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A banner with an image of the Provo Historic Courthouse and the text Historic Provo.

Oral History of Dea Eyre


THOMAS: This is Susannah Thomas and this is an interview with Dea Eyre of Provo. Today is November 12, 1999.

EYRE: I've lived here in Provo all my life, right in this area. I don't remember the first place they lived at, because they were living with my mother's brother. When I was real young they moved over in a basement apartment on Second West and Second South. My father got work for the railroad. He started working down in the Union Pacific yard. When the trains would come in he'd service the trains and put them in the roundhouse down there. He didn't ever own a car. My father rode a bicycle all the time to work and back home.

We lived close enough to our church. We started up here at the Provo Second Ward. It was located on 600 West and 300 South. It was the old building that was built in 1806 [1906?]. We went to church there in this old original Provo Second Ward. It was the second chapel built here in Provo. I am still in the Provo Second Ward, although the building house is torn down and a new red brick one story building is still on the same corner. I still belong to the Second Ward. I've been in this ward really all my life. They divided us at one time and made an Eleventh Ward. We met up in the old Provo Sixth Ward about 300 South and Second West. It's been torn down. The 7-11 store there and a printing company built a building where the old Sixth Ward was. We went there about three years is all. They divided us again and then made a division back this way so that I was back in the Second Ward.

I attended the old Franklin School on 300 South and 600 West, across from the chapel. It was the old school that was built. It was three stories with big wide stairs that went up. There were four classes, one in each corner. The kindergarten and first graders were on the bottom. Two, three, four was on the first floor and four, five, six was on the top floor. It was the same building that after I got married and moved here into this home that I live in now, which was my in-laws' home.

I lived up on the corner. After my parents lived in this basement apartment, a little home had been built on the corner of 900 West and 100 South, where the big cabin house is now. People remodeled and rebuilt it. It's scary the way the house is now. It was a little tiny square two bedroom home that was built and my parents lived in it while it was new. It only had a cold water tap in it, no plumbing and we had an old coal and wood range and no furnace or bathroom at that time. It hadn't even been landscaped. My father put in the lawn and shrubs. There was an extra space next to us where we planted a garden every year. I did grow up in that little home from about five years old.

I attended school at the old Franklin School that was on Fourth South. I went to all of the six grades there and the one principle I remember was Mower. He taught History of Mathematics. I don't remember too many of my teachers that I had. I did finally graduate from there and went up to the old Provo High School. It was on 300 West between Center Street and First South. It took from Third West to Fourth West and it was a big white brick building. We didn't have any junior high schools then, so I went to school there for junior high in seventh and eighth grade.

When I was in the ninth grade they had built the new Dixon Junior High School that is on Third North between Seventh and Eighth West. It is still there. When I was in the ninth grade, we were the first ninth grade graduating class from the Dixon Junior High School. Then we went up to the old high school where the city building and police and fire department is now. It was gone. I don't remember what year it was torn down and the city building was put up there. That was a big change that went on in Provo.

Up town there was a lot of stores that you could shop at. There was grocery stores and department stores. There was the good old F.W. Woolworths. There was Payless Drug and a JCPenney on the corner of where the Nu Skin building is now. There was a Kress building. They were wonderful to shop at. You could go there and get anything you wanted, little gifts or school supplies. They carried everything. It wasn't expensive. There was JCPenney, an expensive department store. Down the street was Firmages. A family named Firmage started this store. The whole family ran it. It was a big department store. It was very nice. There were drug stores.

There were the three theaters, the Paramount Theater up on Center Street between University and First East and just two or three buildings from there was the Uintah Theater. They had really good movies and we could go to the movies for like ten cents before I was twelve years old. There was the Academy Theater that has recently closed down. There were lots of stores that you could go in and buy. There were candy stores.

I remember the one place down by Provo High School on Center Street between Fourth and Fifth, Cook's Ice Cream. Everybody went to Cook's Ice Cream. Every date would go to Cook's Ice Cream. We'd run over at noon from school when we went to junior high. We'd run across the street to Cook's Ice Cream. They made the most wonderful flavors imaginable. We would hang out with the kids when we had a date. We'd go there and get ice cream. It was wonderful.

