Florence (As I Remember Her)

By Josephine M. Neeley 

Flo and the other children

(left to right: Warner, Rosabelle, Kathleen, Harold, and Florence)

(I found this account typed on onion-skin paper, with some hand-scribbled penciled notes by Grandma Josephine and also some of her siblings, in a box labeled 'Family Data''. The box lay on the shelves of the storage room in Mom and Dad's house as we were clearing it for sale after Mom's death.  I scanned its pages,OCR'd them, cleaned up the OCR mistakes, folded in the scribbled notes and Grandma's editing instructions, and published it to the world.  I made no changes to written content, but the images, inserts, and layout are mine as are a very few editing notes shown in italics -- P.S. Neeley 3/15/16)

Florence Laurette, the second child in a family of twelve children of William Cooke and Laurette Orton Mitchell, was born in Parowan, Iron Co., Utah on March 19, 1891 (Genealogical records show her birth as November 19, 1891). Her paternal Grandparents were William Cooke and Mary Ann Holmes Mitchell; her maternal Grandparents were Jane Holmes and Alexander Orton. All four Grandparents were converted to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints while in their youth and migrated to this country for the gospel's sake.

Florence appreciated the sacrifices made by our Grandparents that we might enjoy the gospel in its fullness, in this choice land of America. Since Florence was the oldest girl in the family of seven girls and five boys, she was called out of school often, even when she was away to ‘Normal’ (Branch Normal School in Cedar City, also known as B.N.S.), when there was sickness or need of extra help at home. Our oldest brother, Warner, had polio when he was about a year old, and although he had learned to walk, he was left crippled by the disease and did not walk again for several months. Florence and Warner were constant companions and Mother trusted Flo to look out for him during the busy days and years that followed. With the birth of a third child, Rosabelle, in 1893, and Harold in 1895, and another new baby every two years thereafter, responsibility was thrust upon Florence at an early age. She was responsible and dependable; her childhood was seldom carefree; always there were babies and household tasks waiting for attention.

Early in life Florence learned to sew and Mother gladly turned the simple sewing over to her. She made shirts, petticoats, pajamas, nightgowns, aprons and common dresses by the time she was twelve. Later, as her skill improved, she cut patterns, designed and sewed the better dresses for Mother and her sisters, and cut down worn and out-of-date clothes to make dresses and pants for the little sisters and brothers. The other girl to take a real interest in sewing was Jo (the author), who apprenticed under Flo, taking over the sewing of girl’s panties made of unbleached flour sacks at the early age of ten. Aunt Florence, for whom Flo was named, was an accomplished seamstress. Flo worked with her one summer and learned tricks in tailoring and fitting. One dress Flo made for herself, I remember, was white wool with pin-stripes about an inch apart (Considering there was no dry-cleaner in town, a wool dress was quite delicate for the dusty streets of Parowan). The current styles included skirts of many gores and bodices fitted tightly with steel stays to keep them from wrinkling; the sleeves were puffed high with much fullness at the shoulder but skin tight from the elbow to wrist. One dress they (i.e. Aunt Florence and Flo) were hired to make had 21 gores and it was for Lenore Orton, a voluptuous matron who was Auntie's first cousin by marriage. The first time Lenore came for a fitting the skirt was too loose, requiring larger seams to be taken between all the gores. By the next fitting the skirt lacked inches of circling the broad hips. After changing the seams of the 21 gores a half dozen times they discovered Lenore's girth fluctuated - some days she was 50 inches around the hips others 54 and so on. Right then Florence decided not to become a professional dressmaker.

