that day.
     Notice the flowers in the childrens' hands?  Both the grand and great grandchildren thought to liberate Grandma Mattson's flowers and distribute them to several of the other graves nearby. I suppose it was a kind gesture and perhaps welcomed by the spirits at hand. It started when Luella gave permission for a few flowers to be taken to Walter Mattson's grave (Violet's husband) and things got out of hand.  
     I was all good in the end.  Grandma's coffin was flowerless, but at least she made a good first impression on her new long term neighbors.  Wouldn't you agree? 

Family and friends gathered around Walter Mattson's headstone

Uncle John filming a prairie dog at Custer National Park

     Before and after the funeral we toured the Black Hills. 

Another stop was to visit other family graves at Hot Springs

Saturday, July 6, 2019

The Williamson 10 Visit the Deadwood Photo Emporium. July 2018.

Miss Luella and the General (Charles Williamson)
     Gettin' the General and Miss Luella together to get their picture took weren't easy but we done it. We got 'em together in Deadwood's Portrait Emporium just beyond the smell of the Chinese laundry. Miss Luella sat proud with cigar in hand and an ace or two up her sleeve. The stage was due in and she was itchin to get a game goin' so we had to hurry it up - and that's somethin' the General don't do. He, and the town's other old timers, like to start their day by chewin over the latest news hot off the Daily Pioneer's telegraph outside Saloon #10. 
     At 11:00 he finds his way to the stage depot to wait on the Cheyenne Stage from Custer. He dispenses a warm "Welcome to Deadwood!" to the weary travelers as he helps them down to the dusty street. With a crooked smile he gives directions at no charge. Those heavy with silver are encouraged to find Miss Luella in the Silver Spur where she's waitin' with cards in hand to ease their burden. Others get his ponderin' word for the day and directions to the hotel. "You can never tell which way the pickle’s goin’ to squirt" was his thought on picture day. 

The Williamson Ten

     "Back off." Miss Luella was one to always speak her mind to the General. "Two hands NO. You can put one hand right here," she pointed to her shoulder. "And let there be no thoughts about anything else." Miss Luella was not happy with the General. "That dandy you sent over yesterday was a dry well. Hardly worth my time." She snorted, spit, and missed the spittoon.
     "Woman, you're missin a good chance to shut up," the General answered and changed his pose by puttin' one hand on her shoulder and the other on his belt pistol. His index finger stroked the trigger. His crooked smile gave away his thinkin'.
     Miss Luella grunted. "If you got somethin' to say, say it, but you better have a fast horse awaitin'" The General and Miss Luella bantered back and forth while the photographer powered the flash-pan. There was the sound of horses in the distance.
     "That's the stage," Miss Luella sat up. "Take the damn picture, I'm low on cigars and I smell silver."
     "Silver and gold," the General corrected Miss Luella's observation.
     "Nobody asked you so close yer mouth, yer breath smells like a cow pie on a hot day."
There was a flash and the picture was took...

The Williamson Gals. Not too happy if the gold diggers ain't spending

The Williamson Gals with Miss Luella after a winning night in the saloon

The Williamson Twins (Janice and Jon) just in on the Cheyenne Stage

The Williamson Boys with the General and Miss Luella

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

A Short History of Elda Vercellino's Birthplace. Trojan, South Dakota.

The Vercellinos around 1916. Elda is on the far left.

Elda Vercellino was born in Trojan, South Dakota on June 28, 1905. Her parents had just arrived back to South Dakota from living in South Africa. Her father took employment at Homestake Mine. Trojan is gone now but this short video from South Dakota Public Broadcasting gives the history of this once thriving mining town equal in importance to Deadwood and Lead back in the day.  

Sunday, January 6, 2019

The Last Day of Early Morning Seminary. May 1980

The end of May, 1980. The last day of early morning seminary. It is 7:30 A.M. The 9th graders are on their way to their first period classes at Stevens High School. They posed for a couple photos on the Church steps. Super kids - all grown up now, but for me frozen in time just the way you see them in the photos. After they left for school I went back into the church to lock things up and took a final picture of our classroom. Paula and Jilane left a mess on the blackboard knowing I'd have to clean it up. How kind of them....

Top Row Left to Right: Jeff Holyoak, Paula Thomas, John Christensen.
Bottom Row: Don Christensen, Jilane Williamson, Shelley Burnett

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Taking My Early Morning Seminary Class Camping in Spearfish Canyon. Spring 1980

From the Fortress of Solitude
Pleasant Grove

Hello All,
     Today I continued scanning my old slides from long long ago.  In my box labeled "1" I found these old slides of a camping trip I did with my Seminary Class in the spring of 1980.  I returned from an LDS mission to Birmingham, England the previous September and was immediately called to teach a rambunctious 9th grade seminary class, an early morning seminary class.  They had already driven one teacher away so the Bishop called me in to get things under control.  
     The kids were great. What wasn't great was getting up at 5:30 A.M. to be ready for the 6:30 A.M. class considering I worked the swing shift and Magnetic Peripherals Incorporated building computer boards and didn't get home from work until 11:30 P.M.  
     As a seminary class we decided to go camping in the spring of 1980.  The Black Hills still had pockets of snow here and there but overall it wasn't too cold. 

