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Historic Provo

Oral History of Delvar & Elizabeth Pope


WINN: Today is June 29, 1999. This is Jennifer Winn and I'm here with Elizabeth "Betty" Done and Delvar Pope. Betty, what are your earliest memories of Provo?

BETTY: When I was a kid. I can't pin it down exactly to a date or even a year. In about 1931, at a young age you don't really think about how big the city is.

DELVAR: My first recollection of Provo is in 1931 when we came up from Hinckley and we were here for the Fourth of July. They had a mock famine down by the lake. It was going on during the daytime. They were big on time fireworks. They would shoot stuff into the air. It would drift down in the shape of paper shapes like animals. They would come floating down and I would run through the grass down there.

Grandpa's home was where the airport is now. We spent the Twenty-Fourth or the Fourth of July chasing these things out in Grandpa's field. We would get them and bring them in. They had little pieces of lead stuck in the back folding and that made the form. They would come floating down. I collected a few of these.

BETTY: He lived with his grandparents down there for quite a while. I was over in the southeast part of town. I didn't even know him until I was in college. My first memories of the town are going to movies. There were three movie theaters in Provo. Now there aren't any in Provo proper. But there were three right along the main, center street at that point. One was to the east, the Fairmont, and the Uinta.

I used to visit the library a lot when I was a kid. The library was on First East and Center Street. It was one of those Carnegie buildings that had big steps going up to the front door. It was one of those that Carnegie helped donate to build. There are a lot of them scattered around the country. That probably could have been a historical building if they hadn't remodeled and changed it entirely. The building that turned into the library, that they turned the Carnegie building into, is still there on First East and Center. I went to that library for a long time too. I used to really like movies and I'd go after school when they cost ten cents and only a quarter for adults.

Some of the first stores that I remember down there were Woolworth's, which is no longer there and Kress' which is no longer there. One of them was where that Nu Skin building is. The other one was sort of across the street to the west of that. I don't ever remember checking to see how big the town was or anything like that.

DELVAR: There was train service to Salt Lake and clear to Ogden and Payson. It was on the west end of town. This would be about Third West. It came up Center Street and on First West it turned.

BETTY: It wasn't a train. It was more like a trolley, that part of it.

DELVAR: It might have one coal car and three or four at a time. Her father was a mail carrier to begin with.

BETTY: He worked in the service station when they got married.

DELVAR: He had two main rural routes at a different time. The one was where the airport is now and down by Geneva Steel.

BETTY: He was a city carrier to begin with until he damaged his foot and got transferred to the rural. Where we are living was part of his route at one time. That was a rural route, which means homes were scattered. They weren't like they are now.

DELVAR: He had a fifty mile route.

BETTY: That was later. I didn't know he had this size of mail route as a rural carrier until we were building our home up here. Then he said that used to be part of his mail route. That meant that there were very, very few homes up here. Later his route extended. Where the steel plant is now used to be a park with Geneva. When he was on that rural route first, which was down by the lake for all those people down that way, he used to stop there for his lunch.

He took each one of us, my brother and I, with him at one time or another so we would know what he did. We were not together 'cause we were fighting. He would stop there for his lunch. It was really nice. It had two swimming pools and a pavilion. It was nice and green lots of trees, and picnic tables. That's where Geneva Steel is now instead of a park. That is when the lake was not as polluted. You could go swimming and wading in it and play on the beaches.

DELVAR: We had clams in the sand. You could go out and gather clams.

BETTY: I never did that but we used to have picnics down by the shore.

DELVAR: I knew that they did it, but I didn't personally.

BETTY: Later he had one that went up to Deer Creek Dam. That was a fifty mile one. We had a car about every two years, because it wouldn't last too long going fifty miles six days a week.

WINN: As a young girl what were some of the activities that you were involved in?

BETTY: I am still the way that I was then. I was not as interested in people as I was in reading even when I was a kid. I wouldn't go out and play games. Mother would shoo me out to go play with the kids. "Don't stick your nose in a book all the time." So I didn't really get too involved in any activities.

DELVAR: I had a lot of activities.

BETTY: I wasn't much of a sports fan as far as being in sports. I liked to watch football at an early age. But I liked being a spectator rather than participating.