So when she started at Branch Normal, at Cedar City, she had her mind made up to become an elementary school teacher. She didn't pursue this course long enough to get a certificate, but she did act as assistant First Grade teacher with Deslie Lowe in Parowan First Grade when Laura started to school in September 1911. From the time Flo was old enough she taught Sunday School and sang in the choir. She was proud to sing with the choir under the direction of Brother George Durham, a fine musician and graduate of the Boston Conservatory of Music. Florence's voice was clear and true and she could sing either soprano or alto. One of my earliest memories of her singing was at Grandpa's and Grandma’s golden wedding anniversary. Grandpa and Grandma Orton held their Golden Wedding Reception in November 1907 at the home of their daughter, Elizabeth Ellen Orton Benson. The specific reason for holding it there, rather than in the Relief Society Building used for such family gatherings, was because the Benson's had electric lights. Aunt Lizzie boarded the men who came to install the electrical system in Parowan and that was why they were first to have electric lights. I was then 5 years old and I can remember the magic of touching a single light-switch just inside the door to have a light appear in a globe hanging by a single wire in the center of the room. It was sensational!  (When Grandmother was shown the magic, the ‘on & off’ switch puzzled her, and she asked, “When you come home of a dark night, how do you know if it's h'off or h'on?”). For this occasion, Florence, Belle and other girl cousins, Dean, Janey, and Merlin, sang songs appropriate for the anniversary, accompanied by Flossie Benson at the organ. ‘Silver Threads Among the Gold’ sung in harmony is the only number I can now remember. Since I went to sleep during the program and awakened whining, Mother sent me home with Warner. To still my crying, Warner gave me a breast-pin he'd found (I'd have done more than "stop crying" for that sparkling, glass brooch). I can imagine that Florence and the same girls who sang also served the lunch and washed up the dishes afterwards. They were a sweet, dependable group.

Domestic tasks for a family of fourteen was hard work prior to the installation of the municipal water works and electricity. Wash days were pure drudgery. I can remember of helping to fill a barrel, from the big ditch that ran in front of our house, for doing the family wash. Often, the water was muddy and must then be filtered through a canvas bag hung to a branch of the apple tree. After filtering, we carried the water into the house to fill the range reservoir and the copper wash boiler. All the laundry was scrubbed on a scrubbing board -- a brass corrugated surface mounted on a wooden frame with 4 inch legs put into the wash water and the board   resting against the inside of the tub. White clothes were scrubbed, then boiled in soapy water (home-made soap). This process not only sanitized them but also kept them white. Grayed or yellowed white pieces now so common because of automatic washers and dryers would not have been tolerated then. Kerosene was often added to the boiling process to remove mud stains from Dad's underwear that he'd worn while irrigating. I can yet see Florence with Mother, sometimes Belle, scrubbing heaps of soiled clothing under the apple tree at the east of the house, starting as early as 7 or 8 o’clock in the morning in the summertime and keeping at it until mid-afternoon or later. Back aches were a common aftermath. Our first washer, a hand powered one, was a real joy. It stood out behind the old shanty in the summer and inside the shanty in winter, making it necessary to carry hot water from the kitchen to it, plus all the rinse water and hot clothes from the boiler. Our first electric washer, a Maytag, reduced wash day to a day of pleasure. By the time we got the Maytag we also had hot and cold running water in the kitchen.

All the girls

(left to right:  Josephine, Kathleen, Laura, Mary Ann, Laurette (mother), Rosabelle, Ada, Florence)

To understand people, we must have a knowledge of their background and know something about the times in which they lived. In Florence's youth she witnessed the coming of electricity (poles for which were put in the center of the streets) and the telephone to our community. In contrast to our efficient direct dialing of today it was necessary to ring, with a crank on the side of a wall mounted telephone, wait for an operator (then called ‘Central’) to be asked, "What number please?" You recited your number and then waited until the operator made the connection and rang for you. Our first number was a long and a short ring on line eight -"L S - on 8, please.”  A half dozen to twelve other families shared the same line; teenage monopoly of telephone lines was unheard of in that day. About 1910 the first horseless carriage made its appearance in Parowan. It resembled the Presbyterian conception of Deity -"without body, parts or passions.”  Warner bought a model ‘T’ Ford in 1915 and in 1919 Jake bought a beautiful, black Studebaker, the handsomest thing on wheels, so we thought. Radio crystal sets, and later with ear-phones, were owned by a few people about town but not until 1922 or 1923 were radios in general use in homes. I recall passing the Parowan Auto Company the morning of November 11th, 1918 on my way to keep a dentist appointment. The manager, Mr. Chilton was sitting by the window intently listening through ear-phones. Suddenly, he dropped the ear-phones and bolted outside hollering: "The Armistice has been signed!" World War I was over; radio had brought the good news. Airplanes had given limited service in World War I but they were not in general use for civilian travel. Of course television was unheard of, as was central heating for homes, automatic water heaters, refrigerators, and none of the smaller electrical appliances, that we take for granted today, were extant. Our home of nine rooms was heated with wood stoves; occasionally Daddy bought a little coal. There was a kitchen range, heating stoves in both the dining room and parlor, and a small heater upstairs that was used only when we did extensive house cleaning or when the girls were getting ready for some special date.