There were lots of stores up town. I remember during the Depression my father would come home with his paycheck and we would pull a little red wagon and go through the park and up Center Street. Between Second and Third West on Center Street there was a Piggly Wiggly where Safeway is now. We would go on Saturdays and get our groceries. When my father would pay for the groceries, they would always give us a little sack of hardtack candies or cinnamon sticks or all day suckers. We would pull the groceries home in our little wagon, because we didn't have a car.

Where we lived there were only two or three houses across the street. There was big vacant lots where all the kids in the neighborhood would get together and we would play games like Hide and Seek or Kick the Can or Run, Sheepie, Run or all these games like Tag. We'd play ball in this vacant lot that was just across the street. It was up on Ninth West between First and Second South. It was just across the street from where I lived on Ninth West. We would play all these games in the vacant lot. Now there is houses all over there. They've built homes around there. We were all one big Second Ward and we all went to Franklin School. We were all friends. There were lots and lots of children. We were all friends. We went to the same school and we went to the same church and we played together. It was fun. We didn't have a lot of toys like they have now. We had to make up our own games and do our own thing.

There were a lot of real nice buildings that you could shop at. But now everything is at the mall. There really isn't much left on Center Street. It shut down. There really isn't hardly any store up town that I would go shop at. They're all trendy. There is an awful lot of cafes. Mexican and Chinese. A lot of eating places. More so than there used to be. There aren't the good department stores and the little five and ten cent stores that we used to do all of our shopping at.

Up in the middle of the street between University Avenue and Center Street was a huge water fountain that was round and two levels where the water would come down out of this beautiful fountain in the middle of the street. There wasn't a lot of traffic then. There were very very few cars, even that early in my young years, the early twenties. The fountain was beautiful. The tabernacle was already up there. The big city county building was already there if I remember. I don't remember when it was launched. The Knight Block that had all these historic buildings was there before my time. That was on University and East and all the big buildings that were built by the Knight people who were very prominent pioneer people.

There were only four grade schools, the Franklin, the Maeser, the Joaquin and another one. There was a train station. Before they ever put up Penneys or Woolworths on First West, there was a train station there, and there was a train that ran from Springville. I remember there was an interurban train. We could get on this train. It would come down Center Street and the tracks went up Second West, way up. It would go on up to Salt Lake. There used to be a big canal down there, too, where people got their irrigation water. We would ride the train to Salt Lake. That was wonderful when we were in the teens. You'd get on and ride and go to Orem or go.

It was just the Provo Bench then. There were only half a dozen stores in Orem. It was not store after store after store like it is now. That is a couple of the things that I remember about Provo. There were lots of nice stores to go shop at. Now you have to go to the mall. That's a big thing that has come in Provo. Provo Center Street has all the old little buildings moving out and the big mall being built. It might be nice for young people.

Another big change that has come is the tearing down of houses and putting in the freeway. That was practically my backyard. It was across the double railroad tracks. That was all pretty well open property. That was a big thing. I was asking my daughter about what changes she remembered growing up here. She said putting in that freeway. She used to play in the backyard. She said that was about the biggest change that she remembers that happened here. Instead of the old state highways going to Salt Lake and to Springville and going up to Orem and Lindon and Pleasant Grove and Lehi, it was the old state highway. We had to travel on there. The building of the freeway is a big change that has gone in.

When they took the fountain out and the trains, that's another big change that was shocking. It just disappeared overnight. One day it was there and the next day it was no fountain. No water, no fountain. It was scary. Where did it go? What has happened here? That was a big change.

Our library used to be on the corner of 100 East and Center Street. It was there for years and years, all the time we went to school. The building is still there, but they built the new library. They built the library a little after they built the new city building. That was another big change was the tearing down of the old Provo High School and putting in the city buildings and the police and fire departments there, where everybody had gone to junior high and high school. That's where I graduated from the old building of Provo High School. They didn't build the new building until my children grew up and went to school up there.