DELVAR: She watched me.

BETTY: I didn't know him until I was at college. Right off hand I can't think of anything I was involved in as far as involved in the city.

DELVAR: She did go to church activities like Gleaners.

WINN: Did either of you hike?

BETTY: I used to hike before I got asthma. After that it was a little difficult. He is much more of a outdoors person than I am. I don't recall doing much hiking until I was in college. We would hike around and hike to the Y and get very sore legs.

WINN: Now Delvar you were eleven when you moved here. What brought your family to Provo? So you lived with your grandparents and then the rest of your family came?

DELVAR: We were living down in Ephraim. Then the '29 Depression started. We came up in 1932.

BETTY: The town was a lot smaller. I was trying to think of how far the business area extended into town.

DELVAR: At that time the business area came about one block north and a block south of Center Street and from east to west it went from First East to Fifth West.

BETTY: Provo High School used to be on Third West between Center Street and First South, which is where the city offices are now. That's the only school that isn't still around that I went to. I went to the Maeser. The Maeser School is still there with a lot of extensions on it. It's not going to be there after this year.

WINN: They're taking down the building?

BETTY: I don't know whether they're taking the building down but it won't be a school. They built another one. It's too small and they can't expand because it's just that one block. The Farrer Junior High School where I went was about three years old when I went there. It's still there. Provo High School vanished.

When I went to BYU it was half on the lower campus and half on the upper. There were three buildings on the upper campus, the Heber J. Grant Library which is now the testing center, the Maeser building and the Brimhall building. Those were the three that were up there. They started building the Joseph Smith building when I was a freshman and it has changed a lot too.

They had the hullabaloo about making the library out of the education building down there. I went to school in that building quite a while. It was still going half and half all through my college years. That would be about 1939 to 1943.

WINN: Was it difficult to get from one place to another?

BETTY: You had ten minutes between classes to go from lower campus to upper campus or back down.

WINN: Did you run?

BETTY: Sometimes yes. That's when the road up the side of the hill was used for automobiles not bicycles and pedestrians. It was a little wider. They narrowed it down when they built the road. I ran at times.

WINN: How was your family affected by the Depression?

BETTY: Not nearly as much as a lot of people because my dad was working at the post office, which was a government job at that point. His wages were reduced but he had a job after the Depression. Which was more than a lot of people. Delvar's family was affected by the Depression.

DELVAR: We were getting by on thirty-two dollars a month.

WINN: What did you do there?

BETTY: They dug ditches or whatever they had to do.

DELVAR: We had a lot of our sewer and water improvements put in with federal projects.

BETTY: It provided people with jobs.

DELVAR: We were living on Third South and we paid twenty dollars a month for rent. That left us twelve dollars.

BETTY: Of course everything was down in price. It was very common that nobody was making much money out of anything at that time. So your food and everything was cheaper for sure. We used to buy hamburger and get three pounds of hamburger for about thirty-three cents. It costs twice that much and more now to get one pound.

DELVAR: We had a trial. We had a garden on Third South. The house is still there I think.

BETTY: I remember going to school. Where kids drive cars now there were no cars. Very, very few kids had cars to drive to school in. I walked to the Maeser from our place. It was only about two blocks. To the Farrer it was about three or four blocks and to Provo High it was six and to the college it was a mile more, especially for upper campus. I would walk back and forth and sometimes even go home for lunch. There were hardly any cars. People that worked and such had cars, but kids didn't have cars which in a way was a good thing. There are so many kids driving cars now to the junior high. It's gotten crowded where it wasn't before.

DELVAR: My mother was a midwife.

WINN: Was it a maternity ward?

BETTY: No, in a house. I was even born in a house in my grandmother's back bedroom on Third South between Second and Third East.

WINN: Is it still there?

BETTY: Yes, it is still there. Third South used to be the main highway from Salt Lake and south.

DELVAR: We were living on Third South and we resurfaced that highway. That was one of the projects. We were living on Third South.

BETTY: My grandfather had a grocery store right next to his house and that was when there were a lot of those small grocery stores all around. It made it a lot easier to go to a grocery store than having to go downtown a lot. There used to be a grocery store right down here on the corner of BYU. It was Carson's. The little family grocery stores are all gone.