We younger girls loved to sit on the bed in the north upstairs room and watch Florence and Belle make preparations to go out. Not always were we permitted to watch, and usually after the bath (water and tub had to be carried up the stairs then down after using), and only if we promised to keep out of the "things" on the dresser, we could watch from the bed. Pleasant are my memories of such occasions. The warm room, fragrance of bath and toiletries, the anticipation of the ‘date’ with eager boys and the intriguing process of transforming our sisters into picture-book beauties was more than interesting. Baths finished, flimsy kimonos were donned over clean underthings, and the ‘making-up’ process began. A coal oil lamp was lighted and a curling-iron was hung by the handles so that the tongs reached close to the yellow flame, heating it until it sizzled when wet fingers gently touched it. The tongs were next tried on a piece of paper. If the paper browned, the tongs were laid aside to cool before strands of hair about the face were wound around them leaving the hair curly and manageable. No permanents then - you were lucky if the curl lasted as long as your date. Hair curled, the face and neck were now generously dusted with rice powder. A moistened finger removed the powder from the eye lashes and brows; a match, burned until quite black, was then applied to the brows to heighten their color. No mascara in those times!  If rouge was packaged in convenient containers, then our sisters didn't own any. A piece of bright, red gauze or bunting, slightly moistened with the tongue, was rubbed over the cheek bones and more vigorously over the lips dying them a cherry red. Hair was then arranged in the mode of the day, sometimes a velvet bow, brilliant comb, or just a flower was added to give an artistic accent. The last touch, after dresses and jewelry had been donned, was a touch of cologne or perfume behind each ear. We children knew our sisters would be the most beautiful princesses at the ball, well deserving of the attention of the royal prince.

Florence never lacked for the attention of the opposite sex. Local boys, from the best families, came courting, but they were just escorts so far as Florence was concerned. Whenever they brought gifts she would politely decline saying that she didn't want to be obligated by accepting their gift. One exception was when Sam Whitney brought a china tea set, comprising a sugar bowl, and cream pitcher on a matching tray (The sugar bowl has now been handed down to her daughter Virginia). Since Sam's sister Bertha was one of Flo’s best friends and urged her to keep the set, Flo accepted it, and at the same Christmas a local boyfriend of Belle's gave her an identical set. Two other local boys who vied for Florence's hand were William Marsdenand Millard Halterman, neither was easily discouraged. Boys from neighboring towns came calling and when the automobile was so new it was a novelty, an older fellow, Jack Fife, from Cedar City, braved the gauntlet of local boys to court Florence in his new automobile.

The night of their first date, Ada and I were out after dark picking up chips to start the morning fires. We saw a bright light flash on first the granary, then the barn.  Running to the house we told of what we'd seen, thinking it to be some strange phenomenon of nature. We were told that the flashing light we'd seen was just the headlights of Jack Fife's automobile as he turned his car around to take Florence back to Cedar to the dance. We were as disappointed as though we never expected to see another car. Florence had high ideals and was clean of mind and body. She hated off-color stories, and exhibitions of baseness in private or public. She kept company with those who believed as she did, never stringing a fellow along she didn't respect just to have a date. I remember when two drinking sheep-herders, one our cousin Johnny, rode into the yard of the ranch house in Dry Lakes. Florence was the eldest one there and left in charge of the ranch and the children. These two fellows galloped right up to the door demanding, “Flo, get us something to eat!", and proceeded to dismount. I can still see Florence draw herself up to full height as she said: “This is no short-order house and I refuse to be ordered around by the likes of you. What you need is sobering up! Go back to your camp and make yourselves some black coffee." With that, she took us small children, who were playing at her feet, into the house and closed the door. Her triumph was complete; the rowdies rode away.

In the summertime fellows who found employment herding sheep in the Dry Lakes vicinity came often to the ranch house to spend the evening with the family, and more especially the older girls, Florence and Belle. Corn popping and candy making would occupy the time along with singing to guitar accompaniment. These were pleasant evenings. Some of the old songs I remember singing then were: ‘Clover Blossoms’, ‘Belle Mahoney’, ‘Meet Me Tonight in Dreamland’, ‘Perfect Day’, ‘Dreaming’, and ‘In the Shade of the Old Apple Tree’. More than once I fell asleep before our visitors had said good-night. I remember Florence pulling my shoes off and rolling me into the bed upon which we'd been sitting, and of drifting back to sleep in the atmosphere of warmth and gaiety. Boys I recollect as coming to the ranch house were, Kenneth and Earl Clark, Bill and Frank Mitchell, Meeks Dalton, and others. Florence could play the guitar, and with Belle or Warner, often sang duets to her guitar accompaniment. Her piano and organ playing was limited to 'cording’ as she never had the opportunity of taking music lessons. Had their (i.e. Flo’s and Jake’s, after they were married) financial status allowed, I'm sure she might have taken piano lessons when Jake was in school, since that was perhaps the first leisure time she'd had since she was old enough to take responsibility.