The tearing down of buildings and the building of the new county building in back of the old historic city and county Building, which houses federal and the motor vehicle building. They tore down houses and other buildings that were in there to put those in there. And of course the building of the mall.

THOMAS: Tell me about raising your family in Provo.

EYRE: My husband worked at Bingham Canyon up east of Salt Lake. We were married in June of 1938. My first child was a daughter. We called her Deanne. She was born while we lived in Bingham Canyon. My husband worked as an engineer on one of the ore trains that worked in the mine. I came to Provo because I didn't know anybody up there. I came to Provo to my doctor for her. The first few months I came down here every month to see the doctor. She was born in August of 1939. We were still living in Bingham Canyon and I became pregnant with my second daughter, Rena Lou.

Deanne and Rena Lou were born in my own home up here on Ninth West. There was no hospital then. There was one hospital called the Maternity Hospital. We couldn't afford to go to a hospital. The doctors would come to the home. Dr. Merrill was my first doctor. He came to the home and Deanne was born in my family home. My mother was a nurse and she assisted. She called her sister, Aunt Amerca Perry to come down and help. My baby Deanne was born in Mother and Dad's bed in the bedroom. Then you had to stay in bed for ten days before they even let you out of bed. By the time they let you up, to put your feet over the edge of the bed, you were so weak you couldn't get to the bathroom if you wanted to. Now they go to the hospital and they stay for twelve hours and they're out and going. My second daughter Rena Lou was born also in my mother's home. We still had the same doctor. I came down here to have the children so Mother could take care of me.

That was just before the war started. My husband was driving back and forth every day to Bingham Canyon from down here when I was here. Then we moved from Bingham Canyon to Redwood Road in West Jordan. We lived there for a couple of years. Then my mother-in-law passed away in February of 1943. That left my father-in-law here alone in this home. We decided to move down here and move in here with him and take care of him. He was working up at the State Mental Hospital. He was an orderly there. My husband continued to drive back and forth to Bingham Canyon after we moved here and we had the two with us.

It got so it was too hard in the winters for him to drive, so he quit up there and got a job at Geneva Steel. It was the war time in 1943. He got a job at the blast furnace at Geneva Steel.

My third daughter, Linda, was born at the hospital. They had just opened the hospital and Mother got a job at the hospital. She was one of the very first nurses. She was in the very first little square building that was the beginning of the Utah Valley Hospital. That's another tremendous growth that has come here in the expansion of the Utah Valley Hospital. Now it's the Utah Valley Regional Medical Center. It has grown and grown by leaps and bounds.

THOMAS: That's where I was born.

EYRE: My third daughter, Linda was born there in 1943. My husband was called into the service and he was in the service for almost two years. A lot of his time was spent in developing on islands. He was in the regular Army. He worked in the ship yards, or the docks, where the big ships, the LSTs would come in and unload cargo for the Army and people. He worked at the docks unloading and loading cargo on the big ships. He really wasn't in active service. He was only there when they dropped the bomb on Nagasaki. Somewhere I've got a picture of him standing by the side. I think my daughter took that. She is going to keep that.

THOMAS: Did you see him at all during those two years?

EYRE: No, there was no way that he could get a leave to come home. He came home in September of 1945. After he got home there were three years in there that he was gone and working. I had a fourth daughter, Nancy. She was born at the hospital. She was born in 1948. I had about two families. I had Deanne and Rena Lou and Linda in 1939, 1940 and 1943. Then I had Nancy in October 4, 1948, and on October 4, 1951, I had my little son, Robert, the only boy. We thought we'd be smart and have another little brother to go with Robert, but we ended up getting another little girl, Suzanne. Robert and Suzanne were so close together. He just took care of her. He'd hold her little hand and they'd go up to the grocery store. They'd walk up the street and get groceries and come home. He really watched out and took care of her. They were real close and they still are. I have the six children, Deanne, Rena Lou, Linda, Nancy, Robert and Suzanne.