WINN: How did you two meet?

BETTY: We met at BYU when he was working at the press department and I got a job there too to help pay my way through school. So I worked there too and that's how we met.

WINN: You worked together? Did he ask you out first?

BETTY: Oh no, I was the one who was asking out to get him out anywhere. We had girls' units. They were called social units. When girls' choice came around I had to ask him.

DELVAR: I was mostly shy.

WINN: How long did you date for?

BETTY: The war came along which made it a little harder.

WINN: Did you go to war?

BETTY: He was in the war.

WINN: Where did you serve?

DELVAR: In the Navy.

BETTY: In the Navy he was a blimp pilot. You don't get involved too much in that. 1941 is when we got in the war with Pearl Harbor. 1942 was when he went off for training.

WINN: Where did you fly the blimps at?

BETTY: Shore patrol on the California coast area and Moffet Field which was just outside the town which is just six miles south of Palo Alto.

WINN: You just kept within the United States and you never had to go?

BETTY: The last six months he was in Hawaii doing transport when they phased it out.

DELVAR: They didn't need the blimps. We didn't have enough time in the service that they could let us out. It was navigation training.

BETTY: He got shot at up there.

DELVAR: We had some holes in the wings that we didn't have when we took off.

BETTY: Over some of those islands they found Japanese. I got to stay with him all the time that we were in California for those two years. It was nice. But I couldn't go to Hawaii with him. For those six months I was living at home with my folks.

DELVAR: When I had liberty I would get one flight to the west and then the next flight would be back over. We were taking passengers and then we would be gone for two months.

WINN: Betty you came back here to Provo during that time. How was Provo affected by the war? What were some of the signs of the war in Provo?

BETTY: There were not very many men around. Even my the last year in college there weren't very many. A lot of fellows had already gone. There wasn't a lot of men. In the 1943 yearbook I did a lot of what they called the stripping on it at the press. In fact I put the 1943 yearbook all together. That was the way of putting the pictures and things on the pages, the layout. That year there all the fellows had vanished. They were using the girls for doing what they used to do.

When he came home I had one child and was pregnant again so I didn't do a lot of getting out. Mother was working at Geneva Steel plant which was built after the war started.

DELVAR: After the war started, her manager took her up in a small plane.

BETTY: She had been in wagons, horse and buggies, and cars and airplanes. The movie theaters were still going in town.

DELVAR: Here is my ship from World War I. I flew this one.

BETTY: Now the only blimps they use are for advertisements. I really enjoyed watching them come over. We were living in California on an estate where a Navy commodore lived. He had died and his wife was still living in the big house. She rented the servants' quarters out to Navy officers and their families. He would come across that way quite often. They were gorgeous to watch in the sky. They were absolutely beautiful. I never got in one or haven't been in one. I couldn't during the war.

WINN: You boxed and you played football?

BETTY: They used to have a boxing club at the Y in 1941. During the war it seemed to be the same as it had always been except there were just fewer men around. Everybody just carried on doing what they were doing.

WINN: Were there less foods available or did you have to ration?

DELVAR: We had rations. You could hardly buy things. You remember they didn't allow much gasoline.

BETTY: That was one thing that was nice about being in the Navy when we were in California. We could buy things on the base. We didn't have to scrimp so much on the food as you did as civilians. We did that. My mother would go to work and I would tend the house.

WINN: In raising your children in Provo what were some of the activities that they were involved in?

DELVAR: I was the athletic director in our ward for years and the pitcher for the softball team.

BETTY: The kids as far as activities were primarily either involved in activities the Church was doing or their school was doing. The most that I remember was with the ward. It was in a way similar to what they do now. I always remember parades that they used to put on that I don't know they do now. I remember the parades would come down the street and all the parents would be out there. We'd do costumes for them. I enjoyed those. I don't recall them doing them much now.

The things that they did in school were not too much different from what they do now. Although they didn't have the discipline problems in school that they do now, especially when I was going. By the time the kids were in school they went to Wasatch and some of them to Farrer. Some other kids were bussed clear down to the old Provo High building. That was Central Junior High at that point. They had turned that into a junior high. But the two youngest ones went to the Farrer and they had to walk. Now that is quite a ways. Laralee and Shelley had to walk to Farrer.