Diving into another box of old slides. My goal is to digitize them all and get them out there so the people in them can enjoy the memories. Today I'm starting a set of photos taken in the spring of 1980. I was the 9th grade early morning seminary teacher for the Rapid City 2 Ward and here are my students from that school year (minus a few). We went camping in the Black Hills as one of our  activities. 

I had recently returned from an LDS mission. The bishop called me in to tell me that this group had already driven one teacher out. I told him I was up to the challenge, although taking the class meant very little sleep. I worked the swing shift at MPI making computer boards. I didn't get off work until 11:00 P.M. and had to be up at 5:30 A.M. for the class. They were a fantastic group of young teens. The biggest challenge was getting the girls out of the bathroom and into class. Seated: Rosie Miles, Shelley Burnett, Paula Thomas. Back Row LtoR: David Rich, Brad Purdy, John Christensen, Jeff Holyoak, and Don Christensen

John Christensen making the plunge into Devil's Bathtub on our way up to the Cleopatra Mine.

Jeff Holyoak was on breakfast detail. I know its Jeff by the color of his coat (in another picture). OK, the class was pretty good at scripture chasing but cooking over a campfire was a skill not mastered. Seminary Class Campout. Spring 1980. Rapid City 2nd Ward.

The up and at 'em gang on the campout.

Jeff Holyoak

John Christensen

The Sleeping Arrangements 

Don Christensen and David Rich

David Rich

A blurred Brad Purdy

More photos from our seminary class campout in the beautiful Black Hills in 1980. Myself, David Rich, and Frank Thomas were the chaperones. Bro. Thomas enjoyed the comfort of his front seat instead of a tent. I'm sure it was warmer. Bro. Thomas passed away recently. He played a major role in establishing Mormonism in the Black Hills 

My early morning seminary class camping trip. May 1980. Doing a bit of hiking in the beautiful Black Hills before supper.  Left to Right: David Rich, Rosie Miles, Shelley Burnett, Don Christensen.

Paula Thomas enjoying the few, or feeling a need to get away from the rest of us. Seminary campout, spring of 1980.

We hiked up Squaw Creek in Spearfish Canyon passed the Devil's Bathtub and ended up at the Cleopatra Mine

Brad Purdy, Don Christensen and David Rich piling everything in the back of John Christensen's truck "Ulysses". Seminary campout, spring of 1980.

Shelley, Rosie, My, John, Don, Brad, and Jeff.
Let's not forget Ulysses, John's truck. 

The campout is over. The hike is over. We're done for the day and getting ready to head home. It was a good campout.  Spring 1980.   

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Meet the Two Young Boys Who Rode Out the Rapid City Flood of June 9. 1972 With Me Up on a Rooftop.

William Stiebel and Jonathan Jung

     I found this picture today in a buried photo album. These two boys and I spent a long night together on a rooftop the night of June 9, 1972. That night one of the nation's deadliest floods swept through the Black Hills of South Dakota killing 238 people and injuring 3,057.         Meet William Striebel (left) and his cousin Jonathan Jung, both from New England, North Dakota. William was 4 years old. Jonathan was 3 at the time. Many of you know the story so I won't go into detail. Suffice to say I was babysitting them that night. 
     Our story started in the family's Winnebago motorhome and ended on a nearby rooftop which happen to sit straight in the path of a massive wall of water pouring into Canyon Lake from the surrounding hills. That home was one of the few that remained on its foundation. The Red Cross and National Guard found us the next day. I was 13 years old. This is a link to the Ensign magazine story on the flood published in Sept. 1972. 
     My dad and i were both interviewed for the story. Months later, their parents found my address and sent a check (afterall, I was babysitting that night) from New England along with a letter of gratitude and pictures of both boys. 
     Anyway, many of you have heard the story but never properly met the boys. Well, here they are - handsome little guys, energetic but so well behaved considering the carnage around us. They were spared much of it under a blanket near the chimney.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

The Williamsons Prepare to Feast. A Thanksgiving Day Photo Bonanza. Trip to the Black Hills June 1996. Christmas Eve Family Party 2001.

Thanksgiving at the Mattson Home in Spearfish 1957. The Williamson's first Thanksgiving. Kim
is down for a nap and I'm enjoying the meal from the inside if you catch my meaning.
Grandma Elda, Luella, Charles sit on the far side of the table

From the Fortress of Solitude
Pleasant Grove

Happy Thanksgiving!