They're all grown and married now. Deanne and Rena and Suzanne are in Las Vegas. They have jobs there. My daughter Linda recently moved down to Mt. Pleasant. Nancy married and has three boys. She lives in Ogden. My son Robert is the only one that is close to me right now. He and his wife and two children are in Orem.

I have about 28 grandchildren and about the same amount--I lose track and have to count and add each family--I have about 29 or 30 great grandchildren and one little great great grandson. My great grandson lives back in Virginia. That's a long ways away.

THOMAS: Have you seen the great great grandchild?

EYRE: No, I have not. I know all my other grandchildren and my great grandchildren. They're in Las Vegas and Ogden. I have not seen this little child. I've got a couple of pictures of him. I haven't seen him. I am really not planning a trip back there. It would be quite a ways to go back there. My oldest grandson lives in Pennsylvania now. This year in February, my daughter Linda, who is Brent's mother, and I flew back to Pennsylvania and were there. He lives close to Philadelphia. He flew back for his oldest son's baptism when he turned eight. Linda and I went back there and spent almost a week with Brent and his wife and family. They have three little boys, Michael, Christopher, and another little boy who is just about two. I can probably name them all off to you.

THOMAS: Did your kids also go to Franklin and Dixon and Provo High?

EYRE: Yes. We lived here. They grew up here. After my husband's mother passed away in February 1943, then we lived here all the rest of our lives. Nancy, Robert and Suzie were born at the hospital, Utah Valley Medical Center. All six of the children went to the old Franklin School and the Dixon Junior High School. By then the new high school had been built up on Twelfth North and University. They went to the Provo High School and they all graduated there. They all have jobs and are working. They have families. I have fifteen grandchildren, but when they all marry, you have to double that. That makes about thirty. A couple of my daughters are divorced.

THOMAS: What was it like here during the Depression for your family? Did that affect you at all?

EYRE: I was too young to really know too much about it. I'm sure it affected my family because my father worked. During the Depression my mother would make little individual meat pies. She would makes dozens and dozens of them. She would make tamales with good corn meal and wrap them in papers. She would sell these tamales and meat pies. They were delicious. She would pack them in a box about a foot square. She would put four meat pies on the bottom and put a cardboard and put four more and fill these boxes with meat pies and tamales and me and my brothers would pull this little red wagon up town and we would sell these to the restaurants, to the little cafes and to the drug stores that had a lunch counter. She didn't work out of the home. She did later, but during the Depression my father worked at the railroad and Mother would make these meat pies and tamales in the home and we would deliver them to the cafes and the pharmacies up town. She would sell them. Every other day we would take them. They would give her the orders and we would bring the orders home and she would make them. We would deliver them fresh the next day. That's how we got along.

We were all kind of young to really know too much about the Depression. I know it was very tight and very close and we didn't have very many Christmas things and we didn't have it very good. But we were too young to even tell that we were really in the Depression.

THOMAS: Everybody was in it too.

EYRE: Everybody suffered. We just had to get along. My father raised about four different gardens. Every little vacant lot from here up to Seventh West, if there was a vacant lot where there wasn't a home, he would raise corn and potatoes and carrots. We had a big garden in the vacant lot just north of our home. He would buy a pig and a cow and he would pay a farmer down on west Center that had farmland down there. He would pay somebody to raise these animals for him. He would pay for the feed. They would raise them with their cattle and with their pigs and then in the fall, he would have them butchered. We would have pork and food all winter. Up on Fifth West there was a cold storage locker and he would take the meat up there and store it in these freezers. When we wanted meat, we would go up and get it. We would have meat and vegetables and food.

Mother bottled a lot of fruits and vegetables. All summer we would get vegetables from the garden and we would can them, peaches and pears and apricots and everything. We would can hundreds of bottles of fruit. My father would buy several bushels of apples and we had these great big barrels. They were five hundred gallon barrels. We would take these apples and take the old Sears catalog and tear out a sheet of the catalog and wrap each apple separately and pack in this. So that if one got rotten it wouldn't go through and make the whole barrel rotten. That's the way we preserved our apples.

THOMAS: Did you get your fruit down here from orchards?