Florence was active in the Church wherever she lived, teaching classes in Sunday School, and Primary, singing in the choir, and giving service wherever asked to work. A description of Flo would employ such terms as kind, patient, long-  suffering, tolerant, cheerful, gracious, willing and loving. Thinking that perhaps I was over idealistic I asked my Brother Harold, "Was Flo as perfect as I seem to remember her?"  He answered, "I think she was just about as perfect as the Lord allows to live on this earth. She was kind, ever willing and eager to help, cheerful, always sang as she went about her work. She never caused. Dad and Mother anxiety, and was capable and efficient in taking over the family and household duties when Mother was ill." Such is the testimonial of a younger brother. Florence was beautiful inside and out, not the doll faced, pampered, dependent female idol of book and movie heroines of the day. Her poise reflected inner serenity achieved through clean and honest living. She was self-sufficient but neither forward nor shrinking. Her posture was good; she stood 5 feet 4 and 1/2 inches tall. Her eyes were blue fringed with dark lashes; her hair brown and her complexion fair without blemish. More than one fond father expressed their desires to have Florence for a daughter-in-law.

When Florence entered Branch Normal School (B.N.S.) the course of her life was changed. It was here that she met the man she grew to love and finally married. As she walked to school each morning Jake would be standing on Bulloch's corner waiting for a friend to walk with the remaining distance to school. After three or four encounters they greeted each other with a polite “Good morning.” Finally introducing themselves, Flo thought his name, Jacob Wood Bergstrom was substantial if on the odd side. He might have thought her name just as odd had he known it -- Florence Laurette Mitchell. As time went on Jake waited for Flo, carrying her books and gym clothes and anything else she was burdened with. Perhaps one of the first qualities in Jake that Florence admired was his determination and dedication to become a doctor of medicine. Neither he, nor his parents, were well to do; his schooling would all have to be done on borrowed money - this he knew. Yet he never hesitated and when he had finished his first two years at B.N.S. he borrowed enough money from the Bank of Southern Utah to see him through his first two years at the U of U (University of Utah).

For Thanksgiving and other short vacations, Florence, Warner and later Belle, brought friends home to spend the holidays. One year, probably Thanksgiving of 1912, Flo brought two friends, Florence Spillsbury and Fannie Kleinman from Toquerville to spend the four-day holiday with us. There was a smallpox epidemic in Cedar City and the Parowan town council had set up a quarantine at the foot of the lane entering Parowan. As the family carriage (horse and buggy) stopped at the quarantine station, the local health officer stepped forward and sprayed the entire group with formaldehyde. I'll never forget the disgust of the girls as they wiped tears from their smarting eyes. The formaldehyde, if diluted at all, was strong enough to cause smarting eyes and nose and to fade their clothing. Elegant hats were the style and all three girls had large picture hats. I'd thought Florence's was the classiest ever. It was made of black velvet with blue-green velvet crushed around the crown and a matching plume that fell from the brim just over the shoulder. Fannie's was maroon velvet and both hats looked as if they had bleached in the sun a season or two. They were mad enough to tar-and-feather old Charley Bentley.

Jake rode up from Cedar during the winter on a gray-blue pony named Monte, with his clean clothes tied up in a roll behind the saddle, to see Flo. He stayed at our house. I can tell you us kids were on our best behavior. We wanted to create a good Impression for we all liked Jake and even though he teased us, we knew he liked us too. The next summer Jake rode old Monte over Cedar Mountain to visit Flo at Bear Flat. He was always jovial and seemed not to mind our hanging around too much. He and Flo took long rides into the meadows on Prince and Ranger, and to other nearby places of beauty. Florence seemed to bloom that summer. It was plain to see that Jake had the inside track. The fellows who worked at Uncle Walter's mill and who came to our cabin each evening to socialize, sing, and joke, stayed away. They seemed to know Flo had chosen Jake (Jake was a good whistler but his singing showed lack of training). By this time Jake had avowed his undying love for Florence and wanted her to marry him so that she could go with him. They were married at our home in Parowan, September 10, 1914, by one of the Bishopric (it may have been Bishop James L. Adams), just prior to their leaving for school in Salt Lake City. Florence had always wanted and planned for a temple marriage and that dream was realized the following February when she and Jake were married and sealed for time and eternity in the Salt Lake Temple, February 24, 1915.