Nowadays parents probably would have gone and picked them up. But you didn't have to worry too much about kids getting picked up by people they shouldn't be. So they used to walk back and forth to school all the time.

By the time they went to Provo High it was the new one. It's not very new now, but it was new at that time. It was just starting to get to where you were getting into drugs. You didn't hear much about it at all. I was talking to our youngest one and it came up about drugs. But she said, "Mother, if I wanted to take drugs I know where I could have gone." It was in school and they knew where to get drugs. How long ago was that? Time goes by so fast.

DELVAR: It was twenty years ago.

BETTY: Shelley is forty-four almost.

WINN: There were ways even back then, if people wanted them they could get them?

BETTY: Yes, they could. But you didn't hear much about it like you do now. There really weren't the discipline problems that there are now, especially in junior high which are quite rugged nowadays. You have to be a good disciplinarian as well as teacher.

Two of the kids got degrees in college. By that time the Y was almost all on upper campus. They didn't have to dash up and down the hill.

Things have improved in lots of ways but they are mostly material ways. I wouldn't say they have improved much in the way people live. When I was younger we would make dolls out of hollyhock bulbs and things like that. You had to entertain yourself. There was no TV and no VCRs. There was radio but that was about it. If you wanted to have something to do you figured it out yourself. It wasn't dished out to you. But in a lot of ways I think it's better. It makes you use your initiative. It is interesting how much has changed. We had phonographs to play records.

WINN: How has Center Street changed?

BETTY: There are so many new businesses. They aren't very stable. Businesses come and go. As far as businesses go it has grown and spread out.

DELVAR: There is a store I like.

BETTY: There isn't anything still there that was there when we were kids. There used to be Farmers' and Merchants'. It's larger. Center Street has expanded east and west and a lot of it has gone to the north and south too.

DELVAR: Dixon, Taylor and Russell and Kress' was there.

BETTY: Neither one of them are there. Then all that city county stuff up here on this street straight through on First East isn't there now. That block between First South and Center Street on First East is no longer a street. It's part of the city and county building. One thing I always liked about Provo was you could find your way around because it was nice square blocks until they started getting out further. Then they made it all kinds of different ways. They named streets. Instead of saying it was Third East and First South, it was a name.

I would say in many ways the residential parts of Provo expanded more than the business. People always seem to want a very quiet settled, nothing much going on sort of street as far as that. Provo doesn't have as much of a business area now as a lot of towns the same size. They took to building malls which ended up more on the outskirts. That sort of in a way killed the businesses on Center Street. We used to go shopping there.

That as far as I am concerned is where Provo is at. The new businesses that have come in like Nu Skin are all big ones. As far as that building goes I don't think it fits the city at all. It's a very strange looking building in the middle of all that down there. But at least they left the tabernacle on that block. It's still there and the city and county building across from the tabernacle was there when I was growing up.

On the corner where the city and county building is, there used to be a post office where my dad worked. Then they moved it down to First South. First it went to First North and First West, then down there, then ended up where it is.

WINN: Did you get air sick?

BETTY: In the small planes I get air sick. I don't get air sick in a big one. But the small ones I did. I didn't ever lose anything but I spent the ride with my head in my lap. Nothing ever looked as good as that airport down south. We couldn't land there. We had to come back up here.

DELVAR: I took her up for a flight. You can see everything up there.

BETTY: He was sort of reckless when he was young.

DELVAR: We would stay up high enough to clear the mountains.

WINN: I bet you were scared?

BETTY: I was feeling too bad to be scared. I was sitting with my head in the lap so I didn't notice what was going on.

WINN: Were you scared?

BETTY: I think he got into more than he thought he would.

DELVAR: What happened was we were trying to fly over the town. We couldn't get near enough to any places you could see through the clouds. We turned up too fast.

BETTY: We have had deer up here. I have not seen any around the house for a long time. During the winter we used to have quite a few here.

WINN: Thank you very much for sharing with me some of your experiences living in Provo.

Interviewee: Elizabeth "Betty" Done and Delvar Pope
Interviewer: Jennifer Winn
June 29, 1999

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