EYRE: From orchards west of here. There were orchards up east of us. The east bench was all orchards up there. We got it locally. There were apples, peaches, pears, and plums. We would get our fruit locally.

THOMAS: My great grandfather was one of the first fruit farmers in Orem. We still have remnants of the apple orchard in our yard. We still sell apples. It's right above Grandview. He was Daniel Thomas.

EYRE: I'm sure we must have bought fruit there. There were a lot of orchards around there. We didn't have any fruit trees in our yard up there. But there were other orchards around. We were really self-sufficient. We had to buy staples like flour and sugar.

THOMAS: It sounds like you did real well. Your father had the foresight to have all the gardens.

EYRE: He had a cow also. He kept it a block up the street. On First South someone had a barn. We did not have a barn on our yard. Just a block up the street. Every morning and every night he'd have to go milk the cow. We had milk and cream in big pans. We'd let the cream come to the top and we'd skim it off. It was luscious cream. We didn't think about cholesterol and fat foods then. Mother churned her own butter and we had buttermilk and our own butter, milk and cream.

THOMAS: Did either you or your husband go to BYU or to any academy?

EYRE: During the Depression my husband's family didn't have incentives to go to the Y. There was no vocational school. There was a little bit. After my husband passed away December 7, 1958 we had the six little children. Deanne was in junior high school and Suzie was only five. I had to support the children. I had just been a homemaker. After he passed away I had to do something to provide for the children. Social Security wouldn't do it and I didn't want welfare.

My mother was a nurse. She did not urge me and I didn't want to be a secretary. I didn't want to sit at a desk all day or be a clerk in a store. I applied to the vocational school that was up on University Avenue at that time on Twelfth North. It was Central Utah Vocational School. I applied to the nursing program. I was accepted into it in September of 1959. I went to the vocational school in their nursing program from 1959 to 1960 and I graduated in September of 1960. It was just a year school. Now they don't have an LPN school. They have a two year program down at UVSC. We used to go one year and get our LPN license and then we'd continue on through a Weber College graduation program. For another year we could get a two year RN. A lot of people did that. I didn't. I was in my forties then. I figured as long as I could get a job and work as an LPN I'd do that.

After I graduated I got a job at Utah Valley Hospital. It had made the cross tower part and it was doing well. They hired me and I started working as an LPN. I worked as an LPN. They had to have you rotate to all of the different departments: medical, surgical, pediatrics, OB, emergency, so you could get an idea of what was going on in the rest of the hospital. I finally ended up working up on maternity, postpartum. I worked there most of the time. I did orient a little bit in the labor delivery area and then you had to specialize to work in there. So I moved out onto the floor. I worked there for over twenty years. I loved it. I still have people come up to me in a store and say, "I remember you. You were my nurse at the hospital. I had two or three children there. I remember you." It's fun. It's nice to be remembered like that.

My children all grew up. Deanne married a young fellow named Dale Berge and they lived in Provo for quite a while and then moved to Las Vegas. Rena Lou was married and had a little girl, Sherie, but she was later divorced. Linda was married to a young man named Steven Rampton. They had three children: two boys, Brent, Bart and a little girl, Lisa. They were later divorced. They're married and have their own children. Linda met another real nice fellow, Kelly Heeley from down south. She and Kelly live in Mt. Pleasant and they bought a home down there. Nancy married Marlow Jake and they have three boys: Troy, Trent and Tyrone. Trent was married for a while and had two boys and then he was later divorced. Trent and Ty all live in Ogden now. Nancy lives with them. They're pretty cordial. They're in Ogden close to her. Robert married Caroline Cruise. They lived here. After six or seven years they found out they were unable to have children of their own, so they adopted a little boy, named Robert, when he was a few days old. Two years later they adopted a little girl, Amy. Little Robert is now twenty-two.

THOMAS: I know him. We worked at the SCERA Theatre in Orem together. I haven't seen him for ten years now. I knew who he was. I was wondering if that was your grandson. Everybody loves him.