Since this was the first break in our family of twelve, both parents and children mourned her leaving the family circle. Of course Father and Mother were also happy that she was marrying a fine fellow and that they were mutually suited to each other. Ada, Mary Ann, Laura and I sought the seclusion of the orchard to cry long and loud in the midst of the stench of decaying plums that had dropped from the trees – neglected because of the business of preparing for the wedding. Later, when we showed up red eyed and long faced, Jake comforted us saying, “Don’t take this so seriously. She'll still be your sister and you can visit us in Salt Lake.” That was a comforting thought but the promise went unfulfilled as far as we younger children were concerned.

Their address was 327 South 13th East. It was here that Florence had a severe attack of appendicitis and It became necessary to operate. She was then pregnant 5 months and the operation caused a miscarriage. It was a baby boy. Disappointing as this was, Jake felt lucky that Flo had been saved. Florence and Jake came home to spend the two summers he studied at the U of U. Jake helped Father with anything there was to do. Jake despised farm work but gritted his teeth, rolled up his sleeves, and dug in -- his goal always foremost in his thoughts. We were glad to have Florence back with us. She and Jake shared a bedroom with an outside door. Soon after they moved in I put a sign on the door which read: “Dr. J. W. Bergstrom, Walk In.” It was to this room that Jake carried Douglas after he had accidentally hit him with a club, aimed at an ornery pig, and had broken his leg. With the help of Dr. Green, Jake set the leg, splinted and bandaged it. I can still see Jake's blanched face and frightened look in contrast to his usual sunburned face and twinkling eyes.

The latter part of the summer, Jake and Flo moved up to the sheep camp to herd sheep for the remainder of the summer. I visited them when they were located at Wilcox's Mill. The camp had a beautiful setting in the pines and aspens near a spring of cool, clean water. While I was there Jake carved my name with his and Florence's across a large, smooth aspen. Until then I'd never liked my name, but the lettering was so beautiful I began right then thinking Josephine Mitchell was not so bad.

That September, Florence and Jake moved to St. Louis, Missouri, where Jake had been accepted at the George Washington Medical School. Florence was much alone while Jake attended school in St. Louis. While she was permitted to teach in elementary grades in Parowan, she did not have a certificate for teaching in Missouri. Her skill as a seamstress brought her some work from people in the L.D.S. Branch, but not enough to help materially. Through Church service she was able to keep busy and happy. She had long since set her goal on Jake's medical training and no immediate sacrifices blotted out her long range dream nor dampened her spirits in the least. She kept their clothes mended and her own modernized as the style changes demanded. When Jake could spare a few hours’ time from his books, they went to some place of interest in St. Louis, often walking and taking their lunch. Cutting costs wherever possible; always planning ahead the places they would go on Jake's next time off.

For a change, and to earn some money, Jake and Florence came to Utah for the summer (We all admired him for the way he plunged in and helped with the farm work which he detested). On August 1st, 1917, a baby girl was born to Florence and Jake at the Cedar City Hospital. Their world was now complete. The baby was vigorous, with a perfect body. After a stay of 10 days in the hospital the mother and baby were taken to Grandma and Grandpa Bergstrom's to stay until Flo was able to care for herself and baby. According to the Swedish custom, Grandma Bergstrom called the as yet unnamed baby, "Pot lid."  This made Florence furious to have her darling cherub so called and hastened the choosing of an appropriate name. The names of Elaine and Virginia (Harold was on a mission to Virginia) were considered. Florence wrote each name with Bergstrom many times and then announced it would be Virginia; she liked it better with Bergstrom.