     It's 9:47 A.M. here at the Fortress. Janice is getting ready to go with Jilane to prep Ashley and Mike's home for the Family Thanksgiving Extravaganza Eat Until You Drop Buffet.  Jilane has been out running, thinking an hour on the trail will allow for that extra piece of pumpkin pie.  I'm at my desk scanning photos for today's photo dump into the blog.  I don't have many unencumbered days, so I take advantage when the opportunity presents itself. 

Luella feeling a bit tipsy with her Coke Zero with that special something added to help her through the day.
Thanksgiving 2011
     Prepping for a Williamson family All You Can Eat involves several rolls of plastic wrap. Think Dexter. The floor, walls, and ceiling must be covered; If not, repainting is the only known way to completely eliminate evidence of the clan gathering. 
     To help steady nerves, a special room is reserved for decompressing, especially needed today.  Both the right and left wing of the family will be under the same roof; not to mention the High Mormons, Middle Way Mormons, and those who avoid the topic all together.

Enoch upset in Time Out for fingering every pie on the dessert table
Enoch pouted while his naughtier cousins found other ways to protest their confinement in Time Out. 


     At such gatherings it is important we remind ourselves that we are a loving family that respects and cherishes diversity because diverse is what this family is, like so many others in our modern world.  I also take a moment to remind the political active that NO political discussions are allowed around Great Grandma Luella. Failure to comply will result in banishment from the dessert table."  Because of the recent passage of the marijuana proposition, I was thinking of putting up a sign banning discussions of medical marijuana but decided against it after a few discussions with the family elders. It seems the Williamson's aren't as divided on the subject as I thought.

Luella about to tuck in and clean that Thanksgiving plate in record speed.
Kim was asked to eat by herself after having pretty much offended everyone.
Thanksgiving 2011
     This year's Decompression Room will be the Costa's rarely used living room just off the family room. Diffusers will scent the room in a special DoTerra blend of fragrances tailored for family events like today's; think a green pasture surrounded by Ponderosa Pines with just a wisp of sunshine lingering in the air to help you ease quickly into your happy place.  Candles will decorate the room in dancing light. Music will tug at the ear with celestial melodies selected from tracks recorded by the Sisters of the Abbey of Our Lady of Perpetual Help. 
     We didn't have a Decompression Room last year.  It made for a tough afternoon, leaving only the bathrooms or the cars as places of refuge. 
Sometimes only a good wash with the garden hose will clean one of the little ones.
We focused on table manners and etiquette this year with the little ones.

     This year we're taking a risk and letting the family choose where they sit to eat.  Normally we separate based on several factors. Conspiracy theorists, High Mormons, and those with an open mind usually make for good table fellows.  Democrats, Middle of the Way Mormons and the unaffiliated are good together.  The little ones have their own table but tend to ignore the plates their mother's prepared. They find their way to the dessert table once the adults have their noses squarely in the trough.

JD is stationed in the kitchen during Thanksgiving ensuring only the finest dishes brought to the gathering are
sent out for consumption.  Those dishes that fail the JD test find their way to the disposal when no one is looking.
Enoch, Jace, and Foxton, happy after four trips to the dessert table. Enoch looks like he's about to lose it.

     Today's choose where you want to sit approach will test the family's civility.  The standard used to judge whether the seating decision was a wise one or not will be based upon who is not speaking to Whom at the end of the day. I'm looking forward to today's circus.
     And now, the photo dump.


A Few Pictures from Our Short Trip to the Black Hills.  June 1996

     Luella Williamson is always excited to see the Black Hills.  I caught her in a reminiscence with this candid photo.   

     Stopping to pay our respects to the first home I remember is a must on any trip to Rapid City.
     We lived here at 39 East Signal Drive until we moved just before my 8th birthday in 1966.  The place is a bit of an eye sore today but just seeing it brings back many happy memories. 

     Our tour of the Williamson family homesteads always involves a driveby of our home at 210 N. 42nd Street.  We lived here from 1966 to 1968.  

     Uncle Marv ran this Jerky stand outside of Hill City back in the day. 

     Uncle Marv, Cindy, Luke and Haley.  

     Luella with Haley and Luke at Mt. Rushmore.  Who is that peering over the wall?  It couldn't be Charles in a playful mood.  

Kim DelGrosso. Don't know how this got into this mix of photos, but we'll enjoy it nevertheless.  June 2000

Celebrating My Birthday at Jilane's Home.  June 1998

     A little bit of this and a little bit of that is what you get when you do a photo dump.  Forest DelGrosso and Lisa Williamson Coronato in Jilane's kitchen. Lisa is pregnant with Adia.  She's going to hate me for posting these two photos but such is the burden one carries when recording family history.    

The Williamsons Gather for Christmas Eve Festivities.  December 24, 2001

Christmas Eve 2001