EYRE: He's still in drama. He has a beautiful singing voice, really lovely. He's a good actor. Presently he is in the Hale Theater production of Charlie Brown. He is still in plays and musicals. He filled a two year mission in Nova Scotia, Canada. He has been back a year and got back last November. He's going to BYU. He's still acting in plays and has a couple of jobs that he works at. Amy is 19 and she's still at home. She's a teacher's aide at a grade school. I've been closer to them than my other grandchildren because they have lived out of state and out of town. I love all my grandchildren. They are wonderful. I love each and every one of them, but with Robert and Caroline living here I am a little more close to Buddy and Amy then I am to the others.

My youngest daughter, Suzie, married Oscar Hicks and she lived just outside of Cincinnati for years. Two years ago she moved to Las Vegas. She lives there now. She recently divorced. My oldest daughter Deanne is married to Gene Bryant and four of the boys, David, McKell, Christopher, John and Paul, all of them, except Robert. Her second son lives over in Texas, but the other four boys live in Las Vegas, very close to her. She just had the one daughter Sherie. She lives two blocks up the street. I do see her often. She and her husband Rick write and they have two little children, Jacob is nine and Amber is four. They live over here on Second West. It's good to have them close. Nancy's children are up in Ogden with her. Deanne's boys are in Las Vegas with her. Rena Lou has Sherie up here. Linda's oldest boy, Brett, is the one that lives back in Pennsylvania. Mark, her second boy, lives up here in Cedar Hills, up above American Fork. He is married and they have three children. Lisa, their daughter, has a little boy, Kodiak, and she's in Salt Lake working. That pretty well accounts for the family.

THOMAS: Is there anything else like the city or civic activities or politics that you'd like to talk about?

EYRE: I really haven't been involved that much in politics. I haven't run for any office or belonged to any clubs or associations. When I was a nurse I belonged to the LPN association. That was all the nurses. It was a nice organization of nurses, just for nurses. We would have meetings every month and seminars. We would go back to the national conventions. A group of us nurses would get together and go back to these national conventions. We had our LPN association here locally.

THOMAS: Is there a group here in Utah County?

EYRE: I have lost track of all of them. They were from all different areas. Several of them were already married in our nursing class. Finally the organization just dissolved, because they weren't teaching LPN school anymore. We just sort of dissolved. They weren't recognized that much anymore and they were trying to get everybody to go into the RN association. I really don't know what happened to all of the ladies that I went with. I know we all got jobs and worked in doctor's offices and different hospitals.

My one daughter, Linda, did go into nursing. She went as an LPN and then continued on with the Weber State program and got her RN. She is an RN. She works in American Fork Hospital and goes a little bit to Utah Valley Hospital. Now she does private tutoring. She was working at a care center for women with nutritional eating problems. She worked for them for several years. But it was too hard for her, after she moved to Mt. Pleasant. It was hard driving back and forth. She is trying to get work down in Mt. Pleasant. She can either go into private duty nursing or work at the little hospital part time. She is really the only one that went into the same vocation.

The other girls are all working. They're very very talented. Deanne works in the county juvenile court in Las Vegas. Rena Lou does microfilm in Yuma for the county court. Linda is a nurse and Nancy does crafts. She sells her crafts at Quilted Bear in Salt Lake and in Ogden. She has her crafts out at the Heart's Desire. She comes down every week to stock her booth and to update it. She is very talented in crafts. She does well with that. Robert worked as a deputy sheriff for the county for over twenty years and he finally put in his 20 years, so he retired and immediately got a job at BYU. He is now a BYU policeman. Suzie is a professional seamstress. When they were back in Cincinnati, she worked for several companies sewing for them. It was sort of assembly line for the companies that made police, fire, and sheriff uniforms. Then she worked for another company that made all the sports uniforms for football, basketball, soccer. Now she works at a casino in their uniform department. She repairs and alters uniforms and gives uniforms out to all of the different workers at this casino. She is in charge of the uniform department.

I have a very happy family. They all grew up right here in this area. Now they've all gone their separate ways.

Interviewee: Dea Eyre
Interviewer: Susannah Thomas
November 12, 1999

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