It was like taking the sun from the sky when Flo and Jake, with their adorable baby, left us in September to go back to St. Louis where Jake had only one more year until graduation. He graduated in June 1918 and chose to do his internship at the L.D.S. Hospital in Salt Lake City. When they returned to Utah, Florence and Virginia came to live with us at Parowan, since Jake would be required to live at the hospital during his Internship. With just one year to go, their dreams would soon be a reality. Jake began to make concrete plans about establishing a clientele. Already Dr. J. M. McFarlane had established a flourishing business and small hospital, over the Cedar Mercantile, and had asked Jake to go into partnership with him. Jakes specialty was "eye, ear, nose and throat", while Dr. Mac's was “abdominal and urinary tract"; seemed like a good combination to Jake. Jake admired Dr. MacFarlane's skill and their personalities were compatible, so dreams centered around a home and practice in Cedar City. We were all pleased with the prospect of having a doctor in the family and at having him located just 20 miles away (Automobile travel was just coming into general use; this mode of travel could cut the time between Parowan and Cedar by more than half). Daily letters from Flo kept Jake informed of all the cute and precious antics of his darling daughter. Jake's letters came sporadically; he wrote whenever had had a minute’s time, but they were warm, loving and full of promise. He counted the days and hours ‘til the time the three of them would be together. He was happy in his work and put the best he had into it.

Never has any child had more attention and more willing 'baby sitters’ than did baby Virginia that summer. I recall how she got her own way by holding her breath. At such times Flo would try to keep calm, methodically flipping a little cold water into her face causing her to catch her breath. This 'breath holding' was new to us as well as frightening. Jake had warned us to keep calm and not indulge the youngster to prevent these tantrums. One day while I was watching Virginia she picked up a fresh strawberry and started to eat it. Knowing that fresh berries of any kind were forbidden to her, I quickly flipped the strawberry from her fingers, intending no offence. She started to cry, then held her breath, and I ran with her in my arms to find Florence. Flo quickly took the now rigid baby out into the sunshine. Water sprinkled on her face did no good-- the seconds seemed like hours. Ginnie's face was now turning bluish and her eyes had rolled back into her head with only the whites visible. In desperation Flo turned the nearby hydrant on, pinched the baby's nose to prevent her inhaling and soused her under the cold stream. One gasp and air filled her lungs and color came back to her face. Flo said later that it was one thing for a group of doctors to sit in a class room and say not to get excited and fuss over a child holding Its breath, but in reality would they keep calm? 

Flo spent lots of time out of doors that summer with the baby (There is a picture of her holding her baby in the flower garden). Flo in the garden with Virginia Sun baths were new to us and by August, Virginia was bronzed and husky. She was friends to all of the barnyard animals and to old Bob, the dog. Flo taught her to meow when she saw the cat, bark when she saw the dog, blat with the doggy-lambs in the orchard, and so on. Her rooster crowing was the funniest, with nose wrinkled up and elbows flapping she'd ‘r-r-r-r-oo’. Florence made Virginia's clothes, some out of old material, but always in good taste. A white wool coat and cap I seem to remember, with blue satin bows, then in vogue, on either side of the cap, intensifying the blue of her eyes. There never was a child more adored than Virginia. Her honey blonde hair, violet blue eyes fringed with dark lashes, and fair skin, gave more than a suggestion of the angelic. And to think that her own Grandma had called her "Pot-lid".

Florence

October 1918 looked promising to our family. Harold was to be released from his mission after two and one-half years, World War I was showing signs of concluding in our favor, Dad's harvest had been good, the granary was filled with grain, wheat, corn and garden produce, while our cellar was well supplied with canned fruit, vegetables, honey, meat, and flour as the result of Mother's and Flo's tireless efforts. Florence was happy that the end of Jake's training was in sight and with his almost certain acceptance of partnership with Dr. Mac, she could at last make concrete plans for their future.

Then the specter of the Black Influenza reared its ugly head.

For months this mysterious malady had been prevalent among our military troops in Europe and was now becoming widespread in America and even Utah and Iron County. Our family was among the first to contract this formidable, unknown malady. Which of the family was first to come down with the ‘Flu’, I do not remember.  Karl came home from school sick and feverish. I do recall that several of us children had been ill for days with chills, alternating with high temperatures, in the upstairs bedrooms. Mother finally had to go to bed, which left Daddy and Flo to care for us and Dad must also care for the animals, cut the wood for keeping the house warm, etc. Virginia, then 14 months old, was next. I can hear her wailing yet; she would neither eat nor drink, no doubt because of a sore throat, but wanted to be held. Since her mother and Grandpa were "on-the-go" every minute nursing the sick, which now numbered ten, Virginia made the "rounds" on either her mother's or grandfather's hip. The second day of Virginia's sickness, after a sleepless night caring for the sick, Flo was tired. Blue circles underlined her eyes and she said what she needed was a cup of tea to give her some pep. She probably hadn't had anything substantial to eat for days; the atmosphere of carrying out trays to bring back slop-jars and vomiting pans was not conducive to normal appetites. Flo had her cup of tea and sparkled from the stimulation it gave her. But by the end of day Florence was running a temperature; she should have been in bed all day, even longer, but had kept going so Daddy would not have the entire burden alone. Few people in town had had the disease and those who hadn't would not give help to those who did. News reached us that Oscar Lyman, husband of cousin Dean Benson, had died with the "Flu" (He died a week after Florence passed away). The disease seemed to claim the strong and virile - whole families were stricken. Doctors were swamped; some of them contracted the disease and were unable to make calls. Our one Doctor, Dr. Frank Burton, was kept going day and night.

By morning, October 23, Florence was worse and Daddy called Jake in Salt Lake. Jake said he would come immediately, but in the meantime Flo should be kept in bed, given lots to drink and if she should feel better, not to let her get out of bed or get chilled. Transportation in 1918 was not what it is today. I'm not sure what means of transit Jake used, whether train or bus, but he did not arrive until night. By that time Florence had lost consciousness and didn't even recognize her beloved. Jake, now a full-fledged doctor of medicine, did all any doctor could do for her outside a hospital, but she never rallied, passing away the next day, October 24, 1918. Those of us who were small enough for Dad to carry were taken to see Florence after she was dressed and ready for burial. She looked beautiful and at peace, clothed in the soft white temple robes and couched in a lovely coffin Jake had selected. She was never taken from the house until time for burial. No public gatherings were allowed; schools were closed, religious services suspended, and funerals were cut to brief services at the cemetery. Family prayer was had at home before the casket was closed. Since Father and Jake were the only ones in our household able to attend, they, with Mary Bergstrom and . . .  I am not sure if Brother and Sister Bergstrom, Henry, and Wilford, came or not . . . accompanied the body to the cemetery. Warner, who now had a household of his own, dared not let Georgia and eleven-month old Robert get exposed. They had helped out by bringing food to the door and supplies from the drug store. Uncle Walter and Warner and a few other close relatives joined the procession to find loyal and faithful friends had gathered at the graveside, despite the chilly October day. Simple services gave tribute to a valiant woman who, having proved faithful in all things in this life, had been called home. Florence was buried in our family plot where aunt Sarah Mitchell Curtis, Dad's oldest sister, already lay at rest. Five years later, Douglas joined her there, and the next year our dear Mother. In February 1953, Father was buried beside them.

Flo's death in the newspaper

Jake took his bereavement like a man. I'm sure he could have been resentful, if he had let himself, at having his beloved wife taken from him just when all their plans were about to be realized. His baby daughter, of whom he'd seen too little during his training, gave him love and comfort, brightening our home those dreary days that followed. Jake stayed in our home until the sick were recovering before returning to the hospital to finish his internship. He hated to leave his baby girl who had just learned to call him daddy, to follow him wherever he went, and to prefer him to Grandpa Mitchell. Our parents knew that once Jake was back to work, time would heal his wounds and give purpose again to his life. As I remember it, Virginia stayed with us until Jake finished his internship and established partnership with Dr. MacFarlane in Cedar. Mother accepted Jake's prerogative in taking Virginia to live with him, saying, “It could be worse if he didn't want the responsibility of raising her. We were blessed to have her with us this long."  Our home seemed desolate without Virginia. Her happy little presence had breached the sad abyss caused by Florence's passing until the poignant pain was lessened. Mary, Jake's only sister, took over the duties of mothering Virginia until Jake married again and established a home of his own. She then had a new mother and in time two brothers to make the family circle complete.

For twenty-seven years, Florence was allowed to grace this earth, giving service, love, and creating beauty wherever destiny led her. She now awaits the coming of her family and is preparing for that happy reunion.

This is, as I remember, the life story of Florence. Outside the birth, marriage, and death dates, I have calculated the dates; they are approximate.

You take over from here "Ditta Bokem.” :-)

(Image sources:  personal picture files, familysearch.org, and this link: http://suu.centuryamerica.org/1913-1919-the-story-of-cedar-city-and-the-bac/1918-1919-the-flu/